The Greatest Movie Sequels

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

by empire |
Updated on

Whether followed by Roman or Greek numerals or by its very own subtitle, the sequel comes in for a lot of stick. "Cynical cash-in" is one criticism often levelled; "lesser sibling" is another. Here are the sequels that make the grade, the follow-ups that put the emphasis on "up" not "follow".

Note: We have disregarded films that are really all of a piece, like Lord Of The Rings and Kill Bill, and also series that share elements but restart each time, like Carry On or Three Colours. There's also no Bond since, with 23 examples to choose from, that franchise could easily run to a best-sequels list of its own.

60. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Directed by: Peter Hewitt

Released: 1991

Gap between sequel and original: 16 months

Why's it so good? There are Evil Robot Doubles. There's Heaven, Hell, Death himself (on bass) and the revelation that God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You. It also sees the return of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted 'Theodore' Logan (or Wyld Stallyns), an inspired riff on The Seventh Seal (see? It's cine-literate, this), a nod to A Matter Of Life And Death (again with the intelligence) and the original series of Star Trek.

How does it stack up to the original? It's probably not quite as fun, but Keanu's hair is infinitely better, which should count for something. The inventive hellish tortures that the boys suffer are entertaining, as is their dude-ish stoner speak, and William Sadler's Death makes up for the lack of So-Crates jokes this time around.

Glaring error: It's on Death's part: clearly he spent so long mastering chess that he neglected his Battleship, Clue (aka Cluedo), NFL Super Bowl Electric Football and Twister.

ReadEmpire'sBill & Ted's Bogus Journeyreview here.

BuyBill & Ted's Bogus Journeynow with Amazon

59. Shrek 2

Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon

Released: 2004

Gap between sequel and original: 36 months

Why's it so good? Three words: Puss. In. Boots. He's adorable, he's deadly and he goes nuts for catnip. The interplay between Puss and Donkey has become the principal reason to watch the series ("The position of annoying talking sidekick has already been taken!"), while Shrek and Fiona are reduced to playing straight men in the foreground.

How does it stack up to the original? It's not as good: there are far too many characters; the plot, similarly, is needlessly overcomplicated; and even Puss can't make up for the lack of a great villain (much as we enjoyed Everett's Charming). And while some of the endless movie referencing works well ("Be gooooood"), there's so much of it that it becomes exhausting.

Glaring error: The practice of inserting celebrity cameos from news personalities, and then redubbing with locals in other territories, started here and it's wildly annoying. Kate Thornton for Joan Rivers? Outrageous!

ReadEmpire'sShrek 2review here.

BuyShrek 2now on Amazon

58. Airplane II: The Sequel

Directed by: Ken Finkleman

Released: 1982

Gap between sequel and original: 28 months

Why's it so good? Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker were not on board for this one - Ken Finkleman, a Canadian writer who also penned Grease 2 that year, somehow bagged the gig - but this is underrated. It suffers in comparison to the original, sure, but given that Airplane! may be the funniest film ever, that's understandable. Still, this maintains the frenzied gag rate of its predecessor, as Ted Styker (Robert Hays) and Elaine (Julie Hagerty) find themselves aboard the first commercial space shuttle flight, bound for the Moon - and disaster! There are genius-level gags here - "Danger: Vacuum"; the courtroom sequence - without ever lapsing into the lazy parodies that mar so many modern spoofs. And just when you think you're all laughed out, Finkleman deploys his trump card: William Shatner! His cameo as Moon Base commander, Buck Murdock, is better than all five series of T.J. Hooker.

How does it stack up to the original? It can't, but it's funnier than it ever had a right to be.

Glaring error: The failure to bring back Leslie Nielsen. Still, his day in the sun was coming with The Naked Gun.

ReadEmpire'sAirplane IIreview here.

BuyAirplane II: The Sequelnow with Amazon

57. Star Trek: First Contact

Directed by: Jonathan Frakes

Released: 1996

Gap between sequel and original: 204 months

Why's it so good? Unquestionably the best big-screen outing for the Next Generation cast, this pits Jean-Luc Picard and crew against wonderfully hissable bad guys the Borg. Picard, traumatised from an old encounter with them (in Season Three double-parter finale The Best Of Both Worlds, fact fans), gets closure by kicking stellar amounts of ass, while Data gets to explore his human side more deeply than ever before.

How does it stack up to the original? If we're taking the original to be The Motion Picture, it's approximately a thousand times better. If the original's Generations, it's still better: despite the time-travel element, this plot still makes more sense. In fact, First Contact is neck-and-neck with The Undiscovered Country, if behind the mighty Wrath Of Khan.

Glaring error: While she's an awesome character, the existence of the Borg Queen makes not a blind bit of sense for a collective hive mind. Why this need for individual avatars like the Queen and Picard's Locutus? Nothing logical: it's just a screenwriting thing.

ReadEmpire'sStar Trek: First Contactreview here.

BuyStar Trek: First Contactnow with Amazon

56. The Naked Gun 2 1/2

Directed by: David Zucker

Released: 1991

Gap between sequel and original: 30 months

Why's it so good? Because of lines like this: "I'm sure that we can handle this situation maturely, just like the responsible adults that we are. Isn't that right, Mr... Poopy Pants?" And because Leslie Nielsen's comedy timing should be floated on the stock exchange to fix the financial crisis.

How does it stack up to the original? Well, what it loses in the presence of Ricardo Montalban and his Japanese fighting fish, it gains with the "swimming in raw sewage - I love it" gag and the line, "I haven't had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader!". If the jokes aren't quite so perfectly crafted, they're not far off.

Glaring error: The failure to publish Strokin' The Love Muffin as a novel tie-in to the movie. They could've made billions!

ReadEmpire'sNaked Gun 2 1/2review here.

BuyThe Naked Gun 2 1/2now with Amazon

55. Prometheus

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Released: 2012

Gap between sequel and original: 399 months

Why’s it so good? Ridley Scott makes a surprise return to the franchise he unwittingly created in 1977, and doesn’t necessarily do what anyone would expect. What he did come up with is a strange, philosophical, grandiose sci-fi that rewards – demands? -repeated viewing to pick away at its secrets. And visually, Scott’s opus is, of course, impeccable.

How does it stack up to the original? In a word, peculiarly. It certainly isn’t interested in Xenomorphs, and it isn’t a horror film. On the surface it’s about exploring Alien’s infamously mysterious “Space Jockey”… but in the end it isn’t really about that either. But it’s definitely unique. Visionary, even: with all the idiosyncratic weirdness that often accompanies that label.

Glaring error: Many decried that it makes no sense. In reality, probably a third of the answers are right there if you’re paying close attention, and another third we’re not supposed to understand yet pending further instalments. But that final third probably really is just silly. And also, Guy Pearce playing an old man doesn’t work very well.

ReadEmpire'sPrometheusreview here.

BuyPrometheusnow on Amazon

54. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Released: 2008

Gap between sequel and original: 46 months

Why's it so good? Between the first and second Hellboy films, Guillermo del Toro further honed his craft, and proved the serious appeal of his style, with Pan's Labyrinth. There's a sense here of greater artistic confidence and style; the character relationships are more fully explored and Hellboy gets to do more than fight the same monster over and over again.

How does it stack up to the original? It's generally considered better, although you'll have to watch the original to get a good grounding of what's going on here. A bigger budget means there are more monsters and magical creatures, and a few rather lovely set-pieces. It still has flaws, but it rollicks and rolls in a way the original failed to do.

Glaring error: Isn't Luke Goss playing pretty much the same part that he did in Blade II?

ReadEmpire'sHellboy IIreview here.

