Total Nerd
48 voters

13 Great Movie Franchises That Should Have Ended Earlier

January 21, 2021 275 votes 48 voters 1.4k 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.

  • Why The Franchise Is Great: The release of Toy Story in 1995 marked the start of the Pixar-led animation renaissance and led to millions of kids having existential breakdowns when it came time to get rid of their old toys. The first three films in the series were a skillful blend of timeless comedy and deeply touching drama, filled with moments so powerful they affected adults every bit as much as they did kids. Touching on themes of friendship, existence, self-worth, and the meaning of devotion, the Toy Story franchise remains unrivaled in its ability to veer between laughs and tears.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Toy Story 3.

    The third film in the series was arguably its darkest and most profound, culminating with a scene in which all the living toys hold hands and stoically accept that they are about to perish in an incinerator (before being saved at the last minute). There was no way to top that moment. So, with Toy Story 4 coming out nearly a decade later, the focus of the story moved away from Woody and Buzz grappling with the nature of their purpose and focused on an anthropomorphic fork toy with dark self-destructive urges. The premise of the story broadened the rules of the universe far wider than ever before, but in a way that destabilized the franchise's purpose. Toy Story as a trilogy is nearly flawless, but the fourth film - while entertaining - only serves to stretch the premise beyond its breaking point.

    Too much of a good thing?
  • Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End / Buena Vista Pictures

    Why The Franchise Is Great: A pre-controversy Johnny Depp led this high-seas adventure series that revitalized the pirate genre, which had been essentially written off as cursed. The Pirates of the Caribbean series blended fantasy, adventure, and horror to create a fun, high-octane thrill ride of a franchise that perfectly embodied that magic of the Disneyland ride it was based on. Also, its lasting impact on pop culture will forever be Jack Sparrow, Depp's charming, roguish marauder that became a fan-favorite character and perpetual Halloween costume for years to come.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

    The first film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, introduced us to the world's heroes - Jack Sparrow, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) - as well as the villainous Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). The world was expanded in the second film, Dead Man's Chest, which introduced the sinister, squid-faced Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), and all the main stories were wrapped up in the third movie, At World’s End. All three were helmed by Gore Verbinski. However, there was too much money to be made to just stop there, so Disney continued the series with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which basically introduced an entirely new cast of heroes and villains and focused entirely on Jack Sparrow, who slowly became a caricature of himself. A fifth film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, brought on more new characters, and was further evidence that Sparrow just isn't as credible a protagonist when the story falls solely on his shoulders.

    Too much of a good thing?
  • 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?
  • Photo: Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade / Paramount Pictures

    Why The Franchise Is Great: When Raiders of the Lost Ark first hit theaters in 1981, it captured the imagination of a generation with its retro aesthetic that harkened back to the pulp adventure flicks of the 1930s and '40s. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was ruggedly charming and handsome but also relatable, vulnerable, and had a healthy hatred of Nazis. Over the course of the first three films, Jones matched wits with evil mystics and fascists and magic of rituals of every kind, and he always did it with magnetic charisma that gave audiences a chance to imagine themselves in his shoes.

    Where It Should Have Ended: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    Indy's third adventure, released in 1989, reunited the adventurer with his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) as they went on a hunt for the Holy Grail. It was a perfect final installment - at least, it was for almost 20 years, until Ford returned to reprise the character in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The fourth film sees a much older Indiana (who hasn't changed as a character, just aged), matching wits with evil Soviets amid the Cold War - as opposed to Nazis - and searching alien artifacts, instead of magical relics. Everything about it was just off, relying heavily on shaky CGI while constantly trying, and failing, to recapture the magic of the original films. From Indiana surviving a nuclear blast inside a refrigerator to Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) swinging through the jungle on vines like a cartoon monkey, the film's action setpieces were so over-the-top, it was impossible to feel invested, muddying the memories of the entire series.

    Too much of a good thing?