NB: The following contains inevitable spoilers. If you haven’t seen a film in a particular entry, feel free to skip to the next one.
In some cases, it comes as a relief when a threatened sequel fails to materialise. The end of the infamous Mac And Me, for example, sees its family of cretinous aliens drive off in a pink Cadillac, a speech bubble chillingly telling us, “We’ll be back!” Thankfully, Mac And Me 2 has yet to materialise, despite the original film’s near-legendary status.
Every so often, though, we’ll come across a movie that strongly hints at more adventures to come, but for a variety of reasons – usually financial ones – the sequel never got made. To illustrate this, here are nine such movies, which have hinted at sequels, but have failed to spawn one so far. In one or two instances, it’s possible we’ll see a remake or even sequel within the next few years, but others are unlikely to materialise at all – more’s the pity.
Flash Gordon (1980)
Backed by Queen’s bombastic rock soundtrack, director Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon was a raucous and knowingly camp action fantasy. Still regularly quoted by fans and referenced in other movies (Sam J Jones even reprised his role as Flash in 2012’s Ted), Flash Gordon has acquired a cult following, and could, theoretically, have served as the first instalment in a popular franchise. This was certainly hinted at in the film’s final shot, where we see Ming The Merciless (Max von Sydow) pluck his power ring from the ground. We hear him cackle as the teasing words, “The End?” fade up on the screen.
Unfortunately, two events conspired against a Flash Gordon sequel. First, the film failed to make as much money as its producers had hoped. Second, and perhaps even more devastatingly, leading Man Sam J Jones fell out with the filmmakers late on in Flash Gordon‘s production.
“I had to shoot a bunch of other stuff with a stunt double for Sam,” director Mark Hodges later explained, “and I had to re-voice the occasional line of dialogue, too […] I got somebody to impersonate Sam’s voice.”
This irked Jones, and apparently led to an ongoing antipathy between he and producer DIno De Laurentiis. “When you lose your main star,” Hodges lamented, “there can’t really be a sequel.”
Buckaroo Banzai (1984)
The cast alone ensures Buckaroo Banzai‘s cult status: Peter Weller is joined by Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd in one of the most eccentric American films of the 1980s. Weller stars as the title hero, a scientist who also happens to be, among other things, a rock star and an enthusiastic racing car driver who accidentally sparks off a war between two alien species.
Feverishly entertaining though Buckaroo Banzai was, it was perhaps a bit too off-the-wall to attract mainstream audiences; it only succeeded in making back around a third of its $17m budget on its original release. This meant that, despite the end credits suggesting that Buckaroo Banzai Vs The Crime League would be the next adventure in the series, a sequel never happened.
Attempts to get a Buckaroo Banzai TV series off the ground in the 90s never amounted to much, either, and while the characters live on in comic books and even a role-playing game, some knotty rights issues have ensured that a belated sequel is unlikely to appear any time soon. “The big insanity for Buckaroo is that the paper trail for the rights is almost impossible to follow,” director WD Richter said back in 2011.
Our lookback at the original film is here.
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Only a moderate success on its theatrical release, Young Sherlock Holmes deservedly earned itself a cult following in later years. A fanciful origin story before such a thing became fashionable, director Barry Levinson’s adventure mystery offered up a wonderfully soft-edged 19th century London full of cobbles, gaslight, tweed and underground Egyptian cults. Nicholas Rowe and Alex Cox were great value as the teenage Holmes and Watson, and if there were any justice, the pair would have reunited for at least one sequel.
It could be just wishful thinking on our part, but Young Sherlock Holmes‘ post-credits sequence set things up perfectly for a follow-up movie. In it, we discover that the villain Professor Rathe (a glowering Anthony Higgins) survived what appeared to be a terminal fall into the Thames. As he books into an Alpine hotel, Rathe signs in under a new name: Professor Moriarty.
Sadly, Young Sherlock Holmes‘ tepid performance in cinemas dashed any possibility of a sequel. Talk of a Disney-led remake surfaced a couple of years ago, though little more has emerged from the project since.
Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
Not long after he directed Buckaroo Banzai, WD Richter was contracted to turn in an extensive rewrite on Gary Goldman and David Weinstein’s early draft of Big Trouble In Little China – then a kung-fu western set in the 1800s. The result was a gloriously entertaining modern-day fantasy directed by John Carpenter, and featuring a winningly oafish turn from Kurt Russell as the hapless truck driving hero, Jack Burton.
Had Big Trouble In Little China been marketed correctly, it could well have been a sizeable hit, but the film sank in a summer season dominated by the likes of James Cameron’s Aliens. This meant that, despite Big Trouble‘s assured cult status, the possibility for a sequel hinted at in the film’s final scene – where we see a monster from earlier on in the film stowing away on Jack Burton’s truck – was never capitalised on. Weirdly, there were rumours floating around that Big Trouble In Little China was in fact WD Richter’s repurposed script for Buckaroo Banzai Vs The Crime League. Richter’s summary of this theory? “Absurd.”
