The sequel is a tricky feat to pull off successfully, as any movie that warrants a sequel was probably pretty good to begin with. For a sequel to work, it has to capture the spirit of the original film, raise the stakes, and do enough to distinguish it from the film that preceded it without feeling too different. The best sequels always seem to expand the universe established by the first movie, but in a way that seems natural to the progression of the story being told and the characters at the center of it. Most of the most beloved films from sequelized franchises are the second instalments, which will be the focus of this list. No threequels here, we’re only talking about Part Twos! So what films made the list? The answers to that question lie just beyond the cut…
5.Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs comes in dead last on this list because of technicalities. This movie is a sequel! It is! Most people don’t realize it, or choose not to recognize it as such, because the film that preceded it – Manhunter – does not feature any of the same actors. But Hannibal Lecter, everyone’s favourite cannibal, is definitely a major part of Manhunter, and since the film can be found packaged alongside Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon (itself a remake of Manhunter), I think that Silence of the Lambs qualifies as a sequel. And what a terrific film it is! Do I really need to explain why Silence is great? Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster play off eachother so brilliantly that simple scenes of two people talking can become extremely tense. The scene near the end set in Buffalo Bill’s basement dungeon – completely in the dark – is one of the best suspense sequences in film history, and even jaded viewers like myself have to stifle the urge to shout “He’s right behind you!” at the screen. Any horror film that spawns its own musical has done something right.
4. The Dark Knight
It is a widely accepted fact that, in recent years, the second instalment in a superhero movie franchise will be the best. The evidence to support this idea is definitely there: X2 and Spider-man 2 were not only great movies, but some of the best superhero films of all time. Iron Man 2 was pretty good, Hellboy 2 was solid, and Blade 2 easily surpasses the original Blade in my mind. But it wasn’t until The Dark Knight that people finally began to realize that the second film in a superhero franchise is the perfect place to deliver to the viewing public the exact portrayal of the character that they want to see. Having gotten the always somewhat plodding origin story out of the way in Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan was finally granted the freedom to show us Batman as we know and love him – broody, tragic, badass, and equipped with a full line of awesome gadgets. This was also the perfect stage to introduce the Joker in all his cackling glory. Truly this is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and likewise an awesome sequel.
3. Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This one is almost too obvious. Often cited as the greatest sequel in cinema history, Empire gives us the only truly dark ending in the entire Star Wars saga. Sorry, Revenge of the Sith, but I think we both know where you failed. Han has been frozen in carbonite and taken away by Boba Fett! Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father AND cuts off his son’s hand! One of the reasons Empire succeeds where so many sequels fail is that it implies a concluding chapter, but still feels like its own complete story. Take a look at the endings of movies like Back to the Future Part 2, The Matrix: Reloaded, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of those films ends on a huge cliffhanger, their stories utterly failing to conclude, leaving you feeling completely unsatisfied. But not Empire. And you wanna know why? It’s because George Lucas neither wrote nor directed it!
The first Alien movie was a killer piece of science fiction, and it still stands today as one of the best films of the genre. Ridley Scott set the bar pretty high with his claustrophobic space horror movie, and it would have been a daunting task to try and imitate the same formula on a second outing. What makes Aliens so brilliant is that James Cameron decided not to imitate Scott’s film at all. Instead he used the sci-fi setting to change the remaining plot elements – Ripley in cryostasis and the titular aliens – into the very things that make Cameron movies so enjoyable. A crack team of experts, big guns, bigger explosions, a cyborg, and futuristic vehicles all make their appearence as a spectacle of exploding aliens and melting marines plays out before our eyes. And the power armor! You’ve gotta love the power armor! If it weren’t for Aliens, we wouldn’t have any Alien vs. Predator stuff…which may or may not be a good thing. I hear the games are decent.
1. Evil Dead 2
The mother of all sequels! Evil Dead 2 is regarded by some to be a glorified remake of Evil Dead because of the first fifteen minutes, which recap the events of the first movie and change a few things in the process. We see Ash (the immortal Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend, played by a different actress from part one, drive to the cabin in the woods and start getting terrorized by the evil forces. It’s like the Cole’s Notes version of Evil Dead, and according to the Evil Dead Companion, this was done because Sam Raimi and company couldn’t get the rights to the original film and therefore had to reshoot it – in doing so, removing many of the characters from the first instalment and recasting Linda. Much like Aliens, only with the same director behind the camera, the filmmakers decided to take the sequel in a different direction from the first movie. In the case of Evil Dead 2, Raimi decided to forgo trying to make a serious horror film and instead to embrace the slapstick side of things. For most of the film, it’s just Ash alone in a cabin going nuts and suffering through all kinds of demonic torment (the sequence when Ash’s hand turns against him and smashes a number of plates over his head is comedy gold), and it’s thoroughly entertaining. Evil Dead 2 also sees Ash get his trademark chainsaw hand, which is one of the coolest things ever conceived. Oh, and much like Silence of the Lambs, it has its own musical!
– X2: X-Men United
– Kill Bill vol. 2
– The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
– Blade 2
– Spider-man 2
– The Road Warrior
– Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
– Toy Story 2
– Dawn of the Dead
– Terminator 2
– Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
– Back to the Future Part 2
– From Russia With Love
– The Godfather: Part 2
Coming soon: The Worst Sequels of All Time!