15 Best Superhero Sequels of All Time, Ranked





While film sequels often reveal diminishing returns, with comics (and their big-budget adaptions), the fans will always crave more. But as Marvel Studios’ CEO boldly stated that he wanted Marvel films to continue for 80 years, their already 15-year conquest of cinema has brought with it both a new restructuring of how sequels arrive and a homogenization of them. The term barely means anything in a time of cinematic universes; is every movie in the MCU a sequel except Iron Man?





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Whereas a seemingly unrelated Thor movie can also act as a quasi Hulk sequel, does it add to the general buffet that is this universe or detract from a truly good sequel? How much do these films benefit from simply being associated with older movies, and how much derives from its own artistry? Notice how even non-related Marvel pieces are following suit, too. M. Night Shyamalan’s Split in 2016 revealed in its final scene Bruce Willis’ character from the superhero flick Unbreakable (released all the way back in 2000).

Yet, while the idea that most sequels are inferior to the original, that rule often does not apply to superhero movies. While the first film tends to be an origin story, the sequels are able to push the heroes into bold, exciting new directions and dig deeper into their personal struggles. It is often rare that someone says their favorite superhero movie is the original instead of a sequel. From X-Men to Spider-Man and multiple incarnations of Batman, superhero sequels tend to excel. 2023 has seen a mixed bag of superhero sequels, with some great entries like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and disappointing ones like Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The Marvels was a high profile bomb and all eyes are now on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. With that in mind, here are the best superhero sequels of all time, ranked.

Update December 15, 2023: Before the release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, this article has been updated with even more great superhero sequels and where each title can be streamed.





15 Batman Returns (1992)

batman returns

Batman Returns
Release Date
June 19, 1992

Director
Tim Burton

Rating
PG-13

Do you like dark Christmas movies? Say no more. Far too often overlooked, Batman Returns is a comic caper in every sense of the word. Continuing on from what had been established with Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne in the previous film, this outing attempts to up the ante with another classic villain in The Penguin (Danny DeVito, who is made for the role) and even throws in a heartbreaking love story between Batman and Catwoman.

Emerging from the sewers after being raised by penguins, the disgusting Oswald Cobblepot arrives in Gotham with the goal of finally being accepted into its society. The plan? Kidnap and blackmail businessman Max Shreck to endorse The Penguin for Mayor of Gotham City, while Oswald makes sure Shreck can build his dangerous powerplant. Selina Kyle learns of Shreck’s plans and is murdered to cover it up, but a group of cats rescues her and turn her into Catwoman. The crimminals make the fatal mistake of bringing Batman into this by framing him for murder. Now on the hunt to clear his name and stop Gotham from being overrun by a criminal, Batman reluctantly teams with Catwoman to take them down.

With a cast that zips and appears to electrically charge their counterparts whenever they are acting against each other, the film is a truly Gothic outing from Tim Burton with a capital G. Burton. It embraces the weirdest and darkest parts of Batman’s mythos, making them work in an exciting way that hadn’t been seen before on screen. The dark tone of the film is accompanied by a fun campiness that hasn’t been matched by modern superhero movies. Oh, and Danny Elfman’s score is one of his finest too. Stream on Max

14 Superman II (1980)

From one of the most varied and brilliant directors of all time, Richard Donner (The Omen, Lethal Weapon), comes Superman II. The sequel to the superhero movie that really started the genre’s popularity, the excitement of seeing the last son of Kyrpton on the big screen again was immeasurable. Superhero movies are often at their best when they explore human emotions, and that’s exactly what this sequel does. The Man of Steel chooses to give up his powers in order to live a normal life with his love Lois Lane, but it soon takes a turn for the worse. As three new Kryptonians, formerly banished from home, escape to Earth fully intent on conquering it, Superman is helpless to do anything to stop them.

The out-there goofy comedy has always felt sort of out of place, but when the film shines ‚ÄĒ as in Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and the General Zod clashes ‚ÄĒ it really is a lot of fun to watch. It may not be perfect, but it encapsulates everything that makes Superman the most popular hero. The struggle between living the life he deserves and the one he needs to have works to show his true strength, his heart. It strikes the perfect balance between Clark Kent and Superman drama as the Man of Tomorrow tries to have it both ways. It’s a great follow up on the first by expanding the universe and continuing to show why Superman is such an important figure. Clark and Lois’ relationship is also at its best here, with the focus on their relationship giving them center stage. It’s a movie so good, you’ll believe a man can fly (again). Stream on Max

13 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The most grounded film in the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier acts more as a political thriller than a superhero movie. It also offers a massive status quo change for the universe, as it’s revealed that SHIELD has been infiltrated by the villainous organization HYDRA. Not able to trust those closest to him, Captain America teams up with Black Widow and the Falcon in a dangerous mission to stop HYDRA from growing back to their full power. If that wasn’t enough, a deadly assassin from Steve’s past known as the Winter Soldier arrives to make things personal.

