Franchises burned to the ground with sequel after terrible sequel

For the most part, great movies like Jaws or The Terminator are few and far between. Since most pictures don't strike cinematic gold, when one does, Hollywood tries to unlock its moneymaking secrets. Sadly, when studios attempt to replicate a successful formula, they invariably spin out a series of tepid sequels, prequels, and reboots that raze their progenitor's good name to the ground. The following films are prime examples of movies run over by their own franchises.

Pink Panther

Written and directed by Blake Edwards, the original 1963 Pink Panther was a hit, thanks to Peter Sellers' brilliantly daffy performance as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Originally a supporting character, Sellers' bumbling detective stole the series from David Niven's jewel thief, building a franchise on the slapstick antics of Clouseau. After the late actor passed in 1978, though, MGM should've taken a cue from United Artists and wrapped the series.

Instead, they cobbled together another sequel, Trail of the Pink Panther, from footage cut from Sellers' second to last entry, The Pink Panther Strikes Again. The follow-up, Curse of the Pink Panther—complete with a Roger Moore cameo as Clouseau—refocused attention on Ted Wass' New York cop, Clifton Sleigh, but failed to recapture the charms of earlier films. Similarly, Italian comedic actor Roberto Benigni reprised the character, or at least that of his progeny, in Son of the Pink Panther to little aplomb. 

In the late 2000s, Steve Martin headlined a revival and its subsequent reboot. Despite a decent run at the box office, neither films recaptured the magic of the original six films, and since then, no studios have shown interest in reviving the franchise.


Halloween might seem a little slow to modern audiences, since it spends a lot of time cranking the tension up to 11, before setting the Shatner-mask-wearing Michael Myers loose on the teens of Haddonfield, Illinois. The influence of John Carpenter's horror masterpiece is undeniable, though, and its remarkable success is legendary. The low-budget slasher raked in nearly $50 million from a paltry investment of $300,000 and spawned no-less-than seven sequels. Sadly, each subsequent entry represented a downward spiral in quality, for the most part. 

With the exception of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, the chain of Halloween movies that followed rehashed the same general premise, while offering little of the eerie ambiance or cultural impact of the original. The fifth and sixth films even imported a curious druid mythos to explain the ghastly serial killer, but never properly explored it, leaving behind several unexplored plot threads and a lot of puzzled audiences. 

Rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie rebooted the film in 2007, adding more pathos to the main character and more gory murders to the death count. The Halloween second coming made decent enough bank at the box office for its own sequel, but didn't revive the genre juggernaut for long. 

American Pie

Even most fans are willing to admit that American Pie is, well, pretty silly. At the same time, the film revived the raunchy teen comedy subgenre and baked enough nearly three-dimensional characters and earnest sexual humor into its sophomoric crust to elicit a chortle or two from all but the snootiest critics. Writer Adam Herz and the main cast slapped together a pair of decent follow-ups, including the creatively named American Pie 2 and American Wedding. Aside from a little matrimonial bliss, though, the series never enjoyed a true honeymoon. 

To capitalize on the franchise name, Universal put together a series of low-budget and direct-to-video films under the American Pie Presents aegis. The first flick, Band Camp, arrived in 2005 to minimal fanfare and non-existent critical aplomb. Two cheap-jack sequels, Beta House and Book of Love, followed, serving to tarnish the already spotty reputation of the features. As the 10th anniversary dawned, the original cast returned for an update, American Reunion. The call-back only pulled down $57 million domestically on a $50 million-dollar budget, potentially finishing off the Pie series.

The Terminator

Few film franchises kicked off with as much firepower as The Terminator saga. James Cameron introduced the world to Arnold Schwarzenegger's killer android, heroine Sarah Connor, and one of the most-quoted lines in cinematic history: "I'll be back." Rather than bogging down the audience with a confusing time travel plot, the sci-fi actioner let its fairly well-rounded characters and action set-pieces do the talking. Its sequel, Judgement Day, became the Empire Strikes Back of action movies, merging an elegantly simple story with state-of-the-art special effects. 

Since T2, though, the franchise took a bit of a nosedive. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines pushed the series in more of a tongue-in-cheek direction and kept the pacing brisk. But the trilogy-capper recycled too many plot beats without adding much to the mythos. Six years later, Salvation headed into the future, as Christian Bale's version of John Connor waged an epic battle for humanity (and the franchise's future). Even a talented cast couldn't salvage the series from its own downward slide, though. 

