22 Awesome Action Movie Sequels


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These kick-butt follow-ups helped drive their franchises to good fortune.

Before the phrase “cinematic universe” was even a thing, action movie sequels were often the biggest spectacles one could find at the movie theater.


Antonio Gravante / Getty Images/EyeEm

In fact, there was a certain element of excitement one would have knowing that no matter how explosive and action-packed the first film was, each subsequent entry would only double down on those prospects. With that in mind, I’ve done some digging to aggregate 22 of the most awesome action movie sequels of all time.

1.

Rush Hour 2


New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

Though the Rush Hour franchise is a product of its time that hasn’t exactly aged well in some aspects, the second entry in the series was easily the most entertaining, having displayed better-staged combat sequences and a sharper, funnier script than its predecessor.

2.

Rambo (2007)


Lionsgate / Weinstein Company / Millennium Films / Ronald Grant Archive / Courtesy Everett Collection

After a 20-year break from its previous installment in the franchise, the fourth Rambo film brought a borderline absurd level of ultraviolence and grit to complement the sage wisdom of Sly Stallone’s shoot-’em-up icon for a George W. Bush-era America.

3.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol


Paramount Pictures / Entertainment Pictures / Alamy

After the somewhat underwhelming performance of Mission: Impossible III, Paramount began investing in the future of the M:I franchise in Jeremy Renner to replace longtime star, Tom Cruise. But with Brad Bird’s exceptional sense of storytelling, and Cruise’s rejuvenated willingness to subject himself to death-defying stunts, made Ghost Protocol an exhilarating new beginning for the franchise (and Ethan Hunt).

4.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day


TriStar / Courtesy Everett Collection,

While the original Terminator is a classic unto itself, Terminator 2 improved upon its predecessor in almost every way, telling a bigger, bolder story that defied every preconception possible and rewrote the blueprint for action sequels permanently.

5.

Beverly Hills Cop II


Paramount Pictures / Don Simpson / Jerry Bruckheimer Films / Collection Christophel / Alamy

Comedy sequels may not fare as well as those in the action genre, but Tony Scott’s exceptional expertise in directing bombastic action was exactly what the Beverly Hills Cop franchise needed for its sophomore entry.

6.

The Bourne Ultimatum


Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

The third film in the wildly successful Bourne franchise might just be the masterpiece of the series, with director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon finding their collective groove within the property while keeping the cerebral thrills and jaw-dropping action as fresh as ever.

7.

Crank 2: High Voltage


Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Directorial duo Neveldine/Taylor double-downed on their inaugural crude and brutal exercise in bad taste, but effortlessly brought a stronger sense of humor and new shooting techniques that ultimately elevated a sequel to a movie that ended with its protagonist falling out of a helicopter.

8.

Mad Max: Fury Road


Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

An undeniable modern classic of the action genre, Mad Max: Fury Road brought a shiny new coat of paint to a long-dormant franchise with incredibly impressive practical effects, nail-biting action sequences, and gloriously beautiful moments of chaos throughout.

9.

Fast Five


Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

The Fast and Furious saga went to a whole other level with it’s fifth entry, trading street races and cop drama for mercenary conflicts, heist intrigue and over-the-top action that had fans clamoring for more.

10.

Desperado


Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Robert Rodriguez was given a sizeable budget and star power for his spectacular sequel to El Mariachi, proving that the filmmaker could make explosive entertainment in the big leagues while further fleshing out the bullet-rattled world of the original flick.

11.

Bad Boys 2


Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The first Bad Boys is a mean and lean action thriller that felt like a major step forward for both filmmaker Michael Bay and stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, but Bad Boys 2‘s blend of sleazy melodrama, stylish action, and surreal comedy made for the perfect action sequel recipe.

12.

The Raid 2


Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The Raid 2 is a significantly deeper (and longer) film than the tight, break-neck martial arts masterpiece that came before it, but the film builds a palace upon the foundation laid down by The Raid through visually dazzling fight sequences, bold new stunts, and eccentric new villains.

13.

Lethal Weapon 2


Warner Bros /Courtesy Everett Collection

Ramping up the comedic chemistry by adding Joe Pesci into the mix, Lethal Weapon 2 is often considered to be neck-and-neck with its predecessor, which is a fine statement considering Lethal Weapon is a pioneering film in the buddy cop subgenre.

14.

The Karate Kid, Part II


Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

A sequel that feels like a natural and fitting extension of the first film, The Karate Kid, Part II is a cathartic, thrilling, and interesting spin on the “fish out of water” tale that somehow manages to find a new way to keep its underdog story anchored by an underdog after his prior triumph.

15.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Though Temple of Doom is dark and polarizing for some, Indiana Jones’ butt-kicking third adventure built upon the globetrotting, treasure-hunting action of the first film while adding a number of fun variables, including Sean Connery in one of his most memorable roles, to bring Indy on his most spiritually poignant story.

16.

Magnum Force


Warner Bros. Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Dirty Harry’s second case takes the famously gruff and unorthodox cop facing off against a state-sponsored hit squad in a film that explores a slightly more emotional and conflicted side of the legendary fictional crime fighter.

17.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning


Magnet Releasing / Courtesy Everett Collection

This belated sequel to Universal Soldier throws Apocalypse Now, The Bourne Identity, and The Raid in a blender, but the end result is the best film in the franchise to date, featuring easily the series’ best action and even one of the best Jean Claude Van Damme performances ever.

18.

The Road Warrior


Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

George Miller completely flipped the script with Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic story, eschewing the quieter, more personal story of the first film for a gripping, high-octane story of being just and righteous in a society that has broken down into sadistic roaming gang warfare.

19.

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing


Millennium Films / AF Archive / Courtesy Alamy

The original Undisputed has all but fallen out of the pop culture lexicon, but fans of the little franchise that could were bewitched by the amazing action choreography and stellar performances on display in its direct-to-video sequel starring Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins.

20.

Rambo: First Blood, Part II


Courtesy Everett Collection / TRISTAR PICTURES / Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans

Bringing in James Cameron to crack a sequel to a somewhat intimate thriller about a provoked soldier turning his PTSD upon Anytown, USA, First Blood, Part II is a different beast entirely but admittedly an incredibly fun and sensational revenge fantasy that includes an exploding helicopter, which inherently makes it an A+ follow-up in my book.

21.

Die Hard 2


Courtesy Everett Collection / Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans

No matter how incredulous it may be that John McClane is in the wrong place at the wrong time once again (let alone three additional times after this one), Die Hard 2 is the spicier, more haywire sequel that keeps you on the edge of your seat while hitting the audience with enough callbacks to satisfy more die-hard (pun intended) fans of the first film.

22.

Police Story 2


Golden Way Films Ltd. / Courtesy Alamy

One of the best action movie sequels ever, Police Story 2 is driven to one-up the first film in action, comedy, and everything in between, with the end result being a pitch-perfect example of why Jackie Chan would become a death-defying global star.


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