If one waits long enough in Hollywood, everything old becomes new again. That’s certainly proving to be the case this year, as the next several months are bringing sequels and reboots to films dating back to the 1980s. Zoolander 2 may not have recaptured the spark of its 2001 predecessor, but there’s certainly a chance that Independence Day: Resurgence and Paul Feig’s all-female Ghostbusters could become some of the summer’s biggest hits.
Even Netflix is banking heavily on nostalgia with original films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday hitting the streaming service. With all that in minds, let’s look back at other sequels that attempted to jump-start a franchise years after the previous film. Our ranking is based on a combination of box office success, critical and audience response and how big of an impact each film made on its respective franchise.
Here are 12 Long-Delayed Sequels That Actually Worked.
12. Tron: Legacy (2010)
Coming out nearly 30 years after the original cult classic, Tron: Legacy was anything but a sure thing when it was released in theaters. The film received mixed reviews from both fans and critics, despite its updated visual effects and a killer soundtrack by Daft Punk. Moreover, it has so far failed to inspire a third film in the Disney franchise, which is set within the virtual reality program known as the Grid.
However, Tron: Legacy still earns its spot on this list for resurrecting the 1980s film – considered a disappointment by Disney at the time – and introducing it to a brand-new audience. Like its predecessor, the film has developed a cult following, and in retrospect, was an early adopter of the “next generation” approach to storytelling that several high-profile franchises embraced in 2015 (more on those later). Also, regardless of its storytelling flaws, the visuals are still spectacular.
11. The Best Man Holiday (2013)
Writer/director Malcolm D. Lee made his film debut with romantic comedy/drama The Best Man back in 1999, and the film – which served as the breakout role for future Oscar nominee Terrence Howard – was a box office smash, earning back nearly four times its production budget. Fourteen years later, Lee reunited with the cast for a Christmas-set sequel, and the film proved to be an even bigger success.
A true testament to the winning combination of a filmmaker and his charismatic cast, The Best Man Holiday did more than just recapture the spirit of the first film. It reinvigorated a franchise that many moviegoers may not have even realized they wanted. A third film, titled The Best Man Wedding, was quickly put into development as a result and was expected to hit theaters in 2016, though an official release date has yet to be confirmed.
10. The Color of Money (1986)
Over the course of his decades-long career, legendary leading-man Paul Newman took on countless unforgettable roles. However, his turn as pool-playing “Fast Eddie” Felson in 1961 drama The Hustler likely stands as one of his most memorable. Soon after its release, the film was heralded a modern classic, but that didn’t stop Martin Scorsese from building upon its legacy with this film 25 years later.
Newman earned an Academy Award for reprising his role in The Color of Money, which sees a retired Felson re-entering the world of pool hustling thanks to a young protégé (Tom Cruise). The film may not be nearly as high-regarded as its predecessor, but its notable for finally awarding Newman a long-overdue Oscar and for its role in building Cruise’s career, as it was released only a few months after Top Gun.
9. Clerks II (2006)
Love him or hate him, writer/director Kevin Smith played an integral role in the explosion of the indie film scene back in the 1990s. Smith is probably still best known for his 1994 debut feature, and just as that film centered on twenty-somethings Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), this sequel catches up with the lovable clerks in their 30s, with perennial fan favorites Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself) back for the ride.
Due to the explicit nature of its third act, Clerks II received a bit of controversy from some critics (Joel Siegel reportedly walked out halfway through) but earned praise from others as well as a positive reaction from Smith’s core fanbase. Thanks to the appeal of its cast, the sequel – which introduced new key characters played by Rosario Dawson and Trevor Fehrman – stands as one of Smith’s best-received films to date and set the stage for the in-development final chapter in the Clerks trilogy.
8. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Fans of the Die Hard franchise can virtually all agree that A Good Day to Die Hard marks the series’ low point, but response to this fourth film was a bit more positive. While it may not compare to director John McTiernan’s 1987 original or his 1995 release Die Hard: With a Vengeance, this entry – which see Bruce Willis’s John McClane team up with a young hacker (Justin Long) to take down cyber-terrorists – brought the aging franchise back after a 12-year absence and stands as the highest-grossing Die Hard film to date.
Sure, the PG-13 theatrical cut may feature a watered-down take on the violence and language (including McClane’s signature catchphrase) that fans have come to expect, but the unrated version greatly improves the film in that regard. Live Free or Die Hard does wring some humor from the generational gap between McClane and his young ally as well as remains tapped into the everyman quality that has made the character such an icon. Perhaps one of the film’s best compliments of late is that some fans seemed more comfortable with news of a Die Hard pseudo-prequel following reports that director Len Wiseman could return to the franchise.
7. Rambo (2008)
Another icon of action cinema with roots in the 1980s, John Rambo – as played by Sylvester Stallone – staged a comeback of his own 20 years after his last big-screen appearance, and the film itself surprised fans with its visceral violence and gritty aesthetic. Co-written and directed by Stallone himself, the film marked his second consecutive attempt to revisit his most famous characters, following the 2006 release of Rocky Balboa, 16 years after Rocky V.
Despite a positive reaction from most fans, Rambo was a box office disappointment and will likely remain the last time audiences see Stallone play the war veteran, as he has announced there are no further plans for a fifth film. If that is indeed the case, this entry provides a fitting conclusion to Rambo’s journey, as it offers a sense of finality that befits the tortured nature of the character and redeems the series after the negative response to its predecessor.