Paramount rebooted the franchise in 2015, with the spellchecker malfunction-named Terminator: Genisys. The convoluted script tried to merge an alternative reality movie into a time travel flick by way of an actioner but merely succeeded in confusing the audience. Despite its flashy CGI, the return of Ahnold, and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, Genisys failed to revamp the series. At this point, its future remains as muddled as Skynet's plans for robot domination.

Home Alone

Holiday movie junkies probably already know the plot to Home Alone by heart: young Kevin's parents accidentally leave him behind, so he adapts to life without them. When two inept burglars break in, the plucky preteen goes suburban John Rambo on them. In the end, the cops arrest the crooks, the parents arrive home (without a visit from CPS), and everything wraps up with a cutesy Christmas bow. And that's exactly how 20th Century Fox should've left things. 

For the unnecessary second installment, the studio brought back the same cast and director and nominally altered the story. Lost in New York fared well at the box office but was critically panned for its rinse and repeat plot beats. This time around, Kevin catches the wrong flight and winds up in New York, while his terrified parents wing it to Florida. Once again, he tangles with the hapless ne'er-do-wells, who escape prison in Illinois only to antagonize—or be antagonized by—the exact same kid in the Big Apple. 

A third movie arrived in 1997, revisiting the premise but swapping out an aging Macaulay Culkin for a different tow-headed young'un. After the reboot barely made back its production budget, Fox tried again in 2002. The made-for-TV adaptation, Home Alone: Taking Back the House, failed to find an audience, putting an end to the franchise indefinitely.

National Lampoon's Vacations

An exercise in escalating absurdity, the Griswold family outing rapidly transitions from frustration to fiasco in, well, as fast as a Family Truckster can accelerate. National Lampoon's Vacation enjoyed a successful trip through theaters, though, as critics, and audiences at the box office fell in love with the unfortunate clan. Their misadventures also set the stage for two well-received sequels, as well as several bad cinematic trips. 

European Vacation found the mildly dysfunctional family winging it across the ocean. Although not as successful as its predecessor, the sequel proved that the family's formula worked, at least well-enough to make another film or two. Christmas Vacation rang in the holidays with mixed reviews but dismissed its detractors to become a seasonal classic in its own right. From there, sadly, the nuclear unit and their extended family went stale. The immediate follow-up, Vegas Vacationcrapped out with critics and at the box office, and the loosely related spin-offs, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure and Hotel Hell Vacationdidn't even register on the cinematic radar. 

In 2015, a high-profile soft reboot reunited Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase as the elder Griswolds. Unfortunately, grown-up Rusty and his clutch failed to evoke the madcap humor his lineage or match the fiscal success of the franchise's best entries. At present, the series is on an extended vacation from the studio.

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity, like its subgenre predecessor The Blair Witch Project, combined low-budget ingenuity with America's growing obsession with filming everything. The plot is pretty stripped down: a young couple is terrorized by the woman's lifelong demonic cling-on. As the danger escalated, director Oren Peli used stationary cameras and over-the-shoulder footage to build suspense, creating a white-knuckled supernatural outing. Shot on a minuscule budget of $15,000, the fright flick haunted the box office for weeks, scaring up nearly $200 million worldwide. With a budget that small and a take that large, naturally Hollywood wanted more: cue the rinse and repeat cycle.

The follow-up was actually more of a prequel, which revolved around the sister of the first film's protagonist. Paranormal Activity 3 was a full-on prequel, digging into the sisters' haunted childhood, while simultaneously stretching the film-everything premise a little thin, since video cameras were pretty clunky and low-fi back in 1988. Each subsequent film added more convoluted mythos to the series while contributing less-compelling stories and watering down the characters. In 2015, the sixth entry, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, clocked in at a measly 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and barely scratched at the domestic box office, potentially stranding the franchise in its own ghost dimension.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Starting off as an indie comic in 1984, Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a tribute to and spoof of their favorite '80s comic books. The self-published title rocketed to popularity, becoming an animated series in 1987 and a feature film in 1990.

