Ranked

20 Best Belated Sequels, Ranked

As Coming 2 America is released 33 years after the original, Andrew Gaudion looks back at cinema's greatest unpunctual follow-ups...

When it comes to sequels, “patience is a virtue” is a proverbial phrase that will be sure to resonate with film fans everywhere. After all, the time span for a sequel can differ immeasurably, usually based on a studio's decision to “strike while the iron is hot” (say, 2 to 3 years) or to mull over a project for decades until it enters a stage known as “development hell.”

The latter situation was very much the case with Coming 2 America, the belated sequel to one of Eddie Murphy’s defining hits, 1988’s Coming to America, which lands on Prime Video today. For fans of the original, that's one long gap, and while some delayed sequels are merely painful to experience (here's looking at you, Dumb & Dumber To), there are plenty out there which demonstrate that sometimes the wait can be worth it.

To mark the occasion of Coming 2 America's release, I've pulled together a list of some of the better belated sequels to come our way over the years (and ranked them accordingly). I've defined “belated” as eight years or more since the release of the previous film – a fair approximation, I think, of when something has dropped out of cultural consciousness and a sequel has come to seem fairly unlikely…

 

20. Rambo (2008)

Years since predecessor: 20

Where to watch it: Netflix

Getting John Rambo back on the big screen proved to be quite the journey – put it down to a combination of raging rights issues and Stallone's fading star power. But with the comeback hit of Rocky Balboa in 2006, the actor eventually managed to pull his second most iconic figure out of retirement to rather brutal results. The fourth Rambo movie is not one that casts this once feather-haired 80s action hero in any glorifying light. Instead it treats him like a Frankenstein's monster who's dragged back into the fires of war to unleash carnage in Burma. It remains one of the bloodiest mainstream action movies ever made, but it earns points for treating Rambo more like the bitter soldier of First Blood, and less like the cartoon figure the in between films reshaped him as.

 

19. Jurassic World (2015)

Years since predecessor: 14

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

While certainly nowhere near as sophisticated as Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, Jurassic World undoubtedly gave the franchise the kick it needed after laying dormant since 2001’s Jurassic Park III. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in barnstorming dino-action, as the now operating “Jurassic World” is thrown into chaos after its new exhibit – the lab-created hybrid the Indominus Rex – breaks free. Audiences clearly responded: it well and truly brought the franchise back from extinction to the tune of a staggering $1.6 billion, while another instalment is slated for release sometime next year.

 

18. American Reunion (2012)

Years since predecessor: 9

Where to watch it: Netflix

Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are currently breathing new life into another franchise over on Netflix with Cobra Kai. But before they found a way to make The Karate Kid work for modern audiences, they brought back the cast of the original American Pie trilogy for American Reunion and delivered a sweeter than expected concoction. It still digs into the series' trademark raunchy humour, but Hurwitz and Schlossberg also understand these characters aren't teenagers anymore, leading to some unexpectedly well-realised reflections on thirty-something life. This is a franchise that has always worked best when it blends crudeness with heart, and American Reunion is arguably the most successful at striking that balance.

 

17. T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Years since predecessor: 21

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Ever seen Irvine Welsh’s Porno, a sequel to Trainspotting, was published in 2002, there had been numerous questions posed to director Danny Boyle about whether a sequel to the film version would follow suit. While there were plenty of developmental stops and starts, it finally arrived in 2017, with most of the original cast in tow. It is a sequel that uses the amount of time between it and its predecessor to resonant effect, as Ewan McGregor’s Renton grapples with the fact that the promise of a bright future just hasn’t come into being. It certainly isn’t as potent as the original, and not every character is treated with the same dimensionality, but there are enough fresh ideas on display to make this reunion worthwhile.

 

16. Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Years since predecessor: 17

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

The first two Bad Boys movies represent Michael Bay at his most unleashed – great action, with a questionable approach to humour. This third installment, directed by newcomers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, managed to do something with the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence buddy franchise that many didn’t anticipate, factoring in a lot more heart andf self-awareness to go along with its slick and colourful action beats. Very much taking the passage of time into account, with Lawrence’s Marcus keen to retire but Smith’s Mike being more stubborn to hold onto the glory days, Bad Boys for Life was one of the better cinematic surprises of last year, sparking an interest in a franchise many of us had probably written off.

 

15. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Years since predecessor: 10

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

10 years since the prequel trilogy wrapped up, and over 30 years since the original, The Force Awakens beckoned in a new – though somewhat divisive – trilogy of Star Wars films. While the story structure hews closely to what came before, the charming new characters (led by Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn) fit in perfectly and spar well with the franchise's legacy players. Pair the exuberant cast with some truly energetic scenes of space-based spectacle, all directed with giddy joy by J.J. Abrams, and you have a franchise re-introduction that feels both fresh and comfortingly familiar.

 

14. 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Years since predecessor: 16 years

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

It may seem like a grand folly to make a sequel to one of the most deliberately illusive sci-fi classics of all-time. But this follow up to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey benefits from a refusal not to be intimidated, instead choosing to craft a very solid and intriguing space thriller in its own right. It has a much more straightforward and logical approach that will appeal to those who find Kubrick’s aloofness more irritating than engaging. It also has a very fine cast, with Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren all taking to the stars to find out what happened to the Discovery One during its ill-fated mission to Jupiter. An under-rated sequel that operates in the shadows of 2001 to often surprising effect.

 

13. Return to Oz (1985)

Years since predecessor: 46

Where to watch it: Disney+

As anyone who watched this movie as a kid can testify to, Return to Oz is one of the most nightmarish children's movies ever made. Filled with macabre images, from a gallery of heads, to the nefarious “Wheelers,” to the instigating threat of a lobotomy, we truly aren’t in Kansas anymore in this moody continuation of Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. Even to this day, it is a startlingly dark kids flick that begins in a bleak place and only gets creepier from there. It belongs in the same pantheon of 80s kids movies that also houses Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal: films that aren’t afraid to pepper in some moments of horror amongst the fantastical adventure.

 

12. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Years since predecessor: 14

Where to watch it: Prime Video

After the success of 2006’s Borat, it felt like the joke had run its course, Cohen and his character too well known to pull off the bit again. So it very much came as a surprise when, in 2020, news came that a sequel was set to drop – more so when the film itself felt perfectly poised for these strange times. Folding the problem of Borat's recognisability into the set-up, Cohen finds new means to make hilarious and pointed points of political satire in a Trump-led world, once again duping individuals into revealing their true worst selves. But the real star of the show is Maria Bakalova as Borat’s daughter Tutar, who's responsible for the film's funniest lines and unexpected emotional beats.

 

11. Superman Returns (2006)

Years since predecessor: 19

Where to watch it: Now TV

Superman Returns remains a somewhat underrated Superman movie, one that has a great adoration for the films that came before. It may be both to the film’s benefit and detriment that it is so relevant to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, but it works well as a movie that engages with the idea of a world without the titular hero. It is a superhero flick that wears its heart on its sleeve, with Brandon Routh doing well to capture the essence of Christopher Reeve. The best modern day Superman movie probably lies somewhere between this approach and Man of Steel, but Returns remains a reverent and very decadent chapter with a lot more going on beneath the surface than originally meets the eye.

10. Doctor Sleep (2019)

Years since predecessor: 39

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

The second and strongest Kubrick sequel on this list, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep – a sequel to The Shining, no less – attempts to strike a balance between being more faithful to the work of Stephen King while also working as a companion piece to Kubrick's horror classic. He largely pulls it off. At times there's an uneasy tug of war between the two worlds, but this is an adaptation that manages to mediate between King and Kubrick in a very involving and satisfyingly odd way. It has some genuinely creepy moments that are all its own (including a hellishly fun villain performance from the brilliant Rebecca Ferguson), and does well to invoke the imagery of Kubrick's classic in its glorious final stretch.

 

9. Scream 4 (2011)

Years since predecessor: 11

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Wes Craven is, of course, responsible for crafting some of the best horror movies in cinema history, but Scream 4 was certainly no sure thing. After Scream 3 essentially put the nail in the coffin of the franchise, it came back to bloody life with the razor sharp wit of Scream 4. With a cast combining franchise regulars Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette with fresh faces like Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, the fourth Scream has a great deal of fun with a new set of rules revolving around the sequel and reboot age that makes for a suitably bloody and funny entry in this self-aware slasher franchise.

 

8. The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Years since predecessor: 16

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

The case of The Godfather Part III was re-exhumed with the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s brand new recut of the film. And while the recut didn’t massively change the quality of the film, it did allow for fans to reacquaint themselves with a picture that was received in a lukewarm fashion back in 1990 (to put it lightly). For many fans, though, Part III has always been a strong mafia thriller in its own right, with a fine Al Pacino performance, acting as a soulful retrospective on the legacy of the franchise and the complex character of Michael Corleone. It may not be as strong as its two predecessors, but let's face it: what were the chances of that happening?

 

7. Tron: Legacy (2010)

Years since predecessor: 28

Where to watch it: Disney+

The original Tron was an early pioneer for CG animation, but didn’t quite connect with wider audiences. As a cult following begin to grow, though, Disney felt it was time to release a state of the art sequel. While it may have slightly underperformed on release, Tron: Legacy has gone on to have a similar life as its predecessor, as Joseph Kosinski’s sequel sees Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) head into the world of “The Grid” to track down his long lost father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). The result is a marvel of neon-laced production design, set to a phenomenal score from Daft Punk (we miss you already). From disc wars to light cycle races, the film brings the action of the original Tron to new stunning life, all the while deepening the lore on a gorgeously designed stage. Bio-digital jazz, man.

