This week’s release of Terminator Genisys (what – were they afraid to piss off Phil Collins?) had me thinking about sequels. I admit, despite the horrific reviews this new Terminator is getting, I am still going to see it. My hopes are not high, but I am a sucker for the nostalgia of revisiting movies that I love. It is REALLY rare to have sequels be as good as the original, and even more rare (if ever) for it to actually surpass the original. Our judgement often gets really cloudy as fans with regards to looking at sequels – we love the originals so much that any chance to go back to that feeling you had watching the first one overcomes our objectivity in looking at them as quality (or not) films in their own right. A recent example is Jurassic World. I saw it opening weekend and LOVED it. I wonder though, if I loved it because DINOSAURS or because it was actually a good movie. I think if I watch it again I might not have the same reaction – no – I know I won’t. So here is my list of the Top 10 Sequels of All Time – movies that I think either match or even surpass the original. As with all my lists, these are according to me, critics and general consensus be damned. After each movie I will also judge its merits against the original. Here we go:
10. The Lord of The Rings – The Two Towers : I absolutely loved all three of the LOTR series movies. Having read the books growing up and also watching the very underrated animated versions in the 80s, I had really high hopes for Peter Jackson’s take on these books and he delivered – big time. The Fellowship of the Ring was great – but really did drag in spots too much (the Shire for 45 minutes? Yawn city). The movie was great, but the sequel, The Two Towers, really gets us into the meat of all the action, and more importantly, gives us Gollum. Gollum absolutely steals this movie and his presence plus the upped action quotient really does make this a better movie than Fellowship. Better than the original? – YES.
9. Spiderman 2: This one was definitely better than the original Spiderman. No origin story that we already know played out for 45 minutes, this takes Peter Parker and pits him against the best villain of the whole Spiderman series, Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock, unlike most superhero villains, is not an evil guy. He is driven by tragedy and ambition, and the performance by Alfred Molina is one of the best in the whole genre. No “emo” Spiderman like in Spiderman 3, and no 500 villains either. One great nemesis, a great story and epic action (the train fight sequence was awesome). Easily the best Spiderman movie ever made. Better than the original? YES
8. Aliens: Alien was a horror masterpiece, a movie about as much a monster as it is about claustrophobia and the scariness of space. Aliens, though, ups the ante without sacrificing story and performances. Any movie with Michael Biehn is usually pretty sweet, but throw in a young Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver playing Ripley as a newly formed badass and you have some really great performances to match a really scary premise. This time, there is not one Alien to deal with, but literally hundreds. