Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Sequels That Bested Their Predecessors

Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Sequels That Bested Their Predecessors

To Be Continued BTTF

Everyone loves lists.  Top Tens, Billboard Top 200, Bottom Ten, Top 100, etc.  It is inherent and ingrained in our human nature to take the chaos around us and put it in some sort of orderly fashion.  Every Tuesday, Josh lists his Top 5 movies based on an actor, genre, director, theme, holiday, sandwich or general whimsy and posts it for your consumption and discussion.  If you want to submit your own list you can email Josh at with the subject line, “RWT Top 5 Tuesday”, give a short 50-100 word description of the theme and your choices, you could end up seeing your list right here!


The Sequel: a short, over-thought poem by Josh Crabb


When the story is not quite over,

when there is more to tell.

And the studio wants more money,

it’s time for a sequel.


All you poetry majors and rappers take note, I charge by the stanza if you are interested.

Iambic pentameter aside, I recently finished watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars and sitting down to watch the trilogy again for a fresh viewing.  This got me thinking about sequels and how hard it can be to best the movies that came before.  For the longest time, sequel was almost synonymous with “money grab”, “sucks”, and “direct to video”.  Whenever you went to see “Movie IP” with a “2” attached to it, you could almost guarantee that sucker was inferior in quality and a huge disappointment.  We can all think of the myriad of follow up movies that have fallen flat on their faces or lacked the previous stars or thrust a supporting role into a lead role with disastrous results.

But a lot of that has been changing.  This year saw a fair number of sequels be incredibly successful and really good.  Captain America: The Winter Solider was a great movie and did extremely well.  22 Jump Street was a surprisingly great follow up to the very funny 21 Jump Street.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a great movie, as well, and is a better movie than Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Even the Expendables 3 and Purge: Anarchy, although not good movies compared to others, were marked improvements over their predecessors.  It doesn’t always hold up that sequels are on the rise in quality (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Transformers 4), but there is hope that the rest of the year’s sequels will rise to the likes of Days of Future Past and How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The tough part about sequels are the expectations the previous movie set.  The bar is raised when you do well and it only becomes more difficult to clear that bar and supersede the quality of what came before.  Because of that, it is a rare and special achievement when iconic first movies can be bested by their sequels.  However, this rare achievement has been done and I present to you the Top 5 Sequels that were better than their predecessors; focusing on some of the biggest and most iconic movies of all-time.


5) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – My favorite of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the most critically well received of the three films.  The extended edition clocks in at over four hours but is still insanely entertaining and wonderful.  Visually stunning and ground-breaking, the movie is action-packed and well-acted throughout.  It had a lot to live up to, since Two Towers was so good, but it is as faithful as it can be to the original trilogy while still giving us a compelling movie that stirs up the heart and the mind.  This final chapter is a beautiful culmination of the three movies and the final third of The Return of the King is some of the best movie action put on the silver screen.


4) X2: X-Men United – The original X-Men movie was the triumphant return of superhero (I know, they are not technically superheroes) movies to the big screen.  X-2 was a worthy follow-up to the original and also began to expand the X-men universe into the movies.  The opening Nightcrawler scene is one of the coolest openings to a superhero movie ever, and the introduction of Pyro as a (*spoiler alert*) foil to the newer generation of X-men is awesome and his mutant ability is mega cool (who doesn’t like the guy with fire powers?).  X-2 was a bigger and bolder movie than X-Men, and that is why it is a better movie.  It’s too bad the final movie dipped way below the other two.


3) Terminator 2: Judgment Day – In my opinion, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the movie that most far-exceeded the movie that come before it.  If you tell me to describe the Terminator movies, I will most likely describe this one to you not really even thinking there was one before it.  The twist of having the villain return as the re-programmed good guy seems like a stupid premise when I type it out, but it works so well in this movie and Schwarzenegger manages to have a cold, hard compassion for John Connor, even though he is a programmed robot.  Contrast that with the even more cold  and intense performance by Robert Patrick as the scary and seemingly unstoppable T-1000 and the movie has such a dueling gravity of hopeful rescue and impending doom that paces the almost non-stop action.  Oh yeah, and John Connor’s buddy in the movie is Budnick from Salute Your Shorts.  I at least sing the theme song from that show once while watching T2.

Aliens Movie Poster

2) Aliens – This one might be the most debatable pick on here.  As much as I love the original movie, Alien, and the scariness and pure terror the movie evokes, the second installment manages to simultaneously heighten the terror but also replace some of it with the pure action of a whole pile of Aliens!  Somehow, James Cameron takes H.R Giger’s concepts and manages to do something even better than Ridley Scott did!  Amazing!  But not only that, Sigourney Weaver delivers and even more nuanced and intense performance as the main protagonist and all-around action star.  Man, I need to go see this movie again.  But, as Roger Ebert warns us in his review, don’t eat before you see this movie.  It’s pretty gruesome.

The Empire Strikes Back Poster

1) Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back – This isn’t even an argument.  George Lucas peaked too early.  Or maybe he lost the vision that was captured here when he made the prequels.  Why am I talking about the prequel trilogy?  All I have to say to this movie is, “I love you,” to which it responds, “I know.”


i think the toughest part to judge is how you determine what makes the list? is it “best film that happens to also be a sequel?” or “top 5, in order of how much better than their sequel they were”? hmm… not a bad start to a list though.

I ordered it based on how much better they are. That is why LOTR: ROTK is #5. If I had to go by film quality it would be like so:

5) X2
4) Aliens
3) T2
1) The Empire Strikes Back

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