"Let's face it, baby—these days, you gotta have a sequel." Those not-so-famous words were uttered by Matthew Lillard's Stu Macher in 1996's Scream. Twenty years later, they have never been more true. Sequels are all the rage nowadays, with major studios turning out twenty-eight of them in 2015 and another thirty this year. And that's not even including non-sequels that are part of larger franchises like Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Walk into any movie theater throughout the year and you are all but guaranteed to see at least one sequel playing. Even now, theaters are playing Inferno, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Boo! A Madea Halloween.
The reason for this is simple: sequels make money. Though they have been under-performing as of late, sequels still make up 17 of the world's 20 highest grossing movies of all time, and as long as they perform reasonably well, they will continue to be made. But not every announced sequel lives to see the light of day. And while most would have had very little lasting effect, others had the potential to drastically change the movie landscape as we know it today.
Here are 15 Movie Sequels That Were Almost Made And Would Have Changed Everything.
The first two movies in the Superman franchise are classics and considered two of the better superhero movies ever made. Then Superman III underwhelmed critics and grossed only half as much as its predecessor at the box office, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace bombed completely, killing off the franchise for the next two decades. So what happened? Well, Richard Donner (director of the first film and around 75% of the second) left the franchise. Richard Lester was hired to finish the sequel, but the magic that made the first two so great never returned.
There is no telling what could have been if Richard Donner hadn't left the series. Early drafts of the script for Donner's Superman III introduced Supergirl, Brainiac, and Mr. Mxyzptlk (pronounced mix-yez-spit-lick), and though there's no guarantee these characters would have appeared in the film, it's safe to assume Donner's version would have, at the very least, been an improvement over Lester's. Had the film been of the same quality as its predecessors, who knows how many more would have been made? Sequels could have been produced throughout the '80s and '90s, exploring the Superman mythos and building a cinematic universe decades before universe-building was even a consideration.
Nineteen years after he was banished by general audiences following the dreadful Quest for Peace, Superman made his triumphant return to the big screen in Bryan Singer's appropriately titled Superman Returns. The film was a return to form for the franchise, performing well with critics and audiences to the tune of nearly $400 million worldwide. Though the film underperformed in the eyes of Warner Bros. President Alan F. Horn (who believed it should have made $500 million), a sequel, Superman: The Man of Steel was greenlit and the director and main cast were all expected to return. Delays due to Singer's availability, however, in addition to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike led to the sequel being canceled entirely in 2008.
According to Michael Dougherty, the writer of the first film, the sequel would have been action-heavy, featuring other Kryptonians, with Bizarro and Brainiac as potential main villains. Regardless of the story, had Superman: The Man of Steel been produced, it would have completely changed the landscape of the DC Extended Universe that we see in theaters today. The franchise would not have been rebooted with 2013's Man of Steel, the world would have been denied Henry Cavill's g, and, most importantly, Brandon Routh would never have made a role in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which would have been a damn shame.
Following the critical and commercial successes of X-Men and X2: X-Men United, 20th Century Fox decided to take the franchise in a new direction. Though it continued with the production of X-Men: The Last Stand, the plan was to launch a new series of films focusing on character origins. Fox hired writers to pen the scripts for X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men Origins: Magneto. While Wolverine was in development, Fox greenlit a third script for X-Men: First Class, which would feature characters such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Beast, as teenagers. Material from the Magneto script was soon incorporated into the First Class script, and many characters from the original trilogy were scrapped in favor of more focus on the relationship between Magneto and Professor X. 2011's X-Men: First Class was the eventual result.
Had Fox proceeded with X-Men Origins: Magneto, there is no doubt the character's role in First Class would have been minimized, if not omitted entirely. Without the relationship between Charles and Erik at the film's core, X-Men: First Class would have most likely proceeded along lines more similar to X-Men: Apocalypse, with a focus on the younger mutants. From there, the franchise could have proceeded in any number of directions, though it's highly unlikely X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the franchise's better installments, would have turned out the way it did.
2011's Green Lantern was supposed to be the start of a trilogy. In 2010, Warner Bros. commissioned a script for a sequel, and the film itself teased one with a post-credits scene in which Sinestro comes to possess the yellow ring of fear. The film underwhelmed at the box office and with critics, however, and the sequel was abandoned several months after the original's premiere. Leaked details about the sequel's script suggest the film would have focused on a war between the Green Lantern Corps. and the Sinestro Corps.
Storyline details aside, the mere production of Green Lantern 2 would have undoubtedly changed the DC Extended Universe going forward. Green Lantern, not Man of Steel, would have been the launch point of the DC extended universe, and would have changed the tone of the universe as a whole. Had the sequel been green-lit, subtle references to the Green Lantern Corps could have been made in Man of Steel, providing links to a grander universe that were mostly missing from the film (though there were a few Batman references here and there). Instead, the sequel was canned and the franchise will start anew with 2020's Green Lantern Corps.
