August 18, 2022

In the past decade, Hollywood has been carving out a genre that is quickly becoming one of its favorites. Not quite a sequel, not quite a reboot, the legacy sequel (or “legacyquel” if you’re feeling daring) has made its way into several of the world’s biggest franchises. In a move that allows a franchise to introduce a new cast of characters while still cashing in on the nostalgia of older ones, legacy sequels often exist in the same continuity as the original films but take place some amount of years later.

The commercial response to legacies sequels has been varied. The Terminator franchise is still flailing even after bringing back Linda Hamilton and Space Jam: A New Legacy was dead on arrival. On the other hand, some legacy sequels, like Mad Max: Fury Road, have managed to surpass all of their predecessors while paving the way for something new. Good or bad, after Spider-Man: No Way Home, studios have certainly taken note of the potential box office returns of these legacy sequels. So, here are the nine best legacy sequels, ranked.

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9. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


Returning 14 years after his first film, the surprise sequel following everyone’s favorite America-loving Kazakh is an absolute delight. Less delightful, unfortunately, is seeing how little America has changed since Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) first infiltrated the United States. This time around, Borat is much more overt about his attempt to expose the seedy underbelly of America. As he tackles the American people’s response to COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm highlights the stark contradictions in American culture.

However, Borat is not alone this time. His teenage daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) tags along for their cross-country adventure. Initially a nuisance for Borat, he eventually learns to tolerate her and by the end of the film, the film reveals a surprisingly tender core as the two get along famously. In its transformation to a father-daughter story, the film thankfully doesn’t forget the hijinks that made the first film a sensation. It gives us more of what we loved and a little something extra. What more could you ask for?

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


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Image via Lucasfilm

Every Star Wars director has a daunting task ahead of them. Almost every pair of eyes in the world will see their film, and every single one of them will form an opinion about it. Fortunately, J.J. Abrams is no stranger to breathing new life into a beloved science-fiction franchise. After the success of his Star Trek reboot, Abrams managed to give the Star Wars universe some fresh blood while playing plenty of homage to Lucas’ original. In a plot that, as George Lucas would put it, “rhymes” with the plot of A New Hope, the First Order threatens to fill the tyrannical hole left by the fall of the Galactic Empire.

A classic case of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” Star Wars: The Force Awakens thrives precisely because it is not ashamed of its reverence for the original trilogy. The film telegraphs its intentions early but still manages to hit a bullseye in its execution. Star Wars has always been a franchise about generational rifts. And just as Luke and Anakin were able to bridge those gaps by the end of The Return of the Jedi, the

continuation of that story earnestly offers nostalgic enjoyment for fans old and new.

7. Bad Boys For Life


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Image via Sony Pictures

Both a trilogy capper and a legacy sequel, Bad Boys For Life sees Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as the buddy detective duo Mike and Marcus. The Bad Boys franchise wasn’t exactly one that was demanding a third film. After two nihilistic entries courtesy of Michael Bay, it seemed like Hollywood blockbusters made a conscious shift away from mindless explosions. If Mike and Marcus wanted to stay relevant, they were going to need to evolve with the times. And that’s exactly what they do. After two movies where Mike and Marcus felt like indestructible killing machines, time has caught up with both of them. Marcus wishes to spend more time with his family and is thinking of retiring, and Mike is seeing mistakes from his past coming back to haunt him. Despite the 17 year gap since the last movie, Smith, Lawrence, and even Joe Pantoliano as Captain Conrad Howard haven’t missed a beat. Bad Boys For Life ups the stakes and delivers a raucously fun continuation to the Bad Boys franchise.


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6. Doctor Sleep


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Releasing a whopping 39 years after Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep had the tall order of juggling three formidable tasks. Flanagan had to faithfully adapt the Stephen King novel of the same name, have it serve as a sequel to King’s The Shining novel, and continue to the cinematic universe that Stanley Kubrick created with his own adaptation of The Shining. And with the help of a terrific cast and a 3-hour runtime, Flanagan pulls it off. The story follows a grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) who vows to protect a young girl with psychic powers like his own from a fiendish cult.

Fascinatingly, Flanagan chooses to translate his own split responsibilities into the story. Danny Torrance, still traumatized by childhood experience at the Overlook Hotel, remains undaunted as his path to protection leads him back to that very place. Likewise, Flanagan contemplates the legacy of the iconography of Kubrick’s original alongside the changes from King’s original novel. It’s an engrossing metatextual exercise, but Flanagan remembers to also make it enthralling from a story perspective.


