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5 Movie Sequels That Were Better than the Original

Image of Paul Atreides and Chani in Dune: Part Two.
Dune: Part Two (2024),

Last month, Dune: Part Two released in theatres to rave reviews, with many critics and fans alike lauding it as even better than the first Dune (which was already very well received). In the film world, this is a fairly rare sight. Sequels are often considered unnecessary or inferior to their predecessors, to the point of even being used as a punchline (such as in the opening number of Muppets: Most Wanted). However, as Dune: Part Two has shown, there are many sequels that are not only just as good as the original movie, but better. Here are five movie sequels that I believe fall into this category.

1: Toy Story 2

Image of Jessie, Woody, Bullseye, and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 2.
Toy Story 2 (1999),

The original Toy Story is a groundbreaking film that still holds up well to this day. However, Toy Story 2 is truly where the series hit its stride. Everything that worked in the first Toy Story has been polished to a mirror shine: the comedy is top-notch, the emotional beats are powerful, the characters are more fleshed out, and the plot is engaging and thought-provoking. This film set Toy Story apart as one of the best animated film series of all time, and it also set the stage for another Toy Story 3, which many consider to be even better. Whether you prefer Toy Story 2 or the movie that followed it, there’s no denying that Toy Story 2 is truly what turned Toy Story from a film into a franchise.

2: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Image of Captain Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982),

While I consider Star Trek: The Motion Picture to be a better film than many people say it is, there’s no denying that it suffers from having a sluggish pace that turned many viewers away. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, on the other hand, is a thrilling and expertly written sci-fi adventure that basically saved the Star Trek film franchise. This film features some of the most iconic moments in Star Trek history (such as Captain Kirk’s infamous shout) as well as one of the greatest rivalries ever put to film. This film is often regarded as the best Star Trek film ever made, and for very good reason. Although I personally prefer Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home for its comedic elements, Wrath of Khan is an enthralling movie that easily trumps its predecessor.

3: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Image of Puss in Boots and Death in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022),

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has proved to be one of the most unexpected hits in recent memory. After the middling reception of the first Puss in Boots film, no one expected anything spectacular from its sequel. And yet, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish stands alongside classics such as The Prince of Egypt and Shrek 2 as one of Dreamworks’ best films. It is beautifully animated, well-paced, laugh-out-loud funny, and has not one, but three fantastic villains. The personal journey that Puss goes on over the course of the movie is also masterfully crafted with an immense amount of empathy, and it ultimately leads to a powerful message that can resonate with everyone. And the best part is, you don’t need to watch the first Puss in Boots or any of the previous Shrek films to enjoy it. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a must-watch sequel that surpasses the original with flying colors.

4: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Image of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980),

Star Wars (now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was a worldwide sensation when it hit theatres. As such, there were extremely high expectations for the sequel. Thankfully, The Empire Strikes Back is a wildly successful sequel that builds off the foundation set by A New Hope in plenty of new and interesting ways. It features an overall darker story than its predecessor and introduces some of the most iconic characters and locations in the Star Wars franchise, as well as one of the most legendary plot twists in cinematic history. In fact, many would say that Empire set the bar so high that no other Star Wars film has been able to top it. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, The Empire Strikes Back is a superb sequel that truly molded Star Wars into what it is today. 

5: Cars 2

Image of Pope Pinion IV and the Popemobile in Cars 2.
Cars 2 (2011),

HEAR ME OUT ON THIS ONE. Yes, Cars 2 is often considered one of the worst Pixar films, if not the worst. However, in my opinion, Cars 2 is more enjoyable to watch than the first Cars movie for one simple reason: stuff actually happens in Cars 2. Make no mistake, Cars 2 is an extremely dumb movie. In fact, I don’t even consider it to be good. But people often forget that the entire concept of Cars is dumb. And yet, even with such a dumb concept, Cars still somehow managed to be incredibly boring. The first Cars simply takes itself way too seriously in my opinion, and it leads to a dull slog of a film whose one gimmick (the characters being cars) could be removed entirely and the plot would stay basically the same. (In fact, Cars without cars already exists, and it’s called Doc Hollywood.) The plot of Cars 2, on the other hand, is actually dependent on the fact that THE CHARACTERS ARE CARS. And it’s not afraid to embrace how stupid that entire concept is. Cars 2 has cars being tortured to death via explosive fuel. Cars 2 has spy cars with car grappling hooks and car guns. Cars 2 has a car crime syndicate trying to take over the world because they are seen as unreliable cars. Cars 2 even has the car Pope (pictured above), which implies the existence of a car Jesus. Cars has none of that. Cars 2 may not be a good movie, but I’ll take dumb and memorable over boring and forgettable any day. I am ready to die on this hill.

Bryce Cain is a junior at IU studying Interactive & Digital Media as well as Theatre & Drama. He has worked for Media Services since the fall semester of 2022. His interests include theatre, video games, and graphic design.

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