It doesn't hit theaters until Friday, but we can safely say that 22 Jump Street is going to be better than 21 Jump Street . No kidding. The sequel to the hilarious 2012 buddy comedy already has a wildly impressive 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (making it one of the best-reviewed movies of 2014, so far, alongside Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill's other outing The Lego Movie) and is expected to do pretty damn well at the box office opening weekend. As the Hollywood Reporter put it, "For once, cranking out a play-it-safe sequel yields something satisfying."
Of course, when it comes to comedy sequels, it's hard not to shake visions of The Hangover follow-ups and the upcoming sequel to Dumb & Dumber (the trailer seemed to leave something of a sour taste in the Internet's mouth) from your head. Still, for every follow-up that couldn't leave well-enough alone and tarnished the goodwill made by the original (hello, Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason and Terminator Salvation, among countless others) there are plenty of great sequels that are exceptions to the rule.
Debates will rage whether classics like The Godfather: Part II and the Toy Story sequels are better than their predecessors, but here are five movies that have the proof in the numbers. (Case in point: 22 is better than 21.)
The Dark Knight
While 2005's Batman Begins was no slouch (it had an impressive 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and brought in $374.2 million at the worldwide box office), it couldn't compare to 2008's The Dark Knight, the second film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Not only did The Dark Knight become a pop culture phenomenon, but it was a critical and financial powerhouse to boot. The superhero sequel holds a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made over $1 billion worldwide.
Batman Begins earned an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Cinematography, while The Dark Knight was nominated for eight Oscars and won two, including a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger. Ledger's haunting performance as The Joker is considered one of the best screen performances ever.
Six simple words: "Get away from her, you bitch!" While the 1986 sequel to terrifying 1979 original doesn't win by a huge margin (it has a 98 percent rating compared to a 97 percent rating), Aliens did better on the Oscar front (it won two Oscars, compared to the one for Alien). It made roughly $30 million more at the worldwide box office.
Sure, everyone loved that upside down kiss from 2002's Spider-Man, but everyone couldn't get enough of the 2004 follow-up. While the original made more money, critics enjoyed the thrilling sequel more (Spider-Man 2 has a 5 percent increase over the original on Rotten Tomatoes with a 94 percent fresh rating) and so did the Academy: Spider-Man earned two Oscar nods, while Spider-Man 2 took one home for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back
No big surprise here, but The Empire Strikes back is actually the highest-rated Star Wars movie of the entire saga (to date, anyway). The 1980 sequel to 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope has a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Technically, the final film of the LOTR saga had the biggest numbers to its name at the box office and the Oscars (2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King made $1.1 billion worldwide and earned 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture) but the second film, 2002's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is widely considered among fans and critics as the best of the three movies. In fact, it has the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating with 96 percent.