Film Franchise Graveyard: Movies That Killed Off Their Own Franchise

Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is responsible for both convicting and punishing the criminals of Mega-City One.

Film studios are always looking for the next successful franchise to bring in more money for themselves and their investors. Some series like James Bond, Star Wars, Star Trek, and more have proven that franchises can produce artistically interesting and diverse work that still draws in audiences after many releases. However not every attempted franchise will yield the next MCU, and not every continuation will be as beloved as The Empire Strikes Back.

So let’s look at six movies from different genres that either tried to start or continue a franchise. And we will look at the various reasons why these films failed to spark enthusiasm for their brands. 

1. Dredd (Comic Book Movie)

Dredd proves that not all failed franchise starters are bad. Following Judge Dredd and rookie Judge Anderson on a mission to bring down the head of a Highrise crime syndicate, the film was a gloriously fun and violent alternative to most comic book movies of the time. Unfortunately, Judge Dredd was too obscure a character for mainstream audiences. Along with this, it had generally poor marketing which meant it didn’t make its budget back. Many critics also derided it for having a similar plot to “The Raid. Nevertheless, Dredd gained a loyal cult following whose hopes for a franchise will never be dashed. 

Dredd failed to start a franchise
Dredd may not be a franchise but it still remains a cult favourite // Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors

2. Halloween 3: Season of The Witch (Horror)

After definitively ending Michael Myers’ story in Halloween 2 the producers decided to make the series into an anthology. With each entry telling a different Halloween-themed story. This time focusing on an evil businessman’s plans to destroy the youth of America using masks that kill the wearers when a certain advert is watched. But this attempted change failed. Audiences were confused by the lack of Michael Myers, critics saw it as generally bad and it made less than either of its predecessors. Because of this lack of success, the anthology franchise was scrapped in favour of reviving Myers. A disappointing end for an amazing idea. 

Halloween 3 Season of the Witch could have been the start of an anthology franchise
Dan O’Herlihy’s performance in Halloween 3 alone should have guaranteed more anthology movies for the series // Credit: Universal Pictures

3. Batman and Robin (Superhero)

The film that killed the Batman film franchise for almost a decade. Despite being a fun romp about the ever-growing Bat-Family working together to beat Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, it was despised by audiences and critics. With reasons ranging from the change of tone from the darker Tim Burton films to the inclusion of aesthetics more potentially appealing to LGBTQIA audiences. This outcry and the overall poor financial reception led to the cancellation of the planned sequel “Batman Unchained“. Ending the then-current Batman series until the Batman Begins reboot 8 years later.

Batman and Robin movie ended the current series of Batman films
The last outing for the then-current Batman series // Credit: Warner Bros

4. The Last Airbender (Fantasy)

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most beloved animated shows ever made. And Nickelodeon Movies certainly hoped its success would translate to film. A three-movie series following the tale of Airbender Aang and his companions was planned. Unfortunately, The Last Airbender underperformed in cinemas, and it displeased everyone. Fans hated the film’s handling of the show’s story. And casual viewers, as well as critics, found the film to be a poorly put-together slog. Snuffing out any hope of the live-action films continuing.

No more sequels for the Last Airbender
The Last Airbender disappoints compared to its source material // Credit: Nickelodeon Movies

5. John Carter (Sci-fi)

Nothing quite kills a potential franchise like being one of the biggest box office flops of all time. Despite having a middling rather than a hostile reception by audiences and critics John Carter lost over £87 million during its run, which ended any hope for future adaptations of John Carter’s adventures on Mars. According to writer Michael Sellers, the marketing sank the film by not driving home connection to its book source material. Ironically saying the film would have faired better if it was more open about its intentions to start a franchise.

John Carter of Mars may have improved John Carter's chances of being a franchise
John Carter failed to reach any great heights // Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

6. Carry On Columbus (Comedy)

The Carry On films were never high art and by today’s standards contain more than a few offensive moments and attitudes. But they always found a way to entertain audiences with their double entendres and funny performances. Until Carry On Columbus. The 31st series entry follows the fictionalised life of the eponymous coloniser. It was released 14 years after Carry On Emmanuel (itself quite poorly received). The film flopped. Additionally, it failed with audiences and was dubbed the “worst British film ever” in a 2004 British film workers’ poll. We have seen no other series entries since. It’s safe to say the series ended because the world had moved on from Carry On’s brand of comedy.

The last Carry On film ended the series with a whimper, not a guffaw // Credit: Island World

Those are just a few movies that sent their franchises to the grave. Did we miss any big franchise killers? Please let us know.

Also Read: How To Revive A Franchise After Many Years

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Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.

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