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10 Great Movie Sequels That Made $1 Billion At The Box Office (When The Original Didn’t)

Summary

  • Movie franchises can often produce a sequel that surpasses the success of the original, with some even reaching the $1 billion mark at the box office.
  • The success of a movie franchise depends on factors such as time frame, marketing, critical acclaim, and viewer interest in the story.
  • Examples of successful sequel films include “Top Gun: Maverick,” which surpassed the original film’s success, and “Finding Dory,” which achieved over $1 billion in ticket sales after the first film fell short.

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A movie franchise doesn’t typically start with a record-setting film in terms of ticket sales, but a well-developed sequel further down the road might hit the $1 billion mark. However, there is no success formula that can be applicable to all franchises. For some, it takes two or three movies to set this record, while for others, it never comes. The time frame, marketing, critical acclaim, and other things might factor in most unpredictably. For instance, Top Gun: Maverick was released almost four decades after the original, but this didn’t stop it from topping the first film. A potential Top Gun 3 might do even better in theaters.

The earnings aren’t the only metric to determine a superior movie, but it is an important one. The box office clearly depends on the viewers’ interest in the story, and it also speaks greatly about the success of the franchise as a whole. The Dark Knight trilogy is largely considered a groundbreaking saga, but it was The Dark Knight that broke the most records and earned over $1 billion in theaters, even though its predecessor, Batman Begins, failed to accomplish that. There are quite a few examples of other amazing sequels that reached the $1 billion milestone when the original films couldn’t.

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10 The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

Original — The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an acclaimed cinematic masterpiece. It took three films for the franchise to finally cross the $1 billion threshold, with the third installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, taking home almost $1.156 billion at the box office worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) against a $94 million budget. The final movie was a great addition to the saga, as it provided a satisfying conclusion to the Fellowship’s epic journey, evidenced by the ticket sales. The first film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, debuted rather strongly as well, earning a solid $898.5 million (via Box Office Mojo).

9 Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Original — Top Gun (1986)

Tom Cruise Flying a Plane in Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick

Cast
Jennifer Connelly, Jake Picking, Raymond Lee, Tom Cruise, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Miles Teller, Danny Ramirez, Val Kilmer, Manny Jacinto, Ed Harris, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm

Runtime
130 minutes

The original Top Gun movie performed rather well in theaters, making over $357 million (via Box Office Mojo), and it didn’t take long for it to become a cult classic. 36 years later, Tom Cruise returned for the sequel, and Top Gun: Maverick exceeded all expectations on a $177 million budget. The film’s box office amounted to a whopping $1.496 billion (via Box Office Mojo), and critics universally concluded that it was better than the original movie. Thanks to Top Gun: Maverick, which is now the lead star’s highest-grossing film ever, Tom Cruise holds a Hollywood box office record that isn’t likely to be beaten.

8 Finding Dory (2016)

Original — Finding Nemo (2003)

Dory Looking Happy in Finding Dory
Finding Dory

Cast
Ellen DeGeneres, Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Ed O’Neill, Dominic West, Hayden Rolence

Runtime
1H 37M

With a total of $941.6 million in ticket sales (via Box Office Mojo), Finding Nemo came really close to the $1 billion target. Its much-anticipated sequel, Finding Dory, did what its predecessor couldn’t and made $1.029 billion at the box office (via Box Office Mojo) against a $200 million budget. Adorable Dory with a short-term memory loss condition made her debut in Finding Nemo before starring in her own movie, which ended up becoming quite a success. Finding Dory was emotionally charged while still being fun and nostalgic, combining all the best features of the original and adding new layers to the story.

7 The Dark Knight (2008)

Original — Batman Begins (2005)

The Dark Knight

Cast
Nestor Carbonell, Morgan Freeman, Ritchie Coster, Cillian Murphy, Chin Han, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts, William Fichtner, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale, David Dastmalchian, Michael Caine, Anthony Michael Hall, Heath Ledger

Runtime
152 Minutes

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the most beloved adaptations of Batman’s story. The first installment, Batman Begins, grossed over $375 million (via Box Office Mojo), and its sequel, The Dark Knight, almost tripled that amount, earning $1.029 billion (via Box Office Mojo) on a $185 million budget. The movie is famous for Heath Ledger’s phenomenal portrayal of Joker, Batman’s most dangerous and fascinating adversary. Sadly, the actor tragically died in 2008, and his Joker never made it to the third film, The Dark Knight Rises, although that didn’t prevent it from topping the previous installments’ box office earnings.

