15 Sequels That Topped the Originals
1. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
With The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan built upon Batman Begins by crafting an even grander morality stage for his Caped Crusader to navigate. Drenched in gravitas, and benefiting from Heath Ledger?s topsy-turvy (and Oscar-winning) take on the Joker, The Dark Knight proved that the superhero genre can and should be taken seriously. Of course, the Academy didn't get that memo when it embarrassingly failed to nominated the blockbuster for Best Picture.
2. STAR WARS: EPISODE V — THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
''No, I am your father.'' Enough said.
3. BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (1998)
As charming as 1995's Babe was, Babe: Pig in the City topped the original with its sheer artistic imagination. Directed by George Miller (whose Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior also made this list), this sequel is a triumph of architectural design as our gallant pig is stranded in a dazzling concoction of a city, which incorporates famous landmarks from all over the globe. Pig in the City flopped at the box office, grossing $18.3 million domestically on a $90 million budget, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from giving this surprisingly sophisticated family film the attention it deserves.
4. BEFORE SUNSET (2004)
Set nine years after 1995's Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater's Before Sunset relishes the simple power of words. Like its predecessor, Sunset consists of a series of captivating conversations between two sharp individuals. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) reunite for a single afternoon in Paris, and by the end of this movie's 80-minute runtime, we feel as if we too have spent the day with them. The film received an Oscar nod for its screenplay, which was written by Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy.
5. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)
Part gothic horror film and part black comedy, James Whale's sequel to Frankenstein (1931) managed to slip in sly allusions to homosexuality and necrophilia, and introduced one of cinema's most visually memorable characters: The Bride (Elsa Lanchester), with her frizzled lightning-bolt hairdo.
6. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Of all of George A. Romero's Dead movies, Dawn of the Dead is the crown jewel. Romero improved upon his groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead (1968) by letting his zombies invade the most obvious symbol of American consumerism gone awry — the shopping mall.
7. EVIL DEAD II (1987)
Sam Raimi's slapstick horror comedy, now a beloved cult hit, can be summed up with one word: ''Groovy.''
8. FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)
As the second film in Sergio Leone's ''Dollars Trilogy'' of Italian spaghetti westerns, For a Few Dollars More served as the evolutionary stepping stone between A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and what's arguably the director's most accomplished work, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The sweeping cinematography, Ennio Morricone's iconic score, and Clint Eastwood's no-nonsense performance are the main attractions here.
9. KILL BILL: VOL. 2 (2004)
While Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) delighted in the visceral pleasures of bloody-spurting fight scenes, Vol. 2 marked the welcome return of Quentin Tarantino's famously droll dialogue. As fun as Vol. 1 is in parts, Vol. 2 is the more complete movie. It allows Uma Thurman to make use of both her athletic and emotive talents, and it sets aside time for such delicious detours as Bill's (the late David Carradine) monologue on the mythology of Superman. Allow me to indulge in some clichéd dining metaphors by insisting that Vol. 2 is the substantive main course to Vol. 1's fiery appetizer.
10. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002)
It was in the second chapter of The Lord of the Rings trilogy that director Peter Jackson managed to combine visual spectacle with a newfound dose of lyricism. Sure, we vividly recall the awesomeness that is the Battle of Helm's Deep, but it's the film's quieter moments — Elrond advising Arwen on the foolishness of loving a man, or Gollum's internal schizophrenic struggle — that truly flesh out this triumphant epic. The Two Towers confirmed that The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) was no fluke, and it hinted at the magnificent conclusion to come the following year. (This list is confined to only the second entry of each movie series, hence the absence of The Return of the King).
11. MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981)
George Miller's Mad Max 2 is the film that pushed Aussie actor Mel Gibson toward international stardom. Released in the U.S. as The Road Warrior, this post-apocalyptic action flick introduced American audiences to Gibson's brusque charm, and its climatic chase scene, in which Gibson escorts a tanker while being chased by a gang of punk bikers, is still one of the most exhilarating ever filmed.
12. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 found Sam Raimi working in top form. The director, whose Spider-Man (2002) was a genial if uninspired origin story, somehow managed to blend Peter Parker's emotional insecurities with a number of show-stopping set pieces. Add in that masterful shot of the subway passengers gently carrying an unmasked Spider-Man, plus the perfect use of Hal David and Burt Bacharach's ''Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,'' and you've got yourself one mighty superhero movie.
13. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
Credited with saving the Star Trek film series and beginning the odd-number curse (the idea that, generally, odd-numbered Star Trek movies are bad while even-numbered ones are good), The Wrath of Khan ratcheted up the pacing and featured a savory villain in the form of Ricardo Montalban's Khan. After 11 movies (and a 12th one on the way), Khan remains many Trekkies' favorite.
14. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)
At the time it was produced, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the most expensive movie ever made, and there's no denying that all that money is on the screen. Director James Cameron fashioned an unrelenting adrenaline ride — an action extravaganza in which each sequence blows away the one before it. The film's special effects were so revolutionary that, by comparison, the original Terminator (1984) looks like a student film, albeit an enjoyable one.
15. X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)
From its riveting opening set to Mozart's Dies Irae to Bobby Drake's (Shawn Ashmore) amusing attempt to ''come out'' as a mutant to his family (''Have you tried not being a mutant?''), Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United excelled at elevating the requisite action scenes expected by fans of the first X-Men (2000) while strengthening the story's relevance to the social struggles faced by various minorities.
More from EW:
Become a fan on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter