10 Sequels That Surpassed Their Originals

Lately, it seems everything coming out of Hollywood is either a sequel or a remake. This year alone we’ve already had Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Wall Street 2, Paranormal Activity 2, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Predators, Piranha 3D, Saw 3D, Step 3D, Resident Evil: Afterlife, The Girl Who Played With Fire, Shrek Forever After, Sex and The City 2, Robin Hood, Get Him to the Greek, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and The Karate Kid. Not to mention upcoming movies Tron: Legacy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, True Grit, The Dawn Treader and Little Fockers.

As you can see, that’s quite a list for just one year. I’m sure I missed something too. So, Hollywood is definitely no stranger to sequels. In fact, it’s become the go-to answer for many studios. The problem is most of the time these sequels turn out to be less than stellar movies that are simply made to cash in on a name. Too few and far between do we have truly good sequels that do the original any justice. That’s why, today, we’re going to go over sequels that have actually turned out better than their predecessor.

Now, when faced with the question: What sequels are better than their predecessor? Most people have an automated response. There’s a top 5 that are generally repeated ad nauseum when talking about this subject. You have your Wrath of Khan, T2, Godfather II, Aliens, Superman II and Empire Strikes Back. Granted, that’s because those go-to answers are truly great sequels that surpassed the originals and go down as great movies of cinema history. Today, however, we’re going to bypass those cliche answers and venture down a path of 10 not-so-commonly-named sequels that surpass their original.


10. The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne Ultimatum takes everything that made the franchise awesome, and cranks it up a notch. A non-stop thrill ride, The Bourne Ultimatum is grittier and more heart-pounding than its predecessors. Matt Damon turns in another excellent performance as assassin Jason Bourne in this smart thriller. The already vested interest of fans and the pedal-to-the-floor approach of this film made it arguably the best action film of 2007, and probably my favorite of the franchise.


9. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Guillermo del Toro returns in this sequel to bring the red beast back to us. Improving upon the original, Hellboy 2 is a beautiful movie that exhibits del Toro’s wonderful visual style. With plenty of the humor that the original had, the sequel delivers its laughs as well at the hands of Perlman’s wisecracks. All in all, Hellboy 2 proved to be a very deserving sequel that I personally enjoyed even better than the first (which I also liked).


8. The Devil’s Rejects
Being a fan of Rob Zombie’s music, I was excited to hear he was set to make a horror movie back in 2003. I just knew I was in for quite a disturbing treat. House of 1000 Corpses came out and it proved to be a pretty entertaining movie for a first-time director. Definitely not the greatest movie (most even hated it), but I did enjoy it and it showed Zombie had some potential. That potential in mind, I was definitely excited, if a bit anxious, when a sequel to House of 100 Corpses was announced. Cue The Devil’s Rejects. Zombie’s sophomore film and he shows in the two years that he had matured and developed as a filmmaker. This felt like a more polished and well done movie from Rob. A much more grittier and sadistic sequel, Devil’s Rejects proves to be an enjoyable genre film and a fine 70′s throwback movie.


7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon’s movies are classic 80′s movies. Christmas Vacation brings the endearing humor of European Vacation and Vacation and builds on it. Capturing the holiday spirit, while bringing plenty of laughs, Christmas Vacation has become one of those perennial must-see movies come Christmas time. The addition of Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie alone builds on the laughs of the franchise and takes it to another level. While I’ve enjoyed them all (then again, the newest Vacation sequel they’re working on sounds bad), Christmas Vacation still stands as my favorite of the Vacation series and holds such great nostalgic value to me.


6. Desperado
I enjoyed the Mexico Trilogy. While El Mariachi was an enjoyable film, Desperado is what truly made the franchise. The addition of Antonio Banderas, I believe, took this franchise to a completely different level. Much slicker than its predecessor, Desperado is an incredibly fun shoot-em-up movie. While a bit shallow at times, Desperado proves to doubly improve upon El Mariachi and delivers an enjoyable and exhilarating action-thriller that still stands as my favorite of the trilogy.


5. Back to the Future II
This is the one that will probably see me catching a lot of shit. However, I gotta say, Back to the Future II was better than the original. I absolutely loved the first Back to the Future, but I feel the sequel upped the stakes even more. It built upon the humor of the first, plus delivered an intelligent and fun movie at the same time. The way the story wove itself into the original proved this was not just another “cash-in sequel”. The scenes of Marty McFly ducking and hiding from himself, trying to ensure the past-future-Marty didn’t see him at the dance….all just ingenious. On top of that, we got to see a really cool look (at the time) of a future world full of flying cars and skateboards. It also “predicted” such technologies as the use of ubiquitous cameras, flat panel TVs, watching multiple channels at once amongst other things. While many claim part 2 to be just a cheesy rehash, I believe Back to the Future 2 took everything from the first and built upon it, delivering a very fun and thrilling ride.


4. Kill Bill 2
Technically, you can argue that this isn’t a sequel being as how Kill Bill was originally shot to be one film, but was split in two due to being too long. To that I say…to hell with it. It DID end up being released as a separate movie, so I’m treating it as a separate movie, thus it’s a sequel and you’ll have to deal with that. Kill Bill 2 was a complete turnaround from Kill Bill 1. With MUCH less violence and action, Kill Bill 2 delivered much more on substance than its predecessor. While the violence of Kill Bill 2 was less in quantity than Part 1, the impact of it seemed to hit even harder than it did in the first movie. Overall though, Kill Bill 2 was much more about substance than the style-filled Kill Bill 1. In fact, looking back that’s exactly how I see the story: Part 1 was all about paying homage to the action and style of old kung fu movies and westerns, whereas the second took a contrary approach to pay homage to the storytelling of such films. Creating a yin to Kill Bill 1‘s yang, Kill Bill 2 proved to be more heart-felt and passionate in its story-telling. For this reason it trumped the first for me and proved to be an excellent conclusion to the tale of the Bride.


