The Worst Movie Sequels
If at first you do succeed, you probably shouldn’t try again…
Proving that cinematic lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place, today we’re going to look at some of the very worst movie sequels of all time.
Understandably risk adverse studios are increasingly reliant on the supposedly guaranteed success of following up last year’s sure fire hits with simply more of the same.
Popular characters, memorable catchphrases and ground-breaking special effects often make films successful, but unfortunately without improvement or originality they rarely stand up to the scrutiny of a second effort.
Nevertheless we’ve recently heard news that even films like Twins and I Am legend are getting unlikely sequels. So here’s some particularly embarrassing cautionary tales for audiences and studios alike to take note of…
1. Godfather Part 3
The Godfather is unquestionably one of the finest films ever made, brought to life with an all-star cast that perfectly captured the menacing caecilian charms of Mario Puzo’s mafia saga. The Godfather part 2 did the impossible; it not only equalled the impeccably high standards of the first film but arguably surpassed them.
Part 2 added to the already rich tapestry of the Corleone crime family, masterfully juxtaposing the rise of Don Corleone with that of his ruthless son Michael. Al Pacino dominated every inch of the screen with a career best performance, while Robert De Niro stepped into Marlon Brando shoes and never put a foot wrong.
It’s hard to understate the level of anticipation that greeted the news that there would indeed be a Godfather Part 3. With Francis Ford Coppolla again directing and Pacino staring the stage was set for a glorious final chapter. Unfortunately the result was one of the most bitterly disappointing sequels in screen history that brought shame on the family and tarnished an otherwise flawless saga.
What went wrong? For a start the script. The Godfather Part 2 had exhausted the last dregs of worthwhile storytelling form Puzo’s original book. Coppolla wanted 6 months to write the script but Paramount only gave him 6 weeks in desperation to meet a Christmas release date.
The third chapter replaced astonishing drama about betrayal, power and corruption with an outlandish tale of predictably failed redemption and an embarrassing incestuous romantic subplot.
Coppolla himself has admitted that it was only financial problems caused by the failure of other films that forced him to reluctantly take up Paramount’s long standing offer for a third instalment. Ironically Robert Duvall refused to reprise his role for a third film because he wasn’t going to be paid enough.
The film has many flaws, but casting his own daughter Sofia Coppolla as a last minute replacement for Julia Roberts & Winona Ryder in the crucial role of the Don’s daughter Mary proved a major mistake. Her performance was nervous, vacant and the last thing the already weak production needed.
The Godfather 3 isn’t the worst film ever made, it’s not even truly awful or unwatchable, but when the bar for greatness has been set so high anything below it feels like a massive fall from grace.
2. JAWS 3
If The Godfather Part 3 was a lacklustre instalment in a once proud franchise then Jaws 3 and 4 were nothing short of embarrassing disasters.
Jaws was based on Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel about a 25ft Great White Shark terrorizing the quiet beach community on Amity Island. With considerable help from John Williams menacing soundtrack the film launched the career of Steven Spielberg, practically invented the concept of summer blockbusters and remains one of the finest thrillers ever made.
Unfortunately by the time the studio dragged the animatronic Shark into the tank for a third film Spielberg, the original cast and the slightest hint of any quality had already abandoned ship.
Originally entitled Jaws 3-D the film sees the Great White Killer invading a SeaWorld waterpark and was part of the embarrassingly unsuccessful 1980s 3D revival. Dennis Quaid leads an unfortunate cast through an alarming array of awful dialogue and cheesy special effects.
The film was justifiably nominated for 5 golden raspberry awards including worst picture and director.
The lowest point of Jaws 3 without question is when our heroes find themselves being saved from the evil shark by a pair of friendly dolphins. Good Grief!
3. JAWS: The Revenge
The only thing more implausible than Dolphin’s beating up a three ton killer shark is the fact that this Jaws 3 failed to kill off the franchise.
