What does it mean to kill a movie franchise? There are films that stunt franchises and many that certainly don’t help them, but the ones on this list had something special, an ability to kill franchises with their audience and critical acclaim repellent. Let’s distinguish what makes up a film franchise. I’ve spoken to several people who suggest that anything more than one film is a franchise. If I included franchises with only two films in them, this list would be never-ending. What I looked at is films that were part of franchises that have more than two entries and were not a planned trilogy. I’ve seen some people suggest movies like The Godfather III ended a film franchise. Well, yeah, they did. Simply because a movie was not as loved as the earlier ones does not mean it killed a franchise, especially when it's part of a seemingly completed trilogy. I’m looking at films that were so bad, so different or had so obviously jumped the shark that the filmmakers decided to abandon the series altogether.
In many cases, the franchises on this list have been rebooted after these killers made their mark. Reboots though, are almost never part of the same universe even if they share the same name. A reboot will never acknowledge the existence of the former film, unless it’s in jest, which puts them into a different category within a film franchise. For many of these films, the writing was already on the wall before they even came out. It’s often not enough to kill the entire collection if only one film in a franchise bombs. The way it usually happens is one bad film is followed by a horrible film. When franchise fans are bombarded with bad in succession like that, they give up hope. Some films on this list simply covered all possible plot angles, came full circle or changed too dramatically from its predecessors to allow the franchise to continue. Not all of these are bad films, but they’re all franchise-killing films. There’s been a lot of them over time, but these are the one’s that are considered the most important. These are the 15 films that killed the movie franchises we care the most about.
15 Blade Trinity
Blade Trinity ruined what was a pretty fun comic book franchise with a silly rehash of what was successful early on. The entire film seemed only concerned with stylish fight sequences that looked more like music videos than fights. Ryan Reynolds and his stupid beard looks as ridiculous as Jessica Biel does in an action role. And now there is talk of a Blade 4, which I’m sure will be just great. Regardless of how terrible it might be though, expect to see fans busting down the doors of the theaters in hopes that it captures some of the magic of the first film. Just because they plan to make another film doesn’t mean the franchise isn’t dead, it just means the Blade team can’t recognize a corpse when they see one.
14 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3
There’s a saying in film, never try to save a Ninja Turtles franchise with a time traveling premise. Well, it isn’t a saying just yet, but it might be in the future. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 & 2 were awesome flicks that didn’t need much substance to be successful. The cartoon was insanely popular, the puppets were cool to look at, and full grown ninja turtles fighting crime is about as majestic as it gets. The issue here is that, by time it got to the third film, audiences needed something more. We needed substance, and time traveling to 17th century Japan wasn’t enough, not even close.
13 Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is probably the best individual film on this list. It took seven films in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise to finally kill it. With a few of the entries prior to the New Nightmare receiving very negative responses, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was not able to revitalize the series, even though it was considered one of the better films in the batch. There was no problem with its reception; it was all to do with the approach. New Nightmare went fully meta, looking at the real actors of the original movies, namely Heather Langenkamp, being haunted by a real Freddy Krueger. This postmodern attack infuses too much reality into that fictional world, making it impossible to ever return to the fictional side again without leaving that stream altogether. The most recent attempt to reboot the series with Jackie Earle Haley was underwhelming to say the least, but I’m sure we’ll see Freddy again sometime soon in a new franchise. I'm looking forward to it.
12 Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow
After six relatively successful and funny films in the Police Academy franchise in the 1980s, fans were quite happy, completely satisfied with the conclusion. Lo and behold, five years after Police Academy 6 came out, the brain trust at Police Academy felt they should try to keep it going. Unfortunately for them, the resulting movie was just horrible. The only thing that eclipsed its horrific critical response was the magnitude of its box office bomb. Bringing in a paltry $100,000 in theaters, the end for Police Academy was breaking down the door. Five years was far too long a wait for this series. The 80s were over. The shtick had run its course. The mouth noises were not as funny as they once were. We had moved on, even if they refused to.
11 Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek: The Next Generation started making films in 1994 with Star Trek Generations. This series started after six films from the previous generation. When Nemesis came out, the series was stumbling on. They’d exhausted nearly every storyline possible, and it was feeling painfully stale. Hardcore Trekkies kept the entire thing afloat for years, masking any mistakes with overwhelming support and borderline denial, but that time had come and gone. Nemesis was a failure in almost every category and the series was officially dead. In recent history, it’s been rebooted once more by J.J. Abrams, but they’ve gone back to dealing with Captain Kirk, putting Captain Picard’s Captains Log to bed for good.
10 Naked Gun 33 1/3
The third installment in the Naked Gun franchise, Naked Gun 33 1/3 was also the final film in the series that spawned from the Police Squad! TV series. It’s tough to nail down exactly why 33 1/3 was the last. It received mixed reviews critically, but Anna Nicole Smith and O.J. Simpson took the brunt of the harsh criticism. It did decently well at the box office as well, almost doubling its budget. It appears the film was just incapable of pushing the envelope, good but not great. It would have had to really open up the franchise into new areas to intrigue the studios to go for more. Having said that, I do think the series was satisfied with how things ended up, completing a very successful parody franchise.
