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The Return of Tarzan, official sequel to Tarzan of the Apes Return of Tarzan.jpg
The Return of Tarzan , official sequel to Tarzan of the Apes

A sequel is a work of literature, film, theater, television, music, or video game that continues the story of, or expands upon, some earlier work. In the common context of a narrative work of fiction, a sequel portrays events set in the same fictional universe as an earlier work, usually chronologically following the events of that work. [1]


In many cases, the sequel continues elements of the original story, often with the same characters and settings. A sequel can lead to a series, in which key elements appear repeatedly. Although the difference between more than one sequel and a series is somewhat arbitrary, it is clear that some media franchises have enough sequels to become a series, whether originally planned as such or not.[ citation needed ]

Sequels are attractive to creators and publishers because there is less risk involved in returning to a story with known popularity rather than developing new and untested characters and settings. Audiences are sometimes eager for more stories about popular characters or settings, making the production of sequels financially appealing. [2]

In film, sequels are very common. There are many name formats for sequels. Sometimes, they either have unrelated titles or have a letter added to the end. More commonly, they have numbers at the end or have added words at the end.[ citation needed ] It is also common for a sequel to have a variation of the original title or a subtitle. In the 1930s, many musical sequels had the year included in the title. Sometimes sequels are released with different titles in different countries, because of the perceived brand recognition. There are several ways that subsequent works can be related to the chronology of the original. Various neologisms have been coined to describe them.


The most common approach[ citation needed ] is for the events of the second work to directly follow the events of the first one, either resolving the remaining plot threads or introducing a new conflict to drive the events of the second story. This is often called a direct sequel. Examples include Toy Story 2 and The Empire Strikes Back .[ citation needed ]

A prequel is an installment that is made following the original product which portrays events occurring chronologically before those of the original work. [3] Although its name is based on the word sequel, not all prequels are true prequels that are part of a main series. Prequels that are not part of a main series are called spin-off prequels, while prequels that are part of a main series are called true prequels. An example of a true prequel is Tremors 4: The Legend Begins which took place chronologically before the events of the previous Tremors films. Another example of a true prequel would be Better Call Saul , taking place mainly before Breaking Bad but also having some scenes after and during it.[ citation needed ]

Midquel is a term used to refer to works which take place between events. Types include interquels and intraquels. [4] An interquel is a story that takes place in between two previously published or released stories. For example, if 'movie C' is an interquel of 'movies A' and 'B', the events of 'movie C' take place after the events of 'movie A', but before the events of 'movie B'. Examples can include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story of Star Wars , some films of the Fast & Furious franchise, and Saw X. An intraquel, on the other hand, is a work which focuses on events within a previous work. Examples include Bambi 2 and Black Widow . [5] [6] [7]

A legacy sequel is a work that follows the continuity of the original work(s), but takes place further along the timeline, often focusing on new characters with the original ones still present in the plot. [8] [9] [10] Legacy sequels are sometimes also direct sequels that ignore previous installments entirely, effectively retconning preceding events. Superman Returns , Halloween (2018), Candyman (2021), Cobra Kai , Blade Runner 2049 , the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife , Terminator: Dark Fate , Tron: Legacy , Top Gun: Maverick , Doctor Sleep , Rocky Balboa , Mary Poppins Returns , The Matrix Resurrections , Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull , and the Jurassic World Trilogy are examples of legacy sequels. Another term for these types of movies is requel, meaning reboot sequel. Film journalist Pamela McClintock describes a requel as something that "exploits goodwill toward the past while launching a new generation of actors and stories". [11] The term was popularized by the film Scream (2022).[ citation needed ]

A standalone sequel is a work set in the same universe, yet has little or no narrative connection to its predecessor, and can stand on its own without a thorough understanding of the series. Big Top Pee-wee , Home Alone 3 , The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift , Species - The Awakening , Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides , Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance , Mad Max: Fury Road , The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water , Wonder Woman 1984 , Spirit Untamed , Space Jam: A New Legacy , The Suicide Squad and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery are examples of standalone sequels. [12] [13] [ better source needed ]

A spiritual sequel is a work inspired by its predecessor. It shares the same styles, genres and elements as its predecessor, but has no direct connection to it at all. Most spiritual sequels are also set in different universes from their predecessors, and some spiritual sequels aren't even a part of their predecessor's franchise, making them non-franchise sequels. Spiritual sequels can sometimes be repurposed from material originally intended to be direct sequels. An example of this is Mute , a spiritual sequel to the film Moon .

