Why Do So Many Sequels Suck?

There’s good ones, but most sequels are bad. Is there a reason so many don’t out-do the original?

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

72 comments

  1. Isn’t Sequel Month, over already?!

  2. STFU, Doug, Clerks 2 was/is awesome.

  3. STFU, Doug, Son of the Mask was/is awesome.

  4. Temporally Displaced

    I remember seeing an interview with Will Smith where he argued that the reason sequels get made in the first place is that the original was so good that people wanted more. That means that if a sequel regresses to the mean and is merely average, it will still be worse than the original.

    Bad movies rarely get sequels, so most sequels will have a higher bar to clear than an original film.

  5. ThatManWithTheHeadband12

    For your “Letting too much time pass”, there’s Ace Ventura Jr., Son of the Mask, Dumb and Dumber To, and now Bigger Fatter Liar (which, btw is basically a remake with a video game pitch instead of a homework assignment/movie script). It’s also kind of the case with Rory and Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Instead of being in the situations we see her in in what was supposed to be more closer to right after we left off, it’s instead 8 or so years later. Ones that don’t make as much sense to have stagnated in. Star Wars The Force Awakens is an example of succeeding even with the gaps

    And James Cameron has already waited so long on the Avatar sequels, if they even ever get made

  6. I think one of the reasons sequels tend to be bad is because the creative expression part is over; the writers told the story they wanted to tell and the rest is just for the sake of making more. “Okay, we’ve told the Adventure of So and So. Now what? Put them in the same situation again? Go off in some weird direction?” “I dunno, just make something.”

    • I think most people would agree Peter MacNicol is the sole “good and original” part of Ghostbusters II. Read the original script and the sequel script. In the original, none of the characters were defined. Louis’ part was written for John Candy while Peter’s part was written for John Belushi. Even Sigourney Weaver ad-libbed her best lines, while Bill Murray pretty much ad-libbed everything. Everyone was free to make the character their own. In the second script…it was written to the actors playing the roles. The only person it WASN’T written to Peter MacNicol, who, just like the original movie did with most of the characters, did a completely different take on the character of Janosz. He was the only one who got to inject anything interesting and new into the plot.

  7. The Phantom Menace isn’t a sequel! It’s a prequel! Don’t you know that?! Yeah, “The Dark Knight Rises” still has a higher rating on the IMDb than “Citizen Kane”. Oh and so does “The Matrix”. We still disagree with you on that.

  8. Just because people say that certain movies suck, they still won’t stop me from enjoying films like the entire Dark Knight Trilogy, the entire Transformers series, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the DC Extended Universe, the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, Home Alone 2 (which I don’t own on DVD, because of Supreme Leader Trump’s pointless cameo), and the entire Matrix Trilogy.

    • Ok, first

      Dark Knight rises suuuucks.

      Ratings on IMDB are not really saying much, might be downvoting a movie because the effects are so bad, no CGI or anything, not even color. Another thing, older films have slower way to tell a story, most younger people today are way to impatient to watch something like that.

      The Matrix was ok, the Matrix Sequels on the other hand, not so much…still better than the dark knight rises.

    • Trump cameos in Home Alone 2? Huh…I never noticed that.

  9. Before I watch this one, here’s my main theory on the difference between a good sequel and a poor one.

    The difference is intent. Most people who make sequels do so with the idea of doing everything that “worked” in the original, only “bigger and better”, believing that’s an easy formula for success. Those who make good sequels are out to tell a good story…one just as good as the original. They’re out to make a movie that, by itself, without any reference to its past, is good.

    And for the most part, good sequels are like that. “Aliens” is fine as a stand-alone film. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is fine as a stand-alone film. “The Dark Knight” is fine as a stand-alone film. All of the Mad Max sequels are fine as stand-alone films. You don’t even have to watch the original to appreciate everything about those movies, and even find new things to like.

  10. There was a Sin City 2?

  11. “We’d be spoiled”

    You’re saying we’re not?

