Where would Hollywood be without sequels? A lot poorer, for starters. Even as far back as cinema’s silent era, audiences have perennially clamored for the return of favorite characters in beloved franchises.
Clearly, the modern box office continues to support this trend. Of the 20 top-grossing films of 2017 thus far, 10 are straightforward sequels (including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Cars 3 and War for the Planet of the Apes), while another four can at least be counted as continuations of larger stories already in progress (e.g. Wonder Woman as part of the DCEU, Split with its character links to Unbreakable).
Still, there are those occasions when the film industry simply doesn’t know when to quit. Major stars refuse to return, a story and its characters have exhausted all narrative possibilities, box office returns from previous series entries have plummeted dramatically — whatever the reason, there are ample warning signs that the plug should be pulled, and yet studios go ahead and make the movie anyway. In those instances, the sequels are often met with audience indifference and/or critical derision. Many of these flimsy follow-ups end up on the compilation site Rotten Tomatoes sporting a 0% score.
Here, then, are those filmic bottom feeders — The 15 Worst Sequels Ever (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
15 LOOK WHO'S TALKING NOW!
After starring in several costly flops, John Travolta bounced back with 1989’s Look Who’s Talking, a robust hit whose hook was that it allowed audiences to hear the inner thoughts of a baby named Mikey (voiced by Bruce Willis). Kirstie Alley played Mikey’s mom, Travolta co-starred as her boyfriend, and the film was popular enough to convince writer-director Amy Heckerling to return with 1990’s Look Who’s Talking Too.
Despite reuniting the three principal cast members and adding Roseanne Barr as the voice of Mikey’s sister, the box office was down significantly. Still, this didn’t prevent the studio from bankrolling 1993’s Look Who’s Talking Now!
Heckerling, Willis, and Barr bailed on this installment, leaving Travolta and Alley holding the bag of dirty diapers. In this outing, the kids are now old enough to speak for themselves, so the focus shifts to the conversations between two mutts (voiced by Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito).
The Look Who’s Talking series was never mistaken for high art, but with this wretched installment, it decisively went to the dogs.
14 LEPRECHAUN 2
Of the six Leprechaun films starring Warwick Davis as the murderous sprite, half sport a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet of those three, only one was made for theatrical release (the others went straight to video). That would be 1994’s Leprechaun 2, the first follow-up to the modest 1993 hit that featured Jennifer Aniston in her film debut.
Aside from Davis, no one from the first film returned for the second installment, which concerns the efforts of the Leprechaun to force an unwilling young woman to be his wife. It’s safe to say that nobody has ever confused this witless movie with Bride of Frankenstein, despite similar storylines about a monster seeking a mate.
Incidentally, the other series entries with 0% are 1995’s Leprechaun 3 and 1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space. Surprisingly, it’s actually the later sequels that have the best rankings (comparatively speaking): 2000’s Leprechaun in the Hood (co-starring Ice-T) with 33% and 2003’s Leprechaun: Back to tha Hood (co-starring Sticky Fingaz) with 25%..
13 JAWS: THE REVENGE
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Jaws was such a monstrous hit that a wave of sequels was inevitable. Despite the flaws inherent in 1978’s Jaws 2 and especially 1983’s Jaws 3-D, neither film could compete with the sheer inanity of 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge. Promoted with the tagline, “This Time It’s Personal,” the movie finds the widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) convinced that she’s being stalked by a shark seeking vengeance on the entire Brody clan.
Michael Caine, who appears as a heroic pilot, has always been brutally honest when it comes to admitting which movies he made purely for the sake of a paycheck. It was his involvement with Jaws: The Revenge that led to his greatest quip on the matter: "I have never seen it, but by all accounts, it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
12 RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON
Arriving 11 years after The Blue Lagoon, 1991’s Return to the Blue Lagoon served up basically the exact same plot. Two infants are stranded on a lush island with an adult guardian; the grownup eventually dies, leaving the boy and the girl to fend for themselves. As they age and mature (Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause play the pair as teenagers), they discover dangers inherent on the island but mainly pass the days dealing with their burgeoning sexuality.
Return to the Blue Lagoon really isn’t any worse than its predecessor, but whereas that 1980 film was a box office hit and made a star out of Brooke Shields, this follow-up was a notorious flop and did little to advance the film career of former model Jovovich, who would have to wait for other projects before breaking out.
The Blue Lagoon also has managed to secure an 11% score on Rotten Tomatoes — horrible, to be sure, but still preferable to Return’s 0%.
11 DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH
Bruce Willis, star of five Die Hard flicks, will soon be headlining a remake of 1974’s Death Wish, a franchise that also lasted five films. Yet unlike Die Hard, which only completely bottomed out with that awful fifth entry, Death Wish headed south immediately after the provocative original.
