Sometimes it can be hard to tell just from a title whether a movie is going to be a sequel or not. It’s rare these days, since Hollywood likes to cram franchises down everybody’s throats and so the title of the franchise and the recognizable brand are forced front and center to the title, even if it’s not particularly an apt title for the movie. It’s the reason why the official title of The Avengers is actually Marvel’s The Avengers. Marvel wanted us to know that this was their new movie and we should all go and see it because we know Marvel and we consume their products and we adore their brand. And the sad part is that, 99 times out of 100, we fall for it. Similarly, albeit rarely, movies can sometimes have titles that make them sound like sequels (either unintentionally or as a tongue in cheek, ironic joke) when really they’re not. The movie business is certainly a strange one, but those suits must be doing something right since they’re still raking in tens of billions of dollars every year, despite how easy it is to get the movies for free and not pay them a dime. Anyway, without further ado, are you able to tell the sequels from the non-sequels? Let’s see!
The Rookie is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars himself as a grizzled, tough as nails veteran cop who is paired up with a younger cop, played by Charlie Sheen. It is shot and set in California and follows the pair of detectives as they look to take down a German crime lord who is running a grand theft auto ring. The movie also features Lara Flynn Boyle and Tom Skerritt, and it was overshadowed by Home Alone’s astronomical success upon its initial release, but it’s remembered as a good movie.
The Road Warrior
Widely regarded as one of the greatest action movies ever made, The Road Warrior stars Mel Gibson as a lone rider in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It follows the kind of archetypes of a western, with desert settings and a drifter who is called upon to keep a small community safe from the bad guys. The Road Warrior’s action sequences were acclaimed for their gritty realism, their use of practical effects, and their tight editing. But is it a sequel or isn’t it?
The Dark Knight
In this highly acclaimed, Oscar-winning adaptation of DC’s Batman comics, Christian Bale’s memorable Bruce Wayne dons the Batsuit and takes on Gotham City. In the movie, the Caped Crusader faces his most iconic villain: the Joker. Christopher Nolan shook up the Batman franchise, which had until then been straight comic book movies, with a slick crime thriller showing the seedy underbelly of a city and its injustice, in the vein of Michael Mann’s Heat or a dark and grisly thriller like David Fincher’s Se7en. But was The Dark Knight a reboot...or was it a sequel?
This dark, black comic thriller with elements of horror was extremely controversial when it was initially released due to its graphic violence. It was originally set to star Leonardo DiCaprio in the iconic lead role, but he dropped out, making way for the movie star career of Christian Bale to kick off. It follows a man whose psychopathic tendencies he must hide from his friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, by night, he picks up prostitutes and then brutally murders them. No wonder it was controversial, right?
This gritty cop thriller, directed by James Fargo, stars Clint Eastwood as a stern but level-headed detective who’s working on a huge case. Some Vietnam War veterans have put together a terrorist organization and Eastwood is the one tasked with bringing it down. But wait, there’s more. He’s been partnered up with a female rookie, Dredd-style, and he’s not too thrilled about it. However, the audience is thrilled as they’re kept on the edge of their seat through the whole movie.
Leonard Part 6
Before the thing Bill Cosby was most despised for was the dozens of allegations of sexual assault against him, it was this terrible movie. Cosby plays Leonard Parker, a now retired secret agent who has since opened up a restaurant in San Francisco and become a millionaire (of course). So, anyway, he’s pulled out of retirement to battle a dastardly villain who’s also a vegetarian who wants to take over the world with her army of animals. It’s really dumb, but is it a sequel?
Named after the hit Bee Gees song, one of the most iconic and best remembered disco songs of all time, Stayin’ Alive is a dance movie that was (oddly) written, directed, and produced by Sylvester Stallone. Yes, Sylvester Stallone of Rambo and The Expendables. He even has a cameo in the movie, which tells the story of a struggling dancer as he chases his passion. The movie was not well-received by any means, but it did quite well at the box office.
This action thriller stars Wesley Snipes as a fugitive who finds himself on the run from government agents after he’s embroiled in a scandalous international conspiracy. Tommy Lee Jones plays the US Marshal tasked with tracking him down. This movie was pretty much Justified before there was Justified. The movie also stars Robert Downey, Jr. (who would cost a hell of a lot more if the movie was made today) and Joe Pantoliano. It received mixed reviews, with one critic writing: “The film’s pacing is unimpeachable and good performances are delivered.”
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
The Percy Jackson series is seen by many as a rip-off of Harry Potter with Greek mythology substituted for magic, and in many ways, this is very true. Logan Lerman plays Percy, a special, chosen one, Boy Who Lived-type character who is a demigod born from Poseidon, and his two companions are a Ron and Hermione-esque boy-girl pairing. And the supporting cast is chock full of A-list names like Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, and Pierce Brosnan. But is this one a sequel?
A Shot in the Dark
This crime comedy was directed by the brilliant Blake Edwards with a soundtrack composed by the Henry Mancini, the guy who wrote “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the theme music from Peter Gunn. The movie stars Peter Sellers as a bumbling detective who investigates the murder of a millionaire’s driver, which took place on a country estate. This world of fortunes and glamor opens up Edwards and Sellers to many hilarious jokes and gags that make this a classic comedy.
The Color of Money
This drama, directed by Martin Scorsese in his relatively early career, stars Paul Newman in the role of Fast Eddie Felson in a performance that won him an Academy Award. Newman stars alongside then rising star Tom Cruise as a pair of pool hustlers. Cruise plays a young buck, something of a protégé to Newman, and the actor did a lot of his own shots in the pool games. It’s a pretty terrific movie, because everyone – Newman, Cruise, Scorsese et al – was totally committed to making a terrific movie.
