BRWC Is 2 – The 50 Most Successful Second Movies of All Time

BRWC is 2 – The 50 Most Successful Second Movies of All Time

These are the 50 most successful second movies ever made based on international box office gross, the box office totals listed next to the titles representing the entire amount made at the global box office. Accompanying them are brief reviews based on my viewings of the films. There are a few films that I haven’t seen in some time and some others that I haven’t seen at all so I am less able to comment on these ones.

1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $1,066,179,725

While the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise took a major downturn after this film with the somewhat poorly received third instalment (which I actually liked), this first sequel came at the height of the popularity of the series, being a superb follow up to the first film and a tremendously enjoyable film in its own right.

2) The Dark Knight – $1,001,921,825

Easily one of the best sequels ever made, The Dark Knight was able to better the already fantastic Batman Begins in almost every regard, even if the action didn’t fare quite as well in some areas, the Batpod scene of this sequel falling short of the Batmobile sequence from the first film.

3) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – $925,282,504

While not a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, even I must admit that this film is a tremendous achievement. Really, it can’t be considered a sequel though, as it more the second chapter of one massively long film, a true epic in every sense of the word. Not the finest chapter in the series but still a film that shows that sequels can be good as well as doing great box office.

4) Shrek 2 – $919,838,758

Most people consider Shrek 2 to be an improvement over its predecessor but I have to disagree. While I must confess that I wasn’t the biggest Shrek fan to begin with, this sequel just couldn’t match the level of laughs found in the first film, although it is still massively better than the mediocre sequels that have come since.

5) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – $878,643,482

The weakest entry in the Harry Potter series in my eyes, this couldn’t quite recapture the magic of the first film and it came before the films began to be really good thanks to directors far more capable than Chris Columbus.

6) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $836,297,228

One of the worst reviewed films of 2009, this is a film that demonstrates why I think some critics need to lighten up a bit. Sure, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn’t an example of filmmaking at its very best but it is certainly a very enjoyable and spectacular popcorn movie. That said, it was a massive step down from the first film.

7) Spider-Man 2 – $783,766,341

Another example of how the second instalment in a superhero franchise is often better than the first, Spider-Man 2 could easily rank highly amongst the best superhero movies at all time, truly upping the stakes over the first film and being a frankly amazing film on its own terms.

8) The Matrix Reloaded – $742,128,461

A film that produced many mixed feelings when it was released, The Matrix Reloaded certainly upped the scale over the first film and delivered some truly spectacular action and effects but lost something in its overabundance of effects, not to mention its confusing techno babble filled climax.

9) The Twilight Saga: Moon – $709,826,790

The Twilight franchise – evidently you either love it or hate it. For a short time I could have considered myself to be in the former camp. While New Moon lacked the beautiful simplicity of the first film, it still proved to be a very well made follow up that has also turned out to be the height of the franchise as the rushed through production third film proved completely underwhelming (despite many critics hailing it to be the best film in the series – what’s with that?) and pushed me considerably closer to the latter camp.

10) Ice Age: The Meltdown – $655,388,158

The second Ice Age essentially delivers more of the same rather than upping the stakes but here it works, the film never pretending to be more than what it is – an enjoyable family movie that kids can love and adults can get some enjoyment out of too without being anything especially memorable. Blue Sky know they can’t keep up with Pixar so why even try?

11) Iron Man 2 – $621,214,666 (still on release)

The only 2010 second movie in this list, I consider Iron Man 2 to be another superhero movie that offers an improvement on its predecessor but not everyone agrees with me on this. Regardless of whether you consider it to improve on the first film, however, it is hard to deny that this is one of the finest Marvel superhero movies to date.

12) The Lost World: Jurassic Park – $618,638,999

This follow up to Jurassic Park may not have quite lived up to the brilliance of the first film but still proved to be a truly worthy blockbuster and certainly was a whole lot better than the frankly unnecessary third instalment in the series.

13) Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa – $603,900,354

This film may not have improved much on the first trip to Madagascar but, in this critic’s eyes at least, still fared better than a certain other DreamWorks Animation sequel. I’m not really sure whether or not we need the third movie that has already been announced though.

14) Quantum of Solace – $586,090,727

Both a huge disappointment and a brilliant movie at the same time, this sequel to the Bond reboot Casino Royale suffered simply from a case of too much expectation. Having been following the Bond movies for years, prior to the reboot of the franchise, I had gotten used to each new film outdoing the last. But there has to be a point when you just can’t get any better and the fantastic Casino Royale truly set the bar sky high. Nonetheless, on a second viewing, I was able to view Quantum of Solace for the brilliant film it is in its own right.

15) Mission: Impossible II – $546,388,105

Despite a very promising start, Mission: Impossible II descends into a mess of a movie. Despite having seen this film on several occasions, I simply have developed no appreciation for what is without a doubt one of the most underwhelming action blockbusters I have ever seen. For once, the finest entry in a film franchise is not the second film but the third – now that film was amazing.