It can’t be overstated enough how important this movie was for the character of Steve Rogers. It took the man out of time and placed him in the modern day as he struggles to find his place in an unrecognizable world. The film gave new meaning to the title of Captain America as it showed Steve going directly against the government itself in order to stand for what’s right. The political conspiracy may be what drives the plot, but the emotional core of the movie is found between Steve and Bucky. Their dynamic sells the movie and emphasizes what makes Captain America great, his ability to see the good in everyone.

The Winter Soldier also set the bar for action in the MCU with some of the best choreography in any superhero movie out there. The hand-to-hand fight scenes carry real weight to them as every punch is felt. It’s not often to see action in the MCU that isn’t covered in CGI, and having two characters battle who could die at any moment adds a lot to the sense of tension. Stream on Disney+

12 Blade II (2002)

A scene from Blade II (2002)
New Line Cinema

The first Blade movie was ahead of its time with how it largely kicked off the modern superhero movie boom, so a sequel was a no-brainer for the studio. Bringing in director Guillermo Del Toro for Blade II was a stroke of genius for the franchise, creating the little vampire movie that could. A visionary director like Del Toro is able to add his special touch to the film to make it more than your average superhero movie experience. A new threat has arisen in the Reapers, a larger, more animalistic version of a vampire whose bloodlust is so strong they’re willing to feed on their fellow vampires. This forces Blade to team up with his enemies to find strength in numbers and stop the Reapers from destroying both vampires and humans alike.

Related: Why Blade Is One of the Most Underrated Movies Ever Made in 4 Key Points

Blade II is a movie ahead of its time that rarely ever gets the credit it deserves. As the best movie in the trilogy, it helped to make the superhero genre as popular as it is today. Seeing Blade team up with the vampires he swore to take out makes for an interesting dynamic that challenges the character to do the right thing. Del Toro regular Ron Perlman obligatorily features in the film, and Wesley Snipes is super cool, of course. The film is a feast for the eyes, filling the screen with all manner of horrible-looking things. With a scope that feels bigger and better than the original and a brand of fantasy that’s uniquely Del Toro, the movie feels like dynamite to watch. Stream on Hulu

11 Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Making his second contribution to this list, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army continues the franchise with pure confidence after the first outing. As he struggles with life on all fronts, Hellboy is met with a new challenge from the underworld as a deadly Elven Prince breaks an ancient peace treaty between the magical world and humanity. Fully intent on restoring a crown that commands the unstoppable Golden Army, Hellboy is tasked with stopping the mystical threat to save the world. With no need to establish the characters, powers, and quirks are on full show amidst a world of ballsy fantasy creatures that make this feel like a feature-long Cantina scene.

What makes this sequel work so well is that it does something completely different from the first. Instead of fighting Nazis, monsters and other supernatural threats, they’re replaced with magical creatures. It adds a whole new aesthetic to the film and keeps things interesting. Del Toro’s direction also helps to add a lot and give the film his signature style, enhancing everything that made the first movie click. Check out the imaginative attention to detail, the (thankfully) practical effects and costumes, as Big Red battles an elf vying for control of humankind. Del Toro has proven twice now that he has the magic touch in creating a superhero movie sequel, and Hellboy II proves that in every way. After the shockingly weak Hellboy reboot from 2019, another version has been announced from Crank‘s Doug Taylor.Rent on AppleTV

10 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther Wakanda Forever

A sequel that will continue to explore the world of Wakanda and all the characters introduced in the 2018 film.

Release Date
November 11, 2022

Rating
PG-13

Read Our Review

When the first Black Panther arrived in 2018, it took the world by storm. Box office records were being shattered left and right as the film became a cultural event. If that kind of pressure wasn’t enough, its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, was hit with the tragic death of star Chadwick Boseman. The film was reworked and now serves as a tribute to the late actor and the character of King T’Challa as a whole, all while expanding the world of Wakanda audiences had grown to love. It’s a miracle that the film even exists in the first place, but even more so that it’s as good as it is.

Set a year after T’Challa’s passing, the entirety of Wakanda is still reeling from the loss of their king and the Black Panther. The nation is incredibly vulnerable without its protector as other countries are trying to exploit that to obtain Vibranium. After the rare metal is found at the bottom of the ocean by the United States, the king of Talokan, Namor, reveals himself to the surface world and approaches Wakanda with a military alliance to protect each other and destroy their attackers. Tensions escalate into an all-out war between the two most powerful countries on the planet that could lead to the end of Wakanda itself.

Wakanda Forever is arguably the most emotional MCU film as it lets the characters show real vulnerability in their mental state. With fantastic performances from every member of the cast, every beat lands and shows a different side of the superhero genre audiences aren’t used to. The quiet exploration of grief through the eyes of a character like Shuri, who’s lost so much, gives her an immensely satisfying arc that both pays tribute to Chadwick and paves the way for her future as the new Black Panther. Stream on Disney+

9 Logan (2017)

Hugh Jackman in Logan
20th Century Fox

Despite Wolverine being the most popular character to come out of Fox’s X-Men movies, his solo outings weren’t always regarded in the highest regard. Director James Mangold looked to change that as he took the trilogy in a wildly different direction to give Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the movie he deserved. Logan loosely adapts the famous Old Man Logan comic and shows a different side of the character than fans may be used to.

Reserved and reflective (for a superhero movie, anyway), an aged and weak Wolverine cares for an increasingly senile and now dangerous Professor X (an excellent Patrick Stewart) in the future of 2029. At this point, no new mutants have been born for years and the X-Men were accidentally killed by Charles when he had a seizure. Regardless of his wishes to live out the rest of his days hidden from the world, Logan is tasked with bringing a young mutant, Laura, across the country. Artificially created in a lab using Logan’s DNA, scientists are after her, and it’s up to Logan to bring her to the Canadian border for safety in his final mission.

It’s actually in Logan’s quieter moments where the film shines, and you really wish there could have been even more time dedicated to it. However, respectful of its own X-Men roots and the comic book origins it may be, Logan is surprisingly measured and moving as a stand-alone film. Logan is a meditation on all things eventually getting old and dying and a send-off to a character that we’ve had on our screens for the past 20 years. A touching tribute to the character as he gets one last chance to deliver on a movie that grows above the superhero genre. The Western influences are embraced as this version of Wolverine gets his sunset. As the old adage goes, though, no one in comic books dies forever, and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is promised to return in the upcoming Deadpool 3. Stream on Disney+

8 X2: X-Men United (2003)

X2: X-Men United showed exactly how a movie should bring in new characters without bloating the piece. The sequel continues the themes of mutant acceptance from the first movie but on a much grander scale. After an attempt on the President’s life by a brainwashed Nightcrawler, the government swiftly moves towards registration against mutant kind. Professor X’s secret school is uncovered and attacked by a military officer and notable mutant hater, William Stryker. This drives the X-Men into hiding as they’re forced to work with Magneto if they want to save mutants from extinction.

From the blistering opener with Nightcrawler in the White House and on, this movie does not stop. It’s full of everything audiences would come to love in superhero movies, from larger-than-life action to the characters themselves. Before Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine became the be-all and end-all of every single X-Men movie, X2 pushed his character’s backstory just enough to stay intriguing without going over the deep end. And the results are impeccable, with a movie that features some of the best scenes in the entire (long-running and confusingly spaced out) series. Loosely adapting the famous God Loves, Man Kills story from the comics, it has the X-Men battling a government that fears them. Each member of the team gets a moment to shine and is the Fox universe at its best. The cast is pitch perfect and the man vs mutant drama feels spot on. Stream on STARZ

7 The Suicide Squad (2021)

the suicide squad

The Suicide Squad

Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.

Release Date
August 5, 2021

Rating
R

Read Our Review

The commercial success of 2016’s Suicide Squad wasn’t met with the amount of praise the brand-new DC Extended Universe was hoping for. A film that was clearly changed into something completely different in the edit left a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. If the studio wanted there to be a future for Task Force X, they would need to start fresh – enter James Gunn. Putting the squad in Gunn’s hands and giving him full creative control was one of the smartest things they’d done, as it resulted in the best DCEU movie.

Sent to the remote island of Corto Maltese, the Suicide Squad is tasked with infiltrating a government building and destroying the mysterious and dangerous Project Starfish. Once again led by Colonel Rick Flag, he’s joined by Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker Ratcatcher 2, King Shark, and Polka Dot Man, among others. The dysfunctional team of misfits is forced to work together or die trying to save the world.

