Sequels! We love to complain about them, but clearly, we can’t get enough of ’em — or at least that’s the message we keep sending at the box office, where they seem to take up a greater percentage of the grosses every year. Of course, nothing lasts forever, and when it comes to film franchises, the audience’s fondness for the characters tends to run out around the third film — but there are some notable exceptions, such as the Resident Evil series, which makes its fifth(!) trip to the big screen this weekend with Resident Evil: Retribution. In honor of this momentous achievement, we decided to take a look at other fifth installments, and came up with a list that’s more impressive (and less reliant on horror sequels) than you might think. One, two, three, four, five: this Total Recall’s working overtime!
Why Five? Mainly because the execs at 20th Century Fox couldn’t help themselves — even though the Planet of the Apes sequels had been a study in diminishing box office returns, the films were still cheap enough to make that they all turned a healthy profit, so a fifth installment was more or less inevitable.
Franchise Changes: As the ticket receipts slowed for the series, the studio’s purse strings tightened, making Battle for the Planet of the Apes a rather cheap-looking affair; in addition, screenwriter Paul Dehn, who’d written the second, third, and fourth films, had to bow out — although he was later brought in to polish the eventual script, resulting in a cobbled-together story (and an eventual credit tussle in front of the WGA).
The End? Sort of, although Apes lived on as a pair of TV series before returning to the screen in 2001 (with Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake) and 2011 (the series reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
Why Five? Because the fourth Dirty Harry movie, 1983’s Sudden Impact, was the highest-grossing in the series, raking in nearly $70 million in the U.S. while spawning the endlessly parroted catchphrase “Go ahead — make my day” and proving that when you have a squinty guy with a gun, the sequels pretty much write themselves.
Franchise Changes: Each Dirty Harry movie has a different director, and The Dead Pool was no different; Buddy Van Horn, a onetime stunt double for Clint Eastwood who went on to direct him in a number of films, steps in here. Other than that, Pool adheres pretty strictly to the formula (which is exactly as it should be).
The End? Yes. Despite having a prime summer opening slot, Pool went down as the least profitable entry in the series, and Dirty Harry Callahan was finally allowed to retire — although not before sharing screen time with the members of Guns N’ Roses and a young Jim Carrey.
Why Five? Because even over the age of 70 (and just a few years away from hip replacement surgery), Charles Bronson wasn’t finished with the Death Wish series — and there were still people willing to cut a check to make another sequel happen.
Franchise Changes: Habitual vigilante Paul Kersey (Bronson) is now a member of the Witness Protection Program, which has given him a new alias (and bizarrely decided to move him back to New York City, site of the original Death Wish and Death Wish 3). Other than that, not much has changed — there are bad guys who need killing, and Kersey’s there to help.
The End? Most definitely — Bronson was much too old to convincingly portray an action hero, and the box office returns for Death Wish V were awful. Still, every so often, someone floats the idea of a remake; although Sylvester Stallone apparently thought better of it after publicly mulling taking over the series in 2006, it seems likely that someone will eventually (ahem) pull the trigger.
Why Five? Because just when it seemed like the Fast and Furious franchise had run its course — or at least veered off into a Bring It On-style series of endless, vaguely connected sequels — 2009’s Fast & Furious pulled it back on course with a $363 million hit that reunited members of the original cast. Clearly, it couldn’t stop there.
Franchise Changes: Well, it added Dwayne Johnson and sent the action to Rio. But other than that, this series has a formula that you don’t alter — fast cars, furious drivers — and Fast Five reaped more than $625 million in exchange for not messing with it.
The End? Nope — Fast Six is scheduled to roar into theaters on May 24, 2013.
Why Five? People like watching teenagers die ugly, apparently.
Franchise Changes: The vast majority of the cast members in any Destination movie don’t last long enough to pop up again in a sequel, so fans know each film is going to give them a whole new crop of victims. This time around, one small wrinkle was introduced in the form of some advice from recurring character Coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd), who reveals that anyone who cheats Death has to claim someone else’s life in order to stay alive.
The End? It remains to be seen, although the last installment’s $157 million worldwide gross would seem to suggest future Destinations in store.
Why Five? The fourth Friday the 13th was billed as “the final chapter,” but the enduring commercial popularity of the series meant it was only a year before a hockey mask-wearing maniac would once more terrorize the randy teens of Crystal Lake.
