We have become accustomed to expecting our movie sequels to arrive within 2-3 years, and in some special cases (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games) the films actually turn into annual affairs. If a film franchise waits much longer than that it runs the risk of having already been forgotten by the time a sequel arrives, or at least that’s the common wisdom. It was pointed to as the explanation for why JJ Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness performed below expectations domestically – 4 years between Star Trek films was clearly too long. However, then you also have the cases of Best Man Holiday coming out 14 years after its predecessor and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues taking 9 years to arrive, yet both films performed admirably at the box office. Best Man Holiday is even getting a sequel.
So, basically, it’s a total crapshoot, right? Let’s look at some of the longest gaps in-between film sequels and how well each did financially to find out.
Sadly, a lot of the movies which have ridiculously long gaps between sequels arrive as obvious desperate career moves for the involved parties, i.e., desperate directors/writers/actors banking on nostalgia to finally get another hit. That doesn’t necessarily mean the actual sequel is a horrible film, and it’s not uniformly true they all turn into financial failures. However, it is very rare for such sequels to truly stand up well in comparison to that which came before:
Note – Worldwide gross and budget only reported where available. All box office figures come from boxofficemojo.com. For a couple of the films, the exact time between sequels was something like 29 years and 352 days. On those occasions, the exact number of years was rounded up.
30 YEARS – The Odd Couple (1968) & The Odd Couple 2 (1998)
Box Office for The Odd Couple: $44 million domestic/$1 million budget
Box Office for The Odd Couple 2: $18 million domestic
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: Simply comparing the actual totals only tells part of the story. To get a better picture, you need to adjust to see how well the first Odd Couple would have done if it had the benefit of the higher ticket prices its sequel enjoyed upon its 1998 release. So, at the average 1998 ticket price the first Odd Couple would have actually had a domestic gross of $157 million, which would have ranked it as the sixth highest grossing film that year. The Odd Couple 2 barely cracked the top 100 (#91) grossing films of the year.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: No; 22% approval rating on RottenTomatoes. Unfortunately, this is the last movie Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau did together making for a sad end to their late-career renaissance. In fact, given the success of the Grumpy Old Men movies an Odd Couple sequel always seemed redundant, yet also somehow inevitable. Neil Simon returned to pen the script. However, the story is a basic road movie involving Lemmon and Matthau’s Felix and Oscar reunited when their kids decide to marry each other, Felix’s daughter with Oscar’s son. Felix and Oscar have to get to the wedding, but hilarity never really ensues. Instead, you find yourself wishing you could just watch Grumpy Old Men again or any of the other spiritual Odd Couple sequels which were so prevalent in the 90s.
28 YEARS – Tron (1982) & Tron: Legacy (2010)
Box Office for Tron: $33m domestic/$17m budget
Box Office for Tron: Legacy: $172m domestic/$400m worldwide/$170m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2010 ticket price, the first Tron would have actually had a domestic gross of $88 million. This is an odd case because the first Tron was not really a box office hit in its time but instead went on to become a cult classic.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 51% approval rating on RottenTomatoes. True to its title, Legacy involves the son (Garret Hedlund) of the original film’s protagonist (Jeff Bridges) being sucked into the computer program to save his father and, eventually, all of humanity. It is a visual treat, to be sure, but any complement you pay it beyond that would be too generous.
25 YEARS – The Hustler (1961) & The Color of Money (1986)
Box Office for The Hustler: $7m domestic/$2m budget
Box Office for The Color of Money: $52m domestic/$13m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1986 ticket price, The Hustler would have actually had a domestic gross of $37 million meaning it still would have made less than Color of Money.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Yes; 92% approval rating on RottenTomatoes. Both films are based on Walter Tevis novels centered around a pool hustler named Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman). Color of Money focuses on an older Felson mentoring an up-and-comer (Tom Cruise) who becomes his opponent by the film’s climax. Martin Scorsese directed Newman to one of his better performances, winning a Best Actor Oscar for his effort. At the time of its release, Color of Money was regarded as an inferior sequel to the classic Hustler, but due to the combined star power of Newman and Cruise Color of Money arguably has a longer-lasting legacy.
23 YEARS – Psycho (1960) & Psycho II (1983)
Box Office for Psycho: $32m domestic/$800,000 budget
Box Office for Psycho II: $34m domestic/$5m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1983 ticket price, the first Psycho would have actually had a domestic gross of $134 million, i.e., more than any other 1983 release except for Return of the Jedi. By comparison, Psycho 2 was the 20th highest grossing film of ’83.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Yes; 59% approval rating on RottenTomatoes. The basic plot entails Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) being let out of the mental hospital after 22 years, and returning to the Bates Motel only to have a series of murders occur, which he swears he didn’t commit even though the assailant sure looked like his mother (or him pretending to be his mother since that’s kind of his thing). As far as 80s slasher films go, Psycho II is an oft-overlooked gem, with a great performance from Perkins and clever ways of playing with what the audience thinks they know about Norman Bates. That is, of course, until the ending, and then the dreadful, rote sequels Psycho 3 and 4.