BuyHellboy II: The Golden Armynow with Amazon

53. 28 Weeks Later

Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Released: 2007

Gap between sequel and original: 54 months

Why's it so good? This is another one of those sequels that works because it changes up the formula. So instead of a tiny band on the run from a zombie - sorry, infected - plague that has already spread, we get to see the plague vector work its way through a small, enclosed community. Also, there's some zombie dismemberment with helicopter rotors, and that's always fun.

How does it stack up to the original? It's not as good as 28 Days Later, boasting neither the shock factor of an empty London nor quite such a tightly-structured plot. And this time a specific zombie keeps popping up like a bogeyman, chasing the child protagonists across London in a way that just doesn't square with the whole mindless rage thing. Still, some good shocks and scares along the way.

Glaring error: The London geography's all over the place: the kids escape the Isle of Dogs by sneaking over a bridge that's, er, in the Isle of Dogs.

ReadEmpire's28 Weeks Laterreview here.

Buy28 Weeks Laternow with Amazon

52. Blade II

Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Released: 2002

Gap between sequel and original: 43 months

Why's it so good? Guillermo del Toro took over Stephen Norrington's job as director, and delivered something that begins to show his own style: the team of mismatched misfits, each with their own talent, Ron Perlman, Gothic stylings and vampires that are not sexy but positively plague-ridden. And who knew that dude from Bros could be scary?

How does it stack up to the original? Not badly at all; the action's effective, the characters all given room to breathe, and the Reaper vampires scary enough to send a chill down the spine. It's arguable that Blade himself doesn't get quite enough to do here, but that's the biggest criticism.

Glaring error: With the exception of one killer insult and the attractive sight of Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel (delete as appropriate), the film that follows this one is a disaster.

ReadEmpire'sBlade IIreview here.

BuyBlade IInow with Amazon

51. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Directed by: Chuck Russell

Released: 1987

Gap between sequel and original: 27 months

Why's it so good? Despite the fact that A Nightmare On Elm Street had been his fevered brainchild, Wes Craven hadn't been involved with Jack Sholder's disappointed, muddled and slightly homoerotic sequel, Freddy's Revenge. When that underperformed, studio New Line asked Craven back as screenwriter. He brought on young turk Frank Darabont, who further expanded on the surreal potential of a dream world by pitting Robert Englund's razor-fingered maniac against a group of kids with astonishing dream powers. Chuck Russell provided the inventively gory direction.

How does it stack up to the original? Perhaps the most purely enjoyable Elm Street movie, Dream Warriors crafted a cast of likeable young heroes (led by a young Patricia Arquette) and pitted them against Krueger in a series of cartoonish and nightmarish sequences. If there's a criticism, it's that it's here where the series began to treat Freddy as a walking gag dispenser, and the death scenes as excuses to show off effects.

Glaring error: When Freddy's skeleton is exhumed, it's wearing the razor-glove. But in the first film, Nancy's mother clearly shows that she took the glove off his corpse and stashed it in their Elm Street house.

ReadEmpire'sNightmare On Elm Street 3review here.

BuyA Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriorsnow on Amazon

50. Iron Man 3

Directed by: Shane Black

Released: 2013

Gap between sequel and original: 60 months

Why’s it so good? In a nutshell: the magic combination of Robert Downey Jr., and writer/director Shane Black. Building on the sterling work of original Iron Man director Jon Favreau, Black successfully imports his own whip-smart sensibilities to the juggernaut Marvel universe – and sets the film at Christmas, obviously. And Downey, previously Black’s star in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has arguably never been better: so charismatic that the film doesn’t suffer at all from actually keeping him out of the Iron Man armour for the majority of its run time.

How does it stack up to the original? It’s smarter, funnier, more surprising and less generic. The original was an origin story with an uninspiring villain. Iron Man 2, meanwhile, was saddled with assembling The Avengers. So this, for the first time, is an unencumbered Iron Man adventure, and gives us two great villains for our money, in Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian and Ben Kingsley’s (ultimately hilarious) Mandarin.

Glaring error: The science – and indeed motivation – of Killian’s super-soldiers is admittedly a bit murky. But when everything else is so enjoyable, it’s easy to just go with it.

ReadEmpire'sIron Man 3review here.

BuyIron Man 3now with Amazon

49. The Four Musketeers

Directed by: Richard Lester

Released: 1974

Gap between sequel and original: 11 months

Why's it so good? While many films have captured the rollicking adventure and swashbuckling side of Alexander Dumas' novels, this is the only one that shows the Musketeers grappling with real tragedy. D'Artagnan's girlfriend is kidnapped, Athos' past with Milady de Winter is revealed, and the super-happy ending is simply not forthcoming. Not until the end of The Man In The Iron Mask would we see another such downer.

How does it stack up to the original? It's not as much fun, but it does show a remarkable consistency of quality - which should come as no surprise given that the Salkinds, producing, shot both films at once and split them in two at the editing stage, much to the fury of the cast, who were only paid once.

Glaring error: The attempt to make two movies for the price of one led to the introduction of the "Salkind Clause" into standard Hollywood acting contracts, ruling out these sorts of shenanigans. Maybe if they'd been a little more diplomatic?

BuyThe Four Musketeersnow on Amazon

48. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik

Released: 1989

Gap between sequel and original: 76 months

Why's it so good? The third part in any series is tricky and, usually, rubbish, and for comedies that rule applies quadrupley. Yet somehow the third outing of the manic Griswold family was the best of the bunch: a modern Christmas comedy that doesn't make you want to stab your eyes out with the business end of a tree. More family-friendly than the previous two _Vacation_s, this one sees Chevy Chase's Clark W. Griswold determined to give his family the hap-hap-happiest Christmas of their lives - and nothing will stand in his way. Not his idiot cousin, Eddie, not a slightly overcooked turkey, not an uncooperative family (including Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki as the kids) and certainly not a rogue squirrel on the loose.

How does it stack up to the original? It's the best of the bunch, mixing surreal episodes (the sonic-boom sleigh ride) with top-class slapstick and the gentle humour of situations from a thousand family gatherings. It also features a classic performance by Chevy Chase, getting more unhinged as things go wrong, culminating in a rant that would give Christian Bale a run for his money.

Glaring error: It's never quite explained why the Griswold kids, Rusty (Galecki) and Audrey (Lewis) are younger than they are in European Vacation.

ReadEmpire'sChristmas Vacationreview here.

BuyNational Lampoon's Christmas Vacationnow with Amazon

47. Die Hard With A Vengeance

Directed by: John McTiernan

Released: 1995

Gap between sequel and original: 82 months

Why's it so good? Renny Harlin's efficient Die Harder was an enjoyable, larger-scale retread of the first movie. Die Hard With A Vengeance, though, saw original director John McTiernan come back and open out the claustrophobic, single-location franchise to a much bigger playground: New York City. John McClane is a slobbish wreck here, as opposed to the flawless superman of the first sequel. And adding an antagonistic Samuel L. Jackson for Bruce Willis to bounce off pays dividends.

How does it stack up to the original? Die Hard is arguably the greatest action movie of all time, so this can't beat it. But Vengeance is an enormously confident film that balances ludicrous set pieces (McClane escaping from a tidal wave in the New York sewers) with first-class banter between its two stars.

Glaring error: The climax, reshot to replace an explosive finale that Fox bosses thought might draw unfavourable reaction in the wake of the Oklahoma bombing, doesn't really work. Neither does the hokey plot device of the vengeful long-lost brother, although Jeremy Irons has fun with the Gruber accent.

ReadEmpire'sDie Hard With A Vengeancereview here.

BuyDie Hard With A Vengeancenow with Amazon

46. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace

Released: 1982

Gap between sequel and original: 36 months

Why's it so good? John Carpenter and director Tommy Lee Wallace will always deserve praise for daring to move the Halloween series away from hack'n'slash territory. Michael Myers doesn't feature at all in Part III, which instead focuses on an evil Irish toymaker (Dan O'Herlihy) who plans to trigger a Pagan apocalypse through through the medium of a series of very special masks and the most annoying song in movie history{ =nofollow}.

