20 Movie Sequels That Surpassed the Originals Easily

20 Movie Sequels That Surpassed the Originals Easily
Image credit: Legion-Media,, Rosebud Releasing Corporation

Let's be honest here for a minute: sequels usually have a bad rap. But every once in a while, the stars align, and we get sequels that are not just good, but actually better than the originals.

Updated on December 8th, 2023 by Louise Everitt: This article has been updated with additional content to keep information relevant. We've added 5 more movie sequels released in 2023 (to frankly mixed audience reaction) to keep things up-to-date and interesting for you. Dive in and check out what's new!

1. "Avatar: The Way of Water " (2023)

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Over a decade after the first film, the Sully family's story continues as they face new challenges, go to great lengths to protect each other, and endure battles and tragedies in their world​​.

2. "Scream VI" (2023)

This installment of the meta horror franchise takes a refreshing turn by changing its setting and introducing inventive set pieces, maintaining the series' sharpness despite familiar themes.

3. "Extraction 2" (2023)

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A high-octane action thriller that amplifies the stakes of its predecessor, featuring the return of Tyler Rake, who embarks on a new mission with even more explosive action and higher risks​​.

4. "The Equalizer 3" (2023)

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Denzel Washington returns in this action-packed sequel that compensates for its predictable storyline with adrenaline-fueled sequences and intense, cathartic action scenes​​.

5. "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One" (2023)

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Ethan Hunt and his IMF team embark on a globe-trotting mission to prevent a new weapon from falling into the wrong hands, facing dark forces from Ethan's past in a race to save humanity​​.

6. "The Godfather Part II" (1974)

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C'mon, you knew this one was coming. The Corleone saga continues with Michael fully embracing his role as the Godfather. In a parallel plot, we get young Vito's rise to power. Whereas the first film focused on Michael's reluctant descent into mob life, the sequel explores the complexities of running the family business while trying to maintain some semblance of morality. Michael even orders the killing of his own brother, Fredo.

7. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)

The killer robot is back, baby! Only this time, he's the good guy. Sarah Connor and her son, John, are on the run from a new, even scarier terminator, the T-1000, who can shape-shift. Remember the motorcycle chase? The liquid metal effects? John teaching the T-800 about human emotions? This sequel takes everything that was awesome about the original and dials it up to 11. "Judgment Day" grossed over $500 million worldwide, smashing the original's earnings.

8. "The Dark Knight" (2008)

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Sorry, Batman Begins, but you're just no match for Heath Ledger's Joker. This sequel dives into Gotham's underbelly, exploring themes of chaos and morality. Batman has to juggle a new romantic interest, a fledgling alliance with Harvey Dent, and, oh yeah, a psychopathic clown bent on anarchy. The truck-flipping scene? Iconic. The Joker's social experiments, like the rigged ferries? Mind-blowing. This sequel not only elevated the franchise but also redefined what a superhero movie could be.

9. "Toy Story 2" (1999)

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Who knew a movie about talking toys could make grown adults cry? Woody gets stolen by a toy collector and meets other toys from his franchise. Buzz and the gang embark on a daring rescue mission. The airport conveyor belt scene? Heart-stopping. And when Jessie shares her backstory about being abandoned by her owner? Oh man, grab the tissues.

10. "Aliens" (1986)

You thought one alien was bad? Try a whole hive! Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, this time leading a squad of Marines to the planet where the original alien was found. What ensues is a claustrophobic, action-packed nightmare. We get pulse rifles, power loaders, and lines like, "Get away from her, you bleep!" The stakes are higher, the aliens are nastier, and the plight of Newt, the lone survivor of the colony, is gut-wrenching.

11. "Before Sunset" (2004)

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Remember Jesse and Céline from "Before Sunrise"? The star-crossed lovers reunite in Paris after a decade. The film is essentially an 80-minute conversation between them, but oh, what a conversation it is! It's not the heady infatuation of the first meet—it's about the love that could have been and maybe still could be. When Jesse misses his plane to stay with Céline, you know this sequel touched on something genuine.

12. "Blade II" (2002)

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This sequel takes everything good about "Blade" and cranks it up a notch. Blade, our favorite vampire slayer, must team up with vampires this time to fight a new species called Reapers. Cue epic fight scenes and killer choreography. Plus, it dives deeper into the vampire hierarchy and even gives Blade a touch of romance.

13. "Evil Dead II" (1987)

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Less a sequel and more of a reimagining of the first film, "Evil Dead II" is a horror-comedy that's brimming with creativity. Ash Williams returns to the cabin in the woods, only this time with his girlfriend. Soon, evil spirits are unleashed, she turns into a Deadite, and Ash has to lop off his own possessed hand. This sequel is unapologetically over the top, and that's exactly why it's so beloved.

14. "Mad Max: Road Warrior" (1981)

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Yeah, "Mad Max" was revolutionary, but "Road Warrior" set the gold standard for post-apocalyptic action flicks. Max becomes a reluctant hero, agreeing to help a group of survivors transport fuel across the wasteland. The film's climax features a vehicular combat sequence that's jaw-dropping even by today's standards. It's a relentless, action-packed experience from start to finish.

15. "Paddington 2" (2017)

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You think a CGI bear couldn't tug at your heartstrings? We thought so, too, and we were wrong. In the sequel, Paddington is set on buying a gift for his aunt but ends up being framed for theft. While he makes friends in prison (no, seriously), the Brown family works to clear his name. Between the whimsical visuals and a villain played by Hugh Grant at his most delightfully campy, this sequel is a warm hug in cinematic form.

16. "Dawn of the Dead" (1978)

If you thought fighting zombies in a rural setting in "Night of the Living Dead" was stressful, try doing it in a shopping mall. This time, four survivors hole up in a mall during the zombie apocalypse. It's gory and terrifying, sure, but it also critiques consumer culture. You've got guts, gore, and social commentary—what more could you ask for?

17. "Shrek 2" (2004)

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If the first "Shrek" movie turned fairy tales on their heads, "Shrek 2" took that idea and ran with it. Shrek and Fiona are summoned to her parents' kingdom, and let's just say the in-laws aren't thrilled. Add a conniving Fairy Godmother, a swashbuckling Puss in Boots, and more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at, and you've got a sequel that stands tall next to the original. Even taller, considering it made almost twice as more at the box office: $935.3 million.

18. "Desperado" (1995)

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Remember "El Mariachi"? The film with a shoestring budget that launched Robert Rodriguez's career? Well, "Desperado" is the sequel, but it's louder, flashier, and has Antonio Banderas. The Mariachi is out for revenge against the drug lord who killed his love. The guitar case full of weapons? Genius. It takes the first film's concept and elevates it with style and substance.

19. "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011)

Po, the lovable, clumsy panda, is now the Dragon Warrior, but he's got a new challenge: a villain with a weapon that can defeat kung fu. While battling this foe, Po also confronts his own origins and the trauma of being separated from his family. Deeper themes, more elaborate action sequences, and stellar character development make this sequel a winner.

20. "10 Cloverfield Lane" (2016)

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While not a direct sequel, this film exists in the "Cloverfield" universe. Michelle wakes up in an underground bunker after a car accident, and her host claims that an apocalyptic event has made the surface uninhabitable. The tension ratchets up as Michelle tries to figure out if her host is a savior or a captor.