23 YEARS – Wall Street (1987) & Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Box Office for Wall Street: $43m domestic/$15m budget
Box Office for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps: $52m domestic/$134m worldwide/$70m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2010 ticket price, Wall Street would have actually had a domestic gross of $85 million.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 55% RottenTomatoes approval rating. Money Never Sleeps idea was to take Douglas’ iconic Gordon “Greed is Good” Gecko and drop him into the middle of the economic collapse as a way of illustrating how little had actually changed. Douglas is up for the task, reliable as always; unfortunately, the rest of the film is not, even with returning director Oliver Stone and the hilariously miscast Shia LaBeouf.
20 YEARS – Rambo III (1988) & Rambo (2008)
Box Office for Rambo III: $53m domestic/$189m worldwide/$63m budget
Box Office for Rambo: $42m domestic/$113m worldwide/$50m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2008 ticket price, Rambo III would have actually had a domestic gross of $93 million.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 37% RottenTomatoes rating. Our taciturn hero Rambo is hired to rescue a group of missionaries who’ve been kidnapped by a Burmese military regime. It is a competently made action film which returns Rambo to his basic core, and Stallone is still good at directing action scenes. However, the violence is too extreme, and it all ultimately fails to come close to returning the franchise to its original emotional core of a tale about a damaged and disillusioned Vietnam War veteran.
19 YEARS – Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989) & Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Box Office for The Last Crusade: $197m domestic/$474m worldwide/$48m budget
Box Office for The Kingdom of Crystal Skull: $317m domestic/$786m worldwide/$185m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2008 ticket price, The Last Crusade would have actually had a domestic gross of $354 million, which would have ranked it second to only The Dark Knight that year. However, it’s not like Kingdom of Crystal Skull was far behind. Far from it, in fact. It was actually the third highest grossing release of ’08.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of: 78% RottenTomatoes rating. Subtract the alien claptrap, surviving a nuclear blast from the safety of a refrigerator, and Shia LeBeouf (again with this guy on this list?) and this film would likely be remembered with more fondness. Of course, those are some major elements of the story meaning it’s got some big problems. However, Spielberg knows how to do great action scenes, Ford is fun as an older Indiana, and Cate Blanchett appears to be having the time of her life camping it up as a villain. It’s the worst Indiana Jones movie, but it’s not Star Wars prequel bad.
19 YEARS – The Last Picture Show (1971) & Texasville (1990)
Box Office for The Last Picture Show: $29m domestic/$1m budget
Box Office for Texasville: $2m domestic
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1990 ticket price, The Last Picture Show would have actually had a domestic gross of $74 million, enough to be the 15th highest domestic grossing release of the year. By comparison, Texasville was barely in the top 150 (#149) grossing films of ’90.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 55% RottenTomatoes rating. Stars Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, and Timothy Bottoms all returned as did director Peter Bogdanovich. We revisit the characters and watch as they have to deal with the perils of adulthood. Some parts of the story and some of the performances are not without their merit, but it overall feels like a bad episode of Dallas.
17 YEARS – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) & 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)
Box Office for A Space Odyssey: $56m domestic/$12m budget
Box Office for The Year We Make Contact: $40m domestic/$28m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1984 ticket price, 2001: A Space Odyssey would have actually had a domestic gross of $145 million, which would have trailed only Gremlins, The Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters, and Beverly Hills Cop for the highest domestic grossing release of 1984. By comparison, 2010 finished near the bottom (#17) of the top 20 grossing films of ’84.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 66% RottenTomatoes rating. Arthur C. Clarke co-wrote 2001 and his sequel novel, 2010, was the basis for the film sequel. Director Stanley Kubrick wanted nothing to do with it. The plot entails a new space crew embarking on a mission to discover what became of the crew from the original film, with Douglas Rain returning as the voice of Hal and Keir Dullea returning as the sole survivor of 2001. It’s not exactly a dreadful movie; it’s just not completely necessary, as its efforts to explain the classic “WTF just happened?” ending of 2001 seems to miss the point.
16 YEARS – Chinatown (1974) & The Two Jakes (1990)
Box Office for Chinatown: $29m domestic/$6m budget
Box Office for The Two Jakes: $10m domestic/$19m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1990 ticket price, Chinatown would have actually had a domestic gross of $66 million, ranking it just outside the top 15 domestic grossing releases of the year. By comparison, The Two Jakes was actually #100 in the top 100 grossing films of ’90
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 65% RottenTomatoes rating. Nicholson returned to star and direct, delivering a solid performance as Jake Gittes again and doing his best to honor the film noir aesthetic director Roman Polanski brought to the first one. The plot involves Gittes hired as a PI for an adultery case that balloons into a large conspiracy potentially involving the oil industry. However, while it certainly looks exquisite it sort of meanders and is far too close to simply being boring.