How does it stack up to the original? Carpenter's Halloween is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Wallace's movie might scrape into the top 30. But it's on this list because it dares to be so different. It's a bonkers film: masks dissolving and fomenting snakes and spiders; robotic henchmen dispatching nurses with power drills. But when it works, largely thanks to a morbid atmosphere that calls to mind Carpenter's The Fog, it's deeply unsettling. And that ending...

Glaring error: Going back to the Michael Myers yawnathon for the next Halloween picture. And the next. And the next. And the next.

ReadEmpire'sHalloween IIIreview here.

BuyHalloween III: Season Of The Witchnow with Amazon

45. Star Trek Beyond

Directed by: Justin Lin

Released: 2016

Gap between sequel and original: 439 months

Why’s it so good? It learns the lessons of Star Trek Into Darkness – too dour; too bogged down with continuity; too focused on fan pleasing in a way that didn’t actually please anybody – and delivers a straight-up, fun Star Trek experience for the first time in years.

How does it stack up to the original? Let’s call the 2009 film the original in this context – rather than The Motion Picture – in which case it’s the sequel Into Darkness should have been. The first of the reboots was solidly enjoyable but hamstrung by having to set out the new franchise’s stall. This one’s just free to have a blast.

Glaring error: There must be another villain card to play than simply “guy with a grudge against Starfleet”.

ReadEmpire'sStar Trek Beyondreview here.

BuyStar Trek Beyondnow with Amazon

44. Mission: Impossible III

Directed by: J.J.Abrams

Released: 2006

Gap between sequel and original: 120 months

Why's it so good? M III does the seemingly impossible (of course) by taking the worst thing about its predecessors - the endless donning and removal of ridiculously realistic rubber masks - and making it the best thing here. What's more, newbie director J.J. Abrams manages to balance some brilliantly staged action - the Vatican infiltration, the bridge attack - with actual emotion, a first for the series.

How does it stack up to the original? It's at least as good: check out that initial helicopter flight through the wind farm for bloodboiling action, and there's tension to match the first film's iconic hanging-from-a-wire scene in the bomb-in-the-brain gags. The cast more than match up to the originals, too: for every Kristen Scott-Thomas there's a Philip Seymour Hoffman, Simon Pegg, Billy Crudup or Michelle Monaghan here.

Glaring error: We're still not convinced that some of that technology actually exists, you know. We suspect they made it up.

ReadEmpire'sMission: Impossible IIIreview here.

BuyMission: Impossible IIInow with Amazon

43. Back To The Future Part III

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Released: 1990

Gap between sequel and original: 58 months

Why's it so good? After the twists and turns and dystopian pit stops of Part II, Zemeckis and Gale changed gears for Back To The Future Part III, setting virtually the entire thing in the Old West, while shoving Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) centre stage with a love interest to boot. The ingenious plotting of the first two films is largely absent, but this is a good old romp: an excuse for Zemeckis to try his hand at a Western.

How does it stack up to the original? It's not as good, and may actually be the least impressive of the Back To The Future films. But the relationship between Doc Brown and Clara (Mary Steenburgen) is sweet, the nods to various Westerns are cute, and Thomas F. Wilson's Mad Dog Tannen is the trilogy's best villain.

Glaring error: What is up with those Oirish accents 'sported' by Lea Thompson and Fox, as Marty's own ancestor, Seamus? They're so bad we hear that Gerard Butler used them as his P.S. I Love You template.

ReadEmpire'sBack To The Future Part IIIreview here.

BuyBack To The Future Part IIInow with Amazon

42. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Released: 1997

Gap between sequel and original: 47 months

Why's it so good? The set pieces are great - watch Julianne Moore's face as the glass that's the only thing between her and a thousand foot drop begins to slowly cra-a-a-aack - and this time there's only one irritating kid. Also, check out the cast: Goldblum's back, but he's joined by Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite and Richard Schiff.

How does it stack up to the original? Can any number of Postlethwaites compensate for the absence of the great Sam Neill? We think not. What with the kid and the widely loathed (but such fun) city-set ending, it never quite manages the thrills of the original - and suffers from the lack of novelty with the majority of the 'saurs - but it's not as bad as they say.

Glaring error: Why do we even need a kid? The rest of the movie's darker and scarier - why not just leave the kids at home this time?

ReadEmpire'sThe Lost Worldreview here.

BuyThe Lost World: Jurassic Parknow with Amazon

41. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Directed by: Joe Dante

Released: 1990

Gap between sequel and original: 72 months

Why's it so good? While the first Gremlins was shot through with Looney Tunes-inspired slapstick, it was largely a horror. But when Joe Dante was given a bigger train set by the bods at Warner Bros., he made a demented live-action cartoon, transplanting the action from a sleepy Anytown to New York, introducing a greater variety of Gremlins (including Tony Randall's loquacious Brain Gremlin) and constantly breaking the fourth wall (and, depending on where you watch the movie, the projector or the video player). Oh, and Gizmo's still cuter than a baby hedgehog riding a sunbeam.

How does it stack up to the original? This is much bigger and much funnier, from the broad brush strokes (the grotesque Female Gremlin) to the tiny touches (the automated bathroom speaker intoning, "Hey pal, I sure hope you washed those hands"). Sadly, it tanked, and it's a shame, for here is a smart, wickedly inventive movie just begging to be rediscovered.

Glaring error: We like Zach Galligan. And we know that a movie like this needs a straight man. But we're not so much concerned with Billy Peltzer's story. What we want is the Brain Gremlin for 90 minutes. Is that too much to ask?

ReadEmpire'sGremlins 2review here.

BuyGremlins 2: The New Batchnow with Amazon

40. Infernal Affairs II

Directed by: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Alan Mak

Released: 2003

Gap between sequel and original: 10 months

Why's it so good? Both cops and Triads are struggling against a new crime lord in town in this prequel to the original film, amid political manoeuvrings and back-alley deals between opposing sides. This plot is so intricate that it makes the previous one look positively anaemic, but it's meaty rather than tangled when you sink your teeth in.

How does it stack up to the original? After the elegant dilemma of the first film - an undercover cop in the Triads and an undercover Triad among the cops seek each other out - this more conventional crime thriller may seem lacking, but there's still a heck of a story here. And Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang, whose police Inspector and small-time crime boss Sam provide the focus here, are both on excellent form.

Glaring error: This is set during the Hong Kong handover, dating it a mere five years before the original film, but apparently original leads Yan and Ming changed vastly in that time, because here they look like completely different people.

ReadEmpire'sInfernal Affairs IIreview here.

BuyInfernal Affairs IInow with Amazon

39. Scream 2

Directed by: Wes Craven

Released: 1997

Gap between sequel and original: 12 months

Why's it so good? Cause it's so, like, meta. It's a sequel wherein the characters spend quite some time discussing whether sequels can ever be good, in a sequel that is good. Apologies if we just blew your mind. But more seriously, this film contains some great kills, more smart dialogue and a wonderfully implausible reveal of the final bad guy/gal/s.

How does it stack up to the original? Well, sadly for Scream 2 it probably does conform to the theory laid out in the film that dictates that sequels are never as good as the original. But there are great kills here, and some really tense moments: if you weren't crawling out of your seat when Sidney escapes a crashed car by crawling over the unconscious killer, you're stronger than us.

Glaring error: We'd secretly quite like to see the full version of Stab{ =nofollow}, with Tori Spelling playing Sidney and Luke Wilson as Billy. Robert Rodriguez directed it, you know. Is that wrong?

