For more sequel talk, vote on this list of the Worst Sequels of All Time and visit Sequels Planned for 2013 Release.
Unlike all the other sequels on this list, which critically acclaimed or not are still overshadowed by their predecessor, Evil Dead 2 is infinitely more famous than the original, with many fans not only ignoring but often forgetting the very existence of the (still good) Evil Dead 1. Part of that is due to Sam Raimi's decision to remake the original film with a smaller cast in the first 15 minutes of Evil Dead 2, allowing the film to stand on its own but also open more breathlessly than practically any other film ever made. The special effects may creak a bit (they did when it was first released, too), but the dizzying camera work and whipcrack editing combine to form the largest collection of genuine popcorn-spilling, scream-inducing scares in film history. It used to be called a "cult classic," but that cult has grown so large in number that it's time to officially call Evil Dead 2 what it really is: an actual classic, one of the best horror films ever made, and in its own way one of the best films of any genre.
#225 on The Greatest Suspense Movies
#33 on The Best Movie Sequels
#17 on The Best '80s Horror Moviessee more on Evil Dead II
It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Exorcist II: The Heretic is one of the worst horror movies ever made. It is somewhat less acknowledged that The Exorcist III is actually one of the very best. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel the original film was based on, wrote and directed this sequel, which is only tangentially related to the other films in the franchise. But that's good, because it frees Blatty to explore new avenues of horror as a demonic presence tears its way through a hospital, with only an aging detective played by the great George C. Scott to defend the already sick and dying. With some of the scariest shots in horror history, and some of the most disturbing kills (like the victim whose blood was drained completely into dozens of little cups, without spilling a single drop), there are some who think The Exorcist III is actually scarier than the original. They may be right.
#95 on The Best R-Rated Cult Moviessee more on The Exorcist III
Wes Craven returned to the franchise he created for its seventh (!) sequel, and one of the finest metatextual horror films ever made (at least until he made Scream two years later). By directly examining the power of horror sequels to diminish the original story's ability to frighten audiences, Craven briefly revitalized his greatest creation, Freddy Krueger, but his greatest accomplishment was taking a franchise geared towards teenagers and forcing it to grow up... and still be scary. By taking Nancy Thompson, aka Heather Langenkamp, and placing her in the role of the willfully ignorant mother she was forced to rebel against in the first film, Craven brings his story full circle and forces us to rethink the original movie from the parents' perspective, and realize that it's almost freakier the other way around.
#39 on The Best Slasher Movies
#4962 on The Best Movies of All Time
#53 on The Best R-Rated Cult Moviessee more on Wes Craven's New Nightmare
Despite its outrageous success and the presence of Kevin Bacon, the first Friday the 13th is actually spectacularly badly made, so calling calling Steve Miner's sequel "Better Than the Original!" could be damning it with faint praise. Fortunately, it's also "One of the Best Slashers of the 1980's," cleverly turning the events of the original summer camp massacre into a campfire story for new characters and new audiences, thus deftly glossing over the first film's flaws. Part 2 also deserves praise for introducing the world to the scariest Jason Voorhees to date, but also making him sympathetic at the same time, making this sequel even more historically important that the original too. The strangest thing is that Miner gave us "The Best Friday the 13th of All Time!" and then proceeded to give us the absolute worst in Friday the 13th Part 3-D, first raising and then immediately lowering the bar for every subsequent film in the franchise.
#17 on The Best Slasher Movies
#18 on The Best '80s Horror Moviessee more on Friday the 13th Part 2
As exceptional as James Whale's original Frankenstein was, it was pretty unambitious compared to his surreal and comic sequel (which he famously preferred). Though not particularly scary by anyone's standards today, Whale nevertheless brought artistic legitimacy to horror for the first time (outside of Eastern Europe, at least) by loading his film with subversive religious imagery like the iconic crucifixion of one of history's most famous monsters, bizarre asides like the bottled experiments of Dr. Pretorius, and of course the fact that this Production Code-Certified film is, at its heart, entirely about necrophilia.
#595 on The Most Rewatchable Moviessee more on Bride of Frankenstein
Dario Argento's Suspiria holds a rightful place near the top of every "Scariest Films of All Time" list, but its less-popular sequel Inferno may be even more groundbreaking, more disturbing, and yes, maybe even scarier. With an innovative stream-of-consciousness series of protagonists keeping the audience off-guard (you never know who is supposed to save the day, if anyone) and chillingly dreamlike death scenes (a crippled man goes to Central Park to drown a bag of cats, and you won't believe what happens next), Inferno deserves a higher place in Argento's already impressive list of horror classics.
#110 on The Best '80s Horror Movies
#138 on The Best 3D Filmssee more on Inferno
What a difference a location makes! George Romero's sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead was, on paper, deceptively simple: just move the first film to a shopping mall. Luckily, Romero took the concept and ran with it, creating one of the first universally-recognized-as-socially-relevant horror films, at once lampooning and condemning modern consumer culture (why else would all the brainless zombies gravitate to the mall?). With its groundbreaking special effects (for the time, but they mostly hold up today) and iconic storyline, Dawn of the Dead was so good that even the completely unnecessary remake couldn't screw it up.
#672 on The Most Rewatchable Moviessee more on Dawn of the Dead
In the original Hitcher, poor schlub C. Thomas Howell found himself the victim of Rutger Hauer, possibly the most evil and invincible villain this side of the devil himself. In this criminally underseen straight-to-video sequel, Howell returns to protect his girlfriend (Kari Wuhrer) from a new unnaturally talented mass murderer, this time played by Jake Busey. It may have unexpected plot twists and an impressively over-the-top climax, but the film gets genuinely creepy when it implies that Busey and Hauer may be connected, or even somehow the same person, crafting an untold story that may be more unsettling than anything else on this list.
Also Rankedsee more on The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting