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The 50 Most Disappointing Movie Sequels of All Time

A world where heroes never die, the same jokes never get old, and the odd numbered Star Trek movies always stink

The 50 most disappointing movie sequels of all time


Sequels are almost as old as Hollywood itself. Even before talkies hit the marketplace in 1927, studios were churning out follow-up movies like The Fall of a Nation and Don Q, Son of Zorro. The trend continued throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood with The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter, The Thin Man Goes Home, Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell, Jolson Sings Again, and Father’s Little Dividend. Blockbusters of the Seventies and Eighties like Star Wars, The Exorcist, Halloween, Ghostbusters, Batman, and Raiders of the Lost Ark launched film franchises that continue to this day.

It’s easy to understand why risk-averse studios are so eager to green-light sequels. If a formula worked once before, why not simply try again? It’s also much easier to market a familiar story than it is to introduce something new. The only problem is that precious few sequels in Hollywood history have ever lived up to the original. And for every Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Terminator 2: Judgment Day that truly justify their existence, there are about 300 movies like Weekend at Bernie’s II and Son of the Mask that, to put it kindly, do not.

A list of the worst sequels in history could be almost endless, and almost too easy. Few people turned on Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles or American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile and expected some great masterpiece. So in picking our list of the worst movie sequels, we limited the list to movies that seemed at the time like they might actually be worthwhile. We admit it’s very subjective. And it’s easy to fault us for expecting anything decent out of the latter-day Die Hard or Terminator movies, but they somehow managed to get our hopes up at least a little every single time. (If they made Terminator 37, we’d still walk in feeling hopeful. We’re fools.)

Please join us on this sad journey through Hollywood history where Michael Meyers is never truly dead, John McClane transforms from a regular police officer into an immortal killing machine, the odd numbered Star Trek movies always suck, and we wait in vain for the day any Jurassic Park sequel is even halfway watchable.


Batman and Robin (1997)

The Batman franchise was already in serious decline by the time 1997’s Batman and Robin came around. Michael Keaton handed over the Batsuit to Val Kilmer for 1995’s Batman Forever, and Tim Burton ceded his director’s chair to Joel Schumacher. The result was a less-than-stellar movie, especially when compared to the dark brilliance of Batman Returns, but Jim Carrey’s manic energy as the Riddler (along with great songs by U2 and Seal) prevented it from being a total train wreck. Nothing could have prepared us, however, for the horrors of Batman and Robin. George Clooney is the Dark Knight in this one, and he battles Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. He’s joined by not only Chris O’Donnell as Robin, but Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. It’s a clusterfuck of characters, plot incoherence, and cheeseball, pun-filled dialogue straight out of a McBain movie (“It’s ice to see you”; “Let’s kick some ice.”) Nearly every person involved with the movie condemned it in the years that followed, especially Clooney. “It’s a terrible screenplay,” he told Howard Stern in 2020. “I’m terrible in it. Joel Schumacher, who just passed away, directed it, and he’d say, ‘Yeah, it didn’t work.’ We all whiffed on that one.”


Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

It wasn’t until the Seventies that hit movies routinely generated sequels. That’s why we have The Godfather II, Jaws II, Rocky II, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and many others. The astronomical success of The Exorcist in 1973 guaranteed a follow-up chapter. But Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty and original movie director William Friedkin didn’t want to be involved in 1978’s Exorcist II: The Heretic since they were in the midst of a lawsuit with the studio over profits from the first one. The studio did manage to bring back Linda Blair and Max von Sydow, but that wasn’t nearly enough to salvage this low-budget trainwreck of a movie where poor Regan, now a teenager, deals with the aftermath of the demonic possession from the first movie. “There had to be a sequel,” wrote Vinceny Canby in The New York Times, “but did it have to be this desperate concoction, the main thrust of which is that the original exorcism wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?”


Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

After the stunning ineptitude of 2009’s Terminator: Salvation, the franchise bounced back to “somewhat watchable” status with 2015’s Terminator Genisys. The critics disagree with us here, and it’s not like Genisys is a masterpiece, but at least it was a little fun. (It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the criminally underrated 2008-09 Fox series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.) And when news hit that Linda Hamilton was finally returning to play Sarah Connor in 2015’s The Terminator: Dark Fate, it was hard not to feel genuine excitement. James Cameron signed on as producer. Hope was in the air. Then we saw the actual movie. In the first few minutes, a de-aged Hamilton watches a teenage John Connor get killed by a Terminator shortly after the events of T2, basically nullifying the entire movie. We flash-forward several years, and Skynet is at its old tricks again. It has sent yet another robot back in time. A grizzled Connor has to protect people that will be pivotal in the future. They meet up with an elderly Arnold, who once again helps them survive. We’ve seen this many times before. Once the thrill of seeing Hamilton in her badass Sarah Connor mode wears off, this becomes just another rote action movie. There’s been talk of another Terminator reboot, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen. Haven’t we all suffered enough at this point? 


