With rare exceptions, movie sequels are typically looked down upon by most actors. After all, if you’ve made a successful movie once, why would need to do it again? The answers may vary, but usually boil down to money and status. Here are 15 actors who returned for a repeat of their biggest hits only to have the results blow up in their face.
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Reese Witherspoon returned to the role of sorority-girl-turned lawyer Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde. Though the film would be a financial success (grossing only $6 million less than the first film), Legally Blonde 2 was one of the most poorly reviewed films of its year. Its honors include an abysmal 37% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a #21 spot on EW’s “Worst Sequels of All Time” list.
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What’s the best way to destroy a burgeoning R-rated action franchise? Make a sequel for intended for children. Conan The Destroyer broke off from its ultra-violent predecessor and to instead focus more on the comedy aspects of Conan. You know, because sword swinging barbarian warriors are rife with comic potential. Schwarzenegger’s inability to deal with heavy dialogue combined with Grace Jones’ campy, hissing performance to make one of the worst sequels (and films) of Schwarzenegger’s career. A follow-up, Conan The Conqueror, never came into fruition after Destroyer nose dived critically. It’s taken nearly 30 years, but Schwarzenegger will soon be returning to the character in a sort-of reboot, The Legend of Conan. To no one’s surprise, it will ignore the existence of Destroyer, just like everyone else does.
Speed emerged as one of the biggest action films of the ’90s, so of course a sequel was inevitable. Unfortunately, only one-half of the film’s duo, Sandra Bullock, would reprise her popular role (Keanu Reeves, perhaps knowing what he was in for, bowed out). The resulting film is a chaotic, nonsensical film about Sandra Bullock and her boyfriend (Jason Patric) on a runaway cruise ship. Why a cruise ship? Because everyone knows cruise ships are the first things that come to mind when you hear the word ‘speed.’ Bullock herself later admitted to signing on in exchange to get backing for Hope Floats and has mocked Speed 2 on several occasions.
I’m not sure if you could Nicolas Cage’s performance in Ghost Rider “iconic”, but his popularity at the time certainly helped the film’s box office. Though the first film was a critical flop, it proved popular enough with audiences to bring in $228,738,393 worldwide. Nicolas Cage would exert even more of his special brand of camp weirdness on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, only to find the same critical drubbing and less than half of those box office totals. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a Ghost Rider 3 anytime soon…
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In 1983, Sylvester Stallone teamed with John Travolta to bring us a sequel to the 1970s classic Saturday Night Fever. The resulting film, Stayin’ Alive, would not receive the same reception. Though the film earned a decent $65 million, it did not manage to live up to its title critically. Many sources, including EW, have named it the number-one, all time “Worst Sequel of All Time.” Travolta’s career would subsequently languish for most of the decade until Pulp Fiction reminded us of a time before the glitter and Broadway dancing of Stayin’ Alive.
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Blues Brothers 2000 is a good enough case that Dan Aykroyd should never be allowed to make Ghostbusters 3. Made in spite of the death of its co-star, John Belushi, 2000 saw the return of Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues. The character is released from prison to learn of his brother’s death (yes, they made it a plot point) and decides to reunite his old band to, um, basically repeat all the gags that were so popular in the first movie. The film flopped, earning a mere $14 million in the box-office, and was dismissed by critics outright as an unfunny and unnecessary sequel with some pretty good musical numbers.
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The Exorcist II: The Heretic followed up the Academy Award nominated horror film that captured the imagination of a country in 1973. The sequel, released in 1977, had the opposite effect—frustrating audiences with a convoluted plot, zero scares and more than a few unintentionally hilarious moments. Linda Blair returned as possessed teen Regan (a role for which she was nominated an Oscar) to disastrous results steeped in voodoo subplots, sleep machines and witch doctors. So, yeah, the film had barely anything to do with the original. It was so bad the director, John Boorman, actually pulled it from theaters to re-edit and re-release it. The final version didn’t help, and Blair would call the sequel “one of the big disappointments” of her career.
