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Top 10 Superhero Sequels of All Time

More often than not, the first movie in a series is the best of the bunch. Replicating the magic is difficult, and sometimes a follow-up can fail so spectacularly it ruins any potential there was at something great. But superhero movies buck this trend better than any genre, and in many cases, there are sequels that rise above their predecessor in most ways. Or, they simply come out just as good, which is a miracle in its own right. In fact, there are lots of great comic book movie sequels out there, and in celebration of the most recent one, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP from Marvel Studios, we here at JoBlo have compiled a list of the top 10 best comic book sequels ever. And, trust us when we say we could've gone to, like, 14.

On this list we have some movies that are going on two decades old, while others are, well, very, very recent, but have already solidified themselves as some of the best examples on how to continue a character's story. These movies are more exciting, more action-packed, funnier, more dramatic and thoughtful and sometimes feature way more spandex than their predecessors, with a few ranking well above the ones that came before them. If you're waiting to see if some of your favorite characters made the list with their awesome sequels, then go ahead and scroll on down and begin the list!

*This list was compiled pre-INCREDIBLES 2 and pre-ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, so don't get upset of you don't see them around.*

1. THE DARK KNIGHT

Did you really have any doubt in the world about how this was going to turn out? Of course, THE DARK KNIGHT tops this list. Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the impressive BATMAN BEGINS is THE GODFATHER of all superhero movies – a perfect example of what can be done with the format when everything from the direction, action, music, visual effects, cinematography, editing and everything else is, for lack of a better phrase, on fucking point. Digging deeper into darker themes about what it means to be a hero in an increasingly dangerous world, DARK KNIGHT acts both as a richly layered crime drama and a logical progression in the story of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Filled with countless iconic scenes and thrilling set pieces, the movie elevated the genre to a level of art that seems impossible to match, and there’s one performance we can thank for helping it get to that next level. Heath Ledger’s Joker is the supreme among all comic book movie villains, if not all movie villains in general, thanks to the actor’s total immersion into the twisted, anarchic mind of the Clown Prince of Crime. Even under all the makeup, there are nuances to his performance that can be discovered even after a dozen viewings, and his turns from intense to crazy make his work endlessly enjoyable to watch. Put the terrific storytelling, expert technical elements, mature tone and a handful of winning performances from the entire cast together and you have, almost inarguably, the greatest superhero movie of all time. Oh, and, uh, the DARK KNIGHT RISES was good too.

2. LOGAN

After two standalone movies that ranged between terrible and forgettable, it seems the iconic Wolverine was doomed to solo movie mediocrity. But it didn’t need to be that way, which is why director/writer James Mangold, star Hugh Jackman and studio Fox decided to go for broke and deliver a movie fans had been waiting for: a bloody, R-rated, brutal iteration of “Old Man Logan” that would send Jackman out on the highest of notes. It was a bold step into uncharted waters delivering a gritty superhero drama starring one of the most iconic characters to grace the screen, but the gamble paid off in spades. What we got was a dramatic, heartbreaking, challenging, gorgeous and suitably gory comic book Western that explored Logan like we’d never seen before. With literal and figurative scars that will never heal littering his body, this Logan is vulnerable and looks like he could be knocked down with a stiff breeze. Hugh Jackman turns in his best work yet as the broken and beaten Wolverine, and Patrick Stewart delivers an equally tremendous performance as Charles Xavier. These two cursed men are given a chance to do one last good thing when faced with saving a young mutant – X-23 – who has the ferocity, anger, and claws of a younger Logan. This is an unforgettable story of redemption and sacrifice that sends off Jackman’s character with grace, honor and buckets of blood.

