The box office has changed drastically in the past 25 years, as it is no longer powered by movie stars. The days of throwing Jack Nicholson in a romantic dramedy and making $300 million are over and nowadays, franchises rule the box office. Since the year 2001, every highest grossing film of the year was part of a franchise, except in 2014 when American Sniper was able to narrowly beat out The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 for the top spot. Since franchises are the only surefire way to multiply your budget at the box office, movie studios are always on the lookout to fund them and as a result, franchises are the bulk of the movies we get.
With the box office climate the way it is, directors need to slide their way into a franchise or two in order to get studios to greenlight their passion projects. The result can sometimes be a mishmash of styles all within the same franchise which can frustrate fans who are looking for consistency. This can be fairly glaring in the sci-fi genre, which is often used by directors to make a commentary on our current society through a futuristic world. When a specific film in the franchise loses its essence and does not stick with the themes, fans notice and react accordingly. Even the best sci-fi franchises have some of the worst installments. In this list we break down 20 sci-fi movies that are part of a franchise, but fans wish they could forget.
20 INDEPENDENCE DAY
As the highest grossing movie of 1996, Independence Day is fun, heartfelt, dramatic and charming. From Will Smith punching an alien out cold, to Bill Pullman bringing us to tears with his inspirational speech, the movie is full of memorable moments. Twenty years later, the sequel no one was asking for hit the theaters and unfortunately it doesn’t contain any memorable moments.
The problem isn’t that Independence Day: Resurgence is dumb, the problem is that it's no fun. The characters came across as taxidermied versions of themselves, appearing lifelike but not quite like people. If Independence Day: Resurgence could have been dumb-fun it at least would have justified its existence, but alas, instead is just a movie fans just want to forget.
19 THE THING
John Carpenter’s The Thing was released in 1982 to negative reviews and was regarded as one of the most hated films of all time. Reviews slammed it for the repulsiveness of the practical effects and its nihilistic tone. However, when the film was released on home video it gained a huge cult following and is now regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever.
In 2011, a prequel to the film was released, investigating the events that took place at the Norwegian research station before the previous film’s characters arrived. This movie was also met with negative reviews, criticizing the CG effects and the lack of horror. However, we are confident the prequel will not be gaining a following like the original did.
18 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
The modern notion of a zombie owes itself entirely to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. In this movie, although referring to his creatures as “ghouls”, he indirectly redefined the term “zombie” as reanimated, flesh-eating corpses. Romero continued to make movies in this franchise until he passed away in 2017 from lung cancer.
When fans look back at all of the Dead movies, there is one glaring outlier they want to forget. The most recent entry, Survival of the Dead, suffers from poor acting and surprisingly not enough zombie action. Instead, the movie is dominated by a philosophical debate about the rehabilitation of zombies, which unfortunately is not what fans of the Dead series are looking for.
17 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
The first live action adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuck closely to the original comics, with a slightly lighter tone. The sequel had a much lighter tone appealing to its younger fans. Sadly, the lighter tone was taken even further for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and by the time it was released, the franchise had digressed so far from the first film that it lost most of its fans.
The third film contains a bombardment of unfunny jokes and below average acting. It is the first installment not to use the excellent Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for the costumes and it shows. The movie is ultimately forgettable, as it doesn’t advance any previous plot points and inevitably ended the franchise.
16 EVERYTHING SNAKE PLISSKEN
Coming out 15 years after Escape from New York, the sequel Escape from L.A. is a failed attempt at satire. The movie is too silly to succeed at the action genre parody it is trying to accomplish, so it simply comes across as ridiculous. It also has terrible computer generated effects and it is unclear whether this is intentional or not. It came out three years after Jurassic Park and compared to the Spielberg dinosaur film, Escape from L.A. looks like amateur hour.
In addition, the sequel is so over-the-top that it actually plays as a parody to the first film, which means the longtime fans who returned to the theater 15 years later felt offended by the mere existence of the film.