Jaws: The Revenge saw yet another Great White Shark terrorizing what’s left of the Brody family, having followed them on their Caribbean vacation. The film’s poster came with the simply preposterous tagline “This time it’s personal!”
It’s hard to work out what’s most ridiculous about this leading contender for worst film of all time. Not only are we supposed to believe that a shark deliberately targets the Brody family to punish them for all their past crimes against Great Whites but then due to a psychic connection it follows Mrs Brody (Lorraine Gary) half way round the world to interrupt her tropical romance with Michael Caine.
The awkward presence of acclaimed British thespian Sir Michael Caine in this atrocious effort is emphatic proof that good actors can’t save a terrible sequel from sinking. Years from now when the Oscars finally plays a memorial reel for Michael Caine it’s safe to say it won’t be featuring any extended clips from Jaws: The Revenge.
*Rotten Tomatoes the website that aggregates film reviews still gives Jaws an almost unprecedented 100% positive rating 36 years after its release, Jaws: The Revenge has 0%!
4. The Hangover Part 2
Sometimes the problem with sequels is that they try to change too much. They depart from a simple successful formula and fall flat on their face in a misguided effort to be creative and original.
Keen to avoid this potential pitfall Director Todd Phillips decided the only way to safely ensure that The Hangover Part 2 equalled the commercial and critical success of the first film was to change absolutely nothing. Literally.
The Hangover Part 2 shamefully regurgitates ever major plot point, the cast and the predictable toilet humour of the original in its entirety. You almost wonder if they even bothered writing a new script. It might have been easier to simply cross out Las Vegas in the old one and write Bangkok instead.
I’m not even sure if this one counts as a sequel it’s practically a remake. It’s almost as if life is cruelly imitating art and Todd Phillips simply forgot he made the first film, mistaking it for some fuzzy drunken dream he had of a really cool idea for a film.
Sequels are supposed to build on what’s gone before, to develop characters and take the drama and adventure to exciting new levels. They’re not supposed to just be an excuse to re-introduce my dismayed eyes to a poorly endowed naked Asian man. “You wanna party with Chau..?” No, No I do not. Once was quite enough for me.
A Mike Tyson cameo and Zack Galifianakis’s confused oaf face is not a plot and it’s not even vaguely funny a second time over.
5. Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions
The problem that faces almost every sequel is that almost by definition good stories tend to have a well-structured plot that crescendo with a satisfying and conclusive climax. Even where some films deliberately leave unanswered questions the reality of watching that story continue and having them actually answered rarely meets our elevated expectations.
The Matrix Reloaded is a classic example of this. The Wacowski brothers redefined the boundaries of special effect with The Matrix. They also gave GCSE religious studies teachers a cool video to show during the ‘what if we’re all just brains in a jar’ class.
Beneath all its bullet dodging Kung Fu moves, the philosophical premise of the first Matrix film was comparatively simple. By contrast the plot of the much hyped sequels was increasingly convoluted and dull. Relentlessly pummelling bored and confused audiences like a 100 angry CGI Agent Smiths. By the end even the impressive action sequences began to feel bloated and unnecessary.
Watching Keanu Reeves prove ‘I Know Kung Fu’ felt important and exciting, watching him fly around in a trench coat like emo superman felt ridiculous and pointless. By the end audiences were wishing they’d taken the Blue pill and never even bothered.
6. Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen
One of the most common crimes of bad sequels is being excessive and unjustified. Particular for blockbuster spectacle movies the pressure to be bigger if not necessarily better is considerable.
One director who’ never been afraid to abandon plot, emotions and any semblance of character development in favour of increasingly elaborate pyro-technics and CGI is Michael Bay.
His first Transformers film was hardly an Oscar winning classic, but the abysmal follow up Revenge of the Fallen was unacceptably poor even by his standards. Sadly Michael Bay has never learnt that the size of your explosion doesn’t matter when your entire cast displays the acting prowess of sweaty lobotomy victims.