3. Clerks II
Clerks is a definite cult classic. Coming from Kevin Smith, it was expected Clerks II would meet expectations. However, for me it went beyond that and even surpassed the original Clerks. Bringing the same raunchy and crude humor, and also mixing in plenty of heart, Clerks II delivers in all areas. This movie had me laughing at loud till my sides hurt in many scenes throughout the film. For fans of Kevin Smith, Clerks II brought everything we’ve grown to love from the director and built upon it delivering a very suitable and even thought-provoking swansong for Randall and Dante. Clerks II was arguably Kevin Smith at his finest. Delivering juvenile antics and humor, yet backing it all up with true substance to carry the film and keep it from being just another shallow and tasteless film, Clerks II definitely takes a step above the original for me.


2. The Dark Knight
When Nolan landed the job of rebooting Batman, we were all treated to a fresh take on the superhero when Batman Begins hit theaters. Taking a darker and grittier approach to the comic book lore, Nolan delivered one of those better comic book films that had quality substance to back the style and action of the genre. Then along came The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight seemingly improved in all imaginable areas. Truly building on the franchise, The Dark Knight set the bar for comic book films. It ascended beyond that “it’s a comic book movie” to truly being a great crime-thriller film with complexity and substance. Fueled by the incredible performance of Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight delivers on so many levels and has such layers of ingenuity to it that truly display the brilliance of Nolan. At this point, I can only imagine (eagerly) how well The Dark Knight Rises will fare and what Nolan has in store for us.


1. The Silence of the Lambs
I’m not even entirely sure most people realize The Silence of the Lambs is a sequel. Albeit, it’s not a sequel in the truest form, nonetheless this is a sequel to Manhunter in which Brian Cox played the cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lecter. Essentially, I think The Silence of the Lambs is the trump card of sequels that surpassed their originals. Nobody thinks Brian Cox when thinking of Hannibal Lecter. It’s always Anthony Hopkins that comes to mind when thinking of the cannibalistic killer. Silence of the Lambs made Hannibal Lecter a household name and a virtual cultural icon. With brilliant performances by Foster and Hopkins as well as 5 Oscars (Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay), there’s no wonder why Silence of the Lambs truly stands as being greater than its often-forgotten predecessor and arguably as the epitome of what a sequel truly should be.

So there you have it: 10 sequels that surpassed their originals in my opinion. I’m not saying these are the best sequels of all-time, however, simply giving a different look at “better sequels” than the often-repeated list that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Have any other sequels you liked more than the original? Or just plain feel that something on this list completely tarnishes my taste in movies? Then feel free to share your thoughts and let me know about some of your favorites.

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  1. Josh says:

    Decent list but I fear you missed out on 1 MAJOR movie – Aliens. Far superior to the original in every way imaginable.

    • JL says:

      Yea, that was kind of my point. I wanted to stay away from the “major” ones. This would include Aliens, Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back and the others I mentioned in the introduction as being the “go-to answers” for a list like this. Rather, I wanted to concentrate on those that are those major ones, that don’t get the attention like the others do.

  2. Keltari says:

    Hellboy 2 was nowhere near as good as HB1. Kill Bill 2 was boring. Clerks 2 was simply awful.

    • Josh Lyons says:

      Hellboy showed many advances over the previous. While I may agree the writing for part 1 may have been a bit better, part 2 made up in other ways like the more fully imagined world and better construction. Hellboy 1 was Del Toro on a leash. Hellboy 2 was the great director allowed to do his thing.

      Kill Bill is a matter of preference I think. As I said, the two take different paths. So, if action and kick-assery is your thing, then Part 1 it is. But if you prefer a more deliberate, slow-burn thriller based on plot and dialogue, then 2 would be the one.

      As for Clerks 2, I fail to see how anyone could like the first but not the second.

  3. Adam Armory says:

    Absolute blasphemy that Terminator 2 is not on this list.

  4. drew says:

    Ummm, Empire Strikes Back?

    • Josh Lyons says:

      Read the preface :D

      This isnt meant to be a “best sequels” list, rather a list of good sequels beyond the typical go-to answers.

  5. Chip says:

    I’m glad you included B2F2. It has it’s problems, Zemekis and Gale stated that had they known that they were ever going to do a sequel they wouldn’t have boxed themselves into a corner by having to solve the problem of “you’re kids Marty!” etc.
    So the “future sequence” is the weakest but the mission in alternate 1985 and returning to 1955 was very clever for a sequel.
    I recall audiences not “getting it” which I found amazing. The time travel is spelled out perfectly by Doc on the chalkboard, it always made sense to me.
    Good inclusion for an overlooked sequel.

  6. Twinkie Bandit says:

    I thought Spiderman 2 was better than the first one. But I guess that’s another “go to”.

    Then there’s the classic Vincent Price “Dr Phibes” pair. Both are great, but Dr Phibes Rises Again was just a tad better with more black humor.

    And how can we forget James Whales 1935 Bride of Frankenstien? THAT’S FRAUNKENSTEIN!

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