Which Movie Sequels Are Really Better

A Data-Driven Project To Discover What Makes A Better Sequel

How often are sequels better than the original movie? The internet is filled with polls and lists of sequels that are considered better or more successful than the first movie in the series. These lists often cite Spiderman, Star Trek, or the Godfather. Yet these rankings are often based on personal judgement and rarely on data and statistics. We collected 289 movie series / franchises, for a total of almost 1,000 movies. We then analyzed IMDb information to and come up with a data-driven overview of the best movie prequels, sequels, and remakes.

The First Movie is (Almost) Always Better Than the Last

We analyzed 289 movie series. Of these, only 11% had the last movie getting a higher IMDb rating than the first one of the series. This small club of 31 includes series like Mad Max, Star Trek, Batman, Fast & Furious and X-Men

In seven series, the last movie had the exact same IMDb as the first. In the remaining 87% of the series, the first movie was better than the last. The award for the worst series finale of all goes to Jaws. The fourth and last movie, Jaws The Revenge, scored a lousy 2.8 on IMDb. Spielberg's Jaws 1, on the other hand, has reached 8.1.

By How Many IMDb Rating Points is the First Movie Better Than the Last?

Page Title
First vs. Last Movie: Rating Difference
Star Trek Series-1.4
Undisputed Series-1.4
Mad Max Series-1.3
Alone in the Dark Series-1.2
Beverly Hills Chihuahua Series-1.0
Batman Series-0.9
The Purge Series-0.9
The Man With No Name Series-0.8
Dungeons & Dragons Series-0.8
Boogeyman (2) Series-0.8
X-Men Series-0.7
Fast & Furious Series-0.7
Mission: Impossible Series-0.6
The Omega Code Series-0.6
Harry Potter Series-0.6
James Bond Series-0.5
Twilight Series-0.4
The Raid Series-0.4
Tinker Bell Series-0.4
A Cinderella Story Series-0.3
White Noise Series-0.3
Maze Runner Series-0.3
BloodRayne Series-0.2
The Da Vinci Code Series-0.2
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series-0.2
Hellboy Series-0.2
Johnny English Series-0.2
Toy Story Series-0.1
The Best Man Series-0.1
Night Watch Series-0.1
Honey Series-0.1
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series0.0
Scooby-Doo Series0.0
Three Steps Above Heaven Series0.0
Elite Squad Series0.0
G.I. Joe Series0.0
Magic Mike Series0.0
12 Rounds Series0.0
Sherlock Holmes Series0.1
Hot Shots! Series0.1
Night at the Museum Series0.1
21 Jump Street Series0.1
Before Sunrise Series0.1
Kill Bill Series0.1
Superman Series0.1
American Pie Series0.2
Resident Evil Series0.2
Madagascar Series0.2
Bad Ass Series0.2
Addams Family Series0.2
Marvel Cinematic Universe Series0.2
Tomb Raider Series0.2
The Collector Series0.3
Planet of Apes Series0.3
Men in Black Series0.3
How to Train Your Dragon Series0.3
Bad Boys Series0.3
Kung Fu Panda Series0.3
Ted Series0.4
A Haunted House Series0.4
National Treasure Series0.4
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series0.4
Divergent Series0.4
Cat People Series0.4
Shanghai Noon Series0.4
Brother Bear Series0.4
RED Series0.4
Cheaper by the Dozen Series0.4
Balto Series0.4
The Expendables Series0.4
Dolphin Tale Series0.5
Insidious Series0.5
The Princess Diaries Series0.5
Spider-Man Series0.5
Father of the Bride Series0.5
Mexico Trilogy Series0.5
The Hunger Games Series0.5
Asterix and Obelix Series0.5
Clerks Series0.5
Arthur Series0.5
Punisher Series0.5
Millennium Trilogy Series0.5
S.W.A.T. Series0.6
Happy Feet Series0.6
Jeepers Creepers Series0.6
The Chronicles of Narnia Series0.6
28 Days Later... Series0.6
Underworld Series0.6
Agent Cody Banks Series0.6
Nanny McPhee Series0.6
Rio Series0.6
Rambo Series0.6
Garfield Series0.6
Free Willy Series0.6
Elizabeth Series0.6
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale Series0.6
Step Up Series0.6
Horrible Bosses Series0.6
Ace Ventura Series0.6
Big Momma's House Series0.7
District 13 Series0.7
Riddick Series0.7
Rush Hour Series0.7
Quarantine Series0.7
Charlie's Angels Series0.7
Marigold Hotel Series0.7
Save the Last Dance Series0.8
Jurassic Park Series0.8
Sniper Series0.8
Armour of God Series0.8
Zorro Series0.8
Paul Blart Series0.8
Austin Powers Series0.8
Crank Series0.8