5. The Color of Money


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This one is an unconventional type of legacy sequel. In 1961, Robert Rossen’s The Hustler came out starring Paul Newman as Eddie “Fast Eddie” Falson. The film follows Falson, a talented pool hustler with an addiction to gambling that may one day get the better of him. Twenty five years later, Martin Scorsese released The Color of Money, a follow-up film about Falson finding a protégé in Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). Cruise and Scorsese inject infectious energy into the film that was not present in the original. That’s not a knock on the original. The Hustler is an excellent film that earns points for its unvarnished look at gambling, and Scorsese clearly isn’t just trying to top it.

Like the best legacy sequels, The Color of Money excels in focusing on its own story first and then allowing the echoes of the first film to be a product of that. Vincent’s journey in this film mirrors Eddie’s from the first film in many respects. But the shadow of Eddie’s story from The Hustler looms large over the film in a way that deepens it thematically. Eddie is drawn back into the world responsible for his hardest times, but the potential for Vincent makes it a worthy sacrifice. The role won Paul Newman his long-overdue Oscar, and the film remains one of Martin Scorsese’s most underappreciated efforts.


4. Creed


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The story goes that Sylvester Stallone was all done with the Rocky franchise after his 2006 directorial effort Rocky Balboa. However, when Ryan Coogler approached him with a new story idea for Rocky, the pitch was too good to refuse. Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed, the son of the late Apollo Creed. Burdened by his father’s name, Adonis struggles to carve out his own path in his boxing career. Eventually, his journey leads him to plead his case before Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky, believing he owes it to Apollo to look after his son, agrees to help train him.

Even if the story isn’t the freshest, Coogler’s got plenty of fresh ideas he brings to the table. Stallone’s Rocky may not be the main character, but Coogler remembers to do something that the Rocky sequels increasingly forgot to do: make him human. Rocky’s fights inside the ring may be over, but after he is diagnosed with cancer, he and Adonis vow to keep fighting. All of this is even before mentioning the boxing scenes, which are some of the best of the franchise. The highlight of the action is a “one-take” boxing match, but the climactic fight is also sure to have you pumping your fist in excitement.


3. Blade Runner: 2049


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Released in 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. From its luscious production design to its euphoric score by Vangelis, the film would go on to inspire the next 40 years of science fiction, but no one dared attempt a sequel. That is, no one until Denis Villeneuve. Together with Ryan Gosling as his lead actor, the pair richen the Blade Runner world with a sublime entry that continues to question what it means to be human.

Taking place 30 years after the original film, the tensions between Replicants and humans still persist. As K (Ryan Gosling) traverses the desolate Earth, he discovers something that could trigger a tectonic shift to the world order. Gorgeous to the eyes and ears, the combination of Roger Deakins’ awe-inspiring images with Hans Zimmer’s synth score is a match made in heaven. The story unfolds slowly and deliberately–heck, Harrison Ford doesn’t even appear until the two-hour mark–but the world is breathtakingly immersive, and the precision to Villeneuve’s direction is consistently a marvel to behold.

2. The Matrix: Resurrections


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Image Via Warner Bros.

Perhaps the most polarizing entry on this list, the one undeniable thing about the fourth entry in the Matrix franchise is that it has Lana Wachowski written all over it. The Matrix Resurrections is a film of two identities. On one half, the film provides a continuation to a story that fans didn’t know they needed. This half is a love story between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss). And seeing Reeves and Moss together again feels as stirring as seeing old friends again. The second half is an interrogation of the film itself. As Lana Wachowski mirrors the motions of her sibling franchises, she questions their existence. Is the movie just a cash grab or is there a deeper psychological value to nostalgia?

The film never resolves that tension, but the power of the film comes more from how it is sustained. Since the release of the first Matrix in 1999, the Wachowski sisters have become more vocal about the allegorical qualities of those original films. The first Matrix dared to defy many fundamental tenets about how to make a successful blockbuster, and The Matrix Resurrections continues that trend. It’s an exhilaratingly fresh sequel that feels emboldened rather than encumbered by the common pitfalls of sequels. The voice of an artist echoes in each frame, an artist that demands she retain control of her creation–an artist that deserves to retain control of her creation.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road


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Not just the best legacy sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action movies ever made. With visceral, practical stuntwork and an incandescent pair of leads, the film is two hours that are filled to the brim with white-knuckle intensity. Filmed out in the Namib Desert in Africa, the desolate, scorched landscapes of the film inject each character with a dose of desperation. As Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) attempt to survive the onslaught of war parties, director George Miller manages to masterfully paint a vivid world full of dystopian hierarchies and spiritual solace.

Coming 30 years after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, many people were curious about what the (at the time) 70-year-old George Miller had left in the tank. After two movies about jolly penguins dancing, could he make the transition back to the vehicular slaughter of the Mad Max universe? His answer made us all regret ever asking the question. In the most incendiary answer in the affirmative possible, Miller crafts a breathtaking world, introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, and delivers some of the best action ever put to screen.


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