Top Five Sequels from Hollywood’s Best Films in the Past Decade

This summer, many sequels are being released, so let's revisit the top sequels that exceeded the original and advanced their franchise.

Today’s film industry is dominated by franchises and sequels, which are responsible for the majority of the highest-grossing movies worldwide, both positively and negatively. Creating a successful sequel is challenging, especially when the first film is adored. It is even more difficult to surpass the original when the original film is already a significant achievement.

This summer, just like every summer, we can look forward to a lineup of highly anticipated sequels, including Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Inside Out 2, Despicable Me 4, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, My Spy: The Eternal City, Twisters, Deadpool & Wolverine, and Alien: Romulus. To kick off the summer, let’s take a look at the top sequels from the past decade that exceeded their predecessors and propelled their respective series forward.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

The 2018 film “Into the Spider-Verse” was a standout in the animation and superhero genre, catapulting Miles Morales to stardom beyond his comic book appearances. However, “Across the Spider-Verse” elevates the standard by incorporating a wider array of visual styles, references to Spider-Man’s rich history, cultural elements, and outstanding character development. The directors, Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, and their team of animators go above and beyond to craft a masterpiece that has never been seen on the big screen. When Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) returns into Miles Morales’ (Shameik Moore) life, he finds himself entangled in the multiverse, meeting other Spider-Men such as Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya), Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni), and Peter Parker (Jake Johnson). However, the threat posed by the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) in the multiverse, coupled with Miles’ lack of experience, places him in direct conflict with Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), the leader of the Spider Society. The film ends on a high note, but leaves viewers eagerly anticipating the continuation in the third installment.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

It took over a decade, but James Cameron certainly made it worth the wait. The discussions surrounding the Avatar sequel often focus on the remarkable advancements in technology — from motion capture to the creation of lifelike and animated water — but the true masterpiece Cameron achieves is in the storytelling. Cameron has encountered his fair share of criticism as a storyteller. However, these Avatar movies don’t achieve their financial success solely due to their stunning visuals. It’s the connection and empathy viewers feel towards the characters and their stories that truly captivate them. The Way of Water resonates universally, exploring themes of family, the expectations of children and parents, and the struggle to find something greater than ourselves. It’s a tale of faith and the world we live in, battling for something beyond our individual selves. Of course, it’s set on a foreign planet, inhabited by extraterrestrial beings, genetically engineered soldiers, and enormous whales. Yet, Cameron’s dedication and belief in this world and its inhabitants enable us to share in that belief as well.

Doctor Sleep (2019)

 In a challenge that appeared insurmountable, Mike Flanagan embarked on the daunting task of transforming Stephen King’s sequel to his own The Shining novel and crafting a sequel to the iconic Stanley Kubrick film The Shining (1980), which diverges markedly from the original work and is not favored by King. Yet, Flanagan succeeded in producing a film that pays tribute to both King and Kubrick’s contributions, while also weaving a personal narrative that seamlessly integrates into his expanding body of work. Years after the events of The Shining, Dan Torrence (Ewan McGregor) finds himself once again entangled in the nightmares of his past, as he is tasked with safeguarding a young girl, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who possesses the Shining, from a vampire cult known as The True Knot, under the leadership of Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Doctor Sleep, with its impressive execution (even more so in the Director’s Cut), is a chilling and poignant examination of redemption, death, and the lingering spirits that haunt us all.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

One of the key reasons George Miller’s latest installments in the Mad Max series was so remarkable was the element of surprise it brought. The character of Mad Max, who hadn’t appeared in a film since 1985, was not expected to return. There was no anticipation for Mel Gibson to take on the role. At that time, Miller was more recognized by the general public for his work on Happy Feet and Babe, and by the film community for his aborted Justice League project. The initial photos for the new Mad Max movie showed a bleak, monochromatic setting, a sharp contrast to the vibrant, sunlit world of the final film. The early trailers also failed to clearly convey the essence of the movie. Despite this, Mad Max: Fury Road debuted at the top of the box office, showcasing a remarkable blend of cinematic excellence, daring stunts, and a story that seamlessly integrated action with a rich cinematic history, ranging from Charlie Chaplin’s era to the contemporary, subversive style of action films.

Creed (2015)

Before stepping into the role of the Black Panther, Ryan Coogler breathed new life into the Rocky series, changing its direction and creating a fashionable mix of classic and contemporary elements, attracting both old and new admirers. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the offspring of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), aspires to establish himself in the boxing world and coax Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) out of his secluded life to mentor him. Adonis grapples with the expectations of his family’s legacy, which strains his bond with musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson), while Rocky battles his battle with cancer, leading both characters on a deeply emotional path where they find solace and support in each other, forming a familial connection. Creed delves into the theme of self-discovery, exploring the significance of one’s identity and name. It serves as an ideal sequel, as the movie not only resolves plotlines from the earlier series but also introduces new elements and characters, making it one of the finest examples of continuing a story.

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