101 Dalmatians Series0.8
Analyze This Series0.8
Final Destination Series0.8
The Dead Series0.8
Bridget Jones's Diary Series0.8
Lilo & Stitch Series0.9
Harold & Kumar Series0.9
Ice Age Series0.9
Wayne's World Series0.9
Alvin and the Chipmunks Series0.9
Chucky Series0.9
Fletch Series0.9
Dirty Dancing Series0.9
Anchorman Series0.9
Universal Soldier Series0.9
Short Circuit Series0.9
Romancing the Stone Series0.9
Alien and Predator Series0.9
Ocean's Eleven Series0.9
Friday the 13th Series0.9
Cars Series0.9
Rocky Series0.9
Think Like a Man Series0.9
Ghost Rider Series0.9
French Connection Series1.0
Lethal Weapon Series1.0
The X Files Series1.0
Open Season Series1.0
The Crimson Rivers Series1.0
Karate Kid Series1.0
Hannibal Series1.0
Kick-Ass Series1.0
Scream Series1.0
Grave Encounters Series1.0
Turbulence Series1.0
Under Siege Series1.0
Star Wars Series1.0
Anaconda Series1.0
48 Hrs. Series1.1
Back to the Future Series1.1
The Prince and Me Series1.1
Into the Blue Series1.1
Despicable Me Series1.1
The Little Mermaid Series1.1
Evil Dead Series1.1
Van Wilder Series1.1
Deuce Bigalow Series1.1
Clash of the Titans Series1.1
Naked Gun Series1.2
The Grudge Series1.2
The Muppets Series1.2
Air Bud Series1.2
Mr. Ripley Series1.2
Miss Congeniality Series1.2
The Prophecy Series1.2
Shrek Series1.2
Blade Series1.2
Bourne Series1.2
The Nutty Professor Series1.2
Urban Legend Series1.2
The Mighty Ducks Series1.2
DragonHeart Series1.3
Hostel Series1.3
The Hills Have Eyes Series1.3
Terminator Series1.3
Paranormal Activity Series1.3
Bambi Series1.3
The Whole Nine Yards Series1.3
Starship Troopers Series1.3
Middle Earth Series1.3
Mirrors Series1.3
Transformers Series1.3
Ghostbusters Series1.3
Cinderella Series1.3
Sex and the City Series1.3
The Fugitive Series1.3
RoboCop Series1.3
Atlas Shrugged Series1.4
The Descent Series1.4
Predator Series1.4
Hot Tub Time Machine Series1.4
City of God Series1.4
Pirates of the Caribbean Series1.4
Cocoon Series1.4
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Series1.4
Fortress Series1.4
Taxi Series1.4
Police Story Series1.5
The Fockers Series1.5
Dumb & Dumber Series1.5
Mimic Series1.5
Sin City Series1.5
xXx Series1.5
Doctor Dolittle Series1.5
Dirty Harry Series1.5
Alien Series1.5
The Last Exorcism Series1.6
The Woman in Black Series1.6
Escape from New York Series1.6
The Boondock Saints Series1.6
Terms of Endearment Series1.6
Smokin' Aces Series1.6
The Godfather Series1.6
Cube Series1.6
Jarhead Series1.6
Fantastic Four Series1.6
Species Series1.7
The Santa Clause Series1.7
The Ring Series1.7
Wishmaster Series1.7
Look Who's Talking Series1.7
Screamers Series1.7
Tremors Series1.7
Darkman Series1.7
Piranha 3D Series1.7
Aladdin Series1.7
Spy Kids Series1.8
Taken Series1.8
The Fox and the Hound Series1.8
Beverly Hills Cop Series1.8
Wrong Turn Series1.8
Mulan Series1.8
The Hangover Series1.9
Pet Sematary Series1.9
Joy Ride Series1.9
The Lion King Series1.9
Wild Things Series1.9
8MM Series1.9
Walking Tall Series1.9
Critters Series2.0
The Matrix Series2.0
[Rec] Series2.1
Cruel Intentions Series2.1
Monsters Series2.1
Mortal Kombat Series2.1
I Know What You Did Last Summer Series2.1
The Omen Series2.1
Saw Series2.1
The Butterfly Effect Series2.1
30 Days of Night Series2.2
Nightmare on Elm Street Series2.3
Candyman Series2.3
Indiana Jones Series2.4
Legally Blonde Series2.4
Class of 1984 Series2.5
From Dusk Till Dawn Series2.5
The Fly Series2.6
The Exorcist Series2.6
Scary Movie Series2.7
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Series2.7
Basic Instinct Series2.7
The Mummy Series2.8
Fright Night Series2.8
Major League Series2.8
Boogeyman Series2.9
Poltergeist Series2.9
Halloween Series3.0
Die Hard Series3.0
Living Dead Series3.0
Carlito's Way Series3.0
The Blues Brothers Series3.1
Psycho Series3.1
Battle Royale Series3.1
Police Academy Series3.4
Speed Series3.5
Marley & Me Series3.5
Home Alone Series3.6
American Psycho Series3.7
Amityville Series3.8
The NeverEnding Story Series4.3
Hellraiser Series4.3
Donnie Darko Series4.4
The Crow Series4.6
The Mask Series4.7
Jaws Series5.3

Comparing first and last episodes tells only part of the story. Jaws IV is the last of a series in which every sequel was rated considerably worse than the previous movie. 

