If there’s a few hundred million dollars ripe for the taking simply by updating an old brand, you can bet studios will dust off franchises that have lain dormant and give them a new coat of paint. Remakes and reboots are par for the course, but there are some franchises that deserve to stay untouched.
Here, we’re looking at franchises that are either just too good or don’t seem like they would have an obvious improvement if they go in front of the camera one more time. We’ve omitted some series that are about to have or have already seen sequels (such as the Bourne movies and Star Wars) and those that have already had a splashy franchise reboot (here’s looking at you, Spider-Man).
Without further ado, here are 12 Movie Series that Should NOT be Rebooted.
Saw has an inherently interesting concept, which means that the franchise seems ripe for a reboot, but there are many reasons to leave it alone. Whether the Saw franchise delivered quality movies to live on top of its morality play construct is up for debate, but it consistency delivered compelling ethical quandaries, which its characters had to contend with in split-second decisions.
Saw VI even managed to offer cogent socio-political commentary in its criticism of American healthcare and medical insurance systems, so there’s a possibility to expand on that aspect with a reboot. But Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is a top-10 horror villain icon at this point, for better or worse, and attempting re-embody the puppet master with a different actor would prove as fruitless as Jackie Earle Haley’s take on Freddy Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot.
11. Lethal Weapon
Murtaugh and Riggs have been on the shelf since 1998, when Lethal Weapon 4 was released, but they have a deep history together spanning those four movies. A spin on the buddy cop trope, Lethal Weapon blends humor and action, as an officer contemplating retirement (Glover) is handed a new partner (Gibson) who is both brash and reckless. The success of the franchise, and especially the first movie, rests on a smart script and magnetic chemistry between the leads.
Mel Gibson, who has been anathema to Hollywood in recent years, and Danny Glover seem unlikely to return for a sequel together any time soon. A fifth movie could possibly work, but not without replicating the enormously successful dynamic between Gibson and Glover.
10. The Naked Gun
A spinoff from the spoof cop show Police Squad!, The Naked Gun reunited Leslie Nielsen with the Airplane! creative team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker. Frank Drebin is quintessential Nielsen: outrageous dialogue delivered in spot-on deadpan fashion while all manner of chaos is taking place around him. The movies found financial, and in the case of the first, critical success.
Paramount’s had a reboot/sequel in the works for a while, with Ed Helms positioned to take over as Frank Drebin. Helms is often good, but has a tendency to over-play his delivery, a tendency that’s out of step with Nielson’s trademark deadpan.
9. Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico trilogy
Robert Rodriguez famously started his career by making the first movie in his Mexico series, El Mariachi, for $7,000. His follow up was the second in the Mexico trilogy, Desperado, which was itself a remake of El Mariachi, albeit with a larger budget and studio backing. Right there alone is reason enough not to boot the series. It’s already happened once with the same director behind it.
When looking at those flicks, including the sequel Once Upon A Time In Mexico, it’s evident that these are movies so tied to Rodriguez and his sensibilities that to take it in a different direction would be folly. His kinetic, flashy visuals dovetail with the violent sophistication of Antonio Banderas’ assassin, El Mariachi, perfectly so it’s hard to see how another director and actor pairing could improve upon it.
8. The Hunger Games
With four movies earning almost $3 billion at the box office, The Hunger Games is one of the most successful franchises in movie history. It also made a global superstar out of Jennifer Lawrence. Yet the gravy train might not stop at Panem. Reports suggest that Lionsgate is looking into ways of continuing the franchise, even though Katniss Everdeen’s story is over. One way to do this, Lionsgate executive Michael Burns has said, is to look back at the other 73 editions of the Hunger Games, including arena battles.
It would be interesting to look at how arena battles played out before these state-of-the-art battlefields presented in The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but as far as Katniss and the core story go, she should never appear in a movie again.
7. Three Colors
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s loosely connected movies in the Three Colors trilogy find roots in the French national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité (or “liberty, equality, fraternity”). Each of the three films – which are named Blue, White, and Red, after the colors of the French flag – examines one of these French Revolutionary ideals. Blue is about emotional liberty, and letting go of past hardships. White centers on a man’s quest for revenge and social equality after losing everything. Red, meanwhile, centers around people coming together and forming connections even though they are very different individuals.
The movies found tremendous critical acclaim, and Red earned three Academy Awards nominations, including Best Director for Kieślowski. They have a distinct visual style, with each leaning heavily on a palette surrounding the title color. It’s difficult to imagine why anyone would wish to remake them, as they are fully-formed, personal movies that have clear personal resonance for Kieślowski.
