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Top 10 Unexpectedly Dark Movie Sequels

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake

Woah, this franchise just got heavy. From Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Logan, WatchMojo is counting down the movie sequels that caught audiences off-guard with how much darker they were than their predecessors.

Special thanks to our users Knightwing25 and Multiplying Link for suggesting this idea! https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Unexpectedly%20Dark%20Movie%20Sequels


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Script written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Unexpectedly Dark Movie Sequels

Woah, this franchise just got heavy. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unexpectedly Dark Movie Sequels.

For this list, we’re taking a look at sequels, prequels and/or followup films that caught audiences off-guard with how much darker they were than their predecessors. Since we’ll be delving into some key plot points, a major spoiler alert is in effect.

#10: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

“Captain America: The First Avenger” was an old-school adventure with a look and feel reminiscent of superhero serials from a bygone era. Those expecting more of the same in “The Winter Soldier” were treated to something completely different. Now in a modern setting, Captain America finds himself in a more complex time where the line between good and evil isn’t so obvious. Not only are our heroes betrayed by S.H.I.E.L.D., but also one major MCU character nearly bites the dust while another hero is brainwashed into becoming a killing machine. It’s a follow-up that’s more sophisticated and adult in all the right ways, earning comparison to great conspiracy thrillers before it.

#9: “Crank: High Voltage” (2009)

Centering on a hitman who needs to keep his heart rate up in order to live, “Crank” was shamelessly gratuitous when it came to graphic violence, profanity, and sex - even having its main character indulge in very public sex. The sequel cranked the insanity into high gear, however, with more gore, more swearing, and an even more ridiculous public sex scene. The tone of the overall movie is also much darker with body parts getting chopped off, blood flying everywhere, and an ending that’s literally one big middle finger to the audience. While it’s all still executed in an over-the-top, self-aware fashion, many critics found “High Voltage” extreme even by the first film’s standards.

#8: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

With every “Jurassic” movie, we can anticipate some grizzly moments involving dinosaur attacks. “Fallen Kingdom” earns a spot on this list for two scenes in particular, though. First, there’s the volcanic eruption where numerous dinosaurs are left to perish on Isla Nublar, including a certain brachiosaurus. What makes this scene even darker is that the brachiosaurus is supposed to be the same one we first saw in “Jurassic Park,” at least according to director J.A. Bayona. Then there’s the ending in which the remaining dinosaurs are set free, allowing them to terrorize civilization. Whether it’s the dinosaurs or the humans that ultimately go extinct, things end on a rather grim note.

#7: “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (2014)

It’s fitting that Hiccup is five years older in “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” as the film is much more grown up in every way possible. We truly get to see Hiccup evolve from a boy to a man in this outing, which means he has to face more menacing villains and even greater hardships, most notably the death of a parent. While some might’ve suspected that Stoick the Vast may meet his end, it’s how he dies that threw everyone for a loop. Under the control of the Bewilderbeast, Toothless nearly blows his human companion away, but ends up killing Hiccup’s father instead. Is this a family movie or “Game of Thrones?”

#6: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

After “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” received a lukewarm response, audiences weren’t sure what to expect from the sequel three years later. What they got, however, was not only more in the spirit of the original series, but also much darker than any of the USS Enterprise’s previous adventures. This can largely be attributed to the villainous Khan, who manages to be dastardly while also being oddly empathetic. Khan is ruthless in his revenge plot against Kirk and although our heroes do persevere in the end, their survival doesn’t come without sacrifice. The death of Mr. Spock is arguably the most harrowing scene in the entire franchise, even if he returns in the following sequel.

#5: “Logan” (2017)

After two PG-13 “Wolverine” movies that were more angsty than they were dark, fans finally got the hard-R representation of the character they’d always wanted to see. With a barrage of f-bombs, gritty violence, and the deaths of multiple major characters who aren’t brought back to life, it’s actually hard to believe that “Logan” was made by the same studio as the more colorful “X-Men” films. Whether you choose to view it as a sequel or a standalone outing, this is by far the darkest installment in the “X-Men” film franchise, drawing heavily from the “Old Man Logan” comic arc. Unlike some other hardcore superhero movies, though, “Logan” earns every piercing moment.

#4: “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)

While “Raiders of the Lost Ark” had its dark moments, “Temple of Doom” is flat-out sadistic at times. Not only are our heroes in constant peril, but the film also involves child slavery, human sacrifice, and a scene where a character’s heart is ripped out of their chest! Executive producer George Lucas was actually going through a divorce at the time of filming while director Steven Spielberg had recently broken up with his girlfriend. Neither were in an especially good place, which partially impacted the movie’s darker nature. While the shift in tone left some divided, it became clearer than ever that the MPAA needed a rating to bridge the gap between PG and R.

#3: “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

Nowadays, we all know about the big twist that occurs in the third act of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Imagine experiencing this moment in the theater back in 1980, though. It was a revelation that had kids and adults alike stunned, making us all contemplate the grey area between the light and dark sides. This scene aside, the whole movie is much grimmer than its optimistic predecessor, complete with more mature themes and more shadowy settings. The cliffhanger ending in particular leaves our heroes defeated with one fan favorite’s fate up in the air. Whenever any sequel has tries to up the darkness since, it’s referred to as “The Empire Strikes Back” of the series.

#2: “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Going into “Infinity War,” fans knew that a few characters would have to die at Thanos’ hands. Given the limited casualties in the previous “Avengers” movies, though, many figured that Marvel wouldn’t go overboard. So you can imagine our surprise when the film opened with the death of Loki and halfway through Gamora fell to her demise. Then there’s the ending where Thanos snaps half of the universe out of existence, including major characters like Black Panther, Spider-Man, and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy. No, you can’t kill Groot twice! While it’s left uncertain if some or all of these characters will return, the MCU doesn’t get much darker than this.

#1: “Toy Story 3” (2010)

With an eleven-year gap between sequels, Pixar knew that kids who grew up with the “Toy Story” films in the ‘90s were all ready for something a little darker. While still maintaining the same playful nature of its predecessors, “Toy Story 3” wasn’t afraid to take its audience to some heavy places. For starters, there’s the notion that Sunnyside Daycare largely resembles a concentration camp with the movie possibly functioning as a metaphor for the holocaust. Nowhere is this more apparent than during the climax where the toys are nearly incinerated in a furnace, holding hands as they accept fate. Way to push the limits of what a G-rated animated movie can get away with.


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