Parallels, paraquels, or sidequels are stories that run at the same point in time as the original story. [14] [15] For instance, three different novels by John MorressyStarbrat (1972), Stardrift (1973; also known as Nail Down the Stars), and Under a Calculating Star (1975) — involve different lead characters, mostly in different places, but overlap at one dramatic event to which each novel provides a different perspective. [16] Kirill Eskov's novel The Last Ringbearer (1999) retells the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1955) from the viewpoint of good Mordorians fighting the evil West. Likewise, Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone (2001), contemporary to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936), tells the life story of a mulatto woman born enslaved on the O'Hara plantation. One major film example is Saw IV (2007), where the events of that film are revealed to overlap with the events of Saw III (2006). Another notable example is The Lion King 1½ (2004), which tells the origin story of the characters Timon and Pumbaa while taking place simultaneously with the events of the original 1994 film.[ citation needed ]


Alongside sequels, there are also other types of continuation or inspiration of a previous work.[ citation needed ]

A spin-off is a work that is not a sequel to any previous works, but is set in the same universe. It is a separate work-on-its-own in the same franchise as the series of other works. Spin-offs are often focused on one or more of the minor characters from the other work or new characters in the same universe as the other work. The Scorpion King , Planes , Minions , Hobbs & Shaw and Lightyear are examples of spin-off movies while Star Trek: The Next Generation and CSI: NY are examples of spin-off television series.[ citation needed ]

A crossover is a work where two previous works from different franchises are meeting in the same universe. Alien vs. Predator , Freddy vs. Jason , Boa vs. Python and Lake Placid vs. Anaconda are examples of a crossover film.[ citation needed ]

A reboot is a start over from a previous work. It could either be a film set in a new universe resembling the old one or it could be a regular spin-off film that starts a new film series. Reboots are usually a part of the same media franchise as the previous work(s), but not always. Batman Begins , Casino Royale , Star Trek , Børning , Man of Steel and Terminator: Genisys are examples of reboot films. Kathleen Loock has written that traditional reboots tended to stray away from depicting direct narrative or stylistic correlations to the previous versions of the franchise. Contemporary reboots lean into the nostalgia factor and create new stories that simultaneously revel in the aspects of the original franchise that made it notable in the first place. [17]


In The Afterlife of a Character, David Brewer describes a reader's desire to "see more", or to know what happens next in the narrative after it has ended. [18]

Sequels of the novel

The Marvelous Land of Oz, sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was an official sequel novel written to satisfy popular demand. Marvelous land of oz.jpg
The Marvelous Land of Oz , sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , was an official sequel novel written to satisfy popular demand.

The origin of the sequel as it is conceived in the 21st century developed from the novella and romance traditions in a slow process that culminated towards the end of the 17th century.[ citation needed ]

The substantial shift toward a rapidly growing print culture and the rise of the market system by the early 18th-century meant that an author's merit and livelihood became increasingly linked to the number of copies of a work he or she could sell. This shift from a text-based to an author-centered reading culture [19] led to the "professionalization" of the author – that is, the development of a "sense of identity based on a marketable skill and on supplying to a defined public a specialized service it was demanding." [20] In one sense, then, sequels became a means to profit further from previous work that had already obtained some measure of commercial success. [21] As the establishment of a readership became increasingly important to the economic viability of authorship, sequels offered a means to establish a recurring economic outlet.[ citation needed ]

In addition to serving economic profit, the sequel was also used as a method to strengthen an author's claim to his literary property. With weak copyright laws and unscrupulous booksellers willing to sell whatever they could, in some cases the only way to prove ownership of a text was to produce another like it. Sequels in this sense are rather limited in scope, as the authors are focused on producing "more of the same" to defend their "literary paternity". [20] As is true throughout history, sequels to novels provided an opportunity for authors to interact with a readership. This became especially important in the economy of the 18th century novel, in which authors often maintained readership by drawing readers back with the promise of more of what they liked from the original. With sequels, therefore, came the implicit division of readers by authors into the categories of "desirable" and "undesirable"—that is, those who interpret the text in a way unsanctioned by the author. Only after having achieved a significant reader base would an author feel free to alienate or ignore the "undesirable" readers. [20]

