A good sequel is a notoriously difficult thing to pull off in cinema, even more so when the first opus is close to perfection. Reproducing a formula that works without being repetitive or ruining characters is never easy. So when a good sequel comes along, it’s worth celebrating!
Just to put those bad sequels behind us (remember Grease 2?!) , here’s a list of the best movie sequels ever made, from the Oscar-winning Dark Knight to the unexpectedly good Annabelle: Creation (in no particular order)…
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Reproducing the storytelling and visual quality of The Fellowship of the Ring was a mammoth task, and yet Peter Jackson overcame it like a god. The Two Towers has an even stronger screenplay, even more jaw-dropping action sequences, visual effects that still hold up to this day, and some of the finest acting ever dropped in such a massive production.
Part two of one of the most epic movie series around raises the standards for sequels everywhere and proves that follow-ups can be good – so long as you don’t take your audiences for fools and offer them the spectacle you’ve promised them.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Batman Begins wasn’t that good to begin with (pun fully intended), so it wouldn’t have been too difficult to improve on it. That being said, The Dark Knight did even more than that. The plot here is one of the finest ever woven in U.S. cinema. It’s fast-paced, thrilling, layered, and the acting from all major protagonists is so good, you almost forget Katie Holmes as Rachel was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
3. Shrek 2 (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Shrek 2 is actually a huge improvement of the first opus, mostly because we get to explore the fairytale kingdom and meet far more characters than in the original movie, where most of the action focused on the principal trio on a road trip.
Badass action scenes that you wouldn’t expect from your favorite fairytale characters, a villainous fairy godmother that is so glamorous, you almost start rooting for her, and a musical rendition of I Need A Hero that still excites us fifteen years later.
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Considering the fact that Tobey Maguire in Spidey’s role is pretty much remembered solely as a meme, it might come as a surprise to see this title listed here. And yet! Spider-Man 2 has a solid villain, the plot is equally strong and the special effects are dizzyingly good.
5. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
It’s difficult to imagine a bad Marvel sequel nowadays with all these follow-ups that barely ever disappoint or at least satisfy a good-enough portion of their fanbase. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is another great sequel we can’t seem to find anything wrong with.
Great acting, hilarious sequences and a perfect blend of banter and seriousness, not to mention a killer soundtrack and an ensemble cast that has so much chemistry it should be forbidden…Marvel never fails.
6. Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
It’s very rare to find a good horror movie these days. Heck, it’s even rarer to find a good horror sequel. The Annabelle spin-off was made after the success of the creepy doll in The Conjuring, and it was an absolute flop. Yet, this follow-up managed to raise the bar much more than it was expected to.
A solid plot and a strong performance from child actress Lulu Wilson makes Annabelle: Creation an exceptionally terrifying story for a genre that is reputed for its lackluster sequels.
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
This entire trilogy is a masterclass in making a saga that doesn’t bite its own tail. Rebooting the franchise after Tim Burton’s 2001 snoozefest was a hard bet, but with the improvements that had been made in terms of special effects, it only made sense to give it a go.
After a first opus that was entertaining-enough, but was clearly only a prologue to the real deal, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes throws us on a grim, but hopeful rollercoaster of emotions none of us are prepared for. We think everyone enjoyed watching Caesar and his ever-evolving intelligent apes slowly build their own civilization while dealing with greedy humans.
8. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Another sequel that’s better than the original! Toy Story 2 is better animated and has a stronger plot and better character developments than its predecessor, which says a lot because Toy Story really wasn’t that bad (in fact, it’s legendary).
Once again, Pixar shows that animated movies can have themes that feel as real and powerful as if they were live actions, and of course, we still cry when the song When She Loved Me comes on.
9. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Controversial opinion – Gremlins 2 is basically one of the best comedy movies ever made. We’re not kidding. This film is so overly cartoonish that it is an absolute bliss of silliness.
While the first one is a bit creepier and follows a basic albeit entertaining story arc, Gremlins 2 is so deliciously entertaining and foolish that it ends up being genius!
10. Aliens (1986)
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
In a way, Aliens is quite different from its predecessor, but they are both equally amazing in their own right. While Alien is a claustrophobic thriller, Aliens is more sci-fi oriented and gives us so much action we don’t know what we make of it.
The first opus might seem like a nice self-contained story, but this second one is a great surprise. We can’t thank Sigourney Weaver enough for her service.
11. Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
The first chapter was beloved by fans of the books, but it was criticized as being a little bit too slow of an introduction by some. That being said, this second opus which marks the beginning of the rebellion was acclaimed for its grounded themes, amazing young actors, and visually stunning shots.
The dystopian hype was going strong in the early 2010s and The Hunger Games definitely shaped an entire generation.
12. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
A New Hope was amazing, but its sequel really raised the stakes, not only for its own franchise, but also for the sci-fi genre and cinema as a whole. Yeah, that’s how good it is.
A bit grimmer and more daring than its predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie and probably one of the most famous sequels out there. It has it all – a strong plot, complex and well-paced character development for all parties involved, an amazing plot twist (something to do with parentage, very difficult to guess) and visual effects that still blow our minds four decades later. Definitely one of the best sequels of all time.
13. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
While The Godfather is masterful, its successor manages to prove ‘the sequel curse’ wrong to the point that we’re wondering if it isn’t sorcery. Martin Scorsese clearly had a bigger budget to work with and the result is fantastic.
An even richer plot that mixes up Michael Corleone’s story in the 1950s and Vito Corleone’s younger days in the late 1910s, The Godfather: Part II is an absolute masterpiece about power struggles and family. This might still be the best movie sequel ever brought to screen – it is IMDb’s third top-rated film ever, after all.
14. Cinderella 3: A Twist In Time (2007)
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Okay, we cheated a little here – this was a follow-up to the sequel. But we can’t help but mention it. You wouldn’t think a movie named ‘Cinderella: A Twist In Time’ would have any chance of being good… and yet, this one is surprisingly efficient, goofy and science-fictiony. It’s as if its creators just picked plot points while blindfolded and got incredibly lucky.
This opus goes back in time after everything good that’s ever happened to Cinderella was cancelled out, including the happy ending of the first movie. We didn’t expect the screenwriters to be so grim with a Disney straight-to-DVD sequel, and yet we can’t say we’re disappointed!
Indeed, it seems some films are able to pull-off a great follow-up, if not better than their predecessors.
Which movie sequels do you think should be included in this list? Are there any you disagree with? Let us know in the comments!