Though cranking out a sequel with a brand name is usually a smart move, oftentimes Hollywood can get way, way ahead of itself. It comes as no surprise that movie studios will greenlight a follow-up before the first installment has even hit theaters (Sony has already set a 2019 release date for a Spider-Man: Homecoming follow-up), but it doesn’t always guarantee that the movie will get off the ground. Some sequels are just not meant to be, and the next 15 on this list are living proof of that.
Sometimes the first movie doesn’t perform as well as expected or a script goes through too many rewrites. Maybe a director loses their motivation or the timing just wasn’t right. Whatever the reason, the films on this list were all at one point potential sequels that ended up getting the axe before their big premiere.
Here are 15 Sequels You Never Knew Were Cancelled.
15. E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears
Audiences remember E.T. the Extra Terrestrial as the lovable alien that swept away our hearts. The family-friendly movie about the power of friendship is considered a treasured classic, but Steven Spielberg didn’t always consider ending the story with E.T. and Elliot’s tearful goodbye in the woods.
Just after a month E.T. opened and was deemed the box office smash it was, director Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison already began working on an outline for a sequel. Judging from their treatment, it was not to be the light-hearted romp the original was. The idea was to have Elliot and his friends kidnapped by a ship of evil, carnivorous aliens, with E.T. setting out to rescue his Earthling buddies. Even darker, the kids were to be tortured by the evil aliens, with Elliot even passing out from the pain at one point!
Thank goodness Spielberg came to his senses and scrapped the idea before the studio got the ball rolling. In an interview while talking about the follow-up, the director stated, “I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity.” We agree, Mr. Spielberg, and for that we thank you for never cashing in on a sequel.
14. The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes
From Twilight to Harry Potter, Hollywood has had an ongoing obsession with adapting young adult novels to feature films. Some of these novels find major success on the big screen (The Hunger Games) while others unfortunately fail to find their audience (The Divergent Series). The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was unfortunately another one that couldn’t find its niche. Adapted in 2013, this action/fantasy revolves around a group of shadowhunters, warriors that pursue demons, vampires, werewolves, warlocks and other spooky creatures.
The studio behind Mortal Instruments were so convinced that this newest young adult adaptation would be a hit, that they announced a sequel (The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes) even before the release of the first film. Alas, City of Bones failed to impress critics, audiences or even fans of the original novels, who complained that the story was drastically different than that of the books. It resulted in such an abysmal box office performance that the studio scrapped the sequel plans and the movie never happened.
13. Ferris Bueller 2: Another Day Off
Though John Hughes often had ideas to revisit several of his characters from his movies (like the kids in The Breakfast Club), they often never came to fruition, including a sequel with everyone’s favorite righteous dude, Ferris Bueller. Hughes’ original idea was that a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sequel would revolve around a 40-year-old Ferris (now a motivational speaker) who is suffering from a mid-life crisis. In an effort to recapture his youth, he enlists the help of Cameron, who is now his manager, and they both take a day off of work to play hooky one last time
John Hughes later admitted that a sequel to Ferris Bueller would have proved to be quite complicated, with the first being about a singular moment in a person’s life. With the director’s untimely passing, and Matthew Broderick now over the age of 50, it seems that the project will never happen. Even though audiences did get a short-lived prequel/sequel/spinoff TV series, it would have been nice to see Ferris take one more well-deserved day off for the rest of us.
12. Dredd 2
After failing to adapt the Judge Dredd comics to the big screen with Sylvester Stallone in 1995, the character was given a darker and grittier reboot in 2012. This time Karl Urban stepped into the shoes of Dredd, a cop who has the power of judge, jury and executioner. The film, directed by Pete Travis, is ultra-violent adrenaline ride as Dredd and his rookie partner team up to take down an apartment building filled with the most violent scum in Mega City One.
Though it received mixed reviews from critics, audiences were generally pleased with the dark, violent and accurate representation from the source material. The film had massive potential for a follow-up, but unfortunately Dredd didn’t perform that great at the box office. Hopes of a sequel have been dashed away, with many blaming the studio for not marketing the movie properly.
Talking about the future of a sequel, screenwriter Alex Garland stated in an interview with Collider, “ . . . keep your money, because the people who make the decisions don’t get moved by that kind of thing. They’re moved by other stuff, other equations, other algorithms.” That’s a bummer for fans of Judge Dredd, but it didn’t stop Garland from pursuing other projects, who made his directorial debut with last year’s Ex Machina.
11. Terminator Genesys 2
The first two Terminator movies are often revered as action classics, but the franchise doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to sequels. Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation are definitely weaker than their predecessors, and 2015’s Terminator : Genisys was greeted with both critical and financial backlash. Earning an abysmal score of just 38 on Metacritic, audiences certainly didn’t welcome back the fifth entry in the saga, which was criticized for heavily altering with lore of the previous films.
