Ever since there have been successful movies, there have been attempts to duplicate their success. This means turning what could have become a classic stand-alone film into a film franchise. Sequels and remakes can try to improve upon elements of the original or bring a beloved character into an entirely new and interesting situation. Sometimes things work out, but other times…
Franchises like Harry Potter or The Godfather have held fans’ interest throughout their entire runs, but others have not been so lucky. More often than not, it seems, studios push their luck with a movie series, running the creative well dry in an attempt to cash in on the original. This process of overdoing it with sequels and remakes has left many fans asking the simple question: “why?”
What is even more baffling than allowing a franchise to run on too long is not allowing one to reach its full potential. In a cinematic landscape ruled by familiarity, it seems odd that studios wouldn’t take a chance on extending certain franchises. There’s nothing worse than realizing your favourite movie’s cliffhanger ending is destined to go unresolved.
With that in mind, here are 10 Movie Franchises That Went On Way Too Long (5 That Were Too Short).
15 Too Long: Scream
Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher Scream has become a staple in the horror genre. A combination of terrifying and hilarious elements, this self-aware horror flick is seen by many as the catalyst to the modern slasher. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s passion for the genre is extremely apparent and the attention to detail is what made Scream’s final reveal a shock to audiences for years to come.
As is the case with most of this list, the success of the original film led to the development of a sequel. Scream 2 was released just a year later in 1997 and, while not as beloved as the first film, garnered a pretty generous response from audiences. But the studio just couldn’t let things stop there.
While Wes Craven stuck around for 2000’s Scream 3, Kevin Williamson was noticeably absent. The result was a boring rehash of the first 2 films with a bland lot and nonsensical twist reveal. It seemed apparent that the franchise had pushed its luck with fans and critics alike. Things remained quiet until 2011, with the release of Scream 4, and 2015’s Scream TV series. While both have received a more positive response than Scream 3, it’s safe to say many fans of the series wish they’d just end the series.
14 Too Long: Indiana Jones
The Indiana Jones trilogy is arguably the best action adventure series of all time. Beginning with 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, audiences were blown away by the audacious archeologist in his attempts to find the Ark of the Covenant. With the involvement of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford, was there ever any doubt that the film would be a success?
The 1984 prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom followed, garnering mixed reviews for its darker, more violent tone. Despite reservations felt by some viewers, the film did well enough to bring about 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The third installment was similarly not as well loved as the first, but was nonetheless a solid flick.
Many figured that would be the end of the series. I mean, it says right in the title that it’s Indy’s last crusade.
Instead, we got 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Audiences came out in droves to see Ford and company back in action, though the excitement level went down fast. Reception was so poor that South Park even got in on the action, with their infamous episode “The China Problem.”
In spite of this, filming of a fifth Indiana Jones movie is set to begin in 2019, though without Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction.
13 Too Short: Spider-Man
In 2018, it may be hard to imagine a time when superhero movies weren’t all the rage. The Marvel and DC cinematic universes have been dominating the box office for nearly a decade now with no signs of slowing. For many fans, their love for superhero flicks started with 2002’s Spider-Man.
Starring Tobey Maguire, the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man franchise wowed audiences for its first two releases. By 2007, however, things took a less pleasant turn. Spider-Man 3 was panned by most audiences with a subpar plot, weak portrayal of Venom, and a straight up odd performance from Tobey Maguire, you’ve all seen the memes. Audiences weren’t the only ones unhappy with the final product. Sam Raimi had originally intended for Sandman and the Vulture to be the film’s main villains before studio interference made the Evil Dead director swap out his antagonist.
Despite the negative reaction to Spider-Man 3, fans of the series remained hopeful for the planned fourth installment. Before cancellation, the fourth Spider-Man film showed some serious promise. The idea of Lizard as a main villain had been teased by Raimi since the second film and it looked as though fans were finally going to get what they’d been waiting for.
While it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see Tobey back in the suit any time soon, we can at least marvel at Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
12 Too Long: The Hobbit
If you thought The Lord of the Rings was a drag, you’d best avoid the prequels. The first of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings book series, 1937’s The Hobbit has become a favourite of fantasy readers of all ages due to its descriptive story telling and comparatively fast pace. Fans of Tolkien’s work and of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy were beyond excited to see that studios were finally going to take a chance on The Hobbit.
