Joker was a huge success in 2019, which was partly thanks to its low budget, but all that’s going to change, as Joker 2’s budget is double that of its predecessor. Though it’s extremely rare, the 2024 sequel isn’t the first case a movie has been given a budget double that of its original movie. It doesn’t happen often, but when sequels are generally given budgets double that of the originals, it’s when their predecessors were resounding successes.
In some cases, the original movies’ budgets should have been much higher to begin with, but studios were worried they had a bomb on their hands and hedged their bets by giving them low budgets. This isn’t taking into account legacy sequels, as movies like Top Gun: Maverick and Blade Runner 2049that come 30 years later are obviously going to have huge budgets due to inflation. All budgets are according to Box Office Mojo unless stated otherwise.
10 Joker 2
The budget for Joker 2 is interesting because Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav has been cutting costs wherever he can. It has even gotten to the point where he’s canceling releases of completed movies because he thinks they’d make more money as tax write-offs. But when an R-rated movie makes almost $1.1 billion worldwide off a budget of just $55-$70 million, it’s barely a risk.
However, the sequel’s budget hasn’t jumped by just a few million to account for Joaquin Phoenix’s higher salary, but the production will cost $150 million. Given that the follow-up is set to be a musical and has one extra movie star, Lady Gaga, the budget all but confirms it’s going to be a lavish, epic, and much more sprawling movie than the first.
9 Deadpool 2 (2018)
Like Joker, the first Deadpool movie was greenlit with a small budget because the studio didn’t have all that much faith in it, but Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller stretched the $58 million as far as they could, and the result was overwhelmingly positive.
Given that the vulgar movie full of comedy violence was a hit with audiences, 20th Century fox gave Deadpool 2 a more X-Men-like budget of $110 million. The doubled production cost was obvious, as the movie’s digital effects, star power, and set pieces were 10 times better than the first film.
But even then, the budget still pales in comparison to proper X-Men movies that were released around the same time, such as X-Men: Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, each of which had budgets of around $200 million. However, that didn’t matter, as Deadpool 2 became the most successful X-Men movie to date.
8 John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
$40 million doesn’t sound like a massive budget, but when looking at how the first John Wick only cost $20 million, it’s quite a big difference.
Chad Stahelski seems like the go-to director for studios who want an epic-looking movie without it being so expensive, as John Wick: Chapter 2 is a globetrotting affair full of movie stars and the most impressive action scenes of the decade.
Chapter 3 – Parabellum almost doubles Chapter 2’s budget, too, as it was made with $75 million. But, again, the movie looks like it cost double that to put together. If the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4 follows the pattern and doubles the budget once again, a $150 million John Wick movie could be the most ambitious and jaw-dropping action flick ever made.
7 The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Godfather series might not be a blockbuster franchise like the many others that have their budgets doubled, but the crime drama is one of the first examples of such a thing happening. It isn’t clear how much of a budget The Godfather had, as some sources say it cost just $1 million to make, and others say it cost up to $7 million. The Daily Telegraph reported that Francis Ford Coppola demanded a $5 million production cost.
Either way, as The Godfather Part II cost $13 million, the 1974 release set a precedent with its increase in budget between sequels. But that money didn’t just go into Coppola, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro’s pockets. Part II has a much higher production value, and whether it’s complete 1910s New York streets or Michael’s trip to Cuba, every penny of its budget is accounted for on screen.
6 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
The original Mad Max had a micro-budget, as Vanity Fair reports that cost no more than $400,000 to produce. That’s chump change in Hollywood, but it’s enormously impressive given that the 1979 movie is a post-apocalyptic action movie, and it’d be a struggle for any filmmaker outside of George Miller to make that kind of film with less than half a million dollars, even back then.
According to The Numbers, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, which followed two years later, had a much bigger budget of $2 million. And while that still isn’t much to make a dystopian action flick, it was more money than Miller knew what to do with, which resulted in a surprisingly sprawling and monumental release.
5 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
$11 million isn’t a high budget by today’s standards, and it was even low in 1977, considering all of the incredible practical and digital effects in Star Wars: A New Hope. The original movie’s budget wasn’t all that high, and it makes the already impressive visuals of the movie even more incredible. However, the relatively low budget was still limiting, so Lucas gave himself a little bit of breathing room when it came to producing The Empire Strikes Back.
The iconic sequel had a budget of $30.5 million, almost three times that of its predecessor. And even though it’s following one of the most financially successful movies ever made, that $30 million budget was still a big risk. According to Inside the Magic, Lucas funded the money himself so he could have complete creative control.
4 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
The original The Fast and the Furious had a budget of $38 million, and that amount went into all of the souped-up Japanese import vehicles, the huge soundtrack, and destroying said vehicles with countless stunts. But even though it was mind-blowing at the time, the biggest stunt in the movie is when a vehicle simply drives under a truck.
With an exactly double budget of $76 million, though it wasn’t so critically acclaimed, the studio delivered on some huge action sequences with 2 Fast 2 Furious. Between the first street race with the bridge jump, the car scramble, and the boat jump, director John Singleton didn’t take the budget for granted, and it puts the original film to shame.
3 Evil Dead II (1987)
Like Mad Max, The Evil Dead was made with a micro-budget of less than $400,000, and like George Miller, the movie is what made audiences and critics pay attention to Sam Raimi. Raimi returned to the series as soon as he could get a budget together, and he did so with a budget of almost 10 times that of its predecessor.
According to The Numbers, Evil Dead II cost $3.5 million to make. Granted, there were six years between the original film and the sequel, and inflation will account for some of the increase, but even when adjusted for inflation, that increase is still way more than double. The bigger budget allowed Raimi to experiment more, hone in on his unique comedy horror, and even take the series to medieval times with the shocking twist ending.
2 The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix didn’t exactly have a small budget, as the bankable movie star at the time Keanu Reeves came with a huge price tag, not to mention that the innovative effects were expensive, too. All in all, the 1999 movie had a budget of $63 million. The only way that a sequel could have been made is with a much bigger budget, as the studio can’t follow a movie like that with a film that doesn’t push the envelope even further.
The Matrix Reloaded had more than double the effects, more than double the stars, and more than double the leather threads and shades. The star power, digital artists, and costume design all cost a lot of money, leading to the film’s budget of between $126-$150 million. While the sequel didn’t have an amazing reception, it’s only bad compared to its predecessor, and there’s no denying that the highway chase isn’t the most spectacular sequence in the franchise.
1 Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
There is a bigger difference in budgets between The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day than in any other movie series. The original 1984 sci-fi horror had a budget of $6.4 million, which checks out, as there are loads of impressive effects, but the action and destruction aren’t on such a large scale. The sequel, however, had an unbelievable budget of $102 million.
It’s a mystery how director James Cameron was able to convince the studio to greenlight a budget that was higher than the worldwide box office gross of the first movie. But that might also be why the movie had four different production companies behind it, that way the losses wouldn’t have been as catastrophic in the event that Judgement Day did bomb at the box office. However, it massively paid off, making over $500 million worldwide.