The 30 Best Sequels No One Saw Coming

     February 25, 2019

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Sequels are generally scoffed at among film fans who want to see something fresh and new. A popular argument when a sequel is announced is, “Don’t they have any new ideas?” Sometimes great ideas deserve to be revisited, and fans who have invested in characters love to catch up with them years (and sometimes decades) after they first fell for them. Some movie and TV sequels are delightful, well-done, fascinating, or just plain fun to watch. Consider the best sequels audiences never asked for, and you may find yourself wondering why Hollywood doesn’t make more of them.

The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger’s haunting portrayal of the Joker is what many people remember most about The Dark Knight. Memorable performances from Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman also make the film powerful. The 2008 movie is a sequel to Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film Batman Begins.

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Image via Warner Bros.

The Dark Knight hit theaters across the country on July 18, 2008. Star Heath Ledger had passed away in January of 2008, and it was rumored that he had a hard time shaking the dark role of the Joker in the months before he died. He put his all into the film, and it is an undeniably great sequel. The Dark Knight was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Several years before she became a star in Cheers, Kirstie Alley made her film debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982. As the sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was credited with renewing public interest in the Star Trek universe, and it’s often considered to the best sequel film in the series.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is set in the year 2285. Near the start of the film, the Starship USS Enterprise embarks on a rescue mission to save the crew of a ship that’s been destroyed. Unfortunately, it is then attacked and significantly damaged. The story spirals from there, and the deep story is part of what earned it critical praise and commercial success.

Before Sunset

If you like quiet, reflective films, you will probably enjoy Before Sunset. Like its predecessor Before Sunrise, which was considered by many to be groundbreaking, Before Sunset takes place in real time as an American man and a French woman sincerely connect with each other over the course of a single afternoon.

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Image via Warner Independent Pictures

In this 2004 sequel film, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy portray characters who reconnect in Paris eight years after they spent a meaningful night together in Vienna. That night was captured in the original film Before Sunrise. Hawke and Delpy improvised so much of the dialogue that they were given a screenwriting credit alongside screenwriter and director Richard Linklater.

The Brady Girls Get Married

The Brady Bunch is a cultural phenomenon and one of the most recognized television shows in pop culture history. Six years after the beloved series came to an end, production started on The Brady Girls Get Married, a made-for-TV sequel movie that was also the first episode of a sequel series called The Brady Brides.

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Image via ABC

The Brady Girls Get Married is truly hilarious. With incredible performances from Jerry Houser as Wally Logan, the husband of Marcia, and Ron Kuhlman as Phillip Covington III, the husband of Jan, the entire cast shines in this 1981 made-for-TV sequel. It follows sisters Marcia and Jan as they plan their double wedding, and shenanigans ensue. It’s the last time the entire cast was together on film. In all future reunions, at least one cast member didn’t participate.

The Crow: City of Angels

Released in 1996, The Crow: City of Angels is a sequel film to the 1994 movie The Crow. Tragically, during the making of the original film, an on-set accident with a gun left the movie’s star Brandon Lee dead. Perhaps that is one reason why there is a sadness to the already dark film’s sequel.

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Image via Miramax

The Crow: City of Angels follows the story of Sarah from the first film. She is now an adult who is portrayed by Mia Kirshner. There are many references to the original movie with Sarah seen looking at a ring that Eric Draven, Brandon Lee’s character, gave her several years earlier. The strength of Mia Kirshner’s performance helps the film stand out as a fascinating sequel.

The Evening Star

Tearjerkers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s hard to not like the authentic, genuinely funny, and yet melancholic film Terms of Endearment. It even won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Its sequel The Evening Star understandably had a lot to live up to, and it is a good film on its own merits.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

While The Evening Star may not be as charming as Terms of Endearment, it is a good sequel. Shirley MacLaine memorably reprises her role as Aurora Greenway in this 1996 film that’s based on the novel by Robert Harling. Just as Aurora was far from a perfect mother in the first film, she struggles as the grandmother who raised her three grandkids after her daughter’s death.

The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars is such a pop culture phenomenon 42 years after the first film was released that there is an upcoming theme park and an ongoing Disney cruise called Star Wars Day at Sea for fans. The Empire Strikes Back, which was the first sequel to the original flick, is a very strong sequel starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford.

