Ten 21st Century Sequel Soundtracks That Are Better Than the Original: Critic's Picks

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Freed.

Usually, blockbuster movie sequels struggle to compete with their predecessors. The only bright side to bad sequels is that franchises tend to overcompensate with blowout soundtracks.

Take Fifty Shades Freed for example, arguably the epitome of bad movie, fire soundtrack. Critics found the Fifty Shades sequel to be comically bad, but the soundtrack had a finely curated collection of some of today’s biggest pop acts, amounting to the film franchise’s strongest accompanying album yet.

While some series nail it on the first go-round, like Kill Bill Vol. 1 or Charlie’s Angels, many times sequels and threequels (like Fifty Shades) generate the best OSTs. Here are 10 sequel soundtracks from this century that are better than the original.   

Bad Boys II (2003)

It’s incredible that the Bad Boys franchise was able to pull off a soundtrack this good. Featuring original songs from Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Mary J. BligeFat Joe, and a 50 Cent-featured revamp of a Notorious B.I.G. song -- as well as the Hot 100-topping Nelly, Murphy Lee and Diddy collab "Shake Ya Tailfeather" -- the Bad Boys II soundtrack perfectly illustrates a bygone era of early-'00s pop and hip-hop. 

American Pie 2 (2001)

Sure, the American Pie soundtrack had Third Eye Blind, Everclear and Fatboy Slim, but the sequel is a utopian assemblage of 2000s pop-punk hits. The crude 2001 comedy flaunted pop-punk standards like blink-182’s “Every Time I Look For You,” Green Day’s “Scumbag,” and Sum 41’s iconic “Fat Lip.” But that's just the beginning: American Hi-Fi’s “Flavor of the Weak,” Alien Ant Farm’s “Smooth Criminal" and Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere" solidified American Pie 2 as an extraordinary all-around soundtrack.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

In comparison to the Fifty Shades triptych, The Hunger Games original soundtracks are largely bleak, but the sequel outshines the other three. Catching Fire captures the intensity, triumph and melancholia of the series best, with Lorde’s chilling “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and Coldplay’s evocative “Atlas.” 

Step Up 2: The Streets (2008)

Step Up 2: The Streets was a significantly worse flick than the Channing Tatum-starring original, but the sequel’s soundtrack eclipsed its predecessor. The tracklist is a snapshot of a mid-2000s era of hip-hop when T-Pain and Lil’ Jon thrived; an immaculate collection of delectably corny hip-pop songs like Flo Rida’s “Low” and “Club Can’t Handle Me,” T-Pain’s hyperactive “Church,” Swizz Beatz’s rhythmic “Money in the Bank” and the propulsive “Killa” by Cherish and Yung Joc.

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

The first Sex and the City film adaptation's soundtrack didn’t have much to offer outside of “Labels or Love,” a long-forgotten Fergie gem. But the sequel whips out all the stunts, with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” Beyoncé’s classic “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” and less barnstorming contemporary singles from Dido, Cee-Lo, Erykah Badu, Leona Lewis, and Jennifer Hudson.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

Another questionable movie, another great soundtrack. For such a massive franchise, Twilight didn’t bear many original hits outside of Paramore’s “Decode.” The series’ music has always leaned heavily toward alternative roc -- probably due to its gloomy setting outside Seattle -- but the third installment captures Twilight’s teen angst best with eclectic singles from Muse, The Bravery, The Black Keys, Florence + The Machine, Vampire Weekend, and Metric.

TRON: Legacy (2010)

Neither of the TRON movies are outstanding, but perhaps the most significant element of this franchise was the decades-later sequel’s soundtrack. Scored entirely by incognito French DJs Daft Punk, TRON: Legacy is galvanized by the duo’s trademark futuristic, electronic melodies.

Furious 7 (2015)

With so many chapters in the prolific Fast & Furious series, the franchise was bound to generate a breakout hit eventually. Furious 7 yielded the best-selling worldwide hit of 2015 with its teary Paul Walker tribute, “See You Again,” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. The energetic collection also featured bangers from Kid Ink, Tyga, Wale, T.I., Young Thug, DJ Snake, Juicy J, Steve Aoki, and many more.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

The second installment in the Transformers series, Revenge of the Fallen, featured Green Day’s “21 Guns” and an impressive array of late 2000s alt-rock artists, like Linkin Park, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Hoobastank, and The All-American Rejects. If you can get past some iffy choices from The Fray and Nickelback, the stimulating soundtrack adequately compliments Michael Bay’s hyper-saturated visuals.

Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

The Fifty Shades soundtracks have spawned multiple original hits, like The Weeknd’s “Earned It” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do," as the franchise collects singles from the biggest names in pop music like Easter Eggs on a scavenger hunt. But the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack takes the cake, with upbeat singles like Hailee Steinfeld and Bloodpop’s “Capital Letters” and Rita Ora and Liam Payne’s James Bond-like power ballad “For You.” It boasts a laundry list of pop stars, like Dua Lipa, Julia Michaels, Jessie J, Sia, and Bishop Briggs, all of whom give sexier performances than Jamie Dornan.