Sequels are always a hard sell; for every Godfather Part II, there’s a million Hot Tub Time Machine 2s: low-effort cash grabs designed to drag the unsuspecting public back into the multiplex in the hopes of seeing lightning strike twice. Despite this, some sequels manage not only to match their originals, but to become classics in their own right.
Whether shifting tone for a darker, more mature style and deepening the series mythology or taking the opposite route and delving into lighter, sillier territory, these sequels prove that the original is not always best. Providing potential for endless re-watches, these follow ups may have been one-off surprises or the start of long-running franchises.
For the purpose of this list, we’ve limited ourselves to “true” sequels; that is no Godfather Part II or any other instalments of pre-planned trilogies (sorry, Twilight: Eclipse). Instead we’re running through the movies which followed up an unexpected success with an even rarer beast: a fun, solid sequel which develops on the promise of its predecessor.
12. 22 Jump Street
2012’s 21 Jump Street was always going to be a hard act to follow, since the sequel came burdened with expectations which hadn’t weighed down the first film. When Brooklyn 99 producers (and Star Wars exiles) Christopher Lord and Troy Miller announced their plan to reboot an eighties cop drama, no one took much notice.
However, when 21 Jump Street hit theatres it was a surprise smash with critics and audiences alike. Blending zany comedy with impressive action, the film was a perfect showcase for Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s hilarious chemistry, and a stellar cast rounded out by Brie Larson, Nick Offerman, Jake Johnson, and Dave Franco didn’t hurt.
So when it came time for a sequel, the writers had no way of repeating their success, right? Surprisingly the pair actually managed to outdo themselves, crafting one of the funniest movies of the last decade while also slyly satirising sequels in the process. Peppered with sharp self-referential humour, the film manages to flip the buddy cop dynamic of the original without losing any of its charm in the process.