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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.


Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

The initial announcement that Natalie Portman was returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder was greeted with real excitement. She’d been AWOL since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, despite playing a pretty big role in the saga as Jane Foster, Thor’s astrophysicist girlfriend. Excitement grew when fans learned she was going to finally wield the hammer herself and take on the role of the Mighty Thor. But then word slipped out that the character was battling stage 4 cancer. The script tries to balance out this colossal bummer with an endless series of comic sequences that creates a very odd overall tone. If you don’t believe us, listen to Thor himself, Chris Hemworth: “I got caught up in the improv and the wackiness, and I became a parody of myself,” he told Vanity Fair this year. “I didn’t stick the landing.”


Alien Resurrection (1997)

The first three Alien movies were directed by three of the best directors of their time: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and David Fincher. The third one was a letdown, since Fincher was still a novice, the studio didn’t fully trust him, and the screenplay was never really finished. But it remains a David Fincher movie that’s intermittently innovative and interesting. The same can’t be said for 1997’s Alien Resurrection. It takes place on a military spaceship 200 years after Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character died at the end of Alien 3. She’s cloned from a drop of her blood, and somehow her memories are intact. They also bring back the Xenomorph alien species, which is a very, very bad idea. (Haven’t these people heard about the events of the first three movies?) Needless to say, the Xenomorphs grow, reproduce, and start killing. Winona Ryder enters the story, and we eventually learn she’s a robot. Ripley once again batters the shit out of the Xenomorph, but haven’t we seen this all before? “This is a series whose inspiration has come, gone, and been forgotten,” wrote Roger Ebert. “I’m aliened out.”


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

For a while, it was popular to cite Spider-Man 3 as the low point of the franchise. But time has been somewhat kind to Emo Spider-Man and his Pete Wentz haircut, and a small cult (as well as endless memes) have grown around its weirdness. And even if you think Spider-Man 3 is a bloated sludge of a movie with too many villains, it’s clearly superior to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which marked the premature end of the Andrew Garfield era. It’s the one where Jamie Foxx plays Electro, Paul Giamatti takes on the Rhino role, the Green Goblin returns, and Gwen (played by Emma Stone) falls to her death. This was the fifth Spider-Man movie in a 12-year period, and it all just feels like a rehash of things we’ve seen before, along with an effort to set up about six different spinoff movies and sequels. “The studios and the producers have to split the difference — between excellence and adequacy, between darkness and light, between seriousness and fun,” Wesley Morris wrote on Grantland. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 might have been split too far. It doesn’t taste like anything.” 


U.S. Marshals (1998)

The huge success of 1993’s The Fugitive meant a sequel was somewhat inevitable, even though any such project was basically doomed from the start. There was no logical way for Harrison Ford to be framed for a second murder, escape from the law, and get chased around again by Tommy Lee Jones. It would have been preposterous, and Ford was never going to sign on to such a thing. The only move was to send Jones’ Samuel Gerard character and his team of U.S. Marshals after another unjustly accused man. That’s what happened in 1998’s U.S. Marshals, where Wesley Snipes takes over for Harrison Ford as the man on the run. The movie was a modest hit, but it has aged terribly. Jones himself isn’t even willing to defend it these days. “The thing that drove The Fugitive was that we weren’t chasing just a normal doctor,” he told Rolling Stone in our 2023 oral history of The Fugitive. “Whatever we were doing, we were chasing Harrison Ford, and I think he was the engine of the movie. With U.S. Marshals, we had a different director, had a different approach, and it just wasn’t … the movie wasn’t as good as The Fugitive.” It’s impossible to argue with that. 


Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The Star Trek film franchise got off to an extremely shaky start with the snoozefest that is 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which just made 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan all the more stunning. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock was a minor letdown in 1984, but words can barely describe our love for 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That’s the bonkers time-travel one with the whales that’s as fun to watch the 200th time as the first. Leonard Nimoy was given the chance to direct that one, which is why William Shatner demanded the director’s chair for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It’s about the search for God at the center of the universe and an evil Vulcan named Sybok, but it barely matters. Nothing about the movie works, especially the cringe scene of Spock, Kirk, and Bones singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” around a campfire. It was such a fiasco that 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was designed as a farewell to the OG cast. 


Caddyshack 2 (1988)

Imagine a version of Caddyshack without Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Lacey Underdall, a single quotable line or even a single laugh. Whatever comes to mind is surely nowhere near as horrid as Caddyshack 2. Chevy Chase is the only returning cast member, and he’s joined by Robert Stack, Randy Quaid, Dyan Cannon, Chyna Phillips, and Dan Aykroyd in the thankless Bill Murray role as the groundskeeper. That’s a good cast, but they can’t save this terrible movie about a millionaire buying the country club and turning it into an amusement park. Original Caddyshack director Harold Ramis is credited as a co-writer, but he denounced the movie in later years and said he nearly had his name removed. The ultimate red flag here is that Dangerfield deemed this movie beneath his standards. This is a man (albeit a comic genius) that took parts in Meet Wally Sparks, My 5 Wives, and The 4th Tenor. He was willing to accept almost any role that put him on the big screen, but not Caddyshack 2. It was the right move. Nothing could have saved Caddyshack 2, not even Rodney. 


Halloween Kills (2021)

The original Halloween, in 1978, is a horror classic that paved the way for A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and many other slasher films of the Eighties. But much like the franchises it spawned, Halloween begat sequel after sequel that fell flat in profound ways. A miracle happened in 2018 when Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the fold for Halloween, which ignored every film after the first one, and managed to create genuine chills by showing a grizzled, gray-haired Laurie Strode battling Michael Meyers yet again. They should have left it there. The 2021 sequel isolates Strode in a hospital room for much of the movie while Meyers wanders through the town of Haddonfield on yet another killing spree. Familiar faces from the original movie show up, including Kyle Richards from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, who acted in the first movie as a child. But the whole thing feels like a tired, pointless rerun. It was also designed to set up a third and final movie, 2022’s Halloween Ends, but they should have learned the lesson of the first movie. You can’t just keep redoing these things over and over. More important, a movie should stand on its own. It shouldn’t feel like connective tissue between two others.


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Future film historians will have real fun trying to pinpoint the exact moment the Marvel Cinematic Universe jumped the shark. Some will point to Eternals in 2021, Thor: Love and Thunder in 2022, or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that same year. But it’s a safe bet that 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be mentioned many times. Marvel was pounding out content at a furious clip when the movie went into production, and resources were spread way too thin across numerous TV shows and movies. Postproduction was rushed on this third Ant-Man movie, and the special-effects team was focused on wrapping up Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The result was a movie that literally didn’t look finished when it hit theaters. When you throw in a confusing, tired plot about Ant-Man and his family accidentally entering the “Quantum Realm” (ask your 11-year-old nephew what that means), you’ve got a real mess on your hands. “Everyone just kind of wanders through this movie — through its elaborate, colorful, cluttered, psychedelic-album-cover-style environments,” wrote New York critic Bilge Ebiri. “They occasionally crack jokes or cross their arms. Nothing seems to match. If you told me that the actors had been shot before the filmmakers decided what they would be looking at or interacting with, I’d believe you.”


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (2014)

The Harry Potter franchise set a very bad precedent when the final book in the series was turned into two movies. This was justifiable in the Potter case, since that’s a 607-page book that would have been tough to boil down to one satisfying movie. But it made no narrative sense whatsoever to take the 390-page Mockingjay, the final Hunger Games novel, and stretch it into two movies. The first one clocks in at an agonizing 123 minutes, where very little happens of any real importance. Katniss and her buddies enter an underground district and prepare for a grand revolution, but it’s all just a setup for the second chapter. (There’s also the problem that this is a Hunger Games movie where we don’t get the payoff of an actual Hunger Games.) The movie was a hit and critics were once again impressed by the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, but even director Francis Lawrence says it was wrong to make two movies out of one book. “What I realized in retrospect — and after hearing all the reactions and feeling the kind of wrath of fans, critics, and people at the split — is that I realized it was frustrating,” he told People in 2023. “And I can understand it.… I totally regret [splitting the movies]. I totally do. I’m not sure everybody does, but I definitely do.”