16) The Empire Strikes Back – $538,375,067

The least financially successful movie in the Star Wars film series yet undoubtedly the best, this much darker follow up the original movie beats the rest by fully embracing the dark side and delivering a film where for once good doesn’t triumph over evil. These things may not have won over a lot of the moviegoing audience as evidenced by the lower box office takings, but great battle sequences, one hell of a surprise twist and a terrific story have made this a firm favourite with fans.

17) Terminator 2: Judgement Day – $519,843,345

Long before Avatar came along, James Cameron was already breaking boundaries and pushing the limits of filmmaking technology in his movies. His follow up to the small scale and low budget The Terminator boasted what were at the time the most advanced visual effects ever seen and, while they don’t quite stand up by today’s standards, they still prove quite spectacular even now.

18) Meet the Fockers – $516,642,939

A hilarious follow up to the a hilarious movie, the genius casting of Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as the titular Fockers made this film a true comedy gem. Here’s hoping that the third film, coming this December, can follow in this one’s footsteps.

19) Angels & Demons – $485,930,816

A superior sequel to a critically maligned first film but still not exactly a critical success in its own right, this follow up to The DaVinci Code, actually based on a book which came before, was a well made and enjoyable if not earth shattering piece of cinema.

20) Toy Story 2 – $485,015,179

At a time before Pixar had fully established their reputation as the best in the computer animated family film business, and were still finding their feet after their weakest film A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 demonstrated just how masterful they are at their art, improving on the first film exponentially and, in this critic’s opinion at least, being the finest of the trilogy.

21) National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $457,364,600

Not everyone will agree with me on this but I thought this movie was great. Unashamedly a popcorn movie whose only purpose was to entertain, this thoroughly enjoyable follow up to the first National Treasure film was one great rollercoaster ride from start to finish, featuring one very entertaining performance from star Nicolas Cage.

22) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel – $443,139,070

A squeakquel no one ever really wanted and that most definitely doesn’t improve on the already unspectacular original. But the kids love it and they are the target audience after all.

23) Men in Black II – $441,818,803

Five years of debate about who would replace Tommy Lee Jones in a sequel to Men in Black only for them to bring him back – a bit of a cop out in some ways but it was still very enjoyable to see the duo of Smith and Jones back together, especially with a slightly changed dynamic. Not necessarily an improvement on its predecessor but still a sequel I am very glad that they made.

24) The Mummy Returns – $433,013,274

Widely regarded as one of the worst sequels ever made, this unspectacular sequel to The Mummy suffers from director Stephen Sommers’ over-reliance on CGI for effects. An okay popcorn movie but never anything more than just watchable.

25) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $419,651,413

A huge box office underperformer, many wrongfully blame the film itself for its commercial failings but in actuality it suffered from a combination of factors – it was based on the least popular of the Narnia books, it was released in the summer when Christmas would have been more appropriate and the film was woefully under marketed, among other things. Despite being very well made from a number of levels, the film’s tendency towards a more battle orientated approach than the first film meant that much of the magic of its predecessor was lost and consequently this is an inferior movie by comparison to the first Narnia movie but by no means inferior on its own merits.

26) Night at the Museum 2 – $413,106,170

A somewhat unnecessary sequel to a film that was enjoyable but unspectacular, Night at the Museum 2 obviously didn’t live up to its predecessor but still proved to be an enjoyable family movie with plenty to make it worth seeing.

27) X2: X-Men United – $407,711,549

Another example of a second superhero movie that improves upon its predecessor, X2 brought in a distinct element of the politics that run through the world of X-Men franchise, providing an almost philosophical element to go along the mutant action, something that was largely absent from the almost entirely action orientated third movie.

28) Ocean’s Twelve – $362,744,280

A decent but somewhat underwhelming sequel, Ocean’s Twelves frequent use of conman lingo that no one really knows or understands, combined with a tendency towards bizarre cinematic experimentation, makes for a film that is enjoyable but hardly a worthy follow up to its predecessor. The third entry into the series made things right again though.

29) Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – $358,994,850

I know I have seen this film at some point during my childhood but my memory of it is faint at best. Nonetheless, this second Home Alone film, which sees Macaulay Culkin’s character finding himself alone in New York City, was a huge box office smash, incidentally achieving the kind of takings that it probably couldn’t even dream of were it to be released now.

30) Rush Hour 2 – $347,325,802

More of the same – this statement is pretty much true of both Rush Hour sequels and personally I can’t identify one that really stands out from the rest. Number two, just like the first and third instalments, is an entertaining but largely forgettable action comedy that is funny but never manages to be as hilarious as it clearly could be.

31) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – $333,107,271

A second movie that is actually a prequel rather than a sequel, The Temple of Doom most stays in my memory for its disgusting banquet scene, something I would rather forget. While not my personal favourite entry in the series, this film is perhaps one of the most iconic, easily the darkest (and grossest) entry really pushing against its frankly questionable PG rating.