Michael Bay clearly relied on the wisdom gained from years of directing mediocre action films and sleazy Victoria Secret commercials to produce a lacklustre sequel even more reliant than the original on Megan Fox’s porn star looks and Shia Labeouf repeatedly screaming Optimus!!
Apart from and some cringewothy nonsense about ‘the Matrix of leadership’ the only notable addition to the usual giant robot fighting for the second instalment in the franchise were some highly offensive new Transformers based on thinly veiled racial stereotypes.
In one of the film’s most embarrassing low points, John Toturro’s character also explicitly identifies two demolition balls hanging between the legs of an evil Decepticon as the “enemy scrotum”. When people say the second Transformers film is a load of robot balls they mean it literally.
The third Transformers instalment wasn’t any better, yet inexplicably Michael Bay will still be directing the forthcoming Transformers reboot. The very worst thing about bad sequels is that when they make half a billion dollars worldwide studios really don’t learn their lessons. If you don’t stop watching he won’t stop ruining your cherished childhood memories.
7. Star wars episode 1 The Phantom Menace
Speaking of the unholy desecration of childhood favourites…
Technically it’s a prequel but it was made 30 years after the original trilogy and it’s utterly awful so Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Mistake still takes it’s shameful place on our list of worst movie sequels.
It’s hard to know where to begin. The original saga gave us a breath-taking tale of intergalactic civil war full of lightsabre battles and exploding death stars. The Phantom Menace gave us trade disputes, little Annie Skywalker screaming Yipee! and Jar Jar Binks.
Devastated fanboys around the world were left pondering why exactly Obi Wan Kenobi didn’t introduce Jar Jar to the business end of his lightsabre as soon as he started shouting “Annie Annie, youssa people gonna die?”
While the original star wars films were actually the result of a talented team of writers, directors and producers, George Lucas spent decades personally deciding how best to bitterly disappoint us with Phantom Menace.
Painfully wooden dialogue and quickly outdated CGI robbed the Phantom menace of all the heart and spirit of the original trilogy. The mysteries of the force were reduced to a midichlorian blood test. Heroes were reduced to 11 year old boys and moronic fish faced Rastafarians. Not even the considerable talents of Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman could save proceedings.
8. Oceans 12
An even better illustration of the sad truth that a good cast is no guarantee of a good sequel is Ocean’s 12. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Juliet Roberts… the list of people who should feel disappointed with themselves over this one goes on.
Ocean’s 11 was itself a remake, but it was superb. A largely perfect concoction of star power held together by combined effortless charm and winning style. The con was most definitely on as we watched a team of familiar Hollywood faces pull off a daring and inventive heist in an evil Las Vegas casino.
As the gang walked off into the neon Vegas night it was clear that the real winner was the studio. The sequel was inevitable but sadly it was also predictably unsatisfying.
Lacking the momentum and confidence of the well planned first instalment, Ocean’s 12 increasingly descended into silly chaos. By the later stages of the film Julia Roberts is playing someone pretending to be Julia Roberts, taking playful self-referential in-jokes quite a few steps too far.
By the end of the film much of the cast is seen hiding in prison, presumably because they’d rather be stuck in there than associated with the flimsy final plot twists.
Though Ocean’s 13 did partially redeem the franchise, the series still goes a long way to proving that if you play the sequel game long enough sooner or later you always lose.
9. Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest & At World’ End
If Ocean’s 12 emphatically proved that even the most glittering all-star cast can’t guarantee a good sequel then Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest made clear that you can’t entirely rely on Johnny Depp to do the same.
The first Pirates film was remarkable for several reasons. It was the first big screen blockbuster to be inspired by a theme park ride rather than the other way around. It was also an entire film built solely on the charisma of one eccentric performance.
Johnny Depp’s inspired swaggering Keith Richard impersonation as Captain Jack Sparrow was just good enough to make us overlook the fact that he was entirely surrounded by performances more wooden than the ship’s mast.
