Beloved and abhorred in equal measure, the sequel has become such a ubiquitous presence in multiplexes the world over that many believe by 2025 all Hollywood content will be either reboots, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, interquels, spin-offs, or whatever you call it when characters from a film MST3K their own film—the Lion King One and a Half thing.
Despite this deluge of follow-up films, ardent defenders of every filmmaker’s god given right to a franchise of their own will point to the frequently sequelized worlds of sci-fi and argue that a good sequel can deepen the lore of its characters, shade and colour their world further, and even offer new insights into the stories we’ve seen before—Star Wars hits pretty different once you know Luke and Darth Vader are more than mere enemies, after all.
Sure, there are arguments against the onslaught of cinematic universes landing in our multiplexes, but that’s an argument for another day, as we’re here to celebrate the potential of the sci-fi sequel for the purposes of this list.
This wasn’t an easy one to make, and no doubt there will be a handful of omissions we’re embarrassed to realise we left out, but to make things more fair we’ve elected to feature only one entry from any given franchise (lest we end up with a list of fifteen Marvel Cinematic Universe outings).. So without further ado, here are the fifteen greatest sci-fi sequels of all time.
15. Robocop 2
on—would it even be possible to one up the gory sci-fi satire of 1987’s sci fi action
Possibly Total Recall director Paul Verhoeven’s most underrated flick, the propulsive and edgy original combines the sly anti-fascist satirical edge of Starship Troopers with some all-time great, extremely violent and deeply eighties R-rated action set pieces. Whether it’s Naked Lunch star Peter Weller being blasted to pieces by gangsters early in proceedings or the gasp-inducing fate of Emil, the first film ensured its thrills were anchored by visceral brutality.
So how do you outdo that sort of arthouse-funhouse blockbuster fusion?
Well, Robocop 2 brought on board Irvin Kershner of Empire Strikes Back fame, ensuring that this stellar follow up would feature even more bone-crunching action, layered satire, and an equally memorable dark depictions of a future where the line between corrupt cops and overpowered criminals is vanishingly thin. As morally ambiguous as the original, it’s also just as fun, offering the beat-em-up thrills of Judge Dredd without the dicey pro-police-power underpinnings.