The key to a good sequel is balance.
You need to have enough of the first film to make fans happy
but enough new material so you don’t bore them.
It’s a tricky proposition.
And, more often than not, filmmakers fail.
So, what are the best sequels? Here we go.
10. The Dark Knight (2008): This is a movie about Batman
that is owned by the Joker. It’s still all kinds of awesome, though. Christian
Bale has issues in real life, but you can’t complain about his performances on the
big screen. It’s Heath Ledger as The Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent,
though, that really solidify ‘The Dark Knight’ as quality cinema. An argument
can be made that ‘The Dark Knight’ is the best comic book movie ever put to
film. I would actually put ‘X2’ and ‘The Avengers’ ahead of it – but I
understand why some people make the argument. There’s a dark and brooding
atmosphere to ‘The Dark Knight’ – and the horror of the final hour sticks with
you for a long time.
9. Aliens (1986): Ellen Ripley is one of the best heroines
on film. Current leading ladies – Jennifer Lawrence especially – owe Sigourney
Weaver a debt of gratitude. What’s interesting about the Alien franchise is
that the first movie was a quiet horror movie set in space. The second film is
a badass science fiction extravaganza. It’s also set in space, of course, but
it’s radically different from the original. The third and fourth installments in
this franchise are weak – and ‘Prometheus’ takes the franchise in a completely
different direction – but ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens’ are great cinema at its best.
8. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989): The first ‘Lethal Weapon’
introduced us to the best buddy cop team ever put to film. The second movie
took the relationship between the two characters to another level. Not only is
the sequel funnier than the first movie (thank you Joe Pesci), it’s also
bloodier, sweeter and louder. You really can’t ask for more from a sequel – and
‘Lethal Weapon 2’ delivers just that. Just to be clear, though, there really
isn’t a bad entry into this franchise. The fourth movie is the weakest, but it’s
nowhere near as bad as it could have been. It’s too bad Mel Gibson has fallen so far,
because I do love me some Martin Riggs.
7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991): It’s rare to have a
sequel that completely changes the scope of a franchise. ‘Terminator 2’ does
just that, though. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to be the hero, not the
villain, in this film and the end result is pretty funny. Linda Hamilton wows
as the eternally screwed up Sarah Conner and the special effects were so
cutting-edge at the time that fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing on
the big screen. It’s Edward Furlong’s John Conner, though, that is the heart of
the film. As viewers, we’re just as broken-hearted as he is when the terminator
is lowered into the pit. We’re just as hopeful, though, that his character will
have the future he deserves.
6. X2 (2003): I liked the first movie. I did. I thought it
was a great set-up to what I thought was going to be a great franchise. ‘X2,’
though, that was pure magic. Hugh Jackman is always good as the conflicted
hero, but ‘X2’ allows him to have some fun while on the run with Bobby, Rogue
and Pyro. The ending of ‘X2’ is tragic in its simplicity. It’s also profound in
a way. The X-Men franchise is a mixed bag. There are three good movies and two
terrible movies (we all know what they are). ‘X2,’ though, is clearly the best.
5. Superman II (1980): Christopher Reeve was a true sight to
behold in that Superman outfit – and he did it in an era when you couldn’t go
in and clean up the digital print after the fact. The second movie in the franchise is about
longing. In this film, Superman agrees to give up his power to marry Lois but
things go horribly awry when some super villains come to play – especially the
ultra creepy General Zod (Terence Stamp). I think I love Superman II because it
highlights the central theme of super heroes: They make life better for others
but struggle themselves.
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): My mom dragged me
to this when I was seven and scarred me for life. I was terrified of bugs for
years because of this film. I couldn’t watch ‘Fantasy Island’ anymore either.
Anyway, the second movie in the franchise is not only better than the first it’s
widely considered the best in the entire ‘Star Trek’ franchise. I’m actually
torn, ‘The Wrath of Khan’ and ‘The Voyage Home’ are my two favorites – but I
love them for different reasons. ‘The Wrath of Khan’ is essentially about
fighting the aging process and ‘The Voyage Home’ is about embracing history.
Honestly, I still can’t decide. I love them both. ‘The Wrath of Khan’ gets the
nod for pure vision, though, and the fact that the ending still breaks my heart to this day.
3. Rocky II (1979): I love the first four Rocky movies. I
love the first because it didn’t have the typical Hollywood ending. Rocky didn’t
win. I love the second because Rocky learned some valuable lessons and managed
to hold on just long enough to accomplish his dream. I love the third because
there’s a certain magic that happens when Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone
are on screen together. And I loved the fourth because Rocky ended communism in
Russia. What? I love that movie. Sue me. It’s the second film in this
franchise, though, that really is the standout. Between the training montage,
the down and dirty fight and the outstanding soundtrack, Rocky is one of those
stories you can never truly forget.
2. The Godfather: Part II (1974): The first movie is epic
and always will be. An argument can be made, though, that the second film is
even better. The film features standout scenes from Robert De Niro as a young
Vincent Corleone. De Niro was considered the standout of the film, but the
scene that always gets me is Diane Keaton’s Kay admitting she had an abortion
to Al Pacino’s Michael – essentially telling him she did it because she refused
to bring another child into his bloodthirsty world. The scenes, and Michael’s
reaction, are chilling. Of course, the true powerhouse scene involves poor
Fredo – but everyone remembers that scene.
1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): This
is my favorite ‘Star Wars’ movie – by far. Sure, the first film set up an epic
space drama that continues to engage year after year. ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’
though, that is a cinematic masterpiece. From the early scenes on the barren
ice planet of Hoth to the middle of the film – and the introduction of a
wisecracking puppet named Yoda – the climactic lightsaber fight and the biggest
revelation in cinema history, “No, I am your father.” There’s really no film
that can compare to the magic of Empire.
Honorable mentions go to ‘Toy Story 2,’ ‘Star Trek IV: The
Voyage Home,’ ‘Beverly Hills Cop 2,’ ‘Friday the 13th Part 2,’ ‘Young
Guns 2,’ ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead.’
What do you think? What are the best sequels of all time? What movies did I miss?