Whether the “legacyquel,” a phenomenon brilliantly coined by film critic Matt Singer in 2015, is a plague on contemporary cinema or merely the medium’s latest and most direct delivery system for nostalgia, it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. Not quite the same as a traditional sequel, these films revisit the characters and the worlds of a commercially successful franchise, while offering a victory lap for original stars that may otherwise be reluctant—or maybe just too old—to saddle up for another adventure (or three).
Top Gun: Maverick is not only the latest of these legacyquels, but one of the best, passing the baton from original star Tom Cruise to a new generation of actors while confidently—even definitively—reminding audiences what made Cruise so goddamn great in the first place.
While there’s some debate over what differentiates a legacyquel from a run-of-the-mill follow-up—some might argue, for example, that the extraordinary Mad Max: Fury Road qualifies, while others disagree—the distance between good ones and bad ones is as big as the circumference of a Death Star (yeah, you know where I’m headed with this). The A.V. Club decided to examine five great examples of these films, and five not so great examples, as a way to explore what makes them fire on all cylinders, or end up coasting on fumes.