Making sequels is one of Hollywood’s favorite pass times (that, and making movies … alright, it’s pretty much just all about making movies). For all the criticism Hollywood receives for constantly releasing these sequels, it’s easy to understand why it happens so often. It generally makes better business sense to release a follow-up to a commercially successful film than it is to bet money on an untested property. That being said, just because you can release a sequel doesn’t mean that you should, as some movies simply don’t need them. Whether because the first movie was better as a standalone or was simply a bad movie to begin with, the following sequels were all made because their predecessors were considered successes, but that doesn’t mean they should have been made or that anybody even asked for them in the first place.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
The problem with A Dame to Kill For is that there was a small window in the mid-2000s when Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s brand of hyper violent, noir throwback filmmaking felt novel and innovative, which is why the first film was such a success. Unfortunately, it took nearly a decade for this Sin City sequel to materialize and the overall state of comic book movies was vastly different in 2014 than it had been in 2005. Even though A Dame to Kill For offers up the same dynamic visuals and brutal violence as its predecessor — and even improves on certain aspects, such as in the female character department — there’s a definite sense of malaise hanging over the entire picture. The labored, ultra-machismo dialogue was easy enough to put up with in the first film because of its unique stylistic sensibilities, but it becomes tedious here since A Dame to Kill For can’t hope to offer the same level of surprise novelty as the original Sin City. Admittedly, Eva Green’s over-the-top turn as a femme fatale Ava is nearly worth the price of admission alone, but outside of that singular performance, A Dame to Kill For is a pointless, unneeded sequel.
300: Rise of an Empire
When even the studio is telling you a sequel wouldn’t make sense because everyone in the first movie died, that’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t make that sequel. That didn’t stop producer Mark Canton from lobbying Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures to greenlight a sequel to Zack Snyder’s epic comic book adaptation 300 and thanks to a new story idea from 300 author Frank Miller, 300: Rise of an Empire hit theaters almost exactly 7 years after the original took the global box office by storm. To the film’s credit, Rise of an Empire somewhat justifies its existence by telling a story that is adjacent to first movie’s recounting of Spartan King Leonidas’ last stand against the invading Persian army. Largely comprised of an entirely new cast, the film’s central muscle-bound hero this time around is Greek soldier Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), who proves to be about as charismatic as a wooden board and his supporting players aren’t much better. Just like in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, the only actor really going for it here is Eva Green, who’s electric as Persian naval commander Artemisia. Admittedly, the original 300 has its share of problems but Rise of an Empire is notable for just how boring it is. The film is all style and no substance; a criticism that one can just as easily level at the first film, granted, but Snyder’s 300 gets a pass for feeling fresh (at the time). Rise of an Empire is the kind of sequel that so desperately wants to channel the same viewing experience as its predecessor, but doesn’t realize that after a 7 year break, no one wanted or needed another 300 movie.
Taken 2 (And 3)
While it’s more infamous now for helping usher in the interesting but quickly overdone “old men kicking butt” genre, it’s easy to forget that the original Taken was an inspired piece of action filmmaking. The 2009 original was a taut thriller with a simple premise and a good central performance from Liam Neeson; in other words, it was a great “one-off” action movie. Unfortunately, Taken was a little too successful and spawned two sequels that were not only inferior in every way to the original, but added insult to injury by making Liam Neeson boring, which didn’t even seem remotely possible back in the more innocent days of 2009. The Taken concept was quickly stretched past the point of ridiculousness, making this one franchise that really needs to go into retirement.
Open Water II
The original Open Water offered a novel twist on the “sharks are terrifying” genre popularized by films like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea by dipping into psychological horror with its tale of a couple stranded at sea in shark-infested waters. Loosely based on a true story, the film was made on a shoestring budget of only $120,000 and ended up grossing $55 million worldwide. Naturally, that kind of box office return is nothing to sneeze at and a sequel was released three years later in the form of Open Water II: Adrift. Unfortunately, if you were a fan of the first movie, there nothing to recommend about the sequel because technically, it wasn’t a true sequel. As it turns out, Open Water II was originally just called Adrift and the script was written before Open Water was released theatrically. Hoping to capitalize on that film’s success, Adrift was produced and had its name changed to Open Water 2: Adrift in certain countries. The only similarity between the two films is that they are both psychological horror films set on the ocean, but Adrift changes things considerably by putting its characters on a boat and featuring no sharks at all. Apparently, the secret sauce to Open Water’s success had nothing to do with its annoying human characters, but rather the terrifying (and shark-related) circumstances they find themselves in. Strip away the sharks and there really isn’t much going on, which probably explains why Open Water 2 earned only a fraction of what the original did.
Donnie Darko is a bonafide cult classic, featuring a dark, mindbending premise and a breakout performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s the kind of film that spawns enough wild fan theories on its own that it really didn’t need a sequel. And for quite a few years, it looked like Donnie Darko would be a one-off deal, but in 2009, a sequel called S. Darko was released with little fanfare. The problem with S. Darko is that it feels like a poorly-made fan film and this assessment wasn’t helped by the fact that the film not only didn’t have Gyllenhaal or any of the original’s stars in it, but was no longer the brainchild of director Richard Kelly. Instead, Chris Fisher gives it a go in the director’s chair and while he hits some of the right surface-level details, it lacked the thematic depth of the first movie and was quickly forgotten about by even diehard Darko fans.
Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas
The original live action adaptation of The Flinstones is a cinematic tragedy, but we can at least understand why it exists. Casting the likes of John Goodman and Rick Moranis as Fred and Barney (the less said about Rosie O’Donnell as Betty, the better) was a fine move and even though it didn’t result in a very good movie, it easily could have been given the strength of the source material. That being said, there’s no excuse for why the world had to be subjected to a somehow even worse sequel, the critically-savaged Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. The fact that not one single member of the first film’s main cast returned for this installment should offer a clue as to how poorly-conceived this sequel was. Ironically, Viva Rock Vegas actually has a slightly better Rotten Tomatoes score than the first movie (25% vs. 23%) but it’s still widely considered a cinematic travesty and earned significantly less than its predecessor at the box office. Whereas The Flinstones raked in over $350 million globally, the sequel managed less than $50 million, $20 million shy of its reported $70 million production budget! It’s probably only a matter of time before someone tries to reboot this franchise, but the fact that Viva Rock Vegas bombed so hard that no one bothered to make another one should serve as a clear indication that no one asked for this movie in the first place.
American Psycho II: All American Girl
Besides being one of Christian Bale’s breakout roles, American Psycho has become a cult favorite; an indictment of corporate greed and narcissism delivered in a hyper-violent black comedy. Unfortunately for its sequel, American Psycho 2: All American Girl, the original film only really works as a standalone piece, which was proven by the sequel’s devolution into a less sophisticated murder tale. Casting a young Mila Kunis as the film’s titular psycho was an inspired choice, but it’s telling that Kunis has publicly denounced the film, claiming that when she originally signed on the film wasn’t even connected to American Psycho, which shows how little thought was actually put into this film’s conception.
Son of the Mask
The Mask was released at a time when Jim Carrey could seemingly do no wrong and without his manic central performance, it’s hard to say for sure whether the film would have worked as well at it does. Unfortunately, we got an answer to this question over a decade later with the release of Son of the Mask, the 2005 sequel that not only didn’t have Jim Carrey in it, but was so bad that it’s now considered to be one of the worst sequels ever made. Jaime Kennedy steps into Jim Carrey’s leading man role and comes up woefully short in trying to match Carrey’s unique brand of deranged charisma. Kennedy’s performance was so widely panned that it’s believed that the whole experience inspired him to make the documentary film Heckler, an examination of both hecklers and movie critics. This may not have been so bad had the film been able to replicate the box office success of its predecessor, but it turns out that not many people were interested in seeing a sequel to an 11-year-old movie that couldn’t even bother to bring back the likes of Jim Carrey or Cameron Diaz. Son of the Mask only managed to earn back $57.6 million of its $84 million budget and the franchise has been dormant ever since.
Grease is the word, indeed. The 1978 original starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John is one of the most beloved musical films ever made, so it’s not hard to understand why a sequel would have been made. To be fair, the first film wasn’t going to win any awards for stellar writing or acting, but by comparison, 1982’s Grease 2 looks abysmal. The songs are groan-worthy cheesy and feel uninspired when compared to the many staples of the first film’s soundtrack. In addition, the chemistry between Travolta and Newton John’s characters is completely missing (as are the actors playing them), as Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer take over as the film’s leads. Pfeiffer ended up being about the only good element, but even the future Catwoman’s dance moves and surprisingly strong vocal performance couldn’t save Grease 2 from the forgettable sequel trash heap.