ReadEmpire'sScream 2review here.

BuyScream 2now with Amazon

38. Return To Oz

Directed by: Walter Murch

Released: 1985

Gap between sequel and original: 490 months

Why's it so good? This is a twisted, almost Gothic sequel to 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz: the sort of film you'd expect from Tim Burton maybe. But in fact it's the sole directorial outing from legendary editor and sound editor Walter Murch, and one that does him credit. It's one of the scariest children's films ever made, but still every bit as dippy as the original.

How does it stack up to the original? It's much darker (that word again), and has monsters - those Wheelers - to make the flying monkeys look like teddy bears; but it can't rival the huge Technicolor impact of the original. Part of Disney's black period (with films like Tron and The Black Cauldron), this deserved better than to be ignored at the box office as it was.

Glaring error: No singing or dancing? It might have made the scary bits a little less disturbing for younger audience members.

ReadEmpire'sReturn To Ozreview here.

BuyReturn To Oznow with Amazon

37. Lethal Weapon 2

Directed by: Richard Donner

Released: 1989

Gap between sequel and original: 28 months

Why's it so good? Barely a day goes by in the Empire office without someone shouting "Dip-lo-mat-ic-imm-un-it-y" in a bad Afrikaans accent: this is a film that has entered the public consciousness. There's action, conspiracy, a truly hissable bad guy, and the fact that it actually manages to surprise us by killing off Patsy Kensit.

How does it stack up to the original? The rough edges have been sanded off: this is heading more towards action-comedy territory than the tougher ground of the firstLethal Weapon. It gets more brutal in a dark final act, but it's here that the cutesy touches that would mar later instalments first creep in. That said, it's hard not to love the toilet set piece.

Glaring error: Diplomatic immunity ain't quite that all-encompassing. A diplomat who shoots a cop in cold blood would (at the very least) be recalled or (more likely) be handed over for trial by his country of origin. Even if that's apartheid-era South Africa.

ReadEmpire'sLethal Weapon 2review here.

BuyLethal Weapon 2now on Amazon

36. Dawn Of The Dead

Directed by: George A. Romero

Released: 1978

Gap between sequel and original: 128 months

Why's it so good? Different decade, different Dead. Almost ten years after Night Of The Living Dead, George A. Romero returned to the zombie apocalypse in glorious technicolour (Dulux should bring out a shade of red called Spurtin' Savini) with plenty of satirical arrows to fire at consumerist society, as a motley band of survivors hole up in a shopping mall and then become corrupted by avarice. If Chaucer had written a zombie movie, Dawn Of The Dead might have been it.

How does it stack up to the original? The tight, monochrome claustrophobia and mounting dread of the original is gone, replaced by a gaudy, technicolour, EC Comics sensibility, with exciting action scenes, a wonderfully kitsch soundtrack and some dark humour from a director having heaps of playful fun.

Glaring error: We love Tom Savini, and we know that it a tight budget, but painting people blue to signify them as zombies just doesn't cut the mustard, sonny Jim.

ReadEmpire'sDawn Of The Deadreview here.

BuyDawn Of The Deadnow on Amazon

35. Return Of The Jedi

Directed by: Richard Marquand

Released: 1983

Gap between sequel and original: 72 months

Why's it so good? Jedi gets a bad rap, mostly because of the Ewoks, but the fanboys need to get over the teddy bears and accept that it's a damn good film. From the opening setpiece at Jabba's palace onwards, it combines great space battles, lightsaber duelling, another Death Star, another Skywalker and a certain gold bikini to magical effect.

How does it stack up to the original? Ay, here's the rub. While we entertain hopes of one day convincing fans that Jedi's really not that bad, there's very little chance that we'll convince anyone that it's better than Star Wars - the original, the one with extra Alec Guinness - or The Empire Strikes Back - the bleak ending, Yoda, Hoth. Still, the bronze position in this company ain't bad.

Glaring error: Somehow Han Solo manages to change from a single- to a double-breasted shirt while he's frozen in carbonite.

ReadEmpire'sReturn Of The Jedireview here.

BuyReturn Of The Jedinow on Amazon

34. Manon Des Sources

Directed by: Claude Berri

Released: 1986

Gap between sequel and original: 5 months

Why's it so good? Continuing the story, begun in Jean De Florette, of the tragic intertwined destinies of two familes and their propensity to tear each other apart, the continuation sees the tragedy culminating in quietly dramatic fashion as Manon takes her revenge against those responsible for her father's death, and they learn the full extent of their wrongdoing.

How does it stack up to the original? It's an equal, frankly. There's a question mark over whether this should even be here: so closely tied is it to the first film that it almost falls into the same exemption that rules out Lord Of The Rings and Kill Bill. But given the change in cast, and the long period that passes between the two stories onscreen, we're letting it stand.

Glaring error: Gerard Depardieu's daughter grows up to be Emmanuelle Beart? Not sure we buy that.

ReadEmpire'sManon Des Sourcesreview here.

Buy Manon Des Sources now with Amazon

33. Addams Family Values

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Released: 1993

Gap between sequel and original: 24 months

Why's it so good? It's witty, it's sharp and it's satirical in its inversion of social norms that the none-more-Goth Addams Family represent. It also contains the delightful sight of Wednesday and Pugsley being sent to a cheery summer camp, where they are force-fed Disney movies after one too many displays of weirdness and magically transformed into happy, normal children - a sight that's somehow horrific. Wednesday's smile is far more disturbing than her axe-murderer look, after all. This is very possibly the most subversive film to come out of mainstream Hollywood in the whole of the 1990s.

How does it stack up to the original? The critics liked it better, thanks to the pratfalls and physical humour of the original being largely replaced by the verbal kind here. Certainly the sight of Morticia giving birth in total calm, without so much as a bead of sweat maring her key-lit features, is genius - as is the rapid disintegration of murderous golddigger Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) as she discovers just how weird her in-laws are.

Glaring error: The series should have been laid quietly to rest here, instead of resurrected for a ghoulish third instalment without any of the principal cast. Although we suppose Gomez and Morticia would approve.

ReadEmpire'sAddams Family Valuesreview here.

BuyAddams Family Valuesnow with Amazon

32. The Color Of Money

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Released: 1986

Gap between sequel and original: 301 months

Why's it so good? Martin Scorsese's sequel to Robert Rossen's The Hustler takes place 25 years after the original, and sees Paul Newman return as Fast Eddie Felson to mentor young wannabe Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). And if the three names in the previous sentence aren't enough to convince you it's good, you might want to re-read it. But seriously, this is a portrait of an older, wiser man given added poignancy by our memory of his younger self.

How does it stack up to the original? There's no question: The Hustler is better. And this disappointed critics, their expectations sky-high after Scorsese's early '80s output, on release. But it's aged impressively, with great performances from the cast and Scorsese's moody, dark look holding up well.

Glaring error: If you watch the pool balls carefully during the games, you'll see a whole heap of continuity problems.

ReadEmpire'sColor Of Moneyreview here.

BuyThe Color Of Moneynow with Amazon

31. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Released: 1989

Gap between sequel and original: 95 months

Why's it so good? It brings back perennial baddies-par-excellence the Nazis, and a familiar Judeo-Christian McGuffin - some would say the ultimate Judeo-Christian McGuffin, in fact. Bringing in Sean Connery as Indy's father introduces a lovely new dynamic to our favourite rogue archaeologist, and the set pieces are every bit as good as Raiders Of The Lost Ark's.

How does it stack up to the original? Not unfavourably, even though it's hard to come close to a film as brilliantly balanced as Raiders. Still, Crusade is probably the funniest of the four films, with great interaction between Connery and Ford. It's certainly the most quotable, and several times better than Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

Glaring error: That whole bit where "But in Latin, Jehovah is spelled with an I" is true - only the word wasn't yet in use at the time of the First Crusades and came about centuries later with the King James Bible. Doh!

