A brash, young Steven Spielberg, riding high on the success of Jaws, was approached by producers to direct a sequel. He refused and, according to Joseph McBride’s biography Steven Spielberg, stated that the entire concept of sequels a “cheap carny trick.”
Jaws 2 is the perfect example of what we understand sequels to be today. The environment is meant to echo what made its predecessor so successful– just budgeted and marketed as bigger and louder.
It is no coincidence that the ’70s gave birth to the modern sequel, or that the Jaws franchise harbors one of the better (Jaws 2) and one of absolute worst (The Revenge). The film single-handedly gave rise to the summer blockbuster, effectively leading to the death of the early ’70s boom of quieter classics like Chinatown and The Conversation.
However, there are countless sequels since then that have failed miserably at recouping their budget, let alone justifying their existence. Some are just plain awful – and ironically Spielberg is on the hook for one after helming The Lost World years after his comment — but others, regardless of quality, add nothing to the in-film universe that their sequels created.
Here are the 18 Sequels That Never Should Have Happened.
18. Darkman 2 and 3
Sam Raimi’s first foray into the superhero genre, with Darkman, has its roots in 1940s radio. Originally, Raimi wanted to make a live-action adaptation of the classic The Shadow with Orson Welles. Unfortunately, he could never secure the rights, so he set about creating his own character.
The film holds up surprisingly well, bathing itself in joyous camp and slapstick violence (and properly introducing audiences to Liam Neeson). If you watch Darkman and Spider-Man back-to-back, you can see that Raimi re-used some of the same shots for action scenes – most notably when Spidey beats up the mugger who killed his uncle.
The first sequel was a cheap cash-in, re-animating villain Robert Durant, who perished in an explosion. The second was absurdly titled Die Darkman Die. To call them a step down is an understatement– both were DTV releases and lacked Neeson, with Arnold Vosloo subbing in.
The third movie, in particular, feels less like a film and more like an elongated TV pilot in which Darkman helps those in need. Alas, the disfigured hero was best left alone, wandering the streets at the end of the first film.
17. Dumb and Dumber To
Who exactly, in 2014, was clamoring for the continued exploits of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) in Dumb and Dumber To? Studios had already tried before, with the much-maligned prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.
At that time, critics had blamed the film’s failure on the lack of Carrey and Daniels. The proper sequel, however, disproves that notion. The Farrelly Brothers had a brief run of success with Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, but audiences were quick to realize the duo’s gags and sitcom-level humor had virtually no staying power.
Despite both Carrey and Daniels being enthusiastic about returning to their roles, audiences were ambivalent. Dumb and Dumber To feels like a 40-year-old returning to his old high school stomping grounds, not able to let go of the glory days.
16. Lawmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
The Lawnmower Man has the notorious distinction of being the only film Stephen King sued over the use of his name. King’s short story involves a lawnmower man who works for the Greek God Pan, who strips naked and follows the mower, eating the grass it expels. The film followed a different path.
The film was one in a long line of ’90s movies that tried to make computers and virtual reality terrifying, as a young Pierce Brosnan uses his technology to improve the intelligence of a mentally challenged handyman (Jeff Fahey).
The film’s DTV sequel finds Fahey’s character Jobe (now Matt Frewer), having left his corporeal body, living inside computer networks in a dystopian future. Both films were poorly received – the only justification for a sequel was the moderate box office success of the first.
15. Kindergarten Cop 2
Kindergarten Cop 2 knew its audience. When word was announced that the film existed and starred Dolph Lundgren, the curiosity factor of professional ’90s nostalgists shot through the roof. They even had the foresight to include ’90s staple Bill Bellamy in the cast.
However, after seeing the DTV release, fans of Ivan Reitman’s original were still left with the question of why. The answer, of course, was to take their money. It does little to differentiate from the first film, changing the cops to FBI agents, who are tasked with protecting a witness.
As far as movies that feature bodybuilders yelling at small children go, it could have been a lot worse. Director Don Michael Paul appears to have specialized this kind of film, making unnecessary sequels to films such as Tremors and Lake Placid.
14. The Jarhead Sequels
Sam Mendes’ Jarhead, based on Marine Anthony Swofford’s memoir, presents a different look at war. As opposed to depicting the trauma one is subjected to or the horrors of war, Mendes’ adaptation explores another kind of nightmare: boredom.
Swofford and his group of hard-edged marines undergo vigorous training to be killers. They arrive in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm with a desire to join the bloody fray. Alas, they never get the chance. Rather, they await orders that never come. The consequences of training to be nothing more than a killing machine, never implementing it, and then attempting to readjust during peaceful times has never been explored before, or since, in quite such an effective way.
The DTV sequels trample all over these themes, and ride on title recognition to sell standard action films. Jarhead 2: Field of Fire follows a group of marines, including Bokeem Woodbine and Stephen Lang, who must extract an activist from a Taliban stronghold. Forget the message from the first movie, this sequel just makes things go boom.