What makes The Suicide Squad such an effective sequel is it improves upon the first in every way. It acts as a soft reboot to the continuity, taking some of the same characters but ignoring the previous continuity to do things independently of the first film. The dynamic between the team members is improved tenfold, with each of them feeling important to the mission and going through a complete character arc by the end of the film. It also helps that Gunn’s directing adds a whole lot of character to the already entertaining bloodbath. Stream on Netflix

6 X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

The third X-Men title on this list, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is a double sequel. It is both a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and also X-Men: First Class, with the two timelines crossing over in this massive epic event film that reboots the timeline and seemingly sets up a short-lived new future for the franchise.

Adapted from the iconic storyline of the same name, the film sees Wolverine’s consciousness sent back in time to 1973, where he must reunite Professor X and Magneto to stop Mystique from assigning Boliver Trask in the event that will kick off a chain of events where mutants are hunted to the point of extinction in the future. While Wolverine travels back in time, the original trilogy X-Men, including Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, Ian McKellen’s Magneto, Elliot Page’s Shadowcat, and Halle Berry’s Storm must protect Wolverine’s body in order to ensure their future.

X-Men: Days of Future Past feels like the most comic-accurate X-Men film while also being the one that is the most edited in its cinematic history. It brings in the best characters and actors from across the franchise’s history to tell a massive, sprawling story that spans multiple timelines and features incredible action that showcases the X-Men’s team-based tactics while also showcasing one of their deadliest enemies in the form of the Sentinels. Yet it also is one that perfectly blends the broad strokes of the comics for what will work in terms of a movie, grounding the film in the politics of the 1970s and letting that inform the character arcs. X-Men: Days of Future Past feels like the proper ending to the original X-Men franchise. Stream on Max

5 Spider-Man 2 (2004)

To some, Spider-Man 2 is still the greatest superhero movie ever. While it may not rank that high on this list, it’s widly regarded of one of the all-time greats for a reason. On the surface, Spider-Man 2 is a superhero movie with the standard comic book action fans crave, but the main reason it works is due to the characters at the center. After an accident turns brilliant scientist Otto Octavius into the villainous Doctor Octopus, he blames Spider-Man for it and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring him to his end. At the same time, Peter Parker’s life is falling into disarray as he suddenly loses his powers among rising self-doubt. Peter is forced to choose between a thriving personal life or his curse of great responsibility.

Related: The 13 Best Superhero Movies and TV Episodes to Watch During the Holidays

The fact that Tobey Maguire recently reappeared in the latest Spider-Man iteration is a testament to how deep the love for this particular superhero movie is. Expanding on the already very confident first film, Spider-Man 2 introduces Doc Ock with typical Sam Raimi flair. With the origin story out of the way, the human element shines for literally all the characters here, with Peter, Mary-Jane, and Harry having moved on in their lives by this point. Maguire absolutely nails the dorky uncertainty in his own identity (in between clashes with a madman with metallic tentacles). Stream on Disney+

4 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

If the first Guardians of the Galaxy film turned the group of unlikely heroes into household names, its sequel turned these characters into cultural icons. Everything that made the first movie special is present in the sequel, but the ante is upped in every way. The Guardians gain new members, the scope widens across the galaxy itself, and the stakes have never been higher. It’s very easy to tell that, after the success of the 2014 film, Marvel gave Gunn more creative control, as his style is all over the film.

While the first movie focuses on Peter’s relationship with his mother, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is very clearly about the father. After a job working for the Sovereign, a genetically perfect species, goes wrong when Rocket robs them, the Guardians are sent on the run from their new enemies. When a mysterious man reveals himself to be Peter’s father, Ego steps in to save them. The team is divided and forced to confront the issues they have with each other to grow into a proper family.

The sequel takes the characters and breaks them down even more. It’s still full of the swashbuckling Guardians action, but this time, it’s more about the characters and what they’re going through. Whether it’s Peter discovering who his father is, Rocket and Yondu mirroring each other, or Nebula and Gamora finally becoming sisters, it’s full of satisfying emotional catharsis and rocking music. What more could you want from a superhero movie? Stream on Disney+

3 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Miles Morales returns as Spider-Man and travels across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team to face off with their most powerful villain yet.

Release Date
June 2, 2023

Rating
PG

Read Our Review

The most recent addition to this list, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has quickly established itself as one of the greatest sequels of all time. The sequel to its Academy Award-winning predecessor was anticipated for five long years and exceeded all expectations. In a time when the multiverse is becoming a tired concept, Across the Spider-Verse showed that it can still be done right with the right amount of care and attention put into the story.