6. Living Dead series
In 1968, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead defined the modern zombie – a slow, relentless force that will not relent until it tastes human flesh. Yet it had much more to offer than a group of disparate strangers trying to survive a horde of the undead. It folded in social and political commentary on the landscape of the ’60s, between its reflection of the Vietnam war and the character of Ben, a black man who emerges as the leader of the group, only to meet his death at the hands of a redneck with a shotgun.
The first movie has had a few remakes, and Zack Snyder delivered an enjoyable if shallow spin on Dawn of the Dead in 2004. But none had the infusion of social commentary that runs through Romero’s franchise. Horror movies are excellent vehicles for satire and cultural criticism, though there’s no way to do that with a Living Dead remake or reboot without seeming like one is ripping off Romero.
5. Toy Story
Woody and Buzz have endured a lot since first meeting in Andy’s room all those years ago. They’ve gone through a string of adventures, both real and in Andy’s imagination. The series also kicked off an adventure for Pixar, which has delivered box office and critical rewards aplenty. The three movies have earned almost $2 billion and brought Pixar a pair of Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Animated Movie (both for Toy Story 3).
Toy Story is a series that explores one of the most basic of childhood fantasies – toys that come to life when no-one’s looking – and that, along with the typical Pixar attention to the mechanics of storytelling, resonated with global audiences. Pixar’s flagship franchise is sacrosanct for the animation company, and the only reason there’s a fourth movie on the way is because Pixar is confident the story works. There’s no chance Pixar would approve a reboot of the series, and that’s especially welcome when all three movies so far are a complete joy, and still hold up visually.
4. Back to the Future
Overlooking the questionable feelings between Marty and Lorraine, Back to the Future is a near-perfect movie. It packs in wit, charm, thrills, and almost everything else a viewer could wish for in a family-friendly blockbuster infused with an unbeatable spirit of adventure. It’s a fully-formed entity, and the sequels are wildly enjoyable, though spottier, cherries on the cake, if that cake were crafted in the edible art kitchen of Cake Boss.
Any possibility of a remake in the near future is thankfully remote. Director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis has stated neither he nor his co-writer Bob Gale – who hold the rights to Back to the Future – will allow a reboot as long as they’re alive. There is, however, a stage musical adaptation of the first movie in the works. That is a smart way to derive value from the franchise without muddying the waters with a risky reboot that fans might reject.
3. Indiana Jones
The other Lucasfilm franchise that made a megastar out of Harrison Ford, the Indiana Jones franchise seems like a prime candidate for a revival, even if the previous entry, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, didn’t quite live up to the first three classics. The future of Indiana Jones, if Disney is intent on making more, would seem to work best as more of an expanded universe. There aren’t many actors around who could lend the action chops, roguish charm, and charisma of Ford to the franchise.
If as rumored, Chris Pratt takes up the mantle, it should be as a new character, perhaps Jones’ son, so he can carry forward the series without the specter of Ford hanging around his neck. Disney can, and certainly will, continue the franchise, but there’s no reason for a complete reset with a reboot.
2. The Lord of the Rings
With his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson created three wildly satisfying movies from what many had deemed an unfilmable book, due to its length and mammoth scope. Filmed concurrently in New Zealand over 18 months, the three films – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King – blended deep emotion and rich storytelling with top-shelf performances and stunning visuals to infuse Middle-Earth with life and a real lived-in sensibility.
Jackson nailed the tone and almost everything about Tolkien’s magnum opus, rendering future adaptations utterly futile. The Hobbit movies are a different matter. If someone wants to remake those, or if Jackson cuts them into a single movie with far fewer dwarf folk songs, we’ll be much the better for it.
1. The Godfather
Many revere Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather as the greatest film of all time. Clocking in at just under three hours, it wastes little time in drawing out the rise of Michael Corleone from a man on the fringes of his family to the boss of a Mafia family who holds little regard for his enemies’ wellbeing. The Godfather Part II is fantastic as well, though it’s perhaps best to keep The Godfather Part III largely out of the conversation.
There’s little reason or sense to touch The Godfather trilogy ever again. The first two movies are bona fide masterpieces, well deserving of their places in that pantheon of cinema. Part III falters greatly, but it’s a part of a larger whole, with a continuing creative team and cast, so there’s little reason to tear it away from the other movies and update that either.
Can you think of any other series that should NOT be rebooted? Let us know in the comments!