In Hollywood there seems to be one golden rule these days, and that is if an idea works, then do it as many times as you can until it doesn’t. Whether the Hollywood bigwigs are running low on ideas or they just see potential dollar signs in front of their eyes whenever a movie does well, it’s fair to say that creating movie “franchises” means big bucks.
Putting aside the intertwining cinematic universes such as Star Wars, Marvel and DC, and focusing on the mainstream movies, franchises can be a glorious. Sometimes a movie needs more than one film to fully tell the characters’ stories. Could The Godfather have just been one movie? Or Terminator or even Toy Story? These are great examples of movies that deserved a franchise.
However, sometimes a great movie can come out and rather than enjoying the movie for what it is, the movie executives are already planning the sequels, which ultimately destroys the original. With that in mind here are 15 movie franchises that only have one great movie, and they should have been the only movie.
15. Police Academy
We start our list with the most famous example of just how bad a movie franchise can get. The Police Academy movies have become synonymous with taking one simple idea and stretching it over not one, not two but seven movies. Because of this, most people now remember them as silly, stupid and pointless. However, the original Police Academy movie has been unfairly lumped in with the rest of them.
Back in the 1980s when Steve Guttenburg was still a movie star, one of his finest and funniest movies was the original Police Academy. Yes the movie was silly and relied heavily on gutter humour and sexual innuendoes, but the original movie was funny and charming in its 80s way. If they had left Police Academy as just one movie then it would have no doubt gone down as one of the great 80s comedies rather than being the butt of all movie jokes.
The next entry is probably the most famous, if not the best monster movie of all time. When Steven Spielberg‘s killer shark burst onto the screen, it gave us all nightmares and we vowed never to go into the water again. The simplicity of the man vs beast storyline added to the master build up of suspense as what you didn’t see was more scary than what you did see. Plus, of course there was the infamous soundtrack that still gives us chills! Put that all together and it’s understandable why Jaws is such a classic.
Because of the success of the original Jaws, a sequel was to be expected. Taking much of the original cast and telling pretty much the same story, the sequel was nothing special but we could live with it. However, they didn’t stop there and soon there was another and then another Jaws movie with each film telling the same story over and over again. Not even Sir Michael Caine could save the franchise from sinking.
13. American Pie
On a similar path to that of Police Academy comedy franchise, American Pie has suffered the same fate with an array of truly terrible and unfunny films that have eclipsed the brilliance of the original.
Breathing new life into the teen comedy, American Pie not only showed us the love between a boy and his pie, but it reminded us that this genre can be funny. The movie may follow a tried and tested story about a group of high school friends who are desperate to lose their virginities before they graduate, but the fresh take on this and some brilliant performances from the likes of Jason Biggs, Seann Williams Scott and even Tara Reid ups the ante and creates a great film.
American Pie was a box office smash. However, with the three official sequels and the countless straight to DVD spin offs, it has worn the premise and the characters a bit thin which has made the American Pie brand a laughing stock, and not in a good way.
12. Paranormal Activity
The horror genre can be a difficult nut to crack as there are so many movies out there, it’s becoming almost impossible to bring anything new to the scene. However, every now and then someone comes along with a new and fresh idea that changes the game. The Blair Witch Project did just that when it came out. Getting rid of the slick Hollywood studios and opting for handheld cameras was a breath of fresh air. So when Paranormal Activity hit the screens, the audiences and critics were buzzing with excitement. Using a “found footage” format, Paranormal Activity was a different and exciting take on this otherwise overdone genre.
However, this is Hollywood, remember? So instead of having a great story and a unique style to create a great movie, they take that simple idea and stretch it till it breaks. Sequel after sequel after sequel followed and the audience is no longer excited or scared, they’re just plain bored. This could have been a great cult horror movie if it was left alone but now it has become a great horror joke.
11. Meet the Parents
Ben Stiller has had a pretty good career in the movie comedy world. With such big hits as There’s Something About Mary, Dodgeball and the Zoolander movies, Stiller has more than proved himself. His best movie however has to be Meet the Parents. Although Stiller is the straight man in this movie, it has to be said he always does well. This movie has everything we need from a comedy. It’s subtle, charming and not to mention hilariously stupid at some parts. On top of that we get a great performance from Robert De Niro as he cuts his teeth in the comedy genre.
