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13 Great Movie Franchises That Should Have Ended Earlier

January 21, 2021 331 votes 50 voters 1.5k views13 items

List RulesVote up the movie franchises that should have quit while they were ahead.

Sometimes, when a movie is great or it's a smashing box office success, it simply demands a sequel. If the sequel works out, another sequel is inevitable, and suddenly you've got a bona fide franchise on your hands. However, in line with the law of diminishing returns, you'll find a lot of movie franchises that should have ended way sooner than they actually did.

Sometimes, the franchise starts to falter because the main character becomes a ridiculous parody of themselves or because the premise the franchise is based on wasn't strong enough to support multiple installments. Often, it's because the producers win the conflict between commerce and art and start churning out cheaper and cheaper entries, banking on the popularity of earlier movies in the series.

Whatever the reason, some of the best most beloved franchises in cinema history have become diluted by shoddy installments and hacky cash-grabs that make fans wish the story had come to an end much sooner. Not everything has the staying power of James Bond or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, some franchises should have stopped at three instead of pumping out sequel after sequel... after sequel... after sequel...

Vote up the franchises that simply lasted way too long.

  • Photo: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives / Paramount Pictures

    Why The Franchise Is Great: While the Friday the 13th series has never earned the critical appreciation that some of its contemporary horror franchise have - including Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street - there's no denying the lumbering, hockey mask-wearing maniac Jason Voorhees is a stalwart pop culture icon who has haunted the nightmares of an entire generation of moviegoers. Jason technically doesn't appear in the series until the second film, as his mom is revealed to be the culprit in the original movie. From then on, the series proved to be as hard to kill off as Jason himself. The third film, Friday the 13th Part III, was supposed to end the series, but its success meant they had to do one more - Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. But even that moniker didn't deliver its promise, making so much money that producers just shrugged and made Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, because they learned their lesson about pretending they weren't going to make more. Finally, they embraced the absurdity with Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, which made self-referential jokes and basked in meta-humor while also bringing some fresh scares.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

    The sixth installment revitalized the floundering franchise, gave new life to the series, and has gone on to become a fan favorite. So, when it came time for a follow-up, it was going to be hard to clear the high bar - and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood failed in a big way, introducing a random psychic girl who used telekinesis and magic to battle the menacing brute. From there on out, each installment was either too dryly self-serious or too comedic, focusing more on laughs and fan service than on delivering an actual Friday the 13th movie. The need to heighten the stakes didn't help either, and with Jason X, the character found himself in space taking out frisky "teens" on a spaceship. Freddy vs. Jason saw our pal matching wits with the dream demon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in a long-awaited crossover that managed to disappoint fans of both franchises.

    Too much of a good thing?
  • 6


    Photo: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers / Galaxy International Releasing

    Why The Franchise Is Great: When director John Carpenter unleashed Halloween on the world in 1978, he revolutionized the slasher genre in a way that chilled a whole generation. Carpenter knew exactly the right formula to terrify people. The Halloween franchise's chief baddie, Michael Myers, is an unkillable, white-masked escaped lunatic with a passion for stabbing. The first film focused on Michael relentlessly hunting babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends while being pursued by psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). The unrelenting nature of Michael's menacing pursuit became ingrained in audiences' minds and Halloween II picked up right after Halloween's cliffhanger ending, giving fans even more (and even gorier) fare.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.

    After Halloween II, producers decided to make Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which didn't feature Michael Myers at all but instead told a story about mystic Celtic rituals and a Halloween costume designer using magic in a plan to slay children. Audiences hated it (though it has since achieved more esteemed status) and demanded the return of their favorite silent serial killer, which is how we got Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It wasn't a hit with critics at the time but developed a huge cult following for its intensity and shockingly downer ending. Then, everything that followed was more of the same, but worse. The primary Halloween franchise continued for four more films, then was rebooted by Rob Zombie in 2007, followed by a sequel to the reboot. Then the movie was rebooted a second time in 2018 with Halloween, which was technically a direct sequel to the original Halloween. The series' chronological timeline is more complex and nonsensical than Michael's backstory - and just as unnecessary.

    Too much of a good thing?
  • Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures

    Why The Franchise Is Great: The original Terminator is a flawless blend of sci-fi, action, and horror. The titular Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a relentless bounty hunter who's every bit as menacing as a slasher villain, but instead of being a supernatural force of nature, he's a cyborg sent back from the future to eliminate a woman who will give birth to the human leader of the anti-robot resistance. Fans are introduced to Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), one of cinema's great action heroes, and the leather-clad T-800 with an inexplicable Austrian accent. Then, Terminator 2: Judgment Day came and flipped the script, making Schwarzenegger a reprogrammed "protector" cyborg, and pitting him, an abrasive pre-teen John Connor (Edward Furlong), and a militarized Sarah Connor against the liquid metal killing machine known as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Both films prioritize action and thrills over everything and have become classics as a result.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

    This was the last film in the franchise that didn't get bogged down by the weight of the movie's own mythology - and was also the last installment that was directed by James Cameron. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines came out 12 years later and was a jumbled mess of CGI and monotonous chases that didn't elevate the stakes at all. Terminator Salvation took audiences into the middle of the conflict between humans and robots but didn't capture the balance of sci-fi and thriller the franchise's early iterations managed to present. No matter how many times filmmakers have tried to examine the universe, it feels as if there are no new stories to tell. Don't even get us started on Terminator Genisys.

    Too much of a good thing?
  • Photo: The Bourne Ultimatum / Universal Pictures

    Why The Franchise Is Great: Beginning with The Bourne Identity in 2002, the world was introduced to amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) who, over the course of three films, struggled to remember who he was while avoiding government operatives trying to hunt him down. The film series was a taut, frenetic action drama packed with 1970s conspiracy thriller tropes and kinetic action scenes that captivated audiences and turned Damon into a believable action hero.

    Where It Should Have Ended: The Bourne Ultimatum.

    Ultimatum satisfyingly wrapped up the story of Jason Bourne's quest for answers and vengeance. So, when the franchise continued with The Bourne Legacy and Damon didn't want to reprise his role, the series introduced Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another government operative running from his handlers. Legacy was essentially a sidequel that took place during the events of Ultimatum but added little to the overriding narrative. It was something of a lackluster affair that felt more like a knockoff of the series than another installment. Realizing that having a Bourne movie without the title character made little sense, producers managed to get Damon back for 2016's Jason Bourne, but critics largely felt the movie was simply retreading over old ground and it signaled the likely end of the franchise for the foreseeable future.

    Too much of a good thing?