Following his breakout year in 1994, Jim Carrey was a star on the rise. Naturally, studios sought to capitalize on his momentum and greenlit sequels to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. The former was released in 1995 and doubled the original's box office gross to the tune of $215 million worldwide. Despite the film's success, Carrey would turn down a reported $10 million to appear in The Mask 2, and wouldn't make another sequel until 2014's Dumb and Dumber To. Reasons for Carrey's abhorrence to sequels ranged from him having a bad experience on the set of When Nature Calls to him not wanting to sacrifice his integrity as an actor by repeatedly playing the same roles.
Carrey's appearance in The Mask 2 had the potential to change everything. Financial stakes aside (although it's interesting to note that The Mask outgrossed the original Ace Ventura by $200 million. Considering the box office bump When Nature Calls received due to Carrey's involvement, The Mask 2 had the potential to be a massive hit), Carrey's presence in The Mask 2 could have changed his view on sequels in general and led to more in the future. As opposed to the Carrey-less sequels we received (Son of the Mask, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, and Evan Almighty), there could have been The Mask 2, The Mask 3, The Mask 4: The Return of Milo, The Mask 5: The Revenge of Stanley Ipkiss, and The Mask 6: The Curse of the Mask. On second thought, maybe things worked out for the best.
After the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Disney decided to give The Lone Ranger similar treatment. Armie Hammer was cast as the titular hero and Johnny Depp as Tonto, and the film was released in 2013. Members of the cast were signed to multi-picture deals and Disney had hope the film would launch a new blockbuster franchise. Fortunately, the movie bombed and plans for a sequel were scrapped.
The Lone Ranger 2, had it been greenlit, would have created yet another big, loud franchise in the style of Transformers and the aforementioned Pirates of the Caribbean, and, undoubtedly signified the end of the latter series. Disney most definitely would not have resurrected the Pirates franchise with next year's Dead Men Tell No Tales and instead would have pumped out Lone Ranger sequels for years to come. This is one sequel the world should be happy it missed out on.
1984's Ghostbusters was a critical and commercial success that all but demanded a sequel. Ghostbusters II wasn't as well received and did not gross as much as the original, but was successful nonetheless, leading many to believe another sequel was inevitable. Unfortunately, Ghostbusters III: Hellbent got stuck in development hell (no pun intended) and most of the film's plot points were incorporated into 2009's Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Reasons for the delays range from problems with the script to Bill Murray's outright refusal to reprise his role.
Ghostbusters III would have given fans of the franchise the sequel they so desperately craved and, more importantly, could have transitioned the franchise out of the hands of the old guard and allowed younger Ghostbusters to assume the mantle. At the very least, it would have appeased the die hard fans of the franchise and spared the world the insanity that erupted when the reboot's trailer premiered earlier this year.
Tim Burton's Batman franchise followed a path eerily similar to Richard Donner's Superman franchise twenty years earlier. In both cases, the first two films were huge financial successes, then the original director was replaced for the third entry, and both needed to be rebooted by entry number 5. Tim Burton expressed interest in returning to direct Batman 3, and Michael Keaton was set to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne, but Warner Bros felt Batman Returns was too dark in tone and wanted to lighten things up. Burton and Keaton eventually dropped out and were replaced with Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer respectively.
Little is known about where Burton would have taken the series had he stuck around for Batman 3, but even a lighter take on the character in his hands would have been vastly different from the nipple-filled direction Schumacher pursued. Burton's continued involvement also could have enticed Keaton to remain under the cowl, which would have shut the revolving door of actors that would assume the role in the years to come.
Once Tim Burton left the franchise, Joel Schumacher took the reins and directed 1995's Batman Forever. It was a massive hit, outgrossing Batman Returns, and led to Schumacher returning to direct 1997's Batman and Robin. Based on early cuts of the film, Warner Bros. commissioned another sequel to be released in 1999, with Schumacher, George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone set to reprise their roles. The sequel was canceled, however, after Batman and Robin premiered to lackluster reviews and the lowest box office totals for the franchise at that point.
Like Burton's abandoned sequel before it, little is known about Schumacher's second sequel (though early versions of the script had the introductions of Scarecrow and Harley Quinn) but, like many entries on this list, its mere production would have drastically changed the Batman franchise as a whole, and influenced many comic book movies to follow. Had Schumacher directed Batman 5, Warner Bros. would not have rebooted the franchise (again) with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which was a massive commercial and critical success, and brought a gritty realism to the superhero genre that is still present today.
Before 20th Century Fox released Fantastic Four in 2005, its four main cast members were signed to a three-picture deal. Following the moderate success of the first film, a sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, was released in 2007. The film was met with mixed-to-negative reviews and its box office dipped as well, making it less profitable than the original. The third film would then experience delays until it was officially scrapped in 2009 when Fox announced it would reboot the franchise.
The cancellation of Fantastic Four 3 had lasting effects far outside of the franchise itself. While it, of course, led to the epic failure that was 2015's Fantastic Four, it also freed Chris Evans up to play the role of Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and actually had a significant impact on Disney's Star Wars universe as well. Before Fantastic Four premiered, director Josh Trank was in line to direct the second standalone film after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Once stories of Trank's antics behind Fantastic Four began to leak, he was removed from the film.