The Godfather Part III (1990)

It would be deeply unfair to put the third Godfather movie on a list of the 50 worst sequels in Hollywood history. It’s a much better film than its reputation suggests, and placing it alongside Alien vs. Predator or Weekend at Bernie’s 2 would be cruel. It also has perhaps the most quoted line (“Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in”) in any Godfather movie. But this is a list of disappointing sequels, and expectations for this movie were just off the charts. The Godfather is arguably the greatest movie in history. The Godfather II is inarguably the greatest sequel in history. There was no way a third film that came 16 years after the second one would do anything but disappoint. The fact that Robert Duvall backed out over a salary dispute, and Winona Ryder quit shortly before filming, causing director Francis Ford Coppola to give his teenager daughter Sophia a key role, didn’t help matters much. The movie still reunited Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talie Shire with director Coppola, and grossed $137 million, but to call it anything short of a disappointment would be wrong.


Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 has one of the greatest taglines in history: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …” That’s just about the only memorable thing about the movie, which is about another killer shark descending on Amity Island that Roy Scheider is forced to battle. This time around, it nearly kills his son before he electrocutes it and once again saves the town. (Does work like this really fall under the jurisdiction of the police chief?) Steven Spielberg was too busy working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind to direct it, but he also had little desire to head back into the water after all the difficulties he faced making the first one. He also knew that topping it would be impossible. To be very clear, the third and fourth Jaws movies were significantly worse. Jaws 2 fails in rather pedestrian ways. Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge fail in spectacularly inept (and often hysterical) ways. But nobody walked into either of those movies thinking they were seeing any sort of masterpiece. People had high hopes for Jaws 2, and they left deeply disappointed. 


Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

The 1999 film calendar was crammed with so many remarkable movies that many critics are now calling it one of the single greatest years in Hollywood history. And even in the middle of all of that brilliance, The Blair Witch Project stood out. The “found footage” horror movie was shot on a microbudget of just $60,000, but still managed to scare the living shit out of everyone who saw it. A sequel was inevitable. Sadly, it completely disregarded the DIY feel of the original, along with anything that felt even remotely original despite being directed by Paradise Lost creator Joe Berlinger. We instead get a very traditional horror flick about a group of Blair Witch Project fans who head to the site of the first movie, Burkittsville, Maryland, and find themselves battling an evil force. “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a not a very lucid piece of filmmaking (and contains no Book of Shadows),” wrote Roger Ebert. “I suppose it seems clear enough to Berlinger, who co-wrote it and helped edit it, but one viewing is not enough to make the material clear, and the material is not intriguing enough, alas, to inspire a second viewing.”


Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Die Hard: With a Vengeance is one of the greatest threequels in the history of action movies, largely because they brought back original Die Hard director John McTiernan after leaving him out of the underwhelming second movie. A fourth movie didn’t materialize for another 12 years. This time around, Underworld director Les Wiseman was at the helm. He was working with a ridiculous script where John McClane battles a cyberterrorist in Washington, D.C. Bruce Willis practically has superpowers in it. At one moment, he destroys a flying helicopter by driving a car into it. It’s so ridiculous that even Michael Scott on The Office couldn’t enjoy it. “Here’s the thing about Die Hard 4,” he said in one episode. “Die Hard 1, the original, John McClain is just this normal guy, you know? He’s just a normal New York City cop who gets his feet cut, he gets beat up. But he’s an everyday guy. In Die Hard 4, he is jumping a motorcycle into a helicopter in the air. You know? He’s invincible. It’s just sort of lost from Die Hard 1. It’s not Terminator.” For once, Michael Scott is completely right. 


