If a movie is even remotely deemed a hit nowadays, you can bet your bottom dollar that film’s getting a sequel. Just look at the recent success of Venom, which already has its filmmakers talking about its sequel despite having pretty abysmal critical reception. The first sequel can be dated back 102 years with Thomas Dixon’s The Fall of a Nation following the tale of D.W. Griffiths controversial The Birth of a Nation; which is largely believed to be the first major feature film.
Sequels had a sort of boom in the mid-70s, in part thanks to one of the films you’ll be reading about later on the list. 18 of the top 25 films in terms of domestic gross are either sequels or films in a cinematic universe, showing not just how popular they are but also just how lucrative a sequel can be. That said, not every sequel to a bona fide hit is going to bring in the cash. Many sequels are given inflated budgets in comparison to the first, but then when they fail to connect with audiences it makes it just that much more crushing to the studio.
Just a few guidelines for the list: only true sequels will be looked at. No third films in a trilogy-- or seventh if you’re the Fast and the Furious or Saw franchises. Also, cinematic universes are looked at by individual characters or films; The Incredible Hulk is not a sequel to Iron Man and Kong: Skull Island is not a sequel to Godzilla.
Let’s take a look at 15 Sequels That Were Massive Hits (And 15 That Completely Flopped).
30 Hit: The Godfather Part II
The Godfather: Part II’s $47,452,841 may not seem like much, but that amount is the same as $257,058,958 when adjusted for inflation and brought to 2018 dollars. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 epic came just two years after The Godfather completely shattered all box office records at the time. The second didn’t even come close to the first’s take-home, but sequels were seen as gimmicky and juvenile up until the '80s.
The Godfather: Part II was the second film in a saga to ever win the Best Picture Oscar; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King went ahead and took the title for third films in a saga.
29 Flopped: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver
Despite the fact that very few people enjoyed it, Fantastic Four actually made quite a bit of money, enough so to warrant Fox green-lighting a sequel. That sequel would be the colossal mess that is Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver; a film that sunk nearly every career of the cast involved (excluding Chris Evans, who would have a renaissance as another superhero).
Who knows if their inclusion in MCU is coming with Disney’s acquisition of Fox?
Even Kevin Fiege isn’t sure as he’s "just sitting, waiting for a phone call to say yay or nay.”
28 Hit: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The second installment of James Gunn’s action-comedy is actually ranked seventh in the MCU; not a great-sounding accomplishment, but a great achievement when we consider just how successful those films are. Adding a higher profile villain in actor and character (Lee Pace v. Kurt Russell and Ronan the Accuser v. Ego, respectively) surely added to the $56 million uptake that Marvel saw from the first to the second.
The third film is currently in limbo, but one thing is certain: director James Gunn won’t return for a trilogy. Look for him at the writing desk (and perhaps the director’s chair) for Suicide Squad 2.
27 Flopped: Independence Day: Resurgence
Want to know how badly Independence Day: Resurgence performed? The sequel barely made a third of the original film's gross-- and back when that film was released a 2018 $1 was worth only 62¢. Will Smith turning his back on the sequel was the first in a long line of red flags.
A third film for the Independence Day franchise is highly unlikely.
However, the two-decade break between the first two means no one can say for sure.
26 Hit: 22 Jump Street
Based on an '80 s teen-drama, 22 Jump Street's final take was nearly 400% it’s budget, a feat that many established shows from the era tried to capitalize on. Chips and Baywatch both were critical and financial catastrophes, further indication that the victory was because of directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, and the hilarious pairing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.
After parting ways with the underperforming Solo: A Star Wars Story, the duo’s next film is titled Artemis, an adaptation of a novel written by The Martian novelist, Andy Weir.
25 Flopped: The Ring Two
US remakes of renowned Japanese horror flicks were all the rage in the early 2000s, but their sequels nearly always came up short at the box office.
The 2002 US version of The Ring was undeniably a hit, while its sequel can’t be branded as anything but a flop.
