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15 Critically Panned Movies that Somehow Got Sequels
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15 Critically Panned Movies that Somehow Got Sequels

Bad movies are a dime a dozen. If we’re looking at the big picture, they’re far more common than great or even “good” movies. For the most part, these films wither away and disappear into obscurity, never to be seen or heard of again – that’s just how the cookie crumbles in Hollywood.

Sequels, much like mediocre films, are also very common. In fact, they are absolutely dominating at the box office; the highest-grossing movies of 2022 were either sequels or based on popular IPs. The trend will continue into early 2023 with the release of Creed III, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and John Wick 4.

Hollywood is a money-making business, and sequels are a safe bet, especially if the first movie is well-received and generally successful. But occasionally, a genuinely awful movie will slip through the cracks and get an unwanted follow-up that no one asked for. It doesn’t happen often, but here are 15 critically-panned movies that never should have got a sequel, but somehow did anyway.

RELATED: 9 Movie Sequels Nominated for Best Picture


15 Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

Columbia Pictures

When Paul Blart: Mall Cop was released in 2009, it became the bane of every mall security guard’s existence. The film stars Kevin James as the titular Paul Blart, a mild-mannered mall cop who must protect his mall when it’s overrun by a gang of criminals. Although the family comedy was poorly received by critics, it was a meme-sensation and a pretty big success for Columbia Pictures, earning close to $200 million dollars at the box office.

It was no surprise, then, when a sequel was announced. But unfortunately, it was a little too late. Paul Blart 2 was released in 2015, six years after its predecessor. Its window of popularity had passed, and the movie sank at the box office.

14 Ghost Rider (2007)

Nic Cage in Ghost Rider
Columbia Pictures

Before Kevin Feige revolutionized the MCU, Marvel characters really struggled to gain footing in the world of superhero movies. The success of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series resulted in a number of fan-favorite Marvel heroes getting the film treatment, with results ranging from mediocre to flat-out bad. One of the worst offenders was 2007s Ghost Rider, which starred Nicolas Cage as the titular anti-hero.

The film currently sits at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a slightly better audience score of 47%. Despite the poor reviews, the movie made a profit at the box office. For the sequel, Sony hired the filmmakers behind the kinetic Crank franchise and tried to really lean into the craziness of the comics. It was an admirable attempt at correcting course, but unfortunately Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance proved to be another critical and commercial failure for the studio, and was even more poorly-received than its predecessor.

13 Leprechaun (1993)

Warwick Davis in 1993 Leprechaun
Trimark Pictures

Jennifer Aniston made her film debut in the 1993 horror movie Leprechaun, where Warwick Davis plays a vengeful leprechaun looking for his stolen gold. While originally intended to be a straight horror movie, reshoots geared it more towards comedy when producers recognized how cheesy it was. Despite the turbulent production, the million-dollar movie was a minor box-office success, grossing $8 million.

Leprechaun was largely panned by critics upon release and currently sits at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Austin Chronicle critic Marc Savlov referred to the movie as a “complete and utter waste of perfectly good film stock.” Nevertheless, the film had a fervent cult following, and spawned a whopping seven sequels, with the most recent one released in 2018.

12 Hitman (2007)

Timothy Olyphant Hitman
20th Century Fox

2007s Hitman is based on the popular video-game series and stars Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, a professional assassin who finds himself caught up in a nasty political conspiracy. As far as film adaptations of video games go, Hitman is by no means the worst (we’ll get to that in a bit), but it’s also not very good. Even Mr. Olyphant doesn’t consider himself a fan, recently stating that he only agreed to appear in the movie because he needed to pay his mortgage following the sudden cancelation of Deadwood.

The movie currently sits at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite its poor critical performance, the film made approximately $100 million on a modest $25 million budget. A sequel was greenlit, but was abandoned once Mr. Olyphant refused to return. Instead, the studio decided to reboot the franchise with Rupert Friend in the lead role. Agent 47 was finally released in 2015 to even worse reviews and diminished box office returns, despite a higher budget.

11 Garfield: The Movie (2004)

Bill Murray as Garfield (2004)
20th Century Fox

Bill Murray, who voiced the famous cat in the 2004 movie, has stated that he only starred in Garfield: The Movie because he confused the film’s director, Joel Cohen, with Joel Coen, one half of the critically-adored directing duo. Whether this is actually true, it’s certainly funnier than the movie itself. And critics would probably agree.

