When the creative minds of Hollywood come together to create the next great movie franchise, they do so with the hope that critics will jump on the bandwagon. That isn't always the case, however, and sometimes a new franchise is killed before it has a chance to take off. There is the rare occasion when even the most insufferable movie series still makes it past bad word of mouth and for those instances, we’ve taken the time to relish in their awfulness.
From long-standing horror villains who’ve outstayed their welcome to squeaky-mouthed cartoon characters who annoyed adults from the jump, these franchises turned sour quickly but managed to keep on ticking with their questionably high box office returns.
For our list, we’ve compiled each franchise based on their Rotten Tomatoes scores, opting to exclude trilogies and focusing only on series with connected universes or a common link, such as the same leading character. Each series will also consist of theatrical releases only, meaning any franchise with direct-to-video entries will not make an appearance.
Whether you agree with the critics or not, there's no denying that these movies won't be ranked among the upper echelon in quality anytime soon. So here they are in all their sub-par glory, the 15 Worst Movie Franchises According to Rotten Tomatoes.
15 The Mummy - 39.2%
Early this year, Universal launched its monster-centric Dark Universe franchise with the critically questionable Mummy reboot, swapping the charming leading man Brendan Fraser with A-list action star Tom Cruise and a new box of special effects. Mixing thrilling action sequences with an Indiana Jones flair, Fraser’s series grew an audience for its fun-loving, brainless approach to big budget movie-making, an idea that was less apparent in the rebooted production.
Although the first movie of the franchise would develop an audience, bringing in a 57% RT rating, the series would worsen by 2008’s Tomb of the Dragon Emperor due to flat jokes, a lack of suspense, and some bad casting decisions. Spawning two sequels and a spin-off series with the Scorpion King movies (three of which went straight to video and weren't included on our list), Fraser’s Mummy franchise eventually lost its popcorn movie appeal, though it showed promise in its early years.
14 Step Up - 34.8%
Although the Step Up franchise staked its claim as one of the more profitable dance movie series of recent years, it’s mostly well known today for introducing Channing Tatum to the world - and to his co-star/future wife Jenna Dewan.
Despite sporting some high-intensity, hip hop-inspired dance moves in the first film, Step Up faltered largely due to a substandard romantic plot that saw a sophisticated ballerina teamed up with a roughneck from the streets of Baltimore. While the cliche-ridden dialogue sank the movie, the top-notch choreography was enough to keep the franchise on track.
As Tatum’s stardom became too much for the series, the movies pressed on without him. The four sequels would stay true to the urban dance of the first flick, but fail to create a memorable plot along the way. Although the high-spirited moves attracted teens to the theater, the wooden acting continually lowered the quality of the series, making the Step Up franchise only worth watching when it stuck to the dance it knows best.
13 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - 33.4%
In the early '70s during the rise of B-movie flicks, Tobe Hooper broke the mold of exploitative cinema with a family of psychopathic killers, a chainsaw and one unforgettable face mask that left audiences feeling uneasy. Utilizing a documentary style of filmmaking, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre defined the slasher films to come with its daring grit and unapologetic obsession with violence.
Although talented actors would attempt to cash in on the demented mayhem of the series, stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Renee Zellweger, and Dennis Hopper would be wasted on terrible scripts that looked to capture some of the glory from the first film. A remake of the original film would appear to be a step up from the usual fare of the series, but in time the rebooted movies also came short of expectations.
With a whopping 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, the 1974 feature remains the only fresh movie of the group with the lowest score of the franchise coming in 2006 with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning at only 12%.
12 Halloween - 31.7%
When director John Carpenter first conceived of the idea for Halloween, he never envisioned a series of films. After the unprecedented success of the 1978 picture, pressure mounted for a follow-up with Michael Myers and Laurie Strode.
The second film would be a steep decline critically from the first, but would still appear to be markedly better than 1982’s Season of the Witch which would famously fail to feature Myers after Carpenter mistakenly chose to reinvent the franchise as an anthology series.
The fourth Halloween would mark the return of Myers and his fall into horror movie mediocrity as he became yet another unstoppable killer without motivation. Although Rob Zombie would attempt to reboot the iconic character with his own origin story, the remake did little to add to the creepy atmosphere of the original.
Now with Jamie Lee Curtis set to return to the franchise in a future installment, there's hope the series may return to its roots with the next film.
11 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 30.8%
Of all the comic book adaptations, it’s understandable that the franchise centered around four anthropomorphic, crime-fighting turtles named after Renaissance artists would be rated among the lowest.
