The website Total Film has published a list of what it says are 50 sequels that are better than the originals (or at least on par with them, it says in smaller print.)
Fifty? Really? Even at the rate they crank out sequels these days, that number seems high. I'm not going to mention every film they cited (there are a handful I haven't seen), but I knew the list was trouble from the very first entry.
Die Hard with a Vengeance: Horseshit right off the bat. I'll listen to an argument for Die Hard 2, but the third one was a mess. For one thing, the script was originally developed as a Lethal Weapon sequel, so it didn't fit the "jeopardy in a confined space" mold the first two used so well. Worse yet, it has one of the stupidest endings this side of the extended Exorcist conclusion. Even the cheesy sequel, Live Free or Die Hard, was better than this.
Hot Shots! Part Deux: A good film, but simply not as funny as the first. It tries a little too hard.
Shrek 2: As sequels go, not bad - it's certainly better than any of the subsequent Shrek movies. But it didn't capture the freshness of the first, which itself was a bit overrated.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare: I don't know if this one is better than the original, but it's certainly the most clever. Here was meta-horror three years before Scream came along.
Rocky III: I pity the fool that says that. It's goofily entertaining, but not anywhere close to the quality of the original, or even the semi-retread Rocky II. The recent Rocky Balboa was better too.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: OK, that one I'll buy. It's been years since I've seen the original, but this sequel has entered the holiday zeitgeist without question. I hear it quoted at least as much as, if not more than, A Christmas Story.
Fast Five: Definitely. This one lived up to its name; I thought the original was neither fast nor furious.
Lethal Weapon 2: I suppose you could argue the first is better because it introduced the characters, but the sequel is probably more fun because of the presence of Joe Pesci.
Gremlins 2 - The New Batch: Actually, I agree with this one. Funnier and zanier than the original. Too bad not many people saw it.
Desperado: I wouldn't call this as "good" as El Mariachi, but it's definitely slicker. And I'll admit, Salma Hayek's presence is an ... eyeful.
Star Wars Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith: Definitely the best of the prequels. I'd even argue it's superior to the somewhat lazy Return of the Jedi.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Yes, this one was superior to the first, because it had more of Guilliermo Del Toro's loopy energy.
Manon of the Spring: Close call, but I still give the nod to Jean de Florette.
Spider-Man 2: Absolutely superior to the first. It always bugged me that the Green Goblin in the first movie looked like a refugee from a Power Rangers episode.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: It made my 10 best list.
Addams Family Values: Much funnier than the rather lackadaisical original. Never understood why more people didn't embrace it. Bonus points for not featuring MC Hammer's wretched "Addams Groove."
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Terrific fun, thanks largely to the presence of Sean Connery, but there's no way in hell it equals Raiders, much less tops it.
For a Few Dollars More: Not QUITE as good as A Fistful of Dollars, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how good at was when I first saw it. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly whips them both, though.
Superman II: Yes, I'd still say this was better than the original, despite its patchwork production, since Richard Donner started it and Richard Lester completed it. It's not as epic as the first, but it's more entertaining because it doesn't take so long to get going.
A Shot in the Dark: Absolutely better than The Pink Panther, because Closeau was front and center this time.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn: Well, yeah.
Batman Returns: A lot of people will disagree on this one, but not me. I always thought the 1989 original was muddled and overrated. The superiority of the follow-up can be summed up in one word: meow.
Back to the Future Part II: Oh, make like a tree and get out of here. It's got a lot of really clever moments, but this one was clearly the low point of the series, because the alternate 1985 is too far over the top. Part III was a refreshing return to form.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: No argument here. Still my favorite of the lot.
The Bourne Supremacy: No. Ultimatum was better.
The Bride of Frankenstein: I actually prefer the more emotional original film, but I completely respect the original for going in a comedic direction - and working.
The Road Warrior: Absolutely. One of the first films films I saw that made me tired simply by watching it.
From Russia with Love: Well, I don't consider the Bond movies to be sequels (except for Quantum of Solace), but this one is better than the first Bond film, Dr. No. However, it's not quite as fun as Goldfinger.
X2: Definitely. The first movie was fun, but Bryan Singer really found his feet the second time around.
Before Sunset: Yes, I actually did like it better than Before Sunrise, which is saying a lot.
Evil Dead 2: Like Desperado, this movie was essentially a slicker version of its predecessor - but it had even more imagination.
The Silence of the Lambs: People often forget that Michael Mann's Manhunter preceded this. While Man's film is certainly good, it's rather dated. Silence of the Lambs hasn't aged a day.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day: I still like the original best, but the sequel is awfully close.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: No, it's not better than Fellowship of the Ring. I felt this one rushed too much through the story - a problem that was alleviated in the superior extended cut.
Dawn of the Dead: George Romero is to be commended for taking his series in a satirical direction, but he didn't top his chilling original.
The Dark Knight: Duh.
Toy Story 2: The wonderful original is often cited as one of the best animated films of all time, but the clearly superior sequel is cleverer and even more emotionally affecting.
Aliens: Wow, tough call, particularly because Ridley Scott and James Cameron's films are so different. But faced with a set of extended teeth, I'll have to argue that hundreds of aliens are scarier than one - and I still get a major rush from Cameron's relentless pacing.
The Godfather Part II: I get how this is supposed to be superior to the original, because it's starker and more ambitious, but it comes down to this: the original Godfather has dozens of quotable moments. Do you hear Godfather II quoted as often?
The Empire Strikes Back: Again, I understand why people say it's better than the original - it's certainly the best written and best crafted of the six- but for me, it can't top the thrill of discovery that came with the original.