Franchises are the backbone of Hollywood these days, with every studio looking for ways to plan out a series of tentpoles years in advance. Often times, they’re working with a rich mythology or decades of publication history to draw from, so the stories write themselves. Then there are the self-contained films that don’t really leave anything open at the end, calling into question why a follow-up was ever produced. Here are Screen Rant’s 10 great movies that never needed a sequel.
Steven Spielberg’s thriller is one of the most influential works of all-time, since it introduced the concept of the studio blockbuster. It became the first movie to gross $100 million at the box office and set records, so the studio wanted a sequel. However, it wasn’t warranted. Jaws ends with Brody killing the shark and there isn’t anywhere else to go with the concept or the characters. Seeing that the sequels stretched the premise to absurd lengths, the executives would be been better suited following Spielberg’s lead and leaving it after part one. There are only so many times a shark can terrorize the same beach… or family.
We know what you’re thinking. Without Rocky sequels, Creed would never be possible, but it took a while for the champ to regain his former glory. The original is a hard-hitting sports drama that’s the ultimate underdog tale and concludes with Rocky rediscovering his self-value. Over time, the series morphed into 1980s camp with over-the-top villains, and essentially disregarded Rocky’s heartfelt message. In the first one, Balboa knew he couldn’t beat Creed, but that didn’t really matter in the end. But every other time out, winning the final fight was the ultimate goal. And besides, Apollo said there wouldn’t be a rematch and Rocky didn’t want one.
Imaginations were captured when dinosaurs came back to life and moviegoers got to experience the wonder of Jurassic Park. But the severe consequences of the amusement park were also placed front and center, illustrating the dangers of bringing the prehistoric creatures into the modern age. After the experiment proved to be a disaster the first time around, there’s really no reason – other than box office dollars – to keep going back to the well. It’s a cautionary tale that plays out pretty much the same way each time. No matter how advanced your security measures are, the dinosaurs will always rule the world.
Audiences were pleasantly surprised when the first Hangover gave R-rated comedies a shot in the arm and provided a zany collection of laughs. The cast was in top form, several of the jokes landed, and a scary mystery fueled the plot and gave it serious stakes. Once Doug was found and the gang saw pictures from the bachelor party, we were ready to move on – but the Wolfpack wasn’t. They came back for two more misadventures that couldn’t live up to the original, mainly because there was nothing new to bring to the table. Even Zach Galifianakis says the sequels were disappointing, so let’s just consider the first one canon.
Arguably the perfect action movie, Die Hard is a tour de force with thrilling set pieces, a great hero, and an even better villain. It also tied everything up nicely at the end, as John McClane reconnected with his wife and rode off to celebrate the holidays with his family. There didn’t seem to be room for another story, but sequels were made. Sure, the follow-ups have their moments of fun and entertainment, but none of them can hold a candle to what made the original so special. When moviegoers think of John McClane, they think of the first film, and there’s a good reason for that.
One of the best action films of the 1990s, Speed was a white-knuckled ride from start to finish, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats with excitement and well-rendered characters. Like so many movies of its kind, Speed probably would have been better served as a one-and-done exercise. One only has to look at Speed 2 for proof, since it’s one of the more underwhelming action flicks ever released. Featuring thin characterization and set pieces that bored rather than thrilled, it was clear it didn’t have anything to add and almost ruined what came before. If they couldn’t get Keanu Reeves back, they probably should have left it alone.
Pixar’s 2001 hit is one of their most inventive and beloved, featuring creative world building and wonderful characters that touched the heart. The story it told was so perfect, the studio couldn’t move forward with a second installment – they had to go back in time. A prequel, Monsters University, showed how Mike and Sully met in college and became the lifelong friends we see in the original. While it was fun to see the monsters back in action and another side of the universe, it’s seen as second-rate Pixar that isn’t as effective as the first film. Moviegoers would have preferred Pixar make an original concept than go back to a well they’ve hit before.
Men in Black
It’s a premise that’s seemingly set up for sequels, but Men in Black should have been left alone. The filmmakers weren’t entirely sure how to handle a follow-up, and brought back Tommy Lee Jones to work with Will Smith. Unfortunately, this undermines the emotional conclusion of the first film, where Agent Kay steps down to have his memory wiped so he can reunite with his true love. His story should have ended there, especially since Men in Black II could only recycle elements from the first movie and didn’t feel as fresh. When there’s nowhere to go with the characters, it’s best to leave it untouched.
One of the most memorable musicals ever, the original Grease is full of catchy tunes, fun characters, and an entertaining story about young love. Since it was so popular, the studio tried to force a sequel, and the results were not nearly as impressive. While Grease 2 did have solid song and dance numbers of its own, it was dismissed largely as a retread of the first one – with a new cast – that didn’t really bring anything new to the table. Fans could just watch the original and get all the summer loving they needed.
An endlessly quotable comedy with hilarious characters and situations, 1980’s Caddyshack is seen as one of the high points of the genre and a favorite for moviegoers everywhere. Released 8 years later, the sequel became Exhibit A for why comedy follow-ups are a bad idea. It surprisingly went for a family-friendly PG rating, and was handicapped by a lackluster script that didn’t provide many laughs. It was probably a bad sign that Chevy Chase was the only original cast member that signed on to return; the rest uninterested or concerned it wouldn’t be good. The filmmakers should have listened to Bill Murray.