My Top-10 Movie Sequels
Just recently I wrote a blog warning about the dangers film-makers run into while making sequels. Today, I want to change gears and present some of my personal favourite movie sequels. While it isn’t necessarily a criteria for entry, I do consider some of these films better than the movies that preceded them but some are just sequels which I enjoyed for other less important reasons.
I tried to limit the amount of comic book movies on this list since they could have easily dominated the whole thing. What I particularly like about sequels is when they manage to further develop the central characters of the film, expand the cinematic world they inhabit or even just do things which the original film didn’t do.
There are lots of honourable mentions and here are just a few of them: Batman Forever, The Two Towers, Police Story 3: Supercop, Iron Man 2, Spider-Man 2, Police Academy 2, The Good The Bad and the Ugly (Dollars Trilogy), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Resident Evil: Extinction.
Let’s get on with the list…
Let’s kick off the list with a film which isn’t necessarily better than the movie which preceded it but had a lot of awesome things about it which turned it into an interesting movie in its own right. The sequel to Pitch Black, this movie sees the intergalactic convict Riddick forced to take on the army called the Necromongers who threaten the entire galaxy. Riddick has to come to grips with his past as well as track down a girl named Jack, one of the survivors of the previous film’s events.
This was a movie that received unwarranted criticism for its lowered age-rating and for being very different from its predecessor. Whereas Pitch Black was a low-key sci-fi horror film, Chronicles was a space action-adventure film which opened up Riddick’s universe immensely. This is what I really liked about the film, since it showed exactly what kind of a world Riddick was trying to get away from. I also felt Riddick’s role in this movie was actually more interesting whereas it was a bit vague in the first movie.
Vin Diesel still kicks a lot of ass in this role, but I just love the more varied characters who all have their own agendas regarding Riddick. There’s just a whole level of depth that was honestly missing from Pitch Black, which was a straight-forward survival film. Regardless, there definitely was a low-budget charm to the first movie that is lost in the sequel but I also feel the sequel is adequately different from the first film to stand on its own two feet and still head and shoulders above the third movie of the series which, by the end, just turned into a repeat of the first movie.
In a similar fashion to Chronicles of Riddick, I don’t think Renny Harlin’s sequel to John McTiernan’s 80s action-movie classic is necessarily better than its predecessor but it’s definitely an awesome movie. After saving his ex-wife from a group of terrorists in an L.A. office building, John McClane finds his wife and the passengers of several airplanes at the mercy of terrorists who take over the airport and start causing havoc in order to free a Middle-American dictator.
Die Hard 2 features a lot of insane action and is also notorious as a film for getting many elementary facts about air-traffic control completely wrong. Never the less, the movie has some real suspense and especially the scene of the terrorists intentionally downing one of the planes by making its guidance computer show incorrect information during a blizzard is a very powerful scene. At the same time, this movie features a lot of tongue-in-cheek and crazy crap such as John McClane killing one of the terrorists with an icicle, another one with scaffolding, escaping an airplane cockpit full of grenades (that take unusually long to detonate) and lighting an airplanes’ trail of spilled fuel on fire in order to blow it up.
Needless to say, Die Hard 2 is way campier and over-the-top than its nail-biting originator. However, as a result it becomes so ridiculous that it attains a new level of cheese-factor which makes it stand out nicely. Also, the icy setting, the stylish cinematography and the epic soundtrack (notably featuring “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius) just make this into an awesome, crazy action flick.
I’ve frankly never cared for Sam Raimi’s vision of the web-slinging Marvel hero and his first Spider-Man movie just left me more bemused than amused. The second film was much better by comparison (if only thanks to the presence of Doctor Octopus). While Spider-Man 3 receives a lot of criticism for trying to cram too much Spidey into one film, I honestly feel it’s this cramming which actually makes it way more enjoyable than Raimi’s previous films and personally my favourite film of his Spider-Man trilogy.
Things that happen: Harry Osborne becomes the new Green Goblin before getting amnesia, Peter discovers that the Sandman shot Uncle Ben, Spidey gets taken over by the alien parasite and at the finale, Peter and Harry must take down the Sandman and Venom. In the middle, we have Peter and Mary Jane growing more distant due to Spidey’s popularity, Peter becoming an evil douche thanks to the parasite and Harry going all kinds of crazy. Yes, the plot may get a tad convoluted at times but this leads to the reason why I like this film so much: there is literally never a dull moment in the movie.
