If a movie is well done and popular enough among audiences to dictate a sequel, the unfortunate truth is that the sequel is usually either a complete hit or a complete miss. The second installment either gives fans a great story and more screen time for the characters they initially loved, or the movie simply falls short and appears to be nothing more than a poorly attempted cash-grab. But what about the rare occasions where a sequel turns out even better than the original? Here are 10 movie sequels that stand above their predecessors.
By the way, all movies listed are true sequels, so films that are the third installment, or later, within their franchises do not apply, as well as sequels that are equally as good as their predecessors, such as Godfather: Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, or Toy Story 2.
10 Shrek 2 (2004)
The first film on our list is the trickiest since it's highly debatable whether Shrek 2 is actually better than the original. Michael Myers and his talking donkey may have taken the world by storm in 2001, but what's different about this franchise from the series listed above is that most fans would answer that the second film is genuinely their favorite.
Every line delivered in the movie is a surefire laugh and the pop-culture references spread throughout its entirety made it an instant classic among cinema-buffs. Not to mention that it contains the greatest song cover in the history of song covers. We didn't need a hero, but Shrek 2 sure gave us one.
9 Aliens (1986)
It shouldn't be so hard for Hollywood directors to create story-lines revolving around strong, female protagonists when they've had the perfect blueprint lying around since the mid-'80s. While we live in an era of all-female reboots that have been hit-or-miss, Sigourney Weaver proved to the world decades ago that all cinema fans really want is a strong, relatable protagonist regardless of their gender.
With the sequel arriving seven years after the original, Ridley Scott swapped out science officers for space marines and kept our eyes glued to the screen like a couple of facehuggers by giving Ripley a sequel she truly deserved.
8 Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Don't audiences love it when a goofy, family-friendly comedy happens to make a sequel that produces even more laughs than the original? How about when the sequel is smart enough to realize that laughs aren't enough and they improve upon the entire plot premise? That was the result of the 2001 comedic sequel Rush Hour 2, which watches Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker improve hilariously on their Agent Lee and Agent Carter roles as they trade the streets of Los Angeles for Hong Kong.
It's hard to remember a single scene from the original Rush Hour (other than the final stand-off), but this on-deck sequel knocks it out of the park at every turn. And who could forget the bloopers at the end of the movie? Call me back later, man, I'm writing.
7 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Until Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame ransacked the worldwide box office the past two years, there was one MCU movie that stood out among the rest, and it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The follow up performance by Chris Evans as the-man-with-the-invincible-shield was the Russo Brothers' first turn in the Marvel driving seat, and regardless that it wasn't Marvel's most successful film at the box office, Winter Soldier was the first MCU movie since the original Iron Man to not feel like a blockbuster theme-park ride and felt more like a buddy-cop adventure between Captain America and Black Widow. Still in the top 5 among all MCU films, we're with this sequel until the end of the line.
6 Bad Boys 2 (2003)
We never said these sequels had to be Oscar-contenders, they simply have to be better than their predecessor, and while the provocative Bad Boys II might not have taken home any significant hardware during awards season, it was certainly more enjoyable than the original.
The film is honestly a bit much to handle in terms of obscenity, wading much further into the indecency pool than most movies were willing too even in the more accepting era of the early 2000s, but that doesn't take away from the fact that its fan-base wanted exactly that when it came to a sequel. The Bad Boys movies aren't meant to be artistically moving; they're action-packed, inappropriate comedies. Nailed it.
5 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Wanna see Christopher Columbus make the perfect Christmas movie? Wanna see him do it again? Another film that's arguably just as good as its predecessor, Home Alone 2 stands out above the original for one reason only: Duncan's Toy Chest. The premise of a witty and intelligent 8-year-old defending his house from burglars after his parents forgot him for Christmas vacation was already damn near perfect.
So how does one improve upon such a hit movie? They take the setting of an average family home and substitute it with a gigantic toy store. Home Alone may have been a hilarious original concept, but there wasn't a child alive who didn't envy Kevin McAlister in this film.
4 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
"I'll be back" - and better than ever. As we've stated, it's truly difficult for a sequel to be better than its predecessor, but to take what was already an amazing stand-alone sci-fi premise and improve upon it in every single way? Wow.
Just to recap a few of the ways Judgment Day surpassed its original: it took messy subject matter like time travel and A.I. and sewed it seamlessly into events of the first film; it transformed a damsel-in-distress Sarah Connor into the toughest female protagonist since Ripley; it turned the popular antagonist into a believable secondary sidekick and made a villain that felt every bit as scary as the first one. It's judgment day, James Cameron, and you passed.
3 Ted 2 (2015)
There's no question that Seth MacFarlane is a comedic genius, but who would've thought that the premise of an R-rated talking teddy-bear coming to life from a child's wish would fill out a top slot on his resume? While MacFarlane's certain brand of obscene comedy is definitely a take-it-or-leave-it style, those who take it couldn't have been happier when they got to see their favorite thunder-buddy back on the big screen.
The only bad thing about this improved upon sequel? It's the only movie on this list that has yet to receive a trilogy (Bad Boys for Life comes out in January). Come on, MacFarlane, we know there's room for another Ted.
2 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The comic-book web-slinger has graced the silver-screen a total of 11 times, including 8 of his own movies (counting Into the Spiderverse) and Sam Raimi's 2004 follow up is still somehow the best.
With the original Spider-Man receiving part of the credit as to why superhero movies have become so popular nowadays, its sequel was what had audiences truly begging for more. "With great power comes great responsibility." Well, what happens when a hero doesn't want that responsibility anymore? What happens when that hero runs into one of the O.G. Marvel movie villains? An amazing sequel, that's what.
1 The Dark Knight (2008)
Marvel sequels may fill up two of the slots on this list, but the gold medal ultimately goes to DC and the greatest improved upon sequel every created: The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger's posthumous Oscar-winning performance wasn't even the half of it when it came to Christopher Nolan's masterpiece, and while Batman Begins is certainly a quality movie in its own right, it's hard to compete with a film that should arguably be in the AFI's Top 100.
Think about it in this regard; Batman is a cultural icon with countless storylines based upon him and a symbol that every living person recognizes - and yet this is the single piece of work he's most noticed for. Not the sequel we deserved, but the sequel we needed.