From Jurassic World to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seems that there is a nonstop stream of sequels flooding the multiplexes. Of course, not all of these sequels will be good. Most won’t be. But hopefully none of them are as abysmal as the movies on this list.
There have been some really, truly awful sequels since Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II sparked the idea of a major sequel, and James Cameron certified the box office viability of big-budget sequels with Aliens and Terminator 2. Here, we present some of the most insufferable, piece-of-trash sequels to soil the big-screen.
1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, prequel to the Star Wars original trilogy
While technically a prequel, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace deserves a place in the pantheon of truly terrible follow-up efforts. The film introduced a whole mess of terrible new elements to the Star Wars saga, including (but not limited to): A vaguely anti-Semitic junk dealer, a kid version of Darth Vader that no one asked for, a scientific explanation of the Force that no one wanted, stiffly delivered dialogue, and of course, Jar Jar Binks.
Disney has since redeemed the franchise, but we’ll never forget just how bad things were there for awhile.
2. Hannibal, sequel to Silence of the Lambs
Ten years after Hannibal Lecter became a household name and fava beans were forever rendered creepy, Thomas Harris returned to the Lecter mythos, and his long-gestating sequel, Hannibal. The book was a 700-page black-comedy monster that debuted atop the best-seller lists. The book basically undid what we knew about Hannibal Lecter and turned him into a weird anti-hero and Nazi-victim, that ends with him brain-washing and marrying Clarice Starling. But the novel is wickedly funny, an almost satirical take on the Lecter legend cemented by Jonathan Demme’s classic 1991 film adaptation of Harris’ novel.
When the time came for uber-producer Dino De Laurentiis to take back the Lecter rights, most of the cast and crew of the original film bowed out, citing the novel as being unfilmable and lurid. Demme was replaced by the once-great Ridley Scott, hot off his grossly acclaimed film, Gladiator; the king of bombast, Hans Zimmer replaced Howard Shore; Steve Zaillian replaced Ted Tally (who won an Oscar for his screenplay in 1991); and, most jarring of all, Julianne Moore replaced Jodie Foster.
Anthony Hopkins returned, of course, but the film was a mess. With Scott’s cumbersome direction (most of which was done to appease censors and avoid an NC-17 rating), Moore’s ersatz Foster, an inane screenplay, and Hopkins chewing scenery gluttonously, Hannibal is a shameful smudge on the resume of all who were involved.
3. Speed 2: Cruise Control, sequel to Speed
Jan de Bont’s Speed was a surprise mega-hit in 1994. Keanu Reeves was hot; he gave several well-regarded performances in the early ’90s, including his excellent turn as the brain-dead latter half of the Bill & Ted duo. He also had several charismatic lead roles under his belt with Point Break (in which Patrick Swayze literally throws a furious dog at Reeves’ face), My Own Private Idaho, and one very poorly received performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Speed feels like a huge dose of … well, speed. It’s pure adrenaline, moving way too fast and with too much momentum for anyone to stop and care about its logic gaps. Reeves was hugely likable and actor Dennis Hopper hugely despicable, and the direction was relentlessly tense.
Speed 2: Cruise Control, helmed by the same director, is the complete opposite. For starters, actress Sandra Bullock took the lead while Reeves was giving an acclaimed turn as Hamlet (no, really) on stage. Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) replaced Reeves, Willem Dafoe replaced Hopper, and a big slow luxury cruise ship replaced the explosive rigged bus.
The movie is slow and stupid, whereas Speed was fast and silly.
4. Staying Alive, sequel to Saturday Night Fever
Saturday Night Fever was a hit that captured the pathos of disco near the tail-end of the cultural phenomenon (contrary to modern day views, the film didn’t popularize disco, but rather gave it a second wind as the fad was dying). John Travolta became one of the youngest men to be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar at the age of 24.
So, given the success of the film, the obvious next step was to make an unnecessary sequel, of course. What wasn’t obvious was choosing Sylvester Stallone to direct that sequel. Yes, Sly Stallone wrote and directed the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, and it’s the worst thing he’s ever been involved with, which is saying a lot.
