11 of the best legacy sequels — and 6 of the worst

·15 min read
An image of Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick."
Tom Cruise in "Top Gun: Maverick."Paramount.
  • "Top Gun: Maverick" is the highest-grossing film of 2022.

  • Set 36 years after the original, "Maverick" it is what's known as a legacy sequel.

  • A legacy sequel takes many years to be made and usually stars some beloved original characters.

Starting off with the best: 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick" is much better than it had any right to be.

top gun maverick
"Top Gun: Maverick."Paramount Pictures

The first "Top Gun," released in 1986, was a hyper-masculine fairy tale about US Navy pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) getting sent to Top Gun (the flight school for the best of the best) while learning lessons, making friends, finding love, experiencing loss, and playing a lot of beach volleyball in jeans.

"Maverick," released a whopping 36 years later — after many COVID-related delays — somehow improves upon every aspect of the original. The action is indelible, the new characters are exceedingly charming (we see you, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Lewis Pullman), the love story is better (thank you, Jennifer Connelly), and Maverick is somehow the same old Maverick some 30-odd years later, taking risks up in the sky where he belongs.

"Maverick" is not only the biggest movie of 2022, it also overtook "Titanic" as Paramount's highest-grossing domestic film, has a staggering 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is now the highest-grossing film of Cruise's storied career. It's the gold standard of all legacy sequels, from now until the end of time.

When "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" brought back Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher for the first time in 32 years, '70s and '80s kids were overjoyed.

princess leia han solo in star wars the force awakens
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens."Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The saga of Luke Skywalker, his twin sister Princess Leia Organa, their corrupted father Darth Vader, and their dashing roguish friend Han Solo ended in 1983 with "Return of the Jedi." Or so we thought.

But 32 years later, in 2015, Ford and Fisher came back to a galaxy far, far away in "The Force Awakens" (Mark Hamill wouldn't appear really until "The Last Jedi" in 2017. But this time, they brought new friends in the form of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac).

Whatever your thoughts are on how the rest of the trilogy played out, "Force Awakens" is a delightful space romp, very respectful of the original '70s and '80s trilogy while also adding new characters, planets, and lore for new fans to sink their teeth into as well as the old.

The fifth installment of the "Scream" franchise, simply titled "Scream," successfully made us care about new characters while also paying homage to the OGs.

Neve Campbell holding a gun
"Scream."Paramount

The first "Scream" was released in 1996, and three more films followed in 1997, 2000, and 2011, before the franchise took another decade-long break. Eleven years after Sidney and the gang took down yet another Ghostface Killer in the town of Woodsboro, California, the fifth installment dropped in 2022.

"Scream" introduced us to a whole new generation of horror movie fanatics/residents of the world's most cursed town. However, this installment also brought back our faves like Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), Dewey (David Arquette), Judy (Marley Shelton), and even the first-ever Ghostface, Billy Loomis (a de-aged Skeet Ulrich), to bring down the latest masked serial killer.

"Scream" was successful enough that a sixth installment has already been greenlit — although this time, Campbell seems like she's going to sit this one out.

Another horror franchise that got a legacy sequel bump is "Halloween," which saw the eleventh installment in 2018 wipe the slate clean.

Halloween 2018 Universal
"Halloween."Universal

The very first "Halloween," released in 1978, is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and influential horror movies of all time, catapulting director John Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis into the horror hall of fame. The same cannot be said for the nine ensuing sequels.

Perhaps that's why, after 40 years, the 2018 film wiped out all of the sequel films from its continuity and picks up with a traumatized Laurie Strode (Curtis), still at the ready in case her arch-nemesis Michael Myers returns to the town of Haddonfield.

It became the highest-grossing slasher film upon its release, breaking a 22-year-old record set by "Scream," and spawned two more sequels: 2021's "Halloween Kills" and the upcoming "Halloween Ends."

"The Matrix Resurrections" was polarizing when it was released in 2021, but we think it was lovely to see Neo and Trinity together.

The Matrix Resurrections Keanu Reeves
"The Matrix Resurrections."Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

When the first movie in your series was as genre-defining and iconic as the original "Matrix," it's always going to be hard to live up to expectations. And after the 2003 double-whammy of "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," many thought the story of Neo (Keanu Reeves), a messianic figure who brought about the end of a war between humans and machines, was over.

But 18 years later, Lana Wachowski (one-half of the duo behind the original trilogy) returned to the Matrix to explain what happened after Neo saved the world: The machines captured him and his dead girlfriend Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and stuck them both in their newest version of the Matrix, a simulation of the real world.

The movie was polarizing, to say the least, but after Trinity's fate in "Revolutions," it was cathartic to see the two of them reunited, and to see old faces like Jada Pinkett Smith's Niobe, along with new characters like Neil Patrick Harris' Analyst.

"Creed" combined the powers of director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan with our nostalgia for everyone's favorite boxer, Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone.

creed 2015
"Creed."Warner Bros. Pictures

The final "Rocky" film was released in 2006 and was titled "Rocky Balboa." Arguably that might also be a legacy sequel, since it came out 30 years after the 1976 original, but it definitely wouldn't make our best list.