But not in every series the pattern is so clear. Take Jurassic Park. This year's Jurassic World is the last movie of the series, so far. And it's rated only 0.8 points less than Jurassic Park 1. However, a timeline of the four Jurassic Park movies shows that all the previous sequels were doing much worse than the original. The IMDb rating of Jurassic Park II is 1.6 points lower than the first, and Jurassic Park III does ever worse.

And how's the next Star Wars going to score? Star Wars Episode I (the fourth movie released in the series) scored much worse than the first three episodes produced. In fact, it rates more than 2 points lower than Star Wars Episode IV. Yet, unlike Jaws' declining pattern, all the Star Wars movies following the fourth release have been doing better and better. The last one (Episode VI), is currently rated only 1 point less than the first one.

IMDb Rating of Jaws Movies

IMDb Rating of Jurassic Park Movies

IMDb Rating of Star Wars Movies

49 Movie Series Where Sequels That Are Better Than the Original

The data indicates that more often than not, the order of release of a movie in a series is a good predictor of its IMDb rating. In our sample of 289 movie series, we found only 49 cases in which the first episode is not the one with the highest IMDb rating. Among the highest-rates sequels, we found Nolan's Batman: The Dark Knight, Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Peter Jackson's The Return of the King. Some sequels released this year were also better than the original: Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Browse all the others in this gallery.

High-Budget Sequels With Lower IMDb Rating

In some cases, actually, a higher budget seems to go hand in hand with worse IMDb scores. Let's take as an example the three series we looked ad before: Jaws, Jurassic Park and Star Wars.  Jaws IV, with its 2.8/10 rating, was produced with a budget almost 4 times the one of the first Jaw movie.

Jurassic World is the only clear case in which a higher budget responded to a higher IMDb rating. Although it still did worse than Jurassic Park I, which was produced with $152,000,000 less.

The last three Star Wars movies release all scored worse than the first three.  Yet the recent ones were each produced with at least $80,500,000 more than the previous three.

Budget (estimated) and IMDb Rating of Movies datacards

Budget (estimated) and IMDb Rating of Movies datacards

Budget (estimated) and IMDb Rating of Movies datacards

Use the following chart to filter for other movie series and track how often the most high-budget movie in a series is also the one with the lowest IMDb rating.

(Note: budget data is not available for all movies. It is taken from IMDb, so refer to their methodology for understanding what they include in the budget)

Budget (estimated) and IMDb Rating of Movies

50 Years Between the First and Last James Bond Movie, 64 for Bambi and 57 for Cinderella. Does it Matter for IMDb Ratings?

On average, in our sample there are 10 years between the original movie and the last (current) sequel. Some series are much shorter. For example, Kill Bill fans had to wait only one year before the release of Kill Bill: Vol. II. Maze Runner movies so far are also one year apart. 

Length of Movie Series: Years Between the Original and The Last Movie Released

The fact that a series spans over decades doesn't seem to have too much of an impact on IMDb ratings. For example, Jaws IV came out 12 years after the first and was rated 5.3 points less than Jaws I. The last Dungeons & Dragons movie also came out 12 years after the first, yet it managed to improve on the rating of the original by 0.8 points. Mad Max and Star Trek are two examples of series that do well despite the age. Their last movies, released more than 30 years after the start of the series, both did better than the first. The same cannot be said for other long-term series, like Amityville and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Years Between the Original and The Last Movie Released and Difference in IMDb Rating

Chart filters out series made up of only two movies.

Series That Stick With the Same Directors Tend to Do Better

Different series have different directing strategies. For example, the six movies in the Middle Earth series are all directed by Peter Jackson. The four Lilo & Stitch Movies, on the other hand, saw six different directors.

For the movies in our sample, it seems that the variance in directors is somewhat related to how much a series disappoints IMDb's users.  Although it's hard to establish if there is any cause-effect action in place, given the complexity of the dynamics at play.  

Series with many different directors seem more likely to have the last movies scoring much worse than the first. The four Jaw movies, for example, all had a different director and also have the biggest rating difference between first and last episode.

The Living Dead and the Indiana Jones series both have one director present throughout all their movies. Their last movies scored respectively 3 and 2.4 points worse than their firsts. This is the biggest decrease in IMDb rating among series with a single director. And this difference is minimal in comparison to series with a bigger variance. All the series with more than 3 points of difference between the first and last episode had a director present for only half or less of the movies in the series*.

Highest % of Movies with Same Director vs. Difference in IMDb Rating Between First and Last Episode

*Chart filters out series made up of only two movies.

Series with at Least One Director Present Throughout All Movies

Important Notes

We included in the same series movies that are part of a franchise, For this reason, Ant-Man, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy are considered in the same series. We took this decision because that's also how they are presented in Wikipedia, but we are happy to review this decision and hear your thoughts about this choice.

As for ordering movies within a series, we used the date of release, not the actual story-order. In doing so, we included also remakes of the original.

We tried to be as exhaustive as possible in finding all the movies that are part of a series or franchise. If you notice that we skipped some, let us know

IMDb data on ratings and votes changes constantly. Ours is a snapshot of what the numbers looked like on 24/09/2015

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