ReadEmpire'sIndiana Jones And The Last Crusadereview here.

BuyIndiana Jones And The Last Crusadenow with Amazon

30. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Released: 2014

Gap between sequel and original: 166 months

Why’s it so good? Original X-director Bryan Singer returned to the franchise that had been derailed by Brett Ratner and caretaken by Matthew Vaughn to deliver the most satisfying instalment in more than a decade. There’s a lot going on, but the multiple plot strands, timelines and characters are juggled in a way that feels effortless – and it’s great to see the original X-actors alongside the new guard. Sadly the high wouldn’t last into Apocalypse

How does it stack up to the original? It isn’t as good as X2, but it’s comfortably better than the original movie, which did so much setting up that it barely had room for a story. Here there’s almost too much going on to cope with.

Glaring error: Much is inexplicable: Why has Kitty Pryde suddenly got powers we’ve never seen before? Is Bolivar Trask’s entire plan based around abilities that Mystique has never actually displayed? Why is Professor X alive again? Why don’t they just bring Quicksilver with them everywhere? Does a mutant healing factor really mean invincibility from drowning?

ReadEmpire'sDays Of Future Pastreview here.

BuyX-Men: Days Of Future Pastnow with Amazon

29. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Released: 2004

Gap between sequel and original: 32 months

Why's it so good? Alfonso Cuaron took over from original director Christopher Columbus, and with the difficult task of world-building out of the way was able to take the story and run with it. He made Potter feel like a real adventure story for the first time, and one taking place in somewhere bordering on the real world.

How does it stack up to the original? It's better than the previous two, and remains many people's favourite entry in the series. Potter's relationship with godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) is beautifully played out, and one of the great "Hell yeah!"s comes when Hermione punches Draco Malfoy. It's also the first of the films to use a rather wonderful washed-out colour scheme, and to revel in its own darkness.

Glaring error: The production team used Loch Ness to double for Hogwarts Lake. What if they disturbed Nessie? What if he/she/it is visible somewhere in the film?

ReadEmpire'sPrisoner Of Azkabanreview here.

BuyHarry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkabannow with Amazon

28. Back To The Future Part II

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Released: 1989

Gap between sequel and original: 52 months

Why's it so good? Much-maligned when it came out in 1990, this first of a two-sequel salvo that fed directly into the Western-themed Part III has revealed its true brilliance with age. As Marty McFly zips forward to 2015, then back to a hideous alternate 1985 and finally 1955, where he must avoid his old self, director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale construct an ingeniously-plotted film that ties into, and toys, with the touchstones of the first film. We're still not sure about Michael J. Fox playing his own daughter, though.

How does it stack up to the original? It's a very different movie. Where the first was innocent and sprightly, this one is - yes, we're going to use that word - darker and more cynical. As a piece of plotting and scripting, it's genius-level, although we don't quite connect with the characters the way that we did in the original.

Glaring error: The idea that, by 2015, we'd have floating skateboards and Max Spielberg would have directed Jaws 19 - in 3D. We're still waiting for both those things.

ReadEmpire'sBack To The Future Part IIreview here.

BuyBack To The Future Part IInow with Amazon

27. Spider-Man 2

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Released: 2004

Gap between sequel and original: 25 months

Why's it so good? It's got high stakes, a wonderfully nuanced bad guy (Alfred Molina - always a win), a plot that moves like a train, a train that moves like a bullet and some fight scenes that are just wonderful. It also has that wonderful trademark Raimi operation scene.

How does it stack up to the original? It's vastly better. Freed of the need to establish Spidey's origins, there's more time to spend on actual tangling with the big bad, and you can sense Raimi's growing confidence, now that he's proved he can be trusted with a big budget, in the quirky flourishes that make the mainstream action so much more compelling.

Glaring error: "I've always been standing in your doorway"? No she hasn't! She's been shagging his mate!

ReadEmpire'sSpider-Man 2review here.

BuySpider-Man 2now with Amazon

26. Jurassic World

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Released: 2015

Gap between sequel and original: 264 months

Why’s it so good? The greatest trick Jurassic World pulled was giving audiences exactly what they expected while throwing something new into the recipe. We know the dinosaurs will get loose and cause havoc, but what’s different this time are the stakes: the park is now open to the public, allowing for disaster movie levels of tension as crowds of people now share the danger of our plucky central scientists. Oh, and there’s also A Bigger Dinosaur in the form of the Indominous, and that cheer-worthy moment when franchise favourite the T-Rex gets to save the day.

How does it stack up to the original? That game-changing level of amazement is never going to be replicated: we’re used to the FX now, whereas in 1993 we’d never seen their like before. That said, Jurassic World is still a taut thriller and a fun monster mash, and a worthy sequel in a way that not all the others are…

Glaring error: Those jeeps are in remarkably healthy condition for vehicles that have been abandoned for 20 years. The tyres aren’t even flat.

ReadEmpire'sJurassic Worldreview here.

BuyJurassic Worldnow with Amazon

25. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Released: 2015

Gap between sequel and original: 463 months

Why’s it so good? Finally, after those infamous prequels, it was a movie that felt like Star Wars again: a loving homage to the earlier trilogy as much as continuation of the franchise. Bringing brack practical FX to complement the CG was also a masterstroke, making the famously "used" universe feel more tangible than the fully green-screen instalments. And there was that extra frisson of seeing the "legacy players" back in action: some to a larger extent than others…

How does it stack up with the original? Actually very favourably. It recaptures the first film’s sense of fun and adventure and wears its mythology lightly: something lost by the darker and colder sequels and prequels.

Glaring error: A droid with a message; a desert planet; a mission to blow up a Death Star (call it what you like; it’s a Death Star). Many were surprised by how closely TFA hewed to the original’s plot beats.

ReadEmpire'sThe Force Awakensreview here.

BuyStar Wars: The Force Awakensnow with Amazon

24. Desperado

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Released: 1995

Gap between sequel and original: 30 months

Why's it so good? In a surprisingly flammable Mexican town, Antonio Banderas stepped into the Mariachi's shoes and proved he was a Hollywood star, oozing charisma and no small helping of sex appeal while proving that he could play guitar, romance Salma Hayek and blow bad guys away all at once.

How does it stack up to the original? You can argue that it's less of a sequel and more of a bigger-budget remake, but Desperado certainly outdoes its predecessor in every way. Banderas is that rarest of things, a recasting that works, and the action's delightfully over-the-top (bass-case rocket launcher? Yes!). Added to which, the script has a wit and zing that too many later Rodriguez films have lacked.

Glaring error: Given that this one was so much fun, how come Once Upon A Time In Mexico wasn't? The best thing about that was CIA Agent Sands' (Johnny Depp) T-shirt which said "CIA" in huge letters.

ReadEmpire'sDesperadoreview here.

BuyDesperadonow with Amazon

23. Day Of The Dead

Directed by: George A. Romero

Released: 1985

Gap between sequel and original: 178 months

Why's it so good? That rare beast: an '80s film that's bleaker than its '70s predecessor. But, by this point, George Romero was pissed off, and it shows in a movie that stands back, washes its hands of the whole sorry affair and says, 'Sorry, the world is fucked'. By Day, the zombies outnumber people 400,000 to 1, and most of the humans left are paranoid, raging, ASBO-courting assholes. This was the first film where Romero started to side with the zombie; the first movie where you can sense palpable anger coming through.

How does it stack up to the original? It may be the best of the three. This is beautifully-controlled, suspenseful, excoriating stuff, with top-notch gore, some of the most memorable images of Romero's career (even if the wall of arms was ripped off from Polanski's Repulsion) and, in the evolving zombie Bub (an astonishing performance by Howard Sherman), arguably his most sympathetic lead.

Glaring error: With the greatest respect of George, going on to make Land Of The Dead was probably the biggest error here.

ReadEmpire'sDay Of The Deadreview here.

BuyDay Of The Deadnow with Amazon

22. The Bourne Ultimatum

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Released: 2007

Gap between sequel and original: 62 months

Why's it so good? The conclusion of the original Bourne trilogy is a snare-drum-tight thriller that at last gives some closure to Matt Damon's amnesiac assassin as he embarks on a breakneck world tour. The biggest hit of the three, it also established Paul Greengrass as arguably the premier thriller director currently plying his trade.

How does it stack up to the original? This is a different beast from Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity, so let's compare it to its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy. And there it suffers slightly: Bourne's quest doesn't really differ that much in any of the films. At the end of this movie he achieves some sort of closure, but nothing that really seems worth the hell he's put himself through. But this is a beautifully-made thriller, with the Waterloo sequence arguably the best in the entire trilogy. We don't go into W.H. Smiths there now without looking over our shoulders at least three times.

Glaring error: The attempt to hint at a romantic past between Nicky (Julia Stiles) and Bourne doesn't sit well, particularly considering the interaction between the characters in the previous films.

ReadEmpire'sBourne Ultimatumreview here.

BuyThe Bourne Ultimatumnow with Amazon

21. Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Directed by: Wes Craven

Released: 1994

Gap between sequel and original: 119 months

Why's it so good? After Freddy's Dead had steered the Elm Street franchise headfirst into a wall at 90mph, it was left to Krueger creator Wes Craven to once again pick up the pieces - which he did by achieving the impossible and making Freddy scary again. His post-modern approach revealed Freddy to be the latest manifestation of an ancient reality-piercing demon haunting the dreams of originalNightmare star Heather Langenkamp.

How does it stack up to the original? Very well indeed, for Craven circa '94 is a much better director than the '84 vintage. The effects hold up better, the acting is more polished, the death sequences (which hark back to the original) are gruesome and inventive without being gimmicky, and the psychological subtext about creators being haunted by their creations is rich enough to launch a thousand theses. Gruesome and unsettling, it's a crime that it failed at the box office.

Glaring error: Given that most Nightmare staples appear as themselves, it was perhaps a no-brainer to have New Line head Bob Shaye also appear. But it's clear in his brief screentime that, as an actor, he makes a great studio head.

ReadEmpire'sNew Nightmarereview here.

BuyWes Craven's New Nightmarenow with Amazon

20. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo

Released: 2014

Gap between sequel and original: 32 months

Why’s it so good? It’s Marvel firing on all cylinders, and it’s two new (to the studio) writer/directors doing something new with a superhero film: namely grounding it as a paranoid political thriller in the vein of ‘70s classics like Three Days Of The Condor. It’s no coincidence that Robert Redford is in the cast. That’s not to say the super-sparks don’t fly, however, and the Russo brothers manage to juggle a large, colourful cast, to the detriment of nobody. Each character gets space to shine, and the ground is deftly laid for the arguably even better Civil War.

How does it stack up to the original? It’s very different: Joe Johnston’s cosy, Rocketeer-esque WWII romp giving way to something altogether cooler and cleverer.

Glaring error: Apart from The First Avenger, the Captain America movies to date have all felt like half-number Avengers films. Cap hasn’t yet been given much opportunity to go it alone.

ReadEmpire'sCaptain America: The Winter Soldierreview here.

BuyCaptain America: The Winter Soldiernow with Amazon

19. The French Connection II

Directed by: John Frankenheimer

Released: 1975

Gap between sequel and original: 44 months

Why's it so good? Gene Hackman came back as hard-edged police detective, Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle, with John Frankenheimer on board as director. This sequel takes Doyle out of his familiar New York surroundings and drops him into the incomprehensible world of Marseille, where he pursues Franco Rey, the drug dealer who escaped justice at the end of the first movie. What he finds there tests Doyle to the limit.

How does it stack up to the original? It doesn't quite live up to the visceral, verisimilitudinal impact of Friedkin's film, but French Connection II is a gripping and unconventional thriller. It makes no concessions whatsoever to making Hackman more likeable this time around - in fact, as he goes around Marseille like he owns the place, it's often wince-inducing. And then he gets kidnapped by the bad guys and forced into a heroin addiction in a gruelling extended sequence that should have seen Hackman Oscar-nominated again.

Glaring error: Frankenheimer does finish off with one of the great foot chases, as the recovered Doyle chases after Rey while the sound of Doyle's ragged, fragmented breathing dominates the soundtrack. Still, a kick-ass car chase wouldn't have gone amiss.

ReadEmpire'sFrench Connection IIreview here.

BuyThe French Connection IInow with Amazon

18. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Directed by: David Yates

Released: 2007

Gap between sequel and original: 69 months

Why's it so good? David Yates took over the directing reins for this fifth film, based on the longest - and, some would say, dullest - book in the series, and knocked it out of the park. Excising large swathes of not much, he cut it down to one of the leanest films and delivered a barnstorming last act in the Ministry Of Magic, with the sort of magical duels we'd been waiting four-and-a-half films to see.

How does it stack up to the original? The first two Potters are nowadays generally dismissed as the weakest of the series (although if you go watch them again they're not bad) but the fans argue about whether the third, fourth or fifth is the best to date (Goblet Of Fire got a big boost from Twi-hards returning to watch Cedric Diggory). Still, this is unquestionably up there.

Glaring error: Some of the posters were photoshopped to give the (supposedly 15 year-old) Hermione bigger boobs. Wrong on so many levels!

ReadEmpire'sHarry Potter And The Order Of the Phoenixreview here.

BuyHarry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenixnow with Amazon

17. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Released: 1984

Gap between sequel and original: 37 months

Why's it so good? The modern trend for making sequels "darker" surely dates back to this blood-soaked effort, with its human sacrifice, child enslavement and Indy himself being possessed by the Dark Side. While the bookends of the original trilogy are funnier, this one stays with you longer, albeit in nightmares.

How does it stack up to the original? Once derided as the weak link in the Indiana Jones series, this has become more popular with time and now outstrips The Last Crusade for many fans. Of course, it doesn't come close to the original, but then very few films do.

Glaring error: We're not sure that it's really possible to survive a plane crash by using an inflatable boat, especially if you then have to sled down a mountain and into a river in it. And the callback to the sword-vs-gun gag doesn't really work, since Temple takes place before Raiders.

ReadEmpire'sTemple Of Doomreview here.

BuyIndiana Jones And The Temple Of Doomnow with Amazon

16. Batman Returns

Directed by: Tim Burton

Released: 1992

Gap between sequel and original: 36 months

Why's it so good? Generally, multiple villains make a franchise weak, leaving too little time for a coherent plot. In this case, however, the villains play together so well that it's hard to complain too much - and Danny DeVito's Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman are sublime creations.

How does it stack up to the original? Tim Burton's Batman has come in for a lot of abuse since Christopher Nolan took the Bat-reins, but both his Bat-films are perfectly legitimate takes on the Dark Knight, and if Burton lavishes more attention on his villains than his hero, well, we already know who Batman is. This one's probably on a par with the original - and that's saying quite a bit.

Glaring error: Letting Joel Schumacher take over the reins for the next two films. Neon Gotham? Mr Freeze? Help us, Christopher Nolan, you're our only hope.

ReadEmpire'sBatman Returnsreview here.

