5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
> Original in franchise: The Terminator (1984)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (sequel), 8.0/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 100% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (sequel), 89% (original)
Director James Cameron was an ambitious auteur when he made the first “Terminator” and an industry titan by the time he released this game-changing sequel. Armed with a much bigger budget, he employed both groundbreaking CGI and top-tier practical effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the T-800 cyborg, who must protect the future resistance leader (Edward Furlong) in the war between man and machine.
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
> Original in franchise: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (sequel), 7.4/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (sequel), 92% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 98% (sequel), 87% (original)
A spell gone awry kicks open the multiverse in this modern superhero movie, the first to cross the $1 billion mark during the pandemic era. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) must contend with various villains from the franchise’s own past, with a little help from his interdimensional counterparts. It opened to rave reviews and a massive fan following.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
> Original in franchise: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (sequel), 8.8/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (sequel), 91% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (sequel), 95% (original)
The journey to Mordor continues in this hit sequel from Peter Jackson, often dubbed the best film of the entire series. It features a shifty creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis) and one of the most extensive battle sequences of all time, among other things. On IMDb’s list of the Top 250 Movies, it currently lands at #14.
2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Original in franchise: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (sequel), 8.6/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 92% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 97% (sequel), 96% (original)
Creator George Lucas and company dialed up the special effects and the emotional story arcs for this beloved sequel. It opens on a hostile planet and builds toward a legendary showdown between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Writing for the Denver Post, critic Rena Andrews called it “the ultimate in fantasies, a visual wonder and a movie that should be recommended highly if only because it makes you feel good.”
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
> Original in franchise: Batman Begins (2005)
> IMDb user rating: 9.0/10 (sequel), 8.2/10 (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (sequel), 84% (original)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (sequel), 94% (original)
Fewer sequels demonstrate the power of authorship more than this one from Christopher Nolan, who brings genuine gravitas to a traditionally buoyant sub-genre. Heath Ledger drives the vibe home with his nihilistic performance as the Joker. It earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
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