With Marvel's Cinematic Universe in full-swing and Warner Bros. slowly building a DC universe of its own, the powers that be at Sony decided to double-down on their sole comic book hero: Spider-Man. Having recently rebooted the franchise (more on that in a moment) with 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony had plans to create a universe around the web crawler, announcing release dates for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4 in 2016 and 2018, respectively, and spin-off films featuring The Sinister Six and Venom to be released thereafter. Then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tanked at the box office (becoming the lowest-grossing film in the franchise, by far), and plans changed drastically.
Sony scrapped its Spider-verse entirely and soon struck a deal with Marvel to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. He made his debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War and will receive his own film, Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017. Considering the poor box office grosses of the first two Amazing Spider-Man films (both the lowest in the history of the franchise), and the poor reviews of the second film in particular, it's clear another reboot is best for all parties involved.
Before there was an Amazing Spider-Man, there was plain old Spider-Man. With Tobey Maguire in the titular role, and Sam Raimi in the director's chair, the Spider-Man franchise was the gold standard for superhero films of its time, with Spider-Man 2 still ranking high among the greatest comic book movies of all time. Though Spider-Man 3 didn't fair as well as its predecessors critically and commercially, Spider-Man 4 entered development in 2007, with Raimi, Maguire, and Kirsten Dunst all set to return.
Raimi had big plans for the fourth installment of the franchise, including a focus on the evolution of Kurt Connors into the Lizard. There were also negotiations with John Malkovich to play Vulture, and Anne Hathaway to play Felicia Hardy, AKA Black Cat (two years before she played Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises). The film was scheduled to be released in 2011, but canceled in 2010 when Raimi dropped out of the project citing an inability to meet the film's release date without sacrificing its integrity. Had Raimi continued with the project, it could have been the start of a new trilogy with Maguire in the role. Instead, it was scrapped, and the aforementioned Amazing Spider-Man shenanigans ensued.
Almost everyone knows the story of Superman Lives. For those who do not, here is a brief run down. In the late 1990's, the Superman franchise was almost resurrected under the direction of the man who originally brought Batman to the big screen. That's right, Tim Burton was set to direct the film, and Nicolas Cage (yes, Nicolas Cage) was to play the Man of Steel. A script featuring Brainiac (yet again) and Doomsday was penned, and the film went into pre-production in 1997. To make a long story short, the film was eventually canceled, and its back story would become the focus of a documentary titled, The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
There is no doubting that Superman Lives would have had a profound impact on the world of cinema. Besides the fact that Nicola- freaking Cage would have played Clark Kent, the film would have been directed by the man who directed Batman. Could Tim Burton have set the film in the same universe as Batman and convinced Michael Keaton to once again don the cowl? Maybe. Could Nicolas Cage have successfully played an extraterrestrial trying to blend in with the beings of Earth? Probably. Unfortunately, we'll never know.
Back in 2009, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy, Warner Bros. was on the brink of making a film that would change the cinematic landscape forever. They were going to bring the Justice League together in Justice League: Mortal. George Miller was set to direct, the film was cast, and costumes were made, and then, just when production was set to begin, the film was canceled. A number of factors led to its cancellation, including the aforementioned writer's strike, difficulty filming in Australia (the film's primary filming location), and Warner Bros.' hesitancy to greenlight another Batman movie when The Dark Knight was so close to release.
Considering his most recent outing was the hugely successful and critically adored Mad Max: Fury Road, it's a shame George Miller wasn't able to bring Justice League: Mortal to fruition. Warner Bros. could have beat Marvel to the punch by bringing its superhero team to the big screen three years before The Avengers was released. It would also be in a much better position to compete with the MCU, which is already thirteen films in and going strong. Instead, Warner Bros. got a late start, and has a lot of catching up to do.
Those who have seen 2000's Gladiator will recall the film's main character, Maximus Decimus Meridius meets his end in the film's finale. After killing Commodus, Maximus succumbs to his own injuries, died, and is reunited with his wife and son in the afterlife. The perfect ending to an exceptional film. No need for a sequel, right? Wrong. Since Gladiator was such a huge success, Dreamworks wanted Maximus' story to continue. One idea for a sequel would have seen Maximus resurrected by the Roman Gods in order to kill a rogue God who assumed a Christ-like position on Earth and was amassing followers, thereby threatening the existence of the aforementioned Roman Gods. The film would have ended with a twenty-minute war scene that spanned all the wars in history, right up to the war in Vietnam.
Now that is one insane sequel that would have changed everything. At best, it would have killed off DreamWorks Pictures, the career of Russel Crowe, and the sequel craze in one fell swoop. At worst, it would have succeeded and led to studios green-lighting countless bat-crap crazy sequels for years to come; thereby creating a world where movies like Superman Lives, and Justice League: Immortal are not only made, but are commonplace. Considering the current state of affairs, maybe Gladiator 2: Christ Killer is just what the world needs.
Which of these would you most have liked to see? Let us know in the comments!