The film sits at a measly 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, but grossed $200 million at the global box-office. A sequel – subtitled A Tale of Two Kitties – was released two years later, with Bill Murray and much of the original cast returning. Unsurprisingly, the sequel was just as poorly-received as the first, and scored a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. A third film was originally planned, but was scrapped when Two Kitties failed at the box office. However, a new animated film is on the way, with Chris Pratt set to star as the lazy, lasagna-loving feline.

RELATED: 14 Comedy Sequels That Are Funnier Than the First Movie

10 The Gallows (2015)

The Gallows
Blumhouse Productions

The Gallows is a found footage, micro-budget horror movie that follows a group of high school theater students who become victims of a vengeful spirit. Like many cheaply-made Blumhouse movies of the era, The Gallows was ruthlessly criticized by critics and audience members alike, currently sitting at 14% and 22%, respectively.

Even though the film was poorly received, it was an overwhelming success, making $45 million dollars against a mere $100,000 budget. A sequel was immediately greenlit. Although the directing duo did away with the much-criticized found-footage angle for something more traditional, The Gallows Act II was nevertheless universally panned when it was released in 2019.

9 Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011)

Atlas Shrugged
Rocky Mountain Pictures

Atlas Shrugged: Part I is based on the massively-popular but often critically-maligned book of the same name that has ignited controversy and passionate discourse many times since its initial release in 1957. The political novel is heavy on philosophy and ideological discussion, set in a dystopian United States that is crumbling under the weight of a controlling government.

Given the book’s overly-philosophical bend and rather basic central plot – which focuses on a railroad tycoon trying to keep his company afloat during an economic crisis – many considered the story to be unfilmable, but that didn’t stop executives from trying, given the book’s already massive audience.

Atlas Shrugged was released in 2011, and despite a rather favorable Rotten Tomatoes audience score (69%), the movie was panned by critics (it currently sits at 12%). Furthermore, the movie was a box office bomb, making only a quarter of its $20 million budget back. Still, two sequels were made: Atlas Shrugged:Part II and Who is John Gait, which currently sit at 4% and 0%, respectively.

8 A Haunted House (2013)

A Haunted House
Open Road Films

Spoof comedies are nothing new, but they are notoriously hard to pull off. But that didn’t stop Marlon Wayans from writing and starring in his own spoof on the Paranormal Activity films, appropriately titled A Haunted House.

Marlon Wayans previously found success in this genre with the first two Scary Movies, which itself led to a number of painful sequels and a spin-off franchise that includes Superhero Movie, Epic Movie, and Date Movie – some of the worst reviewed movies of all time. While A Haunted House isn’t nearly as bad as those movies, it’s 9% Rotten Tomatoes score proves it isn’t very good, either.

Still, the movie made close to $60 million on a $2.5 million budget, which is the kind of low-risk, high-return effort that gets movie executives salivating. A sequel was released the following year and earned equally negative views and made half as much money as the first.

7 Joe Dirt (2001)

David Spade in Joe Dirt (2001)
Columbia Pictures

Sometimes, critics get it wrong. In some people’s eyes, Joe Dirt is a certified classic. However, the film’s 9% Rotten Tomatoes score would have you believe otherwise. The movie follows Mr. Dirt, a redneck janitor who hits the road in search of his long-lost parents. It’s the type of one-and-done story that doesn’t demand a sequel, and considering it wasn’t a huge box-office smash, Hollywood left it alone.

But that changed in 2015, when a sequel – Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser – was released on Crackle, of all places. The general reaction to the news was: why? The reviews for the unwanted sequel were just as harsh, but this one arguably deserved it.

6 Ghoulies (1985)

Empire Productions

Luca Bercovici’s Ghoulies is often perceived as a cut-rate rip-off of Joe Dante’s hit film Gremlins, but both films were actually in production at the same time, with Ghoulies on track for an earlier release. However, funding issues delayed Ghoulies for a few months, which allowed Gremlins to be released first. So in a sense, Ghoulies was doomed from the start, forced to live in the shadows of a far superior – and much more successful – film.

It doesn’t help that the film is also pretty bad; with an 8% critic score and a 20% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it didn’t seem like anyone liked the movie (although the film has since garnered a minor cult following). Still, the movie quadrupled its budget and was a relative success. A sequel was greenlit and released in 1987, which was even less of a success than its predecessor. This was followed by two direct-to-video sequels, one of which is called Ghoulies Go to College and features Matthew Lillard’s film debut.

RELATED: 10 Movies That Tried to Set Up a Sequel (and Failed Spectacularly)

5 The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins in The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Columbia Pictures

Based on the novel of the same name, The Blue Lagoon is a romance-adventure movie that follows two children (who are also cousins) who get stranded together on a tropical island. They grow up, experience puberty, eventually fall in love, and even have a baby together.

