12 Sequels That Are Better Than the Originals

These 12 sequels were better than the original movies.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Better Than the Originals

Image of X2
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Sequels are exciting; there's no doubt about that – especially when the movie that came before them was enjoyable. Far more often than not, however, they're nowhere near as good as their predecessor.

But now and again, a sequel will hit the big screen that surpasses the original movie, taking audiences pleasantly by surprise.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

1. The Godfather Part II (1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola)

Model of Marlon Brando in the Godfather movies
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The quintessential “better than the original” sequel, the epic crime movie The Godfather Part II is arguably the best movie of all time. It is both a sequel and prequel to The Godfather (1972). It follows Michael Corleone as the new Don of the Corleone family and Vito Corleone from childhood in Sicily to founding his family enterprise in New York City.

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1. The Godfather Part II (1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola)

Image from the Godfather II
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This movie has some astonishing acting performances (Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are spectacular), exemplary cinematography, and a genuinely gripping story. It's tense, emotional, and ambitious. Frankly, it's a pioneering work of art.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

2. The Dark Knight (2008, directed by Christopher Nolan)

Christian Bale in the Dark Knight
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Based on the stories of DC Comics superhero BatmanThe Dark Knight is the sequel to the brilliant Batman Begins (2005). An action thriller, it sees Batman, Police Lieutenant James Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent joining forces to stop organized crime in Gotham City. However, their efforts get interrupted by the emergence of a chaotic criminal mastermind, the Joker.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

2. The Dark Knight (2008, directed by Christopher Nolan)

Image of the Joker from the Dark Knight
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The Dark Knight transcends the superhero genre to become a brilliant movie by any genre's standards. It's dark, gritty, and intense, with many fantastic performances from its ensemble cast. The late Heath Ledger is incredible as the Joker – a role for which he posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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3. Toy Story 2 (1999, directed by John Lasseter)

Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story 2
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The sequel to the extraordinary Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2, is another computer-animated movie by Pixar. When the pull-string cowboy rag doll Woody is stolen by a toy collector, the astronaut action figure Buzz Lightyear and his friends set off to rescue him. However, Woody finds himself tempted by the idea of immortality in a museum.

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3. Toy Story 2 (1999, directed by John Lasseter)

Image of Woody and Jessie from Toy Story 2
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Toy Story was a perfect movie, so how can it be bettered? Simple! Toy Story 2 is also an excellent movie. Still, it has more characters, a deeper exploration of existing characters, and even more exciting action. The story is inventive, the animation is beautiful, and the talented voice cast gives it their all. It's a genuinely charming movie.

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4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, directed by the Russo Brothers)

Image from Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Image Credit: Marvel Studios.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) is hugely underrated, but it's still relatively pedestrian by superhero movie standards. However, its sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is brilliant. It's an espionage thriller that sees Cap teaming up with Black Widow and Falcon to battle a mysterious new threat: the assassin known as the Winter Soldier.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, directed by the Russo Brothers)

Image from Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Image Credit: Marvel Studios.

Like The Dark Knight before it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier transcends the superhero genre to become an excellent movie in its own right. It's grounded, politically astute, teeming with suspense, and ably performed by its outstanding cast. In addition, the old-school action will have you breathless and sitting on the edge of your seat.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios.

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, directed by James Cameron)

Image from Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

A sci-fi action flick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is a sequel to The Terminator (1984). In this installment, the evil artificial intelligence Skynet sends an advanced liquid metal Terminator back in time to kill John Connor – the future leader of the human resistance – as a child. However, the resistance sends back a reprogrammed older Terminator model to protect John and save humanity.

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, directed by James Cameron)

Image from Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

The Terminator was a fantastic movie, and this sequel only really surpasses it because of one thing: special effects. The original feels dated at times – especially in one scene involving a prosthetic face – whereas this one still looks fantastic today. It's genuinely emotional, the action is relentless, and Robert Patrick is a brilliant villain.

Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

6. Aliens (1986, directed by James Cameron)

Image from Aliens
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

The sequel to the classic sci-fi horror movie Alien (1979), Aliens again follows Ellen Ripley. When communication with a human colony on the moon (on which her crew first encountered the alien creatures) is lost, Ripley returns to the site with a troop of hardened Colonial Marines to investigate why.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

6. Aliens (1986, directed by James Cameron)

Image from the movie Aliens
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

This installment ramps things up a little and teeters into outright action territory. The superior special effects, relentless thrills and scarer (though not as intense and less “pure horror”), and Colonial Marines are welcome additions to its predecessor. It's simply more of an enjoyable ride than Alien.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

7. Shrek 2 (2004, directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon)

Shrek and Fiona from Shrek 2
Image Credit: Dreamworks.

