Special Report

Movie Sequels That Were Better Than the Original

When a Hollywood film achieves blockbuster success, its sequel often seems more or less inevitable. Yet with the attempt to repeat a formula successfully comes the risk of redundancy, along with a potential drop in quality. Indeed, there was once a time when the average sequel was more or less expected to be inferior to its predecessor. There were always exceptions to the rule, but it was a common phenomenon nevertheless, made only worse when key actors or creatives didn’t return to the fold. (These are the 25 worst movie sequels of all time.)

Times have changed, however, and so too has Hollywood’s approach to franchise-building. Studios now realize that serious talent leads to qualitative results and many sequels no longer feel like mere cash grabs as a result. Visionaries such as Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan don’t just make one film and call it a day, for example, but stick around for entire trilogies.

In the case of Marvel Studios, its president, Kevin Feige, actively pursues top directors and blue-chip actors while guiding the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe’s overall architecture so as to keep the content fresh and consistent. (Here’s a ranking of every Marvel movie from worst to best.)

Does that mean a sequel is guaranteed to please or even succeed? Of course not. But there is a newfound focus on keeping the quality bar high and even experimenting with the tone and formula of a given franchise from one entry to the next.

There are also, though, classic sequels from previous eras, which similarly managed to upend expectations and even outshine their predecessors.

Click here to see movie sequels that were better than the original

To determine the movie sequels, whether old or new, that are better than the original, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of May 2022, weighting all ratings equally. We considered only movies with at least 5,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes.

In one instance, the film listed is technically a “prequel,” but was considered as a sequel since it came after the original. For franchises that have been rebooted with new lead actors, such as “Spider-Man” and “James Bond,” we compared only films starring the same lead actor.

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

25. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
> Original in franchise: Spider-Man (2002)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (sequel), 7.3/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 90% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (sequel), 67% (original)

Sam Raimi returned to the director’s chair for this beloved sequel, in which Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) squares off against Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina). It was a critical and commercial benchmark for the superhero sub-genre before films such as “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” came along.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

24. X-Men: First Class (2011)
> Original in franchise: X-Men (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (sequel), 7.4/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (sequel), 82% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (sequel), 83% (original)

From the director of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” came this thrilling prequel, which takes viewers back to the early days of the X-Men. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, future foes Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) unite against a formidable enemy.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

23. From Russia with Love (1963)
> Original in franchise: Dr. No (1962)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (sequel), 7.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (sequel), 95% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (sequel), 82% (original)

The second James Bond film was shot on twice the budget as its iconic predecessor, “Dr. No.” Its action-packed set pieces, casual misogyny, and crafty gadgets would remain franchise stalwarts for decades to come. This time around, Agent 007 (Sean Connery) must retrieve a precious encryption device from the evil organization SPECTRE.

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

22. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
> Original in franchise: The Hunger Games (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (sequel), 7.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 84% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (sequel), 81% (original)

Hunger Games victors Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are thrust back into the arena in this blockbuster sequel. “This is Empire Strikes Back stuff. It has that second Star Wars movie’s kick of confidence,” wrote critic Wesley Morris for Grantland.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

21. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
> Original in franchise: Rise of the Planet of Apes (2011)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (sequel), 7.5/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 82% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (sequel), 77% (original)

The second installment of the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” franchise put director Matt Reeves behind the camera for the first time in the series. In a world where intelligent apes and desperate humans coexist, trouble brews between the two primate species.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

20. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
> Original in franchise: Mission: Impossible (1996)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (sequel), 7.1/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 66% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (sequel), 71% (original)

This popular franchise took on a new style and tonality with its fifth installment, which pits Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) against the powerful Syndicate. It’s one among numerous collaborations between Cruise and filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie. The two reunited for 2018’s “Fallout” and for the upcoming “Dead Reckoning Part One.”

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
> Original in franchise: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (sequel), 7.6/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 81% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (sequel), 82% (original)

The one and only Harry Potter film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is the franchise’s third overall. Upon their return to Hogwarts, Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his peers find themselves in the crosshairs of escaped prisoner Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). “Cuarón brought to the Potter franchise a quality curiously missing from the two previous films: magic,” wrote critic Christopher Orr for The Atlantic.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

18. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
> Original in franchise: Captain America: the First Avenger (2011)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (sequel), 6.9/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 80% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (sequel), 74% (original)

An Avengers movie in all but name, this blockbuster entry calls upon the franchise’s most essential characters. When political protocols force oversight upon superheroes, it creates a deep rift between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). As the tension escalates, everyone must choose a side.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

17. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
> Original in franchise: Captain America: the First Avenger (2011)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (sequel), 6.9/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 80% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (sequel), 74% (original)

The second Captain America film takes cues from classic political thrillers and represents a major step up from its uneven predecessor. Set in Washington D.C., it thrusts the titular superhero and his allies into the heart of a deadly conspiracy. This was the first Marvel movie directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who went on to helm some of the MCU’s most vital entries.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

16. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
> Original in franchise: Thor (2011)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (sequel), 7.0/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 77% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (sequel), 76% (original)

The Thor series found its groove with this third installment, in which the hammer-wielding superhero (Chris Hemsworth) must save his home planet from destruction. Director Taika Waititi injects a colorful palette and comic touch when bringing the adventure to life.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

15. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
> Original in franchise: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (sequel), 7.4/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 92% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (sequel), 87% (original)

More or less on par with its predecessor (2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), this smash sequel follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) on a class trip to Europe. What’s supposed to be a fun vacation becomes something far more consequential when elemental forces wreak havoc all over the continent. Alas, a superhero’s job is never done.