Tobey Maguire & Kristen Dunst
Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst returned to their roles as Spider-Man and Mary Jane in the franchises’ third sequel. Taken on its own, Spider-Man 3 is far from a failure. However, as a follow-up to two of the most successful superhero films of all time, the film is folds in on itself like a dying star. Weighed down with way too many characters and stories, Maguire’s “emo” take on Peter Parker and a lack of focus on Dunst, Spider-Man 3‘s failure helped inspire Sony to scratch the series altogether and reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man.
David Arquette & Courtney Cox
Scream was a lightning-in-a-bottle slasher hit that helped inspire the rebirth of horror movies in the late 90s. It garnered three sequels, the last of which goes back to the formula that made Scream a hit. Sadly, the reults were less-than-stellar. The film opened in 2011 to audiences who couldn’t care less about it’s media savvy plot. Even worse, the film would take the attention off a pair of its most beloved stars—Courtney Cox and David Arquette—dropping them from an entire act of the movie. The two reprised their roles in the sequel for almost no reason whatsoever, only to find diminishing box office returns and mixed reviews waiting for them on the other side… not to mention that whole divorce thing. (Look, all I’m saying is Scream 4 probably didn’t help out their situation, that’s all.)
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Chevy Chase has made a lot of bad career decisions. Caddyshack 2 isn’t his worst, but it’s up there. Chase would be the only actor to return for the golf comedy while the rest of the original’s all-star line-up– Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight—would find replacements in the form of Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd and Robert Stack. The film tanked in the box office and was torn apart critically. Chase regretted making the movie after filming it, reportedly telling the director during post production, “Call me when you’ve dubbed the laugh-track.”
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The Matrix was an unexpected hit of 1999, inspiring the sequels The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. More importantly , it brought Laurence Fishburne back to the forefront of modern films. The sequels were filmed back to back and released to theaters to mixed results. For one thing, Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, was barely in the films and had none of the zen-like badass qualities that made him an icon. Though it wasted Fishburne, Reloaded followed-up its predecessor strongly, doing great box office and getting mostly positive reviews. However, The Matrix: Revolutions confirmed audience and critical suspicions: the emperor of modern sci-fi cinema was wearing no clothes. The anti-climactic, pseudo-philosophical, and completely nonsensical conclusion to the trilogy served to heighten the flaws of The Matrix Reloaded.
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Robocop was an unexpected theatrical hit of 1987, making the sequel, Robocop 2, prime for summer blockbuster status. Though it would open at number 2 in the box office, Robocop 2 remains a contender for the worst sci-fi sequel ever. Under the direction of Empire Strikes Back filmmaker Ivan Kirshner, the film misses the point of the first film entirely. Robocop 2’s attempts at satire devolve into bad parody and the ultra-violence of the first film is elevated to ghoulish levels. Peter Weller returns to the role that made his career as the title character. Unfortunately, the script allows for none of the depth or humanity of the character’s previous iteration. Weller would not return for Robocop 3, which made Robocop 2 look like the original in comparison .
Prince’s sequel to Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge, has the actor/musician return to the role of The Kid. The plot revolves around The Kid’s struggle to retain his club from rival Morris Day (playing himself). Of Prince’s films, Bridge is the only one not to gain cult classic in later years (though you can find it on basic cable pretty frequently). The film flopped in the box office, perhaps in part due to the mostly unexplained changes applied to The Kid’s character. The film would be Prince’s last shot at being a Hollywood movie star.
It’s hard to follow-up a runaway hit like Wayne’s World, but Wayne’s World 2 certainly tried. While the film was far from a commercial or critical failure, the movie failed to live up to its legacy. Part of the reason was, like Blues Brothers 2000, it repeated virtually the same plot of its predecessor, albeit less well. Secondly, the movie’s theme of “not selling out” seemed highly dubious given the fact the film’s a cash grab repeat of the original. Legendary grunge rock band Nirvana was initially designed to be a major part of the film’s plot, but declined for this reason after watching a test screening.
It is hard to quantify the failure that is Basic Instinct 2. The original film was a huge hit, making Sharon Stone an icon overnight. Produced 14 years after Basic Instinct, the sequel had Stone reprise her role as femme fatale Catherine Tramell. Thanks to a convoluted plot, the replacement of star Michael Douglas with English actor David Morissey, and Stone’s cougar-y take Tremel, the film was panned by critics and tanked at the box office, grossing back a little over $3 million of its $70 million budget.