Major League II (1994)

Creating a sequel to Major League wasn’t a crazy idea. We never even saw the misfit group of Cleveland Indians play in the World Series in the original movie, which remains one of the best sports films in history. And Major League II did manage to reunite the original cast, with the sole exception of Wesley Snipes, who was replaced by Omar Epps. The crazy idea of Major League II was downgrading the R rating from the original all the way to PG. It neutered the characters in every way possible. Who wants a Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn who can’t swear? You want to hear “locker-room talk” in the locker room. The movie also felt like a bland rehash of the original. “There has rarely been such a steep and strange decline between a movie and its sequel as the one between the fast, silly original and the dismal, boring Major League II,” Caryn James wrote in The New York Times. “While the first film ran riot with baseball cliches, this one plods along and almost takes them seriously.


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2017)

In 2003, Disney somehow turned its Mad Men-era Pirates of the Caribbean theme-park attraction into a Johnny Depp movie that grossed more than $650 million. The first two sequels racked up an astonishing $1 billion each, and earned surprisingly respectable reviews, considering the source material. But director Gore Verbinski stepped aside for the fourth movie in favor of Rob Marshall, though it’s slightly unfair to blame him for the bloated, painfully unfunny mess that is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The franchise simply ran out of gas at this point, and no amount of special-effects wizardry was going to change that. “Its pleasures are so meager, its delight in its own inventions so forced and false, that it becomes almost the perfect opposite of entertainment,” wrote A.O. Scott in The New York Times. “To insist otherwise is a variation on the sunk-cost fallacy. Since you exchanged money for fun, fun is surely what you must have purchased, and you may cling to that idea in the face of contrary evidence. But trust me on this: This movie would be a rip-off even if someone paid you to see it.”


More American Graffiti (1979)

The original American Graffiti, in 1973, was such a colossal pop-culture force that it somehow gave the world Happy Days, Star Wars, and the entire concept of rock & roll oldies. (We’re only slightly exaggerating here.) The George Lucas film took place during one very long night in 1962, but the 1979 sequel, written and directed by Bill Norton, is spread across four New Year’s Eves between 1964 and 1967. Nearly the entire cast, except Richard Dreyfuss, returned from the original (there’s even a Harrison Ford cameo), but the story leaps erratically back and forth through time, sometimes using split screens, and it’s very hard to follow. It also simply lacks the fun and innocence of the first one. Unsurprisingly, it was also a huge box-office bomb that marked the end of Ron Howard’s acting career.


Coming 2 America (2021)

Eddie Murphy spent decades resisting calls to make a sequel to 1988’s Coming to America before finally surrendering in 2021. It was a mistake. The movie is so desperate to evoke nostalgia by bringing back characters, set pieces, and sight gags from the original that it fails to tell a compelling story of its own. Yes, there’s a thin plot about Murphy coming back to Queens, New York, in search of his lost son, but it’s just an excuse for Murphy to lather on latex and makeup to play the old men in the barber shop that are somehow still alive. The scenes back in the fake African nation of Zamunda are even less effective. It’s briefly fun to see Murphy, Arsenio Hall, and the old gang back together, but how many of you watched it even a single time after the first viewing? Be honest. 


Wonder Woman: 1984 (2020)

The problem with Wonder Woman: 1984 isn’t the cast or even the director. Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Chris Prine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, and Robin Wright are all capable of remarkable work. And the first Wonder Woman movie in 2017 is one of the great superhero movies of the past decade. And the problem isn’t even the decision to move the action from World War I to the Reagan decade. That was clever since it opened up so many creative possibilities for the narrative. The problem is the script, which finds Wonder Woman working at the Smithsonian, where she comes across an ancient artifact that grants wishes. This causes her co-worker to transform herself into an evil cheetah, and grants a twisted businessman immense power. This is all much cheesier than it even sounds. The movie hit near the peak of Covid, and most people saw it on Max instead of the big screen. The reaction was not kind, to put it mildly. “Three years ago, Wonder Woman emerged amid a reckoning on male abuse and power; the timing was coincidental, but it also made the character feel meaningful,” Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times. “In 2017, when Wonder Woman was done saving the world, her horizons seemed limitless. I didn’t expect that her next big adult battle would be at the mall.”