The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey hit screens in 2012 and received mixed reviews from fans and critics. The film’s visual effects and higher-than-average frame rate won it no favours amongst viewers and the sporadic pacing were seen as a major misstep. What these critical viewers were even less excited for was the news that The Hobbit would be spread across not two, but three feature films.
Bringing the whole ordeal to nearly eight hours, 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug and 2014’s The Battle of Five Armies did little to improve upon the shortcomings of the first movie in the series. Although cramming all the events of The Hobbit into a single movie would be a bit much, the general consensus is that three was simply too much.
11 Too Long: The Pirates of the Caribbean
It’s been a rough go for Johnny Depp these past few years. While the actor gained a reputation for his expert performances in unique and quirky film roles. Filling the titular roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Donnie Brasco and becoming a mainstay in the films of Tim Burton, audiences flocked to theatres to see their favourite leading man.
One of Depp’s most iconic roles was Captain Jack Sparrow, a over-the-top pirate first appearing in 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The action-adventure movie was a critical and commercial success with a captivating storyline and impressive visuals. Studio’s quickly tried to capitalize on the success of The Curse of the Black Pearl with 2006’s Dead Man’s Chest and 2007’s At World’s End.
Both sequels were very successful at the box office, though many fans found the series was getting stale.
It seems that the fans weren’t the only ones tiring of The Pirates of the Caribbean. Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Kiera Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann were noticeably absent from 2011’s On Stranger Tides and barely present in 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales. Despite all this, a 6th Pirates movie was confirmed in late 2017. Looks like we haven’t seen the last of Captain Jack Sparrow.
10 Too Short: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
It’s become apparent over the years that British humour isn’t for everyone. For many North American audiences, it’s simply too dry. For the rest of us, however, there’s nothing better. A favourite amongst many fans is Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book series. The science fiction comedy series has been and will likely continue to be endlessly quoted by passionate fans. And 2005 was a great year for said fans, as they finally got a chance to see Arthur Dent on the big screen. While there had been a Hitchhiker’s Guide television series in 1981, many were excited to see what could be done with Adams’ source material with new special effects technology.
With stellar performances from Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, and Sam Rockwell, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had audiences splitting at the seams. Viewers finally got their chance to see the Infinite Improbability Drive in action and with the tease of exploring Adams’ second novel in the series, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, they were excited to see more.
Despite the warm reception from fans, there seem to be no plans for a sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With so much material to left take from Douglas Adams’ “Trilogy of Five,” we can at least remain hopeful studios take another chance on the series.
9 Too Long: Saw
When Saw first hit the screens in 2004, audiences had hardly seen anything like it before. The film is confided to a single room that houses a dead body and two men forced to try and escape. The first installment of the Saw franchise made was praised for its psychological horror elements, with the Jigsaw Killer drawing comparisons to John Doe in Se7en.
The success of the first Saw movie was massive, making over $100 million against its comparatively low million dollar budget. The film’s budget restrictions meant that director James Wan had to get creative with its editing. In comparison to what was to come, the first Saw flick was a little bit toned down in the gore department.
The success of Saw resulted in an onslaught of sequels, with a new movie released annually for the next six years. A huge increase in budget meant that the gore was amped up to 11 in subsequent films. The pressure of the franchise’s release schedule, however, resulted in steady decline in story quality.
Fans and critics began to dismiss the series, no caring for the direcrion the series was taking. Things were quiet on the Saw front for seven years, until 2017’s Jigsaw. Despite a lukewarm reception from audiences, there have been talks of a 9th installment in the franchise since early 2018.
8 Too Long: The Amityville Horror
By far the longest running franchise on this list, The Amityville Horror currently contains 19 films and shows no real signs of slowing down. Based on the Jay Anson novel of the same name, 1979’s The Amityville Horror centred around the Lutz family and the torment they go through after moving into a haunted house. The first film was a commercial success and spawned a relatively well-known prequel, 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession, as well as the 2005 remake The Amityville Horror starring Ryan Reynolds. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this horror franchise.