13. Blues Brothers 2000
Dan Aykroyd was one of the most reliable and versatile performers Saturday Night Live has ever seen. If Aykroyd can be criticized for anything, it’s that he can’t seem to let go of the past. One need only review his quest for a third Ghostbusters film to see that when he loves an idea or concept, he wants only to explore it to its full potential.
Or, unfortunately, sometimes beyond its potential. Such was the case with Blue Brothers 2000, a mind-boggling attempt to chronicle the later years of Elwood Blues long after John Belushi (from the original movie) had passed away. Aykroyd had continued The Blues Brothers with the help of John’s brother Jim, but bringing it back to the screen was an ill-conceived move from the start.
Despite some solid musical performances from Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and B.B. King, the film just flounders. Worse, Aykroyd and director John Landis include an unwanted little moppet to go along for the ride. As much fun and lively a performer John Goodman can be, his presence here only reminds audiences what the world had lost that fateful night in 1982.
12. Speed 2: Cruise Control
What can be said about Speed 2 that hasn’t already been shouted for years after its release? While it’s understandable that Fox would want a sequel to its 1994 runaway hit, there are some roadblocks that should serve more as warning signs.
The fact that Keanu Reeves’ did not return to the role of Jack Traven, instead choosing to tour with his band Dogstar, should have killed the concept right then and there. However, Sandra Bullock, not known for her action credentials beyond damsel-in-distress mode, agreed to become a part of the sequel if the studio promised to finance Hope Floats.
11. The Hangover 2 and 3
The Hangover was a basic bro-comedy with a few bonafide moments that mainstream audiences didn’t see coming. Director Todd Phillips had previously helmed the wildly successful Old School, proving that he knew how to stage both slapstick and character-based comedy.
However, The Hangover‘s ace-in-the-hole was alternative comedian Zach Galifianakis. The comic had hosted a VH1 show, Late World with Zach, and had already made a name for himself in the alt-comedy world, but his proper introduction to fame and the rest of the world was his performance in The Hangover.
The sequels, aside from just being copies of the first plot in different settings, become a Ken Jeong endurance test. How much you can tolerate of the comedian’s one-note schtick will likely determine your enjoyment of the films.
10. Exorcist 2: The Heretic
The Exorcist is known as one of the best horror films ever made, and is the only one to win Best Picture. Its sequel is an admitted attempt to cash-in on its success. Rather blatantly, producer Richard Lederer admitted that they wanted to “redo the first movie.”
They wanted another investigative priest, a central possessed victim, and even included unused footage from the first film just to skimp on the budget. The plan went awry when they hired playwright William Goodhart to pen the script. Goodhart had big ideas, focusing on the metaphysical and intellectual conflicts related to the concept of exorcisms.
However, another high-profile director was then hired – Deliverance‘s John Boorman – who championed the script. Unbridled ambition and studio-imposed limitations met like storm fronts to create an inexplicable dream sequence, featuring James Earl Jones in a bee costume. Perhaps the unused footage might have at least brought about something coherent.
9. Jaws 3D
Since the 1950s, 3D has been a gimmick to draw in audiences. The 3D of today has improved, and is now treated with some reverence. However, no incarnation of 3D has looked worse than the 3D of the ’80s.
Joe Alves, production designer on the first two Jaws films, made his directorial debut with the third entry to the franchise. So many aspects of Jaws 3D clamour for a “so bad it’s good” viewing experience, but it still somehow commits the cardinal sin of being astoundingly boring.
Set at Sea World (which was oddly cooperative with a killer shark movie), Jaws 3D follows a mother shark hunting down the humans who kidnapped her offspring for research. At one time, this was considered the worst of the franchise.
8. The Boondock Saints II: All Saint’s Day
The late ’90s are chock full of terrible independent films desperate to mimic Quentin Tarantino’s trademark dialogue. What these films lacked, and what Tarantino’s had, was a sense of purpose, substance, and a narrative strong enough to justify his pet geek obsessions.
The Boondock Saints was easily the most publicized, and worst, of the Tarantino knock-offs. Anyone who has seen Overnight, the documentary about director/bartender/walking Boston stereotype Troy Duffy’s efforts to shoot himself in the foot every step of the way through the production of Saints, feels pleasure from watching Duffy’s film go from being a hot property to a barely-released mess.
Nevertheless, those same fraternity brothers who had a torn poster of Fight Club above their bed championed the film, enough to get funding for a sequel. By the time it was released, however, those frat boys grew up and got real jobs, and the film that never should have been has mostly been forgotten.
7. More American Graffiti
American Graffiti is one of the best movies that George Lucas has directed. It’s a poignant, understated coming-of-age story of a group of longtime friends who have just graduated high school. It is funny, with charming performances and a lack of heavy-handedness beyond a post-script that hits audiences like a double-decker bus.
However, its sequel, More American Graffiti betrays this gut punch of an ending, following the characters beyond that fateful night. It’s the hour-long trench run fight of coming-of-age films. Richard Dreyfuss wisely refused to return, but the rest of the cast seemed all-too game.
6. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
The Blair Witch Project is as divisive today as it was in 1999, but for entirely different reasons. At the time, audiences either loved the do-it-yourself horror, or found it interminably boring. Some felt cheated by the marketing, which claimed it was true footage. Today, detractors blame it for the constant glut of unimaginative found-footage horror. No one debates the merits of the sequel; there really aren’t any.
Documentarian Joe Berlinger was selected by Artisan to direct Blair Witch 2, which the company wanted in theatres as quickly as possible. Berlinger came in with big ideas, something potentially as groundbreaking as the previous film. He walked in wanting to explore the frenzied fandom surrounding Blair Witch and the question of what is and isn’t reality.
However, the studio had no interest. They wanted a traditional sequel – no longer hamstrung by found footage, they wanted a violent slasher film. Berlinger’s lofty ideas were recut and sacrificed to inject more jump scares, but the shreds of the director’s vision left in clash terribly with the rest of the film, rendering the whole project incoherent.
5. Terminator Genisys
The Terminator franchise began with a fairly small scale story – one derivative of numerous other science fiction works, but perfectly effective. It was only with Terminator 2: Judgement Day that James Cameron began his complex world-building in earnest.
Since then, the franchise has floundered. A needless third film served only to fill in the blanks before the inevitable apocalypse. Terminator: Salvation only muddied the waters of the mythology and bored audiences to tears. Still desperate to bleed an idea dry of money, the franchise did what all enterprises do when they’re out of options: they rebooted it.
4. Recent Hellraiser Sequels
Hellraiser, Cliver Barker’s directorial debut, is a surprisingly confident work from a first timer. Barker has credited his crew for preparing him for the gig so well, and he’s even expressed interest in remaking it, with his years of experience behind the camera.
However, there’s no need. The first film holds up as a terrific piece of macabre terror and fantastic make-up effects. The first sequel, in which the characters journey to hell, stands on its own as a reasonable followup. Even Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, which cemented Pinhead as a lead monster, as opposed to one of many cenobites, has its pleasures.
The later films, however, don’t deserve to carry the franchise’s name. Most of them – specifically Inferno, Hellseeker, Deader, and Hellworld – were speculative scripts in which Pinhead was inserted later. Therefore, the mythology of the series ends with the fourth film, Bloodline, and it isn’t exactly a masterpiece.
3. S. Darko
Donnie Darko hasn’t exactly aged well, particularly given director Richard Kelly’s later output. At the time of its release, Donnie Darko was bold – a seemingly mainstream film that didn’t bother dumbing down its labyrinthian plot involving time travel, wormholes, Tears for Fears covers, and rabbit costumes.
Then, of course, the director’s cut was released – which removed any of the cosmic whimsy and mystery that so endeared the film to its ever-growing cult following. Was it possible that Kelly’s first film was a fluke?
As disappointing as it is to realize that perhaps Kelly was just an incoherent storyteller with big ideas but no way of expressing them, S. Darko was just inexplicable. The DTV sequel follows Donnie’s now teenaged sister Samantha, who begins having psychic visions of her own while on a road trip.
It feels as though director Chris Fisher took trace samples from the corpse of the original film and left them in a contaminated petri dish overnight, hoping it would grow into a biologically-connected separate entity. Instead, it comes across as a ripoff.
2. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Twenty-three years after Oliver Stone introduced Gordon “greed is good” Gekko to the world, he returned to analyze the same world, post-subprime mortgage crisis. At face value, it was a provocative idea, particularly with a devastating update of Gordon Gekko’s signature line, “I once said ‘greed is good’ – now it seems its legal.”
Who better to examine the massive failure of the banking industry than the man who brought it to public attention in 1987 – another year when the United States came to the precipice of a depression? For many fans, this was the point when they realized that Oliver Stone isn’t always as good as he appears to be. His triumphs are interspersed with poorly thought-out efforts.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps lands firmly in the latter category, barely addressing the crisis, and instead attempting to provide a redemption story for Michael Douglas’ Gekko. Even a terrific soundtrack from David Byrne and Brian Eno doesn’t help the nonsensically forgiving conclusion. It only begs the question – why is this character even worthy of anything but years in prison?
1. American Psycho 2
American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis’ nihilistic satire of corporate America in the 1980s, took years to get to the screen. The property passed from David Cronenberg to Oliver Stone before landing over a decade later in the hands of Mary Harron.
One could only wonder what a proper sequel would look like. There is some connective tissue in Roger Avary’s faithful adaptation of Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction, but there’s no discernible reason to further examine Patrick’s homicidal exploits.
American Psycho 2 is just a slasher film. The opening scene features a young Rachel Newman (later played by Mila Kunis) murdering Patrick Bateman. Newman then attends college as a criminology student, all the while killing her way closer to her professor, played by William Shatner.
This is a case in which the brand name actually hurts the sequel’s success. Were it not for the namesake, American Psycho 2 would have been a largely ignored, but otherwise accepted as a perfectly mediocre slasher flick.
Did you see all of these horrible sequels? Can you think of any others that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!