As abysmal the return may have been for The Ring Two, it’s nowhere near as bad as the 2017 reboot Rings which almost certainly exterminated the myth of Samara and the tape from American theatres.
24 Hit: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprise hit, especially when the last reboot of the classic franchise was a universally panned Tim Burton film. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves came aboard for the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the second film in the trilogy and was also the highest grossing of the three by over $30 million.
War for the Planet of the Apes actually took home the least money in the trilogy, despite receiving the highest praise.
23 Flopped: Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Prequels are always a risky business, especially when you don’t bring back the main two actors who truly made the first film special in the first place. Not only did the film not bring back Jim Carrey nor Jeff Daniels, they also replaced directing duet Peter and Bobby Farrelly, two of the most distinguished comedy directors working today.
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd was a monumental failure, not even raking in a 5th of the first movie's take.
The two actors and two directors would have a reunion 20 years after the original’s release, but their film would also have a poor reception.
22 Hit: The Matrix Reloaded
Four years of anticipation helped build excitement for the follow up to one of 1999’s greatest films, thus garnering a huge payday for The Matrix Reloaded’s release. In an unprecedented move, the producers released The Matrix Reloaded on May 15, 2003 and then released The Matrix Revolutions less than six months afterward.
The huge box office results for was followed by a bomb in Revolutions, thus making the quick release for sequels a thing of the past. Just look at Solo: A Star Wars Story’s poor box office as evidence, since many people felt like they were having Star Wars “fatigue” so soon after Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
21 Flopped: AVP: Requiem
The fact that Alien v. Predator even got a sequel is a mystery in the first place.
The first film wasn’t necessarily regarded as “good” and its box office results were average to say the least.
The sequel’s $40 million budget was met with a $41 million return; this wouldn’t be horrible if production costs were the only expense but sadly most film’s marketing costs usually match the initial price tag. We’ve had two Predator films and two Alien films since, but don’t hold your breath for a get-together of the two again, since history’s showed it doesn’t work as well on film as it does on paper.
20 Hit: The Empire Strikes Back
The second Star Wars flick pulled in $209,398,025, not counting the other $80 million it took in from re-releases. When adjusted for inflation, The Empire Strikes Back garnered a ridiculous $897,371,000, making the film the highest-grossing sequel ever, even counting any film in a saga after the first.
Empire is just about $40 million shy of reaching the same box office as The Force Awakens when adjusted. The crazier stat: the return for The Force Awakens is 382% ($936 million return on a $245 million budget) while The Empire Strikes Back’s return is 1,161% ($209 million on a $18 million budget).
19 Flopped: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps took in $52,474,616; a sizable amount and could be deemed a success till you learn of the film's $70 million budget.
Releasing a film about the elite's ability to maintain financial success during a financial crisis may not have been the smartest move.
The movie industry didn’t suffer as much as other trades did, as many people used cinemas to escape from the hardships that they had at home. That escape wasn’t so easy when the film showed you people who were reaping the benefits of your struggle.
18 Hit: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a hit, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t the hit that Marvel actually anticipated it to be. It opened less than Marvel’s The Avengers did and ended up making about $140 million less than the first. This could be because of poor word of mouth (17% less than the first Avengers film on Rotten Tomatoes) but many experts blame it on something else entirely.
A Variety report states that in a poll, 52% of people questioned said that they skipped the opening weekend in order to watch the Floyd Mayweather Jr. v. Manny Pacquiao boxing bout; a sporting event many called “The Match of the Century.”
17 Flopped: The Rage: Carrie 2
Many people probably didn’t know there was a sequel to Carrie-- that’s because almost no one saw it. The original horror flick came out a whopping 23 years prior and still put up nearly double what The Rage: Carrie 2 did in domestic box office gross.
Not only did the film make less, but it was made for considerably more, to the tune of $19 million.
The 2013 remake didn’t fare too well either, but not many Steven King adaptations were as big of a box office disappointment as The Rage: Carrie 2.
