How many movie sequels is too many?

One more than enough

Now that Fast & Furious 7 has hauled in more than $1 billion at the box office, theres no way an eighth movie isn’t in the works. Franchises are big business, after all its hard to think of a successful movie that hasn’t had a sequel tacked on, while even book-based franchises are seeing their final instalments split in two to persuade their loyal audiences to come back to the cinema just one more time.

But while it might not have happened to Fast & Furious yet, most long-running movie franchises eventually run out of steam. Stories need an ending, after all, and at some point, movie-goers run out of patience. When does that point come? Well, its different for every franchise. Let’s get specific

Saw (2004 2010)

The franchise: There are plenty of horror franchises out there, but none that barrelled into cinemas with the relentless inevitability of Saw. After the first movie made mega-bucks, a sequel was greenlit, and then another, and another, and another. None of the films were particularly well-received critically, but the series nadir was Saw 3D though in terms of box office return, Saw VI was the low point.

Signs of trouble: The one-a-year release schedule didnt give Saws creators much time to stop and think, but it wasn’t until the final film that cracks started to appear, with director Kevin Greutert complaining about his contract forcing him to direct Saw 3D instead of Paranormal Activity 2.

Shouldve given up: After the sixth film thats when the money stopped rolling in, and it also provided a perfectly acceptable end to the story.

Paranormal Activity (2009 present)

The franchise: The first film was an ultra-low budget haunted house story that was subtly creepy and came along just as horror fans were tiring of torture porn. It made so much money a sequel was practically required by law, but the second film wasnt as warmly received. Paranormal Activity 3 picked up the pace again, but beyond that, they might as well have not bothered.

Signs of trouble: Paranormal Activity looked set to snatch the Saw franchises Halloween release date, knocking out one film a year for four years but then Paranormal Activity 5 failed to materialise in 2013, and the spin-off The Marked Ones limped out in January 2014 instead.

Shouldve given up: Paranormal Activity 3 wouldve been a good place to stop.

American Pie (1999 2012)

The franchise: Initially a raunchy and silly comedy about high schoolers trying to lose their virginity, the American Pie franchise rumbled on for so long that, in the most recent sequel, those kids were getting back together for their thirteen-year reunion.

Signs of trouble: Though there are only four official American Pie movies, theres also a string of straight-to-DVD spinoffs that feature one or two peripheral cast members.

Shouldve given up: American Reunion did pretty well internationally, but in the US its disappointing returns suggest audiences had had their fill of pie. And nobody needed the spinoffs.

Taken (2008 2015)

The franchise: The Taken franchise is an example of one successful movie spawning more sequels than it can really support. The original was a decent enough action thriller; the two sequels so far, increasingly dull examples of Neesploitation.

Signs of trouble: How many times can one mans daughter get kidnapped?

Shouldve given up: Each sequel so far has seen diminishing box office returns, as well as critical ones. Taken probably shouldve been a one-off.

Star Wars (1977 present)

The franchise: After George Lucas finally convinced a studio to take a chance on his space opera, Star Wars became the highest grossing film to date. Its almost impossible to imagine a world without the original Star Wars trilogy now, almost painful to imagine the sequels might never have existed.

Signs of trouble: Maybe the reverence afforded to the first trilogy was the problem, but when Lucas returned to the franchise to make the prequel trilogy, well, it kind of took the shine off. But The Force Awakens promises to heal those wounds

Shouldve given up: After Return Of The Jedi, but if we must acknowledge six Star Wars films, then we might as well have nine of them. It cant get any worse, right?

The Twilight Saga (2008 2012)

The franchise: Four books, four movies, right? Wrong. The enormously popular vampire love story saw its final instalment split in half, forcing Cullen-fanciers to cough up five times instead of four. Judging by the box office takings, it was the right decision and the final movie was one of the best-reviewed of the lot.

Signs of trouble: Surprisingly, none, really. Twilight haters gonna hate, but the fans stayed loyal throughout.

Shouldve given up: Splitting the final movie in two mightve been a cynical cash-grab, but the franchise got away with it.

Die Hard (1988 2013)

The franchise: Detective John McClanes terrorist-fighting career spans five movies and 25 years. The first movie frequently appears on lists of the best action movies ever made (as well as lists of brilliant alternate Christmas movies) but his most recent outing was significantly less thrilling.

Signs of trouble: The introduction of McClanes son, Jack, as a kind of new generation law enforcement officer, shouldve been a tip off that maybe the good detective was getting a bit long in the tooth.

Shouldve given up: After the third one, in 1995, wouldve been a logical place to stop, but actually 2007s Die Hard 4.0 was a decent return to form. Though it probably shouldve stopped there.

Psycho (1960 1998)

The franchise: Most people dont tend to think of Psycho as a franchise: Alfred Hitchcocks chiller works perfectly well as a standalone. Unfortunately, in the 80s a series of sequels were produced, bringing back Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates and putting him in one ridiculous situation after another.

Signs of trouble: Trying to turn as classic suspense movie into a slasher franchise was a doomed idea from the beginning. The kind of plot gymnastics the sequels have to perform to put Norman back in the Bates Motel and conjure up relatives of his victims for him to grapple with just highlight how tidily the first film ended. And the money they made wasnt really worth it, either.

Shouldve given up: After the first one. Lets not even talk about the remake.

Halloween (1978 2009)

The franchise: The granddaddy of slasher movies, John Carpenters Halloween introduced the killer who always got up again. And again. And again. No matter what the heroines of his movies put Michael Myers through, hed always be back for the sequel. To date, thereve been ten Halloween movies, counting the two remakes.

Signs of trouble: The ending of the first Halloween, when Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) looks over the balcony to find that Michaels body has vanished, is definite sequel bait. But after the second movie, Carpenter and his co-producer Debra Hill tried to take the franchise in a different direction, delivering a creepy story of killer Halloween masks without a Myers in sight. Unfortunately, audiences werent keen, so Michael was brought back for a series of increasingly daft sequels.

Shouldve given up: After the second one, as far as Michael Myers is concerned. Even Halloween H20 ignores everything that happens after the second movie.

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