6 Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Original — Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Tom Holland's Spider-Man Walking with Iron Man's Team in Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War

Cast
Martin Freeman, Daniel Brühl, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, Scarlett Johansson, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland

Runtime
2h 28m

Captain America undoubtedly remains one of the most beloved MCU superheroes, and the film trilogy’s popularity can attest to that. With $370.6 million at the box office (via Box Office Mojo), the first installment, Captain America: The First Avenger, was already commercially successful, but the final movie of the trilogy, Captain America: Civil War, outdid the original by a long shot. Its $250 million budget was more than justified since the film earned an impressive $1.155 billion (via Box Office Mojo). Captain America: Civil War was an amazing continuation of the Avengers’ story — it was daring, unpredictable, and compelling.

5 Toy Story 3 (2010)

Original — Toy Story (1995)

Woody Looking Annoyed with the Toys in the Back in Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3

Cast
Jodi Benson, Ned Beatty, Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Joan Cusack

Runtime
103 minutes

Toy Story has become a big franchise since 1995, when the first movie was released. Toy Story’s box office totaled $394.4 million (via Box Office Mojo), and the simple yet entertaining plot gained traction beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The idea of toys coming alive and having their own lives when no one was watching was fresh and exciting, so naturally, the Toy Story sequels were welcomed with open arms. Toy Story 3 was the first one to surpass $1 billion in ticket sales, taking home $1.067 billion worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) against a $200 million budget. The film was incredible, and Toy Story 3‘s heartbreaking ending is still difficult to watch.

4 Skyfall (2012)

Original — Dr. No (1962)

Raoul Silva and James Bond Come Face-to-Face in Skyfall
Skyfall

Cast
Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Ben Whishaw

Runtime
2h 23m

The James Bond cinematic universe has come a long way since its debut film, Dr. No. While it was an amazing franchise launcher of a movie, it only managed to gross a little over $16 million (via Box Office Mojo). It took Agent 007 half a century to get the box office earnings he deserves, and with a $200 million budget, Skyfall could boast $1.142 billion in global ticket sales (via Box Office Mojo). The film was absolutely stunning and loved by audiences and critics alike. The consensus is that Skyfall is the best James Bond movie of all time, and for a good reason.

3 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Original — Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was such a great adventure movie that it kick-started the franchise. While no sequel has ever been praised quite as much as the first chapter, they have all outdone its box office numbers so far. The first film raked in over $654 million in theaters (via Box Office Mojo), and its direct sequel made over $1.066 billion at the box office (via Box Office Mojo) against a $225 million budget. The best thing that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest did was introduce the terrifying Davy Jones and enlarge the Pirates of the Caribbean mythology.

2 Furious 7 (2015)

Original — The Fast And The Furious (2001)

Brian (Paul Walker) from Furious 7 Looking in His Car at Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel)
Furious 7

Cast
Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Luke Hobbs, Dwayne Johnson, Dominic Toretto

Runtime
2h 20m

The Fast and the Furious franchise is one of the highest-grossing film series in history. Surprisingly, it started out small, with the first installment earning a little over $207.5 million (via Box Office Mojo). It seemed impossible that a sequel would ever hit the $1 billion mark, but the seventh film, Furious 7, had a budget of $190 million and still brought in $1.515 billion in ticket sales (via Box Office Mojo). This movie, featuring Paul Walker in his final role, could have been the perfect conclusion to an incredible story. Despite the actor’s passing, Furious 7 kept most of its original ending, and it was a beautiful tribute to the late star.

1 Iron Man 3 (2013)

Original — Iron Man (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in a Suit in Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3

Cast
Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr.

Runtime
130 Mins

Without Iron Man, the entire MCU would never exist in the way it has done for decades. The first movie of the trilogy about Tony Stark earned over $585 million (via Box Office Mojo) and quickly became a critics’ darling. The first sequel wasn’t as well-received, but the second one managed to outdo the original. With a budget of $200 million, Iron Man 3 took home over $1.215 billion (via Box Office Mojo). Apart from the impressive box office numbers, the threequel put Tony Stark, deprived of his suit, in a rather unusual position, and the story itself featured quite a few breathtaking plot twists.

Source: Box Office Mojo

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