Franchises are the name of the game in the modern era of moviemaking. Notice how iconic movies our parents grew up with, from Star Wars to Mad Max, are constantly being revived and expanded for our generation and future generations to come.
The way movie franchises have managed to maintain a permanent spot in pop culture is through constant reboots, sequels, or interconnected titles: à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the growing Potterverse. But those are starting to get played out, and franchises have found a new way to maintain their popularity in the form of movie requels.
A Requel Is Not Quite a Reboot or a Sequel
If you’ve seen Scream (2022) or Scream VI (2023), released over a decade after the fourth installment of the franchise, then you may have heard of the word requel. It came up as the gang of new characters and Dewey (David Arquette) brainstormed Ghostface’s identity and how to avoid becoming his or her next victim. It was the movie-obsessed Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) who suggested that Ghostface was making a requel.
“See, you can’t just reboot a franchise from scratch anymore. The fans won’t stand for it,” she explained. “But you can’t just do a straight sequel either. You gotta build something new but not too new, or the internet goes bug-f***ing nuts. It’s gotta be part of an ongoing storyline even if the story shouldn’t have been ongoing in the first place.”
This observation was on the nose. Like Mindy said, a requel is not quite a reboot or a sequel but somewhere in between the two. Think of the latest trilogy in the Star Wars franchise. Episode VII: The Force Awakens introduced new characters, particularly Rey and Kylo Ren, and a storyline that, while connected, was separate from the original trilogies. This is so that new generations of viewers can follow the storyline of the requel even without the context of the first installments of the movie franchise.
Requels also bring back characters from the original movies to establish the continuity of the universe. Dewey, for instance, was one of the few characters who returned for Scream, while The Force Awakens brought back legacy characters like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Not only did these legacy characters pass on the torch to the new main characters, whose stories we’re now following, but they also elicited nostalgia that keep original fans invested in a growing franchise.
5 Requels That Kept Movie Franchises Alive
Requels are a way to keep stories and characters fresh while also building upon an existing universe. And while that means original scripts are put on the back burner, movie franchise fans are constantly being fed content. In fact, these franchises were revived for entirely new generations of audiences through requels.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trilogy
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005, and it was widely regarded that the prequel trilogy was mediocre compared to the original trilogy— it almost killed the entire franchise.
Enter Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015). Set thirty years after Episode VI and featuring a brand new group of main characters, the requel set many box office records during its holiday run. It also revived enough interest in the franchise that Disney expanded into television, with titles like The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.
Scream 5 & 6
The Scream franchise has always had an awareness of horror movies, which is why it isn’t a surprise for Mindy to recognize a requel when she sees it. The first four movies centered around Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and her never-ending battles with a slew of different Ghostfaces.
But the fifth movie, simply titled Scream, was designed as a requel. The events take place almost a decade after the events of Scream 4 and now follow a new group of students being targeted by the killer. If Woodsboro High isn’t enough to evoke feelings of nostalgia for fans of the first movies, legacy characters like Dewey, Sidney, and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) might. Scream proved to be such a huge box-office success that they released a follow-up a year later. And as a horror fan, Scream VI held up well against its contemporary slasher movies, like Barbarian and X.
Jurassic World Trilogy
Like many requels, the Jurassic World trilogy is set decades after the last Jurassic Park movie. It takes place on the same fictional island in Costa Rica, where the park was restored to full operation.
The requel to the toothy classic was considered a box office success. That is thanks in part to the theme park finally coming to fruition, as well as terrifying hybrid dinosaurs that proved to be frightening villains.
Fans of the original Ghostbusters are very protective of the franchise. This and misogyny, led to the failure of the all-female reboot in 2016. Personally, I had no attachment to the original and thought it was entertaining—but fans simply did not like the idea of a reboot that erased the legacy of the original characters.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife tried to repair the damage of the remake. It was a proper requel that built on the original storyline of the franchise but featured the grandchildren of the late Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), who was part of the original group of paranormal hunters. The idea of continuing the family legacy through his grandchildren, and a likable cast that included Paul Rudd and Finn Wolfhard, revived the franchise. A sequel set in New York City was just confirmed.
The Rocky films starring Sylvester Stallone have an enduring legacy in the history of movie franchises. Perhaps, it’s because underdog sports movies—especially good ones—are few and far between.
But Sylvester Stallone and his character Rocky are too old to punch it out in the ring. The only way to revive the franchise was to create a requel with a new contender for the championship belt. Adonis Creed, Apollo Creed’s son, was the obvious choice. Through his dad, he already had a connection to the biggest legacy character the franchise could get: Rocky Balboa.
What makes Creed such a successful requel is that it tells pretty much the same underdog story but with the production and action sequences that every Rocky fan lusts for. In an era of franchises, the only way for a requel to surpass its predecessors is to go bigger and better.