By nature, franchise kickoffs dedicate precious screen time to setting up whatever the hell we're about to watch. In theory, their sequels should be better because they can dive right in, building off or complicating everything we learned in the original.
Sequels should be good... but even the great ones (e.g., Aliens, The Godfather: Part II, Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2) only brush the bar set by their predecessors' brilliance. Expectation, obligation, and the business of Hollywood handicap part twos from the get-go. Here are the few sequels that beat those odds.