So with such a great movie, what could go wrong? Well that’s simple, do more of the same. By that we mean exactly the same. With not one but two Meet the Parents sequels we get the same jokes, situations and storylines again and again and again. With this movie franchise, Stiller really should have quit while he was ahead.
10. The Expendables
During the 1980s the action movie was king of the screen and there were no bigger stars than Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The chance to see the big three in a movie together would have caused a stampede as the action fans rushed to their local movie theaters. So to the excitement of those fans, they and many others came together in the explosive action movie The Expendables.
The movie itself may not be anything special or new, but it was a great homage to those action movies of old that we all still think of so fondly. With some great action scenes, a decent story line and a great cast, The Expendables became a huge hit and a perfect late night movie to lose yourself in, and that’s all it should have been.
But as with so many movies, the sequels keep coming. With each Expendables movie they make they do add more and more stars, but that’s all they do. Each sequel that comes along has almost become a parody of the last one and it is slowly ruining the magic that those action movies once had.
9. Resident Evil
Video games and movies have not always had the best friendship in the past. The two very different mediums should be a good fit, but for some reason a movie based on a video game just doesn’t seem to work. So when Resident Evil hit the screens we were all pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. With the stunning Milla Jovovich in the leading role of Alice, the movie had great action scenes, plenty of zombies and a bad-ass heroine who can kick some serious butt. Finally a movie worthy of the game it came from.
Because of the success of the games, we all knew that a franchise was coming, but none of us could be prepared for just how bad it would be. Springboarding off of the success of the first movie, a further four sequels have been made with another one on its way. But with each new movie that comes out, they lose that magic that made the first one good. Relying far too much on CGI and action sequences, the movies don’t really have any plot or in fact any point to them. It’s such a shame as the first movie had a lot of promise for a great franchise.
8. Scary Movie
The comedy parody is very simple, it’s either a hit or a miss. If the subject matter is right and the satire is good then you have comedy gold. Just think of Airplane and the Naked Gun series as proof of that. But if you get it wrong, then you end up with giant turkeys such as Date Movie, Epic Movie and Meet The Spartans, the less said about those the better!
Mixed in with all the good and bad is Scary Movie. Picking the slasher and teen movie genre as its subject matter, Scary Movie was a perfect mix of parody, satire and bad taste. With jokes that don’t just come close to the line of bad taste, but crash over it and then rub our faces in it, Scary Movie was just plain brilliance. The Wayans brothers were in excellent form as was everyone else in it. But the curse of success hampered this movie and so many sequels followed, each one getting a little bit worse and more lazy as they went on. This all resulted with Scary Movie 5 which we challenge anyone to sit through. Most people find it impossible!
The next entry on our list may be a bit of a controversial one as the original Underworld movie wasn’t a huge success. However, the first movie in this franchise did have a lot to offer and potential for something special. Taking on the battle between Vampires and Werewolves, Underworld was dark, edgy and had more action than you can shake a stick at. Not to mention a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale in the lead; who can complain about that?
Admittedly, the character development got a bit lost with all the action as the movie focused more on looks than substance, but this should have been the movie to springboard the Underworld series into a great franchise. With the subject matter and the cast, Underworld had enough to rival other franchises in this genre. In particular the Blade movies. However, all that potential was lost in the sequels that followed and what we get instead is the same “style over substance” approach with nothing new added. It’s a shame, but we still have the first movie to go back to and enjoy and think about what could have been.
6. Final Destination
Every now and again Hollywood comes up with a truly brilliant and new take on an old and tired format. Final Destination was one of those gems. Taking on the overly saturated slasher/teen horror genre, Final Destination gave us something new and exciting. Starting off with a premonition of his death in a plane crash, Alex Browning, along with his friends, manages to escape the crash and effectively change their fate. However, Death doesn’t give up so easily and it comes after them one by one. Playing on the notion of fate and the idea that when your time is up then there’s nothing you can do about it, Final Destination has it all; suspense, some truly great and gory death scenes as well as a young and talented cast. It instantly fell into the great cult classic section.
However, as with so many other movies, particularly in this genre, Hollywood couldn’t stop at one great movie. No, instead they had to make more. A grand total of five Final Destinations is what we get and each one more disappointing than the last. Each sequel is essentially a copy of the original with no new characters, twists or storyline, just the same movie over and over again. The only thing that does change is the initial accident at the beginning, the rest is the same. What a waste!