6. Drunken Master II (1994)
Jackie Chan had already long been an international superstar when his work finally got widespread exposure in the United States, courtesy of a theatrical release for Rumble in the Bronx in 1996. Over the next few years, several of his Hong Kong films received domestic distribution, but this one — a sequel/reboot of his 1978 film — has also managed to develop a reputation as one of Chan’s very best films.
Released in the U.S. in 2000 under the title The Legend of Drunken Master, the film blends Chan’s physical comedy with his incomparable martial arts skills like few of his big-screen roles ever has. As a fighter whose skill improves dramatically when he’s under the influence, Chan delivers one breathtaking fight sequence after another, culminating in a final battle that has been heralded as one of the best showdowns ever put to film. Unfortunately, the original uncut version of the film (i.e., the one not dubbed over in English) has yet to receive a formal U.S. release.
5. Jurassic World (2015)
Following the groundbreaking success of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, the series gradually faded into extinction, but after more than a decade since the disappointing Jurassic Park III, the dinosaurs once again ruled the box office. In fact, Jurassic World – directed by Colin Trevorrow, who’s also set to helm Star Wars Episode IX – far exceeded anyone’s expectations, taking in more than $1.6 billion worldwide and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Although the film features perhaps too many references to the original classic that started it all, Jurassic World largely serves as a reboot, with only B.D. Wong’s Dr. Henry Wu reprising his role. To some, the film was a letdown that relies too heavily on nostalgia to connect with audiences, but regardless of these criticisms (and the discussion revolving around the high heels Bryce Dallas Howard wears throughout the film), Jurassic World struck a chord with mainstream moviegoers and put the franchise back on top as if the past 20+ years never happened.
4. Creed (2015)
Sylvester Stallone had already neatly wrapped up the story of former champion boxer Rocky Balboa in the eponymous sixth film in the series. However, director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) dusted off the franchise after a decade of rest with this release, which centers on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s rival-turned-mentor Apollo Creed. Michael B. Jordan enters the ring as Adonis Johnson, who seeks out Rocky’s tutelage to follow in his late father’s footsteps.
While the concept of yet another entry in the Rocky series may at first have seemed like a cash grab, Coogler’s delicate direction and powerful performances from both Jordan and Stallone led the film to become both a box office juggernaut and critical darling, with a worldwide gross of $172 million against a $35 million production budget and universal acclaim. All of that makes the fact that Creed received only a single Oscar nomination even more puzzling, as it tells an intimate, character-focused story that has just as much emotional punch as the 1976 original.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Once it was announced that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and was developing a sequel to 1983 release Return of the Jedi, fans were understandably worried that J.J. Abrams’ film would tarnish the legacy of the original trilogy. News that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill would appear in The Force Awakens helped assuage some of that concern, but it wasn’t until the film’s opening day that legions of fans had the chance to embrace this new beginning for the “galaxy far, far away.”
To be fair, The Force Awakens has faced some criticism due to its close adherence to elements of the original trilogy, most notably with the Starkiller Base serving as a sort of third Death Star. Regardless, response to the film’s sense of humor, its visual style and (perhaps most importantly) new cast members like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac has overall been so positive that anticipation for Rian Johnson’s in-production Episode VIII is higher than ever. Plus, let’s not forget that The Force Awakens obliterated the domestic box office with a record-breaking $922 million (and counting).
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Thirty years had passed since filmmaker George Miller had last brought the dystopian future of Mad Max to the big screen. Originally played by Mel Gibson, the character was long overdue for another adventure, and in fact, Miller began development on a fourth film way back in the 1990s. With Miller back in the director’s chair and star Tom Hardy stepping into the title role, Mad Max: Fury Road finally entered the world in 2015 amid an enthusiastic response to early footage.
What a lovely day it was for moviegoers everywhere. Critics and fans alike praised Miller’s visionary action set pieces, which rely heavily on practical effects and stunt work in place of computer-generated thrills. Moreover, Charlize Theron created one of the year’s most popular characters as Imperator Furiosa, a figure destined to go down in history as one of cinema’s most badass female action heroes. The future of the Mad Max franchise is still a bit unclear, but given what he accomplished in Fury Road, we couldn’t be more excited to see what Miller has up his sleeves next.
1. Toy Story 3 (2010)
More than a decade after Toy Story 2 proved that Pixar could deliver quality sequels (a sentiment ultimately called into question by Cars 2), this third adventure for Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) earned nearly universal acclaim from critics and audiences as well as a worldwide box office gross of more than $1 billion. Picking up in real time, the film finds Andy en route to college and follows his toys as they are mistakenly donated to a local day care, where they encounter the nefarious Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty).
At times hilarious, thrilling and poignant, the film embodies the series’ ability to appeal to the inner child in each and every fan and, in the process, tackles such weighty themes as grief, obsolescence and mortality. Pixar is often praised for its skill in crafting animated tales that manage to be both accessible to children and emotionally resonant regardless of age. Toy Story 3 is the perfect example of that, allowing its franchise to “grow up” in real time along with its viewers. Despite the fact that Toy Story 4 has already been announced, this film’s conclusion is so pitch-perfect that some fans may wish the series would have ended for good. After all, how could a sequel top this?
At this point, it remains to be seen which franchises will be unexpectedly launched to new heights by an upcoming sequel or reboot. In any case, expect to see this trend only continue with more ferocity in the coming years, especially following the tremendous boost it received in 2015.
Which franchise do you think deserves a long-overdue sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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