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

14. Creed (2015)
> Original in franchise: Rocky Balboa (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (sequel), 7.1/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (sequel), 77% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (sequel), 76% (original)

The seventh installment of the Rocky franchise – technically the first in a spinoff series – hands the story off to Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), son of former champion Apollo Creed. Stallone appears in a supporting role as a mentor and trainer, thereby filling the shoes of series icon Mickey Goldmill. Director Ryan Coogler carries the torch but also updates the material for modern audiences.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

13. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
> Original in franchise: X-Men (2000)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (sequel), 7.4/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (sequel), 82% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (sequel), 83% (original)

This star-studded X-Men installment opens in a dystopian future, where powerful Sentinels are hunting down mutants in droves. So begins a time-traveling adventure that features mainstay characters along with their younger counterparts. With over $746 million in global box office receipts, it was the third highest-grossing entry of the overall franchise.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

12. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
> Original in franchise: Mission: Impossible (1996)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (sequel), 7.1/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (sequel), 66% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (sequel), 71% (original)

Following a failed mission, Ethan Hunt and his team must race against time to prevent the activation of a nuclear weapon. Still performing his own stunts at the age of 55, Tom Cruise famously injured his ankle during production. This is the highest-rated “Mission: Impossible” movie to date.

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
> Original in franchise: Batman Begins (2005)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (sequel), 8.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 87% (sequel), 84% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (sequel), 94% (original)

Christopher Nolan’s trilogy concluded with this sprawling entry, in which Gotham is terrorized by the masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy). Sent into exile, Batman (Christian Bale) must overcome both personal injury and psychological doubt if he wants to save the day.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

10. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
> Original in franchise: The Bourne Identity (2002)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (sequel), 7.9/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (sequel), 83% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (sequel), 93% (original)

The second Bourne film from Paul Greengrass (and the third overall) continues the director’s propulsive hand-held camera style. Still trying to uncover his mysterious origins, Bourne (Matt Damon) embarks on a global adventure with various enemies hot on his heels.

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

9. Goldfinger (1964)
> Original in franchise: Dr. No (1962)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (sequel), 7.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 99% (sequel), 95% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (sequel), 82% (original)

The James Bond franchise honed its style and formula with the third installment, which pits Agent 007 (Connery) against criminal magnate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Everything from the extended pre-credits sequence to the abundance of gadgetry to the cheeky one-liners would become series staples for decades thereafter.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

8. Logan (2017)
> Original in franchise: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (sequel), 6.6/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 37% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (sequel), 58% (original)

A somewhat lackluster trilogy concluded on a high note with this R-rated entry from director James Mangold. It takes place in a future wasteland and finds the titular hero (Hugh Jackman) living in a weary state of isolation. With the emergence of a mutant child (Dafne Keen) and evil corporation comes a reason to bare the claws one last time.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (2011)
> Original in franchise: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (sequel), 7.6/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (sequel), 81% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (sequel), 82% (original)

The final battle between good and evil plays out in this blockbuster Harry Potter adventure. Directed by franchise stalwart David Yates, it delivers thrilling action sequences while landing its emotional punches. “Easily the best of the series,” wrote critic David Nusair for Reel Film.

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
> Original in franchise: The Avengers (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (sequel), 8.0/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 91% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (sequel), 91% (original)

This Marvel epic clocks in at just over three hours and picks up five years after the catastrophic events of “Infinity War.” Utilizing a time travel loophole, the Avengers take on Thanos once again in their attempt to restore universal order. It’s the second highest-grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation).

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
> Original in franchise: The Terminator (1984)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (sequel), 8.0/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 100% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (sequel), 89% (original)

Director James Cameron was an ambitious auteur when he made the first “Terminator” and an industry titan by the time he released this game-changing sequel. Armed with a much bigger budget, he employed both groundbreaking CGI and top-tier practical effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the T-800 cyborg, who must protect the future resistance leader (Edward Furlong) in the war between man and machine.

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
> Original in franchise: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (sequel), 7.4/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 92% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 98% (sequel), 87% (original)

A spell gone awry kicks open the multiverse in this modern superhero movie, the first to cross the $1 billion mark during the pandemic era. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) must contend with various villains from the franchise’s own past, with a little help from his interdimensional counterparts. It opened to rave reviews and a massive fan following.

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
> Original in franchise: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (sequel), 8.8/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (sequel), 91% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (sequel), 95% (original)

The journey to Mordor continues in this hit sequel from Peter Jackson, often dubbed the best film of the entire series. It features a shifty creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis) and one of the most extensive battle sequences of all time, among other things. On IMDb’s list of the Top 250 Movies, it currently lands at #14.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Original in franchise: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (sequel), 8.6/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 92% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 97% (sequel), 96% (original)

Creator George Lucas and company dialed up the special effects and the emotional story arcs for this beloved sequel. It opens on a hostile planet and builds toward a legendary showdown between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Writing for the Denver Post, critic Rena Andrews called it “the ultimate in fantasies, a visual wonder and a movie that should be recommended highly if only because it makes you feel good.”

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
> Original in franchise: Batman Begins (2005)
> IMDb user rating: 9.0/10 (sequel), 8.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 84% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (sequel), 94% (original)

Fewer sequels demonstrate the power of authorship more than this one from Christopher Nolan, who brings genuine gravitas to a traditionally buoyant sub-genre. Heath Ledger drives the vibe home with his nihilistic performance as the Joker. It earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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