Franchise Changes: This Friday lives up to its “A New Beginning” subtitle by leaving Jason Voorhees dead and buried, instead imagining a grim future for young Tommy Jarvis, his killer in Part 4. Now grown up and played by John Shepherd, the understandably troubled Tommy is sent to a camp for wayward teens — only to find himself forced to contend with a wave of killings perpetrated by a seemingly revived Jason.
The End? Absolutely not — the Friday the 13th movies would continue to provide teen scream fodder throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and aughts, sending Jason to Manhattan, Hell, and outer space before pitting him against Freddy Krueger (more on that guy later) and ultimately rebooting the series with 2009’s Friday the 13th.
Why Five? Because Michael Myers needed to get revenge, silly. Also, 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers put the slasher franchise back on track (after 1982’s Myers-free Halloween III: Season of the Witch), and producer Moustapha Akkad wanted to keep the gravy train rolling.
Franchise Changes: While the ending of Halloween 4 suggested that Myers’ niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) was going to follow in his serial-killing footsteps, Halloween 5 mostly stuck to the established formula of having Myers begin the film in some sort of coma, wake up in late October, and embark on a murderous rampage. One significant twist this time around was the introduction of the Man in Black, a Myers accomplice whose purpose would eventually be revealed in Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.
The End? Nope. Like Myers himself, the Halloween franchise just keeps lumbering along, with H20 and Halloween: Resurrection following in 1998 and 2002, and the Rob Zombie-directed reboots Halloween and Halloween II hitting theaters in 2007 and 2009. We’re sure we haven’t seen the last of Michael Myers.
Why Five? Because J.K. Rowling wrote seven Harry Potter books — and with each film adaptation grossing an average of nearly $300 million in the United States alone, there was no way we weren’t going to see all seven of them on the big screen.
Franchise Changes: The fifth Potter film brought a new director (David Yates) and screenwriter (Michael Goldenberg), as well as the franchise’s first foray into IMAX 3D; in terms of casting, it marked the first appearances of Helena Bonham Carter as the gleefully wicked Bellatrix Lestrange, as well as Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. A fair amount of change — but it didn’t put a dent in the reviews, which were again largely positive, or the box office tally, which topped out near $940 million worldwide.
The End? No; in fact, thanks to Warner Bros.’ decision to split the series-concluding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two chapters, the film franchise went on to outnumber the books.
Why Five? Because the Muppets had been missing from the big screen for too long — their last appearance was in Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird — and after Jim Henson’s untimely death in 1990, the company that bears his name needed to prove that the show must go on. What better way than with a Muppetized interpretation of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol?
Franchise Changes: Apart from the obvious major change — Steve Whitmire stepping in as the voice of Kermit the Frog in Henson’s absence — Carol also finds human actors figuring in more prominently than previous Muppet movies. An annoying development for hardcore fans, perhaps, but one mitigated by the presence of Michael Caine, who lent his signature charm to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The End? Certainly not. Although the Muppets’ box office fortunes weren’t exactly spectacular during the 1990s, and they spent the early aughts absent from theaters, they returned in a big way with 2011’s The Muppets — and with a sequel in development, we should be seeing more of them soon.
Why Five? It was occasionally rather clumsily handled, but the Nightmare on Elm Street series actually used its first few sequels to establish a deepening mythology around the character of Freddy Krueger — one which unfortunately took a turn into the excessively silly and convoluted with 1989’s The Dream Child.
Franchise Changes: Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger, was more of a presence in Dream Child, which picks up a year after A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master left off and finds Freddy using the unborn fetus in the womb of his previous adversary, Alice Johnson (Lisa Wilcox), to reach out into the dream world and claim new victims.
The End? Impossible as it might seem, the Elm Street producers actually found somewhere else to go after the storyline described above, putatively wrapping up the franchise with 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare before bringing the character back for the cleverly meta Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the 2003 mashup Freddy vs. Jason, and 2010’s Jackie Earle Haley-led A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot. Is Freddy finally dead? We doubt it.
Why Five? Because even without Steve Guttenberg starring as the wisecracking Mahoney, the Police Academy series was one of the most reliable moneymakers of the 1980s — and with a returning ensemble that included Michael Winslow, Bubba Smith, G.W. Bailey, and George Gaynes, Assignment Miami Beach still managed to debut at the top of the box office charts.
Franchise Changes: Aside from the notable lack of Guttenberg (and Bobcat Goldthwait), which necessitated the introduction of Matt McCoy as Sgt. Nick Lassard, the biggest change was one of location — the gang headed to sunny Florida for a visit to the National Police Chiefs Convention, which of course turned into a laff-a-minute mixup with some local jewel thieves.
