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10 Movie Sequels In Which Part 2 Was Better Than Part 1

30 November 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Andy Kubica


A sequel is almost inevitable these days.

A good sequel is not that hard to do successfully, especially since studios are more motivated than ever to keep a franchise going and not let it die. You will never see the days of “Caddyshack II” or “The Sting II” ever again. It’s hard to even believe “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was made since it was only one step above a straight-to-video film. Look at how far that franchise has come back.

A great sequel is even harder to do. A higher budget doesn’t necessarily mean a better film. Elements for a great sequel usually include a continuation of the story/formula that worked the first time, bringing back most, if not all, of the original cast or director, introducing complex and engaging new characters, spending more time on character relationships instead of telling the origin story, new motivations or maybe even turmoil within the group that was formed gets resolved.

A sequel that is better than the first is a rare thing indeed. All elements really have to come together like lightning in a bottle to produce a film that is truly special and makes the audience want to take a second journey through the universe that was created the first time around.

For the purposes of this list, I am only looking at part 2 vs. part 1, so you will not see Episode III listed here.


10. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

It’s hard to believe this one actually got made! In 1979, 10 years after its initial TV run of only 3 seasons, acclaimed director Robert Wise (The Sounds of Music, West Side Story and sci-fi classic The Day he Earth Stood Still) decided to bring back the U.S.S. Enterprise and her crew for an all-new big screen adventure, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The movie was a success; however, reviews and audience response were mixed. Many felt there was too much style and not enough substance. The story revolved around Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and crew investigating a mysterious entity called “V’GER” and intercepting it before it reached Earth.

Instead of bringing in major new characters for the Wrath of Khan, new director Nicholas Meyer decided instead to bring back a character who had appeared in an original Star Trek episode, “The Space Seed”, in 1967, Kahn Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban). The result was a far superior film.

Several elements the first film was lacking including a great villain, emotional character development and more of an action setting were quite present in Wrath of Khan. The rivalry between Kirk and Khan worked very well as the two formidable egos clashed throughout the film and came to a head during its climactic space folly.

Unfortunately, it seemed the film created a track record of having one mediocre to bad Star Trek film released followed by one great one, which seemed to haunt the series for the rest of their original and “Next Generation” sequence. Wrath of Khan remains as the best Star Trek film made to date.


9. Evil Dead 2

evil dead 2

The Evil Dead series is unique in that all three films can be watched together as essentially one long film. Director Sam Raimi had managed to craft a unique, very low budget (around $375,000 estimated) campy horror comedy film the first time with the original The Evil Dead. Rami credits Stephen King for helping to get the sequel off the ground by having made “a few calls” in order to assist him in getting financing for the film.

Having found a cult audience, part 2 picks up right at the point where the first film ended, showing Ash (Bruce Campbell) continuing to defend himself and his cabinmates from a barrage a strange zombie/demon hoard who wants to consume them. There are no character differences here. Essentially, Ash is the only main character in both films.

Evil Dead 2 is often thought of as a remake of the first film which is not the case. Ash actually explains what happened in the first film at the beginning of part 2 since footage from the first film could not be used. The main difference this time around is the budget (this time around $3,600,000), which was able to give the film a more “finished” look and also helped with the films gore and make up effects. The result is another cult classic horror comedy which outshines the first.


8. Desperado


When director Robert Rodriguez made his first film, “El Mariachi”, for approximately $7,000 in 1992, he actually raised most of the money by submitting himself for lab experiments. In 1995, he decided to make a follow-up to his cult hit for approximately $7,000,000, or about 1,000 times the film’s original budget.

The film centers on a wandering musician (Antonio Banderas) who gets involved with a beautiful woman (Salma Hayek) and becomes entangled in a brutal drug war. As with other films on this list, the main difference between this and the first film is the budget. Even the budget of $7,000 for El Mariachi is not entirely accurate as Rodriguez admits most of this was spent on film for his camera. The props, actors etc. were all essentially donated to the cause.

