With movie studios keen to turn standalone movies into blockbusting franchises it’s fair to say that a strong proportion of Hollywood’s output is given a sequel. If a movie proves to be a success then a sequel is produced and more often than not even really bad movies are given follow-ups too.
Thing is, not all good movies get sequels; there are quite a few which have proved successful either commercially or critically and yet have remained as standalone films (at least for now). Let’s take a look at some of the best, which rightly or wrongly, never got extended beyond the initial entry.
Most of the films listed below didn’t require a sequel, so perhaps it is best that they remained a solo-story. But then, we never needed a sequel to The Matrix (1999), but we still got two.
E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Arguably the most iconic movie on this list and probably the one which NO ONE wants to see a sequel to, yet strangely the one you’d expect someone to have turned into a franchise at some point is E.T. – the Steven Spielberg-directed movie about a lost little alien. Released in 1982 the movie was met with both critical and commercial success, yet 37 years on there is still no sequel.
According to an article written by Hollywood.com back in 2012 (written to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary) a sequel was penned by Spielberg and E.T. writer Melissa Mathison, but it never made it past the discussion stages. The script – which had the title E.T.: Nocturnal Fears – was written just a few days after the release of the original movie, included lead character Elliot and introduced some evil aliens.
So why wasn’t the movie produced? Well, apparently Spielberg simply decided against it.
Despite rumours and the subsequent publication of a sequel novel – E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet – it would seem that (for now) E.T. will remain as a standalone movie.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Released to critical acclaim in 1994, Forrest Gump was a touching romantic-drama based on a 1986 novel by Winston Groom. The film – directed by Robert Zemeckis – starred Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Sally Field and focused on the interesting life of Forrest Gump.
Produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures, Forrest Gump made $677.9 million from a budget of $55 million and picked up a bunch of awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing at the 67th Academy Awards. So with such recognition and a heap of cash in the bank, what happened to the sequel?
Whilst rumours circulated for a while regarding a sequel, nothing happened until 2001 when Eric Roth wrote a screenplay based on the novel’s follow-up, Gump and Co. However, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, director Robert Zemeckis, along with writer Eric Roth and star Tom Hanks, decided that the story was no longer relevant and talk of a sequel was dropped.
Directed by legendary puppeteer Jim Henson – with a screenplay by Terry Jones – Labyrinth was a fantasy adventure film which mixed real-life actors with puppets! The film starred David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly and told the story of a young girl who had to work her way through a world controlled by the Goblin King.
If you’ve never seen Labyrinth (shame on you), then you should watch it immediately as it is a very enjoyable movie, with some great songs and fantastic performances. So why didn’t Labyrinth get a sequel?
Regarded as a stone-cold classic today, Labyrinth was met with mixed reviews and a rather disappointing box-office upon release. Produced on a budget of $25 million, the film made under $13 million, throwing any plans for a sequel firmly out of the window.
The initial and rather disappointing response to Labyrinth was a huge blow to Henson and the project marked the last film he would direct. However, thanks to the passage of time and a healthy dose of nostalgia, Labyrinth has picked up a wealth of fans, ensuring that Henson’s legacy has lived on, regardless of whether (a rumoured) sequel ever takes place.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Another fantasy movie and one which has continued to attract even more fans since its release in 1987, The Princess Bride was an action-adventure movie based on a 1973 book of the same name by William Goldman. Directed by Rob Reiner and shot on location around the UK and Ireland, the movie starred a wealth of great actors, from Peter Falk, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin to Christopher Guest, Robin Wright and Billy Crystal and was as enjoyable as it was imaginative.
So a sequel sounded like a sure thing, right?
Although it seems inconceivable that The Princess Bride was not universally loved by all, it would seem that audiences were not so bothered about heading to the cinema when it was released. Despite a lot of talent, great direction and a witty script, The Princess Bride was not a huge hit on its release and didn’t really pick up any real traction until it cropped up on VHS a short while later, meaning a sequel was off the table.
In 2012, during a press event for the 25th anniversary of movie, William Goldman said that he had always wanted to write a sequel to his original novel, but it had never quite happened. In November 2018, at the age of 87, he sadly passed away, leaving The Princess Bride as a one-off tale, both in movies and in the world of literature.
True Lies (1994)
Directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies was an explosive action-comedy which riffed on James Bond movies, as well as the spy genre as a whole. Released in 1994 to mostly positive reviews, True Lies was not just a great James Cameron movie it was also a fantastic Arnie film.
During the course of its release, True Lies raked in $378.8 million pushing it into third place on the list of highest grossing movies of 1994 (sitting behind Forrest Gump & The Lion King). The film also picked up a number of awards, with Jamie Lee Curtis taking home a Golden Globe and a BAFTA in the category of Best Actress.
So where’s the sequel?
Rumours of a sequel circulated for a while, but according to reports (and similar to plans for the Forrest Gump sequel) the September 11th terror attacks put Cameron off the idea of making a sequel. Throw in the fact that Arnie took a break from acting in 2003 to become Governor of California and it isn’t difficult to see why True Lies 2 never became a reality.
The Goonies (1985)
Directed by Richard Donner and released in 1985, The Goonies was an action-adventure movie about a group of kids and their attempts to uncover missing treasure in order to save their homes from demolition. The movie was produced by Steven Spielberg, starred Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman and was a big hit upon release.
Over the years The Goonies has continued to grow in popularity, yet a sequel has never materialised… but don’t think for one minute that no one has thought about it. The fact that this film hasn’t had a sequel is a simple one – there just hasn’t been the right script for it.
A cartoon, a musical and a comic book have all featured amongst possible ways with which to take The Goonies forward, but more than 30 years on from its debut The Goonies remains a one-time affair.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
And finally, one of the best family films of the late ‘80s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a live-action fantasy movie based on the 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, By Gary K. Wolf. The movie starred Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd and Charles Fleischer and mixed real-life actors with some of the most famous cartoon characters in the world.
Released in 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a big hit, receiving positive reviews and scoring almost £330 million from a budget of $70 million. A sequel seemed inevitable and work did begin on a script, with a World War II-era follow-up, Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, being the first idea of a number premises that would crop up over the years.
BUT… a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit simply didn’t happen.
Although talk of a Roger Rabbit sequel (or prequel) has been discussed over the years it would seem that no one can quite figure out how to get the project off the ground. Perhaps this is a blessing as Who Framed Roger Rabbit perfectly captured a lost era of cartoon making, via a lost era of film making, both of which would be difficult to recreate for a second outing.
This post was originally published on the Honcho-SFX blog.