My biggest gripe with Raimi’s Spidey was that he wasn’t a genius and in fact, most of the time, he’s a complete klutz and an idiot. Also, because the film adaptions of Spidey still don’t want to include the web-slinger’s iconic inner monologues, long chunks of Spidey 1 and 2 were just flat-out silence which led to annoying slow-downs in both movies (nevermind that over half of Spidey 1 was just origin story). While Spidey 3 is a little over the top and silly, there were luckily none of those silent and awkward slow parts that made me dislike the previous two movies.
I would have honestly welcomed a fourth instalment of this series, if only to see more of Venom (he definitely does get a bit short-changed) but even so, this is still my favourite Spider-Man movie.
Here’s a movie that honestly doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. The third and final instalment of the mobster movie trilogy sees an aged Michael Corleone trying to finally distance his family’s name from its dark, criminal past. However, an assassination attempt on his life motivates him into hunting down his enemies and he even gets involved in the election of a new Pope.
This movie gets a lot of hate which I’ve never understood because I feel it’s a perfect and tragic finale to the story of Michael Corleone. Despite his efforts, Michael simply keeps getting sucked into the criminal underworld and it ruins his life one little piece at a time. Al Pacino still gives a powerful performance and I also feel this movie’s atmosphere is way better than the 60s based Part 2 which often gets praised more.
By comparison, I think The Godfather Part 3 is a more complete whole. I never really liked the fact that Part 2 was trying to tell two stories and even then I felt the story of Michael’s father (the original Godfather) was more interesting. Now yes, it’s nowhere near as good as the original and a crime it shares with Part 2 is that it definitely repeats the structure of the first movie almost beat-for-beat. However, for its grand-scale story telling, I feel it’s a worthy closing chapter for the film series.
Home Alone is a classic and no mistake. I love Macaulay Culkin’s smug delivery and Joe Peschi’s frantic anger. In the sequel, Kevin’s (Culkin) extended family is leaving for a holiday but he accidentally boards the wrong plane and ends up in New York (conveniently with his father’s credit cards no less). Being the troublemaking brat he is, Kevin has a ball by checking into a luxury hotel and going on a shopping spree. However, his old nemeses, the Wet Bandits Marv and Harry, are plotting a robbery in the big apple and Kevin takes it as his mission to stop them.
Home Alone is definitely the kind of movie where the only thing that can be done with the sequel is to make it bigger and more expansive. And that’s exactly what they did with Home Alone 2. Kevin has a far more varied selection of settings he gets to visit and characters he has to outsmart (including Tim Curry as the unlikable hotel worker). Also, Kevin once again tricks the bandits with a clever and borderline sadistic assortment of traps which build upon the ideas seen in the first movie.
I really like Home Alone 2 and feel that it’s a great complimentary chapter to the first film’s story. Its sequels sadly never lived up to the same standards. Home Alone 3 was a decent film but one that didn’t really have anything to do with the previous instalments.
5. Rush Hour 2 + 3
Here I honestly feel that the sequels are just much better than the original film. In the second film, the American-Hong Kong cop duo of Carter (Chris Tucker) and Lee (Jackie Chan) having become best friends after their experiences in the first film try to crack down a counterfitting ring. In the third film and after a falling out, they have to travel to Paris to take down a criminal who was once Lee’s sworn brother. The two former friend’s trust is tested and lots of crazy and off-the-wall things happen which culminates on a fight on the Eiffel tower.
The first Rush Hour is an awesome film but its comedy relied too heavily on the culture clash element. On top of that, I felt the villains of the first film weren’t all that interesting. Rush Hours 2 and 3 are both much better because the characters of Carter and Lee now have history and rapport together which works brilliantly. While I think the dialogue was a lot stronger in the second movie, the third one definitely blows its predecessors out of the water with its set-pieces and action on top of probably had the most impressive finale.
It’s honestly a coin toss for me, which of the latter two Rush Hours is better, but both are infinitely more entertaining and interesting than the first movie simply because the central characters have been given so much time to grow and develop. I also feel this is the only series of Jackie Chan movies where Chan’s character actually goes through some kind of a development arc. I really couldn’t split the difference so I decided to just make these two a double entry.