This concept of "undesirable" readers extends to unofficial sequels with the 18th century novel. While in certain historical contexts unofficial sequels were actually the norm (for an example, see Arthurian literature), with the emphasis on the author function that arises in conjunction with the novel many authors began to see these kinds of unauthorized extensions as being in direct conflict with authorial authority. In the matter of Don Quixote (an early novel, perhaps better classified as a satirical romance), for example, Cervantes disapproved of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda's use of his characters in Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, an unauthorized sequel. In response, Cervantes very firmly kills the protagonist at the end of the Second Part to discourage any more such creative liberties. [22] Another example is Samuel Richardson, an 18th-century author who responded particularly strongly against the appropriation of his material by unauthorized third parties. Richardson was extremely vocal in his disapproval of the way the protagonist of his novel Pamela was repeatedly incorporated into unauthorized sequels featuring particularly lewd plots. The most famous of these is Henry Fielding's parody, entitled Shamela . [23]

In To Renew Their Former Acquaintance: Print, Gender, and Some Eighteenth Century Sequels, Betty Schellenberg theorizes that whereas for male writers in the 18th century sequels often served as "models of paternity and property", for women writers these models were more likely to be seen as transgressive. Instead, the recurring readership created by sequels let female writers function within the model of "familiar acquaintances reunited to enjoy the mutual pleasures of conversation", and made their writing an "activity within a private, non-economic sphere". Through this created perception women writers were able to break into the economic sphere and "enhance their professional status" through authorship. [20]

Dissociated from the motives of profit and therefore unrestrained by the need for continuity felt by male writers, Schellenberg argues that female-authored sequel fiction tended to have a much broader scope.[ citation needed ] He says that women writers showed an "innovative freedom" that male writers rejected to "protect their patrimony". For example, Sarah Fielding's Adventures of David Simple and its sequels Familiar Letters between the Principal Characters in David Simple and David Simple, Volume the Last are extremely innovative and cover almost the entire range of popular narrative styles of the 18th century. [24]

Video games

As the cost of developing a triple-A video game has risen, [25] [26] [27] sequels have become increasingly common in the video game industry. [28] Today, new installments of established brands make up much of the new releases from mainstream publishers and provide a reliable source of revenue, smoothing out market volatility. [29] Sequels are often perceived to be safer than original titles because they can draw from an established customer base, and generally keep to the formula that made the previous game successful.[ citation needed ]

Media franchises

In some cases, the characters or the settings of an original film or video game become so valuable that they develop into a series, lately referred to as a media franchise. Generally, a whole series of sequels is made, along with merchandising. Multiple sequels are often planned well in advance, and actors and directors may sign extended contracts to ensure their participation. This can extend into a series/franchise's initial production's plot to provide story material to develop for sequels called sequel hooks.[ citation needed ]

Box office

Movie sequels do not always do as well at the box office as the original, but they tend to do better than non-sequels, according to a study in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Business Research. The shorter the period between releases, the better the sequel does at the box office. Sequels also show a faster drop in weekly revenues relative to non-sequels. [30] A quantitative mega-analysis of box office earnings from all the major movie studios revealed that franchise movies dominate the highest grossing films lists, establishing sequels as reliable kinds of movies to make. All studios have come to rely on releasing sequels as they increase the studios' profitability, yield to the consumer demand for simultaneous novelty and familiarity, and help manage risk and uncertainty within studio production and release. [31]

Sequels in other media

Sequels are most often produced in the same medium as the previous work (e.g. a film sequel is usually a sequel to another film). Producing sequels to a work in another medium has also become common, especially when the new medium is less costly or time-consuming to produce.[ citation needed ]

A sequel to a popular but discontinued television series may be produced in another medium, thereby bypassing whatever factors led to the series' cancellation.[ citation needed ]

Some highly popular movies and television series have inspired the production of multiple novel sequels, sometimes rivaling or even dwarfing the volume of works in the original medium.[ citation needed ]

For example, the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians , its 1961 animated adaptation and that film's 1996 live-action remake each have a sequel unrelated to the other sequels: respectively The Starlight Barking (1967), 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure (2003, direct to video) and 102 Dalmatians (2000).[ citation needed ]

Unofficial sequels

New Adventures of Alice, 1917, John Rae New-adventures-of-alice-cover-1917.png
New Adventures of Alice , 1917, John Rae

Sometimes sequels are produced without the consent of the creator of the original work. These may be dubbed unofficial, informal, unauthorized, or illegitimate sequels. In some cases, the work is in the public domain, and there is no legal obstacle to producing sequels. An example would be books and films serving as sequels to the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is in the public domain (as opposed to its 1939 film adaptation). In other cases, the original creator or their heirs may assert copyrights, and challenge the creators of the sequels.[ citation needed ]


See also

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Further reading