The End? Not at all. The movies continued through 1994’s Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow, and the franchise spilled over into a pair of TV series (one syndicated, one animated), plus a pending series reboot.
Why Five? From a narrative standpoint, it’s hard to say, really. While the first four Rocky movies had their bumpy spots, they were all feel-good stories about faith and redemption — the increasingly over-the-top saga of a guy from the streets who fought his way to the top — while the fifth installment managed to be darker and more depressing while also finding a way to be cheesier. It really all boiled down to money; as Sylvester Stallone put it a few years ago when asked about Rocky V, “I’m greedy, what can I tell you?”
Franchise Changes:Rocky V picks up at the end of Rocky IV, with the Italian Stallion going from defeating the Soviet champ, Ivan Drago, to discovering he has brain damage — and that his accountant has bankrupted him. Rocky’s new shot at redemption turns out to be managing a younger boxer (Tommy Morrison), but their relationship is complicated by the advances of a Don King-esque promoter (Richard Gant), and the whole thing culminates in a poorly staged street brawl.
The End? For a long time, it seemed that way, but to Stallone’s credit, Rocky V nagged at him for years, until he finally gave his most famous character the sendoff he deserved with 2006’s warmly received Rocky Balboa.
Why Five? Because by 2008, the Saw films had become an annual Halloween tradition for filmgoers who like some thrillingly devious on-screen torture with their popcorn — and because we were just starting to figure out what made the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) tick.
Franchise Changes: With the Jigsaw Killer dead at the end of Saw III, the story started to spiral off into (somewhat) new directions in Saw IV, continuing into the fifth installment, which traced the steps leading up to a police detective (Costas Mandylor) becoming Jigsaw’s apprentice.
The End? Nope — the series continued up through Saw 3D, which concluded the grisly saga with an extra dimension in 2010.
Why Five? Because if you’re lucky enough to get away with making a hit movie about a psychotic doll possessed with the soul of a serial killer, you might as well keep the sequels coming until people stop showing up.
Franchise Changes: After three installments of relatively straightforward horror, the series went off the deep end with Bride of Chucky, which introduced Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an ex-girlfriend from Chucky’s human years who winds up also becoming a living doll. The lunacy continued with Seed of Chucky, which follows the adventures of Chucky, Tiffany, and their offspring Glen (or Glenda).
The End? Yes and no. Although the next sequel, Curse of Chucky, is heading straight to video, there’s also a rumored franchise reboot in the works, so Brad Dourif should be busy with homicidal voicework for years to come.
Why Five? Because 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home turned whales and nuclear wessels into a $133 million hit, and with Star Trek: The Next Generation earning healthy ratings, Trek mania was near its peak.
Franchise Changes: After Leonard Nimoy directed the franchise’s well-received third and fourth installments, William Shatner stepped behind the cameras for the fifth, which finds the crew of the Enterprise entering deep space in search of God (or something).
The End? According to Trek legend, The Final Frontier nearly destroyed the franchise — and although the story came from an idea of Shatner’s, it wasn’t entirely his fault; Frontier was plagued by all manner of problems, from a writer’s strike to set problems and studio interference. Still, the end result was the same: An ignominious box office flop and triple Golden Raspberry winner whose odor would linger until the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991.
Why Five? Because ever since Star Wars fans heard about the Clone Wars — way back in A New Hope — we’d been waiting to see just what the heck they were. Also, there’s no way the series could have ended with The Phantom Menace.
Franchise Changes: It’s here that we get our first glimpse of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker — as well as some of his earliest struggles with the rage that made him such an attractive recruit for the evil Sith. With plenty of interplanetary jetsetting and an epic battle sequence, it’s also the longest installment in the Star Wars series.
The End? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo — we all lined up to watch the saga conclude with Revenge of the Sith in 2005.
Why Five? Because when your main character is a suave secret agent with a license to kill, the possibilities are limitless — just ask the folks who are already impatient to see the next James Bond movie in November.
Franchise Changes: Sean Connery was getting tired of playing Bond, but he agreed to come back for You Only Live Twice, which represented the first time a 007 movie had deviated strongly from the Ian Fleming source novel. Unlike a lot of the other Bond flicks, Twice doesn’t include a lot of globetrotting — spacejacking opening sequence notwithstanding — but it still makes room for an iconic villain (Donald Pleasance as Blofeld) and memorable love interest (Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki).
The End? Not even close. He’s had some rough patches, but as of this writing, Bond is as cool as ever, and his 23rd adventure, Skyfall, is one of fall 2012’s most eagerly anticipated releases.