Travolta is lean and sweaty and hairless (he’s only been one of those in the 30 years since), and he dances. Hard. But the dances are uninspired and boring, and a boring dance is no dance at all. Stallone clearly had no idea how to direct a dance number, but the biggest problem is the lack of originality. The first film showed a young Italian-American New Yorker finally maturing into adulthood, whereas the character in Staying Alive is the same, from beginning to end, strutting with self-confidence after accomplishing nothing.
5. Son of the Mask, sequel to The Mask
Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz became superstars after The Mask took home over $300 million in 1994, an impressive feat for a film that lacked an A-list lead and faced competition from Forrest Gump. Carrey, for all intents and purposes, is essentially a living cartoon, throwing his body around all willy-nilly, contorting his face into bizarre shapes, and just generally being a huge goof. It’s great.
The sequel stars Jamie Kennedy and prominently features CGI babies and dogs doing strange things. It tries hard to be relevant (having Kennedy rap badly doesn’t help), but it looks and sounds awful. The great Bob Hoskins and Alan Cumming play Norse gods, because obviously what the original Mask was missing was Norse mythology.
Where Carrey was a lovable loser who revealed his inner id when he wore the mask, Kennedy is creepy. Just plain creepy. Like a not self-aware, child pornography hoarding Max Headroom.
6. Alien 3, sequel to Aliens and Alien
Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece; James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens, is a masterpiece; David Fincher’s sequel to James Cameron’s sequel, Alien 3, is an abomination. It’s not that Fincher was a bad choice to helm the third film as much as it was a bad idea to make the film at all. The myriad pre-production problems are now legendary: At least five different screenplays were written and then scrapped, with tiny bits from all of them eventually amalgamating into the mess known as Alien 3 (or Alien Cubed).
Iconic science-fiction writer William Gibson wrote an initial draft of an Alien 3 screenplay, in which the implanting of alien eggs is replaced by an airborne virus that turns humans into alien warriors. The suspense would come from not knowing who was infected, a la John Carpenter’s masterpiece The Thing. Subsequent re-writes by various writers introduced the concept of a prison planet, a planet made entirely of wood, Luddite monks, genetically altered alien hybrids, and other eccentric ideas.
Fincher, only in his late-’20s at the time, constantly fought with producers, and has since distanced himself from the project. He refused to participate in commentary tracks or even acknowledge the movie.
The alien creature, either a dog-based monster or an ox-based monster depending on the version you’re watching, was created using rod puppets and rotoscoping, dated technology that Steven Spielberg rendered obsolete the next year with Jurassic Park (he started the film with rod puppets but changed to CGI dinos when the puppets looked unconvincing).
With terrible CGI, a lack of interesting characters, and a dreadful sense of deja vu lingering over the proceedings, Alien 3 is to the Alien series what Natty Light is to beer: the worst.
7. Jaws: The Revenge, sequel to Jaws
At least this sequel is somewhat amusingly bad. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is one of the great entertainments of cinema. Using sharp, wide shots to capture as much action as possible in a single take, Spielberg creates a town of characters who have distinct personalities, even the ones we only see in passing. Then, he terrorizes them with an unseen menace lurking in the murky waters.
The sequels, which didn’t involve Spielberg, gradually dropped in quality. With Jaws: The Revenge, things got just plain ugly. After the late Chief Brody’s son is eaten by a shark in the icy Amity waters, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) decides to go visit her not-yet-dead son in the Bahamas. She thinks (correctly) that the shark is somehow psychically connected to the sharks killed by her husband, and is now hunting down their family. The shark follows her to the Bahamas, getting there in a day (an impressive feat), and proceeds to eat people. Oh, and Ellen’s son is a professional marine biologist, because a lifetime of shark attacks clearly had no effect on him.
The shark looks worse than ever, the direction is inept on every level, and the logic is as decrepit as a body left under water for weeks. They kill the shark by impaling it with a sailboat as it jumps out of the water, and then the shark explodes, because, physics.
