Harry Potter was a story that defined a generation. It was a popular book series that got turned into an equally popular film series, and made stars of its young leads in the process. As Harry Potter was on the rise, other franchises were trying to replicate its success. A few of them, like Twilight and The Hunger Games, proved that a few tweaks could go a long way. Others had much less success, and never finished.
Harry Potter launched an entire genre of YA film that other franchises adapted. For every successful YA franchise, though, there were a few truly terrible failures. Plenty of film franchises wanted to be the next Harry Potter, but most of them failed. They couldn't recapture the magic, if you'll forgive the pun. These are 20 movie franchises that tried and failed to be the next Harry Potter.
20th Century Fox
Unlike many of the franchises on this list, Percy Jackson managed to get through two movies before it died off. The series, which follows a young boy who discovers he is a demigod, was originally a series of five novels, but not all five of those novels got big-screen adaptations.
The two films in the series, The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters weren't very well-reviewed. At the time of its release, many noted that it seemed like a series that was trying to cash in on Harry Potter's enormous success. Unfortunately, it didn't ultimately manage to do that.
The Mortal Instruments is very much like Harry Potter in that it's about a seemingly normal person who discovers she's living in a world of magic and demons. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was an adaptation of the first book in the six-book series.
Despite a fairly solid cast, The Mortal Instruments didn't catch fire with audiences or critics. The series was knocked for borrowing elements from other popular franchises like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games but doing little with those elements to make something new. Instead, this franchise fell flat because it felt like an empty retread of other things. The OG book series became a Freeform show called Shadowhunters with a small but passionate audience.
There was more potential in Ender's Game than there is in most YA adaptations. It was based on a widely acclaimed book with a solid fanbase. Unfortunately, the filmed adaptation failed to catch on.
The film follows humanity in an unspecified future, one in which they're preparing to wage war against an alien race that has killed off a large portions of humanity. Although it was different than many other YA series, it ultimately failed to justify its own existence, and ended up feeling too much like Star Wars to stand on its own. The film just barely made back its budget.
New Line Cinema
Like Ender's Game, The Golden Compass was based on a smart acclaimed series, and its casting left many ready to see a brilliant adaptation on the big screen. Unfortunately, the film failed to live up to the brilliant storytelling that the His Dark Materials books it was based on so often delivered.
Although the film adaptation failed to excite audiences when it was released in 2007, a new adaptation of the series is set to launch on HBO soon. It's a high-fantasy story critical of religion, and it's worth telling. Hopefully the folks at HBO have been able to crack in a way the movie failed to.
Beautiful Creatures was far too complicated for its own good. The series followed many of the conventions set out by Harry Potter and Twilight, but didn't ultimately manage to capture any of the success those franchises enjoyed. The series follows a young man who gets caught up in a world of sorcery and magic, and it starred Alden Ehrenreich, who would go on to play Han Solo.
In spite of some solid casting, Beautiful Creatures couldn't overcome the feeling many fans had that it was a pale imitation of other YA series. The flood of YA stories left critics and fans exhausted and meant that many projects ultimately failed to cash in on the YA boom.
It's interesting to consider Eragon as a cross between Harry Potter and the high-fantasy elements of something like Lord of the Rings. The series follows a farm boy who discovers and raises a dragon, and eventually attempts to overthrow his land's ruler.
It was a popular book series, but only one film was every adapted to the big screen. That's because its story felt derivative and followed a clear hero's journey that most viewers had seen hundreds of times before. Not every book series translates well to the big screen, and Eragon certainly failed that test with both audiences and critics.
Despite praise for the film upon its release, and a strong basis in a pretty popular book franchise, The Spiderwick Chronicles simply faded away. The series follows three siblings who move into an old estate and soon discover that they're surrounded by a wide variety of magical creatures.
A plot develops from there, but The Spiderwick Chronicles was refreshing for its emphasis on its children, and how they're reacting to everything they witness. The series' first installment worked well, but it apparently wasn't enough of a success to justify pouring additional money into adapting the other books in the series.
The Weinstein Company
The Giver was headlined by an adult cast that included Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, and it still didn't work. That's in large part because the ideas that The Giver is playing with are way too heavy-handed for their own good. The film depicts a society without any pain or joy, without any emotion at all.
It's a film where a young boy discovers what it's like to feel, and decides that the pain is worth the pleasure. If it sounds fairly basic, that's because it is. Although the novel the book was based on was popular, the movie itself proved that the book's ideas weren't really all that interesting to begin with.
Open Road Films
We should all be incredibly grateful that the failure of The Host did not take Saoirse Ronan's career down with it. From Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, the film seemed incredibly likely to launch a franchise, but it crashed and burned instead.
The movie follows a young girl on the run from an alien race that has taken over humanity. Upon its release, the movie was largely panned and was said to have moments of unintentional comedy, which is never something you want to read. The story may have had potential, but almost all of that potential was unrealized thanks to a truly terrible script.
