In general, it’s assumed that sequels to hit films will be inferior to the original, even if there have been notable exceptions to this “rule” over the years (The Dark Knight is superior in almost every way to Batman Begins, for instance). That being said, despite the inevitability of diminishing returns, most sequels are at least serviceable, as they already have an established story and characters to build off of.
Sometimes though, there are follow-up films so bad that they tarnish or even kill a franchise with their inferiority. The following 20 films are all well-regarded in their own way, but suffered from sequels that completely misunderstood what made the originals so beloved in the first place. The world, not to mention the original films’ legacies, would have been better off if these sequels had never been made.
The Terrible Sequel: Caddyshack II
The original 1980 Caddyshack is widely regarded as one of the best comedies of all-times. It is routinely ranked near the top of any “Best Sports Movies” lists you’ll find on the internet. Starring Chevy Chase as the elitist country club champion Ty Webb, Rodney Dangerfield as the eccentric hotshot Al Czervik, and Bill Murray as the unhinged greenskeeper who is hellbent on gopher revenge, Caddyshack was (and still is) laugh out loud funny.
Despite mixed critical reviews, the movie performed well at the box office and quickly gained cult status. A sequel was released in 1988, but the only member of the original cast to return was Chase. Despite original writer/directer Harold Ramis still involved in helping pen the screenplay, this sequel was doomed from moment they went for a PG-13 rating instead of the Rated R classification of the initial movie.
The result was a weak, poorly written, watered-down sequel that couldn’t even earn back it’s operating budget ($11.8 million at the box office, compared to $20 million to make). It was panned by critics, holds one of the worst Rotten Tomatoes scores ever (just 4%), and was nominated for two Golden Raspberry awards — that’s a bad thing, in case you weren’t aware. Oh, and Murray sued the production over the gopher character, claiming he helped create it. All in all, this movie never should have been made.
19. Zoolander 2
The Terrible Sequel: Zoolander 2
But why male models? That was the question asked, and hilariously answered by the 2001 comedy Zoolander. Starring Ben Stiller (who also wrote and directed) and Owen Wilson as rivals in the ultra competitive male model business, the movie was a surprise hit. It was silly, but not stupid. It was satirical in all the right ways, slamming the fashion industry, superficial celebrities, and even crackpot conspiracy theorists.
Unfortunately, Stiller and Wilson apparently found themselves a little bored 15 years later, resulting in Zoolander 2 — a sequel no one really asked for. The plot revolves around the two stars bumbling their way to the bottom of a series of assassinated pop stars (wouldn’t the FBI be a better choice for that?). But unlike the first movie, where viewers could look past the absurdity of everything and enjoy the gags, the sequel falls well short. It’s mostly just a series of celebrity cameos, and not much else.
18. The Karate Kid
The Terrible Sequel: The Karate Kid Part II, The Karate Kid Part III, The Next Karate Kid, The Karate Kid (2010)
Part martial arts movie, part coming-of-age film, the original Karate Kid thrust Ralph Macchio into stardom as “Daniel-san,” a bullied high school student who learns karate from a humble handyman who works in his apartment building. As Daniel learns the physical skills of karate in order to stand up for himself, he also inadvertently learns more important life lessons of responsibility, discipline, and respect. The movie is a much beloved 80s classic, pleasing critics and even earning Pat Morita an Oscar nomination for his role as Mr. Miyagi.
The first sequel was actually not that terrible, but things quickly went downhill for the franchise. The third installment was a complete flop, though, as it was mostly just a bland re-telling of the original. It earned five Razzie nominations and director John G. Avildsen even panned his own work, calling it “a horrible movie.”
Somehow, that third movie didn’t even kill off the franchise. A 1994 sequel saw Mr. Miyagi take on a new student in a young Hilary Swank. Although Swank’s performance was praised, she couldn’t save this trainwreck of a film — it holds just a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Finally, because Hollywood is filled with uncreative hacks who do nothing but trot out re-makes in the hopes of tricking audiences with nostalgia, the franchise was rebooted in 2010 with Jaden Smith (Yes, Will’s kid) and Jackie Chan. It still made a bunch of money, but please, no more. We’re begging you.
17. Super Troopers
The Terrible Sequel: Super Troopers 2
That first Super Troopers movie came out of nowhere, really. Written by and starring the Broken Lizard comedy group, it was made for a paltry sum of about $3 million, bought by Fox Searchlight, and made $23 million at the box office. Those numbers aren’t mind blowing, but the movie became a cult classic — especially with the young college-aged stoner crowds. The movie was quotable as hell, and the story of the immature, unprofessional, and woefully inept Vermont State Troopers was screened in dorm rooms and frat houses across the nation.
Despite the cult following, the original never received high critical praise. Perhaps that’s why no movie studio seemed interested in funding a sequel, prompting Broken Lizard to start a crowdfunding campaign to get a sequel made — a full 17 years after the original.
The money was raised (Fox pitched in some of their own), but Super Troopers 2 just… kind of… well, sucked. Maybe it’s the fact that the original target audience of teenagers and early 20-somethings were now all closer to being 40 than they were to sparking up a doobie on a Friday night. It posted a modest return at the box office, so it wasn’t a complete failure from a financial point of view, but die hard fans of the original were left feeling pretty empty.