Set a year after the first film, Miles Morales has confidently grown into the role of his universe’s one and only Spider-Man. When he’s abruptly reunited with Gwen Stacy, Miles is thrown deeper into the multiverse in order to stop a terrifying new villain he created known as The Spot. Joining up with the Spider Society, a group of the multiverse’s most dedicated Spider-People lead by Miguel O’Hara, Miles is forced to do things his own way if he wants to save his father and the multiverse itself.

Across the Spider-Verse is somehow an improvement on the already perfect first film, but especially in the animation. With hundreds of uniquely designed characters and several different animation styles working together, it all comes together to create a visual feast for the eyes. It’s very apparent just how much hard work and detail was put into every frame of the film, and it all pays off. The visuals are matched in a story that takes the Spider-Man mythos in a bold new meta direction and shows what makes Miles Morales stand out. Stream on Netflix

2 Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

infinity war

infinity war
Release Date
April 25, 2018

Director
Anthony Russo , Anthony Russo

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
160

Marvel’s grand plan, a building up of stories across multiple films and planets, and with literally hundreds of characters involved, was marketed as the event of the decade in terms of cinema. And, boy, oh boy, was Avengers: Infinity War worth the wait. Super fans could watch, mouth agape, as their almost homework-like diligence in following all the previously connected films finally paid off as the Big Bad, Thanos (Josh Brolin in mocap), asked big genocidal questions and threatened all of humanity. Thanos finally makes good on his word to acquire the Infinity Gauntlet as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes do whatever they can to stop the inevitable. 10 years in the making, and it all culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical event.

Related: MCU: Was Thanos Right?

Infinity War should have been an impossible movie to pull off with many different characters and moving parts, but it manages to come together in a truly special way. Seeing the Avengers and the Guardians race against Thanos to collect all six infinity stones before he wipes out half of all life is exhilarating. Each of the distinct plot-lines all come together at the end in two different final battles that deliver memorable moments and action with real stakes. Following the watery at best Avengers: Age of Ultron, this brought the heroes back to form, but they certainly weren’t all going to make it to the end, as ¬ęthe snap¬Ľ became one of the biggest pop culture moments in recent film history. Seeing Thanos win and watch the sunrise at the end of the film is an unforgettable experience. Stream on Disney+

1 The Dark Knight (2008)

No matter how many superhero movies have been released, nothing has been able to top The Dark Knight. Pitching a more realistic and gritty take on the superhero film and Batman mythology long before it was in vogue, Christopher Nolan gave us this iconic take on the caped crusader. After proving that Batman was back and the fans were here with him in the previous Batman Begins, The Dark Knight upped the ante in every way it could, as it gave Batman his greatest rival with an otherworldly performance from Heath Ledger for the ages.

In the year since Batman fought Scarecrow and the League of Shadows, the Caped Crusader has done great work to improve Gotham and keep citizens safe. Everything is flipped upside down when the Joker enters the fray, leaving a trail of chaos in his wake. The Clown Prince of Crime is determined to break Batman on a personal level as the two fight for the heart and soul of Gotham City. Joker acts as a force of nature that Batman can’t possibly stop as he ruins innocent lives and manages to turn the city’s white knight, Harvey Dent, into the maddening Two-Face.

The Dark Knight really was an event that very few movies (superhero or otherwise) have surpassed. What makes the film work is that the story transcends the superhero genre. There may be a man dressed like a bat fighting a clown, but the story is firmly planted in exploring humanity itself. The Joker is used as a tool to make people confront their morals, and by the end of the film he isn’t defeated by Batman, but by the citizens of Gotham. Their good nature proved the Joker wrong and showed that people aren’t inherently evil and will do the right thing when it counts. Heath Ledger’s Joker performance would posthumously win the Oscar, and, for some, Nolan has not bettered himself since. Stream on Max

Manuel Rivas

Fernando Rivas. Compagino mis estudios superiores en ingeniería informática con colaboraciones en distintos medios digitales. Me encanta la el periodismo de investigación y disfruto elaborando contenidos de actualidad enfocados en mantener la atención del lector. Colabora con Noticias RTV de manera regular desde hace varios meses. Profesional incansable encargado de cubrir la actualidad social y de noticias del mundo. Si quieres seguirme este es mi... Perfil en Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manuel.rivasgonzalez.14 Email de contacto: fernando.rivas@noticiasrtv.com

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