32) Back to the Future Part II – $331,950,002

A true cinematic classic from the late 80s, Back to the Future Part II is almost an extension of the original film, rather than just a sequel. A brilliant film doesn’t quite better the original film because that one is so brilliant too.

33) Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me – $312,016,858

The first Austin Powers sequel is probably the height of Mike Myers’ popularity. Voicing Shrek aside, Myers’ work since has seen him using many of the same gags again and again, gags that originally seemed quite innovative when they appeared in this film. A pretty funny sequel, if not a film for all tastes, this was both the best and most successful entry in the trilogy.

34) Rambo: First Blood Part II – $300,400,432

A somewhat different kind of movie to its predecessor, this film sees the Sylvester Stallone’s titular character turn from the antihero of the first film into a more conventional kind of action hero without losing any of his edge. Rambo: First Blood Part II is the perfect example of 80s action movie making at its very best.

35) Beverly Hills Cop II – $299,965,036

Personally I wasn’t overly impressed by any of the Beverly Hills Cop films but still have to admit that they showcased Eddie Murphy at his best, working far better in the tougher kind of role he plays here as opposed to the more family orientated characters we have seen in his lacklustre recent films.

36) Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – $289,047,763

Yet another superhero sequel that betters the original, this one didn’t have to go as far to achieve that, given that the first Fantastic Four film was hardly a critical success or that great a film. Nonetheless, I personally loved every minute of it.

37) The Bourne Supremacy – $288,500,217

The film that began Jason Bourne’s ascent from being a good spy to being a great one, The Bourne Supremacy brought in director Paul Greengrass who took the franchise to true greatness with the third movie. Suffice to say, this second movie is not the best in the ‘Bourne’ series but easily wins the runner up prize.

38) American Pie 2 – $287,553,595

I can honestly say that I have never seen this film and have absolutely no desire to. This kind of lowest common denominator humour simply does not appeal to me.

39) Sex and the City 2 – $283,876,280

A solid sequel until the girls leave the city to go to Abu Dhabi, at which point smart and glamorous is replaced by stupid and ridiculous.

40) Bad Boys II – $273,339,556

Great action sequences, shame about the rest of the film. This pretty much sums up Bad Boys II, a film which features one of the best car chases I have ever seen but fails because the best action sequence comes too early in the film, making everything else seem anticlimactic, and because of a virtually non-existent plot and humour that really pushes against the boundary of taste and decency. Whenever I watch it, I just watch the action sequences and forget everything else.

41) Batman Returns – $266,822,354

Another superhero movie outdoes the original, this is also the second Batman movie to appear in this list – Confused? Given that the franchise was rebooted, technically The Dark Knight is also a second movie. Batman Returns is easily the most bizarre of the Batman movies, being perhaps the most Tim Burton-esque of Tim Burton movies, the complete creative control awarded to him by the movie studio being utilized to create true gothic fantasy that is as wondrous as it is creepy, even if it isn’t exactly what you think when you think of Batman or even Batman’s movie really.

42) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason – $262,520,724

Another film that I have not yet seen and thus cannot comment on.

43) Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle – $259,175,788

Another film that delivers more of the same, this sequel falls short of its predecessor, if only because of Bill Murray being replaced by Bernie Mac. Still, for simple leave
your brain at home entertainment this was perfectly enjoyable popcorn blockbuster.

44) Die Hard 2: Die Harder – $240,031,094

If Rambo was the iconic action film series of the 80s then the 90s probably belong to Die Hard and Die Harder, while not exactly having the most original of titles, managed to improve on its predecessor on a number of levels.

45) Crocodile Dundee II – $239,606,210

Another film that I have not yet seen and thus cannot comment on.

46) 2 Fast 2 Furious – $236,350,661

More of the same but also less, this is probably the weakest entry in The Fast and The Furious film series, offering up some perfectly enjoyable car chases but not a whole lot else. Okay, that’s pretty much true of most of the film but still this was my least favourite of the films.

47) Mr. Bean’s Holiday – $229,736,344

It took them ten years to make a sequel to Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie and this was the best they could come up with!? A watchable but rather lame comedy that proved big at the box office but small in the laughs department, lacking the simple comic genius of the earlier TV episodes that preceded the first film.

48) Lethal Weapon 2 – $227,853,986

Another 80s action sequel, Lethal Weapon 2 may appear to have a slight political agenda in its inclusion of South Africans as the baddies at a time when Apartheid still ruled but didn’t forget what it was really all about – action and lots of it.

49) Ghostbusters II – $215,394,738

Another classic, it may not live up to the first film but it is still great popcorn entertainment.

50) Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls – $212,385,533

One of the characters I most think of when I think of Jim Carrey is undoubtedly Ace Ventura and When Nature Calls was an enjoyable sequel that may not be as iconic as some films on this list but still featured Jim Carrey doing what he does best.


Article by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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