The Terrible Sequel: Highlander II: The Quickening, Highlander III: The Sorcerer, Highlander: Endgame, Highlander: The Search for Vengence, and Highlander: The Source
The original Highlander was a surprise hit, as the British fantasy adventure movie starring Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, and Sean Connery was a quirky film about ancient immortal warriors called Highlanders. And as you may know by now, there can only be one. Interestingly, iconic rock band Queen provided plenty of original songs for the 1986 film, which aided in Highlander gaining cult status.
Unfortunately, many (many!) sequels, TV series, and spin-offs followed. And almost off of them were awful. The first film sequel is widely regarded one of the worst movies ever made. The third Highlander movie was criticized for basically copying the plot of the original exactly, only with less talented actors. Highlander: Endgame attempted to merge film and TV characters into a singular storyline, but ended up losing millions of dollars and earning a measly 12% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Will they ever learn? Apparently not, as there are rumors that Hollywood will attempt to reboot the franchise from scratch sometime in the next few years. The one decent addition to the Highlander franchise was the original TV series, which lasted six seasons and produced 119 well-received episodes before it ended in 1998.
The Terrible Sequel: Thor: The Dark World
Before he evolved into one of the coolest and most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with The Avengers, Thor debuted in his own 2011 movie. It was just the fourth MCU movie at the time, and perhaps the most ambitious to date, adding in space travel, mythical beings, and alien races. Chris Hemsworth played the hunky Asgardian prince and Natalie Portman starred as scientist Jane Foster (who also became Thor’s love interest). The first solo Thor movie isn’t the greatest MCU ever made, but it was a worthy introduction to a character who would become very important.
The sequel, however, it right up there as one of the worst MCU movies ever made. Released just two years after the original, Thor: The Dark World was a confusing mess. Something about the Aether (which eventually becomes the reality stone), a Dark Elf named Malekith, and Loki’s being magically alive after seemingly dying in the first one. Now that we’ve seen how the first three phases of the MCU concluded with Avengers: Endgame, we can try to just forget this movie ever happened.
On the bright side, the third Thor movie (Ragnorok) was brilliant and easily one of the best MCU movies made so far.
14. Slap Shot
The Terrible Sequel: Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice and Slap Shot 3: The Junior League
There are multiple good movies about hockey. Miracle, Goon, and hell, even The Mighty Ducks all are excellent movies about the good ol’ Canadian game. But when it comes to “the” essential hockey movie, only Slap Shot holds that lofty title. Released in 1977, this classic sports comedy stars Paul Newman as an aging player-coach of small town minor hockey team. With the team on the verge of folding, the violent Hanson brothers are unleashed on unsuspecting opponents, drawing big crowds with their rough-house antics. It’s outrageous, but it works.
What didn’t work, though, were the two sequels that followed in 2002 and 2008. Unsurprisingly, neither of these awful attempts to cash in on the Slap Shot name made it to theaters, with both being straight-to-DVD releases. The first one is about a disgraced former NHL player, kicked out of the league for betting on games, taking over the beloved Charleston Chiefs. The second is about a junior hockey version of the Chiefs. Somehow, the Hanson brothers appear in both. But the real question is: why make these sequels at all?
13. The Lost Boys
The Terrible Sequels: Lost Boys: The Tribe and Lost Boys: The Thirst
The Lost Boys helped transform vampire pop culture. Instead of portraying the undead bloodsuckers as old, pale Europeans, this Joel Schumacher film used a cast of young, sexy vampires to give the whole genre a modern upgrade — something that would be borrowed by the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Interview With the Vampire, and yes, even Twilight. With an all-star case including Jason Patric, Keifer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, and Dianne West, Lost Boys was a legit comedy-horror hit in 1987!
For some reason, a straight-to-DVD sequel was made over 20 years later. Only Feldman returned, which is more of a sad statement about the way his career spiraled down than anything else. Feldman clung to the franchise, producing yet another straight-to-DVD sequel in 2010. Both sequels literally hold a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and should not be watched under any circumstances.
12. Men in Black
The Terrible Sequels: Men in Black II and III
The mid-90s were a simpler time. Boy bands were dominating the airwaves and Will Smith could do no wrong. Fresh off the monster success of Independence Day in 1996, the former Fresh Prince donned a black suit and dark sunglasses to star alongside Tommy Lee Jones as a pair of ultra secretive extraterrestrial police, the Men in Black. The pure charisma of Smith and Jones helped an already-fun script become another mega-hit.
The first sequel came five years later, and it honestly wasn’t that bad. The additions of Rosario Dawson, Rip Torn, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Johnny Knoxville all provided a little extra star power and comedic hijinks. However, this franchise truly belongs on list for Men in Black III.
The trilogy film was released in 2012, long after most people stopped caring about Will Smith’s in-your-face attitude that once made him Hollywood’s golden boy. The story involves time travel, which often creates glaring plot holes, and whole thing just felt like a cash grab. Which it was, making over $600 million at the box office but garnering mostly average (or worse) reviews from professional critics and sci-fi fans.
