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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.

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  • The One Great Movie: Jurassic Park

    Why It's The Best: The most surprising thing about Jurassic Park's crap sequel, The Lost World, is that Spielberg directed it. Drawing off audience love for Jeff Goldblum in the first film, he was made the star of the sequel. But the stars were always the dinosaurs. And while the first movie actually made some sense (in a sci-fi way), a T-Rex hiding on the streets of San Diego was just too much. And don't even with the kid who survived alone in the third movie. Utter preposterousness. 

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  • The One Great Movie: Terminator: 2 Judgment Day 

    Why It's The Best: This one is debatable, as some will say the original is the best, but Judgment Day improved upon its predecessor in some key areas. First of all, it had a much bigger budget, which not only allowed for better CGI, but bigger (and in this case, actually better) action sequences. Then there's the fact that Arnold became the hero as he was meant to be, while Sarah Connor was allowed to become a heroine, not a damsel in distress. For all this Terminator 2 wins for Best In Franchise.

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  • The One Great Movie: Iron Man

    Why It's The Best: Robert Downey Jr. He was an absolute revelation as Tony Stark, and Iron Man was the spark that set off the largest and most intricate cinematic universe of all time. What's more, this was before people were tired of superhero origin stories, which made it that much easier to appreciate. Finally, it had the best plot and the best villain. The personal relationship between Stark and villain Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) brought it all home.

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  • The One Great Movie: Shrek

    Why It's The Best: Shrek was a fairy tale that ended happily ever after... until the sequel. Shrek 2 was good, but it shouldn't have happened. Shrek was nearly perfect. Hilarious for kids, even funnier for adults. It's subversion of fairy tale tropes and blended with topical humor was so nuanced and new that it's no surprise it spawned four sequels. Unfortunately, none of them came anywhere close to capturing the magic of the original.

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