The Ninja Turtles' first movie adventure pitted them and their rat-human sensei, Splinter, against classical cartoon arch-fiend, Shredder, and his Foot Clan. Although the film scored so-so with critics, the mascot-like heroes kung-fued their way to the top of the box office, chopping up $200 million worth of pizza toppings for Paramount. The sequel, Secret of the Ooze, continued the reptilian martial artists' exploits—complete with an unnecessary Vanilla Ice cameo—before a third film failed to land any major punches. For the time being, the teen turtles received an early retirement.

During the late-2000s, though, the franchise experienced a revival with a successful CGI animated series, something which also renewed Hollywood's interest in the mutant foursome. In the grips of reboot-itis, Paramount and explosion-maestro Michael Bay restarted the franchise, using motion-capture technology to pull in some decent box office in 2014. The redux and its sequel, Out of the Shadows, met with fan and box office fatigue, putting the future of the high-kicking turtles in doubt.


Once touted as the future of horror, Clive Barker proved his mettle by constructing imaginative and astounding worlds throughout the fear and fantasy realms. His first directorial effort, the chipped masterpiece Hellraiser, was a uniquely kinky fright film and remains one of the high-water marks of '80s horror. The feature also launched an unexpected horror icon in the bondage gear-clad, carpenter's nightmare known as Pinhead.

After pushing the envelope a bit, Barker left his twisted tale in the hands of director Tony Randel (no relation to the Odd Couple actor), who crafted a passable sequel in Hellbound, which continued the sadomasochistic theme. Its follow-up, on the other hand, didn't effectively elaborate upon the heady concepts Barker set up for its progenitor. From that point, the series headed downhill. The third film, Hell on Earth, traded in thought-provoking ideas for pyrotechnics, simultaneously trading on Pinhead's surge in popularity. Barker returned as executive producer for the next entry, Bloodline, also known as "Pinhead in space." But the fourth movie was apparently riddled with studio-interference, leading Barker and director Kevin Yagher to wash their hands of it. Yagher even pulled out the Alan Smithee title card to distance himself from the cinematic mess.

Barring an incredible reversal of fortune, or the return of Clive Barker, Hellraiser may never return from the depths of franchise hell.


Da-dum, da-dum… there's no denying the awesome pop-cultural power of the original Jaws. The legendary shocker gave sharks the worst possible rap and changed the face of Hollywood, becoming the first true summer blockbuster. From its opening moments to its intense conclusion, Steven Spielberg's shark-slasher is an efficient thriller, combining the director's innate storytelling skills with a talented cast and crew, and a suitably frightening scenario. Much like Amity's mayor Larry Vaughn, who misjudged the warnings of shark expert, Matt Hooper, Universal Studios should've quit while they were in the deep end (of the box office, anyway). 

The sequel, which still did brisk business, essentially repeats the same premise to lesser effect. Roy Scheider, who played police chief Martin Brody, made a smart play and stepped away from the franchise, at least after depositing his Jaws 2 paycheck. Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge were both critically panned and met with diminishing returns at the box office. As a result, the series, much like the film's giant mechanical shark, Bruce, remains a relic of Universal's glory days.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Before Pirates sailed into theaters, few suspected a big-budget film based on a Disneyland ride and featuring an untested leading man in Johnny Depp, would weather the box office with its budget intact—much less spawn a billion dollar franchise

An unabashed popcorn flick, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl featured a simple but enjoyable premise that stole all the audiences' booty. The first movie also benefited from an enjoyable, contemporary remix of pirate culture and the roguish charms of Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Keira Knightley's swashbuckling heroine Elizabeth Swann also helped the flick land a well-rounded audience, while Orlando Bloom's awkward but dashing Will Turner and Geoffrey Rush's treacherous Captain Barbarossa rounded out the talented cast. Of course, Disney used the film's broad appeal to christen a decade and a half's worth of passable seafaring vessels. 

Admittedly, the first two sequels, At Worlds End and Dead Man's Chest, contained the same high-energy action and offbeat pirate antics as their progenitor. But the saga as a whole lost its strong headwinds when director Gore Verbinski left after Chest, hitting in the movie doldrums with 2017's Dead Men Tell No Tales. A strong overall showing from the final film could save the Pirates from walking the plank, but without a sizable return on their investment, Disney probably won't revisit Port Royal—at least until its time for the reboot (sigh).