It seems like every movie at the theater now is a sequel, a prequel, or a reboot. People are constantly crying that creativity and new ideas are dead, with sequels being a much more prevalent because studios feel like its a much safer to greenlight a new entry in an existing franchise rather than creating something entirely new.
As Disney can attest, after the (relatively) recent failures of movies like The Lone Ranger, John Carter, and Tomorrowland, sequels are a much more stable financial decision than betting on a new idea. The thing is, that's almost always been the case, but things weren't quite so obvious back in the day. Sequels didn't always have the same actors reprising the roles, or the name of the first film in the title. In other words, the "branding" of a property wasn't always so obvious.
With that in mind, here are 10 Movies You Didn't Know Were Sequels.
10 Army of Darkness (1992)
Though it acts well enough as its own self-contained story, Army of Darkness is the third film in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise, picking up after events of Evil Dead II. With Ash stranded in the year 1300, he must use his (often meager) wits, a medieval army, and some 20th century technology to defeat the Deadite hordes and return back to his own time. Army of Darkness had a much larger budget than its predecessors, and told a much more ambitious (and humorous) story.
Like the other movies in the Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness wasn’t an overwhelming or immediate hit at the box office, but did decent enough and would go on to attract a strong cult following.
9 The Color of Money (1986)
Adapted from a book of the same name, The Color of Money was a sequel to the 1961 film The Hustler, also adapted from a novel. The film would feature Paul Newman reprising his role as pool hustler and stakehorse Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson, picking up over twenty years after the events of the first movie, as he gets back into the game of pool hustling and trains a younger player, as played by Tom Cruise.
The film would get great critical response and be nominated for multiple Academy Awards, with Paul Newman winning for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but despite being directed by Martin Scorsese, it never achieved the same classic status as its predecessor.
8 It Runs In The Family (1994)
Originally release by the title It Runs in the Family, and later called My Summer Story, this film continues the story of Ralphie Parker and his family. Even though it is a sequel, the cast of the A Christmas Story had aged so noticeably in the decade between films that essentially every character had to be recast with new actors, giving this sequel a whole different look.
Like A Christmas Story, the film was based on semi-autobiographical stories by Jean Shepherd, though the film is criticized by many for not having the same charm as A Christmas Story, which has led to it not being as much of a classic as its predecessor.
7 Soldier (1998)
A sci-fi movie starring Kurt Russell as a man raised from infancy to be a perfect, emotionless soldier, Soldier is more of a spiritual sequel to Blade Runner than a direct sequel. David Peoples, who wrote the script for Soldier and co-wrote the script for Blade Runner, refers to it as a “sidequel.”
The film references various writings of Philip K. Dick, who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which is the the basis for Blade Runner, along with other film adaptations of his work. A spinner vehicle from Blade Runner can also be seen on a junk planet featured in the movie, along with characters referencing events from Blade Runner, like the Tannhauser Gate scene.
6 U.S. Marshals (1998)
A sequel to The Fugitive, which was in turn based on the television series of the same name, U.S. Marshals follows Tommy Lee Jones as he reprises his role of U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard. Instead of hunting Harrison Ford’s character from The Fugitive, Gerard looks to track down a new fugitive, played by Wesley Snipes, one who is eluding them following an international conspiracy scandal.
Like The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals would be a commercial success, though it wouldn’t be anywhere near the critical success that its predecessor was and would have many critics citing its lack of tension and suspense that the previous film was able to build so well.
5 Shock Treatment (1981)
A follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment would feature several characters from Rocky Horror recast with different actors, along with several actors from Rocky Horror playing completely different characters. All the recasting was a result of many actors from the original movie being unable, or unwilling, to commit to revisiting the material and caused the creators to have to get creative with the new movie.
Shock Treatment sees Brad and Janet from Rocky Horror again in the middle of some weird happenings as they are stuck in Denton, USA, and must navigate the TV shows that make up the entirety of the town.
4 Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
Originally intended as a serious sequel to The Valley of the Dolls, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls would end up being something more of a satire of the original movie, which was commercially successful but bombed critically. Co-written by Roger Ebert (yes, THAT Roger Ebert), the film was set up as not only a spoof of the original film, but also a satire of Hollywood conventions and tropes, with actors in the film unsure of whether their lines were supposed to be serious or not.
Looking back on it, Ebert would even say that the movie seemed like “a movie that got made by accident when lunatics took over the asylum.”
3 War, Inc. (2008)
Though separate movies with different characters, War Inc. is seen by many to be something of an informal sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank. Both films have a similar style and theme, feature John Cusack in the lead role as an assassin, feature Joan Cusack as his assistant, and have Dan Akroyd in a supporting role.
Cusack himself thinks of War Inc. as Grosse Pointe Blank 2, describing it as a “spiritual cousin to Grosse Pointe Blank.” Unlike Grosse Pointe Blank, however, War Inc. wasn’t nearly as critically or commercially successful and even had Ben Kingsley win a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor.
2 This Is 40 (2012)
A sort of sequel, sort of spinoff to Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, This Is 40 follows the married couple of Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd) after Knocked Up as they approach their 40th birthdays and have to deal with getting older and how that makes them feel.
Apatow has not dealt with sequels often with his movies, but he has talked in multiple interviews about doing a sequel to This Is 40, shifting the focus from the married couple of Pete and Debbie and instead focusing on their teenage daughter Sadie, who is played by Apatow’s own daughter Maude.
1 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Though it acts more as a standalone story, The Silence of the Lambs is a sequel the film Manhunter, with both films being based on novels by Thomas Harris. The Silence of the Lambs would be a hit, with Anthony Hopkins turning in a much praised performance and it would go on to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The success of The Silence of the Lambs would spawn one more sequel, Hannibal, along with two prequels, Red Dragon, which was adapted from the same material as Manhunter, and Hannibal Rising. More recently, Dr. Lecter was the subject of Bryan Fuller's NBC TV show Hannibal.
Can you think of any other pseudo-sequels that would apply here? Let us know in the comments!