It’s become more and more common that movies are being set up to have sequels during their development stages. Larger, connected universes are becoming more and more of the norm. This is nothing new, but it’s fascinating when you realize that there are a large number of prequels currently in development.
Sequels are always going to be popular, since they continue a story after it’s ended, but sometimes looking back to the origins of different characters can be an even more worthwhile experience. Even now, there are prequel movies for the Kingsman series, SpongeBob SquarePants, and even The Sopranos in development. The Transformers prequel spinoff, Bumblebee, is also fast approaching.
Prequels may have a lot of appeal, but they also face a lot of pressure, since fans tend to have high expectations. Prequels are often created because sequels can’t be done or because the original cast isn’t interested in returning. Prequels can be tough, but when they’re given the proper opportunity, they can sometimes shed light on crucial parts of a story that fans wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
With that said, here are the 8 Prequels That Completely Flopped (And 22 That Became Massive Hits)!
30 Massive Hit: Amityville II: The Possession
The original The Amityville Horror became a pillar of the haunted house subgenre of horror, and so it didn’t come as a surprise when a slew of sequels followed in the wake of the original’s success. Amityville II: The Possession adopts an interesting approach, as it actually explains the events around the first family that perishes in the infamous house, the Montellis.
It’s not a bad concept, but the movie is incredibly dark and hopeless. The movie doesn’t have the best reputation in the franchise, but it still turned a profit of $7.5 million off of its modest $5 million budget.
29 Massive Hit: Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Some prequels dig into unanswered questions from the original movies that demanded answers, while others can be just blatant crash grabs that take advantage of a property’s popularity. There was no need to tell the origin story for the fun, lowbrow comedy, Dumb & Dumberer, and yet a prequel was made anyway.
Without Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, these dopey characters don’t connect nearly as well. The movie even feels a little less relevant now that an actual to Dumb & Dumberer has been made. In spite of these concessions, When Harry Met Lloyd turned out a legitimate profit. The movie doubled its budget at the box office.
28 Completely Flopped: The Thing (2011)
John Carpenter’s The Thing remains a horror classic to this day, so people were rightfully suspicious when a remake was announced. The year 2011’s The Thing doesn’t hold a candle to the original movie, but it deserves some credit for how it functions as both a remake and a prequel to the original. It even subtly connects some dots from the 1982 film.
This modern take would go on to lose $6.5 million, since it only made $31.5 million at the box office off of its $38 million budget. The funny thing is that this movie technically made more money than the original, but the budget on John Carpenter’s movie was a lot smaller ($15 million).
27 Massive Hit: Hannibal Rising
Hannibal Lecter has been at the top of “Best Villains” lists for decades. Anthony Hopkins gave the character horrifying life, and ever since Silence of the Lambs, there’s been a real desire for more of this cannibalistic monster.
Thomas Harris was pressured to write more Hannibal Lecter stories, and the result was Hannibal Rising, an unnecessary prequel that looks at the character’s formative childhood years. Naturally, a movie followed suit, and even though it made a profit off of the public’s morbid fascination with the idea, critics attacked the movie and it was not considered “good.” In spite of the negative reviews, though, the $50 million movie would make $82.2 million at the box office.
26 Massive Hit: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The 2003 remake of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre turned out to be such a success that they were eager to monopolize on this popularity and build a new franchise. This led to the release of a prequel in 2006, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, that looks into the grimy, developmental years of the twisted Hewitt family, specifically the young Leatherface.
The movie mixes morbid backstory with a conventional slasher tropes that are set against the events of the Vietnam War. The film isn’t seen as a high mark in the franchise, but the movie tripled its budget at the box office and was a commercial success.
25 Completely Flopped: Mallrats
Mallrats is Kevin Smith’s second movie, but it actually takes place a day before the events of Clerks and is technically a prequel to Smith’s previous movie. Mallrats follows Quint and Brodie, two slackers who go through a number of schemes at the local mall, all in the name of love. Mallrats shows Smith continuing to refine his style and slowly develop his growing “Askewniverse.”
Smith made Mallrats on a meager budget of $6.1 million, but it only brought in $2.1 million at the box office, which was a considerable hit for Smith following the success of Clerks. Smith would properly regroup and deliver a critical and commercial winner with his next movie, Chasing Amy.
