'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Tops List of 7 Most Successful Movie Sequels

"Captain America" sequel hits it out of the box office park in just one weekend.

ByAlan Farnham
April 08, 2014, 7:56 PM
PHOTO: Chris Evans, left, and Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Chris Evans, left, and Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Marvel/Disney/AP Photo

April 8, 2014 -- intro: With its record-breaking $92 million weekend debut, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" has earned itself entry to an exclusive club: movie sequels that outdid their originals.

Not only did "Winter Soldier" outperform "Captain America: The First Avenger," which earned $65 million domestically in its first three days out, but the sequel scored the biggest April opening of all time, according to the L.A. Times.

The film was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, which also released the original "Captain America: The First Avenger." The Walt Disney Co. also owns ABC News.

Keith Simanton, managing editor of movie information site IMDb, says any ranking of the most successful sequels of all time depends on how you define success: Did the movie outperform its original in opening weekend sales or in its total lifetime gross? Was it a greater or a lesser winner with the critics?

Simanton shared with ABC News his own ideas about what sequels might qualify as the seven most successful of all time.

They include the late Mickey Rooney's "You're Only Young Once" (1937), the second movie in MGM's "Andy Hardy" series, whose 14 films made an estimated $75 million Depression-era dollars for MGM, according to the New York Times. (That would be over a billion dollars today.)

You'll find the rest of Simanton's picks on the pages that follow. Sales and other performance data come from IMDb's "Box Office Mojo" rankings.

quicklist: 1title: "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"category: media: 23230675text: The 1997 original, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," earned $9.5 million its first weekend and close to $54 million to date. Its 1995 sequel, "The Spy Who Shagged Me," practically screamed "yeah, baby!" by comparison, earning $55 million in its first weekend alone, then going on to earn more than $206 million.

"That's partly because of video," says Simanton. Even though critics largely ignored the original, he says, it enjoyed great public word of mouth, made only greater by the popularity of the original's video release. Audiences were primed, ready and hungry, baby, for number two.

quicklist: 2title: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"category: media: 23231021text: What Hollywood mogul has best claim on the title "Master of Sequels?" Says Simanton, "Nobody has a corner on the market." But producer Jerry Bruckheimer, he says, has as good a claim as any. 2006's "Dead Man's Chest" blew its original out of the water, earning $135.6 million its first weekend, compared with $46.6 million for its original, "The Curse of The Black Pearl" (2003).

quicklist: 3title: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two"category:media: 23230767text: Here, says Simanton, is a case of a franchise's saving its best for last. "Deathly Hallows, Part Two" (2011) isn't the sequel to the first Potter movie, 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," but it surpassed that original and every other movie in the Potter series, including its immediate predecessor, "Deathly Hallows, Part One," which earned $125 million upon opening and has grossed close to $296 million so far. "Part Two" opened with more than $169 million, going on to gross more than $381 million.

None of the Potter movies, says Simanton, ever made most critics' top-10 lists. At best, the movies got what he calls "a faint nod" from the Academy Awards for special effects. "I kept hoping Alan Rickman would win Best Supporting Actor for Hallows 2," he says. Rickman didn't.

quicklist: 4title: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"category: media: 23230831text: When he looks at "Winter Soldier," says Simanton, he sees phenomenal performance numbers (e.g., the movie's record-breaking $96.2 million April debut). But this sequel, like some others, is more than just a sequel, he says: It's the perpetuation of a franchise or a brand. It owes its success to what he calls "the goodwill that has inured to anything that has the Marvel stamp on it." In that sense it benefits not so much from its original as from other Marvel hits, including "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3."

quicklist: 5title: "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"category: media: 23230943text: This isn't the second movie of the series, it's the last of six. Nor is it the series' best box office performer. But Simanton includes it on his best-sequel list because of the critical acclaim it received. By the time "Return of the King" came along, he says, everyone had been so impressed by the logistical gamble Newline and Warner had taken with the series, that "King" wound up winning Best Picture.

quicklist: 6title: "You're Only Young Once"category: media: 23231292text: When Hollywood immortal Mickey Rooney died this week, his obituaries credited him with (among other things) the starring role in all 15 "Andy Hardy" movies made by MGM between 1937 and 1944. Simanton says that because of studio changes in accounting methods between then and now, it's hard to say which movie did best. The second in the series, "You're Only Young Once," combined with the original and its successors, earned MGM more than $75 million, according to the New York Times.

quicklist: 7title: "Ice Age: Continental Drift"category: media: 23231157text: While the four-movie "Ice Age" franchise topped out domestically with the original's 2006 sequel, "Ice Age: The Meltdown," Simanton points out that "Continental Drift" surpassed the sequel globally, earning more than three and a half times as much: more than $877 million.

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