It’s the decade of sequels, and a good time to look back at some of the best movie sequels ever – the money makers of today born from the classics of yesterday.
With sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots being the big cash cows of Hollywood for the past decade and longer, its time to look at some of the films that defined what a sequel should be. Some manage to hit the mark, some films being even better than the original, but with a lot of crap trying to cash in on pre-existing stories and characters there are few films that meet the expectations established in the first film. Here’s a list of the 10 best movie sequels, which I would recommend to anyone in no particular order.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment DayHe came back…
Humanity’s only hope for survival: John Conner a rebellious teenage boy – what chance could he have against a bloody robot Arnold Schwarzenegger? After seeing what the T800 model 101 could do in The Terminator you watch in fear as the “good” police officer and the “murderous” T800 race to track down the future Commander. Then as a poor extra who just wanted to buy a Pepsi on his lunch break eats a bucket of lead we have the realisation moment that Arnie is all of a sudden the good guy. This brilliant role reversal upends everything you have learnt and suddenly plunges you straight into the unknown.
Having a personal behemoth robot companion is pretty cool. John makes him prove his usefulness just to help you see how he has to bend to every whim. It is also quite amusing watching John teach him how to be more “human” as his learning processor takes things quite literally but seems to struggle with empathy. Add this humour with some amazing action scenes and a strong story and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Robert Patrick played an amazing villain. Always in pursuit, never tiring, unstoppable. The T1000 is one of James Cameron’s brilliant creations, a character of pure evil. Even Arnie, with his muscles on muscles, never left you feeling like John was safe. Also Sarah Connor. Wow. She could write the book on how to show up half way through a film and steal the lead role. Haven’t seen as big a bad ass lady since Ellen Ripley. Which leads me to…
What could possibly be worse than an Alien, the monster that effortlessly and instinctively killed an entire crew of deep space miners? Aliens. James Cameron puts a spin on a terrifying franchise and expands a universe where humanity is no longer the top dog.
We have seen leading ladies before but never like this. Sigourney Weaver delivers a brilliant performance as the leading expert and only survivor of an Alien. When the time comes and she has to get her hands dirty, she rolls her sleeves up and shows no fear. After a small group of highly trained marines gets wiped out by the Xenomorphs, it is up to Ellen to finish what they cannot and take out the hive.
With a somewhat darker feel and higher stakes than the first film, the situation feels hopeless as the team is shipwrecked on hell on Earth. That’s what makes it so great for Ellen to succeed. The arrogant humour delivered by the late and great Bill Paxton and his comrades leaves you feeling Ellen’s frustration, but as she grows throughout the film she rises to become one of film’s greatest female leads.
3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
After the build up of the Star Wars universe (or galaxy) the much anticipated sequel for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope arrived, and boy did it deliver.
A journey of discovery that delved deeper into the spirit of the force (when it was spiritual… Just pretend episodes I to III don’t exist) and the nature of light vs dark, The Empire Strikes Back explored so many avenues, characters and their relationships. We were introduced to Yoda; Leia and Han’s relationship grew, and Luke was really finding himself.
The big reveal of course of Luke’s heritage set the standard for film twists today and the unlikely yet poorly disguised love between Han and Leia finally shone in Harrison Ford’s perfectly impromptu response to Leia’s affirmation of love.
Rather than the feeling of ‘hope’ you get with the conclusion of (what I will call) the first film, it seems all hope is lost. Luke is bloodied and beaten, Han is carted off to the Slave 1 to be brought to Jabba, and the Empire’s reach seems to extend further across the galaxy as they quickly recover from their losses and seek out the remaining rebel bases.
This is a perfect Act 2 to a trilogy that would leave you longing for the conclusion, yet guessing what could possibly happen to turn the tide against the Empire.
4. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s epic reboot of the Batman franchise came with a realism and seriousness surrounding it. This is not easy to achieve when you are talking about a man who dresses as a bat to fight crime.
The origin story of Batman is one that is well known in pop culture. Batman Begins was a brilliant adaptation of this and a great entry to the hugely successful Dark Knight film.
From the start of the film we are introduced to the chaotic villain that is the Joker, which Heath Ledger portrays so convincingly. This anarchist is the opposite of everything that Batman is. Heath’s performance of this nihilist turned out to be Oscar worthy, which he received posthumously.
Throughout the film Bruce Wayne is questioning his worth. He thinks ‘The Batman’ is bigger than him and that Gotham deserves better. The Joker along with Two-Face force the personas of Bruce Wayne and Batman to collide. Decisions have to be made and it ultimately leads to the death of a good friend.
The Dark Knight is another great discovery story where the protagonist questions themselves and has to find out who they truly are. It’s also one of the best movie sequels ever.
5. Toy Story 2
If there’s one theme of the Toy Story franchise it would be that of acceptance. Woody’s jealousy lead to disaster in Toy Story; what have they learned since then? Toy Story 2 continues the theme of acceptance, with Woody and his team using what they have learned to bring in new characters with troubled pasts.