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Image via Lucasfilm

The Empire Strikes Back was released to much fanfare when it hit theaters in 1980. It is set three years after Star Wars, and it stands the test of time as the most critically acclaimed movie of all the Star Wars films. It was the highest grossing movie of 1980, and it was honored by the Library of Congress by being selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Fuller House

Full House was a beloved series of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it helped launch the very successful careers of child stars Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. When its sequel series Fuller House debuted on Netflix in 2016, fans were extremely enthusiastic in their support. John Stamos, who originally portrayed Uncle Jesse, was a producer of the sequel show.

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Image via Netflix

Although the original show never received an Emmy nomination, Fuller House was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program in 2018. This new show followed the adventures of recently widowed D.J. Tanner, her sister Stephanie, and her best friend Kimmy. The other members of the original cast appeared in several episodes. The only cast members who didn’t appear in any episode were Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, but this became an ongoing joke on the show.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is more memorable to many fans than the original film. This science fiction action movie follows the ongoing story of Sarah Connor and her ten-year-old son. They live in fear of a new Terminator that is now more advanced and scarier than ever.

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Image via Carolco Pictures

This popular sequel movie was a box office smash hit, and it was also critically acclaimed. Terminator 2: Judgment Day especially received a lot of praise for its visual effects. It was nominated for six Oscars at the 64th Academy Awards, and it won four of those awards.

Toy Story 3

The characters of Disney’s Toy Story are likely familiar to you even if you’ve never seen the films. That’s how integral Disney films are to pop culture. Even if you’ve never seen the first two films in the series, Toy Story 3 is likely to make you fall in love with those original characters who all make touching appearances in this animated tearjerker sequel movie.

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Image via Pixar

In Toy Story 3, Andy’s mother accidentally donates his beloved toys to a day care center. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Lotso, and their buddies have to learn how to survive in this scary new environment. Don’t doubt that Andy still loves his toys, though, and you’re not likely to get through this 2010 movie without shedding at least a few tears. It’s worth it, though.

Halloween (2018)

Laurie Strode has been tormented by Michael Myers for 40 years. It may have been four decades since her last run-in with him, but that doesn’t mean that the trauma hasn’t inflicted scars that have ruled her life. The 2018 sequel to the original 1978 film Halloween has been lauded as the best sequel yet in a film series with many sequels and even a remake.

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Image via Universal Pictures

Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her starring role in 2018’s Halloween. Unlike the earlier sequels that had Laurie cower in fear and give in to the horror, this version of Laurie is a badass. She’s prepared to fight back. Michael won’t know what hit him! This sequel ignores the previous Halloween sequels and erases characters (such as Laurie’s kids) that were included in those sequels. It introduces a new daughter and granddaughter for Laurie.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Poor Kevin McAllister! His parents left him home alone in the original, aptly titled film Home Alone. In this sequel film, Kevin ends up stranded in New York when the rest of the family flies to their vacation in Florida. While Kevin is distraught at first, he soon considers that there are perks to being in Manhattan with complete freedom.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Macaulay Culkin reprises his role as Kevin in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. He has a great time eating pizza in a limo, ordering anything he wants from room service while watching forbidden movies on TV, and getting the better of adults once again. That is, until antagonists Harry and Marv spot him in the city, and he has to fight them once again.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

What can go wrong with an award-winning cast and the one-of-a-kind, euphoric music of Abba? In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, there is a sad development since the original film. Donna, who was portrayed by Meryl Streep, has died. That’s not really a spoiler since that’s established at the start of the film.

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Image via Universal Pictures

The good news for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is that Meryl Streep does appear in the film although her character has passed away. Her part isn’t big, but it is terrific. Cher’s small role as the grandmother is also wonderful, and she sings a memorable rendition of “Fernando.”

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a beloved movie that has become a modern Christmas classic. It’s frequently screened during the holidays and shown on television. In the fun comedy, Chevy Chase reprises his role as Clark. Beverly D’Angelo stars as Ellen, and Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki play the put-upon kids.

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Image via Warner Bros.

Made in 1989, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third installment in the film series, and it was a box office hit. John Hughes wrote the movie that’s based on his short story, and it was well-received with many critics. Even the supporting cast is now known for their roles in the film, with Randy Quaid stating that his best-known role is in the film.

Sex and the City

The movie Sex and the City was a sequel to the entire television series that preceded it. In the 2008 feature film, audiences pick up with Carrie and her best friends as they continue their charmed lives in New York City. The opening of the film gives an update on what has been going on since the television series came to an end.

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Image via New Line Cinema

Sex and the City was both a critical and box office success. All the original cast members reprise their roles in the movie, and Jennifer Hudson is a welcome addition to the cast as Carrie’s assistant. Just as the original show did, the Sex and the City movie largely follows the romantic misadventures of the cast and the importance of friendship in their lives.

