1. Jaws 3-D
As a quick look of the following list will confirm, picking the worst sequel of 1983 is an exercise in futility. But when it comes to choosing which has the greatest disparity in quality between itself and the original, Jaws 3-D may be the undisputed winner (or loser, as it were). After flirting with the idea of making it a spoof (tentatively titled National Lampoon’s Jaws 3, People 0), Universal execs settled instead on the story—indebted to both Revenge Of The Creature and Gorgo—of a 20-foot great white shark laying siege to SeaWorld, which has inadvertently imprisoned its offspring. Dennis Quaid and John Putch play the grown sons of chief Brody, conveniently shoehorned in to save the day. The first and only directing credit of Joe Alves, who was the production designer on the previous two films in the series, Jaws 3-D skimps on character development, suspense, narrative logic, and visceral shark action. That didn’t stop audiences from turning out in droves, possibly just to see a giant leviathan wreak havoc in three dimensions. (The “D” in the title was dropped when the film came to video and cable, sans its stereoscopic component.) Sadly, this was not the lowest the franchise could go: Just when audiences thought it was safe to go back in the water, along came Jaws: The Revenge four years later.
2. Porky’s II: The Next Day
Bob Clark’s Porky’s was one of the biggest surprise hits of 1982, and one of the most disreputable: Reviews ranged from dismissive to appalled, and even news stories on the movie’s box-office success treated the subject gingerly. Achieving major commercial success without the approval of the cultural gatekeepers seems to have driven Clark mad with power. Fans of the original who turned out for Porky’s II: The Next Day hoping for more horny-teen high jinks were instead treated to an allegory about Clark and his critics. The plot involves first film’s high-school heroes trying to put on a Shakespeare festival, against the objections of a right-wing, hypocritical religious organization, because Shakespeare is cutting-edge and “ribald,” just like Bob Clark. The Moral Majority-types are aided and abetted by the local Ku Klux Klan, because anyone who didn’t like Porky’s is probably racist too. In the end, the Shakespeare-loving cretins of Angel Beach defeat and humiliate their paunchy, middle-aged enemies by subjecting them to (literal) public exposure, thus ensuring that, while Porky’s II does have its full quota of nudity, it’s not the kind the target demographic probably wanted.
Ten years and six films into his stint as 007, Roger Moore squandered much of fans’ goodwill with Octopussy. Although not his most ridiculous outing as Bond (at least he stays on Earth), the 13th entry in the franchise finds Moore barely pretending he’s anything other than an aging English gentleman playing around with alligator-shaped submarines and clown makeup. Octopussy was his next-to-last Bond film, and the wear-and-tear on his 007—and on the franchise as a whole—was beginning to show, which spurred subsequent attempts to give the world’s least flappable superspy all the facelifts Moore clearly had. Yet when Never Say Never Again needed an over-the-hill, clearly middle-aged Bond, Sean Connery reprised the role for the film, which was released four months after Octopussy and produced independently of the main franchise. It rekindled the Moore-versus-Connery debate—sadly, the most dynamic thing about Bond cinema circa 1983.
4. The Sting II
Clearly intended to be perceived as a sequel to the 1973 Paul Newman/Robert Redford film, The Sting II was more like a trip into a parallel universe where the roles of Henry “Shaw” Gondorff and Johnny “Kelly” Hooker are occupied by Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis. Ostensibly, Gleason and Davis are playing the same characters as Newman and Redford, respectively, but with slightly different names: Fargo Gondorff and Jake Hooker, and instead of a horse race, this sting revolves around boxing. Despite a screenplay co-authored by David S. Ward, who wrote the original film, and a cast featuring Teri Garr, Karl Malden, and—stepping into Robert Shaw’s role of Doyle Lonnegan—Oliver Reed, there’s nothing about The Sting II that the first film didn’t do better. Director Jeremy Kagan attempted to explain the movie as being inspired by the original and an expansion of its story, but moviegoers didn’t buy it.
5. Superman III
When it comes to sequels, the rule is usually go big, which is why Superman II pit the Man Of Steel against a foe just as tough as he in a skyscraper-smashing brawl. For the third entry in the series, the producers decided to go… smaller? They eschewed D.C.’s usual catalog of villains (a script featuring Brainiac and Mxyzptlk was written and then discarded) and Lois Lane, who only appears briefly. Instead, Superman faces a more fearsome foe than any of his comic-book nemeses: Richard Pryor. The profane comic plays Gus Gorman, an unemployed loser who discovers he has a natural flair for computer programming. Under the direction of corporate schemer Ross Webster (a scenery-chewing Robert Vaughn), Pryor first hacks into a satellite so it can create a tornado (as satellites do), then uses what appears to be a TRS-80 to create a substitute for kryptonite. The fake kryptonite first turns Superman into a callous, lethargic drunk, and then magically splits him into two: Jerk Superman and pure-hearted Clark Kent. The two fight, and obviously good triumphs over evil. But Pryor builds an even more magical computer—one that can launch missiles, shoot a ray of kryptonite, and in a scene that remains unsettling, transform Vaughn’s sister into a super-powered cyborg. Even a movie with Mxyzptlk would’ve been less silly.
