When done properly, a movie trilogy can become a much-beloved piece of cinema history. Consider the original Star Wars trilogy or the Back to the Future films. They continue to be fan favorites decades after their initial release, not to mention the fact that they spawned millions of dollars in re-releases, branded merchandise, and/or video games. Actually, Star Wars easily moved into the billions range when it comes to that kind of stuff.
Unfortunately, not all movie trilogies actually become trilogies. We know it’s kind of weird to write an article about movie trilogies with less than three films, but we think you are smart enough to wrap your head around the concept. This list is about movie franchises with two installments already, but that final third piece doesn’t seem likely to ever happen — for a variety of different reasons.
So here at 11 not-quite-complete trilogies that will probably stay unfinished forever.
11. Escape From New York/L.A.
These two movies were released a remarkable 15 years apart, but they both feature Kurt Russell playing one of his most iconic characters — ex-soldier and now federal prisoner Snake Plissken. The first movie was Snake saving the President after he accidentally crash-landed into the island Manhattan, which has been converted entirely into a federal prison. Fifteen years later, Snake faces a similar covert rescue mission on the Island of Los Angeles, which has broken off from the mainland in a massive earthquake and was converted into an island of exiles for sinners.
Unfortunately, there are only so many places for Plissken to escape from. Both Russell and director John Carpenter are in their late 60s, so the adventures of Snake escaping from things are likely over and done with. There were rumors of a remake starring Gerard Butler floating around for a bit, but those seem to have vanished. It’s been over two decades since the last Escape From… movie, and we can’t imagine anyone is overly interested in making a third one at this point.
The original Tron was a surprise sci-fi hit in 1982, about a software engineer who becomes trapped inside the mainframe of an artificial intelligence security system. The movie was known for its unique aesthetics and, of course, the awesome light-cycle scenes. Disney finally got around to making a sequel in 2010, which was called Tron: Legacy, which again features Jeff Bridges playing the main character of Kevin Flynn, albeit a much older version this time around.
Despite the financial success of the long-awaited sequel (earning $400 million on a budget of $170 million), Disney has been pretty silent about a third Tron film ever since. Of course, they are more than keeping busy (and earning billions) by putting out a steady stream of new Marvel and Star Wars films. Hopefully, they don’t wait another 30 years to make Tron 3, because Bridges will be 90-years-old at that point.
9. Kill Bill
Ironically enough, Quentin Tarantino never planned for Kill Bill to even be an original and a sequel. He envisioned the epic tale of the murder of revenge as a single movie and filmed it that way. It was only the movie studio that finally convinced him that no one wanted to sit through four hours of footage in one sitting, so Tarantino broke it up into Volumes 1 and 2.
The story was actually wrapped up pretty neatly, with Beatrix Kiddo killing all the enemies that wronged her and riding off into the sunset with her daughter. But Tarantino specifically left one loose thread — the daughter of character Vernita Green aka Copperhead. After a fight in the kitchen leaves Green (Vivica A. Fox) dead in a pile of Fruit Loops, the camera reveals that her elementary school-aged daughter saw everything. The Bride calmly informs her that if she’s “raw” about things when she grows up, she can come looking. Tarantino has sometimes teased a third installment that features a now-grown-up daughter (actress Ambrosia Kelley) tracking down Beatrix for revenge but appears much more focused on his other projects than bringing Kill Bill back for a third go-round. Never say never, though.
Kick-Ass was a bit of a surprise hit when it was released in 2010. It was a movie adaptation of a little-known Marvel comic by the same name, but scored big with audiences who loved the black comedy script of a regular teenager attempting to become a vigilante superhero, only to find himself way too deep in a deadly feud between other masked heroes (Big Daddy and Hit-Girl) and a ruthless crime boss. A second film continued the story, introducing new characters and leaving the door open for another edition.
Unfortunately, Kick-Ass 2 underperformed at the box office in 2013. It still made a small profit, but perhaps studio execs were expecting much larger returns since comic book movies are all the rage right now. Both stars (Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz) have said they would happily return for a third film, but the potential film has no director, no script, and no funding. The Kick-Ass trilogy will likely remain unfinished.
7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
This is the only movie on this list that never even made it to a sequel. David Fincher’s excellent thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which was adapted from the best-selling Millenium trilogy of novels by Swedish author Steig Larsson, should have easily been followed up by the remaining two parts of the story. The film made money and was a critical success, partly due to the incredible performances of stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
The sequels (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest) were surefire hits, but they never got made. So what gives? There are conflicting stories here, with some claiming that Craig demanded a hefty raise that Sony wasn’t willing to give him. Other reports cite the pre-production of the movie turned to hell, with constant script re-writes until the project barely resembled the original Larsson novel. Fincher bailed (or was replaced, depending on who you believe) and the whole thing continues to sit in limbo.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man
The entire Spider-Man movie franchise is just all over the map. The first two installments with Tobey Maguire were generally well-received, but that third Sam Raimi installment with Venom and emo-Spidey was just… what the hell was that, exactly? Sony then rebooted their own franchise (just five years later) with Andrew Garfield playing Peter Parker this time around, in a movie they called The Amazing Spider-Man. A second film followed shortly after, this one featuring Jamie Foxx as villain Electro and Paul Giamatti as the Rhino. Critics hated it, and Sony had to put their plans for an expansive shared universe of Spider-Man films and spin-offs on hold.