Zoolander 2 (2016)

The temptation for Ben Stiller to film a Zoolander sequel must have been intense. The 2001 fashion-industry spoof wasn’t a huge commercial or critical hit, but that was largely because it had the misfortune of landing in theaters just weeks after 9/11. We weren’t exactly in a laughing mood at the time. A giant cult of Zoolander fans emerged in the years that followed, but what they really just wanted to do was watch it over and over, sprinkle quotes into everyday conversation, and attend the occasional midnight screening. They didn’t want a second one packed with more celebrity cameos than actual jokes, and endless callbacks to the original. “There are some clever bits, and the satire is at times scathing,” wrote film critic James Berardinelli, “but, on the whole, moments of hilarity are like oases in a desert of tedium.” 


Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

After years of shoddy odd-numbered Star Trek films, fans hoped for a new pattern once the Next Generation crew took over in the mid-Nineties. Their hopes were raised with the release of 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, which is one of the greatest science-fiction movies of the Nineties. But then came the crushing disappointment of 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection. Captain Picard and the gang were back together, and Jonathan Frakes was once again directing, but the movie was an enormous step backward. The story centers around the Federation’s attempt to displace the population of a peaceful planet that had discovered a way to live forever. This would have been an interesting two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it simply didn’t feel like a movie. “Insurrection is a muddled, gimpy mess, filled with the worst sort of Trek clichés and ill-timed humorous outbursts,” Marc Salvov wrote in The Austin Chronicle. “On top of that, the film might as well have been edited by Mr. Scott in the midst of a Romulan-ale bender: Plot points appear out of nowhere, and voluminous backstory seems to have been dropped in favor of bigger, better explosions and forehead-slappingly bad double entendres. Is this Star Trek or Friends in Space?”


City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994)

Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz are a brilliant writing duo that gave the world A League of Their Own, Parenthood, Splash, Spies Like Us, and Mr. Saturday Night. “We’ve done one sequel in our entire career,” Ganz told Rolling Stone in 2022. “That’s City Slickers. And the reason we don’t do more is we put our characters where we want them to be.” Mandel framed the issue in a more concise way: “The story is over. It’s done.” The story of City Slickers was definitely over after the events of the first movie, but it was such a giant hit that they were coaxed into writing a sequel. It finds Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern back on horses in the West on a mission to find lost gold. (Bruno Kirby had the good sense to avoid this one. He was essentially replaced by Jon Lovitz.) And even though Jack Palance’s Curly character dies in the original City Slickers, he returns in this one as Curly’s brother Duke. “What I missed was the rich humor and the human comedy of the original film — where the people, not the plot, were what mattered,” Roger Eberot wrote. “By the end of the film, with Slickers II also borrowing from the Indiana Jones movies, I was overcome with deja vu and indifference.”


Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

There are a lot of problems with Blues Brothers 2000, starting with the fact that John Belushi died 16 years before it came out. That’s an insurmountable issue that should have ended any talk of a sequel. But Dan Aykroyd’s never come across a franchise he isn’t willing to drive into the ground. And if he was willing to participate in My Girl 2, five Ghostbusters (and counting) movies, and even (shudder) Caddyshack 2, he was certainly down to try and revive The Blues Brothers in 1998 with help from John Goodman, Joe Morton, and child actor J. Evan Bonifant. They were joined by a truly impressive lineup of musical icons, including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, and many, many others. It could be the greatest assemblage of musical talent ever to appear on film. But it’s not enough to make Blues Brothers 2000 a watchable movie. It’s about Elwood Blues getting out of prison and putting the band back together, but it just feels sad and pointless without Jake by his side. 


Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day was the highest grossing movie of 1996, raking in more than $800 million. It was also an incredibly fun popcorn movie as long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about the fact mankind foiled an alien invasion by uploading a virus to their ship’s mainframe from a rinky-dink Windows 95-era laptop. (The aliens mastered interstellar travel, but they didn’t have even rudimentary virus protection? How did these computer systems even line up in the first place?) Rumors of a sequel swirled for years, but Will Smith wanted such a colossal payday they eventually moved forward without him for 2011’s Independence Day: Resurgence. They did manage to bring back Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Vivica A. Fox, but what they didn’t have was an original idea. The aliens return. The world unites against them. Pullman gives another inspiring speech through a bullhorn. Yawn. If this movie hit in 1999 or so, it would have likely been a huge hit. But we had to wait 15 years for this thing. By that point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in full swing. It made this limp Independence Day retread feel very tired and just wildly unnecessary. 


Cars 2 (2011)

The original Cars is basically Doc Hollywood in a bizarre, post-human world where cars are talking, autonomous beings. They should have ripped off another great movie for the sequel, which sends Lightning McQueen and his team to Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix. Along the way, they get entangled with some British spies. The whole thing reeks like a quickie cash-grab designed to sell toy cars. It’s one of the few Pixar movies to have a “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Will your kids have fun?” Logan Hill asked in his Vulture review. “Sure, though the green-energy subplot is too intricate. As for the parents, politically, it feels like a focus-grouped cop-out. Lefties will be flattered by the cars’ environmental ideals; conservatives will cheer when it turns out that green energy doesn’t work. Worry not, Disney shareholders: No automotive cross-branding opportunity was risked.” (The movie never explains what happened to the humans in the Cars universe. The cars clearly went Terminator and killed them all when they became self-aware, right?)


Terminator: Salvation (2009)

There’s something about The Terminator that keeps bringing people back into the theaters despite the plainly obvious fact that the series simply cannot work without James Cameron. And as much as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines disappointed the Terminator faithful, it at least had Arnold Schwarzenegger and a powerful ending that gave the series somewhere to build toward. The nuclear holocaust was here, and now John Connor had to lead the resistance. That’s a premise for a pretty great movie. But 2009’s Terminator: Salvation was nothing even remotely great, despite casting Christian Bale as the newest John Connor. Arnold was busy serving as the governor of California at the time, and there’s not a single actor in it from the previous movies. It’s about the early days of Connor’s leadership during the war against Skynet. Lots of things blow up. There are chases. It’s all just an endless green screen of blah. An infamous audio leak from the set revealed that Bale had a complete meltdown at one point and chewed out director McG and members of the crew when a take was interrupted. “Am I going to walk around and rip your fucking lights down, in the middle of a scene?” he roars. “Then why the fuck are you walking right through like this in the background. What the fuck is it with you? Give me a fucking answer!” This audio was 100 times more entertaining than any moment in Salvation. 


Superman 4 (1987)

It’s tempting to put Superman 3 on this list since it’s such an oddball outlier in the history of the franchise, but there’s a certain goofy charm to the movie. Throwing Richard Pryor into the world of Metropolis as a computer genius still makes us chuckle. But there’s nothing even remotely amusing about 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. It’s a shockingly inept movie about Superman trying to rid the world of atomic weapons, and battling the foe Nuclear Man. The film was shot on a shoestring budget, and that’s clear in every single frame. It’s hard to believe the original film came out less than 10 years prior. “The script of Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal contains neither bite nor gleam, and the movie has no propulsion,” wrote Michael Wilmington of the Los Angles Times. “By the end, the editing takes on a meat-ax fervor, as [one character] disappears mysteriously and the loose ends are given a violently perfunctory last-second wrap-up. The overall effect is of a story atomized and dying before our eyes, collapsing into smashed pulp, ground down into big-budget Kryptonite ash.” The film was such a disaster that it wasn’t until 2006 that another Superman movie hit theaters. It was a direct sequel to the original two Superman movies, and pretended like Superman 4 didn’t exist. Sadly for us, it does exist. 