BuyBatman Returnsnow with Amazon

15. Mad Max 2

Directed by: George Miller

Released: 1981

Gap between sequel and original: 20 months

Why’s it so good? The original Mad Max had its share of awesome vehicular chase sequences, but nothing that quite prepared audiences for what was to follow. The plot is simple: Max gets roped into helping a besieged community escape the marauders outside. But it’s the crazy world and character-building, vehicle design and pedal-to-the-metal action that’s important: a focused, blistering vision of forward momentum.

How does it stack up to the original? They’re very different films: the first a near future cops-vs-bikers thriller in which Max has a family and colleagues; the sequel a post-apocalypse freakshow where Max is a blank-slate drifter (or “a burnt-out shell of a man” if you prefer). If not for the opening credits montage, you could watch the second film and not realise there was a first. In the US it was titled The Road Warrior, disguising the fact that it was a sequel at all. Plenty of first-time viewers weren’t aware they’d missed anything.

Glaring error: Max’s next adventure, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome isn’t nearly as bad as people make out, but it certainly loses the gonzo low-budget vibe in its transition to the big-budget studio realm. And Max arguably loses something of his edge in being humanised again by the kids.

ReadEmpire'sMad Max 2review here.

BuyMad Max 2now with Amazon

14. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Directed by: Nicholas Meyer

Released: 1982

Gap between sequel and original: 31 months

Why's it so good? Frankly, we could simply remind you of Kirk's roar of "Khaaaaaaaaaannnnn!" and that should be enough to convince anyone. But this also raised the franchise to undreamed of levels of drama and action, and included one of cinema's most memorable and moving death scenes.

How does it stack up to the original? Star Trek: The Motion Picture, while ambitious, didn't manage to capture the Trek spirit. Khan, on the other hand, features great character moments for all the original cast, lots of the jokes that always made the series such a joy to watch, but also a deeper emotional connection that chimed with the fans' love of the show and persuaded non-fans that they were missing something. No Khan, no Next Generation or other spin-off shows, and no Chris Pine as Kirk.

Glaring error: Ricardo Montalban (Khan) was still filming TV show Fantasy Island, leading to a scheduling quirk that meant he and William Shatner (Kirk) filmed their roles four months apart. Thus, Kirk and Khan never actually meet face-to-face in the film.

ReadEmpire'sWrath Of Khanreview here.

BuyStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khannow with Amazon

13. X-Men 2

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Released: 2003

Gap between sequel and original: 33 months

Why's it so good? X2 manages the difficult task of splitting its time between all the members of the vast X-team, as well as finding room to make us care about the new additions (take a bow, Nightcrawler) and amp up both action and drama. In short, it's all things to all mutants, and that's an achievement indeed.

How does it stack up to the original? X-Men had to establish a world, its mutants and society's attitude to them, as well as delivering an actual bad guy and his fiendish master plan. It had, as a result, very little time left for such fripperies as drama or action. X2 was able to hit the ground running, character-wise, leaving room for 69% more excitement. And fewer lines about amphibians getting struck by lightning.

Glaring error: Bryan Singer leaving the sequel in favour of Superman Returns, allowing Brett Ratner to deliver a lacklustre take on theDark Phoenixsaga that is so well set up here.

ReadEmpire'sX-Men 2review here.

BuyX-Men 2now with Amazon

12. Evil Dead II

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Released: 1987

Gap between sequel and original: 66 months

Why's it so good? The Evil Dead made him. Crimewave nearly broke him. And so, looking for a hit to rekindle his wunderkind reputation, Sam Raimi and his best mate Bruce Campbell went back the woods. It could have been a shameless retread of the first movie, but Evil Dead II takes care of that in the first five minutes. It then goes on to defy convention at every turn, with Raimi's restless camera and Campbell's bravura performance as the idiot-cum-iconic action hero, Ash, the key components of a film that makes you laugh, scream and laugh again, sometimes within the space of one shot.

How does it stack up to the original? There is no comparison. This is Sgt. Pepper to Please Please Me. Evil Dead II is, arguably, the most influential horror movie of the last 30 years.

Glaring error: It's only a ride, of course, but the powers and capabilities of the Deadites in spirit form change wildly from scene to scene. Curious...

ReadEmpire'sEvil Dead IIreview here.

BuyEvil Dead IInow with Amazon

11. Superman II

Directed by: Richard Lester, Richard Donner (uncredited)

Released: 1980

Gap between sequel and original: 24 months

Why's it so good? Superman worked beautifully as a world-setter, but suffered the inherent drawback of most Superman comics: the baddies weren't powerful enough to really give Superman a run for his money. This time, three bad-to-the-bone Kryptonians raise the stakes considerably, while Supes himself is depowered out of love for Lois.

How does it stack up to the original? What you lose in Kryptonian flashbacks and bucolic Smallville scenery, you gain in not having a stupid "flying around the Earth backwards to turn back time" move (unless you're watching the Richard Donner cut{ =nofollow}, in which case you have to sit through the exact same scene again). It also benefits from the stronger love story with Lois - although the cop-out memory-wiping kiss at the end is a disappointment.

Glaring error: The visible joins between the work of Richard Lester and Richard Donner are one thing. But what's with the cellophane S-plate Frisbee affair that Superman pulls out of his chest and throws at Zod? Does anyone have an explanation for that?

ReadEmpire'sSuperman IIreview here.

BuySuperman IInow with Amazon

10. The Raid 2

Directed by: Gareth Evans

Released: 2014

Gap between sequel and original: 23 months

Why’s it so good? It’s a massive, ambitious expansion of the first film, adding real drama and seriously increasing its length, whilst maintaining the extraordinary fight sequences that you’d expect from a follow-up to the blistering original. It’s Once Upon A Time In Indonesia to the The Raid’s Fistful Of Rupiah. And it has a woman who fights with hammers.

How does it stack up with the original? It’s essentially in a different genre – an epic crime thriller as opposed to a purely action spectacle - until the bloodletting starts, but quality-wise it’s on a par.

Glaring error: After the quick turnaround between _Raid_s 1 and 2, there’s still very little sign of the promised Raid 3. Hurry up, Gareth! Or, y’know, take all the time you need to make it awesome.

ReadEmpire'sThe Raid 2review here.

BuyThe Raid 2now with Amazon

9. Before Sunset

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Released: 2004

Gap between sequel and original: 111 months

Why's it so good? If Before Sunrise was about being young and in love, here's a film about being older, possibly wiser, definitely more burdened, and still in love. Only this time what's keeping you apart is not a whimsical decision to trust fate and meet again in six months but the whole progress of your lives since.

How does it stack up to the original? It's the perfect companion piece. Ideally, you'd watch these films as original cinemagoers did for the full effect: watch Sunrise when you're about 20, and Sunset a decade later. We know a few people who were frustrated by the open ending but frankly it's spot on: you could choose your own destiny for Jesse and Celine... at least until Before Midnight came along.

Glaring error: Some of the Parisian geography as Jesse and Celine meander through the city is a bit suspect.

ReadEmpire'sBefore Sunsetreview here.

BuyBefore Sunsetnow with Amazon

8. The Bourne Supremacy

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Released: 2004

Gap between sequel and original: 25 months

Why's it so good? Bringing in intellectual, politically-motivated British director Paul Greengrass, then most famous for his searing documentary work, to a nascent franchise was a gamble that paid off handsomely. Greengrass brought a sense of urgency and desperate, high-stakes reality to the Bourne franchise, with a frazzled and grieving Bourne on the run for reasons he doesn't entirely understand, but which have pissed him off no end.

How does it stack up to the original? As you might expect from a movie that has the stones to kill off the first movie's love interest (Franka Potente), this is a darker, more intense affair, with the playful tone of the original excised in favour of bone-crunching car chases and a hero set to Po-Faced. It also had the balls to end, not with a bang, but a desperately emotional confession from Bourne to a girl whose parents died by his hand. This movie is directly responsible for the new direction of Bond in 2006's Casino Royale.

