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Which sequels are better than their originals?

AirplaneII_Poster.jpgHere's an interesting question that's always asked but I never feel really addressed. Which sequels that have been made are actually better than their originals? I'm sure you'd be happy to admit that in most cases the original is never beaten, and it's quite rare to see the sequel do any better, but is that really what happens, and are there sequels that do actually turn out better?

There are a number of things to actually think about here. Are the sequels judged to be better if they make more money or on popular opinion? It's something that people have been thinking of over at Wikipedia in two different articles. One covers sequels that are considered to be better than the originals, and the other covers sequels that are better due to box office improvement. Let's look at both and see what the general trend is before we all wade in with what we know to be true - that is, what sequels we all consider to be better than the original.

Without looking at box office figures, the article at Wikipedia looks at IMDB ratings and does a clever little comparison, these are the results it comes to on which sequels are better:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Mad Max 2 (1981) better than Mad Max (1979)
X2 (2003) better than X-Men (2000)
Spider-Man 2 (2004) better than Spider-Man (2002)
Before Sunset (2004) better than Before Sunrise (1995)
For a Few Dollars More (1965) better than A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) better than The Terminator (1984)
Evil Dead II (1987) better than The Evil Dead (1981)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) better than The Bourne Identity (2002)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) better than Frankenstein (1931)
Toy Story 2 (1999) better than Toy Story (1995)
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) better than Star Wars (1977)

Now that is an interesting list, and I have to say that I'd agree with most of it. I'm not so sure about Mad Max, Evil Dead or Bourne, but the rest I would have to agree with. I think if they looked again and considered the new Batman they might find a new addition to the list.

The other listing looks at box office difference, and it's here that there are big surprises. The biggest being that there are a full thirty nine sequels hitting this category. Here's a list of some of the interesting or bigger ones:

Terminator 2: Judgment Day returns were 434% better than The Terminator
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me returns were 282% better than Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Dawn of the Dead returns were 233% better than Night of the Living Dead
Rambo: First Blood Part II returns were 219% better than First Blood
The Road Warrior returns were 170% better than Mad Max
Highlander II: The Quickening returns were 164% better than Highlander
Evil Dead 2 returns were 147% better than The Evil Dead
Lethal Weapon 2 returns were 126% better than Lethal Weapon
Shrek 2 returns were 65% better than Shrek
The Matrix Reloaded returns were 64% better than The Matrix
Saw II returns were 58% better than Saw
The Chronicles of Riddick returns were 47% better than Pitch Black
The Bourne Supremacy returns were 45% better than The Bourne Identity
Die Hard 2: Die Harder returns were 42% better than Die Hard
X2: X-Men United returns were 37% better than X-Men
Toy Story 2 returns were 28% better than Toy Story
The Karate Kid Part II returns were 27% better than The Karate Kid
Hannibal returns were 26% better than The Silence of the Lambs
Resident Evil: Apocalypse returns were 25% better than Resident Evil
Mission: Impossible 2 returns were 19% better than Mission: Impossible
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 returns were 18% better than A Nightmare on Elm Street
Blade II returns were 17% better than Blade
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers returns were 9% better than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Aliens returns were 8% better than Alien

I'm shocked by things like Rambo, Mad Max, Die Hard, Karate Kid, Hannibal, Resident Evil and Blade II, yet you can understand these sorts of figures. They represent people going to see it, and you're going on the back of the previous film and how good it was as well as all the new sequel hype. The audience are paying to see it and it's only after they have paid they might have realised how poor it is.

Any there that you would say are inidicitive of people paying and then wishing they hadn't?

There's a further twenty that are listed under the category of second sequel returning more than the first sequel, and I'll copy them all here because it makes for interesting reading.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico returns were 122% better than Desperado
Goldfinger returns were 106% better than From Russia with Love
Army of Darkness returns were 94% better than Evil Dead 2
Friday the 13th Part 3 returns were 69% better than Friday the 13th Part 2
Scary Movie 3 returns were 54% better than Scary Movie 2
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome returns were 53% better than The Road Warrior
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 returns were 49% better than A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2
Rocky III returns were 47% better than Rocky II
Clear and Present Danger returns were 47% better than Patriot Games
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation returns were 45% better than National Lampoon's European Vacation
Spy Kids 3D: Game Over returns were 30% better than Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly returns were 27% better than For a Few Dollars More
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith returns were 26% better than Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Enforcer returns were 16% better than Magnum Force
Batman Forever returns were 13% better than Batman Returns
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King returns were 10% better than The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns were 10% better than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi returns were 7% better than Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth returns were 4% better than Hellraiser II
Austin Powers in Goldmember returns were 4% better than Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Again you can see the reasons why, with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Evil Dead, but who would have guessed the order? Some you just realise the audience were coming out wondering why they had wasted their money. Which do you think show poor judgement from the audience?

So, with all those figures and other peoples lists, the real question remains. What, in your mind, are the list of sequels that are better than the original? I think we can safely base that question on enjoyment and rating after the film rather than box office returns!



This is one of my favorite topics with my film friends.

I am surprised that The Godfather II was never mentioned being better than the original, IMO, they're almost equal. A rom-com film (the title of which escapes me now) mentions this that although The Godfather II is better, you still have to see the original, sort of comparing it to a woman, funny that!

Fellowship of the Ring is superior by all means and in my books, no way that the Two Towers is a much better film. Before Sunset is a little bit better in the sense that the story has already grown on you by the time 9 years have passed and you see the two main characters together again, although if a sequel hasnt been made, Before Sunrise is a brilliant film on its own, very underrated but nevertheless fantastic.

I am not even going to say anything about Star Wars! ;-) Another good article there eh Richard?

God it's a difficult one. I know I have preferences when it comes to sequels. I preferred Terminator 2 to the first and Aliens to Alien.

However when you compare them by box office takings I would agree that sometimes the sequel does better than the orginal because the original was so good that people wanted more, they didn't necessarily get a better film. That would include Matrix Reloaded and Mission Impossible 2 for me....

I guess it can only be judged once you've seen both so popular opinion would be the better to base it on. And popular opinion says that there shouldn't be a SWAT sequel ever...yeah got it in again!

On the topic of sequels being better then originals, a great example is the documentary Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. Not only is it better than the first, but it's an extra special example because it's so rare that documentaries have sequels. Also, an interesting connection is both films were directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky...Joe Berlinger went on to direct Blair Witch 2...a film which was DEFINITELY not better then the original.

Jay C.

I'd certainly agree with Louise there, and with the films listed, and for the reasons. Matrix Reloaded was a major let-down, waited for Revolutions on Sky as a result. Oh, better sequel, lost the plot for a minute. Beverley Hills Cop 2 was better than the first. The story was as strong in both but the characters had grown with the second, there was the history that gave it an edge.

Box office improvements mean feck all, has inflation and general ticket price increases between the two releases been taken into account? Bums on seats figures - TIMELESS, inflation-proof, true comparison with no considerations...

As always, they only focus in the cinema made in the last five minutes.

Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)

Dr. Mabuse´s Crimes (Fritz Lang)

Quatermass 2 (Val Guest)

The Revenge of Frankenstein (Terence Fisher)

Funny: Science Fiction and Horror have always been a good sequel soil

Another interesting sequel phenomenon is when a sequel is completely different, by plot/characters or even title, then it's orginal.

Some good examples would be Halloween 3, which featured a story about deadly halloween masks rather then Michael Myers...also the third sequel in the horror/comedy franchise "House" is COMPLETELY different. It's called 'The Horror Show', and focuses around an executed convict who haunts from beyond the grave. How this is related to the House series, i'm not entirely sure. However, the gap between 2 and 4 and a listing on imdb.com show that this is technically a sequel.

Jay C.

Jay, I think that's going well outwith the realms of this discussion...I might put one on the list for when is a sequel not really a sequel.

Dead right though Peter, there is a strong focus on the present films. For the Box Office side you can see why though, these titles are making wads of cash more than the oldies because of numbers and the economic increases.

Still, in the realm of actual enjoyment, there's a whole raft of older films that belong up there.

I think this topic is very interesting and I do agree w/ many of the imdb.com ratings...

especially Spider Man 2, X Men 2, Before Sunset and Toy Story 2.

In the 2nd column i've seen similar statistics at boxofficemojo.

Great post.


Evil Dead II was an improvement from the original.

Oceans 12 was better than Oceans 11 (maybe splitting hairs here though)

Blade II was a heck of a lot better than Blade (Blood-Rave scene in the 1st one, excluded)

ToyStory and X-Men were mentiond above...and I have a soft spot for Terrance Stamp, so I'm going to say Superman II as well. (And on a Richard Donner, note, Lethal Weapon 2 was better than the first..."Yes, they F***-You at the Drive Through")

I am going to cry FOUL on Terminator 2 and Aliens...In both cases, the originals are superior in my book (It is the lower budgeted entries in each of those series which makes the better films...but then again, I love Alien3, so amongst my friends, I usually remain ostracized from conversations about that franchise anyway.)

Also, for sheer fun, I ran Mad Max II above the original....that movie is just a pure blast of energy.

The second Star Trek film was a lot more fun than the first.

Jackie Chan's Drunkenmaster II (renamed for North America as Legend of Drunken Master) was a sequel that is one of the Definitive Jackie Chan films...a real stand-out.

Lastly THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY is said to be a sequel of sorts to Fist Full of Dollars & A Few Dollars more...so I'm throwing it in there...

Damn, I should read the article first...Looks like you've covered all the bases here Richard.

For further damaging of my 'mainstream-cred' I'm going to say that I think the Second Matrix film is easily as good as the first.

Kurt, I like your post, but I have got to say that the original LW was better than the sequel, I mean remember the end sequence between Riggs and Gary Busey's character, I thought that was mind-blowing, nevertheless I loved all the LW films.

The original Die Hard is still the best, none of the sequels can ever live up to it.

This post of Richard makes me want to revisit all the films mentioned here when I planned to watch all the new DVDs in my collection!


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