When a movie does well enough, there’s a tendency for Hollywood to go back to the drawing board and figure out another way to mine the material for more money.
Whether its a big budget blockbuster or a small indie hit, whether it’s a stand-alone story or produced as a franchise starter, the possibility of a sequel is usually in the cards depending on how well a film does at the box office.
Sometimes it doesn’t really work, like the original story came to its logical conclusion and there’s not much more to explore on the screen. But when it works, boy does it work.
Sequels have become a popular norm in movie theaters as Hollywood executives attempt to recapture the magic that brought audiences to the theaters, or to capitalize the buzz built since a film’s release.
And while there are quite a few popular film follow ups that have made an impact both critically and commercially, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite sequel movies that have ever been released. Check them out and be sure to tell us your own favorite sequels on social media.
The Godfather Part II
Well, is it a sequel or is it a prequel? Surprisingly, it’s both and it manages to dance between two eras with ease and skill.
The Godfather Part II adapts aspects of Mario Puzo’s original novel that were left out of the first film, specifically how Vito Corleone escaped his home country and rose to become a prominent crime lord in the United States.
Those scenes were juxtaposed with his son Michael Corleone now in control of the family, dealing with treachery and conspiracies to unseat his place of power.
With iconic performances from both Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, the Godfather Part II allowed Puzo and director Martin Scorsese to explore the balance of power in a way that wasn’t examined in the first film. The original movie was more about setting the tone and showing how one can be lost to the criminal enterprise.
But the second Godfather was all about the sacrifices one has to make, creating one of the most powerful sequels of all time.
The Empire Strikes Back
George Lucas teamed with Lawrence Kasdan to create the story of the second Star Wars film and Kasdan became one of the unsung heroes of the entire Lucasfilm saga.
While the second film can be credited for giving Harrison Ford a more prominent role as Han Solo, it also created an internal struggle for Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker that has since become one of the most prominent themes in the entire Star Wars canon.
When Luke is challenged by his new Jedi Master Yoda on Degobah, it establishes that there is a balance of Light and Dark sides of the Force that are constantly swaying a person to good and evil. The first film was more cut and dry with this aspect.
It also had improved effects for the space battles, intense choreography for the lightsaber fights, exotic locations, and imaginative set designs that made for one of the most thrilling installments in the entire series of films.
Coupled with that final twist that forever changed Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back is not just a great sequel—it’s an amazing film.
Rush Hour 2
The second team up between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker improved on the original in so many ways, balancing the fish-out-of-water aspect between both characters as they try to catch a killer and unravel a conspiracy in Las Vegas.
Tucker and Chan’s chemistry was one of the best aspects of the first film, but it greatly improved in the second one.
While Rush Hour dealt with two cops with completely different personalities attempting to work together, in Rush Hour 2 they’ve been established and are now close friends. That makes for a much more entertaining interaction as the two work their way through a laundering scheme.
Tucker and Chan proved they have wonderful on-screen chemistry in the first movie, and this one simply lets them take over and do what they do best. Coupled with Chan’s intense fight scenes with the amazing Zhang Ziyi, Rush Hour 2 is a thoroughly entertaining film that would not be possible with out the first movie.
Possibly the best sequel of all time, James Cameron takes the baton from Ridley Scott and delivers an entertaining take on Ripley’s struggle against the xenomorphs.
Both Alien and its sequel deftly utilize the horror/sci-fi trappings, but while the first film is more akin to a slasher movie, Aliens is a high-stakes action romp.
Survival is still the key goal for Sigourney Weaver’s character, but instead of being the sole person to escape the xenomorph threat she now has to contend with a band of space marines while caring for a small child.
The film manages to push the franchise in a new and exciting direction while still maintaining a sense of dread. But Aliens is still a completely different movie from the first film. Cameron proved he could play in someone else’s playground without retreading the same ground.
Some might argue its even the best film in the franchise, but we can’t choose. They’re both damn good movies and for entirely different reasons, which is an achievement in its own right.
The Raid 2
The first movie, The Raid: Redemption, was a surprising, intense action jaunt produced in Indonesia.
People were taken off guard by its insane fight sequences that often caused viewers to hold their breath, gasping for air during the rare quiet moments. The simple plot consisted of a group of police officers storming a drug dealer’s building, fighting their way through progressively difficult threats to reach the top floor.
The second film eventually incorporates that same device, but takes a lot more time working toward that sequence as it becomes a more complex movie about crime and turf wars.
It builds off of the fighting choreography and action sequences, increasing the scale and the stakes to add on to the intensity. All you want to see is protagonist Rama get home to his wife and child, but you know he’s going to have to fight for his life to succeed. And then, perhaps, is he too far gone to appreciate what he had to leave behind?
The Raid 2 is a wonderful movie in a surprising saga, one that we hope to get a third installment of whenever writer/director Gareth Evans finally gets around to it. Take your time, Evans. We know it’ll be worth the wait.
Toy Story 2
Pixar has become a franchise builder, but they proved their skills in making additional chapters to beloved stories with their first sequel.
Toy Story 2 brought back all of the usual suspects but pushed the themes to newer directions. It was the first film that dealt with an inescapable reality that would be further explored in the third film: children grow up.
So what do toys do when no one wants to play with them? Woody faced those insecurities in the first film when Buzz Lightyear came into the picture, becoming the hot new toy that every kid wanted to play with.
Toy Story 2 further explored themes of belonging and responsibility, giving Woody a choice where he knew he could go to a new place and be appreciated forever, but he’d have to leave behind the child he’d been watching grow up his entire life.
Pixar explored complex themes of family, responsibility, aging, and fatherhood with a creative story about toys coming to life. And Toy Story 2 could possibly be the strongest entry in their most entertaining franchise.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The second Indiana Jones film established the franchise as something more akin to James Bond than being a traditional continuation of a story.
While most film series tend to build off of previous events and storylines, each Indiana Jones film became a stand-alone story, another chapter in the life of the explorer and relic hunter.
The opening sequence was a clear indication that this film would not continue off of what was shown in Raiders of the Lost Ark, instead joining Indy in the middle of a brand new mess. And after he angers the wrong group of mobsters and has to hop on a plane to get out of the country, circumstance and coincidence lead him to an entirely new adventure unconnected from the previous story.
Short Round and Willie Scott accompany Doctor Jones before disappearing into the ethers where the group encounters child slavery and human sacrifice in an attempt to rouse a long-slumbering demon god.
While the first film had more biblical themes, the second was all about the depravity of human conditions when people are left to their own devices.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm