Steven Spielberg’s thriller is one of the most influential works of all-time, since it introduced the concept of the studio blockbuster. It became the first movie to gross $100 million at the box office and set records, so the studio wanted a sequel. However, it wasn’t warranted. Jaws ends with Brody killing the shark and there isn’t anywhere else to go with the concept or the characters. Seeing that the sequels stretched the premise to absurd lengths, the executives would be been better suited following Spielberg’s lead and leaving it after part one. There are only so many times a shark can terrorize the same beach… or family.
We know what you’re thinking. Without Rocky sequels, Creed would never be possible, but it took a while for the champ to regain his former glory. The original is a hard-hitting sports drama that’s the ultimate underdog tale and concludes with Rocky rediscovering his self-value. Over time, the series morphed into 1980s camp with over-the-top villains, and essentially disregarded Rocky’s heartfelt message. In the first one, Balboa knew he couldn’t beat Creed, but that didn’t really matter in the end. But every other time out, winning the final fight was the ultimate goal. And besides, Apollo said there wouldn’t be a rematch and Rocky didn’t want one.
Imaginations were captured when dinosaurs came back to life and moviegoers got to experience the wonder of Jurassic Park. But the severe consequences of the amusement park were also placed front and center, illustrating the dangers of bringing the prehistoric creatures into the modern age. After the experiment proved to be a disaster the first time around, there’s really no reason – other than box office dollars – to keep going back to the well. It’s a cautionary tale that plays out pretty much the same way each time. No matter how advanced your security measures are, the dinosaurs will always rule the world.
Audiences were pleasantly surprised when the first Hangover gave R-rated comedies a shot in the arm and provided a zany collection of laughs. The cast was in top form, several of the jokes landed, and a scary mystery fueled the plot and gave it serious stakes. Once Doug was found and the gang saw pictures from the bachelor party, we were ready to move on – but the Wolfpack wasn’t. They came back for two more misadventures that couldn’t live up to the original, mainly because there was nothing new to bring to the table. Even Zach Galifianakis says the sequels were disappointing, so let’s just consider the first one canon.
Arguably the perfect action movie, Die Hard is a tour de force with thrilling set pieces, a great hero, and an even better villain. It also tied everything up nicely at the end, as John McClane reconnected with his wife and rode off to celebrate the holidays with his family. There didn’t seem to be room for another story, but sequels were made. Sure, the follow-ups have their moments of fun and entertainment, but none of them can hold a candle to what made the original so special. When moviegoers think of John McClane, they think of the first film, and there’s a good reason for that.
Pixar’s 2001 hit is one of their most inventive and beloved, featuring creative world building and wonderful characters that touched the heart. The story it told was so perfect, the studio couldn’t move forward with a second installment – they had to go back in time. A prequel, Monsters University, showed how Mike and Sully met in college and became the lifelong friends we see in the original. While it was fun to see the monsters back in action and another side of the universe, it’s seen as second-rate Pixar that isn’t as effective as the first film. Moviegoers would have preferred Pixar make an original concept than go back to a well they’ve hit before.
Men in Black
It’s a premise that’s seemingly set up for sequels, but Men in Black should have been left alone. The filmmakers weren’t entirely sure how to handle a follow-up, and brought back Tommy Lee Jones to work with Will Smith. Unfortunately, this undermines the emotional conclusion of the first film, where Agent Kay steps down to have his memory wiped so he can reunite with his true love. His story should have ended there, especially since Men in Black II could only recycle elements from the first movie and didn’t feel as fresh. When there’s nowhere to go with the characters, it’s best to leave it untouched.