Sequels are, in many ways, the bane of Hollywood. Executives eager to wring every last drop of blood out of their original investment will stretch an idea past the breaking point. But sometimes – rarely – a sequel will actually manage to improve on the original, whether due to bigger budget, a more confident vision or some intangible factor. Here are ten second installments that were better than their progenitors.
10. Toy Story 2
Yes, Toy Story is great. But the second installment improves on everything that made the first film work and adds an emotional undercurrent (those Jesse flashback still get us) that Pixar continues to mine today.
9. Blade II
It’s crazy to think that before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Disney’s cash cow, Wesley Snipes turned a C-list comic character into a franchise player. The second Blade movie snagged Guillermo del Toro to direct and pits the half-vampire and the Bloodpack against a group of super-strong undead infected with a bizarre virus.
8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The first big-screen Star Trek outing was, to be fair, pretty dull. When director Nicholas Meyer was brought in for the sequel, he tossed almost everything out and made an action-packed flick that balanced space battles while also acknowledging the crew’s advancing age. Throw in the performance of a lifetime from Ricardo Montalban and you’ve got a classic.
7. Dawn Of The Dead
The original Night Of The Living Dead single-handedly created the zombie horror genre, but George Romero’s follow-up transformed it into the social allegory we know and love today. When a motley crew of survivors hole up in an abandoned shopping mall, the suspense and gore both climb to absolutely shocking levels. It’s a classic that influenced every bit of zombie-related media to come.
6. Friday The 13th Part 2
The first film in the franchise is kind of an outlier – the murderer is Jason Voorhees’s mother, after all. The sequel introduced the iconic hockey-masked killer for real, making for a much better film. Without the convoluted mystery, Jason is allowed to become an implacable, supernatural agent of destruction and one of the best movie monsters of all time.
5. Spider-Man 2
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film did a solid enough job setting up Peter Parker’s world. But Spider-Man 2 upped the action and the emotional stakes, and gave us the best villain the franchise has seen in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock.
4. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film was burdened with the inexplicable need to show the hero’s origin (guys, we get it: dead parents) and the casting of the walking charisma blackhole that is Katie Holmes. The follow-up rectified all that with Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance as the Joker, Maggie Gyllenhaal stepping in for Holmes, a great turn from Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face and a thrill ride of a plot that never let up.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars kicked off the modern age of science fiction films, but the sequel did everything the original did but better. Relationships were deepened, the action was more dynamic, and the ending – where Vader reveals he is Luke Skywalker’s father – added an emotional layer to the proceedings that defined the entire franchise.
2. The Godfather Part II
Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia masterpiece was a tough act to follow, but the sequel widened the scope to follow both Michael’s struggle to keep the family together and flash back to Vito’s arrival in America and the establishment of the Corleone family as one of the top gangs in the Big Apple.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron’s first Terminator movie was a solid outing that gave Arnold Schwarzenegger one of his most iconic roles. The sequel took the original and, with the aid of a massive budget, turned everything up to 11. A new liquid metal antagonist, ass-kicking Sarah Connor, and some of the greatest set pieces in action movie history make this an all-time classic.