6. Psycho II
In the early ’80s, Robert Bloch, author of the novel that inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, pitched Universal Pictures on a follow-up to the movie, and while the studio didn’t bite—Bloch eventually developed his ideas into a novel, also called Psycho II, which preceded the movie by a year—someone liked the idea of a sequel to a 23-year-old horror classic by a dead director. Anthony Perkins returned as Norman Bates, who is trying to rebuild his life after his release from the nuthouse. As soon as he moves back into his old home, bodies start dropping left and right, and though it turns out Norman isn’t the killer, the experience drives him crazy all over again. By the end, he’s fully psychotic and ready for Psycho III (which arrived three years later, with Perkins starring and directing). In the process, a singular, landmark movie was resurrected and turned into the basis for a franchise—one that, with the TV series Bates Motel, is still going.
7. Curse Of The Pink Panther
Considering that Blake Edwards complained that being typecast as the director of the Inspector Clouseau/Pink Panther films made it difficult for him to do other things, he sure did have trouble letting go. After Peter Sellers died in 1980, in between drafts of a script for a planned seventh Clouseau film, Edwards cranked out two more installments in the series: 1982’s Trail Of The Pink Panther, a “tribute” to his late collaborator that consisted of outtakes of Sellers in action mixed with mock interviews with his co-stars, and Curse Of The Pink Panther. The latter was intended to re-launch the franchise with a Ted Wass (formerly of the TV sitcom Soap) as a bumbling American detective named Clifton Sleigh. The film was barely noticed on release, which Edwards blamed on MGM/UA’s lack of promotion.
8. The Black Stallion Returns
The Black Stallion Returns is far from the worst movie on this list, but it might be the saddest. 1979’s The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring the 13-year-old Kelly Reno, is one of the most magically beautiful children’s films ever made, and it only existed because Francis Ford Coppola believed in Ballard and financed the project through his production company, American Zoetrope. The film became one of the few profitable films Zoetrope ever made, so Coppola signed off on a sequel after the high-profile failure of One From The Heart. Reno returned to play the now-teenage hero, but Ballard was replaced by Robert Dalva, a famous film editor who had never directed a movie before (or since). After the original, the sequel’s generic boy’s-adventure story felt like spinning gold into straw.
9. Staying Alive
Staying Alive attempted to cash in on the success of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, following John Travolta’s hardscrabble dancer as he attempts to make it on Broadway. Where the first film traded in the hopeless trappings of Brooklyn blue-collar life (the cultural memory of the wide lapels and light-up dance floors overlooks Fever’s harrowing rape scene, for instance), this Sylvester Stallone—directed sequel functions more obviously as a soundtrack-delivery system. The Bee Gees-heavy tie-in record moved something like 4.5 million copies worldwide, but the film was a critical whipping boy—Entertainment Weekly dubbed it “Worst Sequel Ever.”
10. Smokey And The Bandit Part 3
When Burt Reynolds’ 1977 car-chase comedy Smokey And The Bandit proved to be a runaway success, a sequel was inevitable; all the major players returned for 1980’s Smokey And The Bandit II. Given its healthy box office returns, a third film in the franchise seemed likely, but Reynolds’ considerably diminished interest (and the absence of his female lead, Sally Field) led filmmakers to move in a different direction, making the villain of the first two films—Sheriff Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason—into the hero. In an early version of the film, Gleason played both Smokey and the new Bandit, but it was recut after test audiences found it confusing. The theatrical release features returning characters Big Enos and Little Enos hatching a $250,000 wager with Justice to make a delivery from Florida to Texas, then hiring the Bandit’s buddy, Cledus (Jerry Reed), to keep him from successfully completing the trip. Little more than a low-budget recycling of the first two films, with a too little, too late cameo from Reynolds in its final minutes, Part 3 failed to make back its production costs, closing what probably shouldn’t have been a trilogy in the first place.
11. Sudden Impact
By 1983, the violence and moral ambiguity of vigilante cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood, who also directed) didn’t have the shock value of the three preceding Dirty Harry films from the ’70s. Sudden Impact is thus more of a police procedural and less a study in the rights and wrongs of Callahan’s methods. Yet again, police brass threatens to boot him and his .44-caliber Auto Mag from the force, but because he “gets results,” he’s allowed to stay and investigate a woman who systematically murders her sexual assaulters. At one point, Callahan thwarts a diner robbery by plugging everyone in sight. When the last perp standing tries to escape with a hostage, the aging Callahan points the Auto Mag at him and utters, “Go ahead. Make my day.” The line became one of the most famous in movie history, permeating pop culture so much that it inspired a popular parody song and became a frequent reference in speeches by President Reagan for years.