10 Movie Sequels That Surprisingly Outshine Their Predecessors
These are not your everyday run-of-the-mill sequels.
1. "The Godfather: Part II" (1974)
"The Godfather: Part II" is the epitome of sequel success. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the movie was both a sequel and a prequel, an ingenious move that gave viewers a look into the humble beginnings of the ruthless Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro). The film also follows the chilling transformation of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he cements his role as the family's Godfather. The cast performances were nothing short of spectacular. De Niro's portrayal of a young Vito Corleone earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the film itself nabbed six Oscars, including Best Picture. Interestingly, the sequel is even more highly-rated on Rotten Tomatoes than the original, sitting at a stellar 96%.
2. "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
"The Empire Strikes Back" was the dark horse that galloped right past the original "Star Wars. " The sequel pushed boundaries, venturing into darker, more emotionally intense territory. The audience sees Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill ) Jedi training with Yoda, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo's (Harrison Ford ) burgeoning romance, and the shocking paternal revelation of Darth Vader. George Lucas took a risk by hiring a different director, Irvin Kershner, but the gamble paid off. This sequel managed to gross over $500 million worldwide – insane amount of money for the '80s.
3. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)
"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" turned the tables by making Arnold Schwarzenegger's character the protector rather than the killer. This time, he's here to safeguard John Connor (Edward Furlong), the future leader of the human resistance. The dynamic between the cold, emotionless terminator and the young, rebellious John provided a heartwarming touch amid all the action. It was a stunning evolution from the original, with visual effects that were groundbreaking for the time. The film even snagged four Academy Awards, primarily in technical categories. Schwarzenegger was paid approximately $21,429 per word spoken in this film, leading to the most expensive "Hasta la vista, baby" in cinema history.
4. "Toy Story 2" (1999)
Initially conceived as a direct-to-video sequel, "Toy Story 2" ended up becoming a full theatrical release and for a good reason. It explores the world beyond Andy's room, introducing new characters and themes about obsolescence and mortality that somehow resonate even with the adult audience. This is where the cowboy toy Woody (Tom Hanks) discovers he's actually a collectible from a 1950s TV show. With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this sequel was a rare gem that outshone its predecessor, both critically and at the box office.
5. "The Dark Knight" (2008)
Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" wasn't just a sequel; it was a cinematic revolution. Stepping away from the traditional superhero archetype, it dove into psychological depth and moral dilemmas. While Batman (Christian Bale) continued his crusade against crime, it was Heath Ledger's unforgettable portrayal of Joker that stole the show. The late Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his role, and the film itself grossed over $1 billion worldwide.
6. "Before Sunset" (2004)
Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" brought audiences back to the ethereal romance of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) nine years after they first met in "Before Sunrise." This time, the city of Paris becomes the backdrop to their rekindled connection. The movie cleverly plays out in real-time, as Jesse and Celine meander through the Parisian streets, their conversation evolving from playful banter to deeply emotional confessions. As the sequel unfolds, the beautiful complexity of their relationship emerges, painting a bittersweet picture of love and longing that surpasses the emotional depth of the first movie. Interestingly, the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, a recognition rarely given to romantic dramas.
7. "Paddington 2" (2017)
It's a rare feat for a family movie sequel to be so universally adored, but "Paddington 2" somehow managed to achieve this distinction. Our beloved bear Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw, finds himself framed for a crime he didn't commit, leading to a heartwarming adventure that underscores the importance of kindness and family. Director Paul King took the already charming original and cranked up the warmth, humor, and creativity in the sequel. This tale of a marmalade-loving bear warmed hearts and won critical acclaim, boasting a rare 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. "Blade Runner 2049" (2017)
Three decades after the original, "Blade Runner 2049" emerged from the creative minds of director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins. This visually stunning sequel introduces us to Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner who uncovers a secret that threatens the delicate balance between humans and replicants. His investigation leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the original blade runner, who has been missing for 30 years. The sequel dives deeper into the dystopian world, grappling with profound questions about humanity, memory, and identity. Despite its box office performance not living up to expectations, the film was a critical success, earning five Academy Award nominations and winning two for Cinematography and Visual Effects.
9. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014)
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" expanded on the groundwork laid by its predecessor, taking the franchise into darker, more emotional territory. The sequel, directed by Matt Reeves, follows Caesar (Andy Serkis), the evolved chimpanzee, as he leads a colony of intelligent apes. When a group of human survivors encroaches on their territory, conflict arises, threatening the fragile peace. The sequel offered an in-depth exploration of Caesar's character, as he navigates leadership, loyalty, and morality.
10. "Evil Dead II" (1987)
In "Evil Dead II," director Sam Raimi masterfully blends horror and comedy to surpass the original. This time, our hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again finds himself trapped in a cabin, battling demonic entities. While the first film was a straight-up horror, the sequel upped the ante with over-the-top gore, slapstick humor, and a chainsaw prosthetic hand that's as cool as it sounds.