Special Report

The 25 Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Creating a sequel that is better than the original, especially when the original is already a top-rated film, is no doubt a difficult task. Sometimes the goal is simply to keep a franchise relevant, while other times they aim to  revive a fading franchise (hint: Star Wars).

Sometimes screenwriters fall back on old plots and reuse them with some twist. Other times studios bet on visual and sound effects to lure moviegoers into theaters.

Of course, sometimes, filmmakers get it right, making top-rated sequels. 24/7 Tempo has identified the 25 best sequels of all time based on critic and audience ratings on the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes.

Some of the best sequels ever made are also among the greatest films ever made – “The Dark Knight,” “The Godfather: Part II,” and each of the Toy Story sequels are such examples. Sequels that are better than the original build on what fans already know and love about the characters.

Most of the movies on this list of sequels are science fiction. All but a few are action-packed flicks. But there is another genre of film Hollywood does well — biopics. Here are the 50 best movies made about real people

Click here to see 25 sequels that are much better than the original movie

To determine the best and worst movie sequels, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on several measures from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. The index is a composite of the movies’ IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes audience score, and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score. All ratings were weighted equally. Only films with at least 20,000 reviews on IMDb and 2,000 audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were considered. Data was collected mid-March 2021. Supplemental data on domestic box office and production budgets by movie came from industry data site the Numbers.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

25. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
> Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
> Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
> Worldwide box office: $1.2 billion (inflation-adjusted)

“Captain America: Civil War” is the last of the trilogy focusing on Captain America. In this high-action superhero flick, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is squaring off with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in a dispute over the Avengers’ future. Released in 2016, the film has a 90% Freshness rating among critics and 89% score among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

24. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
> Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
> Directed by: J.J. Abrams
> Worldwide box office: $2.2 billion (inflation-adjusted)

One of the most anticipated films of all time, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” finally delivered a universally enjoyed Star Wars film, after the prequel trilogy was universally panned. Fans and critics enjoyed returning to a galaxy far, far away, giving the film 86% and 93% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. The film features newcomers like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as well as stars from the original Star Wars trilogy like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

23. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
> Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson
> Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
> Worldwide box office: $801 million (inflation-adjusted)

Following the release of “Captain America: The First Avenger” in 2011, “The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) teaming with an unlikely partner in S.H.I.E.L.D. — the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Together they must find an assassin known as the Winter Soldier. This second movie about Captain America is certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% audience score.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

22. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
> Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
> Directed by: Dean DeBlois
> Worldwide box office: $689.1 million (inflation-adjusted)

Following the success of the first “How to Train Your Dragon” film, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and much of the original cast returned for another adventure. Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett joined the team as the main character’s mother. The film earned a 91% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated film. The movie had another sequel — “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” (2019) — which was also very well received.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

21. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
> Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett
> Directed by: Taika Waititi
> Worldwide box office: $868.5 million (inflation-adjusted)

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 17th film and the sequel to “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World.” In “Ragnarok,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must escape his imprisonment to save his home planet and the Asgardian civilization from destruction. According to Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus, the film is a “colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise.” Critics gave it a 93% Freshness score, while 87% of the audience gave it a positive review.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

20. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
> Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal
> Directed by: Jon Watts
> Worldwide box office: $1.1 billion (inflation-adjusted)

Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). A year later, his own movie, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” was released. The sequel, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” follows Peter Parker on a vacation in Europe, where he encounters the world-threatening villainy he thought he left in New York. The movie is not rated higher than its predecessor by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is on IMDb.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

19. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
> Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman
> Directed by: Bryan Singer
> Worldwide box office: $838.5 million (inflation-adjusted)

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the highest grossing movie of the X-Men series. In this seventh installment of the franchise, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent by the X-Men into the past to change history and prevent an event from causing catastrophe for humanity. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a Freshness score of 90%, and moviegoers awarded it a score of 91%.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

18. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
> Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
> Directed by: Richard Marquand
> Worldwide box office: $1.4 billion (inflation-adjusted)

This is the third installment of the original Star Wars series, following “A New Hope” (1977) and “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). After almost 30 years, “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” is still beloved by fans. The movie currently holds an audience score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.3 out of 10 rating on IMDb, the latter of which is higher than all other Star Wars movies except from the first two.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

17. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
> Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
> Worldwide box office: $2.1 billion (inflation-adjusted)

The superhero blockbuster pits the Avengers and their allies in an epic battle against Thanos, who is set on the destruction of the universe. “Avengers: Infinity War” has a 91% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. According to the site’s Critics Consensus, “Infinity War,” which is the 19th movie of the Marvel heroes series, “(mostly) realizes its gargantuan ambitions.”

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

16. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
> Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
> Worldwide box office: $791.5 million (inflation-adjusted)

“Mission Impossible – Fallout” is the sixth movie of the action franchise. Stylish and packed with stunts, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” earned a 97% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the best-reviewed film of Tom Cruise’s storied career. The movie and series as a whole are so popular that two more M:I films were announced and are already filming.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

15. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
> Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Worldwide box office: $1.2 billion (inflation-adjusted)

In the final film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, an aging Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is brought out of retirement to face Bane (Tom Hardy) and save Gotham yet again. Nolan assembled an all-star cast, featuring Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, and more. Though it was not as highly rated as the previous Batman film, critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Freshness rating of 87% and 90% of audiences liked it.

