14 Movie Franchises Where the Sequels Were Better Than the Original Film

Heath Ledger as The Joker in ’The Dark Knight’ (2008).
Heath Ledger as The Joker in ’The Dark Knight’ (2008). / Paul Kane/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Whether it’s a kids movie, an action flick, or a comedy, successful films usually spawn sequels. Cinematic lightning in a bottle can be hard to replicate, but many follow-ups live up to—or even exceed—their predecessors.

To determine the franchises where the sequels are better than the originals, Uswitch rated films across several metrics. Each movie’s overall score was calculated using data from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and box office sales. In terms of critical reviews and audience reception, these movie series took multiple films to hit their stride.

1. Toy Story

All four entries in the Toy Story franchise received positive reactions from viewers and critics, but one stood above the rest. Toy Story 3 (2010) received the highest score from Uswitch, beating the original film from 1995.

2. Avengers

The Avengers movies ended (for the time being, at least) on a high note in 2019. Avengers: Endgame, the most recent installment in the series, outperformed its four predecessors. The fact that it crossed over with dozens of movies in the MCU outside the core Avengers franchise may have been a draw at the box office.

3. The Lord of the Rings

Critics and audiences thought The Return of the King (2003) was the best film in The Lord of the Rings series, and the Academy agreed. The third movie in the original trilogy received the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004.

4. Harry Potter

Harry Potter is another series that went out at its peak. The final installment, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), received the highest rating of all eight films.

5. Despicable Me

Despicable Me 2 (2013) is the top-rated movie in the animated series, outranking Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 3 (2017).

6. Spider-Man

Two decades after the original franchise debuted, audiences still aren’t sick of Spider-Man. The most recent film, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), earned higher marks than the seven movies that came before it.

7. Shrek

Shrek was a hit when it premiered in 2001, and its sequel received even more love. Shrek 2 (2004) is the top film in the animated franchise so far.

8. Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible is a franchise that outdoes itself with each new entry. Mission: Impossible - Fallout from 2018 is No.1, according to Uswitch.

9. Batman

Studios keep making new Batman movies, but they haven’t been able to beat the sequel in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. The Dark Knight (2008) is the highest-rated movie on a list with entries ranging from 1989 to 2022.

10. James Bond

James Bond is another long-running franchise that viewers haven’t grown tired of. Skyfall from (2012) is the top-rated film on the list of Bond movies.

11. X-Men

If you count Deadpool (2016) as an X-Men movie (which Uswitch does), it’s the most beloved film in the superhero franchise.

12. Jumanji

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle breathed new life into the franchise in 2017. Both critics and viewers agreed it was the best film in the series.

13. Fast & Furious

In this never-ending action series, Furious 7 from 2015 is the movie to beat.

14. Twilight

All five movies in the Twilight series score low compared to other films on this list, but one entry did slightly better than the others. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) was the film moviegoers loved the most (or in same cases, hated the least).

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