But half way through Dead Man’s Chest even Captain Jack’s rum soaked antics couldn’t hide the fact that the plot was an absolute mess, Keira Knightley was irritating and Orlando Bland had a well groomed goatee but no actual personality.
At World’s End even resorted to cloning Johnny Depp as part of an extended existential dream sequence to try and save the sinking sequel ship. It didn’t work and the weird shambles ended up being the worst nautically themed disaster since the Titanic sank.
The most recent Pirates instalment On Stranger Tides did come up with a more effective remedy though and simply cast off all the dull characters to focus on the only people who were ever really worth watching namely Jack and Barbosa.
Sadly if Johnny Depp wants to keep playing dress up with Tim Burton Disney will probably insist he makes another four or five Pirate movies. Kooky hats and novelty wigs aren’t cheap.
10. Babe : Pig in the city
Classic kids’ films are often the subject of ill-advised money grabbing sequels of increasingly questionable quality. Disney are especially guilty of this, having churned out a growing volume of straight to DVD offerings based on original classics like The Lion King, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin & Cinderella. Leaving Disney alone in recognition of the all the animated magic they have given us we turn instead to Babe 2: Pig In the city.
Babe is a beloved family classic about a talking pig that mistakenly thinks it’s a sheepdog. Pig in the City is the unlikely sequel hat does exactly what it says on the tin. It takes our loveable talking swine hero and puts him in the middle of a whimsical city full of grumpy dogs, zany monkeys and all manner of talking animals.
The film failed to capture the same whimsical box office magic of the first film, losing $30million. Bizarrely it was also banned in Malaysia. Some people, including indie musical star Tom Waits have hailed it as a cult classic. But the general consensus is that it’s terrible and a compelling argument for the virtues of a well cooked bacon sandwich.
11. Lara Croft Tomb raider: The Cradle of Life
Based on the bestselling video game series Lara Croft is a tomb plundering action heroine transparently ripped off from Indiana Jones. Inspired by the success of the games and the well documented affections of teenage boys for buxom ladies in hot pants it was inevitable that big screen adventures would follow.
Unfortunately not even the bountiful charms of a young Angelina Jolie could save appalling sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider the Cradle of Life from dying on its feet at the box office.
Any time an action sequel resorts to plot elements that include base jumping and objects from Greek mythology you know some poor unfortunate screenwriter has reached the bottom of the creative barrel and just kept on digging.
Squeezing Angelina Jolie once again into a wide range of skin-tight action attire can’t hide the fact that the film is bland and joyless. Gerard Butler takes over from Daniel Craig in the first film, for the thankless task of being the film’s token piece of rugged eye candy.
Although the film still made enough money for Paramount to threaten inflicting another sequel on audiences, Angelina Jolie at least had the good sense to hang up her hot pants after this one.
12. Basic instinct 2
On the subject of gratuitous sex symbols, Basic Instinct remains one of the most infamous erotic thrillers. Sharon Stone at the height of her sexual prowess was the ultimate ice pick wielding femme fatale in the original. The scene where she reveals she’s going commando to a room full of police officers and cinema audiences around the world is notorious and genuinely provocative.
Unfortunately Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction was made 14 years after the 1992 original and many years after Sharon Stone had stopped being a frequent object of men’s fantasies.
Set in London the film is a lazy rehashing of the first film with Stone playing a serial killing novelist who plays seductive games with police officers and her therapist.
There’s just something so particular depressing about watching graphic sex scenes with a 47 year old former screen beauty. It feels much like noticing the expiration date has passed as you take your first sip of milk from the carton. Both experiences leave you with regret and a nasty aftertaste of disappointment.
At the Razzies , the film won four awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Sharon Stone), Worst Sequel and Worst Screenplay. It also earned nominations for Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actor and most cruelly Worst Screen Couple (for Sharon Stone’s apparently lopsided breasts).
Speaking of horrific encounters…
13. Blair witch: book of shadows
The original Blair Witch Project is a cult classic for the simple reason that it’s found footage documentary style was at least at the time, slightly original and inventive.
