For every classic 80s movie, we got the odd follow up that was just as good as the first – but this wasn’t always the case. There are several 1980s movie sequels that were so terrible you probably never heard of them, and others you wish you hadn’t.
The 80s were a golden age of movies, and some led to some truly incredible sequels. Some that come to mind are Back to the Future II, Ghostbusters II, The Empire Strikes Back, and Beverly Hills Cop II.
We could go on and on but to see my real breakdown, you need to check out my list of the 21 best movies of the 80s right here.
But they all can’t be winners. As great as a lot of these classic films were, they didn’t always lend themselves that well to a sequel – or even a trilogy. This is going to be a look back on some 80s movie sequels you might not have ever heard of. In some cases, they had made a third or fourth version as another attempt for making up for the crappy sequel – and those are on this list too.
Spoiler alert: If you didn’t get things correct in the sequel, there wasn’t a good chance the other follow-ups would be any good either. By that point, most people involved with the first movie were long gone.
So I have a few criteria here when making this list; I’m trying to list some very obscure ones that you – and me either – had not heard of. But I’ll still have to include a few that you’re probably familiar with but were so truly horrendous they need mentioning. The other thing is I won’t limit it to movie sequels that came out in the 80s. The original movie MUST have been released in the 80s but the follow-ups could come in the following decades.
O.K., so deep breath, and let’s do this.
10 80s Movie Sequels You Probably Didn’t Know Existed
10. The Next Karate Kid
The first Karate Kid is, of course, an 80s classic. This movie is so good it became a part of the fabric of the 80s and a cultural touching point. “Wax on, wax off” is as well known as any line in movie history. It had everything that made an 80s movie great; montages, action, and a David and Goliath type story.
The follow up didn’t quite match that:
The Next Karate Kid is not a sequel or even a third installment – but the FOURTH movie in this franchise. This came out in 1994 and starred a young Hilary Swank. The premise of the Next Karate Kid is when Mr. Miyagi meets the granddaughter of some friends. She has lost her parents in a car accident and Mr. Myiagi invites her to stay with him for some peace and quiet.
Mr. Miyagi finds out that she has some martial arts ability as it turns out she was trained by her father who was a student of Miyagi. This feels a bit like the premise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… She does have anger issues but Mr. Miygaki helps teach her to control it. She ends up fighting the school bully and Mr. Miyagi also jumps in at the end to help open a can of whoop-ass.
This movie got critically destroyed (this is obviously going to be a running thread through this article) and was the least successful of the franchise. The other Karate Kid movies made in the ballpark of $100 million; this made $8.9. Hillary Swank is good but it’s clear that this movie was unnecessary and the franchise was pretty much dead – until YouTube…
9. Teen Wolf Too
They didn’t use the number 2 but the word too meaning someone else is a teen wolf, get it?! That’s some wacky play on words there but Teen Wolf Too was the follow up the very popular Teen Wolf starring 80s icon Micheal J. Fox.
But he is nowhere to be seen in this version and instead we get a young Michael Bluth aka Jason Bateman taking on the title role. Bateman plays Todd who is not really into sports but wants to be a veterinarian. But it turns out he is the cousin of Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) and the basketball coach at the school hopes that Todd has the same werewolf genes as Scott which somehow makes you a good athlete.
Todd has the gene but goes the boxing route instead and goes the human route to fight his opponent at the end of the movie. But turns out there’s a lady teen wolf named Tanya who helps give Todd the motivation to win his fight.
This movie sucks. The original is far from the best movie ever, but it holds its own in the 80s teen comedy genre. This does not. But don’t take my word for it, just listen to some of the things that Jason Bateman had to say about it in an interview with Howard Stern on YouTube:
- If he had proper management he wouldn’t have made it
- His dad was a producer trying to get a quick box office hit so they could make more highbrow movies
- He says that Teen Wolf Too didn’t totally kill his career at the time, but it didn’t help
- “There were so many things that made it sh*t”
Teen Wolf Too came out on November 20, 1987, and was crushed by critics. Roger Ebert called it one of the worst films of the year and it made only $7.9 million. It has a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and only two actors from the original showed up to make this one.