"Creed," however, proved that just because Rocky wasn't slugging it out in the ring anymore didn't mean audiences wouldn't be interested in the Philadelphia boxing scene. Instead, "Creed" shifted the action to Adonis "Donnie" Creed, the son of Rocky's friend Apollo, who died in a boxing match during the events of "Rocky IV."

The film followed him as he struggled to build a legacy for himself without his father's name, bonded with Rocky, and fell in love with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Both a box-office and critical success, with Stallone even getting nominated for an Academy Award, "Creed" has become a franchise in and of itself. "Creed II" was released in 2018, and "Creed III" is set for 2022.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" technically served as a legacy sequel for both 2007's "Spider-Man 3" and 2014's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

Andrew Garfield's version of Spider-Man emerging from a portal in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
"Spider-Man: No Way Home."Sony Pictures

The original trilogy of Spider-Man films concluded in 2007, with Tobey Maguire's version of the web-slinger burying his best friend Harry and potentially reconnecting with his love, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). There was supposed to be a fourth movie, but it never materialized, leaving fans of that trilogy with little closure.

Instead, Sony rebooted Spidey in 2012 with a new guy at the lead, Andrew Garfield. The responses to his movies were middling at best, and his saga ended after "Amazing Spider-Man 2," which left his version of Peter in a dark place, mourning the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Fans of that trilogy didn't get any closure either.

That is, until the Tom Holland version of Spider-Man got himself in a little multiversal trouble and accidentally brought the two past versions of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with some of their most famous villains in 2021's "Spider-Man: No Way Home," aka the highest-grossing film of 2021.

Seeing all three of them interact on-screen would've been worth it, but we also got to see Maguire reconcile with two of his villains, and, most importantly, we saw Garfield's Peter Parker save MJ (Zendaya) from falling, redeeming his mistake from eight years prior.

Fans returned to the Overlook Hotel after 39 years in the 2019 sequel to "The Shining," with "Doctor Sleep."

doctor sleep
"Doctor Sleep."Warner Bros. Pictures

"The Shining," the beloved Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel, ended with young Danny Torrance escaping from the Overlook with his mother (Shelley Duvall), as his father Jack (Jack Nicholson) slowly froze to death and then had his spirit get absorbed into the hotel.

"Doctor Sleep" picks up decades later with an adult Danny, now played by Ewan McGregor, who must return to the Overlook to help save a little girl who has the same psychic powers as he does.

It was very satisfying to see Danny confront his demons head-on, including peeking his head through the same door his father smashed with an axe, and even conversing with the spirit of his father (now played by Henry Thomas, who has an eerily accurate Nicholson impression).

We shouldn't have been surprised that "Top Gun: Maverick" was good — director Joseph Kosinski's directorial debut, "Tron: Legacy," was also a solid legacy sequel.

tron legacy
"Tron: Legacy."Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"Tron: Legacy" was released in 2010, 31 years after the original "Tron" was released in 1982. The original stars Jeff Bridges as Flynn, a video game developer who gets sucked into the mainframe of a computer and must battle his way out with the help of two computer programs, Ram and Tron. Flynn is trapped inside the game as part of his attempts to reveal that his coworker has been taking credit for his work.

In "Tron: Legacy," Flynn has been missing since 1989, and his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is determined to find him and is subsequently sucked into the grid, reuniting with his father.

While "Legacy" didn't get the best reviews, its stunning visuals are what earn its place on this "best" side of this list. Director Kosinski established his talent with this movie, and we might not have "Maverick" without it.

"The Color of Money" is arguably the first legacy sequel ever, released in 1986.

the color of money
"The Color of Money."Buena Vista Distribution

"The Color of Money," starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman, is actually a sequel to the 1961 film "The Hustler," in which Newman played pool hustler Eddie Felson.

Twenty-five years later, Eddie has moved on from pool hustling and is now a liquor salesman ... but that doesn't stop him from clocking new kid on the block Vincent Lauria's (Cruise) talent for hustling, and decides to mentor him.

"The Color of Money" set the stage for Cruise to become one of the biggest movie stars of his generation, while also serving as a lovely late-stage role for Newman. The film finally won him his Oscar after a decades-long career in Hollywood.

"Blade Runner 2049" is another beautifully shot, but polarizing, legacy sequel.

blade runner 2049
"Blade Runner 2049."YouTube/Warner Bros.

In fact, its polarizing nature makes it just like its 1982 predecessor, which confounded critics and didn't make that much money. But the Harrison Ford-led sci-fi epic found its audiences after many years and many re-cuts of the movie — so much so that director Denis Villeneuve got his crack at the world of replicants 35 years later with "Blade Runner 2049."

"Blade Runner" and its sequel take place in a future where synthetic humans, called replicants, have been created to work in space colonies — but when a group of fugitive replicants escape to Earth, blade runner Rick Deckard (Ford), is tasked with tracking them down. He finds out, though, that replicants aren't exactly what he's been led to believe.

