- Sequels have the difficult task of bringing back the original audience and attracting new viewers to the franchise, but there have been several that have done just that.
- Examples like The Dark Knight, Top Gun: Maverick, and Terminator 2 have significantly outperformed their original films at the box office, thanks to incredible direction, performances, and new chapters in the ongoing story.
- These successful sequels have proven that with the right elements in place, audiences are eager to return to the theaters and experience the continuation of their favorite franchises.
It’s always impressive when a sequel manages to massively outperform the original, and there are plenty out there that managed to multiply their original box office takings. Original films have the difficult job of introducing an audience to a new property and setting up the world, but sequels have it even harder. Not only do they need to bring back their original audience, but they also need to convince new viewers to start following along, too.
However, while this is no small feat, there have been several IPs that managed to do just that. From original films that were released in the 80s, like Top Gun, which didn’t receive a sequel for almost 40 years, to the biggest franchises on the planet like the MCU and Star Wars, there have been sequels that have managed to make their original box office takings look tiny. These films managed to bring incredible direction, performance, and a new chapter to the ongoing story in a way that encouraged audiences to get to the theaters far more than the first entry in the franchise.
10 The Dark Knight (2008) – $1,003,845,358
Batman Begins (2005) – $375,298,946
Christopher Nolan created something special with his Dark Knight trilogy that reinvented Batman on the big screen and envisioned a much darker, seedier Gotham. The first entry in the trilogy made a respectable $375 million at the box office thanks to an incredible performance from Christian Bale and the supporting cast, but the franchise took a massive leap forward with the sequel. The Dark Knight took Batman to new depths as he faced off against Heath Ledger’s Joker and the series gained significant attention that resulted in the final takings just edging over $1 billion.
9 Top Gun: Maverick (2022) – $1,495,696,292
Top Gun (1986) – $357,288,178
Top Gun starring Tom Cruise came out in 1986 and became an instant classic. Cruise was already a rising star but the popularity he has gained since could not have been predicted. In the nearly 40 years since the original film came out, Cruise has continued to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood and his career led him to work on many action films where he honed his craft. When he finally returned to Top Gun for Maverick in 2022, the long-awaited sequel became the second-best performing film of 2022, behind the Avatar sequel and beating out any competition from Marvel or the Jurassic World movies that same year.
8 Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome (1985) – $36,230,219
Mad Max (1979) – $8,773,197
Mad Max became a cult classic in the years since it was released in 1979 thanks to the performance of Mel Gibson and the imaginative setting of a wild dystopian wasteland full of large futuristic machines. The first entry earned a modest sum and thanks to the tiny budget of just $300,000 it cost to make, it spawned sequels. The two sequels managed to build on that success and more than quadruple the earnings of the first film. Since the franchise has been rebooted, Mad Max: Fury Road starring Tom Hardy managed to build on the earlier success earning over $380 million at the box office, but strictly speaking, that was not a sequel.
7 Fast X (2023) – $704,709,660
The Fast & The Furious (2001) – $207,517,509
The Fast and Furious franchise started life with a simple street racing film in 2001 but has since grown to include many films with even more Fast and Furious movies in development. The most recent movie, Fast X, managed to take almost half a million more than the original upon its release. Thanks to stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and the dozens of other major celebrities who are now a part of the franchise, it continues to be hugely successful as it gets into gear for the final mainline film.
6 Tron: Legacy (2010) – $400,063,852
Tron (1982) – $33,000,525
Tron was one of the first movies to use CGI so elaborately and extensively in their feature film. Most of the story takes place within the world of a computer and the visuals communicate that. Almost 30 years after the first film blew audiences away and proved what CGI was capable of for creating new stories, a sequel starring Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, and Olivia Wilde was released taking the technology and look of the original firmly into the 21st century. The sequel managed to make more than ten times what the original took at the box office, despite some mixed reviews regarding the story itself.
5 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – $520,881,154
The Terminator (1984) – $78,371,200
When James Cameron directed The Terminator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was just his second time directing a feature-length film. The Terminator launched his career and saw him move on to various projects as a writer or director such as Rambo: First Blood Part II, Aliens, and The Abyss. So when the sequel, Terminator 2 came out in 1991, it far exceeded the earnings of the first film making more than six times what the original managed. The improvements in visuals and the introduction of Robert Patrick’s T-1000 no doubt helped boost the series as well as the return of Cameron, Schwarzenegger, and Linda Hamilton.
4 Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – $267,685,209
Blade Runner (1982) – $41,712,525
Another series that featured an abnormally long gap between releases, Blade Runner, and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford introduced a whole new sci-fi world and one of cinema’s most enduring and heated debates around whether the protagonist Deckard is a replicant. 35 years on from the original film, the story continues in Blade Runner 2049 bringing Ford back alongside a new star, Ryan Gosling. The sequel managed to rack up more than six times its original box office success with eager audiences hoping to have the original mystery solved and see what happened to the replicants in the following decades.
3 Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) – $995,339,117
Jumanji (1995) – $262,821,940
Jumanji starring Robin Williams is a classic adventure story where two kids in a new home find themselves sucked into a wild board game that is much more than it appears. The film was imaginative and had a beautiful ending with Williams’ character Alan Parrish finally finishing the game and being able to rejoin the real world. A little over 20 years later, the series picked up with a new cast of Hollywood stars including Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart, and updated the original game to fit the modern era. It succeeded earning almost four times the original film’s box office and spawning further sequels.
2 Avengers: Endgame (2019) – $2,799,439,100
Iron Man (2008) – $585,796,247
When the MCU began in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau, the success was overwhelming with that first film making almost $600 million at the box office. It would have been difficult to predict that just over 10 years later, the MCU would have dozens of films and the final entry of its Infinity Saga would become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Avengers: Endgame, in addition to the first part of that finale Avengers: Infinity War both took well over $2 billion at the box office each. Endgame multiplied the Iron Man takings by almost five times despite the original already earning a huge sum.
1 Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) – $2,071,310,218
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) – $775,398,007
When Star Wars, as it was originally titled, was released in theaters in 1977, the success and numerous sequels that would later become part of the larger narrative could scarcely have been imagined. However, the original release earned the film $307 million on its first theatrical release in 1977 on a meager $11 million budget. In later releases and as the franchise grew in popularity, it went on to claim $775 million, but even that figure was surpassed by Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Compared to the original release, The Force Awakens managed to almost multiply their box office figure seven times.