10 Movie Franchises That Recovered After A Terrible Release

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Summary

  • inst.mp:
  • Some movie franchises have successfully revived themselves after weak installments, leading to popular movies in the franchise.
  • Reboots, remakes, and traditional sequels have all proven effective in bringing dead IPs back to life.
  • Franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Wars, and Mission: Impossible have all experienced upswings in quality after disappointing entries.

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Despite weak installments, including major box office failures, some movie franchises have managed to bounce back and retain their original popularity. Movie sagas can sometimes continue longer than they arguably should, which often leads to disappointing installments. However, sometimes not giving up on an IP has led to some of the best movies in the franchise, from superhero sagas like Batman to the ever-expanding Fast and Furious timeline.

Some movie franchises seem to continue forever, producing a series of subpar sequels ad nauseam. While many of these offer diminishing returns with each release, a few strong installments were able to essentially bring dead IPs back to life. Although reboots and remakes are usually the easiest way to do so, some traditional sequels were also able to reignite their respective cinematic brands after at least one movie almost ended them forever.

10 A Nightmare On Elm Street Continued Despite A Terrible First Sequel

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Release Date
November 1, 1985

Director
Jack Sholder

Cast
Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell

Rating
R

Runtime
87 Minutes

Genres
Horror

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is by far the weakest installment of the Freddy Krueger franchise. It is littered with clunky performances and a baffling climax, wherein Freddy Krueger is brought into the real world to terrorize a pool party. It completely misunderstood what made A Nightmare on Elm Street so effective, and the result was mightily underwhelming and devoid of horror. Thankfully, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors reoriented the saga to its strengths and began infusing the humor that would subsequently define the franchise. Indeed, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is often cited as the fan-favorite of the whole series.

9 The Star Wars Prequels Started Poorly

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1996)

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Release Date
May 19, 1999

Director
George Lucas

Cast
Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ahmed Best, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Ray Park, Samuel L. Jackson

Rating
PG

Runtime
133 minutes

Genres
Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy

The Star Wars prequels received 16 years of hype and anticipation following the release of Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi in 1983. However, upon release, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was an enormous disappointment. The plot’s focus on trade agreements and negotiations was ultimately very boring and completely failed to capture the magic of the original movies. The franchise quickly found its feet again, with some improvement by Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, but mostly by Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the latter of which is widely considered one of the best Star Wars movies.

8 The First Mission: Impossible Sequel Was Disappointing

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

mission impossible 2 tom cruise as Ethan Hunt riding motorcycle

Mission Impossible 2

Release Date
May 24, 2000

Director
John Woo

Cast
Richard Roxburgh, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott, Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
123 minutes

Genres
Thriller, Action, Adventure

Mission: Impossible was fairly understated compared to its plethora of sequels. It does, however, feature an enthralling central narrative filled with unexpected plot twists and highly entertaining spy tropes. The sequel, Mission: Impossible 2, lost many of the original’s espionage sequences, but failed to supplement them with the impressive action stunts that would later define the Mission: Impossible franchise. Mission: Impossible 2 was more elaborate, but distinctly lacked the substance of the original movie. Thankfully, by Mission: Impossible 3, the series had developed into its trademark action-packed blockbuster.

7 Fast & Furious Was Languishing By The Fourth Movie

Fast & Furious (2009)

Dom holding Lett off a car in Fast & Furious (2009)

The Fast & Furious franchise started incredibly understated compared to its later entries. The first three installments had grounded narratives concerning underground street racers. While the first two movies delivered this effectively, the premise was running out of steam by the third movie, and the fourth (Fast & Furious) was a disappointing rehash of earlier movies. However, the fifth entry, Fast Five, evolved the franchise into a romping adventure filled with ridiculously over-the-top stunts and more absurd premises. This proved triumphant, with each subsequent movie adopting a similar exaggerated spectacle to create one of the most enduring movie franchises ever.

6 James Bond Successfully Refreshed the Franchise After A Disappointing Entry

Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day - Pierce Brosnan as James Bond smoking a cigar and Halle Berry as Jinx standing in the sunshine

The James Bond franchise bounced back valiantly after the underwhelming Die Another Die. Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond had a disappointing final movie, Die Another Day, packed with ridiculous stunts and outlandish action. In many ways, Die Another Day is almost a parody of the franchise, with some of the most absurd gadgets and a cartoonish villain. Fortunately, the filmmakers recognized these flaws and opted for a more grounded rendition for their subsequent Bond. Daniel Craig’s first outing in Casino Royale revitalized the franchise, presenting a tone and a 007 more in line with Ian Flemming’s original novels. This proved successful and saved the brand.

