Let’s start off by getting this out of the way: All of the original movies to the sequels in this list are amazing.
If they weren’t, there would never have been a sequel (or sometimes, three, four, or even seven more movies).
But in some cases, the sequels that push forward what’s explored in the origin story are better. That doesn’t lessen the quality of the original, but we love these franchises even more because these subsequent movies were made.
Here we look at 15 sequels that did just that:
James Cameron expands Ridley Scott’s original movie while also giving it a jolt of insane thrills. Taking us from a ship infected by aliens in the first movie to a whole planet in the sequel, the idea of a franchise that can go on for decades is realised. And the Marines getting attacked by the aliens in the beginning of the movie is one of the top anxiety experiences I’ve ever had watching a movie.
“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
It’s only been out for a few weeks, but you can tell instantly that this movie is special. The original Avengers movie was a thrill because we got to see all of our childhood heroes on the screen at the same time. But “Infinity War” uses that to give us a punch in the gut that we won’t forget for a while.
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
It’s the high point of Christopher Nolan’s fantastic Batman trilogy. There’s the greatness of Nolan at the helm, but also the Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker. With a talent like Christian Bale as Batman, putting him up against an equal talent like Ledger resulted in one of the best acted comic book movies of all time.
“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
“Star Wars: A New Hope” is amazing, but the sequel is what turned the franchise into a national obsession. The revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and sent off to Jabba the Hutt by Boba Fett – the movie created the classic mid-trilogy cliffhanger.
“Evil Dead II” (1987)
In many ways, this is the movie equivalent of a mulligan. Director Sam Raimi took many elements from “The Evil Dead” and put them in the sequel. But with a larger budget there are better special effects and creature makeup.
“Furious 7” (2015)
At the seven movie mark in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, it’s safe to say these movies aren’t about gear heads sipping Coronas anymore. With Dwayne Johnson firmly in the storyline and the movie marking the last ride for Paul Walker, it’s not just a memorable movie, but also launched the second phase of the franchise.
“The Godfather: Part II” (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the hit Mario Puzo book, “The Godfather,” is up there as one of the greatest movies ever made. But the sequel is arguably even better. Taking flashbacks from the Puzo book that weren’t used in the first movie and extending the story with Fredo Corleone’s betrayal of Michael (and Michael’s retaliation for it), this movie pulls off the impossible: making two iconic movies in the same franchise.
“Mad Max 2” (aka “The Road Warrior”)
The original “Mad Max” has some cool car chases, but this movie is where the franchise kicks into high gear. Max (Mel Gibson) finds himself helping a gasoline-rich community in post-apocalyptic Australia as they try to escape a group of bandits led by one of the best villains of all time, Lord Hummungus. And the twist at the end turns this from a good action movie into a classic.
“Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising” (2016)
One of the hardest things to do is pull off a comedy sequel, but Seth Rogen pulls it off here. The big mistake is often the best jokes from the first movie are tweaked and done again in the second movie. It never works. Adding a sorority element here leads to bigger laughs and a very woke feel.
“Rocky II” (1976)
Rocky and Apollo go at it for a second time and pull off an even more incredible ending than what was done in the first movie.
“Spider-Man 2” (2004)
The addition of Doc Ock and Peter Parker’s shaky relationship with Mary Jane sets the stage for a complex movie that proved audiences like a little bit of drama mixed into their superhero movies.
“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)
As a kid, this movie freaked me out. And not just because of Ricardo Montalban’s weird chest or the little creatures that went into the ears of Chekov and Terrell in the beginning of the movie. This is a movie that plays up the drama so well that it seems the good guys might not win.
“Superman II” (1980)
The sequel of the “Christopher Reeve as Superman” era is so great because of General Zod. Terence Stamp’s interpretation of the character is so over the top it’s a joy to watch.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”
Seven years after the original, James Cameron returns with Arnold Schwarzenegger and a ripped Linda Hamilton to continue the story. But this time the Terminator has to protect John Connor. The twist leads to a movie that’s not just action-packed but pulls at the heartstrings by the end.
With the feel that the Thor movies in the MCU were getting a little too dark and uninteresting for fans, the third movie changed things up thanks to director Taika Waititi. It turned out to be a really smart move. Waititi’s offbeat style turned Thor into a fun character and the movie itself is just bonkers.
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