Although Genisys made an estimated $440.2 million worldwide, it only grossed $89.7 million domestically, which is just a little over of half its budget. The original plans to turn the first film into a new trilogy were halted when the studio decided to remove the sequel from the distributor’s release schedule. Although it looks like the follow-up is dead in the water, Arnold Schwarzenegger refuses to say “hasta la vista” to the franchise, who still insists that a sequel will inevitably get made.
10. Green Lantern 2
Though it is now notoriously rebuked by critics and fans (and even its lead star), Green Lantern was at first a highly anticipated movie before its released in 2011. DC fans were finally going to see one of their favorite characters come to life on the big screen in a movie with plans to extend the universe into a franchise. With a cast that included the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Tim Robbins, and a veteran director behind the wheel of Martin Campbell, the movie seemed like it was on the track to be the next biggest comic-book success story.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Green Lantern was torn apart by critics and became a box office catastrophe, only earning $116 million off a $200 million budget. It didn’t take long for the studio to cancel plans for the sequel, who instead devoted their time on working on Man of Steel and the beginnings of the DCEU. It’s not all bad news however, as Green Lantern Corps. is set to release in 2020, and moreover, we now have Ryan Reynolds in the role of everyone’s favorite merc with a moth: Deadpool.
9. Who Discovered Roger Rabbit
One of the most influential movies of the last 30 years, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is credited for ushering in a new interest for animation in the late 80s. Following its enormous success, the live-action-animated-hybrid was assuredly deserving of a sequel as much as any other Hollywood production. However, somethings are never meant to be, and the follow-up to Robert Zemeckis’s smash hit was delayed again and again until it was eventually postponed for good.
Originally a sequel but reworked as a prequel, Who Discovered Roger Rabbit was to chronicle how the titular cartoon character became the star of Toontown. However, rivalries between Disney and Amblin Entertainment derailed the project, which escalated costs into the stratosphere and only furthered disputes over the script. Although director Zemeckis has said he still has the perfect screenplay for the project, Who Discovered Roger Rabbit is unfortunately one of those movies that will forever be talked about but most likely never seen.
8. Gump and Co.
Just around the time Forrest Gump was being awarded its 6 Oscars, author Winston Groom released Gump & Co., a sequel to the novel the film was based on. It more-or-less followed the same formula as the first installment, with Forrest stumbling onto more moments of historical significance like the Iran-Contra affair, inventing New Coke, and accidentally knocking down the Berlin wall. So why was Gump & Co. never adapted into a movie?
Depending on who you ask, there were several reasons why Gump & Co. never made it to the big screen. For one, Tom Hanks didn’t feel that passionate about the project, stating in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that a sequel would “ruin what we had done.” Screenwriter Eric Roth has also stated that he finished the script a day before 9/11, and after meeting a meeting with director Robert Zemeckis and Hanks, decided that it wasn’t relevant anymore.
That’s not to say that Gump & Co. is completely dead. Every few years there are rumors of the already finished script making its way across studio desks, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that it could get a revival. After all, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
7. Ghostbusters 3
Though we received a reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise with an all-female cast this past summer, there was a time when the original ghostbusters almost strapped on their proton packs for a third adventure. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis almost returned to the world of ghosts and ghouls when Aykroyd wrote a script for a third installment during the 90s. It originally was to be about Peter Vankman’s ghost haunting the remaining three ghostbusters, while other treatments had the team journey into an alternate dimension of New York City called “Manhellton.”
For years, Aykroyd and Ramis tried to convince Murray to participate in the project, but Murray wasn’t satisfied in the direction of the script. In an interview with Variety, the actor was pressed about why Ghostbusters 3 never happened, and said about the script, “It was kind of funny, but not well executed.” He goes on to say that the first Ghostbusters’ chemistry is hard to recapture, stating “unless you have a clear vision, you’re always trying to recapture that.” Though a third Ghostbusters with the original cast would have been nice, the cameos in the reboot are unfortunately the closest thing fans will get.
6. Batman Triumphant
Before Joel Schumacher even finished his campy rendition of Batman & Robin, studio executives at Warner Bros. took the liberty of greenlighting a follow-up adventure based solely on the dailies. When Batman & Robin was finally released in 1997, it opened to an overwhelmingly negative response from both critics and fans (for more than a few obvious reasons) and at that point Warner Bros. decided to the plug on the sequel, which was to have been titled Batman Triumphant or Batman Unchained.
The shelved follow-up, which was again to be directed by Schumacher, was set to have George Clooney reprise his role as the Caped Crusader as he faced off against villains Scarecrow and Harley Quinn. Most of the cast from Batman & Robin was also set to return, with Nicolas Cage rumored to be in talks to play the Scarecrow. Although Batman Triumphant never came to fruition, the barebones of the project did lend itself to the skeleton of Batman Begins, different in tone as the two might have been. And although the idea of an actor like Nicolas Cage playing a Batman villain does sound enticing, it’s probably best that this sequel never saw the light of day.
5. Return to Casablanca
That’s right, you read that header correctly. There was actually an idea for a Casablanca sequel, a follow-up to one of the most classic and enduring movies ever produced. The beginning of that beautiful friendship that Rick talks about in that final line was almost taken literally, as Warner Bros. began working on a sequel, Brazzaville, shortly after the release of Casablanca. Though it never took off, many of Casablanca’s original screenwriters tried to keep the project alive at different points in time.
A treatment for Return to Casablanca was written in 1980 by screenwriter Howard Koch, which followed Ilsa’s son in his search to find his father, who was heavily implied to be Rick. Then in 2013, another sequel treatment was discovered by the late Murray Burnett, who originally wrote the play that the film was based on. Warner Bros. has passed on the idea several times, but Burnett’s treatment was eventually purchased by memorabilia collector Albert Tapper. Though it’s highly unlikely, the material is still out there, so it’s not completely unconceivable that audiences might one day return to Casablanca if the studio ever changes its mind.
It would be hard to imagine a sequel to David Fincher’s Se7en, a movie which ends with the bad guy dead, the good guy being sent to a mental institute, and his wife with her head stuffed inside a box. It may not be the most positive ending, but it is a definitive conclusion. However, that didn’t stop the studio from trying to pump out a sequel, which was appropriately to be named Ei8ht.
Desperate to follow up on Se7en’s success, New Line Cinema grabbed a script they could quickly rewrite into a sequel, which was retooled to have Morgan Freeman reprise his role, only this time he would have psychic abilities. But along with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, David Fincher wasn’t that keen on making a sequel. During an event for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the director was asked about his view on Ei8ht and responded with, “I would be less interested in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes.” Strong words.
Interestingly enough, the movie was made in 2015 with its original title, Solace, and starred Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Unfortunately, it was torn apart by critics, so it’s probably a good thing Ei8ht never found its way out of the box.
3. Gladiator II: Christ Killer
Ridley Scott’s Gladiator seems like the type of movie that would never warrant a sequel, especially since the lead character is dead and buried by the story’s end. But Hollywood is funny like that, and a continuation to the historical epic almost came to fruition when star Russell Crowe somehow convinced studio executives to let his buddy Nick Cave (an Australian song-writer) pen the script.
Even crazier than Crowe hiring his rock-star friend for the job is the screenplay itself, which is absolutely bonkers. In an interview on WTF with Marc Maron, Cave explained the premise his script, which had Maximus return from purgatory by the gods to kill Christ, who later is revealed to be the gladiator’s son. The working title for the project was “Christ Killer,” and ends with a finale that sees Maximus become an eternal warrior during a 20 minute battle scene which follows every war in history.
Cave has gone on record saying that the script was a “stone cold masterpiece,” but also recalls Crowe’s reaction when he showed it to him: “Don’t like it, mate.” Apparently, neither did the studio execs, who shelved the project for being too extravagant.
2. The Girl Who Played With Fire
Of all the would-be sequels on this list, this is probably the one we’re most bummed about not getting made. David Fincher’s 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an adaptation of the novel by Stieg Larsson, was met with critical praise upon release. The stylish thriller was a hit with audiences, and was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including a win for film editing and a nomination for actress Rooney Mara. Before the movie had even wrapped however, director Fincher made an announcement that the two following installments, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, would be filmed back-to-back. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting on those movies.
The Girl Who Played With Fire was slated to come out in 2013, but was continuously delayed due to constant rewrites of the script. Before audiences even had time to realized it, the 2013 came and went. Fincher has since devoted his time to other projects, and Rooney Mara has said she doubts that the sequel will ever happen. Though audiences may never see a Hollywood treatment of The Girl Who Played With Fire, Sony announced last year that they would be adapting the non-Larsson book The Girl in the Spider’s Web, with Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander potentially stepping into the iconic role of Lisbeth Salander.
1. The Godfather Part IV
After filming had wrapped on The Godfather Part III, Coppola and writer Mario Puzo got together and talked shop if there was to ever be another movie in the franchise. In the DVD commentary for Part III, Coppola explains that a proposed story was fleshed out for a sequel that was similar to the dual narrative of The Godfather Part II. It was to continue the story of Michael’s nephew, Vincent, and his rise to power during the 1980s, with flashbacks of Michael attempting to legitimize the family business following the events of Part II. Puzo didn’t believe there was enough material to warrant the sequel however, and given the writer’s death in 1999, along with Coppola’s open distaste regarding another Godfather sequel, you can pretty much say arrivederci to the idea of a Part IV.
Depending on who you ask, the idea of a Godfather Part IV would either be the greatest thing in the world or the worst. On the one hand, it would have had the potential to get the bad taste out of everyone’s mouths that was left over from The Godfather Part III. On the other hand, it could have made matters worse by causing further damage to the franchise. However way you look at it, the idea of a fourth entry in Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster saga is an offer we couldn’t refuse to place at our #1 spot of cancelled sequels.
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