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Franchises Where The Best Installment Came Way After The Original

Updated March 21, 2021 9.4k votes 1.5k voters 46.4k views14 items

List RulesVote up the film sequels that are better than the original.

Making movies is hard, but making sequels that are better than the first installment of a franchise is even harder. As a filmgoing public, we think of film as a director and actor's medium, but everyone, from the screenwriters to the producers to the best boys, has an unquantifiable impact on moviemaking. Unfortunately, when you go back to the well over and over again, it gets harder to create a story that doesn't become stale over time. 

However, from time to time, there are certain franchises that have been able to hit gold long after other series would've become hackneyed. We're talking about Fast Five reinventing a franchise that was struggling to stay afloat and spinning out into something that has become a worldwide phenomenon. We're talking about Casino Royale singlehandedly taking an intellectual property that felt decades past its prime and reinvigorating it into a series that felt vital again. We're talking about Mad Max: Fury Road reminding everyone that Max Rockatansky even existed in the first place.

Sometimes, great things come to those who wait.

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  • After the disappointing puff of smoke that was 2000's Mission: Impossible II, it's pretty incredible that Tom Cruise came back to the series at all. Even more astonishing than the series' continuation is the fact that Mission: Impossible movies have been pretty amazing ever since. Somehow, the sixth entry in the franchise, 2018's Mission: Impossible - Fallout, garnered the greatest critical response for the series a whopping 22 years after the original Mission: Impossible.

    For a series that usually resets everything outside of Tom Cruise himself (and Ving Rhames) for every installment, Mission: Impossible - Fallout brought back a lot of familiar faces and put together some sweet action sequences around an engaging story. Oh, and Henry Cavill has an absolute mountain of a mustache. 

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    • While 2002's The Bourne Identity and 2004's The Bourne Supremacy were both critical and financial successes, 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum proved to be a high point that the long-running series is still struggling to recapture. Matt Damon's stardom was in full swing and Paul Greengrass was at the height of his shaky-cam powers after finding his feet with the previous installment. 

      The BBC's Paul Arendt claimed the film was "a heart-pounding, merciless thrill ride that will leave you gasping for breath" and the film has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a clear peak for the series that has seen recent entries fail to get above the 60% mark.

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      • While financially successful, the first four entries in the Fast & Furious franchise didn't exactly strike a chord with critics. These movies garnered critic scores between 29% and 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, while 2011's Fast Five became the high point in the series upon release with a Certified Fresh score of 77% and a cool $626 million at the worldwide box office.

        Fast Five brought the financial clout and undeniable stardom of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to the franchise, transformed the street racing series into a full-fledged action behemoth, and launched Fast & Furious into the stratosphere as Universal Pictures' most reliable moneymaker.

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        • Even with a storied history of unbelievable accomplishments, the most incredible feat Pixar has pulled off was their ability to make four near-perfect Toy Story films. While 1995's original kicked off the computer animation boom, and 1999's sequel managed to up the ante even further, 2010's Toy Story 3 managed to be even more special than its predecessors. 

          The ending scene, where a college-bound Andy donates the toys from his childhood to another kid in the neighboorhood, brought tears to the eyes of audiences across America when it hit theaters. There is a poignancy and beauty to this film that is hard to quanitify. While 2019's Toy Story 4 managed to bring the crew back together again in a satisfying way without muddling the ending of the third picture, it had no chance of topping the emotional resonsance of Toy Story 3.

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