9 Scream 4
I really loved Scream 4. I’ve written before that I think the Scream franchise is one of the better horror franchises ever made. However, in the fourth installment, I think a statement needed to be made, like a major change in the structure of the films, if they planned on extending it. Now perhaps they didn’t want to extend it, and that’s fine, but by continuing in the same exact structure as the first three, the series ultimately ended with the fourth. With the fourth film, they effectively came full circle and had a clean ending for the horror franchise. I am satisfied with the way Scream 4 ended, but I would have been ecstatic if they took a risk and ended it 10 minutes earlier, after the metaphorical torch had been passed. Then again, one of the major rules of a horror remake is, “don’t f-- with the original,” so maybe that wouldn’t be the smartest plan of attack.
8 Batman & Robin
Prior to the Dark Knight trilogy, which was a wild success, the Batman films had enjoyed some ups and downs. The major ups were the Tim Burton incarnations and the major downs were Schumacher’s failed attempts. Batman & Robin has been given a rough ride by critics, but it’s not all bad. There’s a nice amount of camp that makes it a pretty fun movie, but fun wasn’t enough to save the franchise. There were plans for a fifth installment, but the critical failure and the inability to surpass the box office numbers of previous films was too foreboding a message for Warner Bros. By the time Christopher Nolan came around in 2005, eight years after Batman & Robin, fans were champing at the bit to go back to Gotham, and the return was worth the wait. In the end, Batman & Robin killing the franchise may have been a blessing in disguise.
7 Alien Resurrection
Like many of the films on this list, Alien Resurrection, the fourth and final film in the Alien franchise, isn’t the sole reason that the franchise died. In fact, critically, Alien 3 is the worst of the bunch, but Alien Resurrection was unable to do enough to revitalize the series. Probably the worst criticism the movie receives is in its reliance on what the prior films had done—similar settings, similar plot devices and similar scares. If it felt like a retread that’s because it was. Even backed by a script from Joss Whedon, Alien Resurrection was rather dull, lightyears away from the brilliance of the first two installments. It might seem difficult to reach the heights that the series hit early on, but that’s the game you play with sequels. The smart decisions come in deciding when you’re about to jump the shark before you actually make the jump. The following AVP and Prometheus notwithstanding, the Alien series may have been killed by Alien Resurrection, but it will never be forgotten.
6 Jaws: The Revenge
The fourth installment of the fourth Jaws film is a guilty pleasure for many, but honestly and truly, it’s about as strange as a film can get. For this film, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), Chief Brody’s (Roy Schneider) wife is haunted by sharks. She thinks that Chief Brody’s death, the result of a heart attack, stemmed from his fear of sharks. She feels that her son was killed intentionally by a shark seeking revenge. Let me just repeat that last part so it really sinks in. She thinks that a shark is out for revenge, angry about one of its species being killed by Chief Brody, and taking it out on the other members of Brody’s family. There’s a witty line about jumping the shark here, but I’m not sure I have the heart to make it.
5 Terminator Genisys
Terminator Genisys was the fifth film in a franchise that really only needed two films. Normally, I’m not one to complain about revisiting an intriguing world, but, in this case, it was completely unnecessary. The storyline was already complex, if not nonsensical, and Genisys just made it more confusing. There wasn’t a clear direction of the film, resulting in a convoluted plot with some basic performances overall. If only to give the Arnold one last send off as the Terminator, the film was a success, but only if you consider killing an iconic action franchise successful. I definitely won’t be surprised to see the studios try to reboot this one in a few years from now, but I don't think I'll be happy about it.
4 Spiderman 3
Spiderman 3, despite some favorable reviews and fantastic box office numbers, was to be the final in the Sam Raimi Spidey franchise. The film suffered from too many characters and too many plot lines, making it too long and too involved. There were plans to make a fourth film, but after several script rewrites Sam Raimi walked away from the project, leaving it to be rebooted with Andrew Garfield in the lead. The general love for the first two flicks made the third one look awful in comparison, but, in reality, it shouldn’t shoulder too much of the blame for the franchise not continuing on.
3 Superman 4
Superman 3 deserves some of the blame here. Yes, Superman 4 was insanely awful, but so was Superman 3. That being said, let’s get one thing clear, Superman 4 is one of the worst films ever made. The special effects aside, the film is laughably bad. In fact, the only good thing about it is that it makes you laugh. It makes you cry and bleed out of your eyes as well, but at least it makes you laugh. After two major flops for the Superman franchise, the man of steel would be shelved for good… until the series was rebooted/continued in 2006 with Superman Returns. Now into the third version of Superman with Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill, a critical failure so far as well, Superman is proving a difficult franchise to film, but that’s never stopped anyone before.
2 Halloween Resurrection
This one hurts me because I like this film a lot. Halloween Resurrection courageously tried to rewrite a legendary franchise, an attempt that failed miserably, but courageous nevertheless. Critically the film bombed, which is never a surprise for slasher films, but Halloween Resurrection wasn’t just reviled, it was ridiculed. Despite the attempts to give Halloween some new life, the best devices for kills and scares had been all but beaten to death. Fans of the genre might be happy to call this a satisfying finale to an impactful franchise, but most movie goers see Resurrection as the slow and painful dying last breath of Michael Myers.
1 Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
In what was the ninth installment in a fantastic slasher franchise, The Final Friday was, in fact, the final one. Prior to The Final Friday, critics hated the franchise, so it didn’t surprise anyone when they continued to hate it after The Final Friday. The films in the series heavily relied on their tried and true formula that fans had come to love. The acting was campy as it was expected to be, and it was overly violent, true to its design. The title suggests it was planned to be the last entry, but remember, the fourth Friday the 13th was called The Final Chapter. Sure, the series was rebooted nine years later with Jason X, and then again in 2009 with the Friday the 13th remake, but, unfortunately for fans like me, neither were able to breath life back into the Jason Voorhees franchise.