It all started in 2008 with a found footage horror movie. Then, eight years later, 10 Cloverfield Lane changed the franchise game forever. By tying a bunker survival story in to an alien invasion, there was now a universe where a movie can tell an isolated story and simply tack on a scene at the end to place it in the Cloverfield world. Excitement was high for what might come next.
In 2018, a Super Bowl trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox changed the game again, as it advertised its immediate availability on Netflix. Unfortunately, the movie fails by exploring far too many ideas with zero cohesion. Fans are hoping to forget one before the next Cloverfield installment.
The Chronicles of Riddick, which is the second movie in the Riddick franchise, seems quite out of place. While Pitch Black and Riddick both have a similar brooding sci-fi tone, The Chronicles of Riddick is a zany sci-fi story told on a massive scale. The unexpected tonal shift caught fans by surprise and as a result, they did not receive the film favorably.
Over time, it grew in popularity and gained a following, but in 2013 when Riddick brought the franchise back to its roots, it became clear to fans that the the middle film would not be one they’d want to revisit anytime soon.
The 1987 Robocop is a satirical masterpiece dressed as an ultra-violent action movie. While the second film toned down the satire, the third film lost it completely. The PG-13 rated Robocop 3 also cleaned up all the violence to appeal to children and by the time the movie was finished, everything that Paul Verhoeven made was washed away, all in an effort to make action figures and Saturday morning cartoons.
Robocop 3 focused on the internal conflict between Murphy’s machine and human selves, which was already resolved in the first film. This makes the film feel like a cheap, dumbed-down remake for kids. It has nothing in it for fans of the franchise to enjoy, and inevitably smashed the franchise until the 2014 remake.
12 JURASSIC PARK
In 1997, anticipation was high for Steven Spielberg’s follow-up to the smash hit Jurassic Park. While The Lost World: Jurassic Park made a ton of money, it was clearly not as tight as its predecessor. The first film was based on a Michael Crichton novel and when he was asked by Spielberg to write a sequel, Crichton obliged.
However, Spielberg expanded on the book’s plot, which did not contain any of the scenes in San Diego. We think the problem with the movie is it feels rushed on the island, trying to fit in all the elements of the book before getting to the visually striking T-Rex in San Diego. For a franchise that still smashes at the box office, this one is often forgotten.
11 BACK TO THE FUTURE
After Back To The Future ended its theatrical run as the highest grossing movie of 1985, Robert Zemeckis began developing two sequels, which he filmed back-to-back as part of the same production. Fans were pleased as the events of the second movie ended up overlapping with the first; they were able to watch the same scenes unfold from different perspectives.
Back to the Future Part III diverted from its predecessors, taking place almost entirely in the Wild West. It feels out of place following the previous two films and would have made more sense if there were subsequent movies that were also set in different historical periods. As it stands, fans often want to forgot this sci-fi/western.
10 THE MATRIX
In 1999, The Matrix changed the sci-fi genre forever with its leading-edge action sequences and stylized cyberpunk design. After the huge box office success of the film, The Wachowskis started working on not one, but two sequels. The directing duo filmed both at the same time and released them six months apart.
The Matrix Reloaded gave fans what they wanted (more or less) with many visually striking action set pieces set in the Matrix. Unfortunately, the final installment, The Matrix Revolutions, was primarily set in the real world, which received a negative reaction from fans who wanted more of the titular world. The Matrix Revolutions also didn’t explore as many philosophical questions as its predecessors, leaving fans unsatisfied with its conclusion.
9 MEN IN BLACK
The Men in Black franchise is an interesting one. It has one masterpiece (Men in Black), one film that goes for broke and is mostly successful (Men in Black III) and one that fans want to forget (Men in Black II). The problem with Men in Black II is that it requires the audience to be convinced that Agent K is having a miserable life without the MIB.
At the end of the first film, he used a neuralizer on himself so he could reunite with his love. In the second film, Agent J needs to bring him back and thus the audience must be convinced his initial decision was the wrong one. Unfortunately, most fans were not onboard and the movie flopped.
Coming off the huge success of Independence Day, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin gave the world the American version of Godzilla and fans were not pleased, to say the least. The most glaring issue with the movie is the portrayal of the titular monster. The gigantic lizard-like monster is so far from the original character that it now goes by “Zilla” and fans have denounced the film as being a Godzilla movie at all.
Godzilla is supposed to be a rage-monster, but Emmerich and Devlin turned it into a trapped animal that was focused on running and hiding instead of anger and destruction. Fans don’t just want to forget this one, they want obliterate it from existence.
There are so many fantastic Alien movies. While Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection are often viewed as the worst installments, many fans agree they have their place in the franchise. However, Alien vs. Predator is a film fans actively try to forget. First of all, the premise of the movie is to place two R-rated sci-fi monsters up against each other in a PG-13 film.
The entire point of each franchise is to convey the horror and fear these destructive characters can instill, but apparently when they butt heads with each other it is tame enough to fit into a PG-13 rating. If this was the goal of this film, it does deliver on PG-13 monster battles, but unfortunately nothing else.
In 2007, the “robots in disguise” made it to the big screen. The movie was met by an underwhelming critical response, but a positive fan response. Just two years later, the second and worst installment in the franchise was released. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is an absurd movie that had fans throwing their popcorn at the screen.
This film went overboard humanizing the robots. Why would an old robot need a walker and why can we see their breath in the cold? Aside from the racial stereotypes and innuendos, which also make no sense, the movie is long and boring. After the franchise rebounded with the next film, it was clear fans wanted to forget this disaster.
We believe there is an Alien vs Predator movie that will please the fans of both franchises, but after two attempts, we have yet to see it. Alien vs Predator: Requiem fails to display the distinct characteristics of each species, making them effectively interchangeable with any other generic horror monsters.
The movie does not feel like it is part of either of the franchises and in the process alienates fans of both. In addition, it was so darkly lit that you can’t make out what is going on in half of the scenes, making this an easy movie for fans to forget.
4 PLANET OF THE APES
Planet of the Apes is another interesting franchise. It has a successful five movie run from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s that exhibits a circular narrative, allowing the viewer to start or end wherever they please. The franchise also has a successful reboot starting in 2011, which so far contains three movies that fill in some of the gaps from the original set.
It is obvious in this franchise that the movie fans want to forget is the completely irrelevant Tim Burton remake from 2001, titled Planet of the Apes. The film isn’t great or terrible, it is aggressively mediocre and unfortunately by being bookended by two successful multi-film runs, it has no place in the franchise.
The Terminator franchise has a complicated history. After James Cameron gave the first film a horror feel, he made an R-rated action sequel that turned the villain of the first movie into the hero. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, but proceeding directors have failed to replicate this magic in follow-up films.
Each time the rights to the franchise become available, someone snatches them up and attempts to put their spin on the property. Fans are still trying to get the most recent attempt, Terminator: Genisys, out of their minds. The movie is not only bad, but it tarnishes the original film by altering the timeline to erase the events of the 1984 classic.
2 STAR TREK
In 2013, the follow up to one of the most successful reboots of the 21st century hit theaters. Star Trek: Into Darkness impressed critics, gaining a high Rotten Tomatoes score, but not all Star Trek enthusiasts shared this opinion.
The movie is very watchable, as most J.J. Abrams films are, but fans of the franchise recognized that it was secretly a lazy remake of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Aside from the reveal of Cumberbatch as Kahn, the scene that enraged fans the most was one between Kirk and Spock which mirrored a scene from Wrath of Khan. The scene carried a lot of emotional weight in the original, but in a remake with a number of glaring plot holes it felt unearned.
1 STAR WARS
Even the biggest sci-fi franchise in the world has a few stinkers. While the original trilogy is worshiped and the most recent installments are applauded, the same cannot be said for the prequel trilogy.
The worst of these films and the one fans yearn to forget is Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Fans were literally camping out to see this film and although the movie started strong by blaring the iconic John Williams score, it was all downhill from there. George Lucas encourages new viewers of the franchise to start with this film, but he sacrifices a cohesive plot for meaningless cameos and complicated trade route nonsense. If this was the first Star Wars movie someone watched, it would also be their last.