There seems to be an unwritten rule in films that sequels are usually much worse than their predecessor, in some cases, its true, often sequels are hastily re-hashed versions of the original made in the hope of cashing in on the success of it’s popularity (Jaws 2 I’m talking to you!) but sometimes sequels go above and beyond their destiny and somehow manage to not only continue the previous good work but even go on to outshine it.
It doesn’t matter if it’s cult films, big budget films or films that have stormed the Oscars, a good sequel comes in all shapes and sizes.
Ladies and gentlemen, here are ten of the best movie sequels.
The Godfather part 2 (1974)
How do you follow up one of the greatest films of all time which not only features a great story, great characters, a timeless soundtrack and a director at the top of his game who was able to draw iconic performances by the acting royalty of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Diane Keaton? Well you bring in Robert DeNiro and give him an interesting, engaging backstory to play alongside the rise of Pacino’s Michael Corleone who not only has developed nicely into his role as Mafia boss but shows a ruthless, cold intelligent eye over all around him. As individual films, the stories of Michael and Vito would have worked but, together, you’ve got a masterclass in story-telling.
Dawn of The Dead (1978)
This is the only sequel on the list that doesn’t feature a returning character or bears any direct resemblance to it’s predecessor, but we all know Dawn follows Night (and Day of the Dead stumbled along in 1985) and this follows 1968’s Night of the Living Dead… kind of.
What Romero did so brilliantly in the original – aside from almost single-handedly inventing a new horror genre and ‘rules’ that still apply to this day; zombie’s shuffle and you need to destroy their brain – is keep the tension up close in that cabin besieged by the undead so the next logical step was to make it bigger but still in an enclosed environment. He cleverly chose the American shopping mall where the shoppers you see everyday shuffle and mindlessly bump around shops like the zombies depicted here, it’s famously a metaphor for consumerism but it’s also a great way to spend a couple of hours and you’ll find yourself rooting for the zombies more than once.
Superman 2 (1980)
Please leave your arguments regarding the Richard Donner 2006 cut, yes we all know it’s possibly a better version than the original cinematic release but, even so, Superman 2 holds up and stands a few inches taller than 1978’s Superman. Everything that made the original so good is still here, the superb soundtrack by John Williams, Christopher Reeves playing the Caped Crusader and the, until this point, the best onscreen Super Villain in Gene Hackman but this time we’ve got Terence Stamp as General Zod!
Superhero films have always relied heavily on the villain (Thor; The Dark World are you reading this?) and it’s not much fun seeing a ‘man’ with superhuman strength battling it out with ‘normal’ Lex Luthor and dim-witted Otis (brilliantly played by Ned Beatty) so bring in some more Kryptonians – Zod, female Ursa and mute Non – that are slightly erked at Kal-El’s father for imprisoning them, cue fights with local law enforcers, a bit of flying and trickery involving the old losing-your-powers trick. Fun for all the family.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Well where do we start?
Star Wars was a revelation on it’s release, it’s hard to imagine the impact that George Lucas’ movie had on it’s release, particularly now where most films have a certain level of special effects and CGI can make anything appear real. I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars changed the movies, so with that extra burden Uncle George had the task to continue his good work and boy did he do it.
Masterstroke one; bring in director Irvin Kershner. Lucas’ skill has always been as a storyteller, leave the camera angle stuff to others.
Masterstroke two; keep the cast. Everything worked in Star Wars, the chemistry borders on perfection.
Masterstroke three; Go darker. The audience has aged and so too must the subject, oh and Lightsabers are cool so make sure they feature lots.
The film is somewhat split into two, Han, Chewie, Leia and C3-PO are trying to get away from the Empire (after they escaped from the snow planet of Hoth – a standout battle from the Star Wars films) while Luke goes off in search of Yoda to continue his Jedi training.
