14 Franchises That Completely Flopped (And 16 That Became Massive Hits)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Poster

Don’t listen to people who will insist on telling you that original cinema is gone and that there’s no such thing as creativity anymore. Franchises, remakes, and adaptations have always been the foundation of Hollywood’s success stories.

Just look at the endless slate of Universal monster movies, or classic directors like Howard Hawks and Cecil B. Demille remaking their own films.

If a studio has the option to risk an original property, or hedge a safe bet with a remake or sequel, nine times out of ten they’ll go with the latter.

Lucky for us, some Hollywood studios have moved away from the conveyor belt method of commercial movie-making, taking chances with established masterminds, or up-and-coming talents.

We’re lucky enough to be living in a world where Steven Spielberg is still adapting books for the big screen, and horror veterans, Shakespearean thespians, and even a New Zealander have all directed superhero movies.

Unfortunately, not every franchise can be a winner. Sometimes, a studio can throw all the money in the world at an exciting new project, only for the film to flop, and future sequels thrown down the drain.

Sometimes it’s an unlucky case of having been released in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other times, the movie was just bad.

Here’s our rundown of the 14 Franchises That Completely Flopped (And 16 That Became Massive Hits).

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

30 Flopped: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Getting Guy Ritchie to direct the oft-told tale of King Arthur, Excalibur, and his knights of the round table was an interesting choice to say the least.

Known better for his cockney crime capers Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he has had mainstream success before with his Robert Downey Jr-led Sherlock Holmes films.

King Arthur, however, went full Ritchie, and Arthur and his squad of Camelot lads felt more like football players than bona fide knights of old.

Unsurprisingly, the mixture of medieval fantasy and London slang didn’t resonate with audiences, and the planned cinematic universe was axed.

29 Massive Hit: Star Trek

It’s been over 50 years, and Gene Rodberry’s bright idea for a series of intergalactic adventures led by a crew of intrepid explorers is still going strong.

Encompassing six series and more than ten feature movies, its fandom is bigger than ever with no sign of slowing down.

JJ Abram’s first reboot was a huge success, and, although the future of the film series is in a bit of a tailspin, its television presence is going nowhere.

Discovery has been critically acclaimed, and there are currently plans to bring back Patrick Stewart for a Picard-centred new series.

Oh, and the idea of a Tarantino-directed Trek movie is irresistible.

28 Flopped: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 poster

Spider-Man is still a big kid on the block in terms of superhero movies.

After being introduced into the MCU, as played by Tom Holland, he’s more popular than ever, and it looks like we could see him appear in at least two movies a year going forward.

However, Sony’s solo efforts with the wall-crawler reached a tough teething period when Sam Raimi completed his original trilogy.

Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man series was all set for sequels and spin-offs galore, but the ideas were just too crazy to stick. Besides, Disney had bigger and better ideas for Peter Parker.

27 Massive Hit: X-Men

X-Men Legitimately Tough

All franchises that last as long as the X-Meng go through a rough patch.

Remember when Magneto was hiding out in the woods, and we thought a shirtless, mouthless Ryan Reynolds was the best Deadpool we were ever gonna get?

Luckily, Matthew Vaughn managed to turn things around with First Class, and the prequel trilogy was set to blow minds when the middle chapter Days of Future Past returned the adventures of Wolverine and Professor X to their former glory.

We may have left Apocalypse more puzzled than pleased, but it’s nice that we can say a solo Wolverine movie is one of the best superhero films ever made, and not just one of the worst.

26 Flopped: The Terminator

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys

Just like the T-800 himself, this is one franchise that refuses to stay down.

In fact, it’s a lot like the amorphous T-1000; constantly morphing and changing its shape to hurt us again and again until it eventually burns alive.

For a franchise that most will agree hasn’t been enjoyable since the 90s, it’s rather admirable that it managed to bluff its way into three more sequels, with another on its way in 2019.

None of them have been nearly as successful since James Cameron’s brilliant first two outings, so let’s hope this next re-reboot is the final flop in the coffin.

25 Massive Hit: James Bond

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Nothing tempts a Brit to the movies quicker than a womanizing sociopath for hire in a dinner jacket.

The 007 series rivals Star Trek in its longevity. Boasting a massive 23 films, the third highest-grossing movie franchise in history began all the way back in the 1960s with Sean Connery at the wheel of the Aston Martin.

Since then, the suave secret agent has been portrayed by six more actors, most recently by charismatic block of mahogany Daniel Craig.

Although Spectre fell slightly below standard for the series, the $7 billion the series has already amassed under its expensive designer belt is nothing to be sniffed at.

24 Flopped: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows (Review)

Fans were aghast when it was suggested that Michael Bay’s upcoming take on the half-shelled heroes were going to mix things up a little too far.

Though Paramount didn’t go through with the idea of turning the teenage mutant crime fighters into aliens, the franchise was cursed from the beginning.

The sequel, Out of the Shadows was an effective and silly translation of the cartoons we all grew up loving, but our current wave of nostalgia doesn’t stretch to the likes of Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang.

Once it failed to shred up the box office, Paramount revealed sequel plans would be scrapped in favour of another reboot.

23 Massive Hit: Wizarding World

Who would have thought that the quaintly British adventures of a scrawny kid from Surrey would be the foundation of one of most successful franchises of all time?

Throw in some magic, mythical creatures, and an evil dark lord into the mix, and Warner Bros had the makings of an absolute hit.

We all sobbed into our butterbeer when Harry’s adventures came to an end in Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Hungry for more, the Fantastic Beasts prequel series, set for four more films was conjured up by original Potter author J.K. Rowling to satisfy our wizarding cravings.

22 Flopped: Power Rangers

Power Rangers poster excerpt

As a popular television series, Power Rangers isn’t going anywhere. The Japanese staple, known in its homeland as Super Sentai, in which five teenage heroes suit up to battle monsters, has been going strong since 1993.

However, Saban’s plans to bring the Mighty Morphin’ superheroes to the big screen was bogged down with an uneven tone, unconvincing special effects and bizarre adult humor.

The movie wins points for its diverse cast, and Elizabeth Banks’ perfectly campy Rita Repulsa.

A sequel is apparently underway, but we're a little concerned after the first movie failed to morph into a hit at the box office.

21 Massive Hit: Star Wars

Okay, ignore the fact that Disney’s extensive plans for spin-offs and anthology movies have been scuppered by Solo, and Rian Johnson’s Episode IX made Darren Aronofsky’s mother! only the second most divisive movie of 2017.

Star Wars is still here to stay, and it’s won the hearts and inspired the imaginations of a whole new generation of sci-fi fanatics around the world.

Those who love The Last Jedi do so even more passionately than those who hate it and, don’t forget, it still earned over a billion dollars.

With new trilogies and television series announced every other day, we’re still a long way off from "Star Peace."

20 Flopped: The Divergent Series

Ascendant TV Movie Divergent Series

Veronica Roth’s wildly successful series of novels caught the tip of the wave of dystopia novels that were all rushed out in the earlier 2010s following the insane popularity of the Hunger Games franchise.

A film adaptation was inevitable, and the series attracted an impressive pedigree, signing on indie darling Shailene Woodley alongside Oscar-winner Kate Winslet’s first villainous role.

The series was initially poised for big things. However, Divergent was thrown into turmoil after the intended first chapter of a two-part conclusion flopped hard.

Allegiant now exists in incomplete limbo, and there may or may not be a TV series set to somehow finish the job without Shailene Woodley.

19 Massive Hit: Middle Earth

J.R.R. Tolkein’s expansive series of books became the launching pad for a fantasy boom in the 1950s. Before the linguistic genius came along, fantasy was considered a lower form of literature.

Director Peter Jackson ensured that the game-changing series of novels got the prestigious adaptation they deserved.

The Lord of the Rings is an epic trilogy of films that we’re still marathoning to this day. Many fans are even daring enough to brave the four-hour extended cuts, one after the other.

The less said about the disappointing Hobbit prequels the better, but they still earned Warner Bros a pretty penny.

18 Flopped: Hellboy

Guillermo del Toro has won the acclaim of blockbuster and art house fans alike.

He’s directed a Blade film, introduced the world to Pacific Rim, as well as winning 2017’s Best Picture Oscar with his fantasy romance, The Shape of Water.

Before that, the Mexican auteur was the mastermind behind the underrated dark superhero film Hellboy, and its sequel, The Golden Army.

Unfortunately, neither film was successful enough to warrant the completion of his trilogy.

A Hellboy reboot is scheduled next year, with Stranger Things’ David Harbour donning the red paint and horns. Let’s hope it retains some of del Toro’s unique flair.

17 Massive Hit: The Fast and the Furious

Furious 7 Poster - Full Cast

The Fast and the Furious wasn’t an obvious case for a series of not one, but seven sequels and more along the way.

A small little Point Break lookalike, it did make B-list stars out of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, but no one could have predicted the franchise taking off in the way it did.