24 Massive Hit: The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Snow White and the Huntsman got a lot of attention due to the behind-the-scenes drama involving the movie's director, Rupert Sanders, and the movie’s star, Kristen Stewart. The film turned out to be a hit, but to avoid more drama, the future of the franchise instead decided to focus on Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character. The prequel would also be set before Snow White ever enters the picture.
Accordingly, The Huntsman: Winter’s War takes a very Game of Thrones approach to its story and capitalizes on the royal politics and power plays that take place within the kingdom. This angel appeared to work, but barely, as the $115 million movie made $165 million at the box office.
23 Massive Hit: The Scorpion King
Before Tom Cruise attempted to breathe new life into The Mummy, the Brendan Fraser-led franchise saw a huge amount of success. The quirky movie turned into a huge franchise that explored many different characters.
For instance, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s turn as series villain, the Scorpion King, proved to be so popular that he was even given his own prequel movie and parallel series. This was an early glimpse into just how much star power Dwayne Johnson has, since the movie brought in $165.3 million on a budget of $60 million. Clearly a lot of people wanted to watch The Rock lead an action movie.
22 Completely Flopped: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
After the cancelation of David Lynch’s television phenomenon, Twin Peaks, he decided to follow-up the series with a feature movie. However, rather than answering the many lingering questions that remained, Lynch instead opted to tell a melancholy prequel story that looked at the final week of Laura Palmer’s life and the events that lead into the television show.
The movie delivers a crushing character study that’s pure Lynch, but it’s not what mainstream fans of the show were expecting. This translated to a small box office return and the movie lost over $5 million. Fire Walk With Me may technically have been a failure when it was released, but it has only become more popular over time.
21 Massive Hit: Red Dragon
The sequel to Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, had a spotty reception with critics and audiences alike, but viewers still seemed hungry for more of Hannibal Lecter. As a result, Thomas Harris’ first novel in the Hannibal Lecter saga, Red Dragon, was adapted with Ed Norton in the lead as Will Graham.
The results were an awkward, uneven movie that tries to find excuses to inject Lecter into the narrative (granted, Lecter was also growing older at this point). The film may be a weak final product, but it made $209.1 million at the box office, which was more than double of its $78 million budget.
20 Massive Hit: Alien vs Predator
Fans had been clamoring for a crossover epic between the Alien and Predator series for ages, so it surprised a lot of viewers when Alien vs Predator actually came out. Due to the excitement that was built up around this showdown, it was pretty clear that this movie was going to make money, even if it was a complete disaster.
While Alien vs Predator isn’t a complete failure, it is a giant mess that largely squanders its potential and angers two fervent fanbases in the process. It even had a PG-13 rating. In spite of the negative reception, though, the movie made a whopping $172.5 million on a $60 million budget.
19 Massive Hit: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name Trilogy remains a high mark of the Western genre. The movies all feature breathtaking cinematography, incredible scores, and minimalist performances from Eastwood that helped make him famous.
The concluding chapter in the saga, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly is often considered to be the strongest of the three movies, but many don’t realize that it’s also a prequel since it’s set during the Civil War. The movie made $25.1 million in North America, but the film’s budget was only $1.2 million.
18 Completely Flopped: Butch And Sundance: The Early Days
It’s always a little disheartening when a classic movie gets a lazy prequel that cheapens the original movie’s legacy. George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a beloved piece of cinema. Ten years after its release, this prequel was put together, and both of the movie's iconic roles were recast.
The film looks at the outlaws’ exploits before they become notorious, but it never really justifies its existence. Audiences responded accordingly and the movie only brought in around $5 million on a budget of $9 million, effectively making it a dud.
17 Massive Hit: Paranormal Activity 3
The whole reason why the Paranormal Activity franchise became such a huge hit was due to the fact that the movies could be made with a very small, micro-budget due to their found footage-look. With each new film, the franchise became increasingly intricate.
When it came time for Paranormal Activity 3, though, the franchise decided to go back to 1988 to look at the initial paranormal events that roped in Kristi and Katie. It’s a smart approach that respects the series’ continuity and takes place before the series is running on fumes. Paranormal Activity 3 made a profit of $202 million off of its $5 million budget.
