When a movie is a spellbinding success, many filmmakers to try to keep the franchise alive and rekindle the magic with movie sequels. Since the first movie has already captured a die-hard fan base, a follow-up often seems like a sure-fire financial bet.
Some movie sequels manage to offer another round of pure movie magic. A few of these successful ones often captivate fans with an enthralling plot, a combination of familiar elements from the first movie, or add a fresh, innovative twist.
Still, some sequels fail to live up to the hype, either because the script was written in as a shameless cash grab, or the original actors or directors can’t live up to the potential.
However, there are still some movie sequels which manage to buck the trend and become better than the original. From modern-day thrillers to superhero franchises or classic westerns, some movie sequels managed to captivate the audience once again and even add value to the franchise. So being movie buffs, we’ve ranked the greatest movie sequels of all time!
40. The National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
While it may be rare for a comedy sequel to surpass the sequel, many felt that the third installment of the National Lampoon’s series is the greatest of the trilogy. This is mainly because the Christmas Vacation comedy road-trip offers pure holiday magic and widely viewed as the funniest in the franchise.
Ever since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was released in 1959, it became an iconic Christmas classic. Fans loved that it brought back their favorite characters, including Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid. The movie offers a hilarious plot and comedy timing, and many younger fans can enjoy this re-watchable classic today.
39. How to Train Your Dragon 2
This animated fantasy adventure sequel was released four years after the original. It opened to a great reception and many fans and critics alike raved about it. Most agreed it was more emotionally resonant than the first movie in the series.
Some fans praised the hypnotizing animated dragon sequences, spectacular effects, and action-filled battles. However, fans were also thrilled that it also paused to dive deeper into the storyline and plot, and develop the romance between Gerard Butler’s Stoick and Cate Blanchett’s Valka.
38. Thor: Ragnarok
In 2017 Marvel released the next edition of the iconic American superhero series, “Thor: Ragnarok“. Whilst the first and second Thor movies didn’t receive as much critical acclaim as they had hoped, this movie offered a fresh new direction under the guidance of Taika Waititi.
When the movie was first screened in cinemas, it opened to a great reception from fans. Many praised it for offering action-packed sequences, a great cast, pinch humor and an enthralling plot. So this sequel is widely hailed as the best in the series.
37. Dawn of the Dead
“The Dawn of the Dead” was released in 1978, as the next much-anticipated installment of the zombie-horror “Night of the Living Dead” series. This is a sequel was a huge commercial success and was even more profitable than the first movie for a few reasons.
Although the second movie in George Romero’s series shares no similar cast members with the first, Rotten Tomatoes hailed it as one of the most ‘compelling and entertaining zombie films ever made’. That’s because of the gripping plot, compelling characters and the way it manages to bring the zombie apocalypse story to life was ahead of its time.
36. Before Midnight
As the second chapter in the US romantic drama trilogy, “Before Midnight” was released nine years after the prequel, “Before Sunset“. Although some were skeptical at first, it managed to flow beautifully from the first movie. It returns to the same relationship nine years later and captures how the romance changes.
Fans were thrilled that the movie brought back the central characters, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, allowing them to feel more emotionally connected to the story. Understandably, the movie was a huge box office success and was nominated for numerous awards.
35. Paddington 2
Based on the classic story of Paddington Bear, fans were delighted when Paddington 2 debuted in 2017. Many agreed that Hugh Grant’s performance as the villain who tried to thwart Paddington’s plans helped bring the story to new heights.
The movie was a commercial hit, grossing $226 million in the box office. It won the hearts of fans, with a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One critic even hailed how “Paddington 2 is the Godfather Part II of Peruvian Bear movies.”
34. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In 2000, the first movie in the iconic Harry Potter franchise was released. The film managed to bring Harry Potter’s world to life for the big screen and was a spellbinding success. So when the sequel “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets” debuted in 2002, it had big boots to fill. Thankfully, the second film was another record-breaking box office hit.
