The phrase “jump the shark” is pretty well-known among TV fans. It’s when a show sees a decline in quality so steep that it starts relying on excessively far-fetched or gimmicky events to keep viewers hooked. Though it isn’t as well known, the phrase “nuke the fridge” similarly signals a movie franchise’s departure from former standards of quality and logic.
The term was created after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skullliterally saw the protagonist avoid a nuclear explosion by placing himself inside a refrigerator, but numerous other film franchises have nuked the fridge, and Redditors have been sure to passionately complain about them online.
10 The ‘Die Hard’ Franchise (1988-2020)
According to many, the original Die Hard is the single greatest action movie ever made. Its first two sequels didn’t come close to that level of quality, but there is a lot in them to be enjoyed by fans of the genre. The final two movies in the franchise, though, dropped the ball, according to Reddit.
Live Free or Die Hard completely abandoned the laws of physics, and its PG-13 rating (as opposed to the R rating of the rest of the franchise) was also criticized, but it was still a pretty fun and exciting action thriller. A Good Day to Die Hard, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like a Die Hard movie at all. Like u/2far4u said, “it was [way] too over the top and stupid.”
9 Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ Trilogy (2002-2007)
When the legendary Sam Raimi made Spider-Man, the superhero genre was nowhere near as big as it is today, and it largely helped change that. Spider-Man 2 is still praised as one of the best superhero movie sequels ever, but Spider-Man 3 is famous for how big of a disaster it was.
The threequel is not without its moments, with fun action scenes and creative directing by Raimi, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who says that it’s close to the level of quality of its predecessors. Like u/LackingTact19 points out, “too many [villains] was the true weakness for that movie,” adding to an already messy and overstuffed story that couldn’t realistically end in anything but disaster.
8 ‘The Matrix’ Franchise (1999-)
The Wachowskis took the world by storm when they released The Matrix. It was, and surprisingly still is, considered one of the most exhilarating, intelligent, and entertaining action movies of all time. It’s also famous, sadly, for having lackluster sequels.
It would have been extremely tough for any sequel to live up to the groundbreaking qualities of the original, which has caused The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions to garner a growing cult following in recent years from fans who have grown fonder of them in retrospect. Resurrections, though, was simply unforgivable. Overall, one has to agree with u/Zinzendorf when they say that “they tainted the awesome first film” with so much fluff.
7 Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ Franchise (2007-2017)
Michael Bay has never been known for making particularly cerebral or artistic action movies, but if you know what you’re in for with his stuff, he can sometimes make sure that you have a great time. Such was the case with his first Transformers, but the four following movies are downright awful.
Whereas the first film had camp, humor, slick visuals, and an awful lot of heart going for it, its follow-ups squandered all of that. Like u/JoeKool23 would say, they “became just dumb and lost [their] personality,” driving the bad acting, boring storylines, and cheap visuals up with each subsequent installment.
6 The ‘Taken’ Trilogy (2008-2014)
Taken isn’t an extraordinary cinematic achievement by any stretch, but what it does have are a very particular set of skills that make it a modern classic for fans of the genre. On the other hand, its two sequels are simply bland beyond measure.
Like a since-deleted account said, “no one wanted a trilogy.” Bryan Mills is one of Liam Neeson‘s most entertaining roles, but it’s always good to know when an action hero is better off left as the star of a one-and-done kind of story. In the sequels, the tension was gone, the magic was gone, and the thrilling freshness of the original was most definitely gone.
5 The ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Movies (1994-2002)
1966’s Star Trek completely revolutionized the world of sci-fi television, an impact that can still be felt to this day. So, it was no surprise when movies started to come out. For the most part, they had great success… Just not all of them. The Original Series movie The Final Frontier showed that Star Trek wasn’t infallible, Insurrection was entirely unremarkable, but it was Nemesis that effectively killed the franchise.
People like u/yetkwai argue that Nemesis was “an okay movie, it was just a [sh*tty] Star Trek movie,” and it’s hard to disagree. As a piece of sci-fi action fluff, the movie’s passable; it’s when you take into consideration the overarching story that it’s supposed to serve that you realize just how badly it nuked the fridge.
4 The ‘Terminator’ Franchise (1984-)
As one of the most revered directors working today, James Cameron has created some truly impressive cinematic achievements. A couple of his best are The Terminator and Terminator 2, but when he left someone else in the director’s chair of Terminator 3, it all went kaput.
The first two Terminator films were unique, exciting, atmospheric, and full of great characters. The third one was charmless, boring, and had one of cinema’s most annoying protagonists. The franchise never recovered with its consequent sequels, leading former fans like u/sosaynomore to conclude that “nothing from it stands out.”
3 The ‘Saw’ Franchise (2003-)
While the first Saw is praised for its innovative approach to horror and Saw II isn’t without its fans, it all came tumbling down after Saw III. From that point onward, it was all downhill for one of the genre’s saddest cases of wasted potential.
Sure, the sequels had a few cool traps and some good scenes of gore, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Like u/user144 said, pretty soon, “they just started thinking up the sickest, most graphic ways to torture people,” forgetting about (or ignoring) everything that made the first movie such a beloved classic.
2 The ‘Jaws’ Franchise (1975-1987)
Considering how abysmal its sequels are, it can be easy to forget that Steven Spielberg‘s Jaws is one of the most important and entertaining landmarks in the history of horror movies and American cinema. It’s just better if everyone pretends that there was the only one made.
Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D were shamefully bad, but some fans were still willing to roll with the campy fun. Jaws: The Revenge, however, was an insult to viewers’ intelligence. Redditor u/karateandfriendship9 summarizes it best: “A shark is deliberately and intentionally planning to kill Brody’s wife as if […] it wasn’t a shark but a Bond villain”. No further explanation should be required.
1 The ‘Indiana Jones’ Franchise (1981-2023)
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a special case. It nuked the fridge not only figuratively but literally. It’s a real shame that three of the most acclaimed and iconic adventure movies of all time should be followed up by such an underwhelming legacy sequel, so much so that it literally was the origin of a term referring to movie franchises becoming nonsensical and pointless.
Redditors like u/Naweezy count things like “swinging monkeys, […] weak villains, lame alien resolution, extremely lame McGuffin”, and Shia Labeouf‘s highly criticized performance as some of the reasons why this movie is remembered with such spite. It’s an alright action adventure flick in its own right, but as part of a larger franchise, it proves how catastrophic it can be when you nuke the fridge.