16 YEARS – The Godfather Part II (1974) & The Godfather Part III (1990)
Box Office for The Godfather Part II: $47m domestic/$13m budget
Box Office for The Godfather Part III: $66m domestic/$136m worldwide/$54m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1990 ticket price, The Godfather Part II would have actually had a domestic gross of $107 million, ranking as the 9th highest domestic grossing release of 1990. By comparison, Godfather III was the 17th highest grossing film of the year.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Kind of; 68% RottenTomatoes rating. Take Sofia Coppola away and maybe we can talk, but even then your highpoints are still “just when I think I’m out they pull me back in” and the mafia hit involving a machine-gun equipped helicopter executing mob bosses gathered in a room of a high-rise building. The Godfather II gave us the definitive ending to the story of Michael Corleone – we absolutely did not need to see him attempting to atone for his sins only to ultimately pay the price with the blood of his daughter in a hamfisted opera metaphor all amidst some malarkey involving the corruption of the church.
16 YEARS – Rocky V (1990) & Rocky Balboa (2006)
Box Office for Rocky V: $40m domestic/$119m worldwide/$42m budget
Box Office for Rocky Balboa: $70m domestic/$155m worldwide/$24m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2006 ticket price, Rocky V would have had a domestic gross of $63 million meaning it would have actually made less than Rocky Balboa.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Yes; 76% RottenTomatoes rating. Adrian is dead, Rocky is retired and running a small Italian restaurant, and then by happenstance, he finds himself back in boxing and booked in a charity match with the current undisputed world heavyweight champion. It’s kind of derivative of Rocky V, really, with Rocky’s mourning of Adrian being the main new wrinkle. However, it carries with it a surprising poignancy that reminds you of the brilliance Stallone brought to the character the first time out.
15 YEARS – Escape from New York (1981) & Escape from L.A. (1996)
Box Office for Escape from New York: $25m domestic/$6m budget
Box Office for Escape from L.A.: $25m domestic/$50m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1996 ticket price, Escape from New York would have grossed $40 million, placing it in the top 40 (#37) films of the year. By comparison, Escape from LA finished as the 67th highest grossing release of ’96.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Not really; 53% RottenTomatoes rating. Kurt Russell returns as Snake Plissken along with co-screenwriters Debra Hill and John Carpenter, the latter of whom directed. This time, the apocalyptic setting transports to LA, which has become a prison of sorts after the new President of the United States exerted a new moral code on America. Plissken is forced to assist the President in taking out a bad dude in L.A. and…ah, screw it. There’s a lot of action, Kurt Russell being brooding and not as badass as he used to be, and the ending is beyond goofy.
14 YEARS – Basic Instinct (1992) & Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
Box Office for Basic Instinct: $117m domestic/$352m worldwide/$49m budget
Box Office for Basic Instinct 2: $6m domestic/$38m worldwide/$70m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 2006 ticket price, the first Basic Instinct would have grossed $185 million domestic, ranking it as the 8th biggest film of the year. By comparison, Basic Instinct 2 wasn’t even in the top 175 (#177) releases of 2006.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Hell no; 7% RottenTomatoes rating. This one is only good for a quick laugh at how bad it is. Sharon Stone returns and does her cat-and-mouse thing with someone investigating her after a suspicious crime, this time a court-appointed psychiatrist played by David Morrissey. It’s almost complete and utter garbage, one of the worst reviewed films of the decade, and it swept the Razzies the year it came out. The only critic of note who appeared to like it was Mark Kermode.
13 YEARS – Terms of Endearment (1983) & The Evening Star (1996)
Box Office for Terms of Endearment: $108m domestic/$8m budget
Box Office for The Evening Star: $12m domestic /$20m budget
What If You Adjust for Ticket Price Inflation?: At the average 1996 ticket price, Terms of Endearment would have grossed $145 million domestic, trailing only Jerry Maguire, Mission: Impossible, Twister, and Independence Day that year. By comparison, Evening Star finished just outside of the top 100 (#113) films of ’96.
Is the Sequel Any Good?: Not really; 23% RottenTomatoes rating. It focuses on Shirley MacLaine’s relationship with her three grandchildren, but only really has any energy when Jack Nicholson shows up for an extended cameo.
So, should there be a statute of limitations on film sequels now – like anything longer than 12-14 years is not allowed to have a sequel? That type of rule would totally be enforceable, right Also, what’s the deal with Shia LaBeouf popping up on this list multiple times? And has Sylvester Stallone finally run out of his old popular movies he can make a sequel to at this point? Have we been robbed of the chance to revisit his immortal characters from Over the Top, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Cobra, etc. An Over the Top sequel could be so easy, basically take the exact same plot of Rocky Balboa but subtract boxing and replace with arm-wrestling. This thing writes itself.