16 Massive Hit: X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class began as Matthew Vaughn’s attempt to reboot the franchise and get away from the fallout of X-Men: The Last Stand. Vaughn’s work with First Class would prove to be so impressive that it would not only reinvigorate the public’s interest in the series, but also incorporate and re-frame the original movie trilogy in a brilliant way.
X-Men: First Class looks at the genesis of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr’s friendship and the actions they take that will eventually define the X-Men series. The movie, which is set during the Cold War, effectively puts the series back on track. The film brought in $353.6 million off of a budget that was somewhere between $140-160 million.
15 Completely Flopped: Pan
Joe Wright’s Pan is an ambitious, flashy spectacle, but it's interesting to note how audiences weren't completely onboard with the new story. Pan functions as an origin story for the whimsical Peter Pan and depicts his induction into the fantasy land and his early friendship with Hook as they take on the enemy pirate, Blackbeard.
Pan cost $150 million to make and it was panned by both critics and audiences alike. The movie still brought in $128.4 million, but that amounted to a loss for the studio and no other Peter Pan adventures would be pursued after.
14 Massive Hit: The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II is widely heralded as one of the best sequels of all time, but due to the movie's bifurcated narrative, it also functions as a prequel that explores a young Vito Corleone as he takes up a life of crime. The Godfather Part II wisely plays with Michael Corleone’s present and his father’s past, and juxtaposes the similar paths that the two took and their many differences.
It’s a great character study, and because of this, the movie made somewhere between $47.5-57.3 million in North America off of its modest $13 million budget. Audiences learned that it’s important to never go against the family and to trust in this prequel.
13 Massive Hit: Annabelle
The Conjuring connected cinematic universe has turned into one of the most profitable horror series of all time, and after the runaway success of James Wan’s two Conjuring movies, the series began looking at strong directions for spin-offs series.
The creepy doll, Annabelle, that made a strong impression in The Conjuring, was the first to get its own series. Annabelle turns back the clock and looks at the doll’s evil roots and the family that she plagued before the Warrens gained possession of her. Overall, many fans saw it as one of the weaker Conjuring movies, but it was still a huge success at the box office, making $257 million off of a budget of $6.5 million.
12 Massive Hit: Prometheus
There was a lot of excitement when Ridley Scott announced that he’d be returning to the Alien franchise, albeit with a series of stories set far before the events of the original movie. Prometheus certainly has ties and makes references to Alien, but it’s much more cerebral and spiritual than the outright horror film Alien.
Prometheus digs into mankind’s very existence and answers some very heady questions, while also establishing a deep mythology. Prometheus connected with critics and audiences alike for the most part, and because of this, the movie brought in $403.4 million at the box office from a budget that was somewhere between $120-130 million.
11 Completely Flopped: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For operates as both a prequel and a sequel and weaves a complicated timeline. The first Sin City proved to be a colossal success and fans were eager for a sequel. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller eventually gave the viewers what they wanted, but it happened nearly a decade after the original movie’s release.
What was once cutting edge was now no longer impressive and the magic of the first movie had largely worn off. The film only brought in a little over half of its $65 million budget at the box office, and it became clear that there’d be no third Sin City movie.
10 Massive Hit: Oz The Great And Powerful
Properties like Wicked helped show that prequels to The Wizard of Oz can work under the right circumstances. There were some reservations in place when Sam Raimi announced that he'd be tackling a prequel with James Franco set to play Oz, however.
The creative filmmaker really latched onto Baum's rich world and created a loving companion piece to the original classic. Oz The Great and Powerful isn't perfect, but it has fun with its characters. The movie received a mixed reception, but it still saw impressive box office returns. It made over double its $200 million budget at the box office, bringing in $493.3 million.
9 Massive Hit: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
For all intents and purposes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is meant to be a reboot of the famous Planet of the Apes franchise. That being said, it could also be argued that this movie works as a prequel to the original franchise, since the movie is set before apes take over the planet.
The film takes the boiled down approach to look at one ape, Caesar, and his development, hinting at how apes will grow to take over mankind. Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ new direction proved to be a tremendous success, as it made $481.8 million at the box office and would go on to spawn its own trilogy.