While the first movie introduced us to Harry and the world of witchcraft and wizardry, the second movie brought back much of the same cast, like Daniel Radcliffe and explored the story in greater depth. It was also offered spectacular effects and many new characters, so avid fans felt this was the best in the franchise.
33. Fast Five
When “Fast Five” first raced into the box office, many fans felt that this was the greatest movie in the “Fast and the Furious” series. This was mainly because it brought all the former beloved characters together and tied the loosely connected story about drag races together. Fans felt that this was the sequel that helped cement the success of the Fast and Furious franchise.
The movie featured many of the favorite cast members in the Fast family, including Vin Diesel. Paul Walker and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Fans loved the on-screen family chemistry in this movie, as well as the outrageous stunts, action sequences and classic humor to match.
32. Pink Panther: A Shot in the Dark
“A Shot in the Dark” is the second installment of the classic Pink Panther film series. The film featured Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau who managed to charm fans with his comedic timing and exaggerated French accent.
When the sequel was first released in theatres, it opened to mixed reviews. However, over time it managed to garner more critical acclaim. Now the movie is now widely considered by fans to be the strongest entry in the Pink Panther franchise and has a massive 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
31. 22 Jump Street
As the sequel to “21 Jump Street“, this American buddy cop comedy sequel managed to be a huge box office success. Many fans were won over again by the movie’s charms and some felt the film was even wittier and hilarious as the first.
“22 Jump Street” features a starry lineup, including Channing Tatus, Ice Cube, and Peter Stormare, and had all the ingredients for an entertaining success. On Rotten Tomatoes, critics even said, “Boasting even more of the romantic chemistry between its stars, and even more of the goofy, good-natured humor that made its predecessor so much fun, 22 Jump Street is the rare sequel that improves upon the original.”
30. Rush Hour 2
After the box office success of the first “Rush Hour” movie, the anticipated second installment was released in 2001. Many fans felt that this action-packed martial arts sequel was even better than the first and it managed to break a few box office records.
“Rush Hour 2” still retained much of the charm of the first movie and allowed fans to follow the on-screen chemistry of the stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Still, it took everything to the next level and offered fans plenty of martial arts action, comedic one-liners and memorable moments.
29. Shrek 2
When the animated comedy classic Shrek first hit the cinemas in 2001, it was a spellbinding success and won scores of fans around the world. So although it was expected that the sequel had all the ingredients for a big hit, it actually surpassed the first and became one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time.
The sequel was a big hit as it continued to break fairytale traditions, offered a heartwarming plot and even more special effects. Fans were also pleased that it featured many of the same all-star cast as the first, including Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, plus some new voices, like Antonio Banderas.
28. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was the third installment of the iconic action-adventure franchise. In the movie, Harrison Ford famously reprised the role of Indiana and many fans were so gripped by the plot, that it’s generally viewed as the best in the trilogy.
The sequel is set in pre-war 1938 and follows Harrison Ford as he searches for the Holy Grail. While the movie treated to fans to a worthy action-packed adventure, it also featured Sean Connery as Indy’s father, which added an extra dynamic to the film.
27. The Color of Money
“The Color of Money” is an iconic movie sequel released in 1986, which was an astonishing 15 years after the prequel, “The Hustler“. Fans were thrilled that Paul Newman reprised his role from the first movie to continue the story of a ‘pool hustler’ in this American drama.
The sequel became an instant hit for a few other reasons, including the addition of Tom Cruise, which made for an all-star cast. The other ingredient was that it was famously directed by Martin Scorsese, and offered fans a compelling and entertaining plot.
26. Kill Bill Volume 2
Incredibly, the second movie in Quentin Tarantino’s iconic Kill Bill franchise was actually produced simultaneously with the first. The original plan was to combine it into one masterful production, but it would have made it too long.
So it might come as no surprise that the sequel to the epic martial art movie starring Uma Thurman, flows perfectly from the first. Roger Ebert later said, “Put the two parts together, and Tarantino has made a masterful saga… This is all one film, and now that we see it whole, it’s greater than its two parts.”
25. Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear
As the second installment in the Naked Gun franchise, this movie saw Leslie Neilsen return for another round of detective work as the comic and goofy Lieutenant. Evidently, the movie was another huge hit and Leslie continued to charm fans with his charismatic performance.
The Naked Gun franchise was well-known for providing an entertaining mix of slapstick comedy. The second movie sequence didn’t reinvent the series, but continued the same successful formula and was filled with plenty of hilarious and unforgettable moments.
24. 28 Weeks Later
In 2002, the first British post-apocalyptic horror movie was released, named “28 Days Later“. Following its gripping success, in 2007 the producers brought out a sequel, “28 Weeks Later“. The second film in the franchise was set 28 weeks after the events of the first film.
The second film follows an entirely new cast of people, and fans felt that it more than lived up to the hype of the first one. Starring the likes of Robert Carlyle, this movie follows as the characters try to save everyone from the outbreak of another raging virus. The movie has earned cult status in the zombie genre and is just as fondly remembered as the first one.
23. Back to the Future Part II
Following the box office success of the first movie, in 1989, everyone’s favorite time-traveling duo came back to the future, for another chance to change their destinies. While the first movie time-traveled to the 1950s to help change the present, this sequel traveled 30 years in the future to help save Marty McFly’s future family.
The second installment offered a gripping continuation of the story and brought back the beloved characters for fans. It also offered futuristic effects and predicted a surprising amount of future technology that we use today. This sequel holds a nostalgic place for fans and tied the story together perfectly, before transporting us straight into the third part of the trilogy.
22. Lethal Weapon 2
Two years after the first blockbusting “Lethal Weapon” movie, fans were overjoyed that the loveable detective duo, played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, returned to our screens for another comedy cop action movie classic, “Lethal Weapon 2“.
When the sequel hit the box offices, it grossed over $120 million worldwide. Many fans loved that it featured all the loveable elements from the first movie, the detective duo are still hilariously mismatched, the plot was filled with action and was arguably funnier than the first movie.
21. Aliens 2
As the second chapter of the Aliens franchise, many fans agreed that “Aliens 2” was an unrivaled hit and managed to surpass the first movie in nearly every way. Even though Ridley Scott decided not to return to direct this film, James Cameron managed to step up to the challenge and filled his directing boots with style.
Thankfully, the science-fiction action horror movie still featured Sigourney Weaver, and most agreed that she was the magic ingredient for a sure-fire hit. So fans were glad that she reprised her role and returned to the moon for another round of alien action
20. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
When “Mad Max 2” first hit theatres in 1981, it was an instant international success and generated much critical acclaim. Most fans felt that it lived up to the insane hype and was even more successful than the first iconic Mel Gibson movie.
This post-apocalyptic movie managed to capture everything fans loved about the first one and took it to the next level. The film is even more action-packed than the first, offering more impressive effects and innovative choreography that audiences hadn’t seen before.
19. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
If you’re familiar with the Marvel cinematic universe, you might notice that it’s saturated with superhero sequels. Some of the sequels are more stand-out than others, like this one, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“.
Many avid fans of the Captain America franchise felt that this movie was the most significant and memorable This was because it introduced us to many crucial and beloved characters, offered spectacular effects and helped provide the setting for the next movie in the sequence, “Captain America: Civil War“.
18. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
When the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” sequel first aired in the cinemas in 2014, it was an instant hit. Many fans even argued that it was the most emotionally deep, gripping and philosophical movie in the Planet of the Apes series.
The movie was praised its emotional depth, thrilling plot, cast, cinematic effects, and action sequences. Many also honored Matt Reeves for its direction and Andy Serkis for his emotive performance as Caesar the ape.
17. Toy Story 2
While fans may find it difficult to choose between “Toy Story 2″ and “Toy Story 3“, it’s because both sequels were instant animated successes. They both managed to captivated audiences around the world and allowed us to follow our favorite toy characters, Woody and Buzz Light Year on their adventures. Still, “Toy Story 2” managed to set itself apart.
