The 12 Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

Published 5 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 6:28 am,

Best Movie Sequels The 12 Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

Before I begin with this list of our favorite movie sequels, I want to stress this is strictly opinion and not fact. I hope the following will incite discussion and debate, but let it be known that no list is definitive. Having said that, let’s get it on!

In honor of Iron Man 2 releasing this weekend, it seemed right to come up with a list of cinema’s top sequels. Not to mention, there are endless movie sequels in the mix for the upcoming years.

While the top three picks on our list seemed obvious, setting even them in order was a tough task. More difficult was rounding out a top ten. So, instead of just going with the standard ten, we’ve extended our list to 12. Included are four costumed heroes, a couple evil empires and some computer-generated classics.

There is a little bit of a difference between a sequel that tops its predecessor in terms of quality, and one that is a self-contained stroke of genius. These twelve films on our list fit both qualifications. While we’d love to explore what made every fun sequel a hit – like Wayne’s World 2 and its Jurassic Park spoof – it seemed more efficient to stick to the sequels that may have come second in order, but are first in our hearts.

Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Mention Best Movie Sequels The 12 Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

A dilemma cropped up in creating this list. Silence of the Lambs is a cherished masterpiece of cinema, yet many don’t realize the story is technically a sequel. Michael Mann’s underrated film Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as the infamous Hannibal Lecter, tells the tale you may recall from Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon. Silence of the Lambs explores the events that follow Manhunter, but it is generally considered the original of its own trilogy. So does it belong on this list? Instead of letting that debate take over, it takes an honorable mention spot.

Also on the honorable mention list is Desperado, the quasi-sequel to El Mariachi. Both films, created by Robert Rodriguez, follow the same character (El Mariachi), but also overlap in story. With only $6,000, Rodriguez made the legendary El Mariachi and eventually acquired a budget to shoot his concept with Antonio Banderas as the lead in a wide-release film. So, Desperado both is and isn’t a sequel. For that we’ll keep it off the main list, but it has earned the right to be mentioned.

Ironically, all but the top two picks on our list are still running franchises or properties in the midst of a reboot. That just goes to show you the creativity and lasting effect the following narratives have had, and the captivating stories they tell.

#12) Mad Max 2, a.k.a. The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2 The 12 Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

“My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called “Max”. To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time…”

The first lines of Mad Max 2 give me chills every time. The first Mad Max was enjoyable enough, but it seemed to leave a young Mel Gibson in over his head. Only two years later, the Australian star showed up brilliantly in the sequel. The film felt more like the apocalyptic madness the first one missed at times. Don’t get me wrong, the first film has some great moments and feels like a revenge flick more than a Western, neither of which it claimed to be directly.

Maybe the first suffered from a limited release, while the second got wider exposure. Yet, when you watch the movies back-to-back there is a sensation that the first one can only prepare you for the sequel. The entire Mad Max franchise is a bit too B-movie to find its way higher on the list, but the second film deserves recognition as a vast improvement over the first.

#11) Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 The 12 Best Movie Sequels Ever Made

It is extremely difficult to convince yourself the second Toy Story is better than the original, but sometimes you just need to bite the bullet. Alone, the first is one of the best animated films ever, and was pivotal in ushering in the era of CGI animated features. Toy Story 2 improves upon the first in a number of ways, most impressively the animation. In only four years, from 1995 to 1999, the abilities of the Pixar artists to create their unique look while maintaining a level of total realism improved vastly.

More importantly, the story of the sequel deepens our relationship with the oddly relatable toys. The first shows how great life as a toy can be in a world where humans have a blind love of their toys, despite destructive lunatics like Sid. But in Toy Story 2, we get a sense of the uncontrollable lives of toys, which are so dependent upon people. What happens when maturing interests leave our toys helpless? It is more a second chapter than an extension of the first, which makes it a brilliant film in its own right.

With the quickly approaching Toy Story 3, the second film may not even end up being the best. But Toy Story 2 was evidence of an animation studio hitting its stride as one of the most formidable and dominating in its field. Thanks to the glory of the Toy Story franchise, Pixar has become as legendary as any studio in Hollywood.

Continue to the top 10 sequels…

« 1 2 3 4»

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. I loved The Bourne Supremacy

    • Hehe i had that exact same thought, damn do i love putting that movie on late in December and just feel the christmas spirit rise in me. Some people have A Wonderful Life as their christmas movie (as shown in NLCV! ;D), but to me that movie just spell christmas mood, and i live in Denmark :). The traditions may vary, but the spirit and mood still rings a bell for all of us living in the west :).