"Blade Runner 2049" picks up 30 years later, focusing on a replicant named K (Ryan Gosling) who is a blade runner himself, and is tasked to find a human-replicant baby and "retire" it, in case the public finds out that replicants can reproduce like humans can. It's revealed that the baby's father is, in fact, Deckard, who has been in hiding for years.

"2049" ended up being as polarizing, thought-provoking, and beautifully shot as the original.

Now, time for some of the worst legacy sequels. First up, "Jurassic World" and its two follow-ups.

Jurassic World
"Jurassic World."Universal

To be fair, this isn't totally "Jurassic World's" fault. "Jurassic Park," upon its release in 1993, completely changed the game for special effects and was a rip-roaring good time, but even its two immediate sequels, released in 1997 and 2001, had diminishing returns.

That's probably why they should've left well enough alone — instead, we got 2015's "Jurassic World," which essentially re-told the story of "Jurassic Park" but added in new (forgettable) characters played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, and a fateful pair of high heels.

Its two sequels, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" and "Jurassic World Dominion," released in 2018 and 2022, brought back beloved characters from the original film, but even that just felt like fan service instead of closure.

Even though these movies made billions of dollars, "Dominion's" franchise-low on Rotten Tomatoes shows that it's probably time to move on.

Harrison Ford has participated in three legacy sequels; not all of them could be great. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is his miss.

Indiana Jones Kingdom of Crystal Skull
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."Paramount via YouTube

Indiana Jones (part-time archaeologist, part-time treasure hunter), as played by Ford, made his debut back in 1981 with "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and returned for two more sequels, 1984's "Temple of Doom" and 1989's "Last Crusade." Many thought that was the end for Indy, his hat, and his trusty whip.

Except ...it wasn't. Nineteen years after "Last Crusade," Ford suited up once again for "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which reunited Indy with his love from the first film, Marion (Karen Allen), and their son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf).

As David Denby of The New Yorker put it, "the unprecedented blend of comedy and action that made the movies so much more fun than any other adventure series is mostly gone."

That's probably why they're giving it one more try in 2023 for a fifth "Indiana Jones" installment, once again starring Ford.

It's time we face facts: Neither 1996's "Space Jam" nor its 2021 sequel "Space Jam: A New Legacy" are very good.

space jam a new legacy warner bros
"Space Jam: A New Legacy."Warner Bros.

In the case of "Space Jam 2," the legacy characters are, in fact, the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny, Porky Pig, the list goes on). Original basketball star Michael Jordan did not return for the 2021 sequel, although Michael B. Jordan does make an admittedly cute cameo.

Instead, LeBron James steps into Jordan's cartoon shoes for this soulless Warner Bros. IP-fest that basically is a commercial for Tune Squad merch and HBO Max. Not even the original film's director liked it.

"Independence Day: Resurgence" is missing one key ingredient from the original: Will Smith.

independence day resurgence
"Independence Day: Resurgence."20th Century Fox

Instead, "Resurgence" casts Jessie T. Usher to play Smith's character's step-son, Dylan, while substituting Liam Hemsworth as the film's actual leading man.

"Resurgence" was released in 2016, 20 years after the release of "Independence Day," and brings back Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman as scientist David Levinson and former president Thomas Whitmore, respectively — and they're the best things about this forgettable sequel about another alien invasion attacking the Earth.

Don't just take our word for it: Trust the 29% critics score and 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

"Zoolander 2" is the definition of a long-awaited sequel we really didn't need.

zoolander 2
"Zoolander 2."Paramount

Was anyone really clamoring for a sequel to the 2001 supermodel comedy "Zoolander?" No? Well, we got one anyway 15 years later with "Zoolander 2," bringing back Ben Stiller's himbo icon Derek Zoolander, his frenemy Hansel (Owen Wilson), his arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell), and the ghost of his wife Matilda (Christine Taylor).

The sequel also throws Zoolander's estranged son into the mix, played by Cyrus Arnold, as well as a slew of other characters, cameos, and a truly troubling performance by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Plus, it barely broke even at the box office.

If "The Force Awakens" is a good example of a legacy sequel, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" is the epitome of a bad one.

star wars the rise of skywalker
"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."Disney/Lucasfilm

In retrospect, it would've been impossible to craft a solid ending to this new trilogy after the polarized reaction to "The Last Jedi" — either "Rise of Skywalker" could respect the events of its predecessor, angering a very vocal group of fans, or it would ignore the events of "Last Jedi" completely, angering the other half of fans.

And in the end, it went with the latter, ignoring the events of "Last Jedi," but somehow also failing to live up to any fans' expectations. From the non-explanation of Palpatine returning after getting defeated 36 years prior, to the fake out death of Chewbacca, to the total sidelining of Rose and Finn, "Rise of Skywalker" finally united "Star Wars" fans in hatred.

Read the original article on Insider