Sequels That Rise Above the Originals
Can lightning strike twice? Movie producers certainly think so, and every once in a while they prove they can make a sequel that's even better than the original.
It's not easy to make a movie franchise better — usually, the odds are that meddling further will just make something worse. That's why movie fans should celebrate rare events like a superior sequel’s release. When amazing sequels like these come along, it's like winning the movie lottery.
The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back had a tough act to follow after the original Star Wars movie premiered. How do you top the movie that changed the world and sent box office profits into hyperspace? By going deep into what makes these characters tick and not being afraid to get dark.
The Godfather Part II
The Godfather showed Mafia members as three-dimensional figures, not just as cartoon villain characters. These people had families, children, hopes and dreams, and they’d do anything to protect them.
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
While the first Captain America is a nostalgic look at the feel-good patriotism of WWII, Captain America: Winter Soldier takes us into darker and more complex times. What is the meaning of patriotism if the government itself is full of traitors? What happens when friendship and duty collide?
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek: The Motion Picture underperformed. A huge budget and fantastic special effects couldn't rescue a film everyone found...boring. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had to save the franchise. And boy, did it deliver!
Mad Max: Fury Road
It had been 30 years since the last Mad Max movie when Mad Max: Fury Road was released. After such a long time, would the sequel be worth it? It was — and then some.
Aliens switched genres on fans. Whereas Alien was a haunted house horror movie in space, Aliens is a high-octane action-thriller with horror elements. More than 30 years later, it's still the high watermark of the franchise.
The Dark Knight
Batman Begins was a near-perfect origin story for Batman. By the time he finally puts on the cowl and cape, it makes perfect sense.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Filmmakers have been desperately trying to make a hit followup to Terminator 2: Judgment Day for over 25 years. No matter what they do, they can't even come close.
Toy Story 2
When Toy Story first debuted, audiences were gobsmacked by the CGI. It had never been done at this level before — it ushered in a whole new era. From then on, that was the level of quality that audiences would expect from an animated movie.
The Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal Lecter originally debuted played by Brian Cox in a Michael Mann film called Manhunter. The movie was a modest success. But The Silence of the Lambs changed the game.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Poor Clark Griswold is a victim of his own ridiculously high expectations. In the first Vacation film, his quest for the perfect road trip causes disaster at every turn. In Christmas Vacation, Clark unwittingly ruins Christmas as well.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Paul Rudd's comedic everyman portrayal of a diminutive superhero in Ant-Man proved to be a surprise hit. Combining the heist formula with comedic elements resonated with audiences and was a refreshing turn in the Marvel universe.
Frank Sinatra originally played the John McClane role (then called Joe Leland) in The Detective in 1968. Die Hard was based on the screenplay adapted from the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever," which was the sequel to "The Detective."
X2: X-Men United
It's hard to believe, but at the time, no one was sure that a team superhero movie would work. Long before the Avengers era, there was X-Men. It was a modest superhero movie by today's standards, but it paved the way for bigger epics.
James Bond was still relatively new to the movie-going public back in 1964, but they knew even back then how to spot a winner. Goldfinger was Bond's third cinematic outing, and in many ways, it cemented how we think of the classic character today.
The original Spider-Man was a huge hit. A classic origin story, audiences flocked to see a hero that — after decades of waiting — had finally received the big-screen treatment.
Evil Dead 2
Evil Dead was Sam Raimi's breakout horror hit, but he did it on the cheap. Forced to work within a tight budget, Raimi used ingenious techniques to enhance the film, such as "shaky cam" and shooting from the point of view of the evil deadites.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
As a movie franchise, the Harry Potter story was already a hit. But director Alfonso Cuarón took genuine risks with the source material. Putting the students in street clothes and pushing the story towards horror and suspense, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban became the film that paved the way for its darker sequels.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) wasn't the first attempt at a cinematic story featuring Hunter S. Thompson. That honor goes to Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), in which Bill Murray deftly played the Thompson role.
Superman changed the game when it proved to the world that comic book fare could translate into box office bucks. It didn't hurt that Christopher Reeve was born to play the role.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Even if you don't know the movie, you know the whistling theme song. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly became the movie synonymous with both Clint Eastwood and great westerns. It’s still considered among the best.
The Marvel cinematic universe is a project of a scope that has never been seen before — or since. With 23 movies and counting, it's an embarrassment of riches. So what makes Thor: Ragnarok so special?
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
You have to hand it to Tom Cruise. Say what you want about him, but he knows how to do great action films. And he’s had the broken bones to prove it. At an age when most male actors are opting for dramas, Cruise simply doesn't slow down.
Dawn of the Dead
We can thank George Romero for the existence of zombie movies as an entire genre. Night of the Living Dead popularized zombies among modern audiences and paved the way for the gazillion zombie stories that followed.
Is it really possible that an X-Men movie can make us cry this much? Yes, and then some. Logan was a daring R-rated dramatic sequel to both the X-Men franchise and the spin-off Wolverine movies.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Whatever movie director Guillermo del Toro tackles has an incredible visual style, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army shows just what he can do with the proper budget. For the sequel, Hellboy is less in our world and more in the magical realm beneath it.
The Bourne Ultimatum
It’s rumored that producers were forced to reboot the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films because the Jason Bourne franchise reinvented the spy movie. Watching them again, it's easy to see how this could be the case.
Bride of Frankenstein
In Frankenstein, Boris Karloff embodied the role of Frankenstein's monster so well that no actor since has come close. Back in 1935, people lined up for the sequel, having no idea it would be even better.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
It seems unlikely that Planet of the Apes would find audiences in its second reboot. But a modern take on the tale of super-intelligent apes resonated and showed us the best and worst the human race has to offer.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Even though it has a dozen endings too many, Return of the King is still one of the best fantasy films ever made. This is the tale that culminates in the final epic battle for the fate of Middle Earth.