The franchise will reboot in 2019 when Men in Black: International hits theaters — the first MiB movie to not feature Smith and Jones.
11. Beverly Hills Cop
The Terrible Sequels: Beverly Hills Cop 2 and 3
When Beverly Hills Cop hit theaters in 1984, Eddie Murphy was the man when it came to comedy. Already a veteran cast member of Saturday Night Live, his much-vaunted stand-up special Delirious had also been released the year prior. Casting Murphy as a hot-headed street cop from Detroit and sending him to the posh Beverly Hills to investigate the death of his childhood friend was a brilliant decision. It topped the box office that year, bringing in more than $315 million. Not only that, but the film was praised for being smart, hip, and hilarious.
That kind of success had studio execs at Paramount Pictures foaming at the mouth for more. They would get two sequels, one in 1987 and another in 1994. Even Murphy would later call the second movie “half-assed,” claiming it was nothing more than a lazy re-hash of the first movie, but without any of the innovative charm. The third movie was an absolute disaster, earning two Razzie nominations and barely mustering a 10% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Murphy called the film “atrocious” and director John Landis said it was “an odd movie.” Put it on the “Do Not Watch” list.
10. Starship Troopers
The Terrible Sequels: Starship Troopers 2 and 3
Starship Troopers is a science fiction classic, a satirical humans vs. aliens masterpiece that only seems to get better with age. Looking back at it now, it seems like the pieces were in place for this to become a well-regarded film franchise, as the ending leaves the door wide open for sequels. Those sequels did come, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the original, as evidenced by their direct-to-DVD statuses.
The biggest problem was that the sequels were lacking director Paul Verhoeven, whose cutting satirical style was absent from the sequels, rendering them to be run-of-the-mill B-movie sci-fi films as a result. Starship Troopers 3 actually took a crack at credibility by evoking the satirical edge of Verhoeven’s original and by having Casper Van Dien reprise his role as protagonist Johnny Rico, but the film’s much lower budget made it an unsatisfying return journey.
9. American Psycho
The Terrible Sequel: American Psycho 2: 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.
8. Donnie Darko
The Terrible Sequel: S. Darko
While Donnie Darko has its share of detractors and is a bit overrated, it is an undisputed cult classic and has legions of fans. The same can’t be said for its sequel, the unfortunately-titled S. Darko. While the original film was successful because of its unique dark tone and bizarre time-jumping storyline, the sequel simply tried too hard to mimic those aspects and ended up feeling more like a shoddily put-together fan film than a worthy follow-up. The fact that none of the original cast members or Donnie Darko‘s writer/director Richard Kelly were involved really didn’t help the film score any legitimacy points either.
7. Basic Instinct
The Terrible Sequel: 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 movie 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 also directed by Paul Verhoeven).
6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The Terrible Sequel: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time, as many families make it a yearly ritual to watch it together over the holidays. It would seem like a return to the Griswold family Christmas would be a welcome proposition, but when it takes the form of a direct-to-DVD sequel released over a decade after the original and focused on a supporting character, it’s best to leave that lump of coal under the tree.
Ignoring all that is right and decent, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure was somehow greenlit and as the title suggests, the film is focused on Randy Quaid’s buffoonish dolt from the first film. This sequel, which also somehow wrangled the legitimate talents of Ed Asner and Fred Willard, doesn’t even clock in a 90 minute runtime, which shows how little material this unwanted sequel could muster.
The Terrible Sequels: 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.
The Terrible Sequel: Grease 2
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.
The Terrible Sequel: 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.
The Terrible Sequel: Jaws: The Revenge
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws helped usher in the blockbuster film era and while it’s largely remembered as the film that made a generation afraid to swim in the ocean, it’s excellent in its own right, with a fantastic cast of characters and a smaller scale story that is enhanced by its restraint in not showing its titular great white shark every 10 seconds.
Unfortunately, the numerous Jaws sequels lost sight of what made Spielberg’s original such a classic thriller and got more ridiculous with each new entry. By the time the fourth film, Jaws The Revenge, came along, the series had, for lack of a better term, jumped the shark (pun intended). At least Michael Caine was still able to have a career after appearing in this turd.
The Terrible Sequel: Titanic 2
This may be stretching the term “sequel” a bit, considering that it is not officially a sequel to James Cameron’s Best Picture-winning original, but it’s difficult not to see Titanic II as anything other than an absurd follow-up to that film when it has the word “Titanic” right there in the title.
A Syfy production in the same vein as the channel’s infamous Sharknado series, Titanic II is a disaster film of the hilariously-bad variety. Set 100 years to the day after the maiden voyage of the original Titanic, Titanic II chronicles the similarly ill-fated tribute luxury cruise liner, only this time instead of hitting an iceberg, the ship is literally hit by an iceberg flung at it by a tsunami.
It may not be an official sequel, but that surely hasn’t stopped fans of the first film from seeking out Titanic II out of curiosity, only to discover a film that’s somehow more disastrous than the actual Titanic (okay, that last part was a bit of an overstatement).