As we all know, not every sequel is on par with the quality of the original. Quite frankly, it’s very easy to come up with a list of sequels that were downright bad. But today we’re going to be looking at the other side of the coin and highlighting a few of the best follow-ups to hit our screens. It’s easy to roll your eyes at every announcement of a sequel, but there are in fact films that were improvements on their predecessors. Here are ten–
10. The Devil’s Rejects
First on the list is this Rob Zombie-directed horror/road trip hybrid. Returning to the psychotic family first introduced in 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses, this sequel really upped the scale, delivering a larger scope with bigger sets and a much bigger budget. The actors got a chance to flesh out more of their characters in this film, which unfortunately isn’t for the benefit of their victims. It isn’t fully about character development and redemption; it’s more about what motivates them to do what they do. Masterfully scored by Rob Zombie, including a fantastic use of Lynard Skynard’s “Freebird.”
9. The Raid 2: Berandal
In 2011 Gareth Edwards brought us The Raid, a great Indonesian film following Rama (Iko Uwais) and his S.WA.T. team as they go after a drug kingpin in a tall apartment building. It was gritty, raw, action-packed, and made a pretty penny, too. Fast-forward to 2014 and we have the follow-up that picks up straight after the first film, where our hero has been sent into a dangerous prison (undercover) to infiltrate a notorious gang and find out how his department was corrupted. Building off the raw fighting style of the first movie, this manages to top it all by expanding on characterisation, drama, and building off the claustrophobia by swapping tower units with jail cells, train carriages and even moving cars.
Alien was a phenomenal film. Ridley Scott created a masterpiece with a film about being lost in the depths of space, trapped in a spaceship with the perfect killing machine. Using any possible thing to defend herself from this ruthless extra-terrestrial, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) barely escapes with her life and heads into cryosleep. She is awoken 57 years later and is debriefed. Welcome, to James Cameron’s Aliens. The desolate planet Ripley encountered the alien on has since been colonized, and now no one’s answering calls. Ripley joins a team of marines as they head to the planet on a rescue mission of sorts. Cue balls-to-the-wall action, serving to show just how effective these killing machines really are, and the perfect tonal evolution, from the claustrophobia pushed in the first film to the masterful action-thrills delivered in the follow-up.
7. Evil Dead II
How does one top the fantastically campy Evil Dead film of 1981? Well, by basically redoing it. While not a full remake, but rather somehow a sequel, our hero Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) returns to the setting that become one of the most recognized cabins in pop culture history. What made this movie an improvement on the first was the injection of humour into the mix, a mash-up of silliness, dread and gore that would forever change the horror genre. The visual and practical effects were also improved. Bruce was his usual fantastic self and Sam Raimi knocked it out of the park, further cementing his name as an established director.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The First Avenger was a fine film. It was a period piece detailing the birth of the always-brave Steve Rogers and his transformation into a muscle-bound superhero. It wasn’t the best MCU film, but it did just fine. So when the sequel came around not many people were expecting the best. We were wrong; it went from a period piece to a 70’s inspired political thriller and it was perfect. It remained light-hearted enough, keeping that positive element we’ve come to expect from the MCU, but brought a certain darkness with it that has remained with the tone of every other MCU film since. The fight choreography and bigger set pieces improved on Cap’s first film. Part one more so implied what a couple of his enhancements where, whereas the sequel actually showed what he was truly capable of. The Russo brothers delivered a great follow-up.