The sequel is a common aspect of the movie world. Sometimes a sequel is necessary or even planned as a director works to finalize a story. Other times, the sequel is a result of a successful film where demand or the possibility of more money motivates its creation. This summer there has been two fantastic sequels in Captain America: The Winter Solider and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
There are many good sequels to many great films. Likewise, there are just as many terrible sequels which have us shaking our heads and wondering what the director and actors were thinking. The following lists 25 movie sequels which are at least as good as, if not better than the film they were made after. As this is a subjective issue (everyone has their favorites) the list is in no particular order overall. That said, as we near the top 5, there are a few generally indisputable films which have solidified their presence among the great movie sequels.
20 28 Weeks Later (2007)
This film is the follow up to 2002 zombie-apocalypse film 28 Days Later. The sequel occurs 28 weeks after the original and sees survivors attempting to rebuild society. Things go badly and the zombie-like plague breaks out again, spreading to France by the end of the film. The sequel was not as successful at the box office as the original but its storyline, suspense and action make it just as good.
19 Evil Dead II (1987)
The second film in the Evil Dead trilogy, this one sees Ash, the protagonist, fight off evil demons and monsters while trapped in a secluded cabin. The film is a mix of horror and comedy, often considered to be on par with a B-movie. Critics were mixed and the general public embraced it, making the film a cult classic. Regardless of what critics said about the film, the bottom line is that Ash had a chainsaw for a hand which makes this a worthy sequel.
18 Toy Story 2 (1999)
Many animated sequels go the ‘straight-to-dvd’ route, leaving them in obscurity after the original often does well in theatres. Fortunately, Pixar and Disney altered this sequel to be released in theatres. It was a wise choice as Toy Story 2 brought in over $480 million at the box office. Critics and audiences loved the storyline and character development and it paved the way for a third successful film in this franchise.
17 X2: X-Men United (2003)
How do you improve upon the first X-men movie? Make a second where the heroes and villains work together to overcome a bigger enemy. Fulfilling every comic book nerd’s fantasy, viewers see the likes of Magneto and Mystique fighting alongside Wolverine and Cyclops, the whole time being introduced to new characters. Critics gave mixed reviews but audiences generally liked it.
16 Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior (1981)
Mad Max (1979) did well in Australia and the rest of the world, but had limited exposure in North America. The sequel is credited with making the franchise popular in North America. Critics loved the film and praised its comic-book style finish and mix of characters. Feral kids throwing boomerangs, a V8 supercharged Interceptor, people wearing hockey equipment as body armor and numerous car chase scenes all make this a worthy sequel.
15 The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The second installment in the Bourne series continues where the first left off. Rather than running, Jason Bourne is now coming back for the people who are after him in order to find answers. Fast paced action sequences, twists and car chases all make this a highly entertaining and worthy sequel. At the very least, it’s as good as the first film.
14 Rocky 2 (1979)
In Rocky, Sylvester Stallone’s character fights Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and loses while almost getting killed in the process. In the sequel, Rocky fights Creed again, wins and almost dies in the process. Of course, there is more character development and much more going on with Rocky and his wife Adrian, but it’s really all about the boxing scenes here.
13 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
The darkest of the Indiana Jones films, this sequel nonetheless entertained us and made us wonder if it is possible to pull a beating heart from someone’s chest with just your bare hand. Critics felt the movie was too brutal and violent. With the humorous, albeit sometimes annoying sidekick, Short Round by his side, Indiana Jones gets into the usual situations which require him to fight his way out.
12 Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
Evil South Africans, car chases, witty side-kicks and exploding toilets all come together to make this sequel a hit. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson continue the chemistry they had in the first film with Joe Pesci adding a level of humor to mix. Critics may have had mixed reviews but most consider this to be as good as the first film, if not better.
