Coming up with ideas for movies is hard. Coming up with ideas for sequels can be even more challenging. That’s why so many of them rely on what has been done before. As an example of this phenomenon, here are ten films that are boarderline remakes:
The Gimmick Films: There are many movies out there that relied on a gimmick in order to fill theater seats. For some of those films, the gimmick worked so well that the film was a hit. What does Hollywood do with its hits? Make sequels of course! And what does Hollywood do with sequels for a gimmick film? Use the same gimmick again (with just a few minor changes)! Why mess with success….right?
1. Home Alone >> Home Alone 2
- The Gimmick: Small child mistakenly left to his own devices defeats two robbers using a series of well-planned MacGyvered-gadgets made from ordinary household items and tools.
- What They Changed in the Sequel: Instead of defending his house in Chigaco, the kid is alone in New York.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: The kid somehow is left to his own devices again (pun intended), the robbers are back and as dumb as ever, the plot proceeds exactly the same (including a friendship with a scary old person), somehow the robbers don’t learn and the kid wins.
2. Final Destination >> Final Destination 2
- The Gimmick: People have premonitions about catastrophes causing lots of death. They try to prevent the catastrophe, but everyone they save starts dying in other ways.
- What They Changed in the Sequel: Instead of the catastrophe being an explosion on an airplane, it’s a massive highway pile-up.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: People die horribly random deaths, no one will listen to the person who figured it out, you can’t cheat death.
3. The Hangover >> The Hangover: Part 2
- The Gimmick: A group of guys wake up hungover in a weird place with weird things having happened to them and their friend is missing. They spend the rest of the film trying to figure out what happened and locate their missing pal.
- What They Changed in the Sequel: Instead of taking place in Las Vegas, it takes place in Bangkok.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: All the main characters didn’t let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas, that missing friend is absent again, same adventures with animals, prostitutes, alcohol, permanent body modifications, and drugs.
The Horror Films: Scary movies typically have a pretty simple premise, and as such many of them can be considered one-trick ponies. However, that trick is often so effective that even if filmmakers use it over and over again, it’s still scary as hell. In fact, many horror films can summarize what sets them apart from the rest thanks to that “trick”. Think about the Saw franchise, or The Purge films, or even The Omen. These are some examples of those horror films where the original premise was so frightening that the sequel didn’t bother to make any major changes.
4. Jaws >> Jaws 2
- What’s So Scary?: A giant great white shark invades a popular beach. No one believes the police chief until it’s too late.
- What’s So Scary, Again?: There’s another shark, it seems too ridiculous to be true. It isn’t.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: Same beach, same people won’t listen to the chief, same insightful police chief, same skeptical mayor.
5. Friday the 13th >> Friday the 13th, Part II
- What’s So Scary?: Psychotic mother stalks the summer camp where her kid (Jason) was killed, murdering those who try to reopen the camp.
- What’s So Scary, Again?: This time it’s Jason’s turn to stalk summer campers.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: Scary first-person perspective, same creepy music, more people die needlessly at Camp Crystal Lake (and somehow they keep coming back).
The Delayed Sequels: Delayed sequels can be risky propositions. Will audiences want to see a new version of an old favorite, sometimes decades after the release of the original? Can we make up some reason to explain the time gap and subsequent aging of the main characters, or should we recast? One way to convince studios to fork over the money for a delayed sequel is to apparently copy the plot of the original film. I can just see the pitch; “If it worked back then, and people loved that original film, why won’t they love an updated version of the same thing?”
6. Escape From New York >> Escape From LA
- What Happened in the Original Film: Set in a crime-infested future, Manhattan has been converted into a massive penitentiary. When the President of the US crash-lands inside, the government sends in Snake Plisken to get him out.
- What Happened in the Sequel: Set in a crime-infested future, LA has been converted into a massive penitentiary (it is an island now, thanks to an earthquake). When the detonator for a doomsday device makes its way into LA, the government sends in Snake Plisken to get it out.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: The premise of the sequel is the same, the plot unfolds just about the same, the main character is the same, the grungy-bleak future is the same, and the social commentary is still oddly and disturbingly prophetic.
7. A New Hope >> The Force Awakens
- What Happened in the Original Film: Orphaned farm-boy yearns for excitement, winds up travelling around with an old man who has seen plenty of excitement. Later finds that they have special powers which help them find adventure and defeat evil.
- What Happened in the Sequel: Orphaned scavenger yearns for excitement, winds up travelling around with an old man who has seen plenty of excitement. Later finds that they have special powers which help them find adventure and defeat evil.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: The plots are very similar, the characters are very similar, the visuals and sets are all very similar. Both films revolve around a trio of people who just met, both revolve around the same droid with important information onboard, the main villain in both films is someone who didn’t used to be evil, said villain kills off the father/old man figure, both start on a desert planet (and later have a jungle planet), both end with the destruction of a planet-killing machine, but not before it has taken out an important planet.
High-Concept Movies: Most original films these days fit into the category of “high-concept” movies. That is, movies where the plot can be quickly summarized and is designed to be instantly engaging. For high-concept films that find a lot of success, there are typically minimal changes in the sequel. That “high-concept” is what made the original a success, and is what audiences will recognize. Changing that “high-concept” is a recipe for turning off your potential fan base. These are films that believed in that strategy so much they ended up with basically a remake of the original film.
8. Die Hard >> Die Hard 2
- The High Concept: Disgruntled foul-mouthed cop foils terrorists plans in a high rise building. Also, it takes place during the holidays.
- The High Concept, Redux: Disgruntled foul-mouthed cop foils terrorists plans at an airport. Also, it takes place during the holidays.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: John McClane is the exact person required and is in the exact right place at the exact right time. He’s somehow smarter and more crafty than everyone else, and secrecy remains his greatest weapon. Fighting terrorists continues to make him cranky.
9. Neighbors >> Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
- The High Concept: Fraternity moves in next door to married couple who try to get along but ultimately can’t.
- The High Concept, Part 2: Sorority moves in next door to married couple who try to get along but ultimately can’t.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: Leader of the frat returns to exact revenge/take off shirt, things escalate to a massive party at the climax of the film, couple need the help of the same two friends. Pot jokes, genital jokes, same type of sight gags, etc.
10. Bring It On >> Bring It On Again
- The High Concept: A sports movie, but focusing on cheerleaders. Teammates have a falling out resulting in a a new team being formed with revenge on the mind.
- The High Concept, Part 2: Instead of having to get creative for the funding of the second team, the spurned cheerleaders create a rag-tag team of other people who want the main cheerleading team to lose.
- Other Things That Didn’t Change: The main characters are pretty much the same, both take place at a snobby California school, both don’t deviate from the central theme, both feature typical teen issues like dating challenges and cliques.
This list is by no means complete. What other sequels come to mind which duplicate the original film?