Most movie series don’t make it to five films. Either the filmmakers run out of ideas, or the studio reboots the characters. The latest “fifth-quel” is Scary Movie 5, which, since it’s in a franchise that just parodies whatever horror movies and cultural moments came along since the last one came out, doesn’t have to concern itself with such matters.
Here are some movies that kept the gravy train going—formula and tired plotlines be damned!
Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)
The Death Wish series reflected and defined the ‘70s as a grimy, violent, seedy place, where there were brutally violent bad guys just asking to get shot by the stone-faced, equally brutally violent good guys — and it actually lasted into the ‘90s. Once more, Paul Kersey is a magnet for thugs as a woman he loves gets brutalized and he has to write some wrongs and vigilante the shit out of some shit. Starring a 73-year-old Charles Bronson.
The Dead Pool (1988)
The iconic Dirty Harry film series reflected and defined the ‘70s as a grimy, violent, seedy place, where there were brutally violent bad guys just asking to get shot by the stone-faced, equally brutally violent good guys…and it actually lasted into the late ‘80s. Once more, Harry Callahan has to stop mobsters and serial killers and stuff. Starring a 58-year-old Clint Eastwood.
Rocky V (1990)
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) fights, retires, fights, reconnects with his son (Sage Stallone), and once more perpetuates the idea that boxing is really about dreams and America, not so much the punching. Spoiler: there’s also lots and lots of punching.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
It’s totally normal for an entire police force to be re-assigned to another metropolitan area, especially a comically inept one. (They’re actually there for a police convention, but they have to spring into action against jewel thieves; just like at your last work function.) The old gang is back, including Tackleberry (the gun obsessed one), Hightower (the giant Bubba Smith one), and Jones (sound effects guy). But it’s the first Guttenberg-less Police Academy, so PASS.
The Gods Must Be Crazy V (1994)
When the original The Gods Must Be Crazy was released in the U.S. in 1984, it became a minor, if brief, cultural phenomenon. An unlikely hit, it was made in South Africa, in several African languages, and was about an ignorant African bushman named Xi (a Namibian actor named N!xau) who finds a Coke bottle dropped out of an airplane and thinks it’s a gift from the gods. Yeah, in retrospect, it’s pretty racist. At one time, it was the highest grossing foreign film in both the U.S. and Japan, and so they kept making these movies because they were super-cheap. The third, fourth, and fifth were unauthorized, barely relate to the original, and were filmed in China and aren’t available on video in the U.S. Appropriately, the fifth is titled The Gods Must Be Funny in China.
Ernest Rides Again (1993)
Jim Varney was a gifted comic (and classically trained actor) who found fame and great success for his yokel character Ernest P. Worrell, which first appeared in a series of national television commercials in the early ‘80s. Varney starred in nine movies in which dumb but earnest Ernest got himself in and out of all sorts of crazy situations. Ernest went to camp, he saved Christmas, he went to jail, was scared stupid, and in the fifth theatrical installment (the rest were straight to video), Ernest discovers a priceless Revolutionary War artifact.
Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)
Horror movies are frequently cheap and agreeably formulaic, so quite a few horror franchises have spawned at least five films. In this one, the murderous mythical Irish creature version of Chucky (Warwick Davis) goes to inner-city Los Angeles, because he likes rap battles and death.
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (2012)
In a movie rife with nerdly-voiced werewolf hunks, sparkly vampires, mincing vampire popes, and and climactic battle scenes that take place inside the mind of a psychic, the weirdest part about this movie (the fifth in the series but based on the second half of the fourth Twilight novel because Stephanie Meyer’s writing is just that rich), is that Bunk from The Wire is in it, playing some kind of high-end vampire lawyer.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
The future of the Planet of the Apes is in danger as a socialist ape secretly born in another, disreputable part of the Planet of the Apes wants to tear society asunder with free health care. Can he be stopped by his political rival, a handsome ape who wishes to restore the Planet of the Apes to its once proud, almost mythical stature?
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
The one that was directed by William Shatner. In which the crew of the Enterprise meets God. Or possibly Satan.