There was a period during the mid-80s when the release of a new installment in the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise was something to be celebrated, as the films offered a humorously absurd, but relatable reflection of American family dynamics and just how stressful it can be to take your family on a vacation. The franchise hits its peak with 1989’s Christmas Vacation, which remains a holiday viewing staple for many to this day, but other than a few direct-to-video releases throughout the 2000s, the franchise effectively reached its endpoint with 1997’s Vegas Vacation, widely considered to be the worst of the bunch. Flashforward nearly two decades later to 2015, when Warner Bros. evidently decided that it was time to bring the Vacation series back with a soft reboot that sees a grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) bringing his family to Wally World; literally the same vacation his parents took him and his sister on in the original 1983 film. Unfortunately, this new Vacation forgot to include the charm and heart that were present in the original, leading up to a wildly uneven film that, while funny in parts, is ultimately forgettable.
The Fly II
David Cronenberg’s seminal mid-80s sci fi horror film The Fly is without a doubt one of the best horror remakes, taking the 1950 original and giving it into a modern cult classic filled with grotesque body horror and excellent lead performances from both Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Released three years later, The Fly II lacks both the leads and Cronenberg, which already signals it as a sequel that’s probably not worth anyone’s time. Of course, writing off a sequel just because it doesn’t have the same creative team behind it is no way to judge a movie, but The Fly II doesn’t do itself any favors by failing to match the quality of its predecessor in pretty much every way. The big problem with this film is that, while it succeeds in outdoing Cronenberg’s film in the gore department, there’s no larger point to all of the violence outside of shock value. Whereas Cronenberg’s film used its body horror imagery as metaphors for death and disease, The Fly II is content in just being a gory monster movie and not a very good one at that. Despite netting nearly $40 million worldwide at the box office, The Fly II has essentially zero cultural relevance and is deservedly considered to be a pointless sequel to a film that really didn’t need one in the first place.
Basic Instinct 2
Another Paul Verhoeven film with a vastly inferior sequel, Basic Instinct was a hit because of its enjoyable psycho-sexual themes and the lead performances of Michael Douglass and Sharon Stone (that leg-crossing scene is probably the most paused frame of all time). Not to mention that Verhoeven is pretty spectacular at turning pulpy, exploitative material into taut thrillers. The sequel, despite the involvement of Sharon Stone, simply didn’t work. Way too much focus was placed on oversexualizing Sharon Stone’s character and yet somehow the film is less titillating than the original. The plot was also outrageous (and not in a good way), putting it more into the category of schlocky messes like Showgirls (which was ironically directed by Paul Verhoeven).
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
The first live-action Garfield is a cinematic travesty in every sense of the term, to the point where even Bill Murray’s vocal contributions as the lasagna-loving orange tabby does little to make the film watchable from start to finish. Still, we’d be naive in thinking that someone wasn’t going to try and make a live-action Garfield movie someday and even though it’s inherently a bad idea, it happened and the world moved on. But then someone decided “No, you know what? What the world really needs is ANOTHER Garfield movie,” and that’s how we got 2006’s A Tail of Two Kitties, a film that will give anyone over the age of 8 an aneurysm. To give credit it where’s due (we guess), A Tail of Two Kitties isn’t noticeably worse or better than its predecessor, but therein lies the problem. When the first film was already so forgettable, especially when compared to the many legitimately good kids movies that are released in a given year, why did we need yet another Garfield movie that accomplishes the exact same thing? Thankfully for all involved, 20th Century Fox evidently decided that two Garfield movies was a bad enough crime committed against humanity and never opted for a third.
Speed 2: Cruise Control
1994’s Speed was an out-of-nowhere action hit that helped launch the careers of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. As good as Speed is, its central concept (a bomb on a bus will go off if the Bus drops below 50 mph) is so specific that it’s dangerously close to being laughably absurd. That became apparent with the sequel, 1997’s Speed 2: Cruise Control, which replaced the bus with an entire cruise-liner. The other main problem with the film, besides a cruise ship being an incredibly boring replacement for an out-of-control bus, is that Keanu Reeves chose not to reprise his role and was replaced by Jason Patric, an actor who somehow had even less charisma than the famously wooden Reeves. Even casting Willem Dafoe as the film’s villain couldn’t save Speed 2 from bombing.