10 Mostly Light-hearted Movie Series That Had A Surprisingly Dark Entrance

Franchise movies aren’t usually where audiences go for darkness or drama. In the cinematic landscape dominated by blockbusters, the films that are profitable enough to win sequel after sequel are the ones that attract the most people. This means one of two (usually both) things – the film is based on a pre-existing property and is exciting but lighthearted entertainment.

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Of course, whenever a movie series lasts long enough, experimentation is necessary for the series to survive. Sometimes these lighthearted movie franchises dabble in something a little darker.

ten Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is sadly dark

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Poster

the IndianaJones series has never been entirely devoid of horror – the opening of the Ark of the Covenant in The Raiders of the Lost Ark is sufficient proof. However, IndianaJones‘ has been pulpy fun, matching Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ aims to recreate the feeling of old adventure series. The one exception where the darkness outweighs the excitement is the second film, The Cursed Temple. So dark that even Spielberg and Lucas expressed regret, The cursed temple has disturbing footage of human sacrifice and the enslavement of children.

9 Batman Returns goes even further than the first film

Batman Returns Logo

1989 by Tim Burton Batman was a shocking movie for a generation raised on Adam West. Frank Miller turned Batman into the Dark Knight for comic book fans, but Burton and star Michael Keaton destroyed the character as camp for the mainstream.

Released for the sequel, Burton did Return of Batman. The results are fantastic, but not at all suitable for children. Batman Return feels much more spiritually in tune with Burton’s usual fare as Edward Scissorhands. Return of Batman is an opera about outcasts in a twisted, German Expressionist reflection of a Winter Wonderland.

8 The Hunchback of Notre Dame is dark for a Disney movie

frollo of the hunchback of notre dame

Victor Hugo’s writing is certainly not primed source material for Disney. Still, that hasn’t stopped the company from adapting its novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996. While The Hunchback is seasoned with comic relief and the rewritten ending, it’s hard to completely sanitize such a dark story.

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For one thing, Judge Claude Frollo is Disney’s most vile villain and the only one driven by lust. Same The Hunchbackthe music is darker than usual Disney fare, from Frollo’s harrowing solo Hellfire to the desperate of Esmeralda God help the outcasts.

seven Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is the most violent film in the saga

star wars revenge sith

Although handicapped by a bad foundation, Revenge of the Sith do everything possible to put an end to star wars prequel trilogy on a dramatic high. In some ways Revenge of the Sith succeeds because it adopts a darker tone – an appropriate tone for a story about the subversion of democracy into dictatorship, the end of the age of heroes, and the fall of a good man into evil.

Revenge of the Sith is easily the most violent star wars movie. The newly christened Darth Vader murders preschoolers almost on screen, and his appearance after burning Mustafar is truly grotesque.

6 Toy Story 3 added existential drama

Each of toy story sequels investigates the existential significance of the series’ premise – the living toys. The darkest is Toy Story 3, as he asks what happens when the owner of a toy grows up and loses use of it. Darkness peaks at the climax – the main cast slowly rushes into an incinerator. Saved only at the last minute, the toys spend most of the sequence resigned and can only kiss out of comfort.

5 Kung Fu Panda 2 was much more dramatic than the first

Lord Shen corners the heroes in Kung Fu Panda 2

Like a movie titled Kung Fu Panda, this movie shouldn’t have the pathos it has. There were some dramatic, action-packed moments in the first, but it was a fundamentally goofy movie. Kung Fu Panda 2 can’t totally escape this awkwardness, but it amplifies the darkness to counterbalance. Kung Fu Panda 2 explains Po’s (Jack Black) backstory of the genocide of his people as a child, and Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) is a truly ruthless villain.

4 The Amazing Spider-Man Tried To Reboot Spider-Man As Dark And Gritty

The incredible poster of Spider-Man.

Sony’s impatience doomed Spiderman 4, but they had a deadline to make a new Spider-Man for fear of losing the film rights. After The black Knight, dark and gritty was in it. Thereby, The Amazing Spider-Man monkey batman begins instead of Raimi’s colorful melodramas.

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However, a few months before The Amazing Spider-Man The Avengers has become the biggest game changer in Hollywood since Star Wars. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was therefore cast after the MCU, before Spidey joined that framework altogether.

3 Man Of Steel did the same for Superman

Another attempt to put Christopher Nolan’s Batman frame on a generally lighter superhero was Steel man. This one was done in-house at WB, scripted by The black Knightby David S. Goyer and produced by Nolan (he handed over directorial duties to Zack Snyder). Steel man looks like a merger of Donner’s Superman with batman beginseven if the tone is decidedly in favor of the latter.

2 Power Rangers was another dark reboot

Power Rangers is known for being a low-budget camp franchise. The whole vanity of the series is a measure of economy – Japanese splice Super Sentai footage with American teenagers to make a low cost action show. The two feature films Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, weren’t a tonal break from the TV series at all. The 2017 reboot movie, Power Rangers, was another story. Striking a tone similar to a CW action series, Power Rangers attempted to fuse more serious character drama into the action of Rangers.

1 Fantastic Four has proven that darker isn’t better


Tim’s story The Fantastic Four the films had all the gravity of a sitcom and a dismal cast (except for Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans). Josh Trank’s reboot was expected to at least exceed the lean bar of the original duology set, but it failed — miserably. The attempt at a darker tone has just been made The Fantastic Four boring – meaning there’s not even enough of a “so bad it’s good” factor to compensate The Fantastic Fourit is inconsistency.

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Andrea G. Henderson