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15 Wildly Successful Movie Franchises (That Only Have One Great Film)

Updated February 23, 2021 32.3k votes 3.9k voters 67.2k views15 items

List RulesVote up the movies that make the other films in their franchises look like crap.

Movie franchises often vary in quality from one movie to the next. Many of them have a few passable movies, but how many movie franchises have only one good movie? A lot. Which logically makes them bad movie franchises. One great movie is often enough to keep viewers coming back to a franchise. Movie series with one single solid entry are real head scratchers. The one good movie is a reminder of all the seriously missed opportunities.

There are some movie franchises that went off the rails after an initial success. And then there are those rare instances when a sequel turned out better than the first installment. Here are a bunch of movie franchises with one good movie that stood out over all the rest. Spoiler: Some of these might make you mad. Oh, and like, actual spoilers ahead, as well.

  • The One Great Movie: Transformers

    Why It's The Best: The first Transformers - whether or not it's a classically "good" movie - was a dream come true. It filled viewers with wonder and that sound! Oh, that sound alone when the transforming begins... so beautiful. We could ignore the Michael Bay-ness of the first, (explosions drown out coherent plot and character development) but it became impossible after that. The rest just suck and try to captivate with the same visuals and noises audiences have grown numb to.

    Only good movie in the franchise?
  • The One Great Movie: The Matrix

    Why It's The Best: Not only was The Matrix a reimagining of the Chosen One archetype, the subject of the film was a radically innovative dive into a deep philosophical question: What if our world isn't real? It blew people's minds. And then the sequels came along, and they became CGI action flicks. And the CGI was the stuff of uncanny valleys. Well, it was then. Now it's just crap. 

    Only good movie in the franchise?
  • The One Great Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

    Why It's The Best: Well, for one, because it's the first. Pirates of the Caribbean was an instant phenomenon because it was so fresh and fun. It was the first Disney park-inspired film to put the gimmicks aside and focus on a more natural story of swashbuckling adventure. That iconic Hans Zimmer score doesn't hurt either. But people quickly cooled to Johnny Depp's zany character despite it being one of the things that made the first film great in the first place. Disney thought the strength of Jack Sparrow would carry the franchise, and the second and third films fared well at the box office, but the final films proved they'd lost touch with the heart of the original. 

    Only good movie in the franchise?
  • The One Great Movie: Men in Black

    Why It's The Best: Men in Black was unique and fresh. It is a perfect blend of action, humor, and genuine sweetness. The dynamic between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is perfect and brought it all home. And it has a surprisingly tender ending. And then the filmmakers undid all that with the film's sequels, even resorting to putting testicals on an alien's chin. The franchise unraveled after the first film. They should have quit while they were ahead.

    Only good movie in the franchise?