- Directorial swaps can work to the benefit of a franchise, as seen with Alfonso Cuarón’s impact on the Harry Potter films.
- Sticking with the same director can lead to declining quality, as exemplified by the Transformers movies directed by Michael Bay.
- Sometimes, a new director is needed to bring a fresh and successful vision, as seen with Taika Waititi’s impact on the Thor series.
It’s common for major movie franchises to switch directors frequently, but oftentimes, franchises have stuck with the same vision when it wasn’t working, resulting in weak installments. Film is a director’s medium, but franchise movies often rely more on their intellectual property than their director. Typically, big blockbuster movies have a larger creative team making decisions rather than smaller independent films that depend on the abilities of their auteur. Still, the director is responsible for bringing leadership to a set and for bringing the studio’s vision to life.
Several times, a directorial swap worked to the benefit of a franchise. Alfonso Cuarón helped the Harry Potter films transition to a darker and more mature tone with The Prisoner of Azkaban, bringing his visual prowess to make it one of the best movies in the saga. After Thor: The Dark World, the Thor films needed a change in identity to keep the character engaging, and Taika Waititi stepped in for Thor: Ragnarok, making a hugely successful MCU movie. The same goes for the Russos with The Winter Soldier. However, there are instances where a director stayed on too long, and the franchise could’ve used a new vision.
8 Fantastic Beasts
David Yates has been directing the Harry Potter universe for years.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
- Release Date
- April 8, 2022
- David Yates
- Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston
- 142 minutes
David Yates has successfully led the Harry Potter film franchise since Order of the Phoenix, with the last few films being some of the best Harry Potter movies. The saga was a cultural phenomenon, aiding its box office achievements, but Yates’ vision set an important tone for the darker final installments. The Fantastic Beasts films have been far less successful, with the two recent additions receiving poor reviews. After The Crimes of Grindelwald, it may have been time to switch to a new director, but David Yates stayed on for The Secrets of Dumbledore, which continued the series’ box office decline.
7 James Bond
Spectre could never live up to Skyfall.
- Release Date
- November 6, 2015
- Sam Mendes
- Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Craig, Andrew Scott, Dave Bautista
- 2h 28m
Sam Mendes is seen as a prestigious film director, having worked on critically acclaimed dramas like 1917 and American Beauty. His work on Skyfall resulted in the best James Bond movie, then followed it up with one of the worst in Spectre. Sticking with Mendes seemed like an obvious bet, and Bond films had succeeded in sticking with directors before. However, Spectre suffered from feeling repetitive and like a worse version of Skyfall, and a change of direction could’ve been what the story needed. Living under the shadow of a great movie never helps.
Batman Forever should’ve been a warning sign.
Batman and Robin
- Release Date
- June 20, 1997
- Joel Schumacher
- George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman
- 2h 5m
The 1990s Batman films struggled after the directorial switch from Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher. The first two were critically acclaimed and beloved movies, with Batman Returns even considered one of the best Batman films. The director swap marked a significant tone shift, and while Batman Forever isn’t the worst movie possible, Batman and Robin is widely considered one of the worst superhero movies ever. Batman Forever should’ve been a sign to try a new voice, but the studio cared more about selling merchandise than making a faithful Batman film. In Schumacher’s defense, the film was rushed, and much of what went wrong was the studio’s fault.
The Transformers could’ve swapped directors after Dark of the Moon.
- First Film
- Transformers (2007)
- Latest Film
- Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
- Upcoming Films
- Transformers One
- Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Corey Burton, John Stephenson, Jack Angel, Michael Bell, Dan Gilvezan, Casey Kasem, Christopher Collins, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Mark Wahlberg, Hailee Steinfeld, Anthony Ramos
The Transformers movies were synonymous with Michael Bay for a decade, as the director released five films in his series. While they were never particularly acclaimed movies, there’s a significant drop-off in quality throughout the series, with the last two with Mark Wahlberg considered some of the worst Transformers movies. Since then, Bumblebee and Rise of the Beasts have received wider acclaim despite not performing as well at the box office. A change in directors may have benefited the story following the swap in lead from Shia LaBeouf to Wahlberg, but it can’t be denied Michael Bay knows how to bring people to the theater.
4 Star Wars
J.J. Abrams wasn’t right for Rise of Skywalker.
- First Film
- Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
While The Last Jedi may be the most divisive, The Rise of Skywalker is undoubtedly the worst Star Wars movie. In this case, the studio returned to a previous director after the outcry over Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi, bringing back J.J. Abrams, who had started the trilogy. It’s unclear whether Abrams had a plan following The Force Awakens, but The Rise of Skywalker resulted in a jumbled mess that expressed no vision for the trilogy as a whole.
Keeping Rian Johnson involved would’ve been an unpopular move at the time, but it would’ve at least allowed for consistency in fulfilling the story. Another option would’ve been to find a fresh, unbiased director to draw from the better parts of the previous installments and conclude the saga. Abrams’ return meant backtracking and attempting to return to ideas already made null by The Last Jedi. Bringing back Abrams brought a contradictory element to the film that could’ve been avoided.
Taika Waiti saved and then damaged the Thor series.
Thor: Love and Thunder
- Release Date
- July 8, 2022
- Taika Waititi
- Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Tessa Thompson, Chris Pratt2, Natalie Portman, Karen Gillan, Chris Hemsworth
- 118 minutes
Taika Waititi brought a necessary levity to the Thor films after the bland, melodramatic Thor: The Dark World. Thor: Ragnarok is one of the best MCU films, and much can be attributed to Taika’s humor and style, which is prevalent in the movie. However, Taika seemed to double down on his style in Thor: Love and Thunder, resulting in one of the least popular installments of the whole Marvel franchise. Taika’s reluctance to draw stories from the comics and making Thor too laughable of a character weakened his arch compared to the other main Avengers, and Thor 5 will have to reinvent the saga again.
2 Planet of the Apes
The original Apes saga kept going downhill.
While the original Planet of the Apes movie is an iconic sci-fi classic, and the modern reboot of the franchise has also been critically acclaimed, the film’s original sequels had a rough downward spiral. Following Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the series changed directors for the ever-popular third installment, Escape from the Planet of the Apes. This was followed by Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which signified a downward trend again. However, the studio left director J. Lee Thompson on to continue, resulting in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which is often considered the worst in the series, killing off the franchise for decades.
1 Karate Kid
The original Karate Kid trilogy should’ve shifted tones.
The Karate Kid
- First Film
- The Karate Kid
- Daniel LaRusso, Mr. Miyagi, John Kreese, Johnny Lawrence, Ali Mills, Lucille LaRusso, Bobby Brown, Dre Parker, Mr. Han, Meiying, Sherry Parker
The Karate Kid is one of the most beloved films ever, and John G. Avildsen deserves credit for bringing it to life. However, the abysmal quality of The Karate Kid Part II should’ve been an indicator of a tone shift for the next film. Instead, the studios stuck with Avildsen for The Karate Kid Part III, which managed to be even worse than Part II, killing off the franchise and Ralph Macchio’s run as Daniel LaRusso for decades. Cobra Kai has proven that the franchise could continue to develop and modernize, succeeding where previous films had failed.