The Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Across the Spiderverse has quickly risen to becoming one of the greatest movie sequels of all time – how does it compare to other sequels?

Last Updated on April 30, 2024

The Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Believe it or not, there used to be a time where movie sequels were actually an incredibly rare thing. As it was, audiences felt that movies and even tv shows should have definitive stories and points that they were trying to make and why would anybody bother making a sequel to what should have been a conclusive story? But now, in an era where Hollywood values established IP and fanbases more than any potential original project, sequels have become the norm. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that sequels have taken over cinemas, provided that the sequels are just as good as the originals and come out with their own original plot-lines. Like all movies, whether or not a person might enjoy a surplus of sequels is preferential and is more so dependent on the subject material, especially if it’s regarding a franchise that the audience has taken a liking too. With all of that being said, several of the best sequels in history have been released in the last few years, including this year’s Across the Spiderverse, and we wanted to see how said sequels compared to one another.

This list is not a ranking and merely in chronological order of release date.

Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Godfather: Part II (1974)

When Francis Ford Capolla took the world by storm with his iconic masterpiece that is The Godfather in 1972, nobody thought he’d be able to top it. Instead, Capolla proved to the world what a true genius he was behind the camera and made a sequel that, to this day, is still debated as the best movie sequel of all time. The Godfather: Part II is not just as good as the original, but perhaps even better as it showcases the story of Michael Corleone’s slow fall into the depths of organized crime while using flashbacks to highlight how his father began their families story in the first place. It’s darker and more complex and grips the audience at every turn with a pacing that can seldom be matched – 50 years later and this movie still deserves every bit of praise.

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What can be said about a movie that is still arguably the greatest sequel of all time even though it came out nearly 50 years ago? The Empire Strikes Back pushed the boundaries of what sci-fi movies were capable of, while simultaneously shattering the boundaries of what cinematic storytelling could achieve. The reveal of Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father will forever be the greatest plot-twist of all time and the journey that Luke had to go on to become a Jedi was the most relatable and humbling adventure that an action-star had taken up to that point. The visual-effects, the story-telling, the acting, the direction – this movie will never rate anything less than 100%.


Aliens (1986)

James Cameron undoubtedly has some words for anyone who thinks that audiences don’t want strong, female-led movies. Alien came out and blew peoples minds due to the confined space that Cameron was able to tell his sci-fi story in – then Aliens came out several years later and paired sci-fi and horror together in a way that encapsulated audiences in the most terrifying ways possible. Even today, the Alien creatures from the movie are haunting and hold-up to the effects that we have now. Sigourney Weaver gave a performance of a life time and proved to everybody that girls could be even more bad-ass than boys – get away from her, you bitch!

Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

I’ll be back – and better than the first one. James Cameron had proven multiple times by 1991 that he was a master filmmaker and could create stories/worlds that audiences would fall in love with. However, he solidified himself as the greatest sequel filmmaker in history when he released Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the best action movies of all time. The film improves on the first Terminator movie in every possible way – better visual effects, a better plot/story, and somehow an even better villain. Cameron stepped away from the love narrative of the first film and gave that same energy to the relationship between John Connor and the Terminator, allowing audiences to still have something to root for as the effects kept their eyes glued to the screen. Include the addition of Linda Hamilton as the badass Sarah Connor and what more could you possibly ask of a sequel?

Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 (1999)

The first Toy Story movie set the tone for every Pixar film that has followed, but audiences still haven’t forgotten that the direct sequel is still one of the greatest that the studio has ever produced. Toy Story 2 continued the story of anthrapamorphized toys that come to life when people aren’t around (a truly revolutionary idea) and somehow improved upon the original, adding characters like Jesse and Bullseye while giving Woody’s character genuine depth and emotion. The humor was just as on-point as the original and the animation was just as top-notch – for a couple of animated movies, the Toy Story franchise is undoubtedly one of the best of all time.

