Last week a viewer sent in a question for us on “The Movie Blog: Uncut” show asking about sequels that were better than the originals (a very rare thing). That got me to thinking about what I consider to be the greatest sequels ever. After seeing my friend Brad over at RopeOfSilicon do his 10 best sequels list today, I thought I should throw mine up too.
If nothing else, the films on this list are a testament that sequels can be a great thing. Often people (me included sometimes) will moan and complain when they hear about a sequel coming out… saying there’s no creativity left in Hollywood and that they’re all terrible and just cash grabs. Well, I’m glad studios don’t listen to that sort of talk, because if they did, none of the magnificent films on this list would exist.
Remember, all lists are totally subjective and no 2 lists will look exactly alike. Having said that, I now present for your consideration and debate, The Movie Blog’s Top 20 Sequels:
|#1 – LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING
The movie holding the record for the most Oscars (11) is still what I consider to be the greatest overall achievement in cinematic history. When you consider all the film making elements of cinematography, acting, art direction, visual effects, music, direction, story, no film in history has brought them all together in a package as nearly perfect as The Return of the King. An incredible ending to only the second trilogy in history to have all three of its films nominated for Best Picture.
|#2 – THE GODFATHER PART 2
More than just an amazing story, The Godfather Part 2’s real genius was in how director Francis Ford Coppola told the story. Disconnecting the linear timeline and in essence telling two separate stories book ending the time frame of the first Godfather movie. Many will argue (understandably so) that this should be #1, and I can respect that because the film is just so flat out amazing. Still, for me part 1 is still the best of the franchise. One of the best, most tragic and haunting endings to any film in history. (The other trilogy to have all 3 films nominated for best picture)
|#3 – RETURN OF THE JEDI
Like many many many other people out there, I’m a certified Star Wars freak (only of the original trilogy, otherwise Star Wars is dead to me now), but unlike most others, I actually think Return of the Jedi was just a little bit better than Empire. As you can see below, I think both were magnificent, but to me Jedi had something extra that’s hard to define. The Vader/Skywalker battle in the Emperor’s throne room and the music that accompanied it is one of my favorite single scenes in film history. Not to mention the greatest space battle scene in movie history that STILL hasn’t been beat.
|#4 – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Sweet hotness! I still remember as a little kid seeing Empire for the first time. I thought I was going to wet myself when we saw the Star Destroyer for the first time shooting out the probe droids. I definite darker tone than the others in the franchise made for maybe the best dramatic storytelling in the franchise. And today, with all the M. Night Shamhammers running around it’s hard to appreciate a good “twist” anymore… but man, back in the day Darth Vader telling Luke he was his father was MIND BLOWING! I still remember as a kid wondering how Grover because a Jedi on some swamp world.
|#5 – INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2
To this day my favorite cop movie of all time is the original Infernal Affairs (which as some people still don’t know is what the 2007 Best Picture winning film “The Departed” is a remake of), and yet Infernal Affairs 2 just might be even better. Filled with twists and revelations, the movie is a prequel to the original with many of the key cast returning and younger versions of some of the original cast filling in the gaps. A completely killer film.
|#6 – INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE
This is actually my favorite film of the entire franchise. One would think it impossible to meet or top the achievements of the Indiana Jones films at that time, and yet somehow Lucas and Spielberg found a way. Brining on Sean Connery to play Indy’s father is probably one of the best celebrity additions to a franchise ever. The chemistry between Ford and Connery was fantastic and carried much of the charm of the film. Funny, exciting and everything else you’ve come to expect an Indiana Jones movie to be (minus the nuclear fridge).
|#7 – TOY STORY 2
The funniest thing about Toy Story 2 was that it was originally supposed to be a straight to video sequel, and that at some point the execs looked at it again and said “holy crap… this is actually turning out really well. Let’s release it in theaters!”. It’s a damn good thing they did. Not only did the film make nearly $500 million world wide, it is the only wide release film to hold a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes as well.
|#8 – THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS
Following the amazing achievement of Fellowship of the Ring (a LOT of people expected that movie to suck) people were bracing themselves for a let down. “The first one was a fluke” I heard more than one person say. Even I thought the franchise had nowhere to go but down. Wow was I wrong! The Battle at Helm’s Deep stands as one of my favorite battle scenes in history as the story of the ring got deeper and better. Many felt this film was robbed of the best picture Oscar… I’m one of them.
|#9 – ALIENS
Where the first Alien film leaned more towards being a Sci-Fi suspense film in many ways, the second burst into a different direction as a balls to the wall action film. The film is just loaded with memorable scenes and fantastic one liners (“Game over man”). It was the first action film I’d ever seen that I could literally say had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The film will hold up forever.
|#10 – X-MEN 2
The first X-Men movie single handedly resurrected the superhero genre movie after Batman Nipple Lord vs Austrian Ice Ham” nearly single handedly killed it several years earlier. X-Men 2 took it up a notch. Right from the incredible opening scene with Nightcrawler breaking into the White House to the end where we catch our first glimpse of he Phoenix (that only fans of the comic book recognized and freaked out over when the fiery shape came on the screen), X-Men 2 redefined just how good Comic Book movies could be. To this day it’s still my favorite Comic Book movie.
|#11 – TERMINATOR: JUDGEMENT DAY
Who among us didn’t thing the new liquid Terminator was the damn coolest thing we’d ever seen when this movie first came out. But the T-1000 wasn’t just cool visual effects. The cold passionless killer that Robert Patrick gave us was also one of the scariest things my teenage eyes had ever seen. Damn that guy gave me nightmares. The story was excellent, Linda Hamilton just ruled (I still think Cameron is a bloody idiot for cheating on that woman) and seeing the Arnold Terminator as a GOOD guy was fun too.
|#12 – THE DARK KNIGHT
Director Christopher Nolan did what many people thought couldn’t be done… he topped his own Batman Begins with a film broader in scope, deeper in story, more exciting in action all topped off with a classic villain given new incredible life by the single greatest performance ever in the history of comic book movies. The Dark Knight, while not perfect, delivered everything a Batman fan could have hoped for to send them home happy. The movie struck an obivous chord with comic and non comic book fans alike, quickly becoming the second highest grossing film (not counting inflation) in history.
|#13 – CLERKS 2
To many people Kevin Smith and his films are an acquired taste. To be honest, as much of a fan that I am of Smith, I’m not actually that thrilled with many of his films. Having said that, I honestly think Clerks 2 is one of the sharpest, funniest and yes smartest comedies I’ve seen in a long long time. Smith shows he’s more than just fart and fuck jokes. Clerks 2 has so much heart to it that many people miss. Real issues struggled with by a lot of people entering their mid 30’s, issues of friendship, home, belonging, dreams, all dealt with within the context of Smith’s edgy humor. I unapologetically love this movie
|#14 – STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN
The first Star Trek film just blew chunks of refuse, so to many at the time a follow up film was a bit of a surprise. However, the idea behind the film was nothing short of pure genius. Going back and directly making the movie a sequel to AN INDIVIDUAL EPISODE of the TV show was a move that save the franchise. Ricardo Montalban instantly became one of the greatest villains in movie history reprising the role of Khan. If you didn’t feel the blood rushing through your veins when Khan quotes “To the last, I will grapple with thee. From hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee” then you are totally dead inside.
|#15 – SPIDER-MAN 2
I nearly lost my mind the first time I saw this flick. Just about everything a Comic Book movie should be. Great visual effects, terrific action, loads of wild cheer moments, fun, funny and character who stick surprisingly well with the spirit of their comic book counterparts. Tragically overlooked in this film whenever it’s discussed is the performance of Alfred Molina as Doc Ock who brought that extra dimension to the film that Spider-Man 1 (as good as it was) missed. Such a shame Spider-Man 3 went completely to shit.
|#16 – ROCKY 2
The original Rocky (which I know most people these days haven’t seen) was a different kind of sports movie. It was more about the character and his story than the sport. Rocky 2 began to float more towards the “action” elements that the franchise would become known for, but at the heart of it was still this terrific character… Rocky Balboa. How this simple guy went from nothing to celebrity status, how it effected himself, the relationships in his life and his dreams. One of the most electrifying ends to a movie ever.
|#17 – ARMY OF DARKNESS
I understand that most people feel that if you’re going to put an “Evil Dead” movie on this list, then Evil Dead 2 should be the one to get the nod. Sorry, but to me Army Of Darkness is the king of the franchise and always will be. Perhaps no film in history has ever been as purely quotable as this cult classic. As a matter of fact, a lot of the most famous quotes in various movies and video games were all direct rips rips from Army Of Darkness. It’s the movie that elevated Bruce Campbell to god status who now dwells in the halls of the immortals.
|#18 – STAR TREK 4: THE VOYAGE HOME
Ok, if I were a movie studio executive back in 1984 and some guy came into my office with an idea for a new Star Trek movie that focused on the crew of the Enterprise going back in time on earth to the 1980’s, looking like hippies and on a mission to save the whales, I would have thrown that dude out of my office and fired him on the spot. I guess sometimes the dumbest sounding ideas can be executed in such a way to make a classic. This movie is just so damn charming and fun. Scotty trying to talk to the 1980’s computer is a classic scene! “Oh, a keybord. How quaint”.
|#19 – SHREK 2
The first Shrek film was pretty good, but there was something about the sequel that will always give it a special place in my heart. Blatant pop culture reference jokes rarely hit with me, but for some reason they way the material was handled in Shrek 2 had me grinning, giggling and laughing pretty much the whole way through the movie. Puss In Boots was a great addition to the cast of characters and that musical number of “I need a hero” near the end still gets my heart thumping. Like Spider-Man 2 however, it’s a shame the next film was total garbage.
|#20 – DIE HARD 3
Kind of like the Army of Darkness pick, there will be many out there who will feel that Die Hard 2 deserves the place on this list. However, to performance of Jeremy Irons, the heist plot and the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson pushed this one over the top. Come to think of it, in terms of just the “heist” portion of the film… it may be one of my favorite heist movies ever. The plan was so freaking great!
So there you have it folks. Like I mentioned at the beginning, all film is subjective and no 2 lists will look exactly alike, so I’m sure that even if you love or hate my list, there are things you agree or disagree with. What would your list look like? Which films would you put on there that I left off? Which ones would you boot off? (just so you know, I amended this list to include Clerks 2 which I originally forgot to add).