Sex and the City 2 (2010)

The temptation in sequels is often to move the action to an exotic overseas location since it opens up all sorts of new storytelling possibilities. The Hangover 2 (Bangkok), Oceans 12 (Amsterdam, Paris, Rome), Cars 2 (France, Italy, England), The Karate Kid 2 (Okinawa), and National Lampoon’s European Vacation (Europe, duh) are just a few of the examples. And in the second Sex and the City movie, Carrie Bradshaw and her friends take an extended trip to Abu Dhabi, though they actually filmed it in Morocco. It’s part of an absurdly bloated two and a half hour movie where the four ladies deal with professional and personal dilemmas, discover the power of friendship for the 600th time, and wear designer outfits that must have collectively cost them about $18 million. The whole thing is so abysmal and boring that even hardore Sex and the City fans rarely defend it. It sent the series onto life support before it came back to Max as the 99.9 percent Kim Cattrall-free …And Just Like That in 2022. 


Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

Is Michael Jordan the GOAT in the NBA, or is it LeBron James? It’s a basketball debate that’s likely to rage for eternity. Both sides have very strong arguments to make in terms of total points scored or the number of championship rings they wear. When it comes to their Space Jam movies, however, it isn’t really a contest. Jordan made a very fun live-action/animated Warner Bros. movie back in 1996. And James delivered a turkey of a sequel in 2021, where the Lakers great and his fictional son Dominic find themselves trapped in the Warner Bros. Serververse. They come into contact with all sorts of studio IP, including Rick and Morty, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and King Kong, but the whole thing feels more like a Warner Bros. shareholders presentation than a movie. When it comes time for the big basketball game, it’s hard to even care. “It is a film that has no reason to exist,” wrote Alex Shepherd in The New Republic, “except as a vehicle for reminding people that various pieces of content, all of them merchandisable, are available for instant streaming now.”


Rocky V (1990)

The first four Rocky movies followed a familiar formula. A powerful opponent challenges Rocky Balboa to a boxing match, his devoted wife, Adrian, expresses some doubts (“You can’t win, Rocky!”), he furiously trains, and the film climaxes with the fight. In 1990’s Rocky V, however, the formula was completely upended. It begins with the Balboa family losing all of their money after Rocky is diagnosed with a brain disorder that makes it impossible for him to fight. They move back to Philadelphia, and Rocky trains a young fighter named Tommy Gunn. It ends with Rocky and Gunn briefly fighting in the street, but audiences were less than thrilled. The movie didn’t capture the heart of the original Rocky or the cheeseball joy of the sequels. “The dramatic moves are so obvious and shopworn,” wrote the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, “that not even the star’s mournful basset-hound expressions can redeem them.” It would be another 16 years before Stallone was given the green light on another Rocky movie. That one ends with Balboa back in the ring even though Stallone was 60-years-old by that point. It’s also an infinitely better movie than Rocky V. 


Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise (1987)

The insane success of Animal House inspired roughly 100 knockoff movies about wild college campuses. The best of the bunch, by far, is 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds. This one twists the formula by casting nerds as the heroes, and the cool frat boys as villains. It’s hysterical and infinitely rewatchable. (And, yes, there’s a heinous scene near the end where one of the nerds dresses up in a jock’s costume and fools his girlfriend into having sex with him.) The sequel was unable to bring Anthony Edwards back for anything more than a cameo (he made a little film called Top Gun the prior year), but the rest of the cast is back for a movie that takes them down to Florida for a frat convention where they once again battle evil jocks. But it’s rated PG-13, when the original was a very hard R. That means the jokes are much softer, and the laughs never come. The only positive thing we can say about it is the made-for-TV sequels are even worse. 


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.