Common wisdom says that movie sequels are always worse than the originals. Well, common wisdom is wrong. Over the last forty or so years, there has been plenty of reboots, sequels, remakes and prequels and some of them were actually pretty good.
We already explored some of the best movie prequels as well as the best remakes out there. Today we’re taking a look at the best sci-fi sequels. Even if we exclude the superhero movies – which deserve their own list – we had no trouble compiling Screen Rant’s list of 10 Best Science Fiction Sequels of All Time.
10. RoboCop 2
Directed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven in 1987, RoboCop was a brutal action movie about Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a cop brought back from the brink of death and remade into a titular cyborg policeman. Amid all the chases and explosions, RoboCop also shows viewers satirical dystopian future in which huge corporations run the derelict slums of Detroit. It is a world not unlike one presented in sci-fi novels of William Gibson and other cyberpunk writers.
Three years later, RoboCop 2 aimed for a similar mix of violence and dark humor, with uneven results. The movie was directed by Irvin Kershner, who previously worked on Empire Strikes Back. RoboCop 2 lacked Verhoeven’s edge, but at least it had a dark, weird and deliberately provocative screenplay by Frank Miller, the comic book writer known for his earlier work on Daredevil and Batman comics, who later helped to write and direct Sin City with Robert Rodriguez.
2010 is a decent sci-fi film that is, unfortunately, also a sequel to one of the greatest movies ever made: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Loosely based upon Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2010: Odyssey Two, the movie tells a story about a combined Soviet-American space crew sent to investigate mysterious occurrences on Jupiter and its moon Europa in the wake of the disastrous expedition from the first film.
2010 was directed by Peter Hyams, a filmmaker who made a number of sci-fi movies throughout his career, such as Capricorn One (1978), Outland (1981) and Timecop (1994). It also features a solid cast, including Academy Award nominees Roy Scheider and John Lithgow as well as Academy Award winner Helen Mirren. Released in 1984, 2010 was met with positive reviews and was a modest box office success, but it never reached the iconic status of its predecessor.
8. Bride of Frankenstein
English filmmaker James Whale directed three classic horror movies: Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Whale also brought to the silver screen the iconic performance of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster and helped usher in the golden age of the 1930s Universal horror movies.
Although Frankenstein was a big success, it took some convincing by the Universal Pictures executives to convince James Whale make a sequel. Feeling that he couldn’t possibly top the first movie, Whale instead filmed Bride of Frankenstein as a campy dark comedy. Its story followed diabolical Dr. Septimus Pretoris (Ernest Thesiger) as he convinces Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to resume his experiments in re-animation and build a female version of The Monster (played by Elsa Lanchester). With its potent mix of horror and morbid humor, Bride of Frankenstein is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original.
During its initial 2002 TV run, the sci-fi series Firefly proved itself a hard sell with its unusual blend of space opera and western. Low ratings and executive meddling doomed Firefly to cancelation after its first season. But in this Age of the Geek, fan favorites are sometimes revived. While shows like Arrested Development and Community resumed with the help of online streaming services, Firefly was briefly brought back in 2005 as a feature film called Serenity.
The movie continues adventures of army veterans led by captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) abroad their space ship Firefly as they try to make a living at the fringes of law and civilization. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, Serenity features all of the show’s regulars as well as some newcomers such as the future Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor. Although Serenity wasn’t successful at the box office, at least it brought some closure to the show’s story.