As with previous entries on this list, breaking into the horror genre can be a very difficult process. After all, this genre is already littered with so many franchises that have gone on for far too long and need to stop. Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween all spring to mind. With that in mind, Saw came as a complete surprise when it hit the screens back in 2004 as it was actually good. In fact it was better than good, it was bloody good! The plot was tight and believable, the characters were strong and there was enough gore to keep even the most hardcore horror fan satisfied. All that together showed us how perfect a horror movie could and should be.
However, even though the first Saw movie only came out as recently as 2004, there have already been a total of 7 movies to follow it, with an 8th on its way. We can’t help but think that the movie executives realized how successful the first Saw movie was and then did everything they could to rush out as many movies as possible. This shows as the sequels lose the plot and characters that made the first one so great and instead just pile on the gore as much as possible.
Next we come to that age old movie debate; what is good? What is successful? What makes money? The Transformers franchise definitely falls into the “it makes a ton of money” category. And to be honest, we don’t really mind that. After all, this is a movie about robots from another planet who come here to battle, so we know it’s going to be packed with lots of CGI and plenty of action scenes and we are fine with that. For one movie, that is. When the first Transformers movie came out it was a joyous thing as the cartoons and toys we all played with as kids suddenly burst out on the big screen. The first movie had everything we could possibly need to fill our nostalgic boots. It was silly, fun and an action packed romp. Plus, Megan Fox of course.
So Transformers should have been one great and entertaining movie that you could relax to on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But no, the movie studios had to ruin it for all of us and make more. Each sequel that followed the first movie just got worse and worse until even the explosions have become mundane and boring. With a new Transformers movie lined up, we’re all now thinking “Robots? Who cares!”
Once upon a time animated kids movies were just that; for kids. But as the technology got better the studios found that the adults were watching these movies just as much as their kids. So, soon these movies would be made with adults in mind and everyone could enjoy watching these movies together. One of the best and funniest of all these movies was Shrek. The story of an unlikely hero, a talking donkey and a princess blew audiences away. As well as the genius re-telling of some classic fairy-tales, Shrek also reminded us just how funny Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers can be. This movie really does have something for everyone.
Unfortunately for Shrek, the movie took everyone by surprise and became incredibly successful so sequels were inevitable. Even with the introduction of Antonio Banderas‘s swashbuckling Puss in Boots couldn’t save the sequels. The three movies since fall very short of the brilliance of the original and only go on to diminish the franchise. Unlike other movies in this genre, such as Toy Story, Shrek has only one great movie to its name, but what a movie!
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
Next we come to the movie franchise that inspired this very list. During the 1990s, Johnny Depp became synonymous with non-mainstream movies and offbeat characters, and he did that better than anyone. Choosing the more obscure movies rather than big budget blockbusters, Depp made a name for himself as not just an actor but as an artist.
So it was to everyone’s complete surprise that Depp turned up, not just in a mainstream movie, but in a Disney movie, and not only that but the movie was amazing. With Depp giving one of his best performances as the Keith Richards-inspired pirate Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was truly great fun for all the family. However, with the sequels that followed we now have to ask ourselves how these movies keep getting greenlit. After all, the movie was based on a Disneyland ride and that might have done well for one movie but for a whole franchise? The phrase “flogging a dead horse” has never been so apt. It’s also no wonder that Depp’s career has also taken a bit of a nose dive since he refuses to give up his pirate hat!
1. The Matrix
Number one on our list may well cause a few arguments out there as The Matrix‘s fanbase is large and very loyal. However, The Matrix trilogy has to go down as the biggest offender when it comes to a disappointing franchise. The reason for this probably has a lot to do with the original Matrix movie. It’s not often that a movie comes along and not only takes the world by storm but also changes the movie industry forever. The Matrix did just that. With its brilliant re-take on the “chosen one” storyline, not to mention its groundbreaking special effects and fight scenes that would make Bruce Lee sit up in amazement, The Matrix was a true game changer.
Maybe because of that, the next two installments of the trilogy left us all feeling a little disappointed. With the over complicated plot and overuse of CGI, The Matrix Reloaded and Revolution were so overloaded that it confused many of us as we tried to erase them from our memories. Even after all this time, the original Matrix movie is still a masterpiece so we will stick with that one.