A few years later, Marvey and Disney came calling. They wanted the web-crawler to come back into their own shared movie universe fold, having sold off the character rights long before comic book movies were big business. After much negotiation, a deal was struck that saw Tom Holland take over the role for an appearance in Captain America: Civil War and again in a standalone flick Spider-Man: Homecoming. Sony is moving on by making their own standalone movie, but it’s about Venom. Regardless of what happens to the character in future films, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever see Garfield suit again for The Amazing Spider-Man 3.
5. National Treasure
We assume at some point, Nic Cage will need the money and agree to do another National Treasure movie. Until then, we are left with the semi-cliffhanger from the second film, where Cage’s character Ben Gates gets told by the President to check out Page 47 in the President’s Book of Secrets. These movies can best be described at “adventure mystery lite.” They aren’t that hard to follow, feature a never-ending series of clues for the audience to speculate about, and some fun action sequences to kick up the thrills.
They also make boatloads of money. Over $800 million at the box office between the two installments so far. Disney went so far as acquiring trademarks and online domain names for a third (and even a fourth) National Treasure installment. That was in 2008. Since then… well, nothing. Director of both films Jason Turtletaub said that “there’s no point in making the movie” unless there’s a great script and a great piece of history to explore. At one point, production on National Treasure 3 was scheduled to begin in 2015. It never happened. This movie could simply be doomed to languish away in production hell forever.
Gremlins was a quirky comedy-horror film from 1984 that may have been quickly forgotten if it wasn’t for that cute little creature named Gizmo. The movie was associated with a major merchandising push and made a killing at the box office compared to it’s meager $11 million budget. Although some parents complained that the evil gremlin scenes were too scary, a sequel was released in 1990. It wasn’t as scary, but it was a huge flop at the box office, failing to even earn back it’s $50 million budget.
Director Joe Dante, who was in charge of both films, has said he would love to make a third but admits that studios aren’t interested in gambling on the Gremlins franchise again. At this point, it’s been so long since the last release of this franchise that we’re not even sure who the target audience would be. A new generation of kids? Nostalgic adults? Probably best to just leave this one alone.
3. 28 Days/Weeks Later
28 Days Later was a nice break from traditional zombie movies. For starters, the outbreak of the apocalypse is actually shown to be a result of the Rage virus. Secondly, standard zombies just sort of mull around until you attract their attention. Then they just walk. Really. Slowly. Towards. You. Basically, it’s usually pretty easy to just bypass a group of the undead. In 28 Days Later, the infected were shown sprinting, climbing, and basically being as terrifying as all hell.
The story was continued in 28 Weeks Later, showing how the English survivors were trying to rebuild society as the infected slowly starved to death. Unfortunately, someone screws up and the brand new mob of bloodthirsty Rage monsters are created. The movie ends up teasing the third installment as the zombies finally break out of the England quarantine and make their way into France.
Unfortunately, there appears to be some sort of squabble between the original franchise creators over who owns what percentage. So a planned 28 Months Later film to complete the trilogy has been shelved for close to ten years now.
The Crank movies are kind of silly, with the entire premise that the main character (Jason Statham) has been injected with a drug that will slowly kill him unless he keeps his adrenaline pumping at a high rate. What follows is three hours (over the course of two movies) of ridiculous, but awesome, action scenes as he attempts to stay alive by starting fights, getting into car chases, and having public sex. Yep, that’s a scene that really happens.
The second Crank movie was released in 2009, so it’s not entirely impossible for a second one to be made. Co-star Amy Smart has publicly revealed that a third film has been discussed, and the uber-action genre is still Statham’s bread and butter, as seen by his appearances in The Expendables and Fast & Furious franchises. Unfortunately, the sequel barely made back it’s operating budget at the box office, meaning the studio won’t be eager to greenlight another movie filled with expensive action scenes.
If you’ve been paying attention around Goliath, you’ll notice that we love our comic book movies. Marvel, DC, whatever, if it’s a comic book movie, there’s a good chance we’ve written something it, somewhere on this website. Long before Cinematic Universes became a thing, director Guillermo del Toro and Dark Horse Comics teamed up with Columbia Pictures to give us Hellboy and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. They each made a modest profit and were generally considered to be pretty good movies, as far as comic-based stories go.
The sequel came out in 2008, though, and that’s a long time to wait for pump out a third Hellboy flick. Del Toro has expressed interest, but star Ron Pearlman is almost 70 and doesn’t seem too interested in having to sit through five or six hours of the make-up chair just to film every day. Would rights holders be willing to bet a big budget on a comic book movie that doesn’t have the same fan base as the more mainstream Marvel or DC stories? It doesn’t seem likely, meaning we’ll probably never get the proper Hellboy trilogy treatment.