Movie sequels are a dime a dozen these days, with studios churning out follow-up features every other year. Heck, it only took Marvel Studios just over a decade to release 23 films set within its shared fictional universe, which is downright mindboggling! But not every film franchise has been so lucky – on the contrary, moviegoers have occasionally been forced to endure lengthy breaks in-between installments of their favorite series.
Sometimes, this patience is rewarded with sequels that live up to (or even exceed) their predecessors. However, it’s just as often the case that these belated new chapters wind up being underwhelming – if not downright awful. With this in mind, here’s a list of delayed sequels we think were (and weren’t) worth waiting for.
10 Worth The Wait – GoldenEye
The James Bond franchise is currently going strong, with 007’s next adventure, No Time To Die, arriving in theatres next year. Things weren’t always looking so rosy for Ian Fleming’s superspy, though – the series’ momentum ground to halt in 1989, after Licence to Kill underperformed financially.
A new outing starring the martini-swilling MI6 agent wouldn’t materialize until 1995’s GoldenEye. Buoyed by Pierce Brosnan’s winning performance in the lead role, GoldenEye garnered strong reviews and raked in a decent chunk of change at the box office, rescuing one of cinema’s longest-running franchises in the process.
9 Not Worth The Wait – Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
When Indiana Jones literally rode off into the sunset during the closing moments of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, creator George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg were not-so-subtly indicating they were done with the franchise. Fans of the two-fisted archaeologist refused to take a hint, though, spending the next 19 years campaigning for a sequel.
Their wish came true in 2008, when Spielberg and Lucas re-teamed with Indy himself, Harrison Ford, for the fourth movie in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The only catch? The fans hated it. In fairness to Spielberg and Lucas, a lot of the criticism of the film is overblown – although it’s admittedly hard to defend CGI Shia LaBeouf swinging around treetops with monkeys…
8 Worth The Wait – Mad Max: Fury Road
Technically, Mad Max: Fury Road counts as a soft reboot – certainly, it’s not designed to be a direct continuation of the original trilogy of films headlined by Mel Gibson that wrapped up back in 1985. That said, continuity was never a strong suit for the Mad Max movies – and George Miller himself has avoided branding Fury Road a reboot – so we’re going to go ahead and class it a sequel.
And what a sequel it is! Essentially one extended car chase, Fury Road is a masterclass in sustained tension and lean, economical character development. Toss in the timely feminist and environmental themes Miller has deftly woven in amidst all the vehicular carnage and you’re left with an uncommonly thoughtful big budget blockbuster.
7 Not Worth The Wait – Tron: Legacy
We’re going to be totally blunt, here: 1982 sci-fi joint Tron isn’t a great movie. Sure, its CG-rendered set pieces were ground-breaking, and it boasts one of the most arresting aesthetics ever to grace the silver screen, but it’s also hobbled by a screenplay that’s poorly paced and emotionally unengaging.
So in many ways, Tron: Legacy – which arrived on the scene a whopping 28 years after its precursor – is a marked improvement on what came before it. Yet that’s not exactly a very high bar to clear, and Legacy likewise suffers from an underdeveloped narrative and thinly-drawn characters which both take a back seat to the film’s undeniably impressive visuals.
6 Worth The Wait – Before Sunset
How do you top Before Sunrise, one of the most critically acclaimed indie romance flicks of the 90s? By dropping one of the most critically acclaimed indie romance flicks of the 00s – which is exactly what director Richard Linklater did with 2004’s Before Sunset!
It was nine years before Linklater and lead actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who both contributed to the script) revisited the story of chatty would-be couple Jesse and Céline, and the finished product is all the better for that break. Benefiting from Linklater, Hawke and Delpy’s greater maturity, Before Sunset is widely regarded as an even richer experience than its sublime forerunner.
5 Not Worth The Wait – The Phantom Menace
Yeah, we know – from an in-universe perspective, Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a prequel, not a sequel. Nevertheless, it was still the fourth entry in the saga in terms of its distribution order – debuting a full 16 years after Return of the Jedi brought the original trilogy to a close – so that makes it a sequel as much as a prequel, in our book.
That distinction is important, as The Phantom Menace is very much the poster child for poorly received belated follow-ups. Few films have been the subject of such frenzied anticipation, so The Phantom Menace failing to meet these inflated expectations was perhaps inevitable. Even so, Star Wars creator George Lucas dropped the ball here – no matter how impressive Episode I’s dazzling lightsaber duels are, nothing can make up for a lackluster plot, clunky dialogue and the abomination that is Jar Jar Binks…
4 Worth The Wait – Rocky Balboa
The Rocky franchise seemingly went out with a whimper in 1990, following the release of its widely panned fifth installment, Rocky V. So, when Sylvester Stallone announced that he would be stepping back into the ring for one more bout as the Italian Stallion in 2006’s Rocky Balboa, nobody really expected much.
Yet much like its titular pugilist, Rocky Balboa overcomes the odds to deliver a knockout punch of a sequel that restores this once-great series to its former glory. Packed with genuine emotion, the film deftly sidesteps any credibility issues surrounding its star’s advanced age through a mixture of smart plotting, toned-down fight choreography and (most of all) a healthy dose of nostalgia.
3 Not Worth The Wait – Independence Day: Resurgence
Look up “popcorn movie” in the dictionary, and chances are you’ll be greeted by the poster for Independence Day. Indeed, Roland Emmerich’s 1996 sci-fi action flick epitomizes everything that’s great about the blockbusters of the era, overcoming shortcomings like one-dimensional characters and nonsensical plotting thanks to its sheer entertainment value and the off-the-charts charisma of its lead actor, Will Smith.
However, Independence Day is also very much a product of its time, as Emmerich found out the hard way when he relied on the same formula for its 2016 successor, Independence Day: Resurgence. No longer able to astonish audiences with scenes of CGI-driven destruction – ironically, the first Independence Day led to such effects-heavy sequences becoming commonplace – and without Smith’s charms to draw upon, the director served up a dull throwback.
2 Worth The Wait – Blade Runner 2049
Depending on the version you’re watching, Blade Runner finishes on an ambiguous note which practically demands a sequel. Yet this 1982 neo-noir cult classic didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, which made funding a return difficult.
Fast forward 35 years, though, and the combined clout of executive producer Ridley Scott and director Denis Villeneuve finally managed to deliver a sequel: Blade Runner 2049. And while it followed in its progenitor’s footsteps by floundering financially, the general consensus is that 2049 is a worthy addition to the Blade Runner canon.
1 Not Worth The Wait – Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
The Terminator has been a mainstay on lists ranking the greatest films of all time since it came out back in 1984. What’s more, its 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day is consistently referenced as that rare breed of sequel that’s as good (if not better) than the original. Sadly, though, this run of form was not to continue when Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was released 12 years later.
Although Arnold Schwarzenegger is back on deck in T3 as the franchise’s eponymous time-traveling murderbot, franchise co-creator James Cameron is no longer calling the shots, and his absence is keenly felt. Almost everything about this third entry feels misjudged – from its re-hashed central premise to its pedestrian action set pieces – although director Jonathan Mostow and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris deserve kudos for a last-minute plot twist that almost makes it worthwhile.