Loosely based on the 1990 picture book by William Steig, Shrek 2 is a sequel to the beautiful computer-animated comedy Shrek (2001). This installment sees Shrek and Donkey team up with Puss in Boots to foil the Fairy Godmother's plans to ruin the new marriage of Fiona and Shrek.

Image Credit: Dreamworks.

7. Shrek 2 (2004, directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon)

Donkey from Shrek 2
Image Credit: Dreamworks.

With more weird and wonderful characters than the original, equally beautiful aesthetics, and some brilliantly zingy and witty topical humor, Shrek 2 just about edges out its predecessor. Viewers of all ages can enjoy this movie – it's entertaining from start to finish.

Image Credit: Dreamworks.

8. X2 (2003, directed by Bryan Singer)

Image from X2
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

X2 – also known as X-Men 2 and X2: X-Men United – is the sequel to the brilliant X-Men (2000). Inspired by the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, it sees Colonel William Stryker leading an assault on Professor Xavier's school. The X-Men must then join forces with their enemies – the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants – to thwart Stryker and save mutant-kind.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

8. X2 (2003, directed by Bryan Singer)

Image from X2
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

This movie has a great story, a tight script, strong acting performances, and tonnes of action. It's bigger and better than X-Men in every conceivable way. The emotional themes in X2 resonate with billions of people in the real world – and that's extremely rare in a superhero movie of this nature.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

9. Scream 2 (1997, directed by Wes Craven)

Neve Campbell in Scream 2
Image Credit: Dimension Films.

The sequel to Scream (1996), Scream 2, takes place two years after the original. The story follows Sidney Prescott and other survivors of the Woodsboro massacre as they attend fictional Windsor College in Ohio. While there, they find themselves targeted by a copycat killer using the same Ghostface guise as the killers in the first movie.

Image Credit: Dimension Films.

9. Scream 2 (1997, directed by Wes Craven)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Scream 2
Image Credit: Dimension Films.

This entry is arguably the narrowest improvement on the original movie on our list. Much like the first installment, Scream 2 combines slasher horror with comedy, satire, and murder mystery elements. Yet, it has the bonus of being able to satirize the cliché of movie sequels, which makes it even more meta than its predecessor.

Image Credit: Dimension Films.

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004, directed by Sam Raimi)

Image from Spider Man 2
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

The sequel to Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2, is set two years after its predecessor. It sees Peter Parker struggling to juggle his personal life and life as a superhero. Meanwhile, his mentor – scientist Dr. Otto Octavius – becomes a tentacled supervillain after a failed experiment kills his wife. Spider-Man must stop him while dealing with an existential crisis that causes his powers to fail.

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004, directed by Sam Raimi)

Image from Spider Man 2
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Spider-Man 2 is probably the best pure comic book movie ever made. Alfred Molina is superb as Doctor Octopus, and the deeper emotional focus makes the film a more riveting viewing experience than Spider-Man. The special effects still look great today, and the action is fantastic.

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

11. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, directed by Irvin Kershner)

Image from The Empire Strikes Back
Image Credit: LucasFilm Ltd.

The Empire Strikes Back – or, to give it its full name, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back – is the sequel to the sci-fi classic Star Wars (1977). It's an epic space opera set three years after its predecessor. It chronicles the battle between the evil Galactic Empire and the noble Rebel Alliance. It also sees Luke Skywalker training to master the Force so he can confront Darth Vader.

Image Credit: LucasFilm Ltd.

11. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, directed by Irvin Kershner)

Image from The Empire Strikes Back
Image Credit: LucasFilm Ltd.

A darker, more mature movie than Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Back stripped the franchise of its innocence in the best way. It's a visually stunning movie full of bold colors, which aids its appeal. The cast performs wonderfully, and the action scenes are superb.

Image Credit: LucasFilm Ltd.

12. Top Gun: Maverick (2022, directed by Joseph Kosinski)

Image from Top Gun: Maverick
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The final entry is the most recent movie on the list – and one that was 36 years in the making. Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to Top Gun (1986). The story picks up with Pete Maverick as he reluctantly returns to the Top Gun program as an instructor. There he must train a group of young pilots – including the son of his deceased best pal – and confront his past.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

12. Top Gun: Maverick (2022, directed by Joseph Kosinski)

Image from Top Gun: Maverick
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

As revered as Top Gun is, it's not that great of a movie. However, the sequel completely blows it out of the water in every respect. Tom Cruise arguably gives his best performance. Breathtaking flying sequences and a new roster of fascinating young pilots come together to create a wildly entertaining movie.

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Kev is a UK-based sport and entertainment writer - a job he's been doing full-time since 2013. He's produced content for a wide variety of websites and publications all over the world. He's a huge movie fan with a particular love for horror, superhero movies and 80s movies. For his sins, Kev is a fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.