If you think movie sequels can’t be better than the originals, think again. Check out this list of film follow-ups that not only matched the magic of their first acts but managed to exceed expectations in every way.
The Godfather Part II
This sequel picked up where the first movie left off, digging deeper into the Corleone family drama. We got to see young Vito Corleone rise to power, parallel to his son Michael’s efforts to expand the family business. The story was more complex and richer, giving us a fuller picture of the characters we’d grown to love—or hate.
At the box office, it didn’t do as well as the first movie, raking in about $48 million compared to the original’s $134 million. But critically, it was a smash hit and even won the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s the kind of movie that gets better every time you watch it.
The Dark Knight
“Batman Begins” was a fresh take on the Batman saga, but “The Dark Knight” was a game-changer. Thanks to Heath Ledger’s legendary portrayal of the Joker, this sequel turned out to be more than just a superhero movie; it became a psychological drama that explored the complexities of good versus evil.
When it came to ticket sales, this movie was a giant, pulling in over $1 billion worldwide. With iconic lines and scenes that are still quoted today, “The Dark Knight” set a new standard for what a superhero movie could be.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The original “Terminator” was a cool action flick, but the sequel amped up everything. Better special effects, more intense action scenes, and a storyline that tugged at your heartstrings, especially with the introduction of Sarah Connor as a battle-hardened mom.
As for money, this movie cleaned up, making around $520 million globally, which was way more than the first movie’s $78 million. What really set “Terminator 2” apart was its use of groundbreaking CGI, bringing the shape-shifting T-1000 to life in a way that was cutting-edge for its time.
In short, these sequels not only made more money but they also pushed the boundaries of storytelling, proving that a follow-up can sometimes outshine the original.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Okay, we’re cheating a bit since this isn’t a 21st-century film, but it’s a sequel that has to be acknowledged. The Empire Strikes Back took everything great about the original Star Wars movie and amplified it. The action was bigger, the stakes were higher, and the plot twists—like that famous father-son reveal—were jaw-dropping. The original Star Wars made about $775 million, but Empire pulled in around $547 million, performing well but not eclipsing its predecessor. Regardless, many fans consider it the best installment in the Star Wars franchise, and it’s had a long-lasting impact on pop culture.
Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3
The Toy Story sequels faced the daunting task of living up to an iconic original film. But Pixar hit the jackpot with both. Toy Story 2 introduced memorable new characters and a plot that was both hilarious and heartwarming, earning around $497 million. Then Toy Story 3 took things even further by diving into deeper emotional territory, exploring themes of loss and change while raking in an impressive $1.07 billion globally. Both sequels managed to capture the magic of the original while adding layers of depth that resonated with audiences young and old.
The original Shrek was a fairy tale with a twist that became an instant classic. Shrek 2, however, took the fun to a whole new level. Introducing characters like Puss in Boots and exploring Shrek’s in-laws, the Kingdom of Far Far Away, and even the concept of “Happily Ever After,” this sequel was a hit in all senses. At the box office, it was a monster, grossing around $919 million worldwide, significantly more than the original’s $484 million.
Each of these sequels took what was great about their original films and added something extra—whether it was deeper emotion, more complex characters, or even just higher stakes and better laughs. And in doing so, they didn’t just make more money; they also won over more hearts.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This isn’t just a sequel; it’s a reimagining that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The film features edge-of-your-seat action sequences that are both visually stunning and heart-pounding. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron deliver remarkable performances, making this a standout in the Mad Max franchise. The film raked in about $375 million worldwide, significantly more than any previous Mad Max movie, and garnered six Academy Awards.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
While the first Captain America film was good, The Winter Soldier turned everything up a notch. It’s not just a superhero movie; it’s also a compelling espionage thriller. The sequel pulled in around $714 million globally, far surpassing the original’s $370 million, and it changed the entire landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by shaking up S.H.I.E.L.D. from the inside.
In an age before superhero movies completely dominated the box office, Spider-Man was a massive hit. But Spider-Man 2 did something extraordinary—it improved upon the original in almost every way. The film dug deeper into the psychology of Peter Parker and provided one of the most compelling villains in Doc Ock. It grossed $783 million, which was pretty close to the first movie’s $821 million but was lauded for its story and character depth.
The sequel to the family-friendly Paddington movie is a rare example of a film that received universal acclaim. Paddington 2 is an absolute joy to watch and brings a message of kindness and acceptance that’s necessary for all ages. Financially, it did well, grossing $228 million worldwide, surpassing the original’s $268 million. But more importantly, it holds the honor of being one of the best-reviewed films of all time.