Getting bigger named actors and having more locations, effects and action meant a lot bigger budget. The film originally received an NC-17 rating and had to be severely cut by Rodriguez before release. The movie did pretty well and was a critical hit as well. If interested, you can also follow further adventures of the desperado through the trilogies conclusion, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, released in 2003.


7. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

The Road Warrior (1981)

Director George Miller gave us the original Australian Mad Max in 1979 on a modest budget of only $650,000 which he financed by working as an emergency room doctor. Since Mel Gibson was not well known in the United States at that time, trailers for the film focused on the action scenes rather than his character. Gibson’s dialogue was even dubbed so U.S. audiences could understand his character.

Two years later, Miller was given a $2,000,000 budget to make The Road Warrior, or Mad Max 2 as is called in Austria ilia, the highest production given to a film there at that time. As with the first film, the story involved a former cop patrolling the Outback defending remote residents and their gasoline from roaming bandits and thieves.

As with other films listed here, the biggest difference is the film’s budget. Although not as huge of a difference, the money must have been spent better and the film just seems more put together and less “campy”. The action is nonstop and the acting seems more consistent across the board. It feels less like Miller filmed with whomever was just standing around.

This film was actually meant to be the final Mad Max story; however, Miller ended up changing his “Lord of the Flies” story he wanted to tell to what ended up becoming the 3rd film “Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome”.


6. Before Sunset


In 1995, writer and director Richard Linklater (Boyhood) introduced us to Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), a young couple who have a chance meeting on a train developing a whirlwind relationship, knowing they will not have much time together.

Although not a box office hit, Linklater, decided to go ahead with a sequel nine years later both in real time and time in the film. This one is interesting as both films have their own unique qualities, but what is consistent with both is the superb writing and acting. There is not nearly as much difference present as with some other films on this list since this is a much simpler story. You as the audience goes on the adventure with both characters and are genuinely interested in their lives and what happened to them.

The reason most people think Sunset is a better film than Sunrise is the story seems much more mature. The characters have grown so much since the points they were in their lives at the time of Sunrise. You get a sense fate and karma are at play with the two lovers, but maybe it wasn’t supposed to work out after all. Without giving away too much, their lives continue to play out in “Before Midnight” released in 2013.



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  • Brandon Thompson

    I have to disagree with you on Star Wars The Evil Dead and Terminator. I liked the first ones more than the second.

    And I love Before Sunrise and Before Sunset equally but Before Midnight is slightly better than the pair of the them.

    But good choices apart from that.

    • sailor monsoon

      Empire strikes back is 100% better in every conceivable way then star wars.

      • Brandon Thompson

        That is your opinion, my father’s favorite is Return of the Jedi and there are people who like the prequels but that’s there choice.

        And I like Star Wars more than empire because Star Wars is in my top 5 of all time (along with Breathless, Psycho, Fight Club and Children of Men)

        • sailor monsoon

          I understand liking star wars more but i can’t understand how anyone could think it’s better made then empire strikes back.
          I personally think Batman begins is a better Batman movie than dark knight but i know dark knight is just a better made film

  • sailor monsoon

    Some other suggestions:
    Bride of Frankenstein.
    Dawn of the dead.
    Devil’s rejects
    Hostel 2
    Christmas vacation
    Blade 2


    Spiderman 2… still my favorite super hero film…

  • Harris K Telemacher

    Nice list. Very glad to see you didn’t succumb to the temptation to put The Godfather pt 2 in there. Also, Babe Pig in the City would have been a good entry. Not sure where I stand in The Raid. I think it might not be possible to choose between the two.

  • Murali Subramonian

    Dark knight is just a happy accident….due to the joker effect….otherwise Batman begins has got a much stronger script…..

    • Captain Sarcasm

      Mmm, not really. It is carried by a convoluted and at times even uninteresting plot that lags in several places, and, as mentioned in the article, suffers from having to spend a great deal of time establishing an origin story that has been told at least a dozen times now. The dialogue is not anywhere near as good, and the triangulation of Wayne/Joker/Dent is much more interesting than all the League of Shadows stuff which, sure enough, also bogged down TDKR.

