One of the biggest complaints from modern moviegoers is the perceived lack originality pouring out of Hollywood today.
From remakes to a steady stream of sequels, it can often feel like filmmakers have run out of original ideas.
However, the original stories audiences are clamoring to see appear more often than you think, retooled as the latest installment of a long-running franchise.
It’s true. Many sequels in fan-favorite sagas didn’t originally start out as the next adventure of a well-known character and these seven films are prime example of sequels that were never meant to be sequels at all.
1. Most Of The Die Hard Sequels
- Director/s: Various
- Franchise Box Office: $1,435,086,362
- Originally: Varied book adaptations and original scripts
Despite the hardcore action and '80s one-liners, Die Hard was actually based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever - the sequel to a neo-noir movie starring music legend Frank Sinatra called The Detective.
This unofficial tradition of picking up unlikely scripts for Die Hard's story followed in the sequels. Die Hard 2 was based on the novel 58 Minutes. Die Hard With A Vengeance was an original crime-thriller titled Simon Says which at one point was both Lethal Weapon 3 and Speed 2 script. Live Free Or Die Hard was an original techno-thriller known as WW3.com. A Good Day To Die Hard is the most original Die Hard installment we've had so far, and it's also considered the worst film of the franchise.
2. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
- Director: George Miller
- Year Of Release: 1985
- Box Office: $36,230,219
- Originally: An original post-apocalyptic movie
Fans of the Mad Max movies tend to be divided when it comes to the third entry, Beyond Thunderdome. This is because Thunderdome feels like a pair of different movies combined into one. The first half featuring Barter Town served more of the franchise's expected post-apocalyptic fare, while the second act with Max (Mel Gibson) rescuing children felt like a mix of standard '80s-fare and a child-friendly version of Lord Of The Flies.
This jarring mood swing is the result of Thunderdome's creative process. Before director George Miller's involvement, Thunderdome's original script was about a man who encounters wild children in the wastelands. Miller decided that this man would be Max, and so he added familiar elements and characters that would connect original script to the desolate, leather-loving world of Mad Max.
3. Kill Bill: Volume 2
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Year Of Release: 2004
- Box Office: $152,159,461
- Originally: The second half of Kill Bill
Quentin Tarantino is known for making dialogue-driven homages to trashy exploitation films, and Kill Bill is his love letter to the kung-fu movies from the days of legends like Bruce Lee. If things went Tarantino's way, Kill Bill would have been released in cinemas as a feature that lasted more than four hours.
Predictably and understandably, the film's producers balked at this idea and asked Tarantino to cut the movie into two installments. This resulted in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2, with the sequel being released a mere six months after the first movie.
However, Tarantino recognizes Kill Bill as a single entity; making it his fourth film despite being split in two. The complete version of Kill Bill, now with restored footage, can be seen in the definitive cut, Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair.
4. Ocean's Twelve
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Year Of Release: 2004
- Box Office: $362,744,280
- Originally: An original heist script titled Honor Among Thieves
After the blockbuster success of the Ocean's Eleven remake from 2001, a sequel needed to be made as fast as possible. Warner Brothers' solution to this was to get an original script and insert Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) gang of suave sleuths into the story to create the official sequel to the ensemble heist movie.
Honor Among Thieves' plot was relatively untouched, and Ocean's Twelve still featured dueling master thieves (Ocean and The Night Fox in the film) as its main attraction. While the game of mental chess and deception remained, the original protagonist's core aspects and traits were split between Ocean and two of his colleagues: Rusty (Brad Pitt) and Linus (Matt Damon). Ocean kept the intellect, Rusty got the romance and Linus took the rest.
5. Saw II
- Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
- Year Of Release: 2005
- Box Office: $147,748,505
- Originally: An original horror script titled The Desperate
Despite being blamed for starting the whole Torture Porn craze, the first and nearly bloodless Saw became one of the horror genre's biggest surprise hits. Naturally, this meant that Saw would spawn a bunch of imitators and sequels. The Desperate was one of these many Saw copies, but it had the honor and fortune of becoming an official part of the Saw franchise.
Saw II director Darren Lynn Bousman wrote The Desperate, and pitched his dark tale of helpless people stuck in a booby-trapped house to many studios before Lionsgate picked it up. The Desperate went through some rewrites to make it fit into the Saw universe, but its core plot and characters remained the same. Bousman proudly declared that The Desperate and Saw II were indistinguishable from one another, guaranteeing that his vision stayed in place even if Billy The Puppet made a few surprise appearances.
6. Evan Almighty
- Director: Tom Shadyac
- Year Of Release: 2007
- Box Office: $173,418,781
- Originally: An original comedy script titled The Passion Of The Ark
After Jim Carrey refused to reprise what some consider to be his last great comedic role from Bruce Almighty, the movie's producers turned to the comedy hit's dark horse, Steve Carell, for the sequel.
Sony bought the rights to the script The Passion Of The Ark with the intention of turning it into the Bruce Almighty follow-up, with or without Carrey's involvement. However, midway through production The Passion Of The Ark was scrapped and replaced with what would become the script of Evan Almighty.
Instead of focusing on a "For Dummies" author as originally written, Evan Almighty centered on journalist turned congressman, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), who is tasked by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark and spread a message about environmental care.
7. 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Director: Dan Trachtenberg
- Year Of Release: 2016
- Box Office: $108,286,421
- Originally: An original thriller titled The Cellar
J.J. Abrams has been trying, and failing, to get a Cloverfield sequel off the ground, and the success of Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot killed his hopes of making Cloverfield 2. Reportedly, Abrams felt he couldn't top the King Of Monsters with another giant monster movie, so he opted to expand the world of Cloverfield with a movie that had nothing to do with giant monsters.
The Cellar was a film about ambiguity, desperation and survival. During production, it was retooled into 10 Cloverfield Lane. Some changes were made, including a new action-packed ending that contradicts the film's tense atmosphere, which connected the movie to the Cloverfield universe. This was so sudden that The Cellar's cast and crew only heard of the edits on the movie's release day - and J.J. Abrams got all the credit for the last minute changes. Objectively speaking, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a good exercise in paranoia, but one wonders what it could have been if it stayed independent of the Cloverfield name.
As seen in the movies above, and many others throughout Hollywood history, the decision to take an original script and rework it as a part of an existing franchise can end with varying results.
For the exact opposite, namely movies that were originally meant to be sequels but turned into something else entirely, check out this list here.