Interestingly, this was supposed to be a straight-to-DVD release, but Disney decided to upgrade it to a cinematic release, so the plot had to be redeveloped. When the movie hit cinemas in 1999, it surpassed expectations and became one of the highest grossing movies ever. It also received much acclaim and is considered as the greatest animated movies ever produced.
16. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Hellboy is another movie franchise, where many fans felt that the sequel was better than the first. When the fictional supernatural superhero movie “Hellboy II” was first released in 2008, many agreed that it surpassed the first film in almost every way.
Evidently, many fans were more impressed by the second movie than the first, so the sequel was more successful in the box office too. This movie offered fans more fantastical sets, an enthralling plot and even spectacular special effects.
15. The Bourne Supremacy
When “Bourne Supremacy” first shot to the cinema in 2004, many fans felt that this sequel managed to perfectly capture the essence and all the elements that made the first movie, the “Bourne Identity” so great.
The iconic film brought back Matt Damon for an unforgettable, and action-packed sequel. While this Bourne movie does shatter the happy ending of the first one, it still captivates fans with an exhilarating plot and helps set the scene for the third sequel, “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the fourth”Jason Bourne“.
14. Spider-Man 2
While the first installment of the Marvel comics Spiderman trilogy helped establish the plot and introduce the characters, many fans felt that “Spiderman 2” offered more intense action. In fact, it’s widely considered the best reboot in the Spiderman franchise.
The reason this sequel is so popular is that it allowed Sam Raimi had free reign to dive into the plot, develop the storyline and it contained more intense action sequences. The movie also allowed fans to get to see the on-screen chemistry develop between Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and features some of the most iconic moments in Marvel history.
13. Mission Impossible – Fallout
As the sixth chapter of the American action spy movie series, “Mission Impossible – Fallout” has quickly become the highest-grossing film in the Mission Impossible franchise. The movie received much critical acclaim for its action-packed sequences, stunts (not Tom Cruise who did his own action sequences), direction, and cinematography.
“Fallout” continued to offer fans a star-studded cast, including Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg as well as a gripping and action-filled plot. Many fans have hailed it as the greatest movie in the franchise and some have ranked it as one of the best action movies of all time.
12. X2: X-Men United
A major reason why some of the sequels on our list are more successful than the original is that they manage to recreate some of the most successful elements of the first movie, and crank everything up a gear. One of these movies is “X2: Z-Men United“.
This Marvel sequel allowed fans to have another chance to get swept up in the X Men universe and gain a deeper insight into the characters. While fans were again gripped by the superhero plot, more mutants were introduced, which added more depth to the story.
11. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
As the second movie in the iconic fantasy adventure series, “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers“, quickly became a blockbusting success. It received much acclaim from critics, scored numerous accolades, and was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two Oscars for Best sound editing and best visual effects.
The movie continued to allow fans to get caught up in J R R Tolkien’s fantasy world again and brought back most of the beloved cast, including Elijah Wood. It continued to follow him and his pals on a quest to destroy the One Ring, but many fans preferred the sequel as it offered more emotional depth, action sequences, and spectacular cinematic effects.
10. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek is another science fiction TV and movie franchise with a cult fan following. So, in 1979, the movie “Star Trek” was released, it was widely expected to be a sure-fire hit. Still, while many fans were thrilled with the first film, it didn’t do as well in the box offices as the sequel.
When the second film in the Star Trek trilogy was released in 1982, it managed to break the record for the highest grossing movie on its opening weekend and is widely seen as more of an iconic classic than the first.
9. Superman II
When the iconic animated hero Superman soared onto our movie screens in 1978, it had all the ingredients for a sure-fire hit. The DC comic Superman franchise already had a cult following. Still, when “Superman II” was announced, they still had to ensure it lived up to the insane hype.
Despite some production issues, the sequel movie debuted in 1980. Thankfully it was able to rival the success of the first. The movie brought back the same loveable cast, including Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman. The plot and special effects still captivated fans, and they also threw a new iconic villain into the mix, called Zod.
8. The Silence of the Lambs
When the physiological thriller, “The Silence of the Lambs” was released in the box office in 1991, it was a sequel to the 1986 horror, “Manhunter“. The film opened to much critical acclaim and many fans felt that the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were unparalleled.
The movie quickly became one of the highest grossing films in the box office and amassed many awards. It is now seen as an iconic movie classic and regularly ranks as one of the most influential films of all time.
7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
As the second installment of the science-fiction action-movie franchise, this sequel managed to pull off an incredible feat and is widely considered as even more iconic than the first.
The sequel managed to recreate the magic and charm from the first movie, and fans were thrilled that Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his role. The plot follows him and Sarah Conner and her ten-year-old son, and the adventure is full of twists. It also featured a new liquid metal T1000 terminator, which is considered as one of the most iconic antagonists in movie history.
As the third chapter of Marvel’s Wolverine trilogy, when “Logan” was released in 2017, it received much critical acclaim. Starring Hugh Jackman, critics praised the movie for its emotional depth, direction and many fans crowned it as was one of the greatest superhero movies of all time.
The movie grossed high in the box office and was nominated for numerous awards. Many fans agreed that it returned to the roots of the franchise and offered a fitting end to the Wolverine trilogy.
5. From Russia With Love
Throughout the years, a great debated has arisen over which is the greatest Bond movie in the spy franchise, and who the best Bond hero is. However, most fans agree that the 1963 Bond movie “From Russia With Love“, starring Sean Connery is one of the most iconic movies of all time.
Many fans loved Sean Connery’s performance, and see him as the greatest 007 Bond agent in the series. The spy movie was also a big commercial success and received much critical acclaim for its action-packed plot and spectacular sequences.
4. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
If we neglected this western sequel from our list, as it might just be an insult to die-hard western fans. This iconic Clint Eastwood movie is the last part of the “Dollar” trilogy (following “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”), and some would argue that all three films are worthy of recognition, but this is a firm favorite for most fans.
This sequel managed to capture the attention of fans like no other, with a combination of cutting edge cinematography, stylistic gunfights and plenty of drama. Most would agree that this is the best of the three movies and helped cement Clint Eastwood’s status as a true star.
3. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
While the Star Wars franchise has been around since the 1970s, many die-hard fans have hailed “The Empire Strikes Back” as one of the greatest movies of all time, and the best Star Wars sequel ever produced.
As the second sequence in the epic intergalactic spaceship trilogy, the movie follows Luke Sky Walker and his pals, as they attempt to overcome Darth Vader’s empire. Fans were gripped by the epic plot, stunning effects, impressive set, and memorable and beloved characters, and it’s still an iconic movie classic today.
2. Dark Knight
Although the superhero Batman franchise has been an ongoing comic series since the 1930s, most die-hard fans insist that “Dark Knight” is arguably one of the best Batman movies ever produced. Some even hailed it as the greatest superhero film of all time.
When “Dark Knight” hit theaters in 2008, it featured gripping action, cutting-edge sequences, and an all-star cast, from Christian Bale to Morgan Freeman. However, Heath Ledger stole the show and offered an unparalleled performance as the Joker. Sadly he passed away before the movie was released, making the movie even more poignant for fans. Heath had received an Oscar (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role) for his role, making him the only actor to have won an award in this category after death.
1. The Godfather Part II
For most movie buffs, “The Godfather II” is widely crowned as the greatest movie sequel of all time. In fact, this American gangster crime drama classic regularly tops all the greatest cinematic lists, and for good reason.
Starring the likes of Robert De Niro and Al Capone, this movie continues to delve into the story of the Corleone crime family. Although it initially divided critics, it quickly amassed six Academy Awards. Many fans agreed that Al Pacino gave his best acting performance in this movie, and the sequel is widely seen as superior to the first in almost every way.