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  • The Dark Knight served as this for The Dark Knight Trilogy, which in turn is considered one of several instances of this trope for the Batman franchise as a whole (not all of which, similarly, were limited to the comics). Batman Begins was well-received - and rightly so - but it was nothing in comparison to just how well Heath Ledger pulled off The Joker and how The Dark Knight delved into even more complex themes.
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  • While Dr. No was considered a good film, From Russia with Love is where things started to grow for James Bond. It was a stronger film and introduced many of the things we would think of with the series. It was an even greater hit and is among the fans often (and by Sean Connery himself) considered to be the greatest Bond of them all and put the series on the map. Goldfinger is another strong contender and was the start for the Bond-fever.
  • The Fast and the Furious has always had its loyal fans who watch it for the awesome car chases, but critics didn't really start to warm up to the movies until the fifth installment—which surprised most non-fans with its positive reviews.note  The general consensus is that the movies noticeably improved when they stopped taking themselves quite so seriously, and decided to proudly embrace their own cheesiness by ramping the spectacle Up to Eleven with action sequences that wouldn't seem out of place in a James Bond movie. It also didn't hurt that they moved away from the original movie's "Point Break with sports cars" premise, and reimagined it as a heist series centered around a band of close-knit True Companions; many critics felt that the series gained some much-needed heart as it began to focus on the Undying Loyalty of the crew, spotlighting Paul Walker and Vin Diesel's excellent chemistry.
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  • The original series of Gamera movies made very little effort to be anything more than a cheap knockoff of the far superior Godzilla franchise (which had more than its fair share of bad movies to begin with), and today are most notable for providing Mystery Science Theater 3000 with some good comedic material. But thanks to such talents as director Shusuke Kaneko, special effects director Shinji Higuchi, writer Kazunori Ito, and composer Kow Otani (of later Shadow of the Colossus fame),note  the rebooted "Heisei-era" Gamera trilogy (released between 1995 and 1999) quickly became known as representative of the height of the kaiju genre alongside even the original 1954 Godzilla movie. This is all particularly true of the third film.
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  • The first two Harry Potter films were enjoyable enough, but suffered from squeezing in as much of the original books as possible, with little in the way of cinematic imagination. Prisoner of Azkaban however, was a film first and foremost, and the rest of the series followed suit.
  • Marvel One-Shots kicked off with a short comprising of nothing more than a clip from The Incredible Hulk bookended by clips of SHIELD agents conversing at a table. The following shorts rely more heavily on original footage, and boast more interesting plotlines. And now Marvel's thinking about using them to test new characters and see if they're received well enough to make the jump to the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
  • The Pink Panther (1963) is generally considered a comedy classic in its series, but the beard really started growing with A Shot in the Dark (which introduced us to Dreyfus and Cato) and had grown completely by the time The Return of the Pink Panther came out. Once Peter Sellers died and Trail of the Pink Panther was released, however, the beard was shaved off completely.
  • The Three Stooges started growing their beards when they broke away from Ted Healy. Although their first short ("Woman Haters") was a bit of a misfire, the beard was full in their next effort, "Punch Drunks". The beard was trimmed when Curly's declining health hampered several promising shorts, but the beard grew back, albeit slightly less fully, when Shemp replaced Curly. Most fans would agree, though, that the beard fell out completely and took the whole jawline with it when Shemp died and was replaced by Joe Besser.
  • In The Pixar Story, John Lasseter said that Toy Story 2 was the film that defined what Pixar is perhaps best known for: the ability to drive a story with interesting hilarious comedy, poignant pathos and interesting characters.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Universe-wise:
      • While all the early movies were financial successes, critical reception was hit or miss. Things turned around big time with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which some have even compared to The Dark Knight as one of the best superhero movies of all time and a great case of Genre-Busting the superhero movie. Every MCU movie since has gotten glowing praise, with the slight hiccup of Age of Ultron (which is generally considered So Okay, It's Average).
      • Based on both Box office and Reviews, Phase 3 is widely seen as this for the MCU as a whole. An important reason frequently cited was the restructuring at Disney that remove the infamously intrusive Creative Committee from the process. Most notably, the Phase 3's Black Panther became the first movie in the franchise to win an Oscar with 3 awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.
    • Individual Series:
      • Among Captain America fans, Winter Soldier was the film that forever cemented him as a fan favorite. While Cap wasn't disliked in the beginning, some fans felt that he lacked a compelling flaw or relatable personal struggle, his fighting style wasn't entertaining, and his costume looked unintentionally silly. Winter Soldier tackled these issue by bringing in the moral complexity, gritty realism and brutal melee combat that would define the later films, but without undermining Cap's idealism and heroic outlook; it also significantly redesigned his costume, which most fans loved.
      • Ditto with Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. While Thor wasn't exactly hated beforehand, he wasn't the most popular superhero and was seen as a dull Invincible Hero when compared to the other Avengers or his own brother Loki. One of director Taika Waititi's stated goals was to change this by giving Thor a much more engaging character arc this time. Most would agree that he succeeded, given that it's the best received of all the Thor films. It also helps that Chris Hemsworth gave Thor a more comedic personality that made him more fallible and relatable. The beard continues to grow in Avengers: Infinity War, reminding viewers why Thor is known as the god of thunder in the fight against Thanos.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Wonder Woman was major improvement for the franchise. The first 3 DCEU movies Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad received mixed-to-negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with many criticizing the movies for having underdeveloped characters, lacking coherent narratives, and being excessively dark. However, Wonder Woman became the first DC Extended Universe movie to earn an overall positive response from critics, currently sitting at a 93% approval rating, with many praising the movie for having a straightforward story with well-defined protagonist and a balanced tone, while also grossing over $822 million worldwide. Furthermore, the DCEU actually beat the MCU to a landmark moment by releasing the first acclaimed female superhero movie, proving that the DCEU can compete with the MCU after being mocked for constantly playing catchup to its chief rival.
    • 2018 is considered a turning point for the franchise. After 2017's Justice League received mixed reviews and bombed at the box office, Warner Bros. reorganized the DC Films division with New Line Cinema producer Walter Hamada as president starting in January 2018. The first film released under Hamada's leadership, the James Wan-directed Aquaman, received positive reviews (albeit not to the extent of Wonder Woman) and managed to gross over $1.133 billion worldwide, making it both the highest grossing movie in the franchise and the highest grossing film to be based on a DC Comics property. The following SHAZAM! (2019), directed by David F. Sandberg, became another winner with a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a satisfying $360 million on a comparatively small budget note  Yet most importantly, as Hamada had previously worked with Wan and Sandberg on The Conjuring Universe, the DC movies didn't experience any significant Executive Meddling, allowing the franchise to recover its public image and recruit new talent like Matt Reeves, James Gunn and Cathy Yan. Hamada also won a lot of goodwill for allowing (with the blessing of the new WB studio head Toby Emmerich) Wonder Woman 1984 to be pushed back a full seven months. The creative team had wanted a June 2020 release date all along but the studio had wanted to rush it for a November 2019 date. Timing issues had plagued the productions of both Suicide Squad note  and Justice League. note 
  • Star Wars: While the original 1977 film was a smash box-office success that changed the course of movie history, many consider the follow-up sequel to be when the Franchise grew a beard, stepping out from the shadow of Samurai films, Cowboy adventures, and pulpy Sci-Fi serials. The much expanded budget allowed the creative team to pursue new ideas and technologies while the story more character driven and less dependent on Mythic archetypes.
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