Successful Sequels

Finding Dory
Finding Dory

Mainstream film has seemingly been dominated by sequels for a number of years. The financial cost of making a film can be so vast and risky that studio executives decision to focus on what they consider to be "sure things" is perhaps understandable. Often derided for being lazy and unoriginal and many are they can also be opportunities to expand on stories, characters and filmmaking ambition in ways only hinted at in earlier films. They can take things in wildly different directions, or build on previous ideas; follow quickly on from an earlier film, or rejoin the story many years later. The films selected for this list build on and often improve their predecessors, suggesting that with increasingly sophisticated audiences exposed to a huge range of content, cynical cash-ins that seem to be "more of the same" might simply not cut it any more.  

Finding Dory

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration103 mins

Finding Dory(2016)

Animated sequel in which the friendly blue-tang fish heads out to search for her parents in the vastness of the ocean.

Thirteen years after Pixar introduced us to the world under the sea, this time the focus is on Dory as she sets out with friends old and new to try and find the family she became accidentally lost from as a child. Along with lots of colourful fun, there is also a sensitive discussion around disability, adoption and rehabilitating troubled creatures.

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Shrek 2

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration89 mins

Shrek 2(2004)

Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy all lend their considerable vocal talents to this engaging, consistently hilarious sequel.

The first Shrek film came out of nowhere to delight audiences with its ingenious take on ancient fairy tales and animation folklore. For the sequel, the charm is maintained as Shrek and Fiona head off to Far, Far Away on their honeymoon, where they encounter a sneering Prince Charming and the adorable Puss In Boots, who might not be quite as cute as he looks!

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration136 mins

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(2004)

Third film in the boy wizard franchise which centres on escaped prisoner Sirius Black who has been sent to kill Harry.

The first two Harry Potter films had done a solid job of establishing characters and setting the scene, but it was the third film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, where the magic truly began and the franchise began to spread its wings. A simple but effective decision was to replace the slightly archaic school robes with everyday casual clothing of the type any teenager would wear.

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Toy Story 2

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration89 mins

Toy Story 2(1999)

Woody, Buzz and the gang return for more fun in this lively animated sequel.

Originally intended to go straight to DVD, Pixar’s first sequel remains one of their greatest films. Adding emotional depth, as the characters deal with the idea of separation as well as their owner Andy growing up and moving on with his life, the film is brilliantly funny, exciting, poignant and confirmed Woody, Buzz and co. as some of cinema’s most beloved characters.

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Toy Story 3

CertU

Age group5–16

Duration98 mins

Toy Story 3(2010)

The third outing for Buzz and Woody in a tale every bit as funny, touching and exciting as it's predecessors.

Toy Story 3 takes the emotional core of the earlier films and deepens it even further, producing a film of unbearable sadness at times, as the toys are packed up and shipped off to a daycare centre, seemingly abandoned by their family. As the film deals with saying goodbye, it never forgets to be every bit as exciting, funny and adventurous as we’ve come to expect.

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How To Train Your Dragon 2

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration98 mins

How To Train Your Dragon 2(2014)

Animated fantasy sequel that is just as charming, fun and vivid as the first instalment, as Hiccup must again save wild dragons from an evil foe.

Upping the scale and introducing slightly darker themes, as well as tantaslingly setting up a third instalment of the trilogy, this has been called The Empire Strikes Back of animated sequels. The film builds on the story of the first film, setting the scene for an exciting finale and remains a rousing adventure in its own right.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration123 mins

The Lost World: Jurassic Park(1997)

Sequel to the blockbuster monster movie which focusses on a second island over-run by dinosaurs.

Following up the film that became the most successful of all time and changed cinema forever was never going to be an easy task. The sequel to Jurassic Park does not have the wonder of the original film, but does contain some riveting set-pieces, ups the ante with the dinosaurs and contains a topical sub-theme around the ethics and practice of big-game hunting.

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Despicable Me 2

CertU

Age group7–16

Duration93 mins

Despicable Me 2(2013)

Super-villain Gru is back, and this time he's the hero, as the Anti-Villain league recruit him to defend the world against the evil Eduardo!

Everyone’s favourite supervillain returns in this barmy and hilarious follow-up, but this time Gru is not quite as evil as we remembered him! Putting the Minions front and centre of the story, the film cleverly takes what people liked most about the original film and significantly increases their presences leaving audiences in a state of helpless giggles.

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Kung Fu Panda 2

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration90 mins

Kung Fu Panda 2(2011)

Sequel to the celebrated martial arts animation about a Kung Fu Panda called Po and his friends who this time must save China from a deadly villain.

Kung Fu Panda 2 succeeds where many sequels fail, managing to be funnier, more adventurous, action-packed and visually imaginative than its predecessor. The film also has a slightly darker tone and a stronger focus on Po himself and his personal journey. A huge commercial hit, it is the most successful film of all time directed by a woman.

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration121 mins

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade(1989)

The third adventure of Indiana Jones sees the brave archaeologist in a race against time to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis can do so.

The third instalment in the adventures of Indy adds a fun family dynamic by introducing Sean Connery as his cantankerous father. We also see a young Indiana developing his love of adventure, as well as his lifelone fear of snakes! A light, comedic sequel that doesn’t quite match the original but remains a rollicking ride.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration136 mins

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(2004)

Third film in the boy wizard franchise which centres on escaped prisoner Sirius Black who has been sent to kill Harry.

