We all know intuitively that sequels never really seem to capture the same magic that the first movie in a series has, but is there proof that this is indeed the case.  It turns out that there is.  Mike Anderson from Nerd Wallet has done the analysis, and here is what their website has to say:


Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was bad. It earned, on average, 33% from the critics – an “F”. How much worse could the fifth installment be? By our calculations, it’ll earn a 31% rating – 61% worse than the original.

We found this in our analysis of all major film series released since 1964. We broke down reviews from the critics and revenue at the box office to pin down the diminishing returns of sequels:

The critics’ reviewsBox office revenue (U.S.)
The First Movie70.8%$208,822,542

How Pirates’ decline compares to the average series

In 2003 we all loved watching Elizabeth and Will sail off on the high seas. But with the fifth movie coming out in 2015, we don’t know how much longer we can take Captain Jack’s drunken puns and raccoon makeup.

It wasn’t always this bad. After the twist in the final minutes of the first film, we were all itching to see the second. And it shows: Pirates 2 earned $100 thousand dollars more than its predecessor. But were the third and fourth sequels truly necessary or are the producers just trying to milk the franchise cash cow?

The general trend points to the latter, as you can see in the table above. All in all, when the fifth movie rolls around, on average, it is 48% worse than the original.

Pirates’ fall is particularly spectacular, having already flopped harder than most series. By the time of the fourth movie, critics were already extremely displeased: On Stranger Tides earned a 33%. That’s a 58% drop from the first film, which earned a 79% from the critics (Note: we measure dip in quality by percentage change, not percentage difference – the difference between the first and fourth’s average reviews is 46%).

The critics’ reviewsBox office revenue (U.S.)
The Curse of the Black Pearl79.0%$413,295,000
Dead Man’s Chest54.0%$527,367,500
At World’s End44.0%$366,987,000
On Stranger Tides33.0%$244,208,500

Next time you’re thinking about seeing that upcoming sequel, consider waiting for the DVD or until it’s out on Netflix. Because all movie producers out there should learn: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


NerdWallet averaged reviews and box-office data for 130 series, which included 475 total films. Critical reviews were collected from Rotten Tomatoes and box office revenue figures from Box Office Mojo. Box office revenue was adjusted for inflation.

We analyzed the following series:

3 Ninjas, Alex Cross, Alien, Alvin and the Chipmunks, American Ninja, American Pie, Amityville, Arthur, Austin Powers, Avengers, Back to the Future, Barbershop, Batman, Before, Benji, Beverly Hills Cop, Big Momma, Blade, Bourne, Care Bears, Child’s Play, Conan, Crocodile Dundee, Despicable Me, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, El Mariachi, Ernest, Evil Dead, Fockers, Free Willy, Friday, Friday the 13th, Fright Night, Godzilla, Halloween, Hannibal Lecter, Harold and Kumar, Harry Potter, Hellraiser, Herbie the Love Bug, Highlander, Home Alone, House Party, Ice Age, Indiana Jones, Iron Eagle, Iron Man, Jack Ryan, Jackass, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Kung Fu Panda, Lethal Weapon, Look Who’s Talking, Mad Max, Madagascar, Madea, Major League, Meatballs, Men in Black, Millennium, Missing in Action, Mission: Impossible, Night at the Museum, Nightmare on Elm Street, Ocean’s 11, Oh, God!; Ong Bak, Paranormal Activity, Pirates of the Caribbean, Planet of the Apes, Pokemon, Police Academy, Poltergeist, Porky’s,  Predator, Rambo, Resident Evil, Return of the Living Dead, Riddick, Robocop, Rocky, Rugrats, Rush Hour, Scary Movie, Scream, Shiloh, Shrek, Smokey and the Bandit, Spider-Man, Spy Kids, Star Trek, Star Wars, Step Up, Superman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Bad News Bears, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Exorcist, The Expendables, The Fast and the Furious, The Godfather, The Hangover, The Hunger Games, The Karate Kid, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, The Mighty Ducks, The Mummy, The Muppets, The Naked Gun, The Neverending Story, The Omen, The Pink Panther, The Santa Clause, The Smurfs, The Work and the Glory, Toy Story, Transformers, Transporter, Twilight, Underworld, Universal Soldier, Vacation, Witch Mountain, X-Men

nerd wallet Sequels Infographic

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