The best sequels of all time prove that franchises don’t always get worse after multiple films. Sometimes a movie’s sequel eclipses the quality of the first, providing better writing and more in-depth character studies with subsequent installments.

  1. “Spiderman 2” After the breakout success of the original film, this 2004 sequel had high expectations, and it managed to exceed them. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst turned in convincing performances in a character study of protagonist Peter Parker’s unraveling personal life in this superhero sequel.

  2. “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” Frodo Baggins’ epic quest continued in 2002 with this sequel, easily one of the best films of that year. Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen led the all-star cast who brought life and believability to the sequel, creating total immersion for the viewer when combined with the movie’s groundbreaking special effects.

  3. “The Godfather Part Two” In 1974, this Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece cemented itself as not only one of the best sequels of all time, but one of the best movies of all time. The storylines in this sequel expand on the original, following the life of a Mafia kingpin from his humble beginnings in Sicily to his expansive crime empire in New York City.

  4. “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” As the second installment of George Lucas’ ambitious space opera, this 1980 sequel took a dark turn. Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford shine as members of a rebel alliance out to overturn the oppressive Galactic Empire. With a depressing and ambiguous ending, this sequel is the most emotionally charged in the franchise.

  5. “Toy Story 2” With the voices of recognizable movie veterans like Tom Hanks and Joan Cusack in your cast, you can’t go wrong. Disney-Pixar’s 1999 computer-animated sequel managed to utilize the ample talents of its stars, creating a film that was just as creative and endearing as the original. Buzz, Woody and the gang all return in a heartwarming story about sentient toys out to rescue one of their own.

  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day” Action movie fans spent seven long years anticipating the sequel to 1984’s “The Terminator,” but the wait was worth it. Director James Cameron spared no expense on this 1991 sci-fi sequel, providing awestruck moviegoers with a high-intensity plot and futuristic special effects that defied logic.

  7. “The Dark Knight” As the sequel to 2005’s high-quality franchise reboot “Batman Begins,” this 2008 film was receiving attention long before it was released. Director Christopher Nolan’s vision was fully realized in this sequel, providing a humanistic approach to the iconic superhero. Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as The Joker only adds to this sequel’s legendary status.

  8. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” In this offbeat 1986 sequel, Captain Kirk and the gang travel back in time to modern-day San Francisco. They’re in search of a pair of humpback whales that hold the key to saving Earth. Full of lighthearted humor and compelling plotlines, this sequel isn’t what you’d expect from a “Star Trek” movie, but it works.

  9. “Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey” This 1991 comedy might seem out of place on a list of the best sequels of all time, but it deserves mention. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star as a pair of airheads on a mission to save the world in this cult favorite. It’s often overlooked due to its seemingly juvenile subject matter, but the perspective is fresh and the jokes are genuinely humorous.

  10. “Back to the Future Part II” Michael J. Fox continues his iconic role as Marty McFly in this 1989 sequel. Fox’s character crisscrosses time in an attempt to prevent his nemesis from becoming a rich and powerful tyrant. Featuring endearing characters and a compelling plot, this sequel is the best in the franchise.