The ingenious inclusions of charismatic hunks Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham for 5 and 6 respectively ensured the longevity of the nitrous-fuelled series.

The characters were so popular that, as well as well as the ninth film being scheduled for 2020, the pair would reunite for their own spin-off, Hobbs and Shaw, in 2019.

16 Flopped: Fantastic Four

Three films in and Fox still haven’t found a way to make Marvel’s first superhero family work on the big screen.

Tim Story’s original duo of Fantastic Four films made a star of Chris Evans, and were admirable efforts for the early 2000s.

The effects and goofy comedy don’t cut it in today’s MCU-dominated movie world, though.

The year 2015’ Fant4stic was even worse, and it tanked big time. Committing the cardinal movie sin of just being plain boring, it didn’t even have the good grace of being so bad it was good.

15 Massive Hit: Pirates of the Caribbean

The year 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean was a huge surprise.

Not only was it the first half decent movie based on a theme park ride of all things, it solidified Johnny Depp as more than Tim Burton’s weird muse, even earning him a nod at the Oscars for his creepy performance as drunken pirate, Jack Sparrow.

The initial trilogy comprise some of the successful films of all time and, even though On Stranger Tides is still the most expensive movie ever made, it just managed to scrape past a billion dollars at the box office.

The latest instalment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, had the bad fortune to be released following Johnny Depp’s bad press, but its $700 million earnings prove there’s still life in the sea dog yet.

14 Flopped: John Carter

John Carter

Like J.R.R. Tolkein, Edgar Rice Burroughs is a name every fan of fantasy and adventure should know.

Among his extensive collection of serials, Burroughs created Tarzan, a character that did Hollywood’s heavy lifting during the 1930s.

After an animated adaptation of Tarzan in the 90s proved a reasonable success for Disney, the studio believed John Carter, another Burroughs creation, could do the same magic.

Unfortunately the premise was too ‘out there’ for movie fans, and sequel plans were scrapped amid one of the worst flops in the studio’s history.

13 Massive Hit: Jurassic Park

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom promo art

Michael Crichton continues a trend in this list, with many successful (and not-so lucrative) franchises taking inspiration from iconic modern novels.

Though movie wizard Stephen Spielberg implemented some minor changes and artistic licence, his otherwise faithful Jurassic Park brought the director back to his monster movie roots, scaring up numerous sequels and one of the biggest franchises in history.

You can still catch bad-tempered dinos on the big screen today. Jurassic World and its sequel Fallen Kingdom roared new life into the series, and sequel plans show so sign of slowing down.

12 Flopped: The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

The year 2012 and 2013 reminded us all that Disney can be extremely hit-and-miss with its live action films.

Directly after John Carter dealt them a substantial box office blow, The Lone Ranger was released the following year to a similarly tepid response.

Over-long, bloated and hinging on the unlikely pairing of Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, the pairing had about as much life in them as Tonto’s stuffed buzzard he inexplicably wore as a hat.

It also attracted a heap of controversy with the casting of Depp as a Native American, who unconvincingly mumbled something about a Comanche great-great grandmother as feeble defence.

11 Massive Hit: Transformers

Transformers Optimus Prime and Megatron

Michael Bay’s action figure romp might be on the most hated series of films known to cinema history, but no one can deny that audiences still go and see them in absolute droves.

Frequently crossing the billion dollar mark, maybe about half of those earnings are from sincere fans, while the other side are simply along for the ride to see what the crazy blockbuster filmmaker will do next.

Long, masculine, and frequently problematic, Bay doesn’t need to listen to the critics when his millions of dollars earned with each film keep bringing him back for more.

10 Flopped: Blade Runner

Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner is perhaps the most influential science-fiction film ever made, inventing a unique aesthetic blend of cyberpunk and noir that has been imitated by films, television, and even video games for decades to come.

Denis Villeneuve’s sequel was equally game-changing, rolling more with the existential dread of the original’s closing moments to forge an artistic blockbuster for the ages.

Despite their innovation and critical acclaim, both movies tanked at the box office.

However, who knows; DVD and Blu-Ray sales give the two movies legs, so there’s still every chance the trilogy could be completed in another thirty years.

9 Massive Hit: DCEU

Here’s a controversial one, as many comic book fans will tell you that the DC Extended Universe is currently doing their favorite characters a huge disservice.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice especially was a bonkers and misjudged attempt to bring two of the world’s most popular heroes together on the big screen for the first time.

That said, no one can deny that these movies make bank.

They’re coming up to the $4 billion mark, and solo films and spin-offs are still scheduled for the next few years, especially after Wonder Woman gave the franchise the boost it needed.

