Second time around: 13 movie sequels as good, or better, than the originals

At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion that if a movie is well-received, it’s probably going to get a sequel. There’s no shortage of passionate arguments for and against the proliferation of sequels, and for good reason, given the long list of follow-up films that have fallen flat over the years. Every so often, though, we get a sequel that surprises and delights us by being just as good — or better — than the original.

There are more fantastic movie sequels than you might expect, spanning a wide range of genres. Here are our picks for some of the best movie sequels of the last few decades that did right by, and occasionally improved on, the movies they followed.

‘The Godfather: Part II’

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Francis Ford Coppola hit it out of the park with this iconic ’70s film franchise about the fictional Corleone Mafia family in the ’40s and ’50s. The film stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino reprising their roles from the first film, with Robert DeNiro joining as a young version of Brando’s Vito Corleone.

The original, released in 1972, is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made. It was the second film, however, that truly redefined the mobster movie genre, showcasing Michael Corleone (Pacino) and his transformation from golden boy into ruthless mob boss. The film became the first sequel to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and it’s still heavily referenced to this day.

Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’

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“I’ll be back.” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popular line from the first film in this franchise screamed for a sequel. Directed once again by James Cameron, the sequel was released in 1991, almost seven years after the original, but it was worth the long wait.

Twists and turns in the story, which shifted to more action and less horror, combined with groundbreaking special effects and compelling characters to make this one memorable for all the right reasons. Pure and simple, this is one of the best sci-fi films of all time. Watch it now on:

Amazon

‘Aliens’

Another James Cameron classic, this 1986 film was released seven years after the original and had viewers gripping their seats with tension. As with Terminator, Cameron shifted from the core horror of Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien to full-on action sequences in the follow-up chapter. Sigourney Weaver reprised her role as Ripley, who assists a group of heavily armed space marines who must take on multiple “xenomorph” aliens this time around. Film critic Roger Ebert said he left the theater with knots in his stomach from the movie’s “roller-coaster ride of violence.” The showdown at the end is one of the most iconic moments of the entire franchise — and sci-fi/horror films in general.

Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Toy Story 3’

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The first film in the Toy Story franchise to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Toy Story 3 made more than £1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 2010. The 3D computer-animated comedy-drama touched hearts when viewers saw Andy finally part ways with his lifelong toy friend Woody, passing him — and his other toys — to Bonnie.

With a gut-wrenchingly emotional incinerator scene, how will they ever top this one with Toy Story 4 in June of 2019? Watch it now on: Amazon

‘The Road Warrior’

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Released in 1981, 20 months after the original film, this flick was so good that it could easily have stood on its own rather than as a sequel. The Road Warrior is set five years after the Mad Max, and follows former police officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), who’s been reduced to a shell of a man who wants nothing more than to wander the barren, post-apolcayptic Australian wasteland of the world on his own.

He finds humanity once again, though, when he helps a group of destitutes fight off an army of gas-stealing villains. Not only did the movie receive almost universal praise, but it was widely regarded as the best film of the original trilogy. Watch it now on:

Amazon

‘The Dark Knight’

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It’s bittersweet to include this film on the list, since Heath Ledger, who fiercely committed to his role of the Joker, sadly passed away six months before the film was released. But his performance could be considered his magnum opus, and this 2008 film, released 37 months after Batman Begins, is easily the best installment of a great trilogy. The riveting performances from Ledger, Christian Bale as Batman, and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, combined with tremendous action scenes, made for a fantastic follow-up film.

Forget being a sequel: Empire ranked this movie third on its list of the top 100 greatest movies. Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’

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This most excellent comedy was released almost a year-and-a-half after the launch of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which followed the dimwitted yet dynamic duo of teenagers Bill S.

Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves). After traveling through time in the first film, the sequel had them visit the afterlife to — among other ridiculous adventures in both heaven and hell — challenge Death to a game of Twister. George Carlin reprises his role as the pair’s time-traveling pal Rufus, with William Sadler offering up what might be the most animated portrayal of The Grim Reaper ever brought to the big screen. The Washington Post even called Bogus Journey “funnier and livelier” than the original.

Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Wayne’s World 2’

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The early ’90s Wayne’s World films followed a pair of rock-loving, public-access cable TV show hosts, played brilliantly by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. Born from a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch, the films hit all the right hilarious beats to make a successful transition to the big screen.

The second film, released just shy of two years after the first, was a solid follow-up that mixed old and new elements. It didn’t exactly break any records at the box office, but the likability factor for the two leads — and the hilarity of insane story-teller/roadie Del Preston — made it a surprisingly good second chapter in the pair’s weird saga. Watch it now on:

Amazon

‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’

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Considered by many to be the best of the original Star Trek movies, this installment from 1982 — which celebrated its 35th anniversary last year — was released almost three years after the previous film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. More so than its predecessor, it helped catapult the franchise into full-on, iconic territory. The moment Captain Kirk (William Shatner) screams Khan’s name is forever etched in our collective media memory, and there’s rarely a dry eye to be found among fans when (35-year spoiler alert) Spock’s heartbreaking death scene is mentioned. This was about as strong of a sequel as you’ll find in the genre, and continues to be the gold standard for follow-up films.

Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Blade Runner 2049’

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Released in 2017 and starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, this futuristic neo-noir, sci-fi sequel hit theaters a full 35 years after the release of the original film, Blade Runner, but proved well worth the wait. Grossing £259.2 million at the box office worldwide, it still didn’t meet the massive production budget, and ran a little too long for some (2.7 hours), but the film received high praise from audiences who gave it a chance, and universal critical acclaim.

In fact, we even named the film the Best Movie / TV/ Music Product of the Year for 2017. Watch it now on: Amazon

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’

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A must-watch holiday classic, this 1989 comedy was a sequel to National Lampoon’s Vacation, and the third in the series (National Lampoon’s European Vacation was the second).

Sure, there are some timeline issues, such as the fact that the kids are actually younger in Christmas Vacation and played by different actors, but none of that really matters in this hilarious story full of typical Griswold charm, which follows one father’s quest to deliver his family the perfect Christmas. Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Dawn of the Dead’

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George A.

Romero’s horror films shaped the zombie genre as we know it today, and served as inspiration for popular television series like The Walking Dead. But this 1978 film, released almost a decade after Night of the Living Dead, kicked things up a few notches. With more excitement and action, better special effects, and underlying jabs at social issues like consumerism and political greed, it was a seriously strong follow-up to the original.

The film even served as inspiration for 2004’s Shaun of the Dead (among countless others), which was as much a social commentary as it was a horror comedy. Watch it now on: Amazon

‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’

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How could we possibly leave out the iconic Star Wars franchise?

This 1980 space opera was released three years after the first groundbreaking film, Star Wars, and for many fans, it was the movie that brought them on board the sci-fi saga for the long haul. Set three years after the events of the original, it indelible characters like Yoda, who trains Luke Skywalker to fight the Galactic Empire, and Han Solo’s “old buddy” Lando Calrissian. There’s also the battle on Hoth, which gave us some of the franchise’s most memorable battle sequences.

Based on adjustments for inflation, The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most successful Star Wars films to date, and ranks as the 13th highest domestic-grossing film of all time.

Watch it now on:

Amazon

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