Directors are busy people, so they don’t necessarily have time to stick around and direct four Hunger Games movies. Because of this, movie franchises don’t always keep the same directors all the way through to the end. James Gunn may have his stamp firmly planted when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy, but that doesn’t mean other directors feel the need to be so protective of any movie series.
Sometimes, a change in directors can hurt a series. Brett Ratner didn’t need to come anywhere near the X-Men series. It’s also a shame that Irvin Kershner couldn’t figure out what the hell he wanted to do with Robocop 2. Surprisingly though, director changes work out a lot more often than they should. In fact, success stories are so common that it was hard to narrow the list down to 10, so shout out to Thor: Ragnarok.
Listed below are 10 movies that miraculously worked out despite a change in directors. This isn’t about whether or not a movie is better than its predecessor. It’s only a matter of whether or not a movie sequel continues to be good. That being said, a decent number of movies on this list are actually considered better movies.
10. The Bourne Supremacy
The first three Bourne movies are pretty much universally beloved by action movie fans and moviegoers in general. While Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity got the ball rolling, Paul Greengrass eventually took over and perfected the formula. Today, most people put both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum above the original movie. Liman did a perfectly respectable job, but Greengrass brought the series to new heights.
To be fair, his directing style isn’t radically different. It’s not like he completely reinvented the formula. Casual moviegoers may not even be able to tell that there was a change in directors, but that’s not necessarily a problem. He may not have radically departed from the first movie’s formula, but he polished everything that was laid out for him. This resulted in a movie that felt right at home in the series. What it lacked in ambition in made up for in quality.
9. The Color of Money
The Color of Money came a whopping 25 years after its predecessor, The Hustler. Usually, a giant gap between sequels is enough to destroy an entire movie. Zoolander 2, Tron Legacy, and Independence Day: Resurgence are just a few examples of movies that didn’t really thrive following an incredibly long wait. Then again, those movies didn’t weren’t based on excellent novels and they weren’t directed by Martin freakin’ Scorsese.
Scorsese’s name alone should cue people into the fact that The Color of Money is a really solid sequel. Even if it didn’t garner the same amount of acclaim as the original, it’s still widely regarded as top-notch movie. It’s not the best Scorsese movie and it’s not the best adaptation of a Walter Tevis novel, but the amount of polish is impressive in its own right. Maybe Scorsese should handle more sequels.
8. Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban
Chris Columbus was put in charge of directing the first two Harry Potter movies, and he did a fine job. He was able to bring childlike wonder to his adaptation that matched the tone of JK Rowling’s behemoth book series. This lighter, kid-friendly tone was appropriate for the first two movies in the franchise, but these wizards had to grow up eventually. That’s why Alfonso Cuaron was brought in to add some much needed maturity. The results were seriously impressive.
How impressive? Well, a lot of people consider Prisoner of Azkaban to be the strongest entry in the series. Harry Potter fans have a lot of opinions, so there are of course people who don’t like this particular movie. Still, this might be the most universally praised movie in the Harry Potter universe, and it’s easy to see why. The darker tone brought forth more complex themes and stronger characterization. This resulted in a movie with widespread appeal.
The more adult mood became a staple for the series, but nobody was able to nail it quite as well as Cuaron. The movie completely nailed the Harry Potter formula. This meant that hardcore fans of the books would leave satisfied alongside casual moviegoers. The film’s overwhelming likability makes it the perfect Harry Potter movie.
7. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
It’s a bit odd saying that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan works despite a change in directors. That would imply that the first movie was actually good. It may be more appropriate to claim that The Wrath of Khan works because of its new director rather than in spite of the change. Robert Wise has an incredible track record to this day, but he didn’t seem to “get” the Star Trek franchise. Nicholas Meyer, on the other hand, had a firm understanding of what the fans wanted, and he delivered as a result.
The Wrath of Khan is often regarded as the best movie in the Star Trek fan series. Some people have grown to appreciate the new film series, but hardcore Trekkies always point to The Wrath of Khan. It’s the Star Trek movie fans had begged for back then and it continues to appeal to sci-fi lovers in 2019. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture left a very sour taste in the mouths of most viewers, The Wrath of Khan really turned things around.
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Let’s get one thing out of the way: nobody expected Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be as good as it was. As a movie series, Planet of the Apes felt like a one-hit wonder. Escape from the Planet of the Apes was as close as anybody got to a good Planet of the Apes sequel, and even it was lackluster. It really felt like the series was bound to fail. Then came a relatively unknown director named Rupert Wyatt who decided to shock us all with his movie. With that in mind, many of you may be asking why this list is talking about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rather than Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Well, it has been decided that Rupert Wyatt’s movie helped create a subseries of its own. Since this series feels so radically different than what came before, it will be considered its own thing. In other words, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will be considered the first movie in its own series rather than a continuation of the previous Planet of the Apes story. This means that it’s ineligible, but the sequels aren’t.
This brings us to the Matt Reeves directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was equally surprising in terms of overall quality. He may have had a better track record than Rupert Wyatt, but it still seemed hard to believe lightning would strike twice. It was even harder to believe that Reeves could top the first movie. Well, he did.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is so good that a surprising amount of people have said that it’s the best movie in the overall Planet of the Apes series, topping even the 1968 original. It’s an action masterpiece that feels so much smarter than it has any right to be. We should all be grateful.