Nowadays, a movie receiving a sequel is a necessity to be considered successful. Everything is an intellectual property ready to be expanded and built on. Whether it’s a sequel, a prequel, or a cinematic universe, Hollywood doesn’t hold back on making follow-ups.
This obsession with established IP is why it’s so interesting when a sequel takes years to come out. You make a sequel immediately in order to capitalize on the first one’s success. To wait 10, 15, or even 20 years calls for a very specific reason. Whether it’s waiting for the right story to come along, the right budget, or even the right social climate, late sequels are fascinating to look at.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun is a movie so good, it never needed a sequel. The 1986 classic helped catapult Tom Cruise to mega-star status and introduced one of the most underrated action thriller directors, Tony Scott, to the mainstream. The film is chock-full of so much 80s Air Force awesomeness and a riveting excitement that you somehow don’t notice that it’s not filled to the brim with action. Top Gun didn’t need a sequel because it’s a movie too perfect to replicate.
All that said, though it isn’t necessary, 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick justifies its existence by blowing audiences away with its sheer quality. At the time of writing, the film holds a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. As it hits theaters, audiences around the world are ready to take flight with Maverick once again.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars is perhaps the most popular film property of all time. When the original hit the big screen in 1977 it immediately became a cultural phenomenon. There was always talk about more Star Wars films, but after the prequel trilogy, the franchise lived on in novels, comics, video games and cartoons.
Disney purchased the intellectual property from George Lucas and immediately began work on a new sequel trilogy that would bring back beloved characters. This finally took form with the release of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens in 2015. The sequel trilogy has certainly inspired a divisive reaction from the Star Wars fandom, but The Force Awakens certainly ushered in an era where there is more Star Wars than ever.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
The film takes place in a pulpy world full of superheroes. When Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) comes out of retirement to take a message traveling to a mysterious island, it becomes a family affair as his super-powered wife and children team up with him to save the world.
Though The Incredibles was one of Pixar’s most beloved films, and superheroes have been the top of American pop culture since 2008, it wasn’t until 2018 that we finally got a sequel. Incredibles 2 picked up right where the previous left off and now saw Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) leaving her husband at home with the kids to take on a mission herself. This time tracking the exploits of a villain who utilizes mind control for his evil schemes.
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
Based on the Helen Fielding novel of the same name, Bridget Jones’s Diary was released in 2001, and instantly became a beloved rom-com, even earning star Renée Zellweger an Oscar nomination. The film follows Bridget’s love life as she spends a year making notes of it in her diary. The sequel, released in 2004, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason sees Bridget now working to maintain a relationship,
The film was released 12 years after the previous and found the characters after just as much time. This being the first and only Bridget Jones movie not based on Fielding’s source material, many fans enjoyed how the movie brought something new to the series.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
The original Wall Street, released in 1987, captured a time in America when, as Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko put it, “Greed is good.” In the film, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) convinced Gekko to mentor him with the promise of insider trading. The morals of every person involved is questionable, painting the movie with a whole sense of “Who are the real bad guys?”
The follow-up, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, released in 2010 to a very different America following the financial crisis of 2008. This time, recently released from prison, Gekko is put in the position of an anti-hero, teaming up with Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) to take on Wall Street. This is actually a case where it makes sense to space the two movies so far apart, that way they each capture a unique moment in the American economy.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
It’s easy to overlook just how big of a hit the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding was when it released in 2002. The film about a non-Greek man marrying into a Greek family connected with audiences in a way very few romantic comedies have.
Because of its incredible success, it’s not surprising that the creator’s would try to capitalize on its success with a sequel, but what is surprising is how long it took. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 released in 2016, 14 years later. The film picked up years after the events of the first movie, when the Portokalos family get brought back together for yet another big, fat, Greek wedding.
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are thought of as two of the greatest films of all time. Released in 1972 and 1974 respectively, both mafia epics went on to win several Oscars including Best Picture. Francis Ford Coppola‘s adaptation of Mario Puzo‘s novel told the tragic story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) being drawn into the world of organized crime. They cemented Coppola as one of the all-time great American auteur directors.
Discussed far less than the first two Godfathers, The Godfather: Part III picks up years after the events of the previous film and finds Michael fully invested in the world of the mafia. The movie isn’t bad at all, but following the first two films is a near impossible task without disappointing someone. In 2020, 30 years after its initial release, Coppola released his director’s cut titled The Godfather Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone, which many found to be a better version of a flawed film.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Initially created as an homage to old Hollywood adventure serials, the franchise created by film legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas has transcended its point of reference to become a pop culture touchstone in its own right.
All three of the original Indiana Jones films are beloved. The fourth? Not so much. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in 2008, 19 years after the previous entry. While it tried to move the franchise forward, bringing back Indy (Harrison Ford) and introducing his son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), many felt the plot line involving aliens jumped the shark for the series known for never leaning all the way into the supernatural. Now, almost 15 years since Crystal Skull, we are getting a fifth Indiana Jones. We’ll see if a new director can get this beloved franchise back on track.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is considered my many to be one of, if not the greatest science fiction movie of all time. It tells the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner for the LAPD whose job is to hunt down fugitive androids and decommission them. It wasn’t a huge hit upon its initial release, with many believing it is an under-appreciated masterpiece that was ahead of its time.
Arguably, the same could be said about the sequel, released 35 years later. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 tells the story of K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner for the LAPD, looking into a conspiracy that leads him to find Deckard, who has been missing for decades. It was also a failure at the box office, but has gone on to earn a reputation as being equal to, if not better than the previous film.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
James Cameron’s Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time. So, it’s honestly kind of strange that, in today’s IP-obsessed entertainment industry, it’s taken 13 years to get a sequel, let alone four.
With Avatar: The Way of Water finally set to debut in movie theaters this December, the franchise’s new owner, post-20th Century Fox acquisition Disney, has put in a lot of work to remind the public just how impactful Avatar was back in 2009. They’ve even converted an entire section of the Animal Kingdom in DisneyWorld into Pandora, the alien planet from the first film. Avatar: The Way of Water has a lot to live up to, and only time will tell if the Avatar franchise has legs or if the original was somehow a fluke.
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