Perhaps the hardest thing there is to pull off in Hollywood is to produce a threequel. Trilogies and franchises have enough trouble living up to expectations set by the original film, which started the whole shebang. But having to live up to the original and its first sequel is even harder. Whether the sequel is good or not can make or break the expectations set for the threequel, and those same expectations can play a big part in how it is received by the general public. If the first sequel was good, then there is a huge ton of pressure on the makers of this threequel to live up to the previous films. On the other hand, if the first sequel was bad, then there is even more pressure because the threequel has to find a way to bring back the fans the franchise lost thanks to its lackluster predecessor. Either way, the filmmakers working behind the scenes of a threequel are screwed.
However, the possibility of making a good threequel isn’t impossible. Though difficult, it has been done before. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Mission Impossible III, Return of the King, Goldfinger, and Prisoner of Azkaban are just a few threequels that spring to mind, if one were to try to pick out the good ones out there. In some rare cases, the third entry turns out even better, so that proves just how great a third entry can be. However, as most of us know, when a threequel is bad, it can be downright terrible. Terrible enough to destroy a franchise, in fact. The movies on this list are that bad. And even if some of these movies aren’t, there are aspects of these films that sorely disappointed die-hard fans of the original. Without further ado, here are 15 of the most disappointing films to end Hollywood trilogies.
15. The Dark Knight Rises
This is a threequel that has severely divided fans; either you love it or you hate it. Anyone who finds themselves easily engrossed in the spectacle of it all are more likely to love it, while those who notice Christopher Nolan‘s departure from his original mission statement for the franchise are more likely to hate this one. From the get-go, the director let it be known that he had plans to reboot Batman in the realms of reality — meaning no sidekicks and no wacky comic book angles — and storylines were to be executed with the utmost attention to detail and realism. Well, as realistic as things can get in a world where a man dresses up as a bat to fight crime. Anyway, The Dark Knight Rises provided evidence to the contrary. It’s a film which opened with a plane sequence, which some have criticized as improbable, and it features Joseph Gordon Levitt (who is later revealed as Robin in disguise) lamely playing Batman’s sidekick. It also has several over-the-top events, which are obviously orchestrated just for the sake of leading towards a typical Hollywood happy ending. Worse, the The Dark Knight Rises contains glaring plot holes and inconsistencies. Audiences who were able to look past all of this came out loving this film, but those who couldn’t wound up sadly disappointed.
14. Iron Man 3
As a whole, Iron Man 3 really isn’t all that disappointing of a film, especially for the more casual lot of movie viewers. After the critical flop (yet financial success) of Iron Man 2, things could only go up with the follow-up. And even with the high expectations on the film’s shoulders given that it was the first Marvel film to be released after The Avengers, Iron Man 3 is a mostly enjoyable romp. That is, unless one were to ask diehard comic book fans. Avid comic readers were foaming at the mouth to see this film when word got out that The Mandarin, a well celebrated villain from the comic books, was set to make his film debut played by Ben Kingsley. Yes, fans seemed satisfied with the decision to make The Mandarin into the film’s main villain until it was revealed that he wasn’t actually the main villain, nor was he a villain to begin with. In one of the biggest twists in Marvel history, The Mandarin was revealed to be not a super-villain, but a mere mild-mannered actor, Trevor Slattery. Slattery merely played pawn to the grander scheme of the actual villain, Guy Pearce‘s Aldrich Killian character. While the casuals loved the swerve, comic book fans of the character felt furious and betrayed. These fans were so venomous with their disdain and disappointment that Marvel Studios had to release a short film called All Hail the King as an apology for their treatment of the character.
13. Return of the Jedi
To be fair, there are aspects of Return of the Jedi that most Star Wars fans tend to enjoy. No one complains about the scenes between Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, and Luke Skywalker. Nor does anybody feel cross about the end of Vader’s redemption arc. However, it seems that the majority of the film tends to inspire universal scorn from even the most avid of Star Wars fans. Several lighthearted scenes — especially those involving the Ewoks — have been criticized as been too kid-friendly and a distinct departure from the dark tone of the previous film, The Empire Strikes Back. Also, few viewers were comfortable with Luke and Leia being revealed as brother and sister after seeing them teased as love interests for the better part of the franchise. Furthermore, many felt like Han Solo seemed toned down, both in terms of being de-fanged of his charming snark and also because Harrison Ford‘s heart wasn’t in it acting-wise. Overall, the biggest fans of the franchise feel like there are just too many flaws in Return of the Jedi to warrant it living up to its predecessors.
12. Scream 3
Scream remains one of best horror classics in the genre’s history. Scream 2 failed to live up to expectations, but much of that has to do with an early script reader forcing Kevin Williamson to have to sacrifice his original vision for the sake of a last minute re-write. He actually had the chance to redeem himself in Scream 3, but before he could work on a proper treatment of a full script, the studio opted to pick Ehren Kruger instead to write the script. The change in screenwriter led to a significant change in tone in Scream 3, and that didn’t sit right with most fans. Actually, it was in light of the then recent Columbine shootings that the studio wanted to move the killings away from the schools of Woodsboro and into the land of Hollywood. Critics, however, agreed that the meta attempts at humor led to an uneven atmosphere. Yes, these films were always self aware, but the Hollywood transition felt too on the nose. As for the horror treatment itself, the scary bits weren’t all that scary, and the unimportant, unlikable stock characters felt like a departure from the smartly written cast of yesteryear. Just as noticeably missing is Williamson’s sharp writing. Thus, even with a new locale and supporting cast, Scream 3 lacks a certain freshness that made Scream so likable.
11. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Changing the cast that audiences are familiar with for the sake of starting fresh for a threequel is both a daring move and a dumb one. By taking away the audience’s connection to the previous films — even when it’s those films that are the reason why the moviegoers are watching the threequel to begin with — a filmmaker is actively preventing the audience from connecting with the current film in question. It leaves the audience disappointed enough to walk out of the threequel unsatisfied, or worse, causes them to refuse to even buy a ticket because the old stars aren’t around anymore. This was very much the case when Fast franchise starters Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were replaced by the charisma-less Lucas Black and Bow Wow. It’s easy to assume that audiences only come see these films for the cars, but we can’t forget that the charged chemistry between Diesel and Walker, accompanied by an adrenaline-pumping plot, made the first film so memorable. Not only were the new main characters of Tokyo Drift lacking in chemistry, they were as boring as the story itself. For a film structured around high-octane street racing, these elements made Tokyo Drift feel like watching paint dry. Thankfully, the studio had enough sense to bring back all of the former stars (except Black, of course) for future entries.
10. Superman III
Neither of the first two Superman films are perfect, but for their time, they were hailed as some of the best attempts at bringing comic book lore to the big screen. The 3rd entry into the franchise turned out to be massive departure from the previous films in more ways than one — not only in terms of quality or tone, but also by no longer making Superman himself the star of the movie. This film stars comedian Richard Pryor, and throughout the movie, Christopher Reeve has to take a backseat in favor of Pryor’s shenanigans. And while Richard Pryor had proven to be a box office star at that point in his career, his addition to the franchise led to a substantial drop in box office earnings for the franchise. Pryor also brought with him a new campy and comedic tone that critics turned against as it was so drastically different from the tone of the first two films.
9. Blade: Trinity
Blade: Trinity defiantly killed the Blade franchise, and it’s easy to see why. Despite sharing the same R rating as its predecessors, Blade: Trinity feels significantly toned-down as if it were directed towards a PG-13 audience. Case in point: the additions of fresh faces like Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel gives the film a poppy feel made for the tween audience. Also, for a franchise that has prided itself on being a gritty and somewhat realistic depiction of vampires, the addition of Dracula feels out of place throughout. In fact, Dracula as an antagonist is just one of the many reasons why the film feels so incoherent. Blade: Trinity opted for a more hip and stylish Blade film compared to previous films, and instead, the film turned out corny due to a lack of substance.
8. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
This one seems unfair to judge because it is an utterly different beast compared to what came before or even after it in the Halloween franchise, given that it’s the only film not to feature Michael Myers. The lack of Myers alone disappointed audiences enough to derail the studio’s original plans for the franchise. After Halloween II, the studio had the bright idea of focusing every follow-up in the franchise with a film made up of an entirely new plot. In theory, it was an interesting idea that could make for a never-ending franchise. But after two films featuring the silent lug that is Michael Myers, fans wouldn’t accept a Halloween film without him. In fairness though, in more recent years, Season of the Witch has gained a cult following thanks to its haunting imagery, intriguing plot, and daring venture into killing children on-screen, but for its audience of the time, it just wasn’t meant to be. Initial reviews during the film’s original run were poor, and since it made significantly less money than both of the previous movies, the studio realized that fans would only turn out to their shows if Michael Myers was the marquee attraction.
7. The Matrix Revolutions
Granted, The Matrix Reloaded wasn’t much to write home about in itself and paled in comparison to its predecessor. However, in its own right, it was an enjoyable action romp, and the finale of the trilogy could only go up from there. Except, Revolutions chose to go horribly downhill instead. At least Reloaded had a handful of action sequences that felt as imaginative and thrilling as those in the original. Disappointingly, everything in Revolutions was stalling towards the final confrontation between Smith and Neo in the climax. And as somewhat entertaining as that fight scene was, it wasn’t satisfying enough to make the previous couple hours feel like time well spent. The trilogy deserved to end with a bang, but instead hardly mustered up even a whimper.
6. Home Alone 3
The day that any franchise goes from being a profitable, entertaining series to a never-ending crop of straight-to-DVD pictures is a sad one to behold. This is what happened to the Home Alone franchise. Home Alone 3 actually went to theaters, but the poor reception it received brought the rest of the franchise — there are FIVE Home Alone movies…WHY?! — permanently into DVD purgatory. The third entry also marked the end of all of our childhoods when Macaulay Culkin, who obviously couldn’t remain a kid forever, needed to be replaced by Alex D. Linz. Alas, the studio failed to realize that fans of the Home Alone films enjoyed them mainly because of Culkin’s winning performances. And besides, most audiences will only watch the sequels if they were fans of the original films. With Home Alone 3 lacking any sight of Culkin whatsoever, the threequel became utterly pointless. As a result, it failed to bring in even half the same amount of box office sales as the first two films.
