When a Hollywood film is a resounding success, its sequel often seems more or less inevitable. Yet attempting to repeat a formula successfully comes with the risk of redundancy, as well as a potential drop in quality. Indeed, there was a time when the average sequel was more or less meant to be less than its predecessor. There were always exceptions to the rule, but it was nonetheless a common occurrence, one that only got worse when key actors or creatives failed to return to the fold. (These are the 25 worst movie sequels of all time.)
However, times have changed and so has Hollywood’s approach to creating franchises. Studios now realize that serious talent leads to quality results and many sequels no longer feel like mere cash grabs as a result. Visionaries like Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan don’t just make one movie 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 the best directors and top-notch actors while guiding the overall architecture of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe to keep content fresh and cohesive. (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’s a new emphasis on keeping the quality bar high and even experimenting with a given franchise’s tone and formula from entry to entry.
There are also, however, classic sequels from previous eras, which have also managed to exceed expectations and even surpass their predecessors.
Click here to see movie sequels that were better than the original
To determine which movie sequels, whether old or new, are better than the original, 24/7 Tempo has developed an index using average ratings on IMDban online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of Audience Scores and Tomatometer scores on rotten tomatoes, an online film and TV review aggregator, as of May 2022, weighting all ratings equally. We only considered movies with at least 5,000 audience votes on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes.
In one case, the film listed is technically a “prequel”, but was considered 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 only compared movies featuring the same lead actor.