8. The Never-Ending Story II: The Next Chapter
Ugh. The NeverEnding Story could possibly be the best kids fantasy film of the 80s. I can’t think of too many other movies that had such an impact on me and sparked what your imagination really is capable of. The NeverEnding Story had some very profound moments (don’t picture the horse scene) incredible characters, and the best ending ever with the bullies getting what they deserved.
The theme song is also in your head right now I’m pretty sure.
In this version, Bastian and Atreyu are back in Fantasia and come across the evil sorceress Xayide. She’s trying to take over the kingdom but the two are able to capture here while they seek out the child empress. Xayide is leading them on a wild goose chase and (spoiler alert) Atreyu ends up dying (editing note: my spell checker is tiring to turn Xayide into Bayside which is just awesome). The sorceress ends up dying and Bastian is able to go home in the end. Again.
So the original movie is based on a book by Micheal Ende, but they only covered about half of that in the film. The producer had intended for it to be a trilogy, but legal problems started coming out the ying-yang. Ende wanted more of say in how things were to be made and it threw everything off track.
The budget was dropped, there were fewer sets, and the shooting had to be rushed. Everything was rushed and it shows. Add to this that no one from the first film signed on for this and only one actor from the original appeared in this sequel.
A big problem – as most critics noted – was that the effects were so bad they became distracting. The characters were bad, the movie felt disjointed and, mainly, they just couldn’t capture the magic of the first one. Sometimes you can’t just leave well enough alone.
7. The Karate Kid Part 3
So we’re back at the Karate Kid after mentioning the Next Karate Kid, and I’m betting you haven’t seen or heard of this one either. The Karate Kid part 2, is a decent enough movie sequel but they ended up going to the well one too many times with this third installment – and this wouldn’t be the end of it as you now know.
The Karate Kid Part 3 is not as bad as The Next Karate Kid, but that’s not exactly saying much. This came out in 1989 and still has Ralph Macchio playing the role of Daniel. The same director and writer of the first two were also on board so it seems like everything should have been smooth sailing.
But it wasn’t.
The plot is based around the return of John Kreese and his best friend who is trying to get revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. We see Daniel get the crap kicked out of him and Mr. Miygai intervening because the old dog’s still got it! It all results in another tournament where Daniel loses in the final. Of course, he doesn’t – he obviously wins.
So this one is weird because Ralph Macchio was 27 at the time of filming this but playing an 18-year-old in the film. His “love interest” was played by 16-year-old Robyn Lively so any love scenes obviously couldn’t happen. This poor casting decision made for a whole different dynamic in the movie and the rehashed plotline just felt like another go-around of the previous iterations.
whereas the first two movies were big moneymakers, this one dropped big time making only $39 million dollars. It can’t get worse than that for a Karate Kid movie, can it?! It was considered one of the worst movies of 1989 and was nominated for 5 Golden Raspberry Awards. Years later, the director of the movie would call it a “horrible” and a “poor imitation of the first one.”
There’s the ringing endorsement you want!
6. The Fly 2
Here is one of those movies that I never knew existed. The Fly is an awesome and original science-fiction movie and a great role played by Jeff Goldblum. That came out in 1986 and is based on an earlier version from 1958 with Vincent Price.
The Fly 2: Electic Boogaloo, came out in 1989 and no one from the first (except for one actor) was on board for this movie sequel and that again should be your red flag for a movie. The plot of this involves the son of Goldblum’s character from the first film who inherits similar abilities. He eventually learns of the fate of his father while he himself also transforms into fly until the effect ends up being reversed.
So there are a few things with this movie; the first is that it just didn’t make much of a cultural impact in the way its predecessor did. The other is that it’s just a rehash of the original but manages to be boring and uninspired. Critic Leanord Maltin gave the Fly 2 his lowest rating. The first Fly is so much more creative with a terrifying premise and this sequel was just about gross-out entertainment.
What makes this movie interesting is the two main cast members. The first is Eric Stoltz who you may know as the first Marty McFly in Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox was originally not available for it. Stoltz had actually filmed a majority of BTTF before the directors realized he wasn’t working while at the same time Fox became available. Check out my article about all the things you missed in Back to the Future.
It also stars Daphne Zuniga who played Princess Vespa in Space Balls, and she was able to get this role due to recommendations by Mel Brooks. (check out my article all about why I think Space Balls is better than Star Wars).
5. Rambo 3
Rambo is awesome. The confusingly named Rambo: First Blood Part II, is also pretty awesome. Rambo 3, not so much. This is another movie sequel that is bad/you probably never heard of. This time around, we’re set in the Soviet-Afghan war but it depicts fictional events.
Rambo is setting out on a dangerous journey to Afghanistan to rescue back his old commander who has been captured by a Soviet army colonel.
So this movie is interesting, it’s on this list because it’s a sequel you may not have been aware of it. Rambo 3 is not great, but it was a huge box office hit despite being a critical failure. It has a 38% score on Rotten Tomatoes and got the classic “Thumbs Down” from Siskel and Ebert.
Rambo is obviously all about violence but that became too much of the focal point of this movie. It actually won a Guinness Book of World Records award for the most violent movie ever made. It had 221 acts of violence with over 100 people being killed. Rambo 3 came out in 1989 and as I said, it was a box office hit making $189 million.
It was also – at the time – the most expensive movie ever made and could have been a massive disaster. So that makes it an interesting anomaly for this list of movie sequels you may have not been aware of.
4. Short Circuit 2
Short Circuit 2 is a weird one for me; I know I’ve seen it, but I couldn’t tell you anything about it whereas I could probably recite every line from the original. Short Circuit 2 came out in 1988 and tried to capitalize on the success of the original.
The first Short Circuit wasn’t exactly an Oscar winner, but most everyone loved it and it did pretty good at the box office. This time around, we don’t have Ally Sheedy or Steve Guttenberg but we do have Fisher Stevens reprising the disastrous brown-face role of making a white actor appear Indian.
Short Circuit 2 came out in 1988 and revolves around toy versions of number Johnny 5 being manufactured. It also involves crooks trying to take over the deal and the real Johnny 5 helps prevent the whole debacle. Johnny also ends up being damaged and repaired with some nice product placement of the now-defunct Radio Shack.
The movie ends with Johnny 5 becoming an official U.S. citizen, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about this film. This is another example of a movie sequel that you probably didn’t know about, but one that wasn’t a total failure. It made around $21 million on a budget of $15 million so it wasn’t exactly a financial flop.
It’s just one of those movies that just seemed to pass people by which is surprising based on how well known the original was. Some other fun facts were that it was filmed in Toronto which doubled as New York City, they used five different Johnny 5s – which is either smart or confusing – and was filmed in less than two months.
It was far from a critical hit, but maybe would have had more success if they went with the original title; Short Circuit 2: More Input…
3. Grease 2
The amazing thing with Grease 2 is not just how bad it is, but how few people have ever even seen it. This is pretty remarkable as the follow up to the iconic original should have been an absolute juggernaut. The original Grease is one of the best movie-musicals ever made and features so many culturally significant scenes, lines, songs, and moments.
Grease 2 didn’t exactly recapture all that.
Grease 2 was originally titled More Grease and was also based on a broadway play. For the movie version, they were able to bring back the director and choreographer of the first film – but that’s pretty much all they brought back.
This time around we get an introduction to a then-unknown Michelle Pfieffer and the movie takes place back at Rydell High two years after the events of the first movie. We also get a reverse of the premise from the first movie where the guy is the “goodie two shoes” and the girl is the bad ass.
A big problem is that the original song composers chose to sat this one out so there was little chance at creating an iconic soundtrack like that featured in the original. I think if John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John were back as Danny and Sandy this movie would have been massive – despite the underwhelming music.