There is action, humour, betrayal, one of the greatest twists in movie history and it sets up Return of the Jedi brilliantly.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The first Evil Dead found itself caught up in the early 1980’s term ‘video nasty’ along with films with such romantic titles as ‘Driller Killer’, ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ and ‘Cannibal Ferox’, but it always felt like a horror film that wanted to do more than scare you. The success of the first film allowed director Sam Raimi to explore other areas of horror and the result is simply bonkers!
It’s the old story of a group of friends in a cabin in the woods being taunted and teased by an unseen evil but throw into the mix some physical comedy from star Bruce Campbell, a laughing mounted stags head, a headless girlfriend ballet dancing, an undead relative in the fruit cellar and a severed hand scuttling around flicking the bird to it’s previous ‘owner’ and you’ve got yourself a horror that blends comedy perfectly. There was a third film – and a successful tv series – but this is the peak of creativity on a small budget.
Terminator 2; Judgement Day (1991)
Time travelling films have always messed with my brain, I struggle to keep up with things when time travel is involved but James Cameron’s sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi horror has a simple story and manages not to get too clogged down in the details.
It’s all quite straight forward, once again it’s a cat and mouse game of the hunter and the hunter but what has changed is Arnie’s robot is a goody sent to protect the future saviour of the human race from the new and improved T-1000 robot (played by a chilling Robert Patrick) that has the added ability of shape-shifting and, to put it mildly, being rather tricky to stop.
It’s works well as an action film with a brain, and the CGI was years ahead of the curve, stand out fight scenes, Arnie on a Harley, Linda Hamilton suddenly morphed into a rebel fighter and cinemagoers the world over suddenly knowing what liquid nitrogen does. Brilliant.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story was one of the landmarks in Disney Animations history, looking back now it’s hard to imagine that Disney was still pumping out hand-drawn animations (it was book-ended by Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame) before Andy’s collection of toys exploded onto our screens. The dynamics between the two characters is priceless entertainment, but where do you take the story next? What do toys do next…
The answer is they get sold (or in this case, stolen by sneaky toy collectors) at yard sales!
As it turns out Woody was part of a long-forgotten television show with other wild frontier characters and once the set is complete, he’s to be packed off to Japan to be exhibited in a museum. But hold on, you forget that Woody’s best friend is none other than Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear and he’s not about to turn down the adventure to get Woody back.
What follows is a classic romp befitting any road journey movie with enough laughs to keep everyone happy.
Shrek 2 (2004)
The secret of the success of Shrek has come down to two things; the casting (Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow gleefully play out the first film) and the bit part characters of Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, The Three Pigs and of course, the Big Bad Wolf.
So to add to these characters the film makers needed to look carefully at who and what they wanted for the sequel. Step forward John Cleese, Julie Andrews, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders and, of course the scene stealing Antonio Banderas.
Shrek 2 takes the route of making things bigger, the music is better, the jokes are quicker and funnier and the relationship between Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots is a joy!
Shrek was good but Shrek 2 takes it to a whole new level.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan did something amazing with his retelling of the Batman story, he made a superhero film for grown ups that never felt like a superhero film and placed the characters in a world that felt realistic. No mean fete when your main character wears a cape and your baddy dresses like a clown!
The rule still applies that a superhero needs to battle a super villain and Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is outstanding. Vicious, intelligent and psychotic he tears up the screen whenever he’s featured with the side of The Joker that readers of the comics saw but the tv show and films never previously captured.
Paddington 2 (2017)
This might raise a few eyebrows but stood alone Paddington 2 is a very good film, filled with wit, heart, action and moments to applaud, but as a sequel, it’s brilliant. It takes the foundations laid in the first movie and builds upon it, we get to meet more people who Paddington interacts with and, like those people, we care about the character, we know he’s been framed and sent to prison but we also know wherever this little bear finds himself, he’ll always be ok because it’s the friendships he makes that lies at the centre of Paddington, be it the Brown family or his prison buddies.
Mirror this against his nemesis, played wonderfully by Hugh Grant, who has no friends apart from greed and the desire to remain successful and it becomes a classic good vs bad.
But with marmalade.