30 sequels that were better than the original

Only one sequel per franchise unless there is some kind of a reboot or retooling involved. And only then I'm using one sequel per reboot/retooling. I'll make a note where this happens. I'd also like to note that this is not necessarily a list of the best sequels of all-time. There are some great sequels that didn't make the list due to the fact that I don't consider them better than the first movie. So you won't be seeing films such as "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" or "Sanjuro" on this list due to me not considering them to be better than "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Yojimbo", respectively.
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1.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
After the rebels are overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Master Yoda. His friends accept shelter from a questionable ally as Darth Vader hunts them in a plan to capture Luke. (124 mins.)
Director: Irvin Kershner
“ The first movie was a great film in its own right, but "The Empire Strikes Back" trumps it in almost every category. It has better set pieces (the ice planet Hoth, the cloud city Bespin, the swamp planet Dagobah), more iconic moments (the battle of Hoth, Yoda training Luke Skywalker, the revelation of Darth Vader being Luke's father, Han Solo frozen in carbonite), a better soundtrack. Almost all of my favorite Star Wars memories as a kid were from "Empire", the only exceptions being the Mos Eisley Catina and the Battle of Yavin from the first movie. This is not only a sequel that was better than the original, but quite possibly the best sequel of all-time. ” - MovieWes
 
2.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate. (202 mins.)
“ Another sequel to another great film, which also happens to be one of the greatest films of all-time in its own right. This movie is more complex, more suspenseful, better made, and arguably better acted than the first film. ” - MovieWes
 
3.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (118 mins.)
Director: Jonathan Demme
“ Is it really fair to consider this one a sequel when it had so little to do with Michael Mann's "Manhunter"? I think that it is. A lot of people consider this a reboot, but seeing how it uses many of the same characters from "Manhunter", including Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford, Dr. Chilton, and Barney, and the novel was a sequel to "Red Dragon", I'd call it a sequel. And the less said about the official "Red Dragon" adaptation, the better. Can't we just pretend that that movie doesn't even exist? ” - MovieWes
 
4.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery. (161 mins.)
Director: Sergio Leone
“ The first movie, "A Fistful of Dollars", was a good movie. Its sequel, "For a Few Dollars More", was a great movie. The third movie, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", is a monumental film and the Spaghetti Western by which all other Spaghetti Westerns are measured. Best of all is the iconic score by Ennio Morricone. ” - MovieWes
 
5.
The Dark Knight (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice. (152 mins.)
“ "The Dark Knight" is such a good sequel that sometimes I forget that the first movie even exists. Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" was merely just a warm-up for the main event that was "The Dark Knight", which delivered all the goods that every studio wishes every hyped up tentpole sequel would deliver. ” - MovieWes
 
6.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her ten year old son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg. (137 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
 
7.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
With the assistance of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using the life-generating Genesis Device as the ultimate weapon. (113 mins.)
Director: Nicholas Meyer
 
8.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
When Woody is stolen by a toy collector, Buzz and his friends vow to rescue him, but Woody finds the idea of immortality in a museum tempting. (92 mins.)
 
9.
Before Sunset (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse's book tour. (80 mins.)
“ I had a hard time putting this one down. I'm not 100% convinced that it's better than "Before Sunrise", but it's almost definitely tied. I love both films almost equally, but this one has a little bit tighter script, a little bit better acting, and is unique in that it actually makes the first movie even better when watched back-to-back. ” - MovieWes
 
10.
Aliens (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The moon from Alien has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough? (137 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
 
11.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate. (75 mins.)
Director: James Whale
 
12.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard. (179 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
 
13.
The Avengers (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. (143 mins.)
Director: Joss Whedon
 
14.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The Borg travel back in time intent on preventing Earth's first contact with an alien species. Captain Picard and his crew pursue them to ensure that Zefram Cochrane makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed. (111 mins.)
Director: Jonathan Frakes
“ While not a reboot, per se, I'm letting this one in due to it being the second film using the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". This film is probably the 2nd best entry in the "Star Trek" franchise after "The Wrath of Kahn", and is head and shoulders above the first film using the cast of TNG, "Star Trek: Generations". ” - MovieWes
 
15.
The Road Warrior (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits. (95 mins.)
Director: George Miller
 
16.
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Inspector Jacques Clouseau investigates the murder of Mr. Benjamin Ballon's driver at a country estate. (102 mins.)
Director: Blake Edwards
 
17.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless CIA official and his agents from a new assassination program while searching for the origins of his life as a trained killer. (115 mins.)
Director: Paul Greengrass
 
18.
X-Men 2 (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President's life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces. (134 mins.)
Director: Bryan Singer
 
19.
From Russia with Love (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. (115 mins.)
Director: Terence Young
“ This is my favorite James Bond movie hands down. I know that a lot of people like "Goldfinger" the best (and that's my second favorite Bond movie, so I suppose it deserves an honorable mention), but this one, for me, has yet to be topped. ” - MovieWes
 
20.
Evil Dead II (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack. (84 mins.)
Director: Sam Raimi
“ While I'm at it, I'd also like to give a shout out to its amazing sequel "Army of Darkness". ” - MovieWes
 
21.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
It's Harry's third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new "Defense Against the Dark Arts" teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards' Prison and is coming after Harry. (142 mins.)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
“ To be perfectly honest, most of the Harry Potter sequels are better than the first one. I also really enjoyed "The Goblet of Fire", "The Half-Blood Prince", and both Parts 1 and 2 of "The Deathly Hallows". However, this is my favorite Harry Potter movie and is definitely way better than both of the first two films in the franchise. ” - MovieWes
 
22.
Skyfall (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Bond's loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. (143 mins.)
Director: Sam Mendes
“ Yes, this is the 23rd James Bond movie, and I've already listed "From Russia with Love" earlier, but this is part of the rebooted series that began with "Casino Royale" in 2006. It's not *that* much better than "Casino Royale", but I did enjoy it more. ” - MovieWes
 
23.
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Riggs and Murtaugh are on the trail of South African diplomats who are using their immunity to engage in criminal activities. (114 mins.)
Director: Richard Donner
 
24.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall. (127 mins.)
 
25.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius. (127 mins.)
Director: Sam Raimi
 
26.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name. (132 mins.)
Director: Brad Bird
 
27.
Superman II (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth. (127 mins.)
Director: Richard Lester
 
28.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The Griswold family's plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster. (97 mins.)
 
29.
Fast Five (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Dominic Toretto and his crew of street racers plan a massive heist to buy their freedom while in the sights of a powerful Brazilian drug lord and a dangerous federal agent. (131 mins.)
Director: Justin Lin
 
30.
Desperado (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A gunslinger is embroiled in a war with a local drug runner. (104 mins.)