The Five Franchises with the Most Confusing Title Schemes

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The Five Franchises with the Most Confusing Title Schemes

In this era of sequels and prequels, there are lots of confusing film franchises. Some, like the X-Men movies, have impossible-to-follow continuity, but the ones that annoy me the most are the franchises where the titles of the individual films are part of the problem. I’m talking franchises that are only numbered part of the time, or they have subtitles that suggest they’re the end of the franchise when they aren’t. 

Here are the five franchises that have the most confusing title schemes ever. Making sense of them is more impossible than any of Ethan Hunt’s missions.

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Saw

Many film franchises start out as numbered, and then, when the numbers get too high, switch to having subtitles instead. That’s annoying, but only mildly confusing. What’s way worse is when a franchise pivots away from numbered sequels, then decides to go back to them later on. Case in point: the Saw films.

The first six Saw movies went SawSaw IISaw IIISaw IVSaw V and Saw VI, but for the seventh installment, they abandoned Roman numerals in favor of calling the film Saw 3D (I’m sorry, but if part of your franchise is going to be in 3D, it can only be the third film; otherwise I’m fucking lost). It was also clearly marketed as “The Final Chapter” via taglines — especially on home video, where it was essentially retitled Saw: The Final Chapter so as not to scare away those without 3D television sets. 

The eighth film, Jigsaw, was half prequel, half sequel as it takes place after Saw 3D but flashes back to events before Saw. Then came Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the ninth film. Finally, last year, we got Saw X which is indeed the 10th movie in the series. But if reverting back to Roman numerals wasn’t confusing enough, Saw X takes place in between Saw and Saw II

Honestly, following the Saw chronology feels like a Jigsaw trap unto itself.

Rambo

The Rambo titles are so fucking dumb. After First Blood was a hit, the second film was named Rambo: First Blood Part II. Clumsy, yes, but you can see how they tried to cover their bases. Then came 1988’s Rambo III, which was a perfectly acceptable title. But after Sylvester Stallone had so much success with the sixth Rocky film — elegantly named Rocky Balboa — the fourth Rambo tried something similar by just being called Rambo. The problem is, everyone thinks First Blood is Rambo, so calling another movie Rambo seemed almost malicious.

Making matters worse was 2019’s Rambo: Last Blood, an attempt to link it to the original and announce that it’s the final film in the franchise. However, Stallone has repeatedly talked about making a sixth Rambo film, which will likely complicate things even further. 

Mission: Impossible

The first three Mission: Impossible films are numbered; after that, they have names. That might not sound too confounding, but the franchise has done some goofy shit over the years to make it harder than it needs to be. When Mission: Impossible 2 came out, the posters represented it as M:I-2. That was okay — the use of a dash helped to make sure it didn’t look like a M:12. But when the third film came out, the posters listed it as M:i:III. The studio and Tom Cruise probably thought it looked cool, but two colons and four I’s is madness.

They kinda fixed it with the fourth film, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, dropping the numbers in favor of subtitles and using dashes so as not to have two colons again, a strategy they repeated for the fifth and sixth films as well. But then they went and ruined it with the seventh installment, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Running out of punctuation marks, they opted for no separation between “Reckoning” and “Part.” It’s pretty perplexing to have the seventh film be “Seven, Part One,” and the eighth film, which comes out next year, to be “Seven, Part Two.” 

Equally terrible are the generic action movie non-words they’ve used for subtitles — FalloutRogue NationGhost Protocol and Dead Reckoning — that say nothing whatsoever about the film. Without looking up the release dates, I defy you to place those films in chronological order. That’s a mission I personally refuse to accept.

The Fast and the Furious

The first Fast and the Furious title was simple enough: The Fast and the Furious. Then, the second one was 2 Fast 2 Furious, which isn’t bad because you know it’s part two. Part three was The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which actually takes place later in the franchise, at the same time as part six. The fourth film was just called Fast & Furious — making it very easy to confuse with the first film — and clearly telegraphed that they were gonna start to confuse the shit out of us with these titles.

For films five, six and seven, they gave us numbered titles — Fast FiveFast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 — but the franchise name kept changing, which is weird. For the eighth film, they included a word that rhymes with eight, The Fate of the Furious, but not actually the number eight (though posters usually had “F8” on them). 

From there, it’s more or less just been the letter F and a number — the ninth film being F9 and the tenth being Fast X. (There was also Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw between the eighth and ninth films, but it’s a spin-off and designed to be its own thing.) If you had all these titles in front of you, you probably could get it mostly in order, but without Google, I defy anyone — even Vin Diesel — to recall which F-word was used with each film (hint: it ain’t family).

Halloween

The Halloween films have both a migraine-inducing chronology and title scheme. First, there was Halloween, followed by Halloween II — so far, so good. Then there was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, an anthology film sans Michael Myers. When the fourth film came along, they wanted to announce that Michael Myers was back, so they called it Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. I don’t love that they switched from Roman numerals to Arabic numbers, but whatever. Up next was Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, aka the final time any of this was clear. The sixth film — the last in the first of four major continuities— was just called Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, with no number in the title. 

Speaking of which, just three years after The Curse of Michael Myers, the franchise was kinda, sorta rebooted with 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Besides being a dumb title that has the number 20 in there twice, H20 was a direct sequel to Halloween II, ignoring everything that came after it. Then, 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection was a direct sequel to H20. After that, Rob Zombie did a full reboot with his own Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009). 

The fourth timeline was established in 2018 with yet another movie just called Halloween, a sequel to the very first film, making it a direct sequel to a movie with the exact same title. From there, you have Halloween Kills in 2021 and Halloween Ends in 2022, both of which were sequels to the 2018 Halloween film (as well as to the 1978 original).

But even Halloween Ends isn’t the end because they’re currently developing a Halloween TV series that follows the first film and ignores literally everything else. 

At this point, if you asked me to make any sense out of the Halloween films or their titles, I’d ask that Michael Myers plunge his knife deep into my neck instead.

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