The first two Harry Potter films had done a solid job of establishing characters and setting the scene, but it was the third film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, where the magic truly began and the franchise began to spread its wings. A simple but effective decision was to replace the slightly archaic school robes with everyday casual clothing of the type any teenager would wear.

Read more
The Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration171 mins

The Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers(2002)

The second film in this epic adaptation of JRR Tolkein's fantasy trilogy sees the hobbit on a mission to throw a sinister ring into mountain fires.

Lord of the Rings fans point out that the trilogy should be regarded as one long story, but all instalments have to work as standalone films, particularly challenging for a middle chapter. The Two Towers achieves this with ease, containing one of cinema’s great battle scenes, broadening the story and deepening our affection for the central characters.

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Spider-Man 2

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration127 mins

Spider-Man 2(2004)

Sequel starring Tobey Maguire, in which the web-slinging superhero faces a new super-villain, the formidable Doctor Octopus.

Having set the scene and established characters in the first film, sequels should be liberated to tell more ambitious stories. A brilliant example of this is Spider-Man 2, which contains one of the most complex, fleshed-out villains of any superhero movie; a storyline of real substance; and wonderful sequences of Spidey in his prime swinging through New York City.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration123 mins

The Lost World: Jurassic Park(1997)

Sequel to the blockbuster monster movie which focusses on a second island over-run by dinosaurs.

Following up the film that became the most successful of all time and changed cinema forever was never going to be an easy task. The sequel to Jurassic Park does not have the wonder of the original film, but does contain some riveting set-pieces, ups the ante with the dinosaurs and contains a topical sub-theme around the ethics and practice of big-game hunting.

Read more
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration131 mins

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation(2015)

The fifth instalment of the spy series, with Ethan Hunt out in the cold and facing up to a deadly new foe.

Working against the idea that sequels are reheated versions of previous films, the Mission: Impossible franchise stands out by making each film significantly different than their predecessors, using new directors each time. The death-defying stunt work remains constant however and this version, involving Tom Cruise scaling a plane as it takes off is one of the most exhilarating

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Terminator 2 Judgment Day

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration137 mins

Terminator 2 Judgment Day(1991)

Featuring groundbreaking special effects that still look spectacular, this action-packed sequel sees the original Terminator now act as protector.

Moving from the horror tones of the original film into the science-fiction realm, James Cameron’s cyborg thriller stunned the world on its release with its pioneering special effects. Daringly changing the original film’s villain into the good guy, it also created one of cinema’s great female action heroes and some of blockbuster cinema’s most enduring one-liners.

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Batman Returns

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration121 mins

Batman Returns(1992)

Superhero sequel where the Caped Crusader takes on the deranged Penguin and the seductive Catwoman who are threatening Gotham City.

Tim Burton’s gothic sequel stands out by having two of cinema’s most deliciously twisted villains at its centre, in the contrasting shapes of The Penguin and Catwoman. The film also contains some gleefully inventive production design and hints at the complexity of its central character in ways that undoubtedly influenced Christopher Nolan’s subsequent approach.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration110 mins

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2(2012)

Action, drama and adolescent angst along with suspense, romance and monsters combine in the climax to the hugely popular vampire franchise.

Opinion is divided on how to rank the Twilight films, but now the hysteria has calmed down it’s fair to say the much-maligned saga is receiving a reappraisal. Rounding off a five-film story is not an easy task, but this epic drew things to a satisfying (if bonkers) close and is part of ongoing contentious trend for franchises to split their final instalments in t

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Before Sunset

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration76 mins

Before Sunset(2004)

This sequel to Before Sunrise sees Jesse and Celine, who spent one magical night in Vienna together, meet again nine years on.

Low-budget love stories do not normally have sequels. Nine years after Before Sunrise Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reunited on the streets of Paris in an attempt to discover what happens if you are reunited with somebody from your past who may or may not be the love of your life. The result was one of cinema’s most sparkling, honest and moving love stories.

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22 Jump Street

Cert15

Age group14–16

Duration107 mins

22 Jump Street(2014)

Mad, rude, chaotic sequel that is not afraid to laugh at itself, whilst delivering a sharp script and genuine chemistry between its two leads.

It is rare for comedy sequels to be successful, many using up all of their best jokes and ideas in the first film, leaving any future movies feeling somewhat contrived. This rude but very funny buddy movie bucks that trend, its closing credits wittily sending up the entire idea of endless sequels with a parade of increasingly derivative instalments.

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration121 mins

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade(1989)

The third adventure of Indiana Jones sees the brave archaeologist in a race against time to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis can do so.

The third instalment in the adventures of Indy adds a fun family dynamic by introducing Sean Connery as his cantankerous father. We also see a young Indiana developing his love of adventure, as well as his lifelone fear of snakes! A light, comedic sequel that doesn’t quite match the original but remains a rollicking ride.

Read more
10 Cloverfield Lane

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration103 mins

10 Cloverfield Lane(2016)

A young woman wakes up as a prisoner in an unfamiliar bunker, with her captor claiming a widespread chemical attack in the outside world.

This sequel – or “spiritual successor” - cleverly kept its existence under wraps until weeks before its release, thereby swerving the usual mountain of hype that normally accompanies follow-ups. It is also intriguing in that the film’s plot seemingly bears no relation to the events of the original Cloverfield, forcing the viewer to watch carefully for potential clues.

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