Debuting in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie showcased the pizza-loving ninjas and their first encounter with April O’Neil, Casey Jones as well as Shredder and the Foot Clan. Although the latex suits and prosthetics would prove to be an impressive feature of the film, thanks to the work of Jim Henson, the Heroes in a Half Shell were panned by critics.
Despite growing a following among nostalgic viewers, the TMNT movies of the ‘90s were heavily picked on for not translating over into live-action. The 2007 animated feature wouldn't fare much better as it would fail to include much of the wit of the comics.
With Michael Bay producing the 2014 reboot, the franchise reached a new low as the series traded in its childish appeal for brainless over-the-top action and flashy CGI effects.
10 Tyler Perry’s Madea - 29.1%
Moving to Atlanta in the early '90s and setting up shop in the city, Tyler Perry established himself as a prolific playwright in the Southeastern U.S. due largely to his specialty in the gospel genre, appealing to strong Christian values with themes centered around dysfunctional families and tales of forgiveness. Perry's most notable achievement, however, would be Madea, a crude grandmother played by the writer-director with enthusiastic vulgarity.
For many fans of the Madea franchise, the inclusion of Perry's films on our list may seem like a mistake, but the director’s movies have long been a paradox of Hollywood. Although critics continually bash the Madea films for their lack of comical ingenuity and implausible characters, Perry’s targeted demographic of largely African American viewers continues to turn out in support.
With eight movies now in the bag, only one has gotten a fresh RT score, showing that sometimes the disparity between fans and critics is larger than we realize.
9 Scary Movie - 29%
For a genre that prides itself on not being too serious, spoof movies can get a bad rap. Although comedic geniuses such as Mel Brooks and the guys of Monty Python have made a career at poking fun of Hollywood conventions, other creators have not fared so well. Unfortunately, for Shawn and Marlon Wayans, the franchise they started became a tiresome series which never saw the kinder side of the critics.
Coming in at 53% on the Tomatometer, the first Scary Movie relied heavily on crudity to get its laughs across. Still, despite the bad taste it left in critics’ mouths, it managed to bring in a hefty sum at the box office. When the second film failed to live up to the critical standing of the first, the Wayans brothers departed and the movies continued without them. By the fifth entry, the series’ leading woman Anna Faris had been replaced by Ashley Tisdale and an all-time low score of just 4%, putting the final nail in the coffin for this beleaguered comedy franchise.
8 Transformers - 28.8%
When Hasbro' Transformers toy line made its way to the big screen in 2007, it had all the ingredients for success. The engaging special effects, childhood nostalgia and promise of the next big Hollywood action star in Shia LaBeouf had fans swarming to the theaters to see Optimus Prime and the Autobots take on the Decepticons in a blazing display of gritty, edge-of-your-seat action.
Although the first film fell short of greatness at just 57% on the Tomatometer, there was promise in the budding franchise.
Fans continued to turn out for the next four films that followed, but as the action became more nauseating, the stories became more convoluted and the reviews more negative. In time, LaBeouf left the project behind and Mark Wahlberg took over. Still, with Michael Bay never leaving as the chief creative mind behind the series, few things changed moving forward.
With a new solo Bumblebee movie now in place, here's to hoping things improve in the years ahead.
7 Friday the 13th - 28.7%
If there's one thing you can count on from a horror franchise like Friday the 13th, it's that the villain will live long enough to see the writers run out of ideas. Beginning in 1980, Friday the 13th was a revenge tale about one twisted mother taking her rage out on a camp full of deviant teenagers to right the wrong of her young son’s drowning. Somewhere along the way, however, the series became about Jason, the hockey mask-wearing mama’s boy who came from beyond the grave to finish what his mother couldn't.
Although not every entry in the Friday the 13th series is gimmicky, the originality of the series grew thin quickly. By the franchise's end, the writing room was phoning in each movie with storylines which would see the villain facing off against a telekinetic teenage girl and visiting the final frontier.
Jason would never outmatch the accomplishments of his mother on the Tomatometer , but despite his low scores, he stills retains a heavy following from horror buffs.
6 Resident Evil - 27.3%
When the first Resident Evil film hit theaters in 2002, the post-apocalyptic zombie flick was just another forgettable action-horror to add to the list of failed video game adaptations to come. Now with the series officially at an end, the Hollywood couple of director Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich have racked up a higher body count than anyone could have imagined in their quest to to take down the Umbrella Corporation and their unwelcome hordes of the dead.