Watching three hikers lost in the woods getting increasingly hysterical in shaky camcorder style footage was surprisingly atmospheric. It was clever, ultra-low budget horror accompanied by an inventive promotional campaign that pretended the footage was actually recovered during the search for missing real life hikers.
It gave birth to a new genre of contemporary horror with films like Cloverfield & Paranormal Activity following successfully in its found footage footsteps. Unfortunately its own sequel Blair Witch Book of Shadows did not.
The second Blair Witch film largely abandoned the camcorder footage approach in favour of a generic studio horror film with glossy production values and typically atrocious acting.
The plot such as it is too ridiculous and elaborate to be easily summarised. But in a nutshell some people go camping on the cursed location of the incidents in the original film and end up committing horrible violent crimes with no memory of how or why they did it.
Sadly the film was greedily rushed into existence largely without the involvement of the original production company and writers because the studio wanted to capitalise on the success of the first film while it was still at the peak of its popularity.
This kind of short sighted money grabbing is especially common in the horror genre, where sequels are habitually churned out quickly to capitalise on brief notoriety.
14. Speed 2 Cruise Control
Of course big action blockbusters often fall victim to the same greedy pressures.
Speed was a runaway smash hit at the box office. Unfortunately Speed 2: Cruise Control was a disaster film for all the wrong reasons. Even Keanu Reeves knew better than to reprise his role from the first film for a second offering that replaced the adrenalin fuelled bus ride of the first film with a sluggish paced cruise ship stuck on a collision course with an oil tanker.
The film’s closing scene, where the boat finally crashes cost almost one quarter of the film’s $110 million budget, and set records at the time as the largest and most expensive stunt ever filmed.
In addition to reeves Christian Slater, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bon Jovi & Gary Oldman all turned down roles in the film. They must look back on that as a pretty good decision. The film has officially been voted one of the worst sequels of all time in numerous polls and received 8 Razzies nominations including a win for worst sequel.
It’s a fairly well deserved punishment for being foolish enough to set a film which literally promises speed in the title on a giant luxury cruise ship that only moves at a few knots an hour. They’re lucky they weren’t sued for false advertising.
15. Legally Blonde 2 : Red White & Blonde
Legally Blonde 2 Red White & Blonde certainly delivered on I’s promise of a whole lot of Blonde, but sadly Reese Witherspoon couldn’t deliver any of the plucky charm of the original rom com classic.
Like many comedic sequels Legally Blonde 2 suffered from having to fabricate a pointless second adventure for a character that had already completed her journey from plucky outsider to confident loved up winner.
Sticking close to the fish out of water formula of the first film that saw Elle Woods conquering the uptight world of Harvard law, the ill-advised second offering sees our stereotypical blonde girly girl getting to grips with the harsh realities of the American political system as she moves to Washington DC to get a bill passed to end animal testing and help reunite he pet Chihauhau Bruiser with his mother.
The laughs are few and the films flaws are many. Stretching some weak blonde puns and a pink wardrobe into a 90 minute film is clearly a bad idea. Especially when you’ve already gotten away with it once!
16. Spiderman 3
The first two Spiderman movie Sam Rami made broke box office records and seemed to only be getting better. Hopes were high for the third instalment in a proposed 6 movie franchise. Especially when news broke that popular villain Venom would be making an appearance.
Tragedy struck quickly and unexpectedly. Spiderman 3 was so bad that the studio has since been forced to reboot one of the most profitable franchises in movie history with a new cast, new style and new director.
Spiderman 3 made every single clichéd mistake a superhero sequel can. It was overloaded with villains, rushing through their introductions and blatantly miscasting hulking Venom with weedy TV star Topher Grace. It also allowed our main hero to become irredeemably unlikeable. There really is no way back from Emo Jazz dancing. The film irrevocably crossed the line from fun adventure to camp costume clad silliness.