Upon its release, the film was panned by critics for its ludicrous story and poor acting (it currently sits at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes). Furthermore, it elicited a lot of controversy, as Brooke Shields – who was fourteen at the time of filming – had a number of nude scenes, which were performed by an older body double but nevertheless sat uneasily with some viewers.

Still, The Blue Lagoon made a close to $60 million at the box office, becoming North America’s ninth highest-grossing movie of 1980. And it was even nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography. A sequel – titled Return to the Blue Lagoon – was released in 1991, where it absolutely bombed with critics and at the box office.

4 Ouija (2014)

Olivia Cooke in Ouija
Universal Pictures

Ouija follows a group of teenagers who release an evil spirit after playing with an Ouija board. It was largely panned by critics and currently holds a whopping 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audience members – who are typically a little more kind than critics – equally loathed the movie, giving it a 24% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But as is the case with most cheaply-produced horror movies, Ouija made enough money to warrant a sequel. However, unlike other movies on this list, Universal Studios actually learned their lesson and used the sequel as an opportunity to start fresh. They hired rising horror-icon Mike Flanagan to write and direct the sequel, Origin of Evil. In a shocking turn of events, Ouija’s follow-up was actually better than its predecessor (which is admittedly a low bar) and received a lot of praise upon its release. Even though Ouija: Origin of Evil wasn’t as successful as the first film, it is a far better movie.

3 Bloodrayne (2005)

Boll KG Productions

Movie adaptations of popular video games never turn out well. Just look at Doom, Max Payne, Assassin’s Creed, and the aforementioned Hitman movies. But very few come close to being as bad as BloodRayne.

Directed by infamous schlock-master Uwe Boll – who does not have a good track record at bringing video games to the big screen – Bloodrayne follows a human-vampire hybrid who teams with a group of vampire hunters to bring down her evil father. Despite a strong cast that includes the likes of Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez, and Udo Kier, Bloodrayne was torn-apart by critics and fans of the videogame, and currently sits at 4% of Rotten Tomatoes (with a 17% audience score). Not only was it poorly received, but the film only made $4 million at the box-office against a $25 million budget.

Despite Bloodrayne’s abject failure, Uwe Boll wanted to keep making movies in the universe. Two direct-to-video sequels were released in 2007 and 2011, each one cheaper and worse-received than the last.

2 Baby Geniuses (1999)

Baby Geniuses
Sony Pictures

When reviewing the 1999 family comedy Baby Geniuses, Roger Ebert famously said: “bad films are easy to make, but a film as unpleasant as Baby Geniuses achieves a kind of grandeur.” He’s not wrong; this bizarre movie centers around a pair of scientists who believe “baby talk” holds unimaginable knowledge. In an effort to crack the baby-talk language and learn the secrets of the universe, they perform experiments on imprisoned “super babies,” one of whom plans a rebellion against their evil captors.

Upon release, Baby Geniuses grossed $36 million worldwide against a $12 million budget; not exactly a smashing success, but money was made. And with a meager 2% critic score and 25% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, clearly no one was clamoring for a sequel. But like many movies of the era, Baby Geniuses found new success on the home video market, which led to the creation of an unwarranted sequel in 2004: Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.

Impressively, the sequel turned out worse than its predecessor; it currently sits in the number four spot on IMDb’s very exclusive Bottom 100 list. And the movie was a box-office bomb, making $9 million worldwide. Despite these abysmal theatrical results, the film sold enough DVDs to warrant a number of cheap, direct-to-video sequels and even an Italian television series, subtitled Baby Squad Investigators.

RELATED: 10 Huge Plot Holes Created by Movie Sequels

1 Left Behind (2014)

Nic Cage in Left Behind
Freestyle Releasing

Left Behind is a religious apocalyptic thriller that centers around Nicolas Cage’s Ray Steele, a commercial pilot who gets caught in the biblical rapture on a transatlantic flight to London. When it was released in 2014, the film was – to put it kindly – eviscerated by critics. It currently sits at a surprisingly rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is the lowest-rated movie on this list.

Despite how poorly the film was received, there is a built-in audience; it’s based on a popular book, which itself is part of a bestselling 16-book series. Not to mention the very dedicated fan base that most faith-based films have. As a result, the film made $27 million dollars at the worldwide box office – enough for executives to greenlight a sequel.

Contract negotiations delayed production for a long time, which forced the studio to replace the entire cast for the sequel. In 2023, almost a decade after the release of its predecessor, Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist – directed by and starring faith-based superstar Kevin Sorbo – was finally released into theaters.