This one was pretty much doomed from the jump. I Am Number Four tells the story of an alien passing as a human on earth who meets a girl and falls in love. It's a story about finding reasons to live and love, even if you aren't totally human.
Unfortunately, that's not a story that critics or audiences seemed to respond to. Instead, it's a largely forgettable film that was meant to launch an entire franchise but never got the chance to do so. To do that, you have to prove that there are more stories worth telling in your universe. I Am Number Four didn't do that.
Inkheart gets points for a totally original premise, but it wasn't able to match that premise with compelling storytelling. The film follows a father and daughter who are capable of bringing characters from books to life just by reading aloud.
The book is incredibly popular among children and young adults, but the movie failed to carry the elements that made the book so successful to the big screen. It was too reliant on cliches and eventually wound up grossing just over $60 million on a budget that was roughly the same size. It's no wonder they never made a sequel.
Alex Pettyfer doesn't have the best taste in projects. He was the star of I Am Number Four as well as Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, and neither project launched a franchise the way they were expected to. Stormbreaker differs from Harry Potter in that it's a spy story instead of a magical one, but the rest of the story is very similar.
Unfortunately, Stormbreaker wasn't as good as even the worst Harry Potter film. The film was attacked as unoriginal and unexciting, and it ultimately failed to even make back its budget.
The 5th Wave arrived just as the YA boom was dying down, and it didn't do much to keep it alive. The film chronicles an alien invasion, and the various ways that it cripples humanity. All of this chaos and destruction is filtered through the eyes of Cassie, the young girl at the film's center.
In general, critics attacked The 5th Wave for all the plot elements it stole from everything from Harry Potter to Divergent. It was clear by 2016 that both critics and audiences were getting tired of this type of film. The film made back its budget, but it wasn't exactly a hit with either audiences or critics.
Vampire Academy took elements of Harry Potter and Twilight and mashed them together in a blender. It's set at a school for vampires, and it's exactly as that premise makes it sound. Although the movie featured some rising stars like Zoey Deutch, it failed to excite basically anyone.
In fact, the film was a bomb at the box office and with critics, who pointed out that although it was supposed to be a horror comedy, it was rarely all that comedic or horrific. Instead, it was the kind of film that simply never existed, even though it was based on a fairly popular series of books.
You've probably never heard of The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, or if you have, you probably haven't thought about it in quite a while. That's because, although the series was designed to launch a franchise, it most definitely did not do that.
It follows a young boy who discovers that he is in fact descended from a long line of ancient warriors. It's all very much in the Harry Potter vein, but none of it works as well as Harry Potter does. The Seeker doesn't just feel like a pale imitation, it feels like a series where plot matters much more than the ideas behind it.
What a weird, regrettable decision it was to make this movie. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant probably isn't the worst movie on this list, but it's certainly one of the strangest. It follows a boy who is turned into a vampire and then begins following a circus troupe as he discovers his powers.
The film follows a number of fairly generic story conventions, but it also suffers from being overstuffed, as it tried to adapt three books into a single film. The result is a movie that feels overstuffed and undercooked. Ironically, it may have been smarter to hope for sequels in this particular case.
Divergent was really a Hunger Games imitator most directly, but the Hunger Games itself was riding the wave that Harry Potter started. The series follows Tris, a teenage girl who doesn't confirm to her society's strict stratification by personality type.
Much like Harry Potter, it's a series about self-discovery and rebellion, and it initially seemed like it would be a mild success. As the series continued, though, interest waned, and it became clear that the end of the Divergent saga would never actually appear on-screen. Star Shailene Woodley's career wasn't over, though, so at least we salvaged something from the adaptation's wreckage.
If they had stopped making The Chronicles of Narnia after one or even two films, it might have been considered a success. The first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was undoubtedly a success, and even Prince Caspian was far from a total failure.
By the time the third book was adapted to the big screen, it was clear that most people were no longer interested in the franchise. The world created by the seven books in C.S. Lewis's series was both interesting and compelling, but the film adaptations just weren't cutting it, and audiences weren't interested in seeing any more.
The early part of Saoirse Ronan's career was characterized by a series of YA projects, some of which worked better than others. In City of Ember, she plays one of two children tasked with unraveling a series of clues that will restore power to their fantastical society.
The movie received mixed reviews upon its release, but at best it felt like a single Harry Potter novel. Although the reviews were only mixed, the film bombed at the box office, failing to recoup its budget by a pretty significant margin. As a result, any and all plans for a sequel were nixed.
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of the strangest entries on this list, mostly because the received largely positive reviews upon its release, and it did fairly well at the box office as well. The movie covered the first three books in the series it's based on, which follows three orphans as they deal with a Count is intent on winning their family's fortune.
Although the film was largely a success, it didn't make enough money to justify a sequel, especially considering how bloated its budget was in the first place. Had the film cost a little less to make, it might have gotten a sequel.