Psycho IV

Anthony Perkins portrayed Norman Bates in the original Psycho and is best remembered for this creepy role. He reprised the role in a few sequels to the original film, but the best is often thought to be the fourth installment of the horror film. Psycho IV: The Beginning follows the fate of Norman now that he is older and has fallen in love with a woman who is pregnant with his child.

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Image via NBC/Universal

Psycho IV: The Beginning was a made-for-television film that first aired in 1990. Henry Thomas, who first rose to fame as Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, plays a young Norman Bates in flashback sequences. In Psycho IV, Norman looks back on his life and must make a life-or-death choice, and the tension builds as the film goes back and forth between the past and the present.

Finding Dory

“Fish are friends, not food!” The fishes in Finding Dory are as appealing as they were in the original movie Finding Nemo. Ellen DeGeneres gives Dory her voice. Albert Brooks provides the voice of Marlin, and Ed O’Neill is the voice of Hank. The 3D computer-animated film grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it a major hit movie.

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Image via Pixar

Sweet little Dory, a forgetful blue tang fish, goes searching for her parents in this touching movie. Finding Dory was both a commercial and critical success. The 2016 flick was nominated for Best Animal Film at the British Academy Film Awards, and it was nominated for dozens of other awards.

Father of the Bride Part II

Steve Martin could have warmed even the coldest heart with his portrayal of doting dad George Banks in Father of the Bride. Kimberly Williams made her film debut as the radiant bride in that movie, and the stellar cast of 1991’s Father of the Bride return for this exuberant sequel film.

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Image via Buena Vista Pictures

Father of the Bride Part II is a 1995 comedic film that is set four years after the original. Annie and Bryan announce that they are expecting a baby, and another surprise is in store! It turns out that Annie’s parents George and Nina are also expecting a baby. Much chaos ensues, but love prevails just like it did in the original movie.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World was a much-anticipated science fiction feature film when it premiered in 2015. It is the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park saga. Set 22 years after the original flick, Jurassic World is set on Isla Nublar just like the original Jurassic Park was. Things start to go wrong when a genetically engineered dinosaur dares to escape.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Jurassic World is a very good sequel, and it was a box office smash. In addition to serving as a sequel to the original movie, this film is the planned first film in a Jurassic World trilogy.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Classic films need to be preserved and watched for the enjoyment of them, and they play an important role in American history as well as film history. The Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 science-fiction horror flick that was a sequel to the 1931 hit movie Frankenstein. It is often considered to be superior to the original film.

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Image via Universal Pictures

The Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale. Else Lanchester portrays two roles; she is Mary Shelley and the Monster’s mate. Boris Karloff stars as the Monster. This film is an instant sequel in that its sequence of events begin just after the conclusion of the first movie. The film was well-received by critics and has since been praised by the National Film Registry and other organizations.

Curse of Chucky

Since Child’s Play was a surprise major hit horror film, it has received several outrageous, zany sequels. The first couple of sequels were quite serious, but then things sort of got out of control once a bride was introduced for Chucky in the film series. 2013’s Curse of Chucky is a return to the more serious nature of the series.

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Image via Universal Studios Home Entertainment

In Curse of Chucky, Brad Dourif, the original voice of Chucky, reprises his role, and his real-life daughter Fiona Dourif gives a compelling performance in the starring role of Neca. Neca has been paralyzed all her life, a fact that makes her more vulnerable in some very suspenseful situations in this very well-done sequel. Look for cameos of cast members from earlier films in the series!

Addams Family Values

With a funny script and a significant change in tone from the original film, Addams Family Values offers a more macabre take on the series. It separates more from the original show than the first movie did, too. However, the original cast of 1991’s The Addams Family returned for this 1993 comedic sequel.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Addams Family Values was better received by critics than The Addams Family was. The New York Times praised its subversive humor, and the movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction. Actress Angelica Huston was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film. In addition to its critical acclaim, Addams Family Values was a commercial success.

Superman II

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder reprised their roles as Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane in Superman II. The mega-successful Superman feature film is an important part of pop culture, and the superhero flick catapulted Reeve to superstardom. In Superman II, the budding romance between Clark and Lois is finally realized.

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Image via Warner Bros.