3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Before THE WINTER SOLIDER, the MCU movies were mostly comic book films as we’d seen them before, albeit done of a mostly higher quality. But with this sequel to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER we got a taste of Marvel exploring with other genres, putting Cap into the center of a political thriller that explores thought-provoking themes. Steve Rogers is a patriot through and through, and WINTER SOLIDER forces him to square off against the institutions he dedicated himself to for the sake of what’s right. What happened in this movie sowed the seeds for what was to come in the MCU by eliminating S.H.I.E.L.D., helping define the movie as the first real MCU game-changer. Not a slouch in the spectacle department either, the movie features some of the most thrilling action scenes in the franchise, taking from movies like HEAT to deliver intense sequences that remain as fresh and exhilarating as ever. Expertly crafted by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, WINTER SOLDIER stands as not only the best sequel in the MCU but, perhaps, their best movie yet.

4. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Marvel had achieved the impossible by bringing numerous heroes together in the first AVENGERS movie, keeping a promise they made to film and comic book fans four years prior. But that was child’s play compared to the expectations set before them with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, a movie that brings together dozens of heroes in one epic adventure against one big baddie – Thanos. Some may say the expectations were too high, and that the necessary spectacle is too much, but Marvel has crafted fewer movies in their history as jaw-dropping, spectacular, emotionally challenging and often hysterical than INFINITY WAR. The movie is – until AVENGERS 4 – the ultimate comic book movie featuring countless memorable scenes, dazzling set pieces and the best villain we’ve seen in the MCU after golden boy Loki. Brolin is intimidating and convincing as the Mad Titan, with motion capture so vivid it captures every nuance of his performance. He’s insane and complex, and, like the movie, lives up to all the hype. Even with movies like THOR: RAGNAROK, AVENGERS, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and others in their ranks, INFINITY WAR is able to dazzle us in ways we’ve never been dazzled before, only for the next moment to cause us to gasp and grip our theater chairs. This is superhero filmmaking at some of its best, and AVENGERS 4 better be able to match it.

5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Mark Millar’s “Civil War” storyline is one of the most epic and beloved in all of Marvel comics, with virtually every character they could find joining a side and fighting one another over the Superhero Registration Act (in the movie called the Sokovia Accords). Needless to say turning this into a movie would’ve seemed unimaginable years ago, but the MCU has proven they can take the unimaginable and spin it into cinematic gold. Acting as a follow-up to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, CIVIL WAR brings virtually every MCU hero into the fold (Thor and Hulk were – er – busy elsewhere) for an epic showdown that rips the team apart. At the center of the conflict is Iron Man, who believes government oversight is needed to reduce collateral damage and for the Avengers to remain in check and; Captain America, who believes that same government oversight eliminates the team’s ability to do what’s necessary when the world is in danger. Throw in the reemergence of Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier and a series of events unfold that leads to an epic Avenger vs. Avenger showdown. It’s pretty tragic, but also wickedly amazing. What makes the movie such a strong entry in the Marvel canon is how, despite all the characters, everyone is given a stake in the matter and time to develop and grow. The film marks the biggest turning point in all of the MCU so far, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo delivered a thoughtful, complex, action-packed and often hilarious superhero epic that honored not only the source material but the characters at its core.

6. SPIDER-MAN 2

The first outing with Spidey from director Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire was a fun, colorful comic book flick that brought the genre roaring back to life. Of course, Sony didn’t want to wait to keep cashing in on this money cow, releasing the sequel two years later. The web-head proved his first outing was no fluke, and in this beloved sequel was given a proper examination of what it means to take on the responsibility of being a superhero. Peter Parker can’t keep burning the candle at both ends and tries to have a normal life by being Spider-Man no more. But, like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” He has to come back into the game to fight off one of Marvel’s best villains ever in Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). This is the most dazzling of the Raimi-Maguire SPIDER-MAN movies and illustrates the complexities, sensitivity and heroism of the title hero. He was meant to be the hero even if he has to, like Aunt May said, “give up the thing we want the most.” (God, Peter has some wise relatives). This movie is so good it would’ve been fine had it been the last one for its star and director. Sadly, it wasn’t. Ahh! Look away before James Franco says something corny in SPIDER-MAN 3!

7. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

After a few years of middling sequels like X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE WOLVERINE and *gulp* X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, the franchise was brought back to life with the stunning X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. With the new cast – including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence – firmly in place as younger versions of Charles Xavier, Magneto and Mystique the iconic “Days of Future Past” storyline could commence. The time-travel storyline meshed the new crew with the old, as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was sent back to the past to ensure the mutant-hunting Sentinels are never created. The result is the boldest and most adventurous X-MEN movie to date, featuring a thematic storyline that keeps the stakes high and the characters constantly engaging. McAvoy gives the best performance in his tenure as Professor X, bringing to life the broken, heartbroken professor who needs to learn to hope again. Everyone is in top form, and the movie features some of the heaviest (and suitably exciting) imagery of the series, taking one of the greatest X-Men stories ever and giving it the respect it deserved.

8. THOR: RAGNAROK

THOR: RAGNAROK deserves to be put on a unique pedestal in the superhero genre for one simple reason: it proved that you don’t need to recast the character, retell their origin story or give them a grim makeover to make a character seem fresh again. All you need is a bit of creativity, a willingness to change, and a crazy New Zealander behind the camera. The third THOR movie combined all these ingredients and give the God of Thunder a much-need, literal head-to-toe makeover. Literally, they had to shave his head and remove one of his eyes. After being put in the shadows by the likes of Captain America and Iron Man for years this bold new direction was a very necessary deviation from the formula that plagued the first two movies. It was a risk, but who would’ve guessed the character’s triumphant third outing would be such a colorful, whacky, endlessly entertaining space romp from the mind behind WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE? Thor was made the star of his own show, for once, and Hemsworth got to bring his underutilized sense of humor front and center, making Thor everyone’s new favorite Avenger. No, the story elements aren’t the strongest of the MCU canon, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who walked out of the theater without a big grin on their face, ready to declare Thor the greatest hero ever. That helps because he certainly isn’t the strongest Avenger, as we learned.

9. X2: X-MEN UNITED

Sequels of any kind are often instantly disregarded as lesser than their predecessors, because how on earth could you possibly recapture the magic that came before? X2 is one of the first big-budget superhero sequels to slice that notion to shreds with a pair of adamantium claws. The superhero follow-up to 2000’s X-MEN improved upon the predecessor in every way, delivering bigger, better action, a larger sense of scope and a richer exploration of the iconic characters. Instead of adding a cavalcade of new heroes to the mix the movie stuck with the same primary cast from the first movie, expanding their relationships and digging deeper into their personalities. Of course, there was s a new addition in Nightcrawler, and we should all just take a moment to re-admire his badass intro. Brian Cox makes for an excellent, fiendish villain in William Striker, and Kelly Hu is a brilliant and lethal as Lady Deathstrike. X2 improved on the formula and expanded on the world in thrilling ways, proving the first movie was no fluke, and that the X-Men were here to stay. Nothing could stop them now, right?

10. DEADPOOL 2

The first DEADPOOL was a surprise to everyone and achieved the impossible by managing to stand out from a crowded slate of superhero movies. There were Avengers and even fellow X-Men taking up much of the glory, but DEADPOOL embraced something no other comic book movie had; gleeful violence, unrelenting and always hilarious meta humor and a career-defining performance by Ryan Reynolds that makes you forget all about that weird green space suit he once wore (okay, we can never totally forget that). The sequel had the tough task of taking everything that was fresh and groundbreaking in the first and making it still feel unique only two years later, on top of delivering the same amount of heart that drove the first film. DEADPOOL 2 was everything its first movie was – crass, grotesque, constantly hilarious, self-deprecating, surprising and heartfelt – and all wrapped up in a glossier, more expensive, blood-soaked bow. Writers Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese, and Reynolds understood bigger doesn’t always mean better, and though they doubled down where they needed to, they ensured that Deadpool remained just an important a character as Wade Wilson, and underneath the gore and sex jokes is an endearing story about love and family. DEADPOOL 2 ensures the character is here to stay, so best accept him as your lord and master now.

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