Some conspiracy theorists suggest that Rami deliberately sabotaged the film in order to escape his obligations for further instalments. But other perhaps more believably direct the blame at a studio determined to pack in as many new characters as possible to secure a greater merchandising payday to go with the inevitably colossal box office haul.
But when Peter Parker next swings into action he’ll have Emma Stone on his arm, so whatever audiences make of it, things sure seems to be working out for Spidey.
17. Batman & Robin
Say what you want about Spiderman 3 at least his suit didn’t have molded rubber nipples on it. Such was the sad state of affair for George Clooney in Batman & Robin. This cheesy abomination looked like it had actually managed to kill off one of the most enduringly complex and popular comic book heroes. Until Christopher Nolan resurrected Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, the Dark Knight looked like he’d looked like he’ never rise again.
Uma Thurman was unashamedly over the top as Poison Ivy but Arnold Schwarzenegger as the puntastic Mr. Freeze was simply in another league of awful. Watching the Austrian beefcake spew a never-ending stream of ice and snow based one -liners in the direction of anyone else on screen while covered in body glitter and a neon body suit it’s hard to believe he somehow went on to become a prominent political figure once tipped for a run at the Presidency of the United States.
Joel Schumacher, if you’re listening to this and let’s face it what else are you up to these days hang you head in shame!
18. Rocky V
After the euphoric highs of guilty pleasure Rocky VI which saw the Italian stallion squaring up with towering Russia muscle mountain Ivan Drago (played by He-man star Dolph Lundgren) , Rocky V was a depressing crash back down to harsh reality.
Perhaps looking to recapture some of the convincingly gritty drama of the first film, Rocky V saw the thoroughly washed up champ back in his old neighbourhood, boke and reduced to training new up and comers at his local gym.
While the earlier films saw Rocky literally punching his way to victory and glory, Rocky V brought the saga full circle and saw him humbly return to his roots. Quite frankly it pretty depressing.
Instead of the usual final showdown for the heavyweight championship of the world the film ends with a disorientated Rocky reluctantly brawling for his life in a street fight with a young punk half his age.
19. Queen Of the Damned
Interview with the Vampire stars Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and a young Kirsten Dunst in an opulent and largely faithful adaptation of Anne Rice’s classic vampire tale. By contrast the sequel Queen of the damned stars R’n’B star Aaliyah and lesser known British actor Stuart Townsend.
The sequel was rushed into production by the studio in 1998 against the wishes of author Anne Rice , who admitted she was entirely ignored and snubbed in offers to help write a script for what she later described as ‘a doomed project’.
Discarding the entire second novel and much of the core plot of the third book the studio paid a TV writer to pull together a makeshift script that would allow them to commence production before their adaptation rights expired on the books.
When young star Aaliyah died tragically in a plane crash the production plunged further into disarray, but eventually a film was realised patched together from what had already been filmed.
Rice would later describe the pain and disappointment she felt at seeing her work mutilated on the big screen. As we near the end of the list this reminds us of another painful movie truth, however good the source material or initial franchise offerings life and its sequels will always find a way to disappoint.
20. Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal skull
It’s with pain but a slight sense of relief that we come to the end of our rundown of some of the worst movie sequels. We leave you with a film that is by no means the worst sequel but still easily the weakest effort in a classic franchise.
When archaeologist adventure Indiana Jones finally returned for The Kingdom of Crystal Skull, needless to say expectations were high. One of my best friends actually slept in a car in a French car park in Cannes for an entire week just to be there for the red carpet world premiere.
When the film finally arrived and audiences held their breath expectantly, what followed was a long collective sigh of disappointment. An aging Harrison Ford, a typically sweaty Shia Laboeuf and a plot centred on inter-dimensional alien skulls left his as the most unsatisfying of all Indy’s magnificent adventures.
The action in Indy movies was always a little far-fetched, but surviving a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge and having Shia Laboeuf swinging from CGI vines with a group rock and roll monkey took things way too far.