Glaring error: How do the bad guys track Bourne down to India? Why does Gabriel Mann go to a crime scene with Brian Cox and no back-up?

ReadEmpire'sBourne Supremacyreview here.

BuyThe Bourne Supremacynow with Amazon

7. The Empire Strikes Back

Directed by: Irvin Kershner

Released: 1980

Gap between sequel and original: 36 months

Why's it so good? The best sequels open out the original - or turn it on its head and change the rules. By that measure, Empire is one of the greats. This is the point where Star Wars went from being popcorn fun to something mythical and able to inspire 40 years of utter devotion. And it had the courage to give us that bleak, unresolved ending - pretty bold for a summer blockbuster.

How does it stack up to the original? Many prefer it to Star Wars; but that's a question of taste. What's certain is that it gives us more great lines, introduces some fantastic characters - say hello, Yoda and Lando - and signals that this Rebellion is serious with the showstopping battle on Hoth.

Glaring error: Irvin Kershner originally turned down the chance to direct, not relishing the job of making a sequel to the most popular film ever. Thankfully, he reconsidered.

ReadEmpire'sThe Empire Strikes Backreview here.

BuyThe Empire Strikes Backnow with Amazon

6. The Dark Knight

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Released: 2008

Gap between sequel and original: 37 months

Why's it so good? Christopher Nolan's special genius lies in building his comic book films around a theme and making them stronger for that. The theme of Batman Begins was a city's response to fear (good drinking game: count the uses of that word / variations on it during Begins). This time, it's about the fine balance in our lives between control and chaos. Oh, and Heath Ledger's Joker perfect balances Bale's fiercely controlled Dark Knight.

How does it stack up to the original? The action scenes are better, everyone's settled into their roles in an established world, and Ledger blows every comic book performance ever off the screen. There's a reason this enjoyed such phenomenal financial and critical success: it's made by a team of experts at the top of their game.

Glaring error: This is the first Bat-film without a single real or CG bat in it. We hope that you don't feel cheated now that we've told you that.

ReadEmpire'sDark Knightreview here.

BuyThe Dark Knightnow with Amazon

5. Toy Story 2

Directed by: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich

Released: 1999

Gap between sequel and original: 48 months

Why's it so good? Pixar's first sequel displays all the artistry and attention to storytelling that you'd expect from the studio, and prepared the ground for Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Monsters University. The new characters - particularly Jessie - fit in beautifully with the established crew; there's that hilarious cinephile space-set opening; the themes are deepened and developed; and that Sarah McLachlan song will slay you every time.

How does it stack up to the original? This is one of those films that provokes debate: is it as good as the original or actually better? Frankly, why bother trying to choose? They're both sublime pieces of filmmaking, both in terms of animation, character, voice work and scripting. Certainly the technology has taken another step forward for this one, but it's polishing an already-brilliant stone.

Glaring error: This was originally conceived as a straight-to-DVD sequel. Can you imagine something this sublime going straight to DVD? It'd be a travesty.

ReadEmpire'sToy Story 2review here.

BuyToy Story 2now with Amazon

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Directed by: George Miller

Released: 2015

Gap between sequel and original: 433 months

Why’s it so good? Remember what we said earlier about Beyond Thunderdome losing something in its switch up to studio movie status? Fury Road, despite a colossal budget from Warner Bros., manages to avoid that pitfall. It’s got all the headlong mania of Mad Max 2, but is somehow the most insane film of the entire series to date, with no sense that anyone was trying to dilute Miller’s vision. And what a vision it is.

How does it stack up to the original? It’s hard to see how we even got here from there. The modest, only slightly futuristic cop thriller with unusually intense chase sequences leads, against all odds, to a colossal slice of demented autogeddon, the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. If you took Mad Max 2 as the real original on the other hand, then it’s that, but writ much, much larger. In fact, it almost breaks our own rule by barely being a sequel at all. Like Sergio Leone’s Dollars films, nothing really connects the four Mad Max films, other than a drifter wandering somewhere to find an adventure. Even his face has changed this time.

Glaring error: On that note, and not to diminish Tom Hardy’s performance at all… But, his modern pariah status notwithstanding, wouldn’t it have made the film just slightly more awesome (and even madder) to see Mel Gibson, older and more grizzled, back in his signature role?

ReadEmpire'sMad Max: Fury Roadreview here.

BuyMad Max: Fury Roadnow with Amazon

3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Directed by: James Cameron

Released: 1991

Gap between sequel and original: 81 months

Why's it so good? The action, the pace, Sarah Connor's biceps, the clever early switcheroo where you think Arnie's the bad guy and Robert Patrick is the good guy - only you're wrong - and the further considerations of what time travel means for the present are all effective. But it's the effects and the set pieces that really blew our collective socks off - and they continue to stand up even today.

How does it stack up to the original? The first one, strange as it seems, was more horror movie than action movie: a sort of slasher film with sci-fi trimmings. The second sees Cameron pull the same trick he did with Aliens, switching genre, upping the ante and producing something entirely different (the bad guy's now the good guy!) while still feeling like part of the same franchise.

Glaring error: According to the franchise's rules, only things with a covering of organic tissue can time travel. So how does the T-1000 do it? And what does its looking like a naked human achieve when it doesn't actually have real flesh?

ReadEmpire'sTerminator 2review here.

BuyTerminator 2: Judgment Daynow with Amazon

2. The Godfather Part II

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Released: 1974

Gap between sequel and original: 30 months

Why's it so good? Although we've hopefully given you a whole lot more, this is the trump card to pull out when having a heated pub debate about great sequels. Two years after The Godfather redefined the mobster movie and swept the Oscars, Francis Ford Coppola was back, without Brando (a late flashback cameo was nixed when the actor demanded more money), but with a story to tell about Michael Corleone's Shakespearean descent from family man to cold-blooded, corrupt monster. The scope is broader, flashing back to the sepia-tinged rise of Vito Corleone (with some no-hoper named Robert De Niro doing his best Brando), and contrasting that with the bleak, blackhearted Michael, who may or may not be a metaphor for America and capitalism.

How does it stack up to the original? The two films really should be seen in one sitting, and are majestic achievements in cinema. The first may have more purely memorable movie moments, but there's arguably nothing to rival the impact of the moment when the Machiavellian Michael has his brother Fredo killed. The surface of this water is darker, the depths chillier and less inviting, but they draw you in nonetheless.

Glaring error: The Godfather Part III. If only it had lived up to this example, it would be the greatest trilogy ever instead of the greatest twosome.

ReadEmpire'sGodfather Part IIreview here.

BuyThe Godfather Part IInow with Amazon

1. Aliens

Directed by: James Cameron

Released: 1986

Gap between sequel and original: 86 months

Why's it so good? Cameron's genius here lies in manipulating the tension, beautifully structuring the switches from build-up, to carnage, to unbearable waiting, to action. The Colonial Marines who accompany an understandably reluctant Ellen Ripley are each fleshed out as individuals, and the plot brilliantly conceived to showcase every character and then kill most of them off horribly. Why does it beat The Godfather Part II? Because that doesn't have a single acid-veined xenomorph in it, that's why!

How does it stack up to the original? Entirely changing genre, from haunted-house-in-space to balls-to-the-wall action, proved the masterstroke here. This is a defiantly different film, one that's as good as (or arguably, better than) Ridley Scott'sAlien, but not directly comparable because it remains true to the spirit of its predecessor without ever threatening to retread its steps.

Glaring error: The Special Edition adds two brilliant scenes - the sequence about Ripley's daughter and the Sentry Guns - but also includes far too much tension-deflating filler with the Hadley's Hope sequences.

ReadEmpire'sAliensreview here.

BuyAliensnow with Amazon

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us