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Originally created as a TV series by Gene Roddenberry in 1966, Star Trek was canceled after its third season due to low ratings. However, it soon became apparent that this space opera was popular enough to make a feature film commercially viable. In 1979, Academy Award-winning film maker Robert Wise directed Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The reviews were mixed, but it was successful enough to get a sequel.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was directed by Nicholas Meyer in 1982. Like the previous Star Trek film, it features the original TV show’s characters, such as Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), chief science officer Mr. Spock (Leonardy Nimoy) and the curmudgeonly Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley). The story of Star Trek II revolves around Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), a genetically-modified charismatic tyrant. Meyer was strongly inspired by C. S. Forester’s novels about naval adventures of Horatio Hornblower, giving the movie a distinctive tone and style.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
With his Mad Max movies, director George Miller helped create a post-apocalyptic look and feel that is still copied by others, thirty-odd years later. First Mad Max film was a revenge tale following Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), a renegade cop in a world of fast cars, desolate wasteland and the deteriorating rule of law. After Mad Max became a surprise hit in 1979, it was followed three years later by The Road Warrior, which is also an excellent sequel to the first film. The big-budget Hollywood sequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was released in 1985.
Released in 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road was stuck in a development hell for decades. When it finally roared to the cinemas, it amazed the audience with its non-stop visceral action and numerous practical special effects while also leaving them divided about its minimalistic story-telling. At the time of this writing, Mad Max: Fury Road is nominated for ten Academy Awards.
4. Back to the Future Part II
Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future is one of the most entertaining time travel movies ever made. In the first film, charismatic-yet-relatable teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses a time machine (a famously souped-up DeLorean) created by the manic Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) to travel to the past. Arriving to the 1955, Marty accidentally changes the history and almost erases himself from existence.
Back to the Future Part II did the opposite and sent Marty into the distant future of 2015. Changed through machinations by the villainous Biff Tanner (Thomas F. Wilson), Marty’s home town became a corporate nightmare of fax machines, multiple TV screens in every living room and Jaws XIX playing in cinemas. Luckily, Doc and Marty changed this future for the better but, as a consequence of their actions, we lost our flying cars and hover boards. Back to the Future Part II remains an exciting sci-fi adventure that also works as a satire of Reagan-era America.
Almost 40 years after its release, Ridley Scott’s Alien remains a critically acclaimed sci-fi horror film. With its monsters designed by the late Swiss artist H. R. Giger and a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon loosely inspired by the stories of the cult horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, Alien established a long-running franchise expanded with novelizations, comic books, computer games and – most importantly for this list – movies.
By far the most popular sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is Aliens, a sci-fi action horror written and directed in 1986 by James Cameron. Its story pits Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and a squad of space marines against alien xenomorphs infesting a remote planetary colony. Throughout all the action and danger, Ripley bonds with a girl called Newt (Carrie Henn), a lone survivor of the aliens’ attack as well as with one of the soldiers, corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn). Although the sequels by David Fincher or Jean-Pierre Jeunet are interesting on their own, none of them reached the success of Cameron’s Aliens.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out in 1992. With a budget of over $90 million, it was one of the most expensive movies of its time. Its story follows Sarah Connor (a badass Linda Hamilton) and the android T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) trying to protect her son John Connor (Edward Furlong). Destined to become a leader of mankind in the future war against the machines, John is targeted by a shape-shifting android assassin T-1000 (Robert Patrick).
With a blockbuster franchise like Terminator, it’s easy to forget its humble beginnings. Cameron made his first Terminator movie in 1984 with a budget of mere $4 million. In it, Sarah Connor was just an ordinary waitress chased by a merciless killing machine. In a ironic twist, it was its very presence that caused Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to be sent from the future to protect Sarah and become a father of the future resistance leader.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
Released in 1978, Star Wars quickly became one of the most profitable movies in history. It changed Hollywood forever, beginning the era of modern blockbuster movies. 40 years later, every big-budget summer movie wants to become the next Star Wars. But all of that came after Empire Strikes Back.
In 1980, Lucas had a much simpler problem: how to make a Star Wars sequel that would be at least as good as the first movie? His answer: a darker story focusing on the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader revenge for the defeat he suffered in the first film. Empire Strikes Back was directed by Irvin Kershner and based on a screenplay written by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett. Most of the cast – including Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill – reprised their roles in a story ending with one of the most memorable plot twists in the movie history. Empire Strikes Back was a spectacular success and continued the Star Wars craze that lasts to this day.
Can you think of any other sci-fi sequels that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!