Nowadays its commonplace for studios to milk a franchise for all it’s worth often leading to trilogies and beyond. But sometimes a series is perfectly fine with fewer entries. While it might be hard to believe, there are many franchises that ended at two films, either on purpose or by force, creating what is known as a “duology”, a series of two interconnected cinematic products that never included a third movie. This weekend Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema will complete a modern duology with “It: Chapter 2”, and when looking up series that had taken a similar approach I was surprised to see there are many different franchises or series that ended peacefully and effectively with only two movies to their credit. So, inspired by this revelation, today I’m going to look at some of the best and most notable two-part series in cinema. These are my picks for the Top 10 Film Duologies.
For this list I’m looking at film series that, at least for now, effectively ended at only two films. For the sake of this list, a Duology consists of any franchise that stopped at two big-screen movies, even if the series meant to go further or includes properties like straight-to-video productions or television spinoffs. This also includes larger scale movies that were split into two parts (thus making them two separate parts of a whole) or films that are related pieces that only amount to two features. However, films like the two-piece “Grindhouse” movie that are two movies in one theatrical production were not considered. The two films had to be released separate from each other to count. Franchises with a third entry currently in production as of August 2019, like “Ghostbusters” and the “Bill & Ted” franchise, were not included.
What two-part movie franchise is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list. Look for my review of “It: Chapter 2” coming soon.
10. The “Airplane” Films
Starting off this list are, in my opinion, two of the greatest satirical comedies ever made focusing on disaster films and Hollywood sequels respectively. The original picture, which mainly lampooned “Zero Hour!” and the “Airport” franchise, is among the most celebrated comedies of all time and considered one of the funniest films ever released in the genre with many of its jokes and one-liners becoming pop culture standards. While the original “Airplane!” is highly celebrated to this day, the sequel is much less beloved but in my opinion is still a fun and worthy follow up for an oddly appropriate reason. The sequel was meant to be a commentary on the ridiculousness and sometimes superfluous nature of sequels in general with an over-the-top plot and purposefully derivative storytelling. While it lacked input from the original writers, “Airplane II: The Sequel’s” failures ironically add to its charm at it is both intentional and unintentional proof of just how pointless some Hollywood sequels can be.
9. The “Gremlins” Movies
While a third “Gremlins” film is certainly in demand it has yet to enter production leaving this beloved horror comedy franchise a two-part story. Released in 1984 and 1990 respectively, “Gremlins” and “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” are very similar but also very different in how they approach their shared concept of a group of Gremlin creatures raising hell on unsuspecting humans. The first movie, famously produced by Steven Spielberg, serves as a much darker modern monster film that popularized Gizmo and launched a still-popular line of merchandise but also serves as a subtle parody of movie tropes from classics of the past. The sequel however leans much more towards satire than straight up horror taking shots at Hollywood sequels and plays out more like a live-action cartoon. While the first film is infinitely more popular and celebrated, the sequel has its fair share of fans and both together have created a beloved two-part franchise that maintains a devoted fanbase even almost 30 years after “The New Batch” debuted.
8. The “Finding Nemo” Franchise
The newest franchise on this list, “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” are among Pixar’s most cherished films of the 2000s and 2010s respectively and while there may be demand for a third film or spinoff it appears the creators are satisfied with what they consider a fully realized two-part narrative. The first film is the superior effort focusing on an overprotective clownfish named Marlin who attempts to find his son Nemo with the help of a forgetful regal blue tang named Dory. The second movie focuses more on Dory who as she tries to overcome her memory loss and reunite with her parents. Both films were critical darlings upon their release and are among Pixar’s most successful movies earning $940 million and $1.9 billion worldwide respectively over their lifetimes. Together they create a pair of films with strong emotional cores that tackle powerful themes and make up one of Pixar’s best series to date.
7. “King Kong” and “Son of Kong”
“King Kong” has been remade several times over the years, but some forget that the original film only had one true sequel, “Son of Kong”, which was also released in 1933. We all know how big a classic the original “King Kong” turned out to be and the legacy it established in cinema, but even with a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes the sequel has earned its own following as a worthy continuation of the Kong story. “Son of Kong” managed to continue its predecessor’s legacy in less than a year’s time and prove that “King Kong”, which while revolutionary for its time still had years to go before it was deemed a true classic, wasn’t just a one-off feature. “Son of Kong” proved that “King Kong” was an enduring character right from the beginning and that exploring his story or even his bloodline was an appealing idea to audiences. The original classic probably didn’t NEED the sequel to become a legendary cinematic offering, but who knows if Kong as a franchise would have succeeded without the follow-up showing that the giant ape trope was not a one-off idea.
6. Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy” Movies
There were numerous supposedly incomplete series that I considered for this list but while many of those contenders felt like they needed something more Guillermo del Toro’s take on “Hellboy” somehow feels perfect even without the third movie that fans fought so hard to support. Before the character was adapted into the train wreck of a reboot, Hellboy was the subject of two films directed by del Toro released in 2004 and 2008 respectively, “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”. Both follow the titular character as he protects the world from the hidden monsters of fantasy that threaten humanity. “Hellboy” felt poised to become a classic and long-lasting franchise utilizing del Toro’s imagination for strange and unique creatures and world designs to immerse the viewers into one of the most unique cinematic universes of the 2000s. Sadly due to del Toro’s disinterest and other factors, the franchise never went any further but even without the third movie this duology is a perfectly satisfying pair of classic graphic novel adaptations that are among the most imaginative and fun films of their time.
5. The “Space Odyssey” Movies
I bet you didn’t even know that Stanley Kubrick’s classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” has a sequel. Well, it does and it’s a pretty good one too. Released in 1984, Peter Hyams, who saw Kubrick as his idol, directed “2010: The Year We Make Contact” based on Arthur C. Clarke’s second book in his “Space Odyssey” series. We all know the legacy of Kubrick’s original film which is considered one of the most respected films in history with thought-provoking themes and revolutionary visuals style. The sequel may have been overshadowed by its predecessor but is still a respected film that continues the story and furthers many of the themes Kubrick touched on in his masterpiece as well as the series’ impact on the growth of visual effects. While there are two other books left unadapted for the time being, what we have right now is a pair of imaginative and engaging science fiction classics that complement each other perfectly while also managing to be quality and revolutionary science fiction works all their own.
4. The “Blade Runner” Franchise
While “Blade Runner” has expanded into several mediums including video games, books, and television, as of this writeup it remains a duology in terms of film. The original “Blade Runner” didn’t start off as a respected work but became one of science fiction’s greatest achievements over time. As respect for the film grew so did interest in a sequel leading to “Blade Runner 2049” which was one of 2017’s greatest cinematic offerings. While they are separated by many years (the first taking place in an alternate 2019 and the second in 2049) their stories are directly related and provide unified commentary on the moral conundrums of cloning and the influence of technology. Despite being made in two very different eras both “Blade Runner” films create an incredibly consistent and immersive atmosphere with thought-provoking stories that never cross the boundary into pretentiousness. Whether in the hands of science fiction genius Ridley Scott or modern genre visionary Denis Villeneuve, the “Blade Runner” series is easily one of the most visually stunning and engaging science fiction franchises in film even with only two entries to its credit.
3. The “Trainspotting” Movies
Let’s go across the pond to Britain for this next duology. “Trainspotting” is a 1996 black comedy that explores a group of heroin addicts in an economically depressed Edinburgh tackling themes of drug addiction, poverty and the relationship between the two. Considered one of the greatest British films of all time, “Trainspotting” does provide a great self-contained story but the sequel, 2017’s “T2 Trainspotting”, explores just how hard escaping addiction can be as Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton, the lead character of the first film, returns to his addiction as a result of new stresses in his adult life. Together these films create a disturbing look at the vicious cycle of addiction. Both films were critically praised for their emotional resonance and stories with the former being the more respected film for its subversive approach to the subject while the sequel is a bit more grounded. Regardless both present a spectacular look at cinematic pessimism and a disease still all too relevant even over 20 years after the original film was released.
2. “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”
“Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” may not be direct sequels of each other but they do make up a duology of companion pieces exploring one of the most famous battles of America’s involvement in World War II. Released in October and December of 2006 respectively, “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” chronical the famed Battle of Iwo Jima from two different fronts with the first film focusing on the American soldiers famed for raising a flag that has since become an iconic image of American heroism and the second exploring the the conditions and culture that played in the Japanese war effort at the time. These films were specifically created by director Clint Eastwood to act as two parts of a whole telling two sides of the same story in a way that humanizes the soldiers on both sides of the famed battle. Both movies were considered among the best of 2006 although it was “Letters from Iwo Jima” that garnered the most box office and award season success.
1. The “Kill Bill” Volumes
This is probably a divisive pair of films to put at the top of this list but let me just clear this up right now. Regardless of Quentin Tarantino’s insistence that these are actually one film, the “Kill Bill” movies were, in fact, released as two individual products making them a duology and probably the most well known and iconic duology out there to boot. When you think of franchises with only two movies this is likely the first that comes to mind. A bloody tribute to Japanese and grindhouse cinema exploring the path of revenge of The Bride, “Kill Bill’s” two parts play out like one singular story because they really are. “Kill Bill” was split up not to sell more tickets but to preserve Tarantino’s vision and prevent him from having to edit the film to death. The results were two iconic early 2000s classics that must be experienced together to be fully appreciated. Regardless of how you want to spin it, the “Kill Bill” volumes are possibly the most perfect duology in all of film that do what every franchise of any length should accomplish by creating fully fleshed out experiences both together and on their own. With that in mind it felt like a no brainer to award them my pick as the best two-part film series to date.