Shrek 2 (2004)

Speaking of fantastic animated franchises, Shrek doesn’t fall far behind Toy Story on the list. The original concept of the beautiful fairy-tale princess falling in love with the unhygienic orge rather than Prince Charming was gripping to say the least. After the success of that concept, the sequel decided to delve even further into the family dynamic of the princess marrying the orge and chose to make a movie about how her parents would feel about it. After all, most fairy tales end with ‘happily ever after’, but Shrek 2 hilariously explored the concept of what ‘happily ever after’ might actually entail.

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

With great power comes great responsibility. It’s the line from the franchise that has had two reboots in the last two decades, but it’s a line that will stand the test of time. In Spider-Man 2, after obtaining and honing his powers as Spiderman, Peter Parker must come to grips with the fact that even with his abilities he can’t do it all. Include the appearance of Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in what is arguably the greatest cinematic super-villain performance of all time and you get one of the greatest sequels to ever grace audiences screens.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008)

For a character as famous and elusive as The Joker, it’s baffling that an entire generation of people can’t hear the name without thinking of Heath Ledger. Make no mistake that Christopher Nolan composed a masterpiece when it comes to The Dark Knight as the story of Bruce Wayne coming to terms with the fact that he can’t do it all (seeing a pattern here?) was just as relatable as it was in Spiderman 2. However, audiences everywhere know that the crowning achievement of this film was how on-point the late-great Heath Ledger’s performance was – RIP to the man who gave his absolute all to the role.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Yes, this is the third straight super-hero movie to make the list of best sequels and they’re all incredible. That said, Captain America: The Winter Soldier holds a special place in it’s own regard despite not having as much notoriety as the previous two. The Winter Soldier was unquestionably a terrific movie and sat atop the list of best MCU movies for a very long time. However, even with the surplus of projects that the MCU has churned out over the last several years, there are quite a few MCU enthusiasts who believe that The Winter Soldier is still atop said list. Cap confronting his past, the reveal of Bucky still being alive and Hydra growing inside of SHIELD, the addition of Falcon – it’s just top tier.

Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Don’t call it a comeback. Despite Tom Cruise being one of the most notable and recognizable movie stars of the past 40 years, it somehow took him until 2022 to make the most profitable movie that he’s every appeared in. Top Gun: Maverick flew into theaters nearly four decades after the original and became the highest grossing movie of Cruise’s career by raking in more than $1.5 billion at the global box office. Now, the story of Top Gun: Maverick might not have the gripping, keep-your-eyes-glued-to-the-screen dialogue and dramatic scenes that some of the other movies on this list have, but what it does have is breath-taking visual stunts and a story that’s so well delivered that an audience member doesn’t even need to see the original to enjoy the sequel. For that reason alone, it takes a deserved spot on this list.

Best Movie Sequels of All Time

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

Like we said, we’re in the era of sequels, and somehow 2022 managed to have two of the best sequels of all time. Avatar: The Way of Water took it’s sweet time reaching cinemas after a thirteen year break from the first one, but it didn’t disappoint and gave audiences a brand new version of Pandora to fall in love with. Combine the concept of the sequel focusing more on Sully and Neytiri’s children rather than keep honing in on the parents story and it created a sequel that felt like you could’ve completely skipped the original and still understood everything going on. The bonus of the VFX being out of this world only added to the experience.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse (2023)

Is it the greatest Spiderman movie of all time, the best sequel of all time, or just the greatest movie of all time? According to audiences, it could be all three. The follow up film to 2018’s Into the Spiderverse had a huge burden in trying to match the success that the original captured five years ago. Instead, the sequel surpassed every expectation and has audiences making more noise than they did for No Way Home. The story of Miles learning that his fate as Spiderman is sealed and unchangeable hits home for nearly everyone watching and becomes personally relatable when Miles comes to the decision that his destiny is in his own hands. The animation, the soundtrack, the voice-acting, the story, the lore – what more could any sequel possibly have?

What do you think are some of the best sequels of all time? Would you have added Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to the list? The Nightmare on Elm Street follow-up Wes Craven’s New Nightmare? Mad Max: Fury Road, Blade Runner 2049, or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? The Night of the Living Dead sequel Dawn of the Dead? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Source: Variety

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