Plan 9 from Outer Space
This black and white sci-fi horror B-movie is generally regarded as being the worst movie of all time, but so bad that it can be enjoyed for its crappiness. It’s a cult classic because it’s so bad. It’s been around for so long and been screened and re-released so many times over the years. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Just a movie? You don’t understand. This isn’t Plans 1 through 8 from Outer Space. This is Plan 9! This is the one that worked. The worst movie ever made.”
This is one star-studded crime comedy. Adapted from the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name and directed by The Fate of the Furious helmer F. Gary Gray, Be Cool stars – wait for it – John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Harvey Keitel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Aerosmith, Wyclef Jean, Andre 3000, Arielle Kebbel, The Black Eyed Peas, Gene Simmons, RZA, Fred Durst, Kobe Bryant, and The Pussycat Dolls. But is it a sequel?
This mystery thriller drastically underperformed. It only pulled in about $13 million at the box office with an estimated production budget of over $40 million and a huge marketing price tag on top of that. It was directed by Daniel Espinosa, who just faced a similar failure with this year’s Alien rip-off Life, and stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman. Both this movie and the novel it’s based on loosely tell the story of Soviet Union serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who also appears in the earlier movie Citizen X. But was Child 44 a sequel?
Like Breaking Bad, Desperado is an example of the “contemporary western” genre. It’s a western movie with western tropes and western motifs, except it’s not set in the frontier times, it’s set now (or whenever it was made). It was directed and written by Robert Rodriguez, the helmer of the Mexico Trilogy. The cast includes such huge stars and acting talents as Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, infamous pothead Cheech Marin, and, um, Quentin Tarantino. But is it a sequel?
The Evening Star
The Evening Star is a comedy-drama movie from 1996, although the critics did not take too kindly to it on its initial release and not enough people came to see it for it to make back its budget, so it’s safe to say it wasn’t a great success. It was based on a book by Larry McMurtry, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Robert Harling, who also directed. The movie stars Shirley MacLaine, Bill Paxton, and Juliette Lewis. Sequel or not?
It Runs in the Family
This movie, by all accounts, should’ve been great. Take a look at its stars: Charles Grodin, Kieran Culkin, and Mary Steenburgen. They play the Parker family, and the movie follows their adventures, based on semi-autobiographical stories by Jean Shepherd from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. The movie was an astronomical box office bomb. It cost $15 million to make. It made back just over $70,000.
Directed by Happy Days star Ron Howard, Apollo 13 is a docudrama that tells the story of the Apollo 13 space mission. It stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and CSI’s Gary Sinise. It was based on the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, which was written in a partnership by astronaut Jim Lovell and better writer Jeffrey Kluger. It was a massive success upon release, making more the $300 million profit worldwide and being nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning the awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
Texasville is a drama movie starring an ensemble cast of Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Timothy Bottoms, Randy Quaid, and Eileen Brennan. As with a lot of straight drama movies, it didn’t do all too well at the box office. It only made $2 million. Audiences don’t want drama, they want action and adventure and humor and shock and excitement. But someone thought Texasville was a good idea. Was that because it was the sequel to a more successful movie?
Jewel of the Nile
This adventure movie was a moderate success. It wasn’t an Indiana Jones level of success, but it was like soft Indiana Jones success. It wasn’t unsuccessful. The theme song by Billy Ocean, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Gets Going,” made it into the top 40 around the time of the movie’s theatrical release. It’s also a lot of fun, following Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito around the world on a crazy adventure that leads them into peril and a barrel of laughs. Good movie.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Russell Crowe stars as Captain Aubrey in this adaptation of one of the parts in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. It’s a very cinematic series of historical novels set at sea, focusing on the Napoleonic Wars-set friendship of the Royal Navy’s Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the surgeon from the ship, who is a physician, a natural philosopher, and a intelligence agent, so a cool guy. The critics adored The Far Side of the World. Roger Ebert gave it four stars out of four and wrote that “it achieves the epic without losing sight of the human.”
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s iconic epic sci-fi movie, which he co-wrote with Arthur C. Clarke, the literary master of the genre, is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The film is remembered for its use of classical music, like Also Sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube. When the movie came out, their composers were still alive. It was a long time ago, back in the 1960s, when franchises were scarce and considered to be a pretty revolutionary thing if they came along. Was this one of them?
22 Jump Street
All comedy these days is pretty self-aware. Popular sitcoms like Community and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and their meta-ness gave way to the entire comedy world to change. Now we’ve got adaptations of Baywatch where Zac Efron tells Dwayne Johnson that his anecdotes sound like a far-fetched but very entertaining TV show (go ahead and roll your eyes now) and movies like 22 Jump Street, where tropes are discussed within the movie as they happen. But is it a sequel?
The 6th Day
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of sci-fi franchises like Terminator and Predator, also appeared in The 6th Day, a sci-fi actioner that performed far worse than the studio expected. They’d confidently injected $82 million into the making of the movie and saw returns of only $96 million. This may be because audiences didn’t respond to the convoluted plot. It’s set in the future and it involves human cloning, which doesn’t exist in our time, and legislation banning it, which also doesn’t exist in our time. There’s a big conspiracy and it’s really complex.
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Many sequels bomb, because the studio fails to catch lightning in a bottle twice, especially because they’re trying to catch the same bolt of lightning in the same bottle. Sometimes they succeed admirably, like with John Wick or Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars. But oftentimes it fails, because an audience caught that bug a long time ago and don’t have it anymore – they’ve lost interest by the time the sequel comes around. 1492: Conquest of Paradise was a huge bomb, making just $7 million on a $47 million budget. But is it a sequel?