It’s summertime. And when it comes to big-budget movies, that also means it’s sequel time. We’ve already seen remarkable successes like Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, and a few flops (at least, based on their allotted budget) like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence. This got us at Ranker Insights thinking: what goes into making a successful sequel? The truth is, there are a lot of extenuating circumstances that contribute. The box office success of the original just happens to be one of them. From solid, open-ended plot lines and apparent depth of main characters to preordained fan bases and predictably bankable actors, big data suggests many factors come into play when creating a flourishing movie franchise. However, this much seems certain: you’re probably better off casting anyone but who voters consider the greatest actor of all time.
Allow us to explain. Big data can tell you big things when it comes to making a great film. But if you’re planning on getting the most bang for your buck on your original idea, even the smallest minutia might make a big deal. For instance, let’s take a look at the top 30 of the Best Movie Characters of All Time. Notice anything? Sure, you see all the memorable characters you would expect to see near the top: Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Bruce Wayne/Batman are all in the top 10. This makes sense, especially when you consider their names are usually in the title of the movies their characters star in. Look a little closer, and further analyze the films from which these characters came. Of the top 30, 22 of them were strong enough to star in a sequel or trilogy. Now, let’s look at the eight that didn’t return to entertain you once again. What do all these movies have in common? That’s right. They all involve the indisputably lovable Thomas Jeffrey Hanks.
Why is this you ask? Good question. Certainly Toy Story was a smashing success, and went on to create not one – but two – great sequels. Toy Story 2 was even voted 8th on Ranker’s list of Best Movie Sequels. But for obvious reasons, that franchise just featured his voice, not his face. The only sequel in which Tom Hanks participated in and had to actually act, The DaVinci Code, produced far less favorable results. While Angels & Demons still proved to be a box office success, it only took in about 2/3 of the box office its predecessor did. And as for the character Hanks portrayed, Robert Langdon, well, he is nowhere to be found on the Best Movie Characters of All Time list.
It doesn’t seem to be Tom’s directorial choices either, as the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg combo are a whopping 975% more likely to be liked by Tom Hanks fans, with the Tom Hanks/Ron Howard team coming in a close second at 809%. And it’s not like these fans are adverse to the idea of sequels either. Voters who like Tom all like their action, adventure, and animated sequels. In fact, Tom fanatics are 549% more likely to enjoy Captain America: The Winter Solider; 258% more likely to have high praise for Back to the Future II; and 396% more likely to be a fan of the previously mentioned Toy Story 2. Heck, the analytics show that voters on the Greatest Actor & Actress in Entertainment History are willing for a sequel of any kind: they’re 38% more likely to vote up the universally agreed upon clunker, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Maybe Tom Hanks-related sequels were meant not to be seen, but simply heard.
Perhaps it’s just a demographic thing? Nope, as that doesn’t seem to matter either. In fact, Toy Story 2 even drops in the rankings to number 9 among international voters and even further to 10 among female voters. Judging by the data mined from Actors You Would Watch Read The Phone Book, analytics show that Tom Hanks fans are 200% (or more) likely to listen to Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp or Liam Neeson go through the names from A to Z, and all four know a thing or two about sequels. However, with Hanks ranking sixth on that same list, we can now confidently deduce that the reason for so few sequels from the actor is probably not his acting itself.
In all likeliness, it’s probably just a content thing. Most of Hanks roles have a historical end, or at the very least, a distinctive one. The stories he stars in just don’t lend themselves to sequels. Voters must agree, as there is nary a Hanks movie to be found on Ranker’s list of Movies That Need Sequels. Saving Private Ryan? Saved. Catch Me If You Can? Caught. Philadelphia? Finished. So don’t hold your breath waiting for Forrest Gumper or Sully 2: Nursing Home Boogaloo, regardless of how well it does upon release in early September. These Hanks vehicles just don’t seem to be in demand, success be damned.
Now, Ranker Insights would never be one to tell you how to create a successful movie franchise, because frankly, that would be a thankless job. But if your job is to create a character that is memorable enough to secure a sequel, big data shows your main character should probably be a Hanks-less one. He’s seems to be the epitome of Mr. One-and-Done.