The 12 Greatest Movie Sequels of All Time

Andrew Buckle,

To celebrate the release of Top Gun: Maverick for purchase in the Movie Store on Fetch we took some time to consider just how many great sequels there have been across, well, the history of film. Maverick is certainly one of them. Sequels are notoriously, and quite commonly, inferior products to the original films but every now and then there’s a follow-up that not only expands on the established world in an interesting way, but has more impressive filmmaking craft and an even more entertaining and engaging story. It’s not impossible to believe.

An important criteria here is simply a subjective analysis of their merit. Are these superior or at least on par with the original films?

This rules out a few popular picks such as The Godfather Part II, Aliens, Toy Story 2 & 3, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Spider-man 2. While these are unusually excellent sequels –The Godfather Part II is one of the greatest films ever made – I personally prefer the direct preceding films in the series.

I have also ruled out films that are part of a reboot franchise (The Dark Knight, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Mad Max: Fury Road) as well as lengthy franchises with superior late entries (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Creed, Mission: Impossible – Fallout come to mind).

So, headlined by Maverick, here’s our list. Read on for some thoughts on each selection.

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

In an early sequence in Maverick Ed Harris’ grizzled Admiral tells Tom Cruise‘s ‘Maverick’ after his latest lack of discipline: “Your kind is heading to extinction.” “Maybe so, sir, but not today” ‘Maverick’ responds, and this could not be truer for the man (Cruise, now 60 years of age) who has not only kept his movie star redundancy at bay, but has become the pioneer for practical modern action cinema. This exhilarating film, which wears the nostalgia for Tony Scott’s original proudly on it’s wing, might be the reassurance that we all need that big screen entertainment is still alive and kicking. That is if Tom Cruise has anything to do with it. Exhibit B: the aforementioned Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Even if you’re not that emotionally attached to the original film, this is a breathtaking full-throttle experience that is sure to satisfy many a future viewing.

Buy now in the Movie Store.

Evil Dead II (1987)

It might be a shock to anyone uninitiated with Sam Raimi and his cherished gore-infested trailblazers, but Evil Dead II offered up a very different experience. Whereas this sequel leans more into OTT grisliness and ridiculous slapstick comedy – while basically replicating the plot of the ’81 film as part of the joke – the original is full-on ‘serious’ horror that has to be considered amongst the goriest films ever made. While you still need a strong stomach for this, the course is just a tad more digestible. Bruce Campbell’s ‘groovy’ performance in II has become iconic, and it is just pure devilish fun.

Stream now on Stan.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

This surely isn’t a controversial pick. Terminator is great, no doubt, but T2 is what we come back to time and time again. Who doesn’t love the twist of Arnie returning to save John Connor (Edward Furlong) this time? T2 was a huge step up on a visual effects level too, amongst the most accomplished work at the time, with a tremendous villain (the T-1000) and a kick-ass heroine performance from Linda Hamilton. Check out some further thoughts on T2 here, where we honoured the incredible vehicular pursuit through the flood channel.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Paddington 2 (2017)

There was period of time where Paddington 2 was the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes (until a single negative review popped up), and we’re certainly not here to tell you that this isn’t one of the greatest films ever made. It might actually be. This instalment relishes in the freedom to explore the members of the Brown family further, finds a wonderful way to link Paddington’s London life with his Peruvian forest past and brings in Hugh Grant as a hilarious antagonist. It’s worth a watch for his work alone. Director Paul King has drawn inspiration from filmmakers like Wes Anderson in some of the set-pieces (notably, a stunning prison escape) and this feels, justly, like a magical children’s book has been lifted off the page and lovingly crafted for the screen.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

In our spotlight on Steven Soderbergh we ranked Magic Mike XXL as one of the most impressive films he has been involved with, serving as cinematographer and editor. The preceding film – which Soderbergh directs and stars Matthew McConaughey, who didn’t return here – delved into the darker side of the luxuries associated with the American Dream, and the cost of ambition, through the world of male strippers. This fresh-feeling take on this well-oiled world is pure entertainment, a joyous buddy road trip – an entirely comedic misadventure-filled last ride for the Kings of Tampa to the annual Myrtle Beach stripper convention to prove they still have what it takes.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What else is there to say? While George Lucas’ cinema-altering sci-fi masterpiece, Star Wars, remains as impressive as ever after all these years, the darker and higher-stakes sequel expands on his universe, finds new challenges for his beloved characters and increases the spectacle. It remains the pinnacle Star Wars achievement to this day.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Before Sunset (2004)

