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Movie Sequels That Are Better Than Their Originals
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Movie Sequels That Are Better Than Their Originals

Picture of Cassam Looch
Film Editor
Updated: 24 May 2018
Given how many film sequels we see every year, it remains a pleasant surprise when a follow-up film is merely watchable. However, this week T2 Trainspotting proves that there can be a small number of sequels that not only match the original, but better them. Here’s our list of movies that are the exceptions to the rule that you should never go back…

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

A film that so perfectly captured the Britpop era, the original Trainspotting is 21 years old in 2017. That’s right, and I bet you all feel a lot older for it. The wave of relief that swept through the press screening we attended for the film was palpable, and not just because the film was good. It was very, very good. Watching the first film again, some of the flaws become more apparent. Towards the end of the film, the scenes, largely set in London, feel flabby and disjointed, whereas T2 sweeps along at a cracking pace. We’re still not too sure about the title though…

‘T2 Trainspotting’ | © Sony Pictures

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Arguably the greatest sci-fi adventure ever made (don’t worry, that other intergalactic epic is on the list too), the follow-up to Star Trek: The Motion Picture nails the charm of the TV series yet works as a stand-alone film too. There are so many highlights to mention here, but if the chilling villain and heartbreaking denouement don’t break you then you probably shouldn’t go to the movies anymore.

Star Trek | © Paramount

Fast Five (2011)

It took an incredible shift in tone, and four middling vehicle-based blockbusters for The Fast and The Furious series to create a winning formula. Whether it was by accident or design, the establishing of a new “universe” with its own set of rules was a masterstroke and the introduction of a testosterone-fuelled Dwayne Johnson the work of genius. The original cast are back, but with even more oomph than before.

Fast Five Film
‘Fast Five’ | Universal Pictures

Aliens (1986)

You can’t knock the “haunted house in space” original, but you have to admit the action in the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s horror film ups the ante to almost unbearable levels. Sigourney Weaver dominates proceedings even more that she did the first time around, with a flourish of muscle-flexing carnage and one-liners that would put James Bond to shame. James Cameron sure knows how to do things on a big scale, and it’s a formula Scott will try to recreate with this years’ Alien: Covenant.

‘Aliens’ | © 20th Century Fox

Mad Max 2 (1981)

Mad Max: Fury Road can’t make it onto the list thanks to its limbo status as either a sequel or reboot (and we may never know the official answer). Instead let’s focus on Mad Max 2, which also goes by the name of The Road Warrior. George Miller tried out some of the stunts we would later see in the Tom Hardy vehicle, but here it’s still Mel Gibson and a motorway full of cars and bikes going at it for almost two hours non-stop.

Mel Gibson in ‘Mad Max 2’ | © Warner Bros

Final Destination 5 (2011)

Horror sequels by their very nature lack the shocks and thrills of their originals. Once you’ve seen the monster, what else is really left to grab you? Well, if you’re watching the Final Destination series then apparently plenty. As the previous film fell more and more into clichés, this instalment reinvented the set-up in such a devilishly crafty way, that we didn’t even realise it was doing it. Aided by some of the most cringe-inducing death scenes imaginable, the final reveal is gob-smackingly good.

‘Final Destination 5’ | © Entertainment Films/New Line Cinema

Goldfinger (1964)

All the classic Bond tropes came out of this film from the iconic Aston Martin to the plethora of gadgets. Of course, they all feel fresh and new here, and Sean Connery is in his element suavely gliding his way through the film as the irresistible force we know he can be. As good as some of the later films are (and if you ask me quietly, I’ll pitch you the idea that Roger Moore is actually the best Bond ever), there is little doubt that Goldfinger is the best film in the ongoing series.

Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’ | © United Artists

Before Sunset (2004)

Spending any quality time with the greatest movie couple ever put on screen is a joy… joining them on a heart-melting day in the sun is therefore ultimate bliss. Nine years after we first met Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), the picture-perfect twosome go through every relationship high and low in eye-opening detail from the outset. The moment Jesse realises the inevitability of their union at the end of the movie captures that sensation of lightheaded euphoria of falling head over heels in love with the perfect partner like never before.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklaters ‘Before Sunset’ | Warner Bros/Castle Rock Entertainment

Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Obviously, this Star Wars sequel was going to make it on the list, but it’s tough to describe just how good it is without dismissing the first film. George Lucas’ wonderful first film is rightly revered, but as a stand-alone story this one is even better. Don’t let the influx of new stories fool you, the real Star Wars saga began here.

The ultimate reveal in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ | © Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

James Cameron again, this time managing to outdo himself with a blockbuster that perfects the summer movie formula. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back and he’s never been better. The deadpan delivery Arnie is (in)famous for is perfect for the machine sent from the future that he portrays, and in Robert Patrick the Austrian Oak has a foe that is even more terrifying. The effects, plot and stunts are all superior to the original, and that’s just what we want from all our sequels.

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ | © Tristar Pictures

And that’s it. If you were expecting to see The Godfather: Part 2 then you’re out of luck. As great as it is, the first film is still better as a viewing experience.

Disagree with any of our choices? Let us know in the comments section.