      Favorite Quote : “We’re gonna have a hap-hap-happiest christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny f*cking Kaye”


  2. I’m sorry you are all wrong, the greatest sequel ever has got to be national lampoons Christmas vacation.

  3. The greatest sequel ever has got to be national lampoons Christmas vacation.

  4. I would list the dark knight ahead of star wars but still good list

  5. In my opinion the Xmen and Spidey’s movies are good for “movies” they are far from being “movies from comic books”, but what Marvel did withThe Avengers was so beautiful that I believe we should put it on the top of the list, because it’s was unbelieveble to make five different films and then put all the stars together and make it work as it really did, just like in the comics… The perfect sequel.. Think about it…

    • This article was written in the summer of 2010, just in case you didnt know

  6. Someone needs to watch THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

  7. And what about Shrek 2?

  8. I object to The Lord of tr Rings: The Two Towers as being included in this list. This movie, and the novel it’s based on, is NOT a sequel. This three-part story was originally conceived and written as one epic novel, which the publisher broke down into three separate volumes, having deemed it too lengthy for one bound edition. Consequently, it was filmed in the same manner.

    A sequel should only be considered a continuation of an original, completed tale, not an intended continuation of the same story.

  9. I object to The Lord of tr Rings: The Two Towers as being included in this list. This movie, and the novel it’s based on, is NOT a sequel. This three-part story was originally conceived and written as one epic novel, which the publisher broke down into three separate volumes, having deemed it too lengthy for one bound edition. Consequently, it was filmed in the same manner.

    A sequel should only be considered a continuation of an original, completed tale, not an intended continuation of the same story.

  10. How could they overlook Back to the Future II?!? An absolutely brilliant riff in the margins of the original! (Only complaint: III wasn’t a great finish to the story started in II– and I guess II wasn’t really a true standalone, given that it flowed right into III.) The Two Towers, however well crafted, really wasn’t a standalone movie at all.

  11. Its far more accurate to address BTTF II and III in the same manner as TLOTR: The step Towers. They were presented and filmed as ongoing sagas. BTTF III is also not a sequel to Part II, it is a continuation. When the first Back to the Future was filmed, there was never any plans to continue the story. The ending of that film was made as a joke, and it was the studio who later decided to approach the creative team about making more. They conceived a lengthy story that was broken into two volumes, much the same as say, the last two Harry Potter films. Does anyone consider the last Harry Potter a sequel to the one before it? No, because it isn’t. Same with the else ond and third BTTF and the LOTR films.

  12. Very nice list of sequel movies these all sequels are big hits.
    most likely Toy story, Spider Man, nice sequels of movies, thanks for shearing this list with their trailer links.

  13. Good list. The only film I disagree with is X2: Xmen United. I did’t like the movie at all.

  14. This is a great list but why is lord of the rings up on here that was not a good movie at all and where is scream 2 on this list?I agree and the dark knight and the godfather part 2 deserve thew number 1 spots in general.

    • So Two Towers isn’t a good movie, but u think Scream 2 belongs on this list? What r u high? Scrarch that…high people luv LOTR. I Enjoyed Scream 2. I also enjoyed the 2nd Pirates movie(4 the most part), but neither would have any business on this list. I do think Empire should b ahead of Godfather. While I think Godfather is great, it got way too slow and boring at times. Empire was not only dramatic, like Godfather, but had better action and even humor, which Godfather had zero of. Not to mention, why did every Godfather movie have 2 start with a slow a** 20+ min wedding/celebration?

  15. You missed the best quote from Aliens:

    “Game over man, game over!”

  16. I would say that #2 and #3 are practically interchangeably brilliant, so your order is just as fine as the other way around.
    No question, the Godfather part II deserved and needed top spot. No one will argue that.
    Great list.

  17. Good list, but too literal … what about the sequel that’s the sequel to a sequel, one of the best movies ever made … and certainly a mile better than it’s sister you list here: lord of the rings 3, return of the king!? Note the symmetry, too: a third in series being best of series, this is probably the only ever such example and it compares nicely to the third in another series mentioned here: while mad max 2 was surely great and more or less equal to its predecessor, the third in the series, mad max 3: beyond thunderdome is one of the worst movies ever made. Worse than Twister. Worse than Halle Berry as a Bat-figure. Worse even than Halle Berry as Bond Girl. Rotten. There has to be some sort of special throne for Lord of the Rings 3!!

  18. Good list. Although Madagascar 2 was a pretty good sequel as well.

  19. Desperado is the best movie ever made…it is far better than any other movie at present i think

    • you think Desperado is better than The Godfather Part 2?

  20. What?! What about Evil Dead II?!

  21. one thing about mario puzo – his version of superman was pure camp . one scene had superman flying down to capture lex luther and it turns out to be popular bald cop of the time – kojak

    actually i think superman I is superior . the first film oozes charm and scale while the second film is cynical and its humour and tone often reaches the level of a roger moore/bond flick ( even has clifton james reprising his ‘sgt pepper’ from live and let die )

  22. I don’t fully agree with the second Godfather being THE best sequel of all time, but then again, I didn’t like the first film. I’m not saying it doesn’t belong on the list, it’s just never going to be number 1 for me.

    Reading the comments, though, apart from updating (We’re working on the second Avengers and Thor films now), this list may need to be expanded – there are a number of films people have been listing that fall more into “Family Friendly” or “Comedy” that never made the list in spite of fitting the minimums. Another suggestion: Rank of film series in terms of quality.

