Back when Hollywood would churn out sequels with no regard for quality (okay, it’s done today too, but also nevertheless today there are some notable exceptions). For some of the biggest franchises, however, with the fourth movie the drop in quality was so bad it killed the franchise, and it was either completely rebooted or died forever. The initial movie started out strong and has now become a cultural icon of the era it premiered in. But the movies subsequently received a dip in quality in sequels, to the point it hit rock bottom in the fourth. Here are the fourth movies in franchises that ended them forever.
Jaws was released in 1975 and was one of the most popular and (and at the time) highest grossing movies of all time. However, in 1987, after two (already poorly received) sequels, Jaws: The Revenge was produced. In this sequel’s storyline, the wife of the Chief of Police on Amity Island from the first two movies, Ellen Brody, is featured front and center. After his brother-in-law, a Police Deputy is killed, she goes to the Bahamas and Ellen and her friends are attacked by the same great white shark that used live in Amity Island. The movie has Ellen feeling a psychic connection with the shark and having nightmares about it. The film was rushed into production with the idea that the mystical aspects would make it an interesting movie. When it was finally released, it received terrible reviews and the ending was so confusing that it had to be changed for the foreign release. That movie effectively ended the franchise, and no more Jaws movies have been made.
Superman was released in 1978 and was a box office success and received rave reviews for Christopher Reeve as Batman. But then in 1987, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released. In Superman IV, released in 1987, Superman tells the UN he will destroy all the nuclear weapons. Lex Luthor, who has recently broken out of prison, puts a genetic matrix on a nuclear missile, which Superman intercepts and throws into the Sun. The explosion creates a superhuman who called himself Nuclear Man and battles Superman to gain dominance of the planet. The movie was not given production priority, and according to Christopher Reeve, the production cut so many corners that even if “the story had been brilliant, I don’t think we could ever live up to audience expectations.” The movie opened at number four at the box office and received terrible reviews. While there were plans made for Superman V, nothing came of it. The Reeve-starring Superman Franchise was over. The Franchise was rebooted in 2006 with Superman Returns, a sort-of sequel Superman and Superman II, and then was completely restarted with Man of Steel in 2013.
Batman was released in 1989 and was a huge success with praise given to Tim Burton’s vision and Michael Keaton’s acting. Unfortunately, after the sequel Batman Returns failed to meet the box office receipts of the original, Tim Burton was replaced with Joel Schumacher, and his cartoony, goofy Batman Forever was a respectable success. In Batman and Robin, Schumacher’s second Batman movie released in 1997, Mr. Freeze’s and Poison Ivy’s origin stories are revealed, and Barbara Wilson becomes BatGirl. Poison Ivy meets Mr. Freeze and later frees him from prison after Batman (this time played by George Clooney) and Robin capture him. Poison Ivy cuts off the life support to Mr. Freeze’s wife, who was in a coma, and convinces Mr. Freeze to use a telescope to freeze the city. It’s up to Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to save the day. While the movie made around $100 million, it was not enough to match the budget of the film and received terrible reviews. The Burton/Schumacher Batman film franchise was effectively ended. In 2005, Christopher Nolan directed and Christian Bale starred in the popular Batman Begins, followed by huge successes of The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
With the case of Jaws, the franchise ended with the fourth movie’s release. However, Superman and Batman have established fan bases and had TV shows and movies made about them both before and after the popular franchises which started in 1978 and 1989, respectively. Still, it’s interesting to note that each popular Franchise ended on a particularly bad fourth movie.