Six sequels were released between the prequel and remake with 10 more coming afterwards. None of these sequels seem to have anything to do with one another. A running plot device throughout many of these direct-to-video movies is a family’s ownership of different items that supposedly belonged to the Lutz family.
While there are a few gems in the Amityville franchise, 1992’s campy Amityville: It’s About Time or 2017’s Blumhouse picture Amityville: The Awakening, many fans of the original have avoided the sequels like the plague. However, with The Amityville Murders planned for release this year, there is no end in sight for the franchise.
7 Too Short: Pulp Fiction/Reservoir Dogs
You’ve no doubt come across more than a few people who consider Pulp Fiction their favourite movie. Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 non-linear crime film became a classic amongst casual filmgoers and movie buffs alike from its incredible cast and unique storyline. Though not as widely loved as Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s directorial debut Reservoir Dogs holds an equal spot in the hearts of fans. A unique take on the crime genre, Reservoir Dogs had the violence, storytelling, and aesthetic that fans would come to love from the director.
So why are these two films on this list? Well, it’s due to Quentin Tarantino’s plan to tie them together. In 2010, Michael Madsen, the man behind Reservoir Dogs’ Vic Vega, spoke of a proposed prequel. The prequel would revolve around him and Vincent Vega, John Travolta’s character from Pulp Fiction.
"…we're both on a flight from Los Angeles, having just been released from prison, and neither one of us know that we're the twin brother of the other one and we're both on our way back to LA to avenge the death of our brothers.”
While the basic plot seems to have been sorted out for years now, we’re not going to hold out hope for a Vega Brothers movie. Madsen and Travolta aren’t getting any younger and that presents an obvious issue. There’s always the option of recasting Vic and Vincent, but who’s going to want to try and fill those shoes?
6 Too Long: Resident Evil
Historically, movies based on video games haven’t had the highest success rate. Whether it be Super Mario Bros. or BloodRayne, something always seems to get lost in translation.
One notable attempt to adapt a video game to the silver screen is 2002’s Resident Evil. Based on the Capcom horror game, Resident Evil starred Milla Jovovich as Alice, an amnesia-struck member of the Umbrella Corporation’s security team. Throughout the film, Alice is left to try and piece together her memories while also fighting off those contaminated with the T-virus.
Resident Evil was a success at the box office, despite critics labeling the movie as impersonal and bland. The five sequels didn’t fair much better.
Many felt the movies were unnecessarily violent and that their storylines often fell apart due to unresolved cliffhanger endings and the complete abandonment of, what audiences assumed were, staple characters to the franchise. The criticism of the Resident Evil series has done nothing to stop it from becoming the highest grossing video game-based movie franchise of all time. In fact, there’s already talk of a reboot of the series with James Wan set as the proposed producer. Haven’t we seen that name on this list already?
5 Too Long: Terminator
Quite simply, the Terminator franchise is one of the best science-fiction series of all time. Starting in 1984, The Terminator stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular cyborg tasked with going back in time and taking out Sarah Connor in order to prevent her future son’s revolt against the machines. And if you think that sounds convoluted and weird, it’s not, it’s great.
So great, in fact, that it led to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Considered by many to be even better than the original, Judgement Day saw Arnie back in action, this time pitted against Robert Patrick’s T-1000. James Cameron’s second Terminator installment was praised for its balance between hard hitting action and terrific storytelling.
Cameron was absent from the next installment in the franchise, 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. While the film did well at the box office, critics were not so pleased with the film’s noticeably simplified plot and dialogue. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
2009’s Terminator Salvation and 2015’s Terminator Genisys were structurally unsound, with the latter appearing as nothing more than a retreading of the original two films. The poor reception seems to have at least postponed a 6th installment of the Terminator franchise, though it is supposedly set to hit theatres in 2019 with James Cameron in the role of producer.
4 Too Short: Hellboy
Guillermo del Toro has made a name for himself making out-of-the-box films. From his 1993 directorial debut Cronos to 2017’s best picture winner The Shape of Water, del Toro has proved himself more than competent to tackle any number of subjects.