There’s plenty of James Bond instalments I could have talked about but as sequels (or continuations of stories go), I believe Goldfinger peaks what is easily the strongest run of James Bond movies in the franchise’s history.
Bond goes up against Auric Goldfinger, an outwardly legal jeweller who is plotting the biggest crime of the century, robbing Fort Knox. Or so it would seem. Bond gets wrapped up in a plot of vengeance and romances Goldfinger’s right-hand woman Pussy Galore and, of course, has to go toe-to-toe with his dangerous henchman, the mute but deadly Oddjob.
Goldfinger is, simply put, iconic. While Dr. No and From Russia With Love definitely laid the groundwork for the franchise and are both excellent movies in their own right, Goldfinger finally nailed down on the James Bond formula and is still head and shoulders above most subsequent instalments (including Connery’s remaining appearances in the role). The gadgets, the henchman, the silly names and even the larger than life plot all contribute to an extremely entertaining film.
Yes, the James Bond formula did become milked to death from here on out. Point is, Goldfinger did it first and with style.
What I said about the Rush Hour movies applies here too. Characters with history are always more interesting for me. In this film, the paranormal investigator trio of Venkman, Ray and Egon get under way when a spirit tries to kidnap Dana Barret’s baby, Oscar. The spirit is that of an ancient ruler, Vigo, who is stuck in a painting at the museum where Dana works and uses his witless boss Janosz and an ever-growing supply of “mood slime” underneath the city to try and enforce his will. Very soon ghosts begin appearing all over the city and the Ghostbusters are back in business.
The first Ghostbusters is a hilarious film and one of my all-time favourite movies. However, the sequel adds a level of serious story-telling which I feel the first movie lacks. The relationship between Peter and Dana in particular feels very genuine and I also think Vigo is a way more threatening villain than Gozer, whom we only got a little glimpse of at the end of the first movie.
The comedy is still just as good and I even think the finale, which involves the Statue of Liberty walking off Liberty Island is way cooler than the ending of the first film (which was also really good). I also just generally feel that the ghosts are more of a threat whereas they were just a goofy annoyance in the first film. Both Ghostbusters movies are excellent but I have always greatly preferred the second one.
No contest on this front as far as I’m concerned. After spending 57 years in stasis, the only survivor of the mining ship Nostromo, Ripley, wakes up to a future where her encounter with the deadly xenomorph is not taken seriously. At least not until a far-off colony is decimated by the xenomorphs. Ripley is asked to accompany a marine unit to the planet in order to rescue whatever colonists are still alive but they become trapped on the planet when the xenomorphs kill most of the commandos and down their ship, trapping the heroes.
Ridley Scott’s original movie was historical piece of sci-fi horror cinema, but it was also painfully dragged out and its characters were just dull and uninteresting. James Cameron expanded on the universe, had a far more colourful and interesting cast and also managed to develop Ripley’s character way more. Particularly, Ripley’s relationship with Nute, a small girl and the only surviving colonist, is the emotional focal point of the film and the main reason I’ve always loved this movie.
The slimy Burke who wants to impregnate one of the mission members with the xenomorph was also a great characters as is the sympathetic cyborg Bishop, the out of control Hudson and the macho Vasquez. The movie is just outstanding with its creepy settings, chaotic action, excellent score and visceral atmosphere. It completely blows its predecessor out of the water.
Probably no surprise for anyone who saw my favourite Star Wars movies list. In the final instalment of the saga of Luke Skywalker, the new jedi knight must face his past and heritage as well as help the rebellion take a final decisive victory against the Empire. After saving Han Solo from Tatooine and the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, Luke and his friends in the rebellion heads for the Forest Moon of Endor. Their plan, to destroy the new Death Star being built there. Finally, Luke faces off against Darth Vader and the Emperor personally.
I’ve mentioned before that Return of the Jedi is not simply a great sequel, it is also a grade-A example of how to close off a trilogy by picking up loose plot-threads and creating something awesome from it. The film really has a great sense of closure (although, I’m still really excited for Episode VII).
Some of my favourite highlight moments include the battle with the Rancor, meeting the Ewok Wickett for the first time, the battle between the Ewoks and the imperial soldiers and also Luke’s epic confrontation of Vader towards the end. The film is full of excellent character moments and great suspense, comedy and action. You are truly left with a victorious feeling at the end. This shows that a sequel can be a truly great film just on its own merits.