 

6. The Color of Money (1986)

Years since predecessor: 25

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Paul Newman won his long overdue (and only) Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of “Fast Eddie” Felson in a sequel to his 1961 classic The Hustler. This Martin Scorsese directed follow-up sees him stepping back into the hustlin’ world of pool halls when he meets talented young player, Vincent (Tom Cruise). This is a very entertaining and extremely slick drama, played out to one of the best soundtracks ever compiled by Scorsese for one of his films. Newman is as ice cool as always, Cruise is delightfully hot-headed, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is the perfect mediator as Vincent’s eager to learn girlfriend. It may not stick to the ribs as much as the original, but it is a hell of a lot of fun whilst it lasts.

 

5. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Years since predecessor: 35

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Similar to 2010, Blade Runner 2049 set itself the challenge of following up a story that had delighted in delivering a sense of ambiguity for its fans to chew on. This sequel, following Ryan Gosling’s android Blade Runner, K, is all about searching for a society-breaking truth that ties back to Harrison Ford’s Deckard from the original. It does not seek to provide an answer to the big question mark over Deckard’s humanity, though, but instead is more focused on exploring corners of a world made fascinating in Ridley Scott’s original sci-fi classic. Where the film truly soars is in the ways director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins present this dystopian future all anew – a fantastic wash of rain, colour, and dust. The future presented here is a staggering visual feast, making Blade Runner 2049 one of the most spellbinding visual odysseys of recent memory.

 

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Years since predecessor: 11

Where to watch it: Disney+

As a fixture of many a childhood, the wait for Toy Story 3 felt like a very long one. It was worth it, though, as this belated sequel all but guaranteed fits of tears as the credits rolled. The key to its success arguably came in the decision to let Andy grow up, in a film unafraid to address themes of moving on and getting older that many of the franchise's childhood fans were in the midst of dealing with themselves. Even beyond its relatable themes, the film represents Pixar at the peak of its powers, delivering a heartfelt, gorgeously animated and incredibly funny adventure. Toy Story 3 is a perfect summation of the heart and soul of a much beloved franchise that will continue to mean so much across the generations – to infinity and beyond.

 

3. Before Sunset/Before Midnight (2004/2013)

Years since predecessor: 9 years

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Is it cheating to include both of these? Probably, but anybody familiar with the Before Trilogy will agree that it is hard to separate Richard Linklater’s two follow-up films from his 1995 original, Before Sunrise. Together, these three works offer an exceptional snapshot of a relationship at different stages of its evolution, and are quite possibly the best films about people simply walking and talking, discussing their lives, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and resentments. As sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight deepen the relationship between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s Jesse and Celine, while exposing the couple's most loving highs and spiteful lows. Few screen couples can match their seamless, natural chemistry.

 

2. Creed (2015)

Years since predecessor: 9 years

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Arguably the best example of a “legacy sequel” is Ryan Coogler’s Creed. In following Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed (son of Apollo), Coogler and his leading man inject a fresh and dynamic sense of bravado into the 40-odd year old Rocky franchise. Jordan is a perfect leading man, but it's his chemistry with Sylvester Stallone – returning here as Rocky – that makes the film soar. Stallone puts in his best performance as Balboa, carrying the full weight of the character’s history, fully convincing as an aged fighter who's been left bruised by a life in the ring. This is a film with a clear adoration for the franchise it is housed within, but one that finds room to tell a story with a fresh perspective. A triumph for long-time fans of the series and newcomers alike.

 

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Years since predecessor: 30

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Not just one of the best sequels of all-time, but one of the best action movies ever made full-stop. Despite the fact it's unclear whether this is a continuation of the Mel Gibson timeline, Mad Max: Fury Road very much hits the definition of a belated sequel – a movie that languished in development hell for a very long time, with pre-production beginning as early as 1997. But once the engines got roaring, with Tom Hardy stepping in to replace Gibson, there was no stopping George Miller’s action behemoth from delivering a whirlwind of mad genius. Operating as one long chase across “The Wastelands,” this is cinema as pure adrenalin. Miller pulls off every technique and every trick he can think of across dozens of escalating set-pieces. It feels like the work of a man who is making the utmost of an opportunity to bring to life a delayed passion project with all the fire and fury he can muster. The 30 year wait was worth more than its weight in Guzzolene. It shall forever ride eternal, shiny and chrome.

Coming 2 America is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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