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Top Movie Sequels of All Time: It's the Summer of Sequels!

Top Movie Sequels of All Time: It’s the Summer of Sequels!

Paddington in 'Paddington 2'
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) in the family adventure “Paddington 2.” Sequels have proven to be certified box office successes. | Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s an overabundance of movie sequels in theaters right now, with no end to the trend in sight.

Currently, theaters are featuring “Inside Out 2,” “Despicable Me 4,” “A Quiet Place: Part One,” and more. In the coming months, dozens more sequels are set to release, including “Twisters,” “Gladiator 2,” “Deadpool & Wolverine,” and “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.”

The list of sequels in the works is even longer.

Sequels have often proven to be box office gold, but a bad sequel can alienate fans from a franchise. On the other hand, a good sequel leaves audiences eagerly awaiting more.

In light of the ongoing stream of sequels, here are some of the best movie sequels ever made.

‘Paddington 2’

Paddington is comfortably settled in with the Brown family when he spots the perfect gift for his aunt’s 100th birthday — an antique pop-up book. But when the book is stolen, Paddington embarks on a hunt to track down the thief.

The first “Paddington” movie set a high standard, but Paddington’s quest in the sequel resurrected the same delightful energy as the first, even surpassing it in likability. If the original “Paddington” were erased, the sequel has more than enough oomph to stand on its own.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $40.9 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 99%.

‘The Dark Knight’

“The Dark Knight” is more than an impressive sequel; it’s widely considered one of the greatest films of all time.

If the test for a good sequel is: Does it successfully stand alone? Then “The Dark Knight” passes with ease.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $534 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 94%.

‘Top Gun: Maverick’

More than three decades after the cult-classic “Top Gun” movie, Tom Cruise returned to film its sequel. It was a bold move, but it paid off.

The original “Top Gun” movie is filled with corny ‘80s banter and romance and mainly appealed to nostalgic Gen Xers. “Top Gun: Maverick” took all the redeeming elements from the original, secured a swoon-worthy cast, employed modern film tech, and went soaring.

“Somehow Cruise’s foray back into the danger zone will be remembered more than the original, setting a new standard in the era of reboots,” praised the Chicago Reader.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $718 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 96%.


Decades after Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) took down his late boxing rival, Apollo Creed, he becomes a mentor to Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan). It proved to be a fresh enough plotline to revive the “Rocky” franchise.

“It’s a relief to watch this likable boxing picture, which finds a way to evolve the Rocky franchise with humor and humility,” lauded The Guardian.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $109 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 95%.

‘Toy Story 2’

With four movies (and a fifth in the making), the “Toy Story” franchise is the third-highest earning animated franchise of all time, with a total gross of $3.27 billion, per Collider.

But the “Toy Story” movies aren’t your typical cash-grab sequels. The “Toy Story” sequel matched the original film’s 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — a rare feat, particularly for franchise films.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $245 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 100%.

‘The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’

The forces of good and evil reach a climax in a brutal, visually-savvy and clever war sequence audiences waited two previous movies for, followed by a wholly satisfying conclusion to the fellowship’s quest.

“‘Return of the King’ is such a crowning achievement, such a visionary use of all the tools of special effects, such a pure spectacle, that it can be enjoyed even by those who have not seen the first two films,” wrote The Chicago Sun-Times.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $381 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 94%.

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’

After seven highly-rated, high-grossing “Harry Potter” movies, there was a lot on the line for the concluding film in the series. Audiences weren’t disappointed.

In a decade of making the “Harry Potter” movies, CGI improved, the child actors grew into adults with serious acting chops, and the plot evolved into something far more meaningful and high stakes. It’s the finale to a bona fide coming-of-age saga, packed with nostalgia and a fulfilling conclusion.

Lifetime gross (domestic): $381 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 96%.

‘Dune: Part Two’

“Dune: Part One’s” two-and-a-half hours of setup was more than worth it for “Dune: Part Two.” The wildly complicated plot is clearly translated to screen and supported with impressive costumes, visual effects, and production design.

“The second Dune installment is jaw-on-the-floor spectacular,” praised The Guardian. “It elegantly weaves together top-tier special effects and arresting cinematography; it layers muscle, sinew and savagery on to the bones of Part One.”

Lifetime gross (domestic): $282 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 92%.

‘The Empire Strikes Back’

It’s only mildly controversial to claim “The Empire Strikes Back” is the best “Star Wars” film in the nine-movie saga. It outdoes its predecessor, “A New Hope,” and its successor, “Return of the Jedi,” doesn’t quite live up to the standard set before it.

“The Empire Strikes Back” expands the “Star Wars” universe, introduces Yoda, and has the legendary line: “I am your father.”

Lifetime gross (domestic): $292 million.

Rotten Tomato critic score: 95%.

Source: Deseret News, Chicago Reader, The Guardian, Collider, The Chicago Sun-Times