14 Movie Franchises That Almost Died, Then Came Roaring Back To Life

List Rules
Vote up the franchises that totally deserved their late-stage revivals.

Some movie franchises only have one good movie to begin with, others have wildly fluctuated in quality over decades of storytelling, and sometimes a consistent and popular title suddenly falls off when a critical or commercial dud causes a franchise to jump the shark. Sometimes that kind of failure is enough to prompt a studio to invest a lot less time and money in the property and redirect its resources elsewhere, in some cases scrapping all plans for the IP's future installments and never speaking of it again.

Except, more often than not, it comes back. And sometimes a movie series just needs that one big movie to revive it. Studios are not shy about milking a franchise for all it's worth - through good movies and bad - but there's no secret formula for making an increasingly irrelevant franchise relevant again. For some franchises, years after being labeled "done" and left creatively dormant, one particular entry - a full reboot with a new aesthetic direction, a sequel that recreates the original magic, or an entirely new character to focus on - will revitalize the brand, restoring its former glory. And sometimes that cycle will repeat itself endlessly. This list takes a look at the franchises that almost died but, thanks to one movie that came along at the right time and reached the right audience, came roaring back to life.

Remember to vote up your favorite, and most deserving, franchise revivals.


  • Joel Schumacher’s campy disaster Batman & Robin didn’t do the Dark Knight's live-action screen presence any favors. Warner Bros. spent years trying to figure out how to bring Batman to a contemporary audience - and then along came Christopher Nolan, fresh off the underground hit Memento and the successful mid-budget thriller Insomnia.

    His first big-budget effort, Batman Begins, not only cracked the code in the way WB was looking for, but also helped usher in the modern age of superhero movies. By grounding Bruce Wayne's origin story, Batman Begins revolutionized the genre. The sequel, The Dark Knight, is considered one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, if not the greatest. The Dark Knight trilogy has influenced how Warner Bros. and DC (as well as Marvel) continue to make comic book adaptations. Quite a turnaround for a franchise that seemed to be flailing in 1997, when superhero movies were still rare and risky propositions. Nolan's trilogy didn't just make superheroes relevant - it specifically revived Batman himself, as the character has been rebooted twice since, first with Ben Affleck donning the cowl and later Robert Pattinson.

  • Pierce Brosnan's first outing as 007, GoldenEye, is a beloved entry in the James Bond franchise. However, its followups were, well, borderline ridiculous, prompting audiences to lose interest in the franchise in dire need of an upgrade. In 2006, GoldenEye director Martin Campbell returned to do just that with Daniel Craig's first outing, Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming's first novel.

    Stripping away the reliance on corny gadgets and superhuman villains, this Casino Royale was built around Craig as a gritty modern Bond (taking obvious cues from the popularity of Jason Bourne), which ended up being the perfect antidote for audiences who had tired of the dopey antics of the Brosnan-era installments. Casino Royale is arguably one of the best Bond movies in the franchise's decades-long history, and led to four more Craig-led entries: Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, and No Time to Die.

  • The Planet of the Apes franchise had its run in the late '60s and '70s. Many years later, Tim Burton attempted to reboot the franchise with 2001's Planet of the Apes; however, not only was that effort widely panned, but it seemed to destroy any vibrancy the series had left. To revive the franchise, director Rupert Wyatt did the unexpected, taking the franchise in the other direction and beginning at, well, the beginning.

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the origin story no one knew they needed. By taking its source material seriously, it showed fans of the franchise exactly how mankind contributed to its downfall, all built around Andy Serkis's Caesar, the lab rat/first sentient ape (whom we very much identify with) and eventual leader of the uprising. Aided by Serkis's wildly impressive motion-capture performance, Rise of the Planet of the Apes spawned a pair of widely praised sequels, both directed by Matt Reeves, that made for one of the strongest trilogies in contemporary Hollywood history.

  • Before J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek, the last anyone had seen of the franchise on the big screen was Star Trek: Nemesis, the Next Generation crew's (seemingly) final, and less-than-entertaining, outing. Abrams's "Kelvin timeline" rebooted the crew of the USS Enterprise seven years after it seemed to be done for good, bringing the series to a new generation while simultaneously continuing the legacy of the original TV and movie series.

    Thanks to an incredibly charismatic cast led by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana, Star Trek was the perfect summer blockbuster and paved the way for two more movies (at least), as well as a plethora of new television shows (including the return of The Next Generation's Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard).

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    Unbreakable (Revived By 'Split')

    Unbreakable, starring Bruce Willis as a reluctant, self-doubting superhero and Samuel L. Jackson as the secret villain who awakens his own would-be rival, explored the idea of superheroes in the "real" world long before Watchmen or The Boys were ever adapted. It is easily one of M. Night Shyamalan's best films. As far as anyone knew, it was just a standalone film. Then, 16 years later, Split, marketed as another standalone film (owing largely to Shyamalan's tendency toward secrecy), was revealed to be a sequel to Unbreakable in its final moments.

    Split's success paved the way for the trilogy-capping Glass, which brought Willis, Jackson, and James McAvoy's superpowered characters together onscreen. While Glass wasn't as well-received as its two predecessors, Unbreakable or Split, the latter can still be credit with both reviving and (arguably) birthing a franchise.

  • 1985's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome wasn't exactly what audiences wanted from the third entry in the Mad Max franchise. In the years that followed, George Miller worked toward getting a fourth film made to satisfy both the fanbase and his desire for redemption. However, pre-production issues and a complicated economic landscape made that impossible - so impossible that Miller considered turning Mad Max: Fury Road's story into an animated movie.

    Thankfully, the studio eventually moved forward with the live-action version once it found its lead in Tom Hardy. Not only is Fury Road considered a masterpiece by many (even getting nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars), but a sequel and spinoff are also in the works. That is the definition of a movie that brought a franchise roaring back to life. What had been largely a relic of the 1980s suddenly had contemporary relevance - and not just because the studio decided to take advantage of its IP, but because the original creator of Mad Max revitalized the story himself.