  12. I tend to like sequels but then again, I usually haven’t seen the bad ones. I actually kinda enjoy Wolverine: Origins and I definitely enjoyed Terminator: Genisys. The only disappointing sequels I’ve seen are (technically) the Phantom Menace, Transformers 2 (I like all the others) and the third Batman movie.

  13. I’m still never getting over the Blair Witch 2 thing. It’s, at best, a good movie buried under studio meddling and at worst an average episode of Freaky Links. Joe Berlinger isn’t a bad director, and the story makes more sense in the “European cut”. That spooky ass bootleg is the closest we’ll get until Lionsgate/Artisan finally releases the Director’s Cut. Still better than nothing, glitches and all.

    • Honore de Ballsack

      the earliest draft of Blair Witch 2 didn’t have anything to do with Blair Witch, some studio person just tacked the name Blair Witch on because the original was a big hit and very different from the other horror movies that were around at the time.

  14. disembodiedvoiceofreason

    Am I the only one who thought clerks 2 was good?

  15. Blaze The Movie Fan

    I think the biggest issue is that sequels usually miss what made the first movie so great.

  16. I know why. Money. They want a quick buck instead of taking the time to make something of quality or original.

  17. Well let join the STFU train

    STFU Dough, TDK Rises was/is awesome.

  18. Wtf what do you mean Home Alone 2 gets a “bad reputation”? People love HA2, possibly more than the original

    • I wouldn’t go as far as to say people love HA2 more than the original. The movie does has a reputation for mostly rehashing the first movie, but it is also beloved for the times when it did do fresh and new things. Even though Doug considers HA2 a bad movie for the most part, even he likes the parts that were more original and has listed it on a top Christmas movies list for that reason.

  19. I didn’t see ‘Clerks 2’ or ‘Son of the Mask’ so I don’t give a crap about ’em.

    Nice video, Doug.

  20. Angryatthecritic666

    Awww man, now I have to wait till next week to see his new intro

  21. The problem with this discussion is that factors discussed are WAY too complex to have any merit. This analysis correctly points out movies that seem to fit every permutation you can think of and so there’s no clear direction as to what choices are ‘right’.

    All you can really say is that odds are against a sequel being on par or better than the original. Anything else is just ‘best guess’.

    Example: Inception Sequel…go.

    Is it too late or too soon?
    How close do you stick to the formula?
    Do you risk explaining how more things work?
    Do you risk expanding the world or concepts we know?
    Does the sequel focus on the concept alone with new characters? Or do we consider the established characters to be essential to a sequel?

    These basic questions could have tons of different answers and for all we know several would be right and many more would be very very wrong and ensure a guaranteed flop.

    There’s a reason Hollywood fails at sequels and Doug’s attempt at making it a discussion doesn’t serve to help clarify or understand why.

  22. 22 Jump Street is a great satire of movie sequels. The entire movie is about how the characters tried something new, but utterly fail; so they’re told to go back to Jump Street and “do the same thing” but with higher stakes and a bigger budget. However, they’re constantly thinking they should break through their ceiling.
    That’s the whole joke. An investigation literally compromised by the need to adhere to formula and the constant nagging desire to change things up.

    But what it comes down to is two things. Smart writing and screamingly funny jokes.

  23. Yeah, why was Clerks 2 harped on so much?
    As someone who dreaded it upon release, I was pleasantly surprised to feel it kept the vibe of the first quite well, whilst evolving some aspects…Keep in mind, I’m saying this about a movie with a donkey show, but my point stands!

    There’s the dance number, sure. It can be considered trying to be grosser, but remember, the original introduced a lot of people to snowballing.
    Not to mention, 2 actually had a sort of arc, and Randall’s moment toward’s the end was excellent, and about as good as you could expect for those characters. Especially considering the movie’s about these losers that have stayed losers all these years.

    Besides, it’s certainly better than Yoga Hosers….Red State’s awesome though.

    • This.

      I haven’t logged onto the site in years, forgot i even had an account sometimes. On a whim, not entirely sure if it would work, typed in my user name and a possible password and wohlah, got on. Got on just to type out my reaction to all the kinda cringy Clerks 2 hate and while scrolling just found This. This comment pretty much covers everything I wanted to say.