5 Friday The 13th Unsuccessfully Tried To Exclude Its Iconic Villain

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

Roy Burns as Jason Voorhees breaking through a door in Friday The 13th Part V The New Beginning

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

Release Date
March 22, 1985

Director
Danny Steinmann

Cast
Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Tom Morga, Dick Wieand

Rating
R

Runtime
92 Minutes

Genres
Horror, Thriller

Despite not appearing until the second movie, Jason Voorhees is an essential part of the Friday The 13th franchise. By the fifth movie, however, the filmmakers decided it was time to evolve the series and introduce a new villain. Friday The 13th: A New Beginning featured a brand-new killer behind the infamous hockey mask but failed to develop the premise. As a result, Friday The 13th: A New Beginning was a poor imitation of previous movies, only without its biggest asset – the lumbering slasher icon himself. Thankfully, by Friday The 13th Part 6: Jason Lives, Jason returned to all his murderous glory, and the franchise was back on track.

4 X-Men Adopted A New Timeline To Save The Franchise After X-Men 3

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Release Date
May 25, 2006

Director
Brett Ratner

Cast
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden

Rating
pg-13

Runtime
104minutes

Genres
Action, Adventure

The X-Men movie franchise heralded the beginning of the superhero movie craze, proffering some of the very first Marvel films. The second installment, X-Men 2, is one of the most successful superhero movies of all time, deftly developing the franchise and including a swathe of beloved characters. X-Men 3: The Last Stand, however, nearly killed the franchise. The poor attempt to adapt one of The X-Men‘s most revered stories failed and felt like an anticlimax. Rather than develop another direct sequel, X-Men: First Class was produced instead. The prequel series refreshed the IP and proved so popular that it even outlasted the original movies.

3 Batman Forever’s Sequel Nearly Destroyed The Franchise

Batman & Robin (1997)

George Clooney as Batman looking heroic in a blue room in Batman & Robin.

Batman & Robin

Release Date
June 20, 1997

Director
Joel Schumacher

Cast
George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
125minutes

Genres
Action, Fantasy

Batman & Robin is widely considered one of the worst movies ever made and completely killed the 1990s Batman movie series. Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is littered with over-the-top performances in a film full of studio interference that was designed to sell toys. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan rescued the IP with his The Dark Knight trilogy, starting with 2005’s Batman Begins. The second movie, The Dark Knight, boasts the highest IMDB score of any superhero movie, fully revitalizing the Batman movie franchise, and leading to a string of highly successful additional movies. Nolan’s movies truly managed to recover the Batman movie saga after the abysmal Batman & Robin​​​​​.

2 A Legacy Sequel Trilogy Saved Halloween After Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2

Halloween 2 (2009)

Halloween 2 Rob Zombie Michael Myers with a battered mask holding a Knife

Halloween (2018)

Release Date
October 19, 2018

Director
David Gordon Green

Cast
Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle

Rating
R

Runtime
106 Minutes

Genres
Horror, Thriller

Rob Zombie’s first Halloween movie revitalized the franchise after a string of inferior sequels proliferated the franchise. However, the second movie proved incredibly disappointing, and it seemed the Halloween franchise had returned to the realm of subpar slasher sequels. This perception dramatically altered, however, with the release of a legacy sequel trilogy that brought back the original’s iconic final girl, Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis). In doing so, 2018’s Halloween ignored all the previous flawed films, and the franchise was saved. Indeed, Halloween is one of the strongest movies in the Michael Myers narrative and returned the iconic slasher villain to its legendary status.

1 The Rocky Franchise Nearly Ended Anticlimactically

Rocky 5 (1990)

Sylverster Stallone wearing a hat is Rocky 5 while training

Rocky 5

Release Date
November 16, 1990

Director
John G. Avildsen

Cast
Sylvester Stallone

Rating
pg-13

Runtime
104minutes

Genres
Drama

By Rocky 5, Sylvester Stallone’s boxing franchise had become a tiresome imitation of the earlier movies, proffering little more than previous movies had. While the initial premise seemingly developed the character, turning him into a boxing trainer, by the end of the movie, Rocky had fully re-entered the ring for an anti-climactic final bout. It seemed the Rocky franchise had fizzled out completely. However, 2006’s Rocky Balboa brought the character back with one of the strongest in the franchise. The Rocky franchise fully recovered and even spawned a series of spin-off movies, the critically acclaimed Creed films.