8 Flopped: Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson

Rick Riordan’s series of teen books blended modern action with classical gods and monsters, and a movie adaptation had every chance of being the next Harry Potter.

To give it credit, the series got further than some, The Lightning Thief doing just about well enough to earn itself a second instalment.

However, Sea of Monsters butchered much about what made those original books so thrilling and, despite a strong central performance from Logan Lerman (and scene-saving appearances from Stanley Tucci), sequel plans were left drowning.

There’s always second chances now Disney has bought the rights along with its takeover of Fox.

7 Massive Hit: Twilight

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) becomes a vampire in Breaking Dawn Part 1

From 2008 to 2012, teenage boys were dragged on unwilling dates, sitting down, arms crossed, to endure the much-reviled Twilight Saga.

Despite the overwhelming outcry from cynical teens, the romantic fantasy proved a huge hit, and made stars of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who has since moved passed her glassy-eyed Bella Swan performances to become an acclaimed indie darling.

They’re schlocky, poorly acted, and can we talk about the CGI baby?

Twilight still managed to pull in over $3 billion from its committed fans in spite of all its problems.

6 Massive Hit: Despicable Me

The year2010 became another victim of the ‘dual film syndrome’, with two supervillain-centric, animated comedies, Megamind and Despicable Me splitting forcing audiences to choose between two co-currently released films that essentially looked the same.

No one would have guessed that it was Illumination’s dull animation style and childish humor that would come out on top.

Thanks to the antics of the babbling, slapstick lackeys known as Minions (because, let’s face it, what child really cares about Gru and his three ‘gorls’), the series overtook Shrek to become the most successful animated franchise of all time.

5 Flopped: The Dark Tower

With every hit based on a novel or series of books by iconic horror master, Stephen King, there are about five flops that fail to find their audience.

Unfortunately, The Dark Tower fell into the second category.

Based on the super-meta fantasy series, a departure for the ghost and ghouls-obsessed writer, its cast was on to a winner, at least.

Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey seemed like the ideal fit to portray the Gunslinger and the Man in Black.

Unfortunately, the movie bore little resemblance to its source material. A reported TV series might be able to pick up the pieces, but the first attempt at an adaptation left a big mess in its tracks.

4 Massive Hit: Mission: Impossible

Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible solidified Tom Cruise as an unrivalled action star.

Based on the 1960s television series of the same name, the continuation introduced Ethan Hunt, a new IMF agent that may as well be Cruise playing himself.

Full of incredible stunts and heart-stopping action, the series has had its rough patches, but Brad Bird brought it back to its former glory when he had the genius idea of sticking the committed star to the tallest skyscraper in the world.

The latest entry, Mission: Impossible – Fallout might have just taken the prize for best action film of all time.

3 Massive Hit: Toy Story

Toy Story 2

Pixar Animation Studios have produced hit after hit, but none of their creations have touched as many hearts as their ode to childhood, Toy Story.

The first film in the series was also Pixar’s first feature film, and proved to studios and audiences alike that computer generated animation was the future.

Toy Story 2 was equally innovative, but, sadly, we had to wait more than ten years for more adventures with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang.

The long-awaited third film earned over a billion dollars, and reminded grown men that it’s okay to cry in front of your children.

2 Flopped: The Dark Universe

Sofia Boutella in The Mummy

From a Tom Cruise hit to a Tom Cruise miss, The Mummy was all set to launch the next big thing, bringing franchise movies back to their roots by revitalising all the classic monsters and ghouls your grandparents grew up watching behind the sofa.

Unfortunately, the movie bit off way more than it could chew, taking frequent breaks from Egyptian action to introduce Russell Crowe’s shoe-horned Jekyll/Hyde, and an organization whose job it was to provide references to future films in the background.

The so-called "Dark Universe" probably broke new ground with its cast photo for a series of films that likely won’t ever be produced.

1 Massive Hit: MCU

As we come to the end of our blockbuster journey of hits and flops, it’s worth mentioning that even the biggest smashes have never reached the status of absolutely essential viewing.

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe growing more and more successful, producer and mastermind Kevin Feige has practically crafted a series that demands to be watched.

The MCU is pure entertainment, and movie fans know that they’d be stupid to miss each instalment in theatres.

Also, with Disney now producing three Marvel movies each year, it’s no wonder that the adventures of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor and Black Panther have become the biggest franchise in movie history.


Can you think of any other big franchises that became massive hits or flopped? Let us know in the comments!

More in Lists