Sequels to beloved films always come with their own set of problems. In many cases, carrying on the narrative of a movie that was meant to be a one-time thing creates a whole series of issues, ranging from story questions to the matter of which characters are returning. Sudden sequel death syndrome is something you've seen even if you don't realize it. It usually happens when the star of the previous film returns for one or two scenes before they're hit by a bus or thrown off a building by a ghost.
Unfortunate and quick demises aren't even the worst-case scenario for an unceremonious end to a main character. In some sequels, the former main character will only receive a passing mention, and in a few, they're barely brought up at all, as if the filmmakers are trying to will them from the audience's memory.
While this trope tends to occur in the horror genre, every type of movie has committed this sequel sin. Musicals, spy thrillers, comedies, and even Academy Award-winning, genre-defining dramas have jettisoned major characters with barely a mention. It's lazy and unfortunate, but it happens all the time.
Why We Love Them: The finale of Aliens is one the most rousing and inspiring in science fiction history. Ripley wrecks shop on the queen Xenomorph, flamethrowers a ton of baby aliens, saves Newt (Carrie Henn), keeps Hicks (Michael Biehn) alive, and forms a kind of nuclear family. Why love Hicks? He's the one space marine who actually treats Ripley like the knowledgeable person she is and not like some kind of panicky woman. The third film in the series should have followed these three through the cosmos. Unfortunately, that's not what happened.
How They Came To An End: Aliens 3 is a drag all the way around. After a series of rewrites, Hicks and Newt were out and it was turned into a solo Ripley adventure. These two important characters were taken out in between films with a collision caused by a face hugger. That's a shame.34124Was this character done dirty?
- Photo: Dimension Films
Why We Love Her: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) may not be the first final girl, but she's gone toe-to-toe with Michael Myers throughout the Halloween franchise and come out on top more often than not. Aside from saving two children from their certain demise in the first film, Strode took Myers to the mat in Halloween: H20, a film that sees Strode reckon with PTSD and a masked slayer. She isn't just good at staying alive; she fights back and doesn't let Myers take what's important from her.
How She Came To An End: In one of the biggest bummers in horror history, Laurie is eliminated after it's revealed that she didn't actually finish off Michael Myers in Halloween: H20. The following film, Halloween: Resurrection, opens with Myers locating Strode at a mental institution, stabbing her, and throwing her off the roof. She's never mentioned again for the rest of the film. It's not just a missed opportunity to do something interesting with her character, but a slap in the face to everyone who cared about Strode throughout her journey.27030Was this character done dirty?
Why We Love Him: To put it simply, there's no Independence Day without Will Smith. Yes, everyone in this sci-fi action destruct-o-rama from Roland Emmerich is an absolute star, but it's Smith's movie star cool that sells it all. His heroic, action-star bona fides propel the film, and his intoxicating mismatched chemistry with Jeff Goldblum makes for one of the best action duos since Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold.
How He Came To An End: There are conflicting reports about why Smith didn't return for Independence Day: Resurgence. But whether it was money or scheduling, Smith is absent and there's not even a good excuse for why his character is out of the picture. The best that Emmerich and company could come up with was that Steve Hiller lost his life in a test flight of a craft built with alien technology. It's not really a fitting end for the guy who saved Earth the last time around.22020Was this character done dirty?
Why We Love Him: As the leader of the X-Men, Cyclops (James Marsden) has always been a bit of a boy scout, but that's why we care about him. He wants to believe in right and wrong so much that he tries desperately to be the leader the group needs, even when he's being pulled from both sides.
How He Came To An End: After losing the love of his life, Scott Summers drives to a lake, where he sees a vision of Jean Grey. What Scott doesn’t know is that she's actually the Dark Phoenix. The two former lovers embrace, and Scott is sent to mutant heaven OFF SCREEN. It’s a seriously rude ending for such an important character.23732Was this character done dirty?