11 Die Hard 2 : Die Harder (1990)
John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns two years after the first film to battle terrorists at Washington Dulles Airport. The terrorists take control of the airport and McClane’s wife is on one of the planes. Willis proceeds to blow away anyone in his path in this sequel which is full of shootouts, just like the first film. Where the sequel differs is that it was an even bigger critical and commercial hit than the first. Yippee-ki yay…
10 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This one may catch a few people by surprise. In fact, The Silence of the Lambs was technically a sequel to the 1986 film Manhunter. The film follows FBI agent Clarice Starling as she attempts to track down a serial killer. The stand-out performance is given by Anthony Hopkins who plays the psychopath Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Full of suspenseful scenes, this film has become a pop-culture icon, often referred to or cited in film and television today.
9 Superman 2 (1980)
What happens when three criminals from the former planet of Krypton break out of their prison and arrive on Earth? A great sequel, that’s what. Superman 2 is successful because it continues developing the character of Superman while treating the audience to special effects and fight scenes. It also helps that the three villains look like they belong in an East-German disco during the late 1970s.
8 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Yes, Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man made a lot of people cringe. That said, the second film in the series proved just as popular and successful as the first. Many critics even said it was better. Making the film a hit were decent storylines and the introduction of Dr. Octavius, a famous scientist / villain from the comic-book series.
7 The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers (2002)
This film carried on, and even surpassed, what was accomplished in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Filled with massive action scenes and an intricate storyline, The Two Towers was a commercial and critical success. Special effects, especially the CGI characters of Gollum and Treebeard, are very well done and integrated seamlessly into what is a very good sequel.
6 The Dark Knight (2008)
Sequel to Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight was a massive success, both financially and critically. Having used much of the first film to explain and develop the background story, The Dark Knight provides viewers with an action packed and suspenseful story centered on Heath Ledger’s disturbing, yet entertaining, Joker. It was a performance worthy of an Oscar. Want to see a magic trick?
5 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Filled with ground breaking special effects, suspense, decent acting and a little bit of Arnold humor here and there, Terminator 2 is a sequel which surpasses the original release. Sure, Edward Furlong’s character had moments where you wished the T-1000 would catch him just to shut him up, but overall it was a sequel which checked all the boxes. Follow-on films in the franchise have tried to replicate its success and have fallen short. They ruined all the amazing work of the first two moves with one line: "The war was inevitable."
4 Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
This film boosted the popularity of the Star Trek franchise and led to a number of follow-on films. The Wrath of Khan reintroduces the character of Khan, last seen in the 1960s televised series, as he seeks revenge on Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the Enterprise. What makes this sequel so much stronger than the original is the pace of the story and the acting, especially Ricardo Montalbán as Khan. The ‘death’ of Spock adds an emotional sucker-punch which only makes the film better.
3 Aliens (1986)
In 1979, Ridley Scott directed Alien, one of the most suspenseful and terrifying sci-fi films ever released. James Cameron took the reigns in 1986 for the franchise sequel and didn’t disappoint. Aliens sees protagonist Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) return to planet LV-426 to battle the deadly aliens with a team of space-marines. This film packs as much suspense and a lot more action than the original. It’s not better than the original because the two are actually very different films. It is, however, just as good.
2 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise. This sequel follows the characters introduced in the first Star Wars film, but adds greater character development and a dark twist. Luke learns to use the Force, Han and Leia get together and Darth Vader reveals the results of the paternity test. The good guys don’t always win but they live to fight another day.
1 The Godfather : Part II (1974)
You knew this was going to be here, or at least near the top. Francis Ford Coppala’s Godfather (1972) had us all trying to our best Vito Corleone impressions. In 1974, we were trying it again. In some ways, this sequel is better than the original – and that’s saying a lot. Like the original, Part II has excellent character development and a well developed storyline. The blending of Vito Corleone’s early-life story with Michael’s story as family head was praised by many. It will also make you look over your shoulder if you ever happen to go out fishing with a family ‘friend.’