Masters Of The Universe (1987)
Made at a time when Cannon Films was having all sorts of cash flow problems – partly thanks to its habit of making so many movies at once – Masters Of The Universe emerged as a somewhat blundering and ungainly action fantasy in the summer of 1987. But while its rushed production told in the finished movie, there was and remains much to recommend Masters Of The Universe, not least a brilliantly enthusiastic performance from Frank Langella as Skeletor.
Fittingly, it’s Skeletor who gets the last word in Masters Of The Universe‘s post-credits sequence, where the evil villain’s bony head bobs up to the surface of a moat and exclaims, “I’ll be back.”
Cannon Films really did have a sequel to Masters Of The Universe planned, which would have been even more penny pinching than the original (estimated budget: $4.5m), and shot back-to-back with the studio’s proposed Spider-Man movie. Sets were built and costumes sewn, yet Cannon’s inability to pay Mattel’s fees for the repeat use of the He-Man rights led to Masters Of The Universe 2‘s abandonment. Refusing to let some perfectly good sets and outfits go to waste, director Alfred Pyun famously repurposed them for what would become the 1989 action flick, Cyborg.
Space Balls (1987)
“God willing, we’ll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money“. So said the diminutive sage Yogurt in Mel Brooks’ entertaining if somewhat scattershot Star Wars parody, Spaceballs. Given that those words were spoken by Brooks himself (who played the Yoda-inspired mentor, Yogurt, as well as serving as director, producer and co-writer), you might think that a sequel would have been fairly likely, particularly when Spaceballs‘ cult status continued to grow in the years after its release.
Disappointingly, the sequel never happened, even though Spaceballs‘ success on VHS made a follow-up an attractive proposition for its studio, MGM. Star Rick Moranis (who played the Dark Vader analogue, Dark Helmet) even had his own idea for the film: Spaceballs III: The Search For Spaceballs II. “I was unable to make a deal with Mel,” Moranis said last year. “That ship has sailed.”
Spaceballs: The Animated Series did appear in 2008, but so far, no further talk of a live-action sequel has emerged. With Star Wars: Episode VII on the horizon, maybe interest in a new Spaceballs film will surface, too.
Long before he took on Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, screenwriter James Gunn began his directing career with Slither, an anarchic comedy horror about a small town infested by parasitic aliens. An amalgam of David Cronenberg’s Shivers, Night Of The Creeps and Robert A Heinlein’s 1951 novel The Puppet Masters, Slither starred Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks, and featured the edifying sight of Michael Rooker shape-shifting into an oozing slug monster. In true B-movie style, the Rooker-creature refuses to die, despite the best efforts of Fillion’s police chief hero; after the end credits, we see a cat lick the monster’s pulsating remains, before the unsuspecting feline cries out in pain as the screen fades to black.
Whether this final sting was intended to hint at a sequel or not, Slither‘s disappointing performance at the box office probably ruled out the possibility of a follow-up. Nevertheless, we’re hoping that Gunn can find a way to bring back Nathan Fillion for another Slither encounter – particularly if the monster takes the form of a giant, alien-infected cat this time.
District 9 (2009)
The conclusion of Neill Blomkamp’s wildly successful sci-fi film was satisfyingly complete, while still leaving several substantial hints at a coming sequel. Sharlto Copley’s antihero Wikus van der Merwe has mutated beyond all recognition, but it’s strongly suggested that he’s still alive, while escaping alien Christopher (and his young son) has promised that he’ll return in three years with a cure for Wikus’ mutation.
District 9‘s box-office success makes a sequel a viable option from a financial perspective, while Neill Blomkamp has said himself that he’d like to make one. The problem, however, lies in Blomkamp’s schedule; after completing Elysium, he went into making Chappie, and has another movie called Mild Oats to make after that. Last year, Blomkamp revealed that he and co-writer Terri Tatchell have a treatment lined up for the sequel, but he’s not prepared to commit to when he’s going to make it. If Blomkamp does get around to making a sequel to District 9, it’s not likely to be for a good few years yet.
Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)
In our recent interview with Gareth Evans, the Welsh director of The Raid and The Raid 2 revealed that his favourite Jason Statham movie was Crank 2: High Voltage, Neveldine/Taylor’s demented sequel to their own 2006 action comedy. It’s not hard to see why, either; Crank 2 took the first film’s premise – about a hero who has to stay alive by keeping his heart rate pounding – and threw it into surreal, absurd new territory.
Ending in a crescendo of violence and fire, you might be forgiven for thinking, as a burning Statham extends his middle finger to the audience, that the stir-crazy hero’s adventures have come to an end. Yet during the end credits, we discover that Chev Chelios is scorched, bandage-clad, but still alive.
Unlike some of the other films on this list, Crank 2 actually did reasonable business, having earned more than double its $15m budget back in theatres alone. At the time of writing, however, Neveldine/Taylor have yet to officially confirm their plans for one, even though actress Amy Smart has suggested that a follow-up as being discussed. If it happens, Crank 3 – once again starring Statham as a now bandage-clad Chelios – could be one of the most bizarre sequels ever made.