Every week, it seems like another sequel, reboot, remake, or spinoff is hitting theaters. Franchises have become the undisputed box office rulers even more than ever before, and it seems like even film series that have long been dormant are returning for their share.
While there are a number of franchises that may be due for a revisit, others are so perfect as is that any new installments would tarnish their respective legacies. Here are five examples of franchises that should be left alone by Hollywood studios.
1. The Godfather trilogy (1972–1990)
Francis Ford Coppola’s first two Godfather films are considered such untouchable classics that even his own third film in the series managed to damage their legacy. Seeing as the overall focus is on Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the story has already wrapped up, and while a reboot could focus on the next generation of Corleones, there’s little reason to tamper with perfection. Some films should simply be allowed to live on as the masterpieces they are. The Godfather and its first sequel certainly qualify.
2. Indiana Jones franchise (1981–2020)
In recent years, much discussion has centered on the future of the Indiana Jones franchise. For decades, Harrison Ford has brought the adventurer to life on the big screen, but rumors have persisted about whether or not someone like Chris Pratt can take the reins.
Most recently, that has been shut down by producers, who claim that Ford will be the only actor to play the role. This doesn’t necessarily preclude some other form of reboot — perhaps focusing on Indy’s son — but we caution against recasting. Just let Indiana Jones 5 redeem the franchise, and be done with it.
3. Back to the Future trilogy (1985–1990)
From 1985 to 1990, director Robert Zemeckis took moviegoers on an epic trip backward and forward in time, with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as their guides. Though initially conceived as a single film, Back to the Future was so successful that it spawned a pair of sequels that extrapolated the themes of the original without robbing it of its impact.
While the sequels can’t match the original’s perfection, the three films do function well as an action-comedy trilogy and feature a definitive ending that would only be spoiled by another film. Good thing Zemeckis has stated repeatedly that a fourth film isn’t in the cards.
4. The Matrix trilogy (1999–2003)
The Wachowskis delivered a ground-breaking experience with this sci-fi action film. However, the back-to-back sequels they filmed — in much the same style as the Back of the Future sequels, it turns out — ultimately did more harm than good to the original’s legacy.
Though it’s still possible for the Wachowskis to resurrect the series for a fourth film, The Matrix is such a product of its time and was executed so perfectly that any effort to replicate its story seems like a futile effort destined for disaster. There have been recent rumors of a relaunch in the early stages, but we’re crossing our fingers it won’t pan out, or they’ll go in another direction.
5. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Even though The Hobbit trilogy expanded Peter Jackson’s visit to Middle-Earth, this franchise deserves to be untouched. J.R.R. Tolkien’s story has never been told quite like this, and audiences instantly embraced the series as the phenomenon it was. There’s no telling what the future may bring for adaptations of Tolkien’s work, but The Lord of the Rings trilogy was so risky and so successful that it deserves to be remembered as the definitive version of the author’s most popular tale.
6. Harry Potter franchise (2001–2011)
J.K. Rowling’s book series phenomenon about a boy wizard and his friends took the world by storm, so it naturally received a mega movie franchise to go along with the seven-novel epic. Warner Bros. snatched up the series, which was released over a decade, and continues to rake in residuals thanks to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.
Though the universe has expanded to include in-universe prequels in the form of the Fantastic Beasts films, it’s the original characters that we want left alone. The fan-made Voldemort origin film also doesn’t qualify as a reboot, so for now, the franchise is safe.
7. Alien franchise (1979–?)
The sci-fi thriller that put Sigourney Weaver on the map and is still cited as an example of prominent feminist filmography, the Alien world has continued to grow and evolve in strange ways. After the first two films of the original series (which starred Weaver as Ellen Ripley and ran from 1979–1997), things went downhill, and the franchise was put on the shelf — temporarily.
Then, a few years later, director of the first film, Ridley Scott, decided he wanted to reclaim this world, and thus Prometheus, a prequel, was born. Alien: Covenant was released in 2017, and another film is likely in the works. While it seems unlikely that they’ll ever completely remake this ongoing series, the future is unclear as to whether it will ever get back to its roots.
8. Die Hard franchise (1988–2013)
Like many long-running franchises, Die Hard has been stretched out, and it’s beginning to wear too thin to continue. The Bruce Willis-helmed action series began in the ‘80s, dominated in the ‘90s, and then attempted a resurgence in the ‘00s. But it’s time to say goodbye.
The fifth film, 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard, was a critical failure, yet there are still rumors of another in the works. But it’s been well over a year since this was last discussed, so we may be in the clear.
9. Final Destination franchise (2000–2011)
It’s rare to find a horror franchise that isn’t constantly expanding and revamping itself, but Final Destination has done just that. The five films, released every two or three years for just over a decade, leaned into the ridiculousness of the subject matter, each following a group of teens who evade a major disaster because of a premonition, only to fall victim to death in a wild, contrived fashion.
The series is an example of being able to be successful without getting too greedy, and as of now, there are no plans for any new installments past the first five. Of course, due to the anthology format, Final Destination would make for an easy reboot, but in this case, it was just time to move on.
10. Dirty Harry franchise (1971–1988)
Another series of five films, Dirty Harry is an action franchise in the style of a police drama, following Clint Eastwood’s Harry as a tough-as-nails, straight-shooting cop who doesn’t play by the rules. This is Eastwood’s most iconic role, and he’s the only character who appears in every movie.
A landmark franchise of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the final film, The Dead Pool, was released in 1988, with Eastwood refusing to play the character any longer. Though the films have gone on to inspire novels, video games, and other movies, there fortunately hasn’t been a known attempt to reboot the series with a new Harry Callahan.
Additional reporting by Becca Bleznak.
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