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke were so committed to these characters and their now decade-spanning story (Before Sunrise would precede and Before Midnight would follow in 2013) that they co-wrote the screenplay with director Richard Linklater. In Sunset Celine and Jesse cross paths for the first time since their romantic meeting in Vienna nine years earlier, and they ultimately try to find out what might have happened if they had acted on their feelings back then. The film is set in real time (and features long unbroken takes) as Jesse concludes a book tour and has some time before catching his flight home. This whole series is magnificent, but Sunset – though just 80 minutes long it is packed with fascinating conversation and a rollercoaster of emotions – feels like the perfect encapsulation of what was envisioned with this series. Delpy and Hawke are wonderful, and the ending is an all-timer.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

This could have been the arguably-superior The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the jaw-dropping conclusion (or so we thought) to the Matt Damon-era of Bourne, but we have always valued Paul Greengrass’s (Captain Phillips) gripping first sequel higher than most of the franchise’s fans. We have evaluated the rain-slicked Moscow car chase, discussed in more detail here, as one of the finest ever filmed, and keep an eye out for a young Karl Urban (The Boys) as Bourne’s nemesis.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

The Trip to Italy (2014)

While The Trip has become a rewatchable classic, what remains evident is the original series’ low budget. Some of the England locations are suitably dreary at times, but this doesn’t really matter as the meals and conversations shared by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are the hero. But, what if the pair dialed their dueling impressions up a notch and embarked on a holiday to a gloriously sunny European destination? This film (an extension of the TV series, let’s not forget) is as hilarious and insightful as the original but the production possesses that elusive cinematic quality. This is an all-round more polished and impressive feat of filmmaking, and it remains our favourite of a series that has maintained quality and originality, while exploring honest truths about themes of celebrity, legacy and performance, across four films now.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Batman Returns (1992)

It really is hard to believe that this crazy (Christmas) film was one of the year’s highest-grossing in 1992. They certainly don’t make blockbusters like they used to. While there have been other impressive portrayals of Selina Kyle/Catwoman it is Michelle Pfeiffer‘s that will prove immortal. Danny DeVito’s Penguin is also just a disgustingly ghoulish and unhinged creation. This just eclipses Tim Burton’s own Batman (1989), which features Michael Keaton‘s only other appearance as the caped crusader. These two films remain the most relevant Batman portrayals to date – true comic-book adaptations that relied on elaborate costumes, imaginative sets, and nightmarish imagery to create pure action escapism.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Babe: Pig in the City (1998)

While Babe was highly celebrated upon release – it even received a 1995 Best Picture nomination, somehow – it has fallen into cringe territory (at least for us) all these years later. It’s episodic structure has become rather jarring, and it has some pretty dark sequences. The sequel is a work of crazy genius by filmmaker George Miller (Mad Max/Fury Road) that time has rewarded for not even pretending to be a kids film. Those traumatised kids have grown up and (maybe) stumbled upon this in a bargain bin and decided it was worth another shot? Viewers at the time were left confused and repulsed by this totally obnoxious follow-up to a beloved classic. I hesitate to suggest this, but…watch it again?

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

The New Batch is another sequel that decided to burn the manual of success and just do something completely deranged. Subversive filmmaker Joe Dante wasn’t interested in making a sequel to his commercially successful Gremlins, but when he was allowed an extensive budget and granted creative control the result was simply jaw-dropping. Dante opted for barb wire satire about the Hollywood studio system and money-grubbing sequels, ripe with parodies and in-jokes. He had no intention of helping Warner Bros sell more toys, he simply wanted to push the limits of what he was capable of as a filmmaker and we can be thankful that he was gifted such an enormous toy box of amazing creature creations – brought to life through puppetry and stop-motion wizardry – to run rampant with.

Buy or rent in the Movie Store.

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