8 Massive Hit: Puss In Boots
The Puss in Boots character from the Shrek franchise proved to be so popular that he was given his own series of movies that would allow the unscrupulous character to meet his full potential. Puss in Boots is set before the feline character ever encounters Shrek, but the movie is a mostly self-contained caper that comes down to friendship in the end.
Puss in Boots proved that the character could survive on his own, and much like the Shrek movies, it immediately found commercial success. The $130 million film made $555 million at the box office, bringing in a profit of over $400 million.
7 Completely Flopped: The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas
The first Flintstones live-action feature movie was a weird example of lightning in a bottle, since the fun setting and sublime casting turned out to be a success. The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas came out six years later, and even though it retained the original movie’s director, the entire cast was changed and the energy wasn’t as electric the second time around.
The movie tells the story of how Fred and Wilma first meet and begin their romance. It’s a fun angle, but it wasn’t enough for audiences. The film made just under $60 million off of its $83 million budget, which meant that it took a significant hit.
6 Massive Hit: Monsters University
Pixar sequels are always wildly successful, but Monsters University decided to buck the norm by delivering a prequel adventure instead. Monsters University looks at how beloved monsters Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became friends in the first place, with the entire thing set against a frat comedy that’s somehow the perfect fit for a kids’ movie.
Monsters University doesn’t disappoint and finds a worthwhile, engaging story for the return of these characters. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the $200 million movie would make $744.2 million at the box office, leading to a profit of over half a billion dollars.
5 Massive Hit: Casino Royale
The James Bond series has been an institution for decades, but Casino Royale turned out to be a formative movie for the franchise. Not only did it introduce the world to Daniel Craig’s take on the character, but it also went back to James Bond’s roots and examined his origin story, which is something that the previous movies had never done before.
Casino Royale marks a more mature Bond film that’s carried the same momentum to this day and is still felt. Casino Royale made a big impression on audiences and brought in $600 million at the box office off of its $150 million budget.
4 Massive Hit: The Hobbit Trilogy
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy became touchstone movies for the fantasy genre, so many people were excited when it turned out that he’d also be adapting Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Reception became a little more mixed, though, when it was revealed that The Hobbit would span a trilogy of films and that these movies would use an abundance of CGI.
Despite their mixed reception and the drop in quality after Lord of the Rings, the movies still collectively brought in nearly $3 billion at the box office on a combined budget of $782 million. The movies were huge commercial successes.
3 Completely Flopped: Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist
The story behind the prequel to The Exorcist is a sad case of overbearing studio meddling. Paul Schrader began work on an Exorcist prequel, but when the studio thought that it wasn’t overtly scary enough, they hired Renny Harlin to take over and do his own version of the project.
Harlin released Exorcist: The Beginning, which made money, but was a critical failure. Accordingly, the studio decided to finish and release Schrader’s movie to try and recoup losses, putting out Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist. However, the film had an extremely limited theatrical release, as it was only played on 110 screens, so it only made $251,495 at the box office on its $30 million budget.
2 Massive Hit: Star Wars Episodes I-III
The Star Wars prequel trilogy has a very negative reputation both among the Star Wars community and the general public. It was undeniably exciting when George Lucas announced this trilogy, but the movies are plagued with issues and seem to have frustrated fans more than genuinely pleased anyone (though they were not without their strong moments and performances).
Even though the movies are mocked in present day, it’s hard to deny their box office appeal. The films collectively brought in nearly $2.5 billion at the box office, while the combined budget of the trilogy was only $343 million. Lucas clearly knew how to turn out a profit.
1 Massive Hit: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
Steven Spielberg struck gold with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it was clear that more exciting adventures with Harrison Ford’s suave archaeologist were imminent. The next movie in the series, The Temple of Doom, is an undeniably pulpier film that really lays on the serial-inspired action tropes.
The movie also happens to be a prequel, as it technically takes place before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s not a crucial detail that’s fundamental to enjoying the movie, but it’s interesting to note its chronology. Temple of Doom had a modest budget of $28.2 million and would make a staggering $333.1 million at the box office.
Are there any other prequels that became massive hits or flopped? Let us know in the comments!