Ever since moviemaking became an industry, lots of movies have been followed up by a sequel or sequels, and it is no secret that in most cases, a sequel is rarely as good as the movie before it. In most cases a sequel, however unnecessary it might be, can be enjoyable if one happens to like the original, and in some rare cases a sequel can even be better than the original.
However, when a successful movie leads to a successful sequel, that again leads to a successful sequel, and the franchise will inevitably take a turn for the worse. In most cases, a franchise is good for the first few movies, but then, when it becomes apparent that it is difficult to continue the plot, the sequels turn bad.
And in a few cases, a movie comes along that is so good, or original or unique, that every attempt at making a good sequel fails miserably. Sometimes, the movie shrugs it off, and people forget the sequel; other times, the sequel is bad enough to actually ruin the original movie.
Here are 10 great/unique movies that would have been better off as standalones.
Of the many horror movies to garner terrible sequels, “Saw” was among those that suffered the most. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the impact it had on horror movies, and it practically popularized the torture porn genre, despite the fact that the original was not intended to be that kind of movie.
The first “Saw” movie was directed by young horror director James Wan, who went on to direct some of the better horror movies in recent years, like “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”. It was an interesting telling about a serial killer who did not directly kill his victims, but forced them to make impossible choices that could result in their deaths.
The story is told from the perspective of two of his victims, and the cops trying to find him. The most famous, and arguably best, part of the movie is the twist at the end, and the movie itself was shot with an impressively low budget (approx. $1 million).
“Saw” became a success, earning more than 50 times its budget at the box office, which of course meant that a sequel was inevitable. From 2004 to 2010, a “Saw” movie was released each year, with the quality declining for each installment.
Wan has later confirmed in interviews that he never intended for the movie to be a torture porn, more like a violent horror-thriller, but the sequels never understood that, and instead made the violence the main focus. What originally had been a smart horror movie was instead turned into mindless, ridiculous, and pointless torture porn.
9. The NeverEnding Story
Most people have sort of a nostalgic love for “The NeverEnding Story”. The movie features the shy and friendless 12-year-old bibliophile Bastian Balthazar Bux, who is given a magical book. The book tells the story of a magical kingdom called Fantasia, which is slowly being devoured by a force called ‘The Nothing’.
The movie was a hit, among both critics and audiences, and it managed to earn thrice its budget at the box office. To this day, the movie is still loved by many for the story and its ultimate message, despite the fact that the effects did not age well.
The success of the first movie garnered the two sequels: “The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter”, and “The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia”. The sequels was poorly received, both panned by critics (one holds 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, the second is not rated yet), and the first sequel was successful at the box office, while the second bombed.
Apart from changing most of the actors and the general feel of the first, the sequels dumbed down the plot considerably; they changed the nature of the characters for the worse, and they completely lost the charm of the original.
8. Donnie Darko
“Donnie Darko” is one of the most complex movies to gain popularity over the last 15 years. The little sci-fi mind-bender stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular character, who is visited by Frank the bunny rabbit, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.
Fans of the movie will know that it is difficult to describe it in a way that does it justice. The wonderfully complex story is famous for being impossible to fully understand with the first viewing.
The film was not an initial success at its theatrical release, but after it was released to DVD/VHS it began gaining a cult following, eventually making it a huge hit. The surprising success resulted in the cash-grab of a sequel that was “S. Darko”. The story follows Donnie’s sister Samantha Darko, who is trapped in a “glitch in the time-space continuum.”
The sequel was criticized for copying too much from the original, while at the same time being nothing like it at all. It was far too simple and had way too many subplots, and reportedly Richard Kelly (the director of the original) has disowned the movie completely, and for good reason.
Where “Donnie Darko” was great, original, and complex, “S. Darko” was none of that, and it was actually so bad that it ruined the original.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The legendary horror director Wes Craven renewed the slasher genre twice, with both “Scream” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. He directed the first installment of the franchise in 1984. The movie centers on serial killer Freddy Krueger, who stalks and kills people from inside their dreams. It was a hit with audience and critics alike, and it was praised as a modern horror classic.
The success of the original resulted in seven (or eight) sequels, where the quality slowly but surely declined. (The only other good movie was “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”, and while it was technically the seventh installment, it was not a part of the series continuity, so it is not included when talking about the sequels to “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.)
With each sequel, it became more and more clear that the only redeemable quality was Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, and to add insult to injury, he did not even star in the ghastly 2010 remake. What originally had been an original and different concept was reduced to a standard, bad horror movie by the sequels.
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, directed by Ang Lee, is probably the best Wuxia movie to reach the mainstream Western audience, and it was the first martial arts movie ever to get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The plot centers on the Green Destiny Sword being stolen, and Michelle Yeoh’s character setting out to get it back.
The movie is considered to be almost perfect, gaining praise for everything from its martial arts choreography (choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping), to its story and cinematography. It was nominated for seven Oscars, of which it won four, and it was a hit with the critics and at the box office.
In 2016, a sequel no one asked for was released under the title “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny”, this time directed by Yuen Woo-ping.
The sequel suffers from several problems: the overall plot is unoriginal and it does not capture the audience, there are way too many subplots involving characters that the audience doesn’t care about, and the fight scenes have no emotional weight to them. What had been a wonderful and almost poetic movie was turned into a bland action movie by the sequel.