After six pictures, none of which snagged a fresh rating on the Tomatometer, audiences were left wondering how a series with dizzying, B-movie thrills and far-fetched plots managed to stay afloat for so long.
In the end, the final entry in the story became the most touted, earning just 34%. The second movie of the franchise brought home the lowest point with a 21% approval rating, showing that sometimes even a tougher-than-nails woman delivering headshots to the walking dead can't save the day.
5 Saw - 26.7%
Part gritty crime drama, part gorefest, Saw hit theaters in 2004 as a low-budget horror flick making waves throughout the independent film circuit. Although critics weren't amused by the movie’s staggering amount of bloodshed and distasteful infatuation with torture, the film was touted among some as a cerebral thriller with an audacious final twist.
By the second film, Jigsaw had made a name for himself as a horror movie icon, but sadly his franchise would worsen as each entry became more and more ridiculous.
As time wore on, the Saw movies felt more pressure from their fan base to become bloodier and more unpredictable. As the traps in each film became harder to watch, the series became more nonsensical. Later, Jigsaw became a supporting character in his own series as he looked to hand over the reins.
Ultimately, none of the sequels would top the brutal, art-house style of the first film with each rating getting worse as the franchise pushed forward.
4 Underworld - 24.2%
Originally developed as a trilogy, director Len Wiseman’s Underworld series is yet another tiresome action-horror franchise anchored by a strong female lead.
Kate Beckinsale’s leather-wearing, agile character Selene is a leading member of the Death Dealers, a hidden society of ancient vampires that lurk in the shadows and battle their mortal enemy, the Lycans. As the nefarious community of werewolves continue their blood feud with the blood-sucking protagonists, Selene takes it upon herself to preserve her race from the enemy.
Although the Underworld movies can be credited with supplying viewers with an abundance of highly stylized fight scenes, the overly done exposition and shadowy tone only work to reinforce the series’ overall lack of ambition. All in all, the vampire-werewolf saga lacks the teeth of harder, bloodier action movies in the same vein such as Blade.
The series’ lack of success lies with its own mood-killing self-seriousness which becomes old quickly. All five installments fail to provide anything new to the story.
3 Death Wish - 23.2%
Raised in Pennsylvania as the son of a Lithuanian coal miner, Charles Bronson was the archetypal, weather-beaten tough guy who finally broke big across the U.S. thanks to his controversial role in this revenge saga. Playing a loving father and devoted husband, Bronson’s character is driven to the edge when his wife is murdered and his daughter is left comatose following a brutal attack. Taking the law into his own hands, he seeks out the thugs responsible in a relentless quest for street justice.
Due to its graphic nature, critics were divisive over Death Wish’s oversimplified vigilante tale which excused one man’s morally questionable resolution to the crimes committed against him.
Although the first movie would receive a positive rating of 67% from the Tomatometer, its four sequels would become more preposterous over time.
With Bruce Willis set to reboot the franchise with Eli Roth's remake this year, Hollywood is hoping there's something still left in the tank for this once-promising action premise.
2 Alvin and the Chipmunks - 18.7%
Alvin, Simon, and Theodore - three musically-gifted, squeaky-sounding rodents - have since become yet another by-the-books CGI talking animal picture. The first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie saw struggling songwriter Dave Seville taking in the three high-pitched talents only for the overnight pop sensations to become corrupted by an unscrupulous music executive.
Although the first film of the franchise was nothing new to the talking animal genre, holding a score of just 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, it was the franchise's best film. As the pun-filled titles got worse with entries like The Squeakquel and Chipwrecked, so did the uninspiring plots and poorly written potty humor.
Although the final product is aimed at younger audiences, the franchise wastes its talent on an effortless series of stories which do little to improve the bad reputation of the anthropomorphic animal genre.
1 Police Academy - 14.8%
A low-brow police spoof, the first Police Academy film was such a box office draw that it spawned six sequels. Set in a big city where localized crime is on the rise, a newly appointed mayor structures a new policy allowing anyone to enroll into the task force to put an end to the violence. What the town receives is a mix of practical jokers, oddballs, and one man with a knack for creating any sound effect with his vocal chords.
With a new movie arriving every year for the first six years of the franchise, the low-budget Police Academy films deteriorated in quality as the repetition of the series grew thin. As new recruits made their way into the police department, the once harmless series dipped to new lows. In time, the once R-rated series became a PG-rated farce that was more sad than funny.
The final entry in the franchise, Mission to Moscow, would barely make its way to theaters, signaling the end to the moneymaking comedy series.
Are you a fan of any of these franchises? Let us know in the comments!
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