When a film is successful, Hollywood is only too eager to crank out a sequel and capitalize on the box office goodwill as soon as possible. However, whether due to legal issues, studio squabbling, or plain ol’ writer’s block, sometimes film sequels take a surprisingly long time to get off the ground. Here we showcase the 10 longest time gaps in film history, counting all the way up to the No. 1 longest time gap between a film and its sequel.
10. “Chinatown” (1974) and “The Two Jakes” (1990) – 16 years
“Chinatown” was a brilliant film noir-ish movie starring Jack Nicholson that makes a lot of “best film” lists. The original screenwriter planned to pen a trilogy but the second film was delayed, mostly because original director Roman Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to statutory rape. Jack Nicholson took the helm of the sequel, but it didn’t do very well, so the planned third movie was completely canned.
9. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “2010: The Year We Make Contact” (1984) – 16 years
Why such a long wait for a sequel to one of the most highly revered science fiction films of all time? The answer is simple: novelist Arthur C. Clarke didn’t publish a sequel to his short story “The Sentinel” (upon which “2001” was based) until 1982. So, actually, Hollywood jumped on making a sequel fairly quickly, with “2010” released two years later. According to Clarke, he called “2001” director Stanley Kubrick when the sequel novel was published and told him, “Your job is to stop anybody making it [into a movie] so I won’t be bothered.” Kubrick also showed no interest in making the sequel into a film, but he did give writer-director Peter Hyams his blessing, and “2010” didn’t turn out so bad, enjoying mild critical and box office success.
8. “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and “The Godfather Part III” (1990) – 16 years
Francis Ford Coppola’s first two award-winning films in the Corleone saga came out in 1972 and 1974 respectively — but in 1990 he came back to direct a third installment. Why the long wait between sequels? Coppola himself said that he only did the third film due to financial issues caused by the failure of his 1982 musical bomb “One from the Heart” — not exactly a recipe for artistic greatness. It was the only film of the trilogy that didn’t win any Oscars. Coppola has since claimed that he and Puzo were going to do a fourth film but Puzo’s death in 1999 put a halt to it.
7. “The Blues Brothers” (1980) and “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998) – 18 years
The original 1980 film starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd served to introduce a whole new generation to blues music… but the sequel (which actually came out in 1998 despite the title saying “2000”) failed to make an impact. Though it included original director John Landis and starred Ackroyd again, Belushi had died in 1982 and Ackroyd could not carry the film by himself. Even though some blues legends like Aretha Franklin and James Brown were part of the cast and soundtrack, the film disappointed on just about every level.
6. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008) – 19 years
Created and produced by George Lucas, the “Indiana Jones” franchise ruled the ’80s, with three films coming out in that decade alone. Lucas and director Steven Spielberg couldn’t seem to churn these films out fast enough. Yet the series ground to a halt when Lucas suffered writer’s block and couldn’t think of a way to keep the story moving forward after “The Last Crusade.” Instead, he turned to the character’s backstory and produced a television show called “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” which ran for several years. Finally, the stars aligned in 2008 to bring Lucas, Spielberg and Harrison Ford together again for “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but the film — featuring aliens, Soviet spies, and Shia LeBoeuf as a kind of discount James Dean — was poorly received, and has not gotten better with time. There is talk of a fifth movie, but we’ll see.
5. “Psycho” (1960) and “Psycho II” (1983) – 23 years
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of terror was made brilliant by star Anthony Perkins, and when the opportunity to continue the story came about, Perkins (but not Hitchcock, who had died in 1980) and original story author Robert Bloch were able to put together a tale about what happens when Norman Bates comes home after decades in a mental hospital. While nicely received at the box office, “Psycho II” was not a smash either, and is considered one of the world’s most underrated sequels.
4. “Tron” (1982) and “Tron: Legacy” (2010) – 28 years
“Tron” wasn’t a huge hit when it came out, probably because another film called “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” came out at the same time and pretty much wrecked the box office that summer. In fact, with a domestic gross of $33 million, the film was written off as a bomb. However, the cultural impact of “Tron” cannot be understated; the film revolutionized the use of computer effects and basically inspired the boom of CGI in film that was to follow. To give you an idea of how new CGI was, “Tron” failed to receive an Oscar nomination for special effects because, “The Academy thought we cheated by using computers,” according to director Steven Lisberger. But over time, “Tron” developed a cult following and the sequel “Tron: Legacy” was released in 2010 with returning star Jeff Bridges, grossing $400 million worldwide.
3. “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (1983) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) – 32 years
“Star Wars” fans waited 16 years for a prequel with 1999’s “The Phantom Menace,” but it wasn’t until 2015 that a sequel to the original trilogy about Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia made it to theaters, 32 years after “Return of the Jedi.” Creator George Lucas had long claimed that he planned to have three trilogies, and that the original films were the middle part of the cycle, but fan reaction to his prequel trilogy was pretty devastating. In 2012, he sold the rights to “Star Wars” to Disney for over $4 billion dollars, and in 2015, fans finally got to see what Luke, Han and Leia had been up to for all these years. With unprecedented fan anticipation, “The Force Awakens” earned the highest worldwide opening weekend gross at the time ($529 million), and ended its box office run with over $2 billion.
2. “Blade Runner” (1982) and “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) – 35 years
Harrison Ford is the king of returning to his classic film roles years later — this is his third time on this list. Based on the Phillip K. Dick short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and directed by Ridley Scott, 1982’s “Blade Runner” was not a box office success, but it received critical acclaim over time and is widely regarded as a masterpiece today. The sequel, made in 2017 and directed by Denis Villeneuve, continued the story and starred Ryan Gosling alongside Harrison Ford, reprising his role as Rick Deckard. Unfortunately, “Blade Runner 2049” appears to be a replicant of the original: although critically well-respected, it failed to make an impact on the box office. Who’d have thought slowly-paced intellectual science fiction film noirs are a tough sell?
1. “Mary Poppins” (1964) and “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018) – 54 years
“Mary Poppins” (1964) is widely considered Walt Disney’s greatest success: his only film to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars (and 12 other nominations), he used the film’s huge profits to help finance Walt Disney World. It’s no wonder he tried to make a sequel the following year — but author P.L. Travers, who wrote eight “Mary Poppins” books and is probably the only person in the world who hated the film, vetoed it. A sequel in the ’80s, which was to have featured Julie Andrews reprising her role, was again squashed by Travers. The author sadly passed away in 1996 (at the ripe old age of 96), and her estate granted permission for a film sequel seeing its release 54 years after the original film. Since “Mary Poppins Returns” takes place 25 years after the original movie, we actually had to wait twice as long as the Banks family to see Poppins pop back up again.