The Hangover 3 (2013)

The third Hangover ditches the premise of the first two movies where four buddies have a debauched night on the town, wake up without any memories of it, and try to retrace their steps to find someone they lost along the way. It was insane enough this happened a second time, but moving the action from Las Vegas to Bangkok in the sequel was clever and occasionally quite funny. In the third one, they head back to Sin City for an adventure that’s heavy on plot and action, but very light on actual laughs. It also gives Ken Jeong a much bigger role than he had in the first two, but a little bit of his psychotic Leslie Chow character goes a very long way. And bringing everything back to Vegas just reminded us of the superiority of the first movie. “The second didn’t have to be funny, and wasn’t, but at least existed somewhere in the general vicinity of that borderless country known as Comedy,” Rick Groen wrote in The Globe and Mail. “Part Three doesn’t, not even remotely, which makes it not just bad, but weirdly, fascinatingly bad. What exactly is this? Certainly a cash cow, definitely an exercise in cynicism, maybe even a cri de coeur from the self-hating principals. Whatever, a comedy it ain’t.”


A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Live Free or Die Hard is not a good movie by any standard. But it’s practically Raiders of the Lost Ark compared to the flaming pile of dog shit that is 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard. There’s no pretext that John McClane is a regular human being in this one. He’s a superhero that couldn’t be killed by conventional or even unconventional weapons. The plot barely matters, but it revolves around an ill-fated trip to Russia where he teams up with his son, played by Jai Courtney, and fights all sorts of evil dudes. They visit Chernobyl, fire off about 10,000 rounds of ammo, and a helicopter flies into a building. Bruce Willis says, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!” and everyone laughs because it reminds them of better Die Hard movies. There was talk of a sixth Die Hard for years, but that’s impossible now that Willis is retired from acting. Tragically, the franchise ended with A Good Day to Die Hard. The best thing we can do now is pretend the last two Die Hard movies were just bad dreams McClane had in the final years of his life. 


Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

Keanu Reeves isn’t opposed to signing on for sequels. He’s made four Matrix movies, four John Wicks, and three Bill and Ted’s. But when the makers of Speed 2: Cruise Control came to him, he had some doubts. “It was just a situation in life where I got the script and I read the script and I was like, ‘Ugh,’” Reeves recalled to Jimmy Kimmel in 2015. “It was about a cruise ship, and I was thinking, ‘A bus, a cruise ship.… Speed, bus, but then a cruise ship is even slower than a bus, and I was like, ‘I love you guys, but I just can’t do it.’” They carried forward with Jason Patrick essentially in the Reeves role, but it was a mistake. Reeves was 100 percent right to realize that a speeding cruise ship simply isn’t very scary. The film was a critical fiasco that forever killed the franchise and was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry awards. This was a good lesson. If Keanu Reeves thinks your movie is dumb, don’t do it. He knows what he’s talking about. 


Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

The initial expectations for Star Trek: Nemesis were very high. Fans were desperate to see the Next Generation cast after a four-year hiatus, and they were returning in an even-numbered movie. The ironclad rule up to that point was that the even-numbered Trek films were all great. Tragically, the streak ended with Star Trek: Nemesis in spectacular fashion. The enemy this time around is Shinzon, a young clone of Picard (played by Tom Hardy) that took over the Romulan empire. (Pay no attention to the fact that Hardy doesn’t look a damn thing like Patrick Stewart at any age.) At the climax of the movie, Data sacrifices himself to save Picard. That’s probably the only moment anyone that saw Nemesis in the theater can recall. The rest is a boring blur of cheesy special effects and dialogue that reads like it was written by ChatGPT. What went wrong? “The director was an idiot,” said Counselor Troi actress Marina Sirtis. “I guess that’s a fair assessment of someone that wasn’t willing to take advantage of the help he was offered.” The movie was such a bomb that TNG never appeared on the big screen again. Thankfully, they returned for the Paramount+ show Star Trek: Picard in 2020. In a clear acknowledgement that Nemesis was a complete turd, they gave Data another death scene. 


Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to pull off. For every successful attempt like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey or Addams Family Values, you have 50 fiascos like Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment or Meet the Fockers. We won’t list either of those films on this list since no reasonable person expected them to be any good. That’s not the case for Dumb and Dumber To, which reunited Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels with directors Peter and Bobby Farrell 20 years after the original Dumb and Dumber. The moronic duo of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne travel cross country again in this one, but this time they’re searching for Dunne’s lost daughter. After the initial thrill of seeing Carey and Daniels back in character wears off, it becomes clear a Dumb and Dumber sequel is way better as an idea than an actual movie. It’s also so shockingly unfunny it almost makes you question the value of the first one. But don’t do that. The first one is one of the funniest movies of the Nineties. It’s Jim Carrey at his absolute peak. Dumb and Dumber To is a sad retread. 


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

It may be slightly hard to remember now, but there was enormous excitement surrounding Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull back in 2008. We’d waited through 19 very long Indy-free years at this point, and we finally had Harrison Ford back in his fedora with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair. They even brought in Karen Allen to reprise her role as Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. They also brought in Shia LaBeouf as Indy’s greaser son, Mutt, Cate Blanchett as an evil Soviet, a muddled plot about KGB agents and extraterrestrial life, and sequences where Mutt swings from vines like Tarzan and Indy survives a nuclear blast in a refrigerator. It simply doesn’t cohere into a fun movie that can remotely compare to the first three. “Reckless daring is what’s missing from Crystal Skull,” David Denby wrote in The New Yorker. “The movie leaves a faint aura of depression, because you don’t want to think of daring as the exclusive property of youth. There must be a way for middle-aged men to take chances and leap over chasms, but repeating themselves with less conviction isn’t it.”


Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

If you were at least a somewhat dorky teenager in the Eighties or Nineties, you probably have fond memories of the first Highlander movie. It stars Christopher Lambert as an immortal being from the 16th-century Scottish Highlands who battles other immortals in mid-Eighties New York City. The 1991 sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening, roped Sean Connery into the saga, and holy mother of God, it is an unholy mess. Not only does it completely violate established Highlander canon by transforming the immortals into aliens from another planet, it was filmed on the cheap in Argentina, and director Russell Mulcahy was removed from the postproduction process so the producers could totally butcher his original (admittedly flawed) vision. It often ranks very high on lists of the worst movies in history. “Highlander II: The Quickening is the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day — a movie almost awesome in its badness,” wrote Roger Ebert. “Wherever science-fiction fans gather, in decades and generations to come, this film will be remembered in hushed tones as one of the immortal low points of the genre.”


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Being a Star Wars fan means dealing with a lot of bitter disappointment. This is a franchise with 12 movies, of which only about four or five are universally loved. Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace is often cited as the low point, but we’re not counting prequels on this list. (It’s also not quite as awful as the lore suggests. Watch it again with an open mind.) But the biggest disappointment in Star Wars history came in 2019 with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. After 42 years and 50 bazillion hours of fevered fan speculation, the world was finally seeing the (supposed) conclusion of the Skywalker saga. This was going to be the one that resolved all of the lingering issues, gave our heroes one last adventure, and ended the franchise on a perfectly satisfying note. Things got off to a bad start in the opening crawl when we learned Emperor Palpatine was back in the picture, which is something they never bothered to explain beyond Poe’s infamous “somehow Palpatine returned” line midway through the film. And after the prior film told us that Rey came from a humble background, meaning anyone could rise from obscurity and become a Jedi, we learn she’s actually a Palpatine. It was one of many ways that returning director J.J. Abrams tried to nullify Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi. We spend time with Luke Skywalker as a force ghost, Han Solo as some other sort of apparition, Princess Leah via clumsily edited archival footage, Chewie, R2D2, C-3PO, and even Lando Calrissian, but nothing feels satisfying about any of it. It just feels like a bunch of random Star Wars images and characters thrown into a blender. It still earned more than $1 billion, but the reaction was so abysmal that Disney radically switched course and put all of its Star Wars energy into TV shows. We’re heard endless reports and rumors about additional movies, but none of them have actually gone into production. Something has to happen eventually. The Star Wars cinematic experience can’t forever end on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Somehow Star Wars has to return.