Charles Bronson stars in all five films, playing a mid-mannered architect who becomes a vigilante after tragedy strikes his family. While the 1974 original was wrapped in controversy surrounding its message and its morality, it at least made thematic sense, with Bronson’s Paul Kersey motivated by the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter. The sequels were little more than exploitation romps, and the frequency with which Kersey’s friends and relatives were being terrorized was flat-out ludicrous.
The reviews aimed at 1982’s Death Wish II, 1985’s Death Wish 3 and 1987’s Death Wish 4: The Crackdown were all blistering, but the worst were reserved for 1994’s Death Wish V: The Face of Death, which is so rote and by-the-numbers that even Bronson looks bored.
10 KING KONG LIVES
Producer Dino de Laurentiis’ 1976 King Kong may have received a mixed reception from critics, but it proved to be a hit with audiences. Clearly not understanding the adage of striking while the iron is hot, de Laurentiis waited an entire decade before getting around to making the sequel. Consequently, 1986’s King Kong Lives failed with both reviewers and moviegoers.
That delay actually plays into the plot, as the film reveals that Kong survived his plunge off the World Trade Center and has since been in a coma. To revive the great ape on the 10th anniversary of his fall, the attendant doctor (Linda Hamilton) states that he needs both a blood transfusion and a heart transplant. The former comes courtesy of an oversized female gorilla that conveniently has just been located in Borneo. The latter comes courtesy of a gigantic artificial heart, installed during a sequence that stands among the most laughable in all Kong flicks.
9 THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN
The Bad News Bears proved to be quite an audience favorite in 1976, with Walter Matthau aptly cast as the boozy coach of an underachieving Little League baseball team and Tatum O’Neal and Jackie Earle Haley as the outfit’s best players. Of the three actors, only Haley returned for the two sequels.
The 1977 mediocrity The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training concerned the efforts of Haley’s character to convince his estranged dad (William Devane) to coach the outfit. Yet the series reached its nadir with 1978’s The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, with Tony Curtis as a small-time huckster who decides to pay off his debts by arranging a nationally televised game between the Bears and a formidable Japanese team.
As if two sorry sequels weren’t enough, The Bad News Bears also had to suffer the indignity of a short-lived 1979 TV sitcom (with an 8-year-old Corey Feldman as one of the kids) and a feeble 2005 remake starring Billy Bob Thornton.
8 THE TOXIC AVENGER: PART II
It turns out the Bad News Bears weren’t the only ones electing to hightail it to Japan for a desultory sequel. In 1989’s The Toxic Avenger: Part II, the first of three follow-ups to 1984’s The Toxic Avenger, our deformed hero (played by John Altamura and, after he was fired, Ron Fazio) heads to Japan to search for the father he never knew. Taking advantage of Toxie’s absence, a conglomerate called Apocalypse Inc. descends on his hometown of Tromaville, New Jersey, with plans to turn the area into a waste site.
Like other Troma Entertainment offerings such as Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Tromeo and Juliet, The Toxic Avenger: Part II has developed a cult following among rabid fans. Critics, though, have always viewed it less charitably, taking exception to what was perceived as limp humor and unconvincing, over-the-top gore. They weren’t much kinder to 1989’s The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, though several have agreed that the series bounced back with 2000’s Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV.
7 BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
The 1972 hit The Poseidon Adventure was one of the first (and arguably the best) of the 1970s glut of disaster flicks, so perhaps it was only fitting that 1979’s pointless Beyond the Poseidon Adventure was one of the titles that helped kill off the genre at decade's end.
Picking up right where the original film ended, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure finds a tugboat captain (Michael Caine), his right-hand man (Karl Malden), and their chirpy passenger (Sally Field) boarding the overturned ship with the intention of salvaging its valuable cargo. Instead, they spend most of their time rescuing survivors (Peter Boyle, Jack Warden, Shirleys Knight and Jones) and unconvincingly throwing themselves around the set after every camera cut to yet another internal explosion.
The sizable cast of this chintzy affair also includes a young Mark Harmon as one of the stranded survivors, Telly Savalas as a villain named Stefan Svevo (not to be confused with Crank's Chev Chelios), and Slim Pickens as a Texan named — what else? — Tex.
6 HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY
If nothing else, 1987’s House II: The Second Story serves as home to a number of interesting trivia facts. Political commentator Bill Maher turns up in a rare acting role as an obsequious music executive. The film’s stunt coordinator was Kane Hodder, soon to be playing Jason Voorhees in a trio of Friday the 13th sequels.And just as 1985's House featured Cheers star George Wendt, this one features Cheers star John Ratzenberger.
