The summer movie season is winding to a close. Like most summers in the 21st Century, this summer has been one chock full of sequels. Much of the time, sequels are “meh” and fail to live up to the original. However, there are some sequels that manage to be on par, if not outshine the original film. So, without further ado, here are ten sequels better than the original. For simplicity, I am only considering direct sequels, i.e. the second film in a trilogy/franchise. However, I do have an article dealing with third films that is in the works, so don’t sweat it, Return of the King fans.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Terminator 2 (1991)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Hellboy II (2008)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
#10: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
Why does this movie exist?
I don’t understand why the studio chose to give Mamma Mia a sequel ten years after its initial release, but somehow it worked. The original film succeeded because ABBA has a plethora of catchy tunes. However, despite the potentially interesting premise, the movie falls flat on its face overall. The music is, again, catchy but it often feels forced. Certain plot points and characters only pop in so that they can rattle off a #1 hit or two as the main plot lulls. Another downfall to this film is the fact that the majority of its principle actors can’t sing, a fact which isn’t good when making a musical.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! fixes all of these faults that are present in its predecessor. It’s The Godfather Part II of musicals. By introducing younger versions of the original film’s characters, the film is able to ditch those who can’t hold a tune for those that can. Lily James and Amanda Seyfried shine in a film that acts as both sequel and prequel. Best of all, the music feels much less forced and flows into the story naturally. It probably won’t go down in history, but Here We Go Again! is certainly better than the original.
#9: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Remember when Captain America was lame? From 2011-2013, Steve Rodgers tied with Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye as your least favorite Avenger. Then, Marvel unleashed the Russo Brothers. Somehow the directors of You, Me, and Dupree created a film that is so much better than the original that it’s not even on the same level because they feel like drastically different franchises.
Nobody was prepared for the political action spy thriller that is The Winter Soldier. Grounding the world of super soldiers and flight suits with that of government organizations and hidden agendas. By giving Cap a dark side and upping the intensity of the action to 11, The Winter Soldier stands far above its predecessor, and Marvel films in general.
#8: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes franchise has a history of lackluster sequels. Of the four sequels that followed the 1968 original, none seemed to please audiences in the same way that the original does. Following a failed reboot in 2001, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes manages to succeed where others had not.
Returning to the character driven science fiction roots of the original, Rise grounds itself in its attention to character. The film acts as a decent re-entry into the franchise and science fiction in general. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes this investment into character to the next level and stands out as an action movie with a lot of substance. By remaining true to the core of the beloved original classic, but not being afraid to do something new, Dawn stands far above both its predecessor and its competition. Though it is arguably not better than the original, it is about as close as a film can get to touching a science fiction classic.
#7: X-Men: Days of Future Past
The X-Men movie to fix all X-Men movies, at least until Apocalypse screwed up the timeline again two years later.
Much like the Planet of the Apes prequels, the X-Men prequel trilogy is at least on par with, if not far superior to, its original films. By combining the original cast with their younger counterparts, this film also follows in the footsteps of The Godfather Part II. The film really stands out due to its redemptive arcs for Mystique and Magneto, along with its action packed violence via Wolverine. Coming on the heels of, and being better than the original prequel, Days of Future Past helped re-establish the franchise, while also giving life to Deadpool and Logan.
#6: Deadpool 2
Speaking of Deadpool, Deadpool 2 is still rife with the raunchy humor and over the top violence of the 2016 original. However, the film doubles down on the stylization of the action while easing up slightly on the raunchiness in order to deliver a more grounded and emotional story. Following the Merc with a Mouth as he grapples with the death of his girlfriend and struggles with the responsibility of parenthood, Deadpool 2 manages to not only be a superb film, but one that is also better than the original.
#5: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
This might be heresy to some of you, but The Last Jedi eclipses The Force Awakens by a mile. By abandoning the mystery boxes and by the numbers Star Wars antics of Episode VII, The Last Jedi subverts expectations and delivers something truly special. Rian Johnson delivers a film almost on par with The Empire Strikes Back, and certainly better than the original film in the trilogy.