A favourite of many del Toro fans is 2004’s Hellboy. Based on the Dark Horse Comics character, Hellboy was praised for its stunning visuals and for Ron Perlman’s portrayal of the titular hero. The movie centered around Hellboy’s work with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and their attempts to keep the world safe from paranormal danger. While the movie wasn’t a smash hit at the box office, it exceeded its $66 million budget and was ultimately given a sequel in 2008.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army saw Perlman’s return to the title role as he and the BPRD try to stop an army of ancient but powerful machines. Like the first film in the series, The Golden Army was praised by fans and critics for its portrayal of the character and spectacular story telling.
After two decently successful Hellboy flicks, many were certain that the series would become a trilogy. Progress was first halted because of Guillermo del Toro’s plan to direct The Hobbit, though his departure from the project left many wondering what the hold up was. Despite rumours of a third Hellboy being in various stages of production, del Toro squashed them once and for all via Twitter in early 2017.
3 Too Long: Transformers
It’s probably not surprising to see Michael Bay on this list. Known primarily for his high-paced action films, the director has a tendency to overdo things. This was certainly the case with sequels in the Transformers series. Beginning with 2007’s Transformers, audiences were initially hopeful for the series. The first film was fairly well received with Shia LaBeouf delivering a solid performance as Sam.
Based on the Hasbro toy line, Transformers didn’t have the most in-depth storyline, but the movie was still a hit with audiences... before it's terrible sequels.
Given the success of Transformers, it was hardly a shock to audiences when a sequel was announced. The quality of the series seemed to decline across the releases of 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen, 2011’s Dark of the Moon, 2014’s Age of Extinction, and 2017’s The Last Knight, with Mark Wahlberg stepping in as lead in the two most recent entries. Each installment in the franchise did little to improve upon its predecessor, leading to hours of meaningless action scenes and cliché plots.
Michael Bay has stated that he is taking a step back from directing the Transformers franchise, as Bay is involved only as an executive producer for the upcoming prequel Bumblebee: The Movie.
2 Too Long: Jaws
The impact that Jaws has had on both the horror genre and on film itself is immeasurable. For better or worse, the 1975 thriller has left people afraid of open water ever since its premiere. Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel, Jaws saw a beach town terrorized by a giant, man-eating shark.
Jaws was impactful both from a story and from a film-making standpoint. Using the already-established monster movie trope and rooting the story in something real brought a sense or terror not seen by audiences before. The type of suspense created in Jaws was another thing new to movie-goers. Budget constraints made showing the ferocious shark on screen quite difficult. Spielberg and the production team shifted their focus to the effect and aftermath of the shark, allowing movie-goers to fill in the blanks.
The success of Jaws led to 1978’s Jaws 2, 1983’s Jaws 3-D, and, worst of all, 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge. Despite the return of Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody and the inclusion of Michael Caine as Hoagie Newcombe, Jaws: The Revenge was a critical flop. Without getting too into detail, the final installment in the Jaws franchise centred around a great white shark that follows Ellen Brody for over 1,000 miles to enact its revenge. That’s probably all you need to know.
1 Too Short: 28 Days Later
Whether or not you consider 2002's 28 Days Later a zombie movie, there's no denying the movie's impact on the horror genre. The post-apocalyptic flick centered around the aftermath of an extreme virus and the difficulties faced by 4 survivors. Starring the likes of Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later was a critical and commercial hit, eventually earning the distinction of being one of the best British movies of all time. The film was terrifying, bleak, and a big change of pace from what most of us had seen in theatres before.
2007 saw the release of 28 Weeks Later. The sequel told the story of other survivors of the Rage Virus, as well as military efforts to establish a safe zone. While some viewers were let down by the lack of humanity felt in the first entry, the sequel was still a major crowd pleaser.
While a graphic novel was released to bridge the gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, many fans were left wanting more from the series. These hopes weren't helped any by Danny Boyle. The director expressed his interest in a third movie several times, even going so far as to hint at a fourth entry into the franchise.
But, 11 years later, and we’re still waiting.
What's your favourite movie franchise? Are there some you think should've gone on longer? Let's talk about it in the comments.