While these trivial tidbits are fascinating in hindsight, they did little to help ease the discomfort of critics, who took to trashing this in-name-only sequel in which four friends move into a house and become involved with reanimated corpses, pterodactyls, and a crystal skull that even Indiana Jones wouldn’t touch.
House II: The Second Story was followed by another unrelated film, 1989’s The Horror Show (aka House III), which can also boast of a 0% designation on Rotten Tomatoes. It wasn’t until 1992’s House IV that a sequel actually tied back to the 1985 original.
5 ATLAS SHRUGGED PART III: WHO IS JOHN GALT?
Exhibiting all the production values of a bad made-for-TV movie from the early 1980s, 2011’s Atlas Shrugged: Part I opened to blistering reviews (it’s currently at 10% on Rotten Tomatoes) and proved to be a box office flop. Nevertheless, its backers were determined to film the entirety of Ayn Rand’s controversial novel, ultimately sinking a total of $35 million into a trilogy that combined grossed less than $9 million at the U.S. box office.
The second installment, 2012’s Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike, fared even worse with audiences and critics (4% on RT) than its predecessor, yet the real brickbats were reserved for 2014’s Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt?
The wretched performances and heavy-handed script led to a 0% mark on RT, and even the appearances of such right-wing rock stars as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Ron Paul (all playing themselves) couldn’t get the faithful to fill seats, leading to a box office tally that didn’t even crack the $1 million mark.
4 THE STING II
Spoiler alert: Butch and Sundance die at the end of 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Despite the resounding success of the picture and the popularity of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a screen team, there simply could be no sequel. (There was a 1979 prequel with Tom Berenger and William Katt as the young Butch and Sundance, but it was quickly forgotten.)
But 1973’s The Sting, with Newman and Redford cast as a pair of wily con men, was another matter. Winner of seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and a colossal hit, the film certainly presented the opportunity for a sequel.
A Sting movie without Newman and Redford would be as daft as an Indiana Jones flick without Harrison Ford, and once it was obvious that the actors wouldn’t be participating in 1983’s The Sting II, the project should have been axed. Instead, it was made with Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis as wholly inadequate replacements for the two box office champs. Not surprisingly, it bombed with everyone.
3 POLICE ACADEMY 4, 5, 6 & 7
Many modern moviegoers love to lambast the Twilight films, but that series looks as accomplished as The Lord of the Rings trilogy when compared to the awful Police Academy franchise that began in 1984 and clogged the rest of the decade.
None of the entries in this lamentable series sports a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the first three at least managed to claw their way out of the basement. Astoundingly, the other four all maintain a 0% rating on the site, surely some kind of record when it comes to consistently incompetent sequels.
For those keeping score, 1987’s Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol included Sharon Stone in its cast, 1988’s Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach was the first without series star Steve Guttenberg, 1989’s Police Academy 6: City Under Siege was the first to hit theaters following the debut of an animated Police Academy TV series, and 1994’s belated Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (aka Police Academy 7) featured soul-crushing appearances by fantasy greats Christopher Lee and Ron Perlman.
2 STAYING ALIVE
Unfairly remembered in some quarters as a campy celebration of the disco era, 1977’s Saturday Night Fever is actually a hard-hitting drama about Tony Manero, a Brooklyn kid who's content hanging around with his deadbeat friends and dancing his heart out at the local disco. As Tony, John Travolta gives a career-making performance that earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and it made sense that audiences wanted to see what became of this character.
Unfortunately, Tony’s odyssey was continued in 1983’s Staying Alive, a sequel as unintentionally goofy as Saturday Night Fever was purposely serious-minded. Tony is now living in Manhattan and struggling to make it as a professional dancer. He gets his chance once he’s cast in a Broadway production called Satan’s Alley, which opens to great acclaim even though it looks like the ultimate word in kitsch.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive was destroyed by critics but nevertheless emerged as one of the top 10 grossing films of 1983.
1 SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2
Critics thought they were free and clear after surviving 1999’s Baby Geniuses, an insufferable family film centering on talking babies. They were wrong.
The talking tykes returned five years later for 2004’s Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, a sequel held in even more critical contempt than its reviled predecessor (which, incidentally, stands at 2% on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to one kind reviewer). Instead of the original’s Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd, this follow-up finds Jon Voight and Scott Baio stranded in a nonsensical plot in which the toddlers combat an evil media tycoon (Voight).
For several years, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 held the #1 spot on the IMDb Bottom 100 list, meaning it was the lowest rated movie on the entire site. Since then, it’s dropped to #3, underneath the Turkish propaganda piece Code Name: K.O.Z. and Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. But the film’s creators can still take solace in the fact that on Rotten Tomatoes, it has more negative reviews than any other sequel similarly sporting a 0% score.
Have you seen any of these sequels? Do they deserve their 0% ratings? Let us know in the comments!