Every summer it seems the box office is dominated with sequels. Superhero sequels, sequels to long-running series, and sequels to films that you didn’t think even needed a sequel. Sometimes this amount of sequels can seem overwhelming, and you might wonder when movie studios will come up with something original and new. Nevertheless, if you’re like me, you’ll probably be curious to go and watch the sequel anyway. Love or hate the fact that sequels are so prevalent, there’s at least a few out there that you can’t get enough of. I’ve put together a list of what I think are the 12 best movie sequels ever. What are your favorite sequels?
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The first of two Lord of the Rings films on this list, the reason I decided to include it is because it’s a part of what I consider to be the best movie trilogy of all time. The Two Towers is the second film of the beloved trilogy, and though sometimes telling the middle of a story can be difficult, The Two Towers does an excellent job. It introduces us to exciting memorable characters, such as Eowyn, and shows us what many consider to be the greatest battle sequence in the trilogy, The Battle at Helm’s Deep. This is not really a sequel that you should watch without watching the first movie however. In order to understand what in Middle-earth is going on, you must watch The Fellowship of the Ring before diving into The Two Towers.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Return of the King is my favorite film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and epic is the perfect word to describe it. Packed full of amazing action, beautiful scenery, and fantastic acting, Return of the King is what every fantasy film should strive to be. It concludes the story of the dangerous One Ring and the Fellowship’s quest to destroy this ring. No one will be able to forget many of the scenes in the film, including the one where Sam carries Frodo to Mount Doom, or the scene where the villainous Gollum finally meets his demise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
At first, I wanted to include the third film in this series, At World’s End, but I decided on Dead Man’s Chest because I realized that I am in the minority when it comes to loving At World’s End. Dead Man’s Chest is a better pick because it builds on what made the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl, so popular. It gives us more swashbuckling action, hilarious humor, and gorgeous set pieces. Pirates of the Caribbean is known for its humor, and less so for its drama. Dead Man’s Chest, the beginning of the story of the cursed Davy Jones, excels in creating a balance of humor and darkness, and of course, everyone loves Jack Sparrow. I realize that At World’s End didn’t do such a great job at finding a balance and kind of got too convoluted and take its self too seriously.
Captain America: Civil War
I just couldn’t pick between Civil War and Winter Soldier so I included them both. In my opinion, Captain America has the best sequels of any superhero series, and both sequels are superior to the original film, which is a rare feat. Civil War is so great because it’s what the Avengers films should have been. It has the whole crew, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, even Spider-Man and Ant-Man. The only people missing are Thor and Hulk, and honestly, their presence isn’t all that missed. Civil War manages to balance numerous story lines, humor, action, and heart. We really get to know the Avengers and their vulnerabilities, more so than in the Avenger films. Captain America himself grows so much in this film, as well as the other sequel The Winter Soldier, and it’s such a wonderful sight to see. The growth of his character is my favorite of all the Marvel heroes, and with Civil War, he cemented himself as my favorite superhero.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Before Civil War was released, The Winter Soldier was my favorite Marvel film. It felt like a Bourne movie just as much as a superhero movie. The parallels to current real-life news are subtle, yet powerful. The message of the film is clear. The villain, played by Robert Redford, is still one of my favorite Marvel villains. He’s understated, unlike many Marvel villains. He’s not too over-the-top or cheesy, he’s actually believable. People like him really do exist, and that’s what makes this film so relevant. Take away the superhuman strength of Captain America, and you have a man just like you and me, fighting for good in a bad world.
Toy Story 3
Toy Story is one of the best-animated series of all-time. It’s just as good for adults as it is for children, full of childhood nostalgia, and reminiscent of easier times. Who can forget such memorable characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear? I’ve seen Toy Story 2 on plenty of best-of lists, but the reason I’m deciding to include Toy Story 3, is because of the final sequence of the film. How many people cried in the trash compactor scene when it seems like the toys are about to meet their end? And how many people shook their heads and couldn’t believe they were crying about a group of fictional animated characters who were toys? This film was so powerful because it made you care about these characters, and it made you think about your own childhood. Because of that, I think it’s even more resonant with adults than it is with kids. The scene when Andy is about to go to college and leaves Woody with the little girl, once again, made me cry. You don’t realize how much toys have an impact on you until you’re an adult and have to say goodbye. My goodness, I’m getting teary-eyed all over again.
The Dark Knight
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of most DC Comics films. They’re often just too serious for a bunch of people running around in skin tight spandex, yet The Dark Knight is one of my exceptions. Yes, it’s incredibly serious and depressing and dramatic, but the acting just makes it shine. Heath Ledger’s Joker is the best Joker to ever grace the screen. Not even Jared Leto’s Joker compares. Christian Bale’s Batman is the best Batman, and Ben Affleck doesn’t even come close. The actors in this film are just so brilliant, some of the greatest actors in the world, and though we’ve lost Heath Ledger, we will never forget him and his wonderful talent immortalized in this masterpiece of a superhero film.
The Empire Strikes Back
My favorite Star Wars film is actually Revenge of the Sith, but in terms of sequel power, The Empire Strikes Back simply has more power. Go back to 1977 (I wasn’t alive, so I’ll just pretend.) You’ve just watched Star Wars in theaters, and you’ve been blown away by the latest and greatest in special effects technology. You want more of this epic space opera, and you can’t wait until there’s another sequel. Fast forward a few years, and suddenly Star Wars is back, this time with an even better film. In The Empire Strikes Back, we learn that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, and it’s one of the most unforgettable scenes of all time. That alone, makes this one of the best sequels ever.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
In a list full of action films, you’re probably surprised to see Christmas Vacation, a complete comedy. I’ve included it because you don’t have to have an action series to make a successful sequel. Though many comedy sequels are hard to pull off, Christmas Vacation goes off without a hitch. It’s actually the best film in the Vacation series and the most widely accessible for audiences of most ages. Christmas Vacation has also aged well, as its jokes holiday jokes and antics are funny to anyone who’s ever experienced a family Christmas.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
I absolutely love the newer X-Men films. X-Men: First Class took us back in time to the 1960s and gave this series a makeover. Day of Future Past builds on First Class, helping us get to know Mystique, Xavier, and Magneto far better than we ever got to know them in earlier X-Men films. We dive into the friendship of Xavier and Magneto, and explore their falling out. It’s a fascinating film, with a lot of depth, as well as a lot of fun.
Who doesn’t love Jurassic Park? The 90s classic gave us top of the line CGI tech, and even holds up well today, actually looking better than some current CGI films. After two mediocre sequels, the Jurassic Park series was rebooted with Jurassic World, and it is by far the best sequel in the series. No, it’s not as good as the original film, but it’s a great film in its own right. Chris Pratt is a great action lead, and the dinosaurs look realistic and terrifying.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I love this series so much that I could have picked every sequel, but after some deliberation, I decided that Prisoner of Azkaban deserves a spot on a best-of list. It’s really the Harry Potter film that establishes the Harry Potter film universe as we know it. Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets had a different tone, a more childish in a way tone. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but Prisoner of Azkaban gave us a darker tone that the series carried throughout the rest of the films. The lightheartedness was certainly still in there, but Prisoner of Azkaban really showed us that the wizarding world was in trouble. It’s also a brilliant sequel because the addition of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are some of the best additions to the entire series. They are fan-favorite characters, and they are played by extremely talented actors.