16 Hit: Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 was one of the first films (along with the X-Men trilogy) to prove that when created maturely, artistically, and passionately, a superhero film can be much more than just guys in costumes fighting other guys in costumes. The film’s $200 million budget was one of the most expensive of the time, and was proven worth it, since the film nearly doubled that in profit, just in the States.
The film was almost very different, with Jake Gyllenhaal coming close to replacing Toby Maguire. Luckily Spidey stayed the same and Spider-Man 2 is still regarded as one of the most complete superhero flicks ever to be put to film.
15 Flopped: Grease 2
Grease remains a classic with audiences of all generations. Its sequel, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. The '50s was extremely nostalgic for the baby boomers of the '70s, though it didn’t seem like they were necessarily clamoring for a sequel. Grease 2’s budget doubled that of the first film.
Too bad its return was awful in comparison to the original.
Grease 2 did bring something for the world, and that was the introduction of actress Michelle Pfeiffer.
14 Hit: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay films are an acquired taste that not every moviegoer relishes, but it's hard to dispute their value when one of his films reaches $402,111,870 domestically. Revenge of the Fallen is the highest grossing Transformers film to date. The last film in the current tagline, Transformers: The Last Knight, took in an incredibly underwhelming $130 million. We shall see how prequel Bumblebee performs in December.
Since the second film's release, the next three have each dropped in domestic box office success by over $100 million. Since Transformers: Age of Extinction, the films have stopped turning a profit in the US.
13 Flopped: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
How do you follow up one of the worst reviewed superhero films of all time? You make an even worse reviewed sequel. That’s the strategy Colombia took when it green-lit the sequel to Nicolas Cage’s 2007 “so bad it’s good” anti-hero flick Ghost Rider.
The returns for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance were depressing and began a downward spiral for Cage's career.
If you’ve enjoyed recent films such as Mandy or Mom and Dad, maybe give Spirit of Vengeance a try for the classic Nic Cage performance, but don’t expect much else to be particularly enjoyable from the movie-- especially not the CGI.
12 Hit: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Much like the Transformers series above, the Pirates of the Caribbean series has five films in its arsenal and shows a steady decline after reaching its zenith with its second entry, Dead Man's Chest.
Don’t expect Johnny Depp (or any of the rest of the cast, for that matter) to return any time soon since the last film's disappointing box office probably wasn’t enough for Disney to assuredly give the franchise a sixth film. However, a reboot is now rumored.
11 Flopped: T2: Trainspotting
21 years is a very long time. Many of the fans of the original film may be a bit too old for its anarchist themes while its target audience wasn’t even alive during the first’s release. The 1996 Trainspotting didn’t do terribly in theatres, but it is usually still deemed a cult film with its popularity after debuting.
Danny Boyle returned with all four of his stars for T2, but audiences weren’t exactly proclaiming their need for a sequel.
The first film stands alone as an intricate and raw look at addiction and youth; something the sequel failed to recapture.
10 Hit: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece was long thought to be unfilmable; the creation of Middle-earth and its inhabitants would require technology that had not yet been created. Peter Jackson came in and broke that theory in half, creating three of the most prestigious, beloved, and lucrative films ever made.
The Two Towers isn’t actually the highest grossing of the bunch. Breaking the trend, The Return of the King actually holds the honor for highest grossing Tolkien based film, even surpassing the films of The Hobbit trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels, selling over 150 million copies so it’s no wonder that the films played so well.
9 Flopped: Son of the Mask
1994’s The Mask is a clever comedy highlighting the wacky personality of Jim Carrey.
Son of the Mask is one of the worst reviewed wide-released films of all time.
Son of the Mask was made for $84 million and took in $17,081,422; roughly a 20% return. Jamie Kennedy stars in the 2005 sequel, which unsurprisingly holds a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, having only 6 positive reviews off of over 100. Want a good indication as to why this movie made such little money? It’s rated #10 on IMDb’s Lowest Movies of All Time, just below From Justin to Kelly.
8 Hit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is far and away the best of the series in terms of critical reception, audience reception, and financial gain. Francis Lawrence took over the directing gig from Gary Ross after the first film and it certainly made an impact at the box office.
Catching Fire was able to truly focus Jennifer Lawrence’s acting ability. It showed how a YA blockbuster could be not just entertaining, but emotional. Catching Fire has a number of accolades including biggest November opening weekend, biggest sci-fi adaptation, and biggest young adult adaptation.
7 Flopped: Speed 2: Cruise Control
A film now-a-days starring the likes of Sandra Bullock and Willem Dafoe is almost certain to be excellent, not so was the case in 1997. Keanu Reeves and Bullock headlined the 1994 surprise hit Speed just a few years earlier. Since bigger is always better the producers more than likely thought, “What’s better than a bus? A cruise ship!” Thus, Speed 2: Cruise Control was born.
Reeves elected not to return-- a clear red flag.
Approximately $50 million is a good chunk of money to make, but Fox put up a whopping $160 million (an unprecedentedly high budget in the mid-late '90s), banking that the film would be a hit like its predecessor. Understandably, it wasn’t.
6 Hit: Finding Dory
Finding Dory may not be remembered and beloved quite like Finding Nemo is, but it sure made more money; $105,452,300 more to be exact. Bringing back the whole cast from the first, most importantly Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as original director Andrew Stanton made the film feel like there was no time at all between the movie and its predecessor.
Finding Dory is one of the 36 films to make over 1 billion worldwide, and it surely wasn’t the last Pixar film to hit that record.
5 Flopped: Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill for
Frank Miller’s Sin City a Dame to Kill for made less than half in its lifetime gross than the original Sin City made in 3 days.
Fans claimed they wanted a sequel-- it’s just too bad none of them showed up to support it.
A Dame to Kill for opened in 2,894 theaters with an opening weekend gross of $6,317,683. That’s an average of 2,183 per theater. If tickets average at $10 that means that 218 people per theatre saw the film over a weekend, an extremely low count. A nine-year gap and middling reviews seem to be the culprit for such a beloved film could spawning such a disappointing sequel.
4 Hit: The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles 2 played its way to being the highest-grossing animated film of all time and, even more impressively, currently sits as the #8 highest opening weekend of all time.
The 14-year gap actually worked in the film’s favor. Not only were kids excited to see an animated superhero flick, but their parents were young enough to remember enjoying the first. Brad Bird returned to the direct the film after a few disappointing live-action efforts. Next on his plate is a live-action film about the San Francisco earthquakes of 1906.
3 Flopped: Piranha 3DD
Piranha 3DD is a sequel to an underperforming remake to an underperforming original, so it was never really set up for gold.
The 2010 remake barely made back its budget, so the fact that The Weinstein Company green-lit a sequel is quite puzzling.
With a $5 million budget and bringing in a feeble $376,512, the film's return on investment was a poor 7% While the Piranha 3D actually holds a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, its sequel is just a mere 60 points below at 13%. The 2010 original remake’s positive word-of-mouth helped its profits, that never worked for the sequel.
2 Hit: The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight was the largest opening weekend of all time during its release, and held that accomplishment for three years until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 dethroned it in 2011. The Dark Knight Rises actually had a larger opening weekend, but then ended with almost $100 million less, a testament as to which film audiences enjoyed more.
Sitting at #4 on IMDb’s Top 250, DC has been struggling to find box office success like The Dark Knight, and slowly we're realizing it may not have been Batman that brought the fans, but what Christopher Nolan did with him.
1 Flopped: Basic Instinct 2
Paul Verhoven’s Basic Instinct was a surprise hit, even going so far to earn a couple Oscar nominations. It’s sequel on the other hand, won 4 Razzies including Worst Picture and Worst Actress for Sharon Stone. Basic Instinct 2 got a 30% boost in its budget when compared to its predecessor, while only making 4% of what that precursor made.
Sharon Stone even came back to reprise her infamous role as Catherine Tramell.
Stone’s career took a downward turn after the 2006 sequel, never really allowing her to return to the fame she maintained during the '80s and '90s.
What's your favorite sequel? Let us know in the comments!