Some movies are perfect as they are, a one-shot story that has a natural end, but others have more to say. Most of the time, the sequel never quite captures the magic of that first outing, and some are inevitably disappointing, I'm looking at you Teen Wolf Two, which manages to make Teen Wolf look good.
But sometimes, the impossible happens, and a sequel actually improves on the original. It's probably worth warning you now, some of these are controversial, but these are 15 movie sequels that we think improve on the first one.
1. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back
Yes, we are going there right from the start. Empire is a better movie, it has better storytelling that fleshes out the characters in a way the original never could, and it also has one of the most shocking plot twists in modern movie history. It's easy to forget now with prequels and all the rest, but on release, no one saw Darth Vader being Luke's father coming. A true sequel that improves on the original in every way.
2. Batman: The Dark Knight
Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise changed what we thought comic book movies could be. Batman begins set the tone, but it was here, with Heath Ledger's incredible Oscar-winning performance as the Joker, that it reached its peak.
3. Rocky II
No, it's not just because this time he actually wins the fight. There is much more to this second outing of Rocky, as the events of the first movie impact their lives, and the characters find new challenges to overcome. If anything, Creed manages to be more dismissive of the upstart boxer in this one, making his defeat even more satisfying.
4. Star Trek: Wrath of Khan
The first Star Trek movie brought the original crew, Captain Kirk and all, back a decade after their TV show ended. It has its moments, but the series really came of age with this second outing. In constant danger, always one step behind Khan, one of the best Star Trek villains ever written, everything appears hopeless for the heroes throughout the story. Then, one of the most unexpected, emotional endings ever seals this movie's place in history.
5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator broke new ground in sci-fi movies and is still one of the best in the genre. What makes Judgment Day so special is it took the idea of the first movie and turned it on its head. While Schwarzenegger says very few lines, the story, and his interaction with young John Connor, leave you rooting for the robot killing machine, making the end even more emotional.
6. The Godfather: Part II
As one of the best movies ever made, The Godfather stands as a testament to the skill and dedication of Coppola and the cast. What no one expected was a sequel that could surpass it, but that is what we got. Even better performances from the cast, better cinematography, and a more intriguing narrative make this one even better to watch. Some will disagree, and prefer the original, but we think the second is the best Godfather movie.
7. Spider Man 2
Toby Maguire IS Spiderman for so many people, but the original movie did have a few issues. It was a little slow paced in dealing with the Uncle Ben situation that we got much less of the villain, Green Goblin than we should. For the second film, there are no such issues, and we get the faced paced, action-packed thrill ride that Spider Man should always be.
8. Paddington 2
A movie that has earned a remarkable 99% on Rotten Tomatoes can't be ignored, and that is exactly what Paddington 2 managed. Building on the charm and wonder of the original, and adding more of everything, it is perhaps the perfect family film, and certainly the best from the 21st century.
9. Bad Boys 2
Bad Boys added something new to the buddy cop formula, as well as being Michael Bay's first movie. His love of explosions and over-the-top action redefined Hollywood in the 90s, and Bad Boys 2 did all that and more, turning the volume to eleven to provide spectacular action and even more of the slapstick relationship between the two leads.
10. Toy Story 2
Looking back on Toy Story, it's easy to forget that it revolutionized animation at the time, its CGI graphics giving the audience a new standard for visuals. Coupled with heartwarming characters and you have something moviegoers of all ages fell in love with. In Toy Story 2, you find those same lovable characters in a more involved story that reveals more of Andy's world, and new characters to enjoy.
11. Mad Max: The Road Warrior
The original Mad Max movie was a revenge story set in a dystopian future, but never really went beyond the main protagonists. The Road Warrior is something else, building a world for Max to inhabit, it brings the post-apocalyptical landscape to life and tells a far more complex story. Everything is on a bigger scale too, with driving sequences setting new standards for the time.
12. Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future gave us something new when released, but the story of that first movie was by necessity fairly simple. Its success allowed the writers to think much bigger, creating a story spanning three time periods and ending in a fourth, setting up the final episode of the series. While the first was largely about Marty's story, this second one looks at time travel itself, and how it could impact our lives. It also ramps up the fin, action, and wisecracking characters too, all of which make it a step above that first movie.
This is the controversial one for us. Alien is a masterpiece in sci-fi horror, with some stunning set pieces and of course, bringing us the Alien itself in all its terrifying glory. Aliens moves away from the claustrophobic hide-and-seek formula to deliver on a much bigger scale. Some prefer that first outing for its wonderful suspense, but from the moment the marines encounter the alien nest, Aliens delivers more of everything.
14. Lethal Weapon 2
The buddy cop movie that set the standard, it is arguable there wouldn't be a Bad Boys without the original Lethal Weapon. However, that original movie had to establish the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh, whereas in this second movie, the writers have perfected the narrative. That allows more of a focus on the action, and villains. Here it easily surpasses the original movie, giving more of everything without losing the humor and fun that underlies the original.
15. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lord of the Ring sis, by any standard, is a remarkable piece of movie-making. Incredible visuals and superb acting bring a wonderful story to life in a remarkable way. But as good as the first movie is, the second elevates the series to new heights. The incredible battles, the sheer scope of the story, all make this an even more compelling movie to watch. Much of this is the story itself, but regardless of the reason, here the sequel is superior to the original.