      • John W. Thackery

        “an origin story that has been told at least a dozen times now”

        There was no origin story in any of the Batman films prior to Begins. One flashback of his parents’ murder in Batman ’89 is not an origin story.

  • Allister Cooper

    Bourne Supremacy! Also, Spiderman 2 and my ultimate favourite guilty pleasure, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. I wasn’t expecting much when I watched it and was pleasantly surprised.

  • Rudi

    The Evil Dead is much, much better than the second one, although they’re both good.

    I’d add The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the all-time best superhero movie.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    It’s strange to me that you would choose to leave out From Russia With Love. It seems like the original example of what you’re writing about.

  • William

    The Raid 2 was indeed far superior to the first, but the attempt at storyline, acting, and general drama was SOOO BAD. At least the first film did not pretend to have much of a storyline. The sequel tried so hard, and failed miserably, but the fight scenes are the most epic I have ever seen on screen and well worth the credit of being better than the first.

  • Dounster

    Where is … ALIENS ?????

  • Joao Ribeiro

    Lol at no godfather

    • Lex Vanderwal

      Yes, the Godfather is the most famous example, I assumed it would be at nr. 1 😀

      • Blake MacLean

        Loved ’em both equally!

  • Temple of Doom

  • Romeo Garcia

    Spiderman 2,Aliens,Lethatl weapon 2,X men 2,Superman 2,star wars episode II,dawn of the dead,Rambo II.

  • Pingback: 10 Movie Sequels In Which Part 2 Was Better Than Part 1 |

  • Superman II

    • Johnny Al Lenn

      Original cut or Donner cut?

      • Either one…although I certainly love the Donner cut (and prefer it today), I grew up with the original which still topped the original (a supreme film in itself)!

  • Gabriel Zoeman

    T2 is NOT better than Terminator.

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      That’s a rare opinion

    • Johnny Al Lenn

      That’s highly debatable, despite common elements they’re very different films in a lot of ways. One point I don’t think can be argued is that T2 is at least an example of a great sequel, true to the original without being too repetitive and continuing the story in a very satisfying way. It’s a shame they made more because T2 wrapped everything up nicely. Then T3 taught me to abandon all hope if a sequel to a great R-rated movie series is rated PG13.

  • Kristoffer Groves

    Dawn of the Dead
    Winter Soldier
    Godfather 2

    • Harris K Telemacher

      Winter Soldier yep.

  • For some reason I have a soft spot for the original Mad Max, because it makes more sense. It is set in a failing society that still has some semblance of an industrial civilization, which includes gas stations, road maintenance and even some measure of public health services. Subsequent Mad Max installments take place in a world where despite the absence of some kind of fuel distribution system, people roam the roads at full throttle. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • JohnCarpenter

    nope… “desperado” isn’t better than “el mariachi”

  • Abba Makama


  • Лука Паушак

    Well for me the Raid 1 and Terminator 1 worked better that the sequels, especially the Raid,the first part was better than the second.

    • Johnny Al Lenn

      Definitely feel the same way about The Raid. As for T1 and T2 the only thing which objectively improved was the technical side of things, T2 had vastly improved SFX and incredible sound design compared to T1 but other than that I think it’s far too close to call.

  • Chris Gaye

    Why is Blade II not in this list?

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Thank you thank you thank you for not listing Aliens or Godfather 2.

  • Shiv Shankar Nath

    How can their be no Godfather 2?

  • Spider-man 2 ?
    The Winter Soldier ?

  • Matthew Miller

    Godfather v. Godfather Part II is indeed a tough call, though I would go with Part II. Raiders of the Lost Ark v. Temple of Doom (in Honorable Mentions), I would say, is not close at all. Raiders is far superior in all respects.

  • Etcet Ra

    The silence of the lamb was a sequel to some movie, isnt it? And it should be on list.

  • JP Cuartas

    Aliens better than Alien? K-mooonnn