5. X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand is, in many ways, the redheaded stepchild of the X-Men franchise. No one likes it, no one wants to see it, and no one wants to acknowledge its existence. So much so that one big extravagant plot line was included in X-Men: Days of Future Past just to retcon the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. What makes this one all the more disappointing is all of the potential the film had stored. Comic fans and casual viewers alike were excited at the notion of adapting The Phoenix Saga for the big screen. The idea of pitting franchise mainstay Jean Grey as a villain against the X-Men would always be an interesting one, but alas, the execution left much to be desired. While there are some action sequences and even some performances worth praising, the story broke the camel’s back on this one. Too many uninteresting subplots kept the focus away from the more noteworthy Phoenix storyline. Overall, for all the action that this film has to offer, it lacks the emotional weight present in first two films — probably the result of a rushed script.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl managed to be a surprise hit for Disney and was able to kickstart the ongoing swashbuckling series. The follow-up, Dead Man’s Chest, was an even bigger success racking in over a billion dollars, and for some, the sequel was even better than the original. Thus, when At World’s End was set to hit theaters in 2007, a world of expectation laid on that film’s shoulders. For this reason, it was no surprise that the film was nearly just as financially successful as the last film, but what was surprising was the substantial drop in quality that the third entry suffered from. What was supposed to be a rousing epic turned into an overlong, convoluted bit of excrement. Johnny Depp‘s once infinitely charismatic rendition of Captain Jack Sparrow turned into an annoying little caricature — a shell of what the character used to be. Plus, there were too many characters to keep up with in an already complicated, muddled plot. At the time of its release, this was the most expensive movie ever made; it’s a shame that not a single penny went into penning a half-decent script. Fortunately, the fourth entry, On Stranger Tides, managed to save the franchise from obscurity, but At World’s End remains a marked stain on the franchise.
3. Alien 3
The first three films in the Alien franchise come off much like the science fiction equivalent to The Godfather trilogy. The first two films in the franchise are absolute masterpieces, while the third entry is abysmal at best, and that’s even a generous way to put it. This also happened to be the feature debut for director David Fincher, and it was clearly a freshman effort considering how it pales in comparison to his later work. To be fair, it is more than likely that studio meddling is what marred his debut. Still, regardless of who is to blame, Alien 3 is clearly a lackluster attempt to follow up Alien and Aliens. And while Alien 3 definitely isn’t the worst film of the franchise — I’m looking at you, Alien: Resurrection — it greatly disappointed viewers when it originally hit theaters due to the fact that it seems like such a major departure from its predecessors. In fact, the film is so against what came before it that it starts off by killing off all of the main characters (except Ripley, whose death is saved for the end). Granted, it’s a ballsy move, but it ran the risk of disappointing the audience early on. And for most moviegoers, that disappointment resonated until the film’s end. However, thanks to the film’s Assembly Cut re-release, Alien 3 has received a warmer response lately, but still, it feels like quite a bitter pill to swallow.
2. Spider-Man 3
Ironically, much of the criticism of Spider-Man 3 was with regard to its campiness, which remains as consistent as it was in the franchise’s previous films. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were equally campy, but perhaps the third film has a little too much camp for audiences to bear. While the third entry is also just as action packed as the previous installments, this one was panned for its story alone, which was said not to have matched the quality of the stories of the two original films. Actually, the film feels overcrowded with its three antagonists, neither of whom match up to Alfred Molina’s surprisingly complex depiction of Doctor Octopus. Plus, the Symbiote-infected version of Peter Parker, who has teasingly been dubbed “Emo Peter,” drew the ire of many fans as an annoying attempt at humor. Overall, it seems like Spider-Man 3 opted to go bigger in scale compared to the last entries, and it ended up being too big. So big that it ended up crumbling to pieces by the end. Ironically enough, of the three films in the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 performed the best at the box office by earning a whopping $890.9 million. Still, the reviews for this were so abysmal that it inspired the studio to reboot the entire franchise with Andrew Garfield in the lead. And when that didn’t work out, Sony reached a deal with Marvel to share the rights to the character in order to do it proper justice.
1. The Godfather Part III
Parts 1 and 2 of The Godfather are two of among the greatest American movies ever made, so the third film being so far from them in terms of quality is plainly and simply a tragedy. It didn’t help that production on the film was muddled from the get-go. Franchise staple Robert Duvall refused to take part in the film because Al Pacino was getting paid more than he was. Winona Ryder left the production at the last minute, and the director’s inexperienced daughter, Sofia Coppola, had to fill in at the last minute and give one of the lousiest performances ever put on celluloid. In fact, her performance was so bad that it earned her two Razzie awards. Worse, the production was a disaster as well, and it made for an inherently messy film. The closest to a bright spot that the film has to offer is Andy Garcia‘s supporting turn, and for a trilogy with the caliber of the first two films, that just isn’t enough.