Boy do Disney know how to jerk tears from your eyes. In a sombre song we watch a flashback of the broken Jessie as she recounts being loved, forgotten and discarded – a scene which would make a grown man’s lips quiver (trust me).
Disney are masters of this. They know how write emotional scenes. This one really gives you insight to Jessie’s character and also later comes to show you the motives of the “Round Up Gang”.
The film reflects on growing up and how making friends isn’t always easy. Everyone has a desire to be loved and your actions can have a lasting effect on people. Ultimately, this is a great tale of acceptance and friendship.
6. The Raid 2
Okay, so you’re probably aware that some of us at Digital Fox like The Raid 2, and that’s because it is an amazing film. Picture an Indonesian version of The Departed but with some of the best fight scenes you will ever see in your life. Directed by Welsh born Gareth Evans, The Raid 2 is what every Kung-Fu action film should strive to be.
Not only does The Raid 2 have some of the best fighting scenes since The Raid (which was basically Dredd on steroids) but it also has one of the best car chases I have ever seen. A thrilling and compelling story with undercover cops, corruption and gang wars.
The Raid 2 re-writes the Kung-Fu genre and delivers non-stop blow after blow. An amazing piece of cinema that easily trumps the first film.
7. The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers
One of the defining cinematic trilogies of the 00’s, The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers is the epic second part of the beloved tale that is The Lord of the Rings. Adapted from the best selling novel series and transferred to the silver screen in the visionary style of Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers sequel continues the tale of the Fellowship.
Mankind sits on the brink, with Saurman’s armies amassing at one of the last human strongholds. The Fellowship seeks aid and must re-kindle alliances or face destruction.
Throughout the film we learn a more detailed history of our characters, we share in the dwindling hope of the human race, and discover that Gandalf actually went off to pick up some fancy new robes and give his hair a good wash.
As the bonds are forged and the armies routed, we feel a small victory in an enduring campaign that has yet to reach its conclusion. Yet we are left in unease as the couple with whom our last hopes are pinned are being guided by a snake in the grass.
8. 28 Weeks Later
Since 28 Days Later we have had all kinds of ‘Running Zombie’ stories, be it film or video games; it really kick-started the hybrid genre. The 28 Weeks Later sequel re-enters this kill or be killed world. This time the zombie nuisance is nothing new, so the humans are prepared… Or are they? (Dun dun dun).
28 Days Later opens with my favourite opening scene of all time. A quiet, secluded country home, filled with strangers sitting down to not much of a meal that they are still grateful for, only to be interrupted by a survivor outside. Within seconds the home is overrun and the inhabitants brutally killed, with one loan survivor that making a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
With a child being the key to the eradication of the ‘zombie’ virus, it is up to a seasoned sniper to protect him at all costs. The film is a fresh take on the neo-zombie horror and feels bigger budgeted than its predecessor. With plenty of action and many ‘What would you do’ moments, I say its about damn time for 28 Months Later please!
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
I had to bend the rules slightly for this one. It is not a direct sequel, but while Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was fun, it was not a worthy sequel to Raiders of the lost Ark. Despite this, I felt like it would be a disservice to not include The Last Crusade on this best movie sequels list, so here it is.
Rugged, charming, handsome – our hero ticks all the boxes of a go-to lead formula. Harrison Ford will be remembered for his role as Indy in this film, along with that of Han Solo, who also made it on the list and shares the same traits.
Indiana (named after his dog, who I named my dog after) is the fearless adventurer who scours the forgotten worlds in search of relics. It is actually in this third film where we go back to the beginning. We meet a young Indy and find out the source of his hat, his name, his whip and even the scar that is a clever nod to Harrison Ford’s actual trademarked chin.
The father/son combo is well written, Indy with his discontent towards a father that was un-affectionate and Henry Sr being a stand-offish zealot whose indifference to Indy’s achievements continues to frustrate him. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a thrilling ‘Final’ Chapter to a beloved character.
10. Mad Max 2
Australia’s crowning jewel in cinema, Mad Max took the audience to a dystopian future where chaos rules. Mad Max 2 follows up with an even more dismal outlook into the barren wasteland ruled by tugs and bandits. Fuel is life and the price is blood.
Max is the only relatable character in the film, just a nomad trying to survive in a corrupt world. We cant help but connect to him as he tries to do some good – despite that concept being lost on most of the population.
What else could you ask for in a film? Did I hear you say razor sharp boomerang wielding child? Well Mad Max 2 has got you covered. The Villains, whist being over the top, get straight to the point and you may question some of his feathery garments.
A classic Neutural Good Vs Chaotic Evil story that is easy to digest, with plenty of action and a solid mission that will keep you rooting for Max. Mad Max 2 is truly one of the best movie sequels to a cult classic that helped lay the foundation for modern day epics like Fury Road.