    • I think quality is subjective so difficult to rank – maybe rank in terms of awards ?

      • Not in terms of awards, specifically because while a few have achieved great success in awards, many that are fan-favorites don’t have awards. I’m thinking something more along the lines of a combination of critic and fan reviews, along with box office and media success. As fans we tend to get carried away, both with griping about what goes on within the realms we’re fans of, and with which franchise/character/etc would beat the other. Quality may be subjective, but there’s enough stats out there to pull a reasonable guesstimate.

        • yeah i agree – be interesting if the stats are easy to collate – ironically i think godfather II would be pretty high up there . I’d like to see a quick list of the sequels that tanked like Coccon the return or fly II or those that bought a franchise to an abrupt end

  23. where is “the passion of the christ II: crucify this!”??

  24. How is Back to the Future 2 not on this list?

  25. the worst ever american werewolf in pairs even if it did star gut patterson from that thing you do and starship troopers

    • sorry hit the wrong key guy guy patterson

    • I am going to defend “Werewolf” and throw one of my favorite series under the bus for worst sequel ever: Highlander. The first movie is the only one in the series is the only one worth watching – every movie that followed, save for “Endgame,” is, at best, mediocre ripoffs of the first.

      The worst of the bunch, though, is “Highlander 2: The Quickening,” the one I nominate for worst sequel ever, and with a few disastrous reasons. First, for whatever reason, they decided that the immortals on Earthwere really aliens forced to live there, and that their fight for “the prize” was really a trip back to their home planet – changing the continuity greatly from the first film, which was written as to be a one-off. Second, This story was mixed in with an evil corporation created specifically to save mankind but is now closing the earth off from the much-needed sunlight – especially since the holes in the atmosphere causing the problems had healed, killing the necessity of said corporation.

      The worst offense, however, was the waste of resources put into the film. Both of the returning characters from the first film, one of which was supposed to be dead, were boring and flat, excusable by some actors but inexcusable when one of them happens to be the original Bond, Mr. Sean Connery. The main bad guy in this film, while believably evil, was not very scary and equally as boring – again, excusable in some cases but not from a pro like Micheal Ironside. (I’m not wasting my time on John C. McGinley, as I’ve pretty much hated every character he’s played that I’ve seen.) The writing, where most of the fault lies, is difficult to place blame on, as production problems and the company financing the project yanking it out from the productions feet before it was finished.

      It has had 2 revisions since then, first by the director, removing as much of the continuity-screwing alien backstory as he could and adding a few deleted scenes, and later by the production team, revising special effects and fixing a few more things the director’s version didn’t. Both, admittedly, did the best with what they had, but even after they were finished with it, the best you got out of it was a more watchable, more tolerable suckfest.

      For comparison, “Mortal Kombat: Annhilation”, a series-killer for the franchise and another with similar hatred from fans, had the same level of acting, but out of less-talented individuals (The only one worth mentioning is Lambert’s replacement for Raiden, James Remar, who could have done much better – though I suspect the fault to be more due to the writing), and had better continuity to both the original film and the video games that were inspiration for it (in spite of the liberties taken. “The Crow: City of Angels”, the movie that sent future sequels direct-to-video, had similar acting and writing issues as MK:A, but had better continuity to the series, which like HL:II was mainly intended to be a one-off, not a series. Finally, “Queen of the Damned,” based loosely off of the second and third of the Vampire Chronicles and another series-killer, had made worse mistakes in continuity between films and source material than the rest on this list, yet had a more-believable Lestat than Mr. Cruise from “Interview,” a decent performance from Aaliyah, and – while changing from the books – more believable music and lyrics. (I’ll not debate the soundtrack, as there’s nothing new beyond the 5 songs created for the film.)

      Even Halloween III, which removed Micheal Myers from the film, didn’t screw with the continuity of the series as badly as HLII did. As for the Paris “Werewolf,” It was just a lackluster and boring film when compared to the original – continuity wasn’t messed up, and the special effects, while changing between the film, remained good examples of their respective crafts and set the bar for future films featuring werewolves.

      While HLII did not kill the franchise, it killed its chances of being taken seriously as a series by die-hard fans of the first film and made each future sequel more difficult to write and watch. It took the fourth film to connect the series out beyond two films. (One continuity is just the first two, one is the first and third, one is the first and fourth, and one is all of them minus the second.) If you do consider seeing it, see the original version as well as the most recent incarnation, but be forewarned: there aren’t too many people I know of who have not wanted their time and money back from watching this turd.

  26. One of the best sequels – not sure it would’ve made the top 12 – was Bride of Frankenstein – i remember watching the 2 originals back to back and ‘Bride’ took the story to a whole other level. Introducing humour but never denigrating the original concept – giving the monster a voice made him even more potent and making Elsa Lancaster the bride and Mary Shelley at the beginning was a nice touch