Are there really more movie sequels and remakes than there used to be?

With a Princess Bride remake confirmed, we question whether there really are fewer original movies in modern cinema

Sequels article

You don’t want it, no-one else on Twitter is keen and even actor Jamie Lee Curtis says it’s a bad idea, but we might well be getting a remake of The Princess Bride anyway.

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Sony Pictures Entertainment has reportedly been approached by “very famous people” about retooling the classic 1987 story of stable boy-turned-pirate Westley – and while Curtis (who is married to “the six-fingered man” Christopher Guest) said there would only ever be one true version of the film, Carys Elwes (who portrayed Westley in the movie) raised concerns a reboot could “damage” the original version.

Even US Senator Ted Cruz, ever the master of subtlety, warned: “DON’T MESS WITH PERFECTION”.

In short, the main response to this movie reboot news could be summed up in two words: “Another one!?”

It’s a reaction that’s completely understandable. Not only have Disney released a steady stream of remakes over the past five years – from Beauty and the Beast to The Lion King – but franchises such as Ghostbusters, Hellboy, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Star Trek, Godzilla and Robocop have all recently enjoyed a big-screen reboot.

And if not a full reset, the cinema schedules are packed with blockbuster sequels, be it a Mission Impossible, Star Wars, Fast and the Furious or Marvel outing.

But while antipathy towards ‘unoriginal’ films might be building online, are there really more sequels, prequels, reboots or remakes being released than ever before? Or is it, in fact, that they’ve actually long been a feature of cinema schedules, with social media simply bringing this to our attention like never before?

Is everyone just complaining about nothing? In short: absolutely not.

To properly examine if cinema-goers are actually being served fewer original films than ever before, we delved into movie releases of the last four decades to calculate if anything had changed.

Going all the way back to 1983, we examined the top 20 highest-grossing films worldwide every year in five, sorting how many of those big-screen releases were a remake, reboot, prequel, spin-off, or sequel to something we’ve already seen on screen.

The results? Scary. Very scary.

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Even though we generously decided not to classify some franchise solo films as a sequel (looking at you, Black Panther), we can still see a huge rise in ‘unoriginal’ films over the past 30 years.

While films such as Jurassic Park, Mrs Doubtfire and Groundhog Day enjoyed box office success in 1993 – a year in which only 2 films (Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and The Fugitive) were based on previous screen outings – all but five of 2018’s most popular films weren’t a reboot, sequel or prequel.

In fact, from Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, to Mary Poppins Returns, only two of the top 10 movies of 2018 weren’t sequels. Furthermore, as of September 2019, only a single movie in the top 10 grossing movies of this year can be classified as ‘original’ (Elton John biopic Rocketman).

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The figures show a steady rise in sequels and remakes since 1993, with their number multiplying by 700 per cent over 25 years.

But what does the future hold? Are even more remakes and sequels on the way in 2020 and beyond? Fortunately, there are some treats in store if you’re a film lover with reboot fatigue. For instance, in March, Pixar are set to release Onward, a charming fantasy story that will see Tom Holland and Chris Pratt voice a pair of adorable elves. And there’s also Artemis Fowl, the much-awaited adaptation of the hit book series. (We’re being generous and terming novel adaptations as ‘original’, providing they’ve not been adapted for the screen before.)

However, if you’re trying to avoid sequels and remakes, you might notice just a few in cinemas – Peter Rabbit 2, The King’s Man, Fantasy Island, A Quiet Place: Part II, James Bond’s No Time to Die, Legally Blonde 3, Fast & Furious 9, Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters 2020, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Conjuring 3, Venom 2, Mulan, Emma, Bad Boys for Life, Trolls World Tour and a new Scooby-Doo reboot.

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But who’s counting, eh?