      So, thanks.

      Also, Red State was mmeeeeeeh.

      Bye again tgwtg/channel awesome, maybe i’ll log back on in another 3 years or so, on whatever they’ll name this site at that time.

  24. I’m gonna say that I thoroughly enjoyed Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’m not saying it’s the best one, that goes to either Raiders or Last Crusade. I’m saying it gets a bad rep, though I agree the fridge was the last straw for 99% of everyone.

    And I also enjoyed Home Alone 2, but the first will always be king.

    So yeah, what I’m saying is that he’s right: sometimes we need more bad so we can filter out the good from them.

  25. I didn’t even know there was a Sin City 2. I hated the first movie anyway.

  26. Honestly, I love Home Alone 2 even more than the original. It was honestly a lot funnier (mostly thanks to Tim Curry and all the scenes at the hotel), it was just as touching, and I just found myself more invested this time and more excited. The first one felt a lot slower and mellow, but the second one felt faster and sillier, which is what it SHOULD be. I love both of them, but I’d still go with Home Alone 2.

    And…if I’m being honest, I don’t MIND Home Alone 3. It wasn’t horrendous; it was just…mediocre. Anything past Home Alone 3…yeah, screw all that.

  27. Seriously Doug, what’s with all the Clerks 2 hate?

  28. That seems to be a weird thing with movies in particular. Book sequels can often outshine their predecessors and as a gamer I can say that game sequels are something fans often hope for because they usually build on the original game and further refine and improve the mechanics while also providing a decent continuation of the story if there is a continuity to be followed.

    Sure, there are bad book and videogame sequels too, but there’s a much better track record in either medium than with movies, where people usually expect sequels to be bad. It’s hard to say if it’s a matter of film directors doing something wrong that book authors and game devs do right, or if it just has something to do with the ins and outs of the film industry that run deeper than the creative input of the individuals in charge of a given film, but it’s certainly a mystery worth examining.

  29. Genuine question – why do you always whenever you think you’re saying or questioning something meaningful and deep and thoughtprovoking, you do the specific things of squinting your eyes staring at the camera while doing a quick slight headturn and lifting your upper lip, all while also being a bit more high-pitched than usual with your voice?
    It’s just that whenever you do this, it comes off as really cheesy to me, and… to be frank, it kinda makes me cringe. But hey, I can do and say cringe-worthy stuff too, so it’s not like I’m innocent from doing that myself.

  30. To be honest, I think there’s a much easier explanation even than the ones provided, sensible and logical though they be;
    The vast majority of things are going to be either terrible, or mediocre. That’s basic mathematics; if there is a grading curve, 49% have to be below average at least, but when you look at the sum total of films made every year, most are really bad, with the cream of the crop rising to the top. So, obviously, sequels would be no different. That, and we need to have people fuck up–sometimes colossally–to show us how not to do things before we understand how things can be done right. We can’t get things right until we’ve tried all the permutations of the creative process, which means we’ll make screw-up after screw-up before getting the right thing out there. That doesn’t mean failure, since (in my opinion) to fail isn’t to mess up, it’s to give up entirely.
    Anyway that’s my perspective on it.

    • Was it Thomas Edison who said something like ‘I didn’t fail in the experiment, I simply found another way NOT to do it.’

      … words to that effect, too lazy to Google it.

      • Yeah, I looked it up and you’re pretty close with that, he said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.” And he’s right, it might’ve been a mess, he might not have succeeded in the final result on that one try, but success is the ultimate triumph after trial and error (and in Eddison’s case, often ripping people like Tesla off and claiming their work as his own).
        And that’s how life goes, whether it be to make 200 terrible movies a year with only 12 out of all of them being good, or performing thousands of mathematical equation permutations to figure out what the correct one is. It all comes down to not letting the mess-ups get one to surrender.

        • “and in Eddison’s case, often ripping people like Tesla off and claiming their work as his own”

          There’s gotta be something to say about this as relates to the notorious ‘Hollywood keeps copying itself’ syndrome. 🙂

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