It’s not scary or suspenseful — one character’s death was poorly received by audiences, so the filmmaker simply brought him back to life. Everyone smiles, everyone’s happy. Insufferable.
8. Batman & Robin, sequel to Batman Forever
Bat nipples. Bat butt. A disco ball in the hood of the Batmobile. Bat credit card (don’t leave home without it). Bane. A diamond-fueled power suit that basically acts like a portable fridge. Constant defiance of gravity, physics, and audiences’ intelligence. Dizzying editing errors. BANE! The one-liners, oh God, the one-liners: “Everybody, chill.” “Stay cool.” “Kill ya later.” “Time to kick some ice.” “What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!” Coolio appears in a film that uses hundreds of lame puns, but somehow manages to not use “Coolio” as a pun. BANE!
This bowel blockage of a movie has been giving Batman fans nightmares for over 15 years now. George Clooney refuses to talk about it, Joel Schumacher has apologized to the world for it, and Alicia Silverstone’s career was killed by it.
9. The Matrix Reloaded, sequel to The Matrix
The Matrix trilogy is peculiar to say the least. The first installment is widely recognized as one of the most influential films ever. What followed though was … well, unfortunate. The next two entries in the trilogy failed to even approach the lofty heights of the original movie, leaning hard into a plot that no one understood, while doubling down on special effects that barely held up in the years that followed.
Yeah, this is one we could have done entirely without.
10. Spider-Man 3, sequel to Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 3 cursed the world with a sequel so abjectly awful, that it completely sunk the once-lucrative franchise in one fell swoop. To Sam Raimi’s credit, the first two films in the saga were some of the first to truly explore the superhero genre in cinema. Spider-Man 2 was always going to be a tough act to follow, but man did Raimi screw the pooch on this one.
Spider-Man 3 came jam-packed with too many villains, a cringeworthy dance number, and a whole lot of needless bloat, leading to a full-on reboot from Sony years later.
11. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, sequel to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Ever wondered what would happen if Indiana Jones came across interdimensional aliens? Neither did we, but that didn’t stop this mistake of a film from making it into theaters, following years of languishing in development hell.
Where do you even begin breaking Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull down? The story contained all the wrong parts of the franchise’s appeal, culminating in Indiana Jones surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator. In the years since, “nuking the fridge” has become a cinematic shorthand for jumping the shark, forever associated with the greatest sin in the saga’s history.
12. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, sequel to The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project single-handedly launched the found footage sub-genre for horror cinema, as a strikingly real and terrifying story that holds up well to this day.
Enter Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 shortly after, a sequel haphazardly thrown together in a poorly thought-out attempt to cash in on the success of the first film. Book of Shadows completely did away with the found footage aspect, and it played out more like a rote slasher flick with zero creative value.
Thankfully, The Blair Witch redeemed the saga in 2016, but this still exists as a cautionary tale on how not to do a sequel.
13. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, sequel to 2 Fast 2 Furious
What happens when you take a popular franchise, remove every single member of the original cast, and use C-list actors to replace them? The answer is The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Beyond its paper-thin story, we have Lucas Black playing a discount Paul Walker, sporting the world’s worst fake Southern accent.
It’s not hard to make a fun, exciting action movie based solely around cars smashing into stuff, and yet somehow Tokyo Drift failed miserably.
14. Blues Brothers 2000, sequel to The Blues Brothers
All cameos aside, Blue Brothers 2000 is a movie that never should have happened. The first Blues Brothers film was made great by the chemistry of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, thanks to a legendary comedic performance from the duo. Belushi tragically passed away before another film could be made, although that didn’t stop Universal from green-lighting a sequel years after the fact anyway.
Blues Brother 2000 tried its damndest, but without Belushi, it was a soulless shell of the original movie.
15. Evan Almighty, sequel to Bruce Almighty
Evan Almighty is the ultimate example of a studio completely misunderstanding why an original movie was beloved by audiences. While Bruce Almighty was a touching, often hilarious commentary on religion and free will, Evan Almighty leaned hard into poorly written jokes and big-budget special effects.
When you have Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman and still can’t make a movie entertaining, you know you’ve done something wrong.
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
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