But they weren’t and the movie was panned by critics when it came out in 1982. It has a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With the first Grease, we were more accepting of the fact that the characters would just burst into song at any point. In Grease 2, it just didn’t come across as well along with the substandard music.
The best way to look at this is with what Roger Ebert said about it just trying to recycle the original but without the stars. The movie didn’t lose money but in its defense, it did open on one of the biggest weekends in movie history and finished 5th behind:
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Rocky III
2. Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles
The first Crocodile Dundee was a monster hit and to me, it makes the list of one of the top 20 movies of the 80s. It was a classic fish out of water story and Paul Hogan carried this movie while becoming a giant star in the first place.
I loved Crocodile Dundee. I know every line of it and have seen it a ton of times. I’m pretty sure I saw Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles but I remember nothing and it made no impression on me. Keep in mind this is technically Crocodile Dundee III. Crocodile Dundee II was a pretty decent movie sequel when it came out in 1988. It didn’t make as much as the first but still pulled in a massive $240 million on a budget of just $15 million.
The third one, however, didn’t come out until 2001 – 13 years after the sequel. This generated some interest but not enough to the point you might not have even heard of it.
We’re obviously based in Los Angeles and both Hogan and Linda Kozlowski (who I always had thought was Sharon Stone) both return. You think the nostalgia factor would have worked in its favor – but it didn’t exactly do that.
This is a movie sequel that was seen as unnecessary and that’s reflected in the critical response to it. It has an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and just didn’t have the charm and novelty of the first two. It did OK-ish at the box office bringing in $40 million, but it’s obvious that at this point, they had gone to the well once too often.
One interesting thing is that it was thought that a large percentage of the tickets bought were actually by younger kids who were using them to sneak into Tom Green’s Freddie Got Fingered. Green states that the attendance figures to his movie looked really good, but the box office receipts weren’t matching it and it was thought that this was the reason why. The R rating of Freddie Got Fingered prevented kids from buying tickets but those meddling kids had found a good work around.
1. Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddies Island Adventure
I’m saving this for last as I think it takes the cake for this whole category. I am pretty positive you didn’t know this thing existed and there’s a lot of good reasons for that.
If you look at the title, it seems like it could be the greatest thing ever as a follow up to the iconic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
But alas, it is not, and it is the perfect combination of a movie sequel you’ve probably never heard of, and one that is a complete trainwreck.
Let me get you up to speed: The first reason you didn’t see it in the theatre is because it was never released in theatres. Instead, it was aired on TV in 2003 which is even worse than “straight to video.”
The premise of Christmas Vacation 2 is also asinine. Cousin Eddie and Cathrine are back and we find out Eddie works at a nuclear power plant – a la Homer Simpson – where one day he is outworked by a trained monkey. Eddie is fired but his boss is worried he will sue as it’s so close to Christmas. Eddy’s boss gives him a tropical vacation to the South Pacific where the family ends up getting shipwrecked. This gives Eddy the opportunity to show he can provide for his family and give them a good Christmas.
It is baffling to me that this thing exists and it’s so bad it possibly takes away from the original. That seems impossible to do, but just associating this movie with Christmas vacation – even though Randy Quaid is in it as the incomparable cousin Eddie – is an atrocity.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (the actual full name) came out on December 20, 2003 on NBC. If they had even done a close attempt at recreating the original – and not having it set on a tropical island – this could have been a massive TV event – even if Chevy Chase wasn’t in it.
This thing is like watching a cartoon and some called it the worst movie they had ever seen. The fact that it actually exists surprises most people – especially fans of the original Christmas Vacation – but is also a disaster in every way possible.
What a time to be alive.
Some Final Thoughts On These Movie Sequels
So that’s my list of 80s movie sequels that you probably didn’t even know existed. Like I mentioned, it’s not all about these being the worst things ever put on film – or in Christmas Vacation 2’s case, case – but the shock that they even existed.
THe originals of all of these are absolute 1980s classics with their follow-ups leaving much to be desired. I guess what’s good in this situation is that it does make you appreciate the originals for how great they really were.
Even if you never saw the sequel and had snuck into Freddie Got Fingered….