The fun romance in 1980’s Superman II makes it special as a sequel. It’s a pay-off from the flirtations in the original film, and the overall strong story beyond the romance also makes it a very enjoyable movie to watch. It was such a hit that it broke box office records, setting a record for most money earned by a film in a single day up to the point of its release.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side

They’re back! That is, most of the original cast members are back for Poltergeist II: The Other Side. Tragically, one cast member is notably absent. Dominique Dunne, who played the oldest daughter Dana in the original Poltergeist, was killed by her ex-boyfriend shortly after the first film was released. In Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Heather O’Rourke is back as sweet, little traumatized Carol Anne.

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MGM Entertainment Co.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side introduced a new, extremely creepy character. Reverend Kane, who was portrayed brilliantly by Julian Beck, comes up to the Freeling family and warns them that they’re “all going to die”. The talent Will Sampson also joins the cast as Taylor, an ally to the family. Supernatural things start happening again, and the family must stay together to fight the scary forces that are railing against them.

The Curse of the Cat People

In The Curse of the Cat People, Amy is an enchanting, sensitive child who just doesn’t fit in with other kids. She’s a dreamer, and she doesn’t quite belong anywhere. She doesn’t even seem to belong in her own family. However, she finds a true friend that she can relate to when she befriends the ghost of her father’s first wife.

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Image via RKO Radio Pictures

The Curse of the Cat People is a creative 1944 sequel film to 1942’s Cat People. Although it does include many of the same characters, it’s rather loosely related to the original movie. This one addresses the dangers of childhood, as critic James Agee pointed out when the movie was released, and it received the 35th position in a list of the greatest movie of all time by The Moving Arts Film Journal in 2010.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Oh, behave! That irrepressible British rascal Austin Powers is back for laughs and non-stop zany antics in 1999’s aptly titled Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. It is the sequel to the original film Austin Powers. It was a huge box office success, and it was nominated for one Academy Award and multiple other awards.

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Image via New Line Cinema

The spy comedy flick stars Mike Myers as Austin Powers, Fat Bastard, and Dr. Evil. Heather Graham, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Michael York, and Elizabeth Hurley also appear in the film. Its fantastic soundtrack is almost its own character in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and the musical numbers move the story forward at multiple points.

Still the Beaver

Leave it to Beaver is one of the most beloved television series of all time, and it is known for its tender stories the portray the difficulties and joys of growing up. Leave it to Beaver originally ran from 1957 to 1963. In 1983, a sequel movie and series called Still the Beaver premiered.

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Image via CBS

Still the Beaver caught up with a grown-up Beaver who is still struggling with life. He is facing a divorce and winds up a single parent with custody of his two sons. He moves back in with his mom. (Sadly, actor Hugh Beaumont passed away before the show, so his character Ward Cleaver was also killed off.) The show became a success, and the name was changed over time to The New Leave It to Beaver.

Annabelle: Creation

What is it about dolls that can be so creepy? Is it their humanlike physical qualities or the way that those human features are distorted? Is it something else entirely? Annabelle: Creation is a unique supernatural horror film sequel that further explores the world of Annabelle. Although it is technically a sequel and the fourth movie in the The Conjuring Universe franchise, Annabelle: Creation also serves as a prequel to the original film Annabelle.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2017’s Annabelle: Creation, a couple is deeply grieving the loss of their little girl who was named Annabelle. They are frantic for any way to hold on to her. They later open their home to a nun and six little girls who are left homeless after the closing of an orphanage. Would could possibly go wrong in such a creepy situation? A lot.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Directed by Matt Reeves, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to the 2011 movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Much like the original film, this science fiction flick looks at the damage that humans do to each other, animals, and the planet. The sequel is set a decade after the original movie, and it follows the story of a group of San Francisco residents who are fighting for life in terrible times.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Caesar leads a group of genetically evolve apes, and it is sure to make the audience contemplate the superiority of humanity. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an extremely strong sequel that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects. Beyond that, it was also nominated for two Critics’ Choice Awards, eight Saturn Awards, four Empire Awards, and many others.

Staying Alive

John Travolta just exudes a sweetness that has followed him throughout his life and career. It has worked as part of his charisma in his leading roles in films like Grease and Phenomenon, but Travolta’s character Tony Manero isn’t all that sweet. Travolta originated the character of Tony in the huge hit Saturday Night Fever, and he reprises his starring role in Staying Alive.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Staying Alive has a catchy, high-energy soundtrack that include Frank Stallone’s “Far From Over.” (Frank’s brother Sylvester Stallone co-wrote and directed this film, and he has a cameo in it.) Like its predecessor Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive doesn’t shy away from showing the darker aspects of being a young dancer in New York. Also. like the first film, it was a box office hit.

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