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

14. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
> Starring: Matt Damon, Edgar Ramírez, Joan Allen
> Directed by: Paul Greengrass
> Worldwide box office: $591.2 million (inflation-adjusted)

Like its two predecessors — “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” — “The Bourne Ultimatum” is also certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes. “The Bourne Ultimatum” is the top-rated film of the five Jason Bourne movies. Matt Damon plays the titular Jason Bourne, a trained killer with no memory on a mission to find out who he is and who is out to get him.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

13. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
> Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg
> Worldwide box office: $1.1 billion (inflation-adjusted)

The third film of the Indiana Jones franchise enlisted legendary actor Sean Connery to play Jones’ (Harrison Ford) father. This time, Indy and his allies must prevent the Nazis from acquiring the Holy Grail. The pairing of Connery and Ford met approval of critics who liked the fact that the sequel was “lighter and more comedic than its predecessor,” according to Critics Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” received a Freshness rating of 88% from critics, while 94% of audiences liked the movie.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

12. Paddington 2 (2017)
> Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville
> Directed by: Paul King
> Worldwide box office: $197.3 million (inflation-adjusted)

It’s not often that a children’s movie sequel is so charming, entertaining, and well done that moviegoers are genuinely upset it is not nominated for the Oscars. But “Paddington 2” is such a film. The talking bear in a coat charmed audiences and critics, earning a rare 99% Freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes. According to the Critics Consensus, the story of the sequel is “perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure.”

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

11. Toy Story 2 (1999)
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
> Directed by: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich
> Worldwide box office: $925.7 million (inflation-adjusted)

The Toy Story franchise helped establish Pixar’s reputation as the creator of entertaining and endearing films that people of all ages can enjoy. Buzz, Woody, and the rest of Andy’s toys return for another adventure — this time in an attempt to rescue Woody from a toy collector. The Critics Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes hails the film as “The rare sequel that arguably improves on its predecessor.” The site awarded the film a 100% Freshness rating, while 87% of audiences liked it.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
> Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
> Directed by: David Yates
> Worldwide box office: $1.5 billion (inflation-adjusted)

The eighth and final film of the Harry Potter series is also by far the best reviewed. The teen wizard series culminates with an epic battle between the main heroes and Voldemort and his followers. The franchise’s final movie has been well received by critics and audiences thanks in large part to terrific visual effects and powerful, grounded acting performances.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

9. Toy Story 4 (2019)
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts
> Directed by: Josh Cooley
> Worldwide box office: $1.1 billion (inflation-adjusted)

The Toy Story films have always been popular, and the series’ fourth installment is no different. The film is the fifth-highest grossing digitally animated movie of all time. As with the preceding films, “Toy Story 4” combines humor, adventure, and emotional storytelling to create a winning movie, which was enjoyed by 97% of critics and 94% of audience members, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

8. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
> Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
> Worldwide box office: $2.8 billion (inflation-adjusted)

“Avengers: Endgame” is the top grossing film in the hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The movie, which runs for more than three hours, once again finds the Avengers teaming up to restore order to the universe in the wake of Thanos’ destructive actions. Critics have mostly enjoyed the film, giving it a 94% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
> Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen
> Directed by: Peter Jackson
> Worldwide box office: $1.7 billion (inflation-adjusted)

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is the third installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This film continues the plot of “The Two Towers,” with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum journeying toward Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy the One Ring as their friends throughout Middle-earth continue to wage epic battles against the dark forces of Mordor. The film won all 11 Oscars it was nominated for and tied “Titanic” (1997) and “Ben-Hur” (1959) for the most Oscars of any film.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

6. Toy Story 3 (2010)
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
> Directed by: Lee Unkrich
> Worldwide box office: $1.2 billion (inflation-adjusted)

Once again starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as the voices of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, “Toy Story 3” has an almost perfect score, with 98% of critics liking the film. “Deftly blending comedy, adventure, and honest emotion, Toy Story 3 is a rare second sequel that really works,” according to Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus.

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
> Directed by: James Cameron
> Worldwide box office: $1.1 billion (inflation-adjusted)

James Cameron’s early directorial effort “The Terminator” (1984) was a huge success — it currently has a perfect Freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes. As he did with the first movie of the series, Cameron similarly delivered an action-packed and visually exceptional sequel with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). The movie would win four Oscars in the visual, makeup, and sound effects categories.

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Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
> Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen
> Directed by: Peter Jackson
> Worldwide box office: $1.5 billion (inflation-adjusted)

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is the highest rated of all Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, receiving 95% positive reviews from both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie focuses more on action than its predecessor while maintaining its emotional core, delivering viewers a wholly satisfying experience.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
> Directed by: Irvin Kershner
> Worldwide box office: $1.9 billion (inflation-adjusted)

“The Empire Strikes Back” built upon the smash-hit success of the original Star Wars film “A New Hope.” The film delivers classic lines, memorable characters, amazing new planets, and one of the greatest twists in film history. “The Empire Strikes Back” is the top-rated entry in the beloved Star Wars franchise, based on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings. The movie has a 94% approval rating on the latter site.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2. The Dark Knight (2008)
> Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Worldwide box office: $1.3 billion (inflation-adjusted)

Director Christopher Nolan reinvented the world of Gotham City with his dark and atmospheric “Batman Begins” (2005). He improved it with “The Dark Knight,” thanks in part to the work of actors Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, and the late Heath Ledger, who delivered an iconic and Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. On Rotten Tomatoes, both critics and audience members gave it a 94% approval rating.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

1. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
> Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
> Worldwide box office: $277.7 million (inflation-adjusted)

Nevermind sequels, “The Godfather: Part II” is widely hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. The film chronicles Vito Coreleone’s (Robert De Niro) rise to power in the Mafia along with the struggle of his son (Al Pacino) to maintain power decades later. The film won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for De Niro, and Best Director for Francis Ford Coppola.

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