While the film admittedly has its faults, its particular emphasis on character growth it was makes it stand out, that and the incredibly awesome Rey and Kylo versus the Praetorian Guards fight scene. Luke Skywalker gets an Obi-Wan-esque arc that is unfamiliar, yet deeply rooted in the core of his character. Rey and Kylo grapple with the burdens of destiny and decide differently on how to deal with the legacies, or lack their of, that they are bound to. Poe Dameron gets depth, and the resistance finds itself on the ropes. The Last Jedi takes new steps and injects a much-needed breath of fresh air into the franchise.
#4: The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II of Godfather movies. Admittedly, you can go either way on this one. Both Part 1 and Part II of the Godfather Trilogy are so near cinematic perfection that its nearly impossible to pick a clear winner here. However, the descent of Michael Corleone is juxtaposed with the ascent of his father in an incredibly meaningful and satisfying way here, and that is why I believe that Part II inches ahead slightly. The Godfather Part II is better than the original, but not overwhelmingly so.
Part of what makes this film work so well is that it originally acted as the closing end of a two-part story. As such, Michael’s story comes to a fairly concrete end. Much like the original, the film ends with Michael in isolation. Having been forced into the family business, he finds himself the only member of his family left, forced to carry the mafia on his own and estranged from all of who he was at the start of the first film.
#3: The Dark Knight
Do I even need to say anything about this film? It’s not only the best Batman movie, but its damn near the best superhero movie. It literally won an Oscar, that’s how good it is. Not one of the “popular movie” Oscars like Best Score or Best Visual Effects, but for Best Actor; making Heath Ledger the only actor to receive this award posthumously. Few films have ever managed to change a genre like this one.
This movie flips the six Batman films before it on their heads, and takes the character in a drastically different direction. The film is realistic, it’s dark, and it’s gritty like no other superhero film before it. The Dark Knight is better than the original in literally every way. However, on the down side, this movie would eventually lead to DC handing the reigns to Zack Snyder, so it loses a few points for that.
#2: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Empire takes everything you love about A New Hope and either freezes it in carbonite or cuts it in half. It boldly goes where no blockbuster had gone before, dark. The bad guy wins, and more than that, the good guys lose by a mile. Han is frozen and sold to a gangster. Luke has his hand lopped off and his heritage thrust upon him. Leia has her alliance reduced to a scattered fleet of ships.
Besides the twists and darker ending, Empire doubles down on everything that makes Star Wars incredible. The lightsaber duels are smoother and more ferocious, the space battles are “faster and more intense“, and Darth Vader is choking the daylights out of every misstepping officer in his wake. The Empire Strikes Back isn’t just one of the greatest sequels of all time, it is one of the greatest movies of all time. To simply state that this film is better than the original would be an understatement, it is superior in every way.
#1: Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 is my favorite movie. Sure, there are plenty of movies that are better acted/scripted/executed/etc, but to me, Spider-Man 2 is just something special. Following two years on the tail of Spider-Man, the sequel had a lot to live up to. Sam Raimi’s initial take on America’s favorite costumed New Yorker took the world by storm, being the first film to cross $100 million in its opening weekend, and holding the opening box office record for several years. Not only that, but the film proved that comic book movies could feel like comic book movies and still succeed. With over the top costumes, plot and performances, Spider-Man sets the tone for practically every Marvel film to come since.
Where Spider-Man succeeds by embracing its comic book cheesiness, Spider-Man 2 succeeds by blending it with grounded character work. Peter Parker becomes the focus of the film rather than Spider-Man. The film succeeds by presenting Peter Parker struggling with real world problems such as rent, love, and a job, while trying to balance his responsibilities as Spider-Man. This arc is rounded out by Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus, a scientist consumed by his duty to his work/responsibility.
Similar to The Empire Strikes Back, Spider-Man 2 ups the ante in nearly every way. The action is more intense and dangerous, especially the climactic train sequence. The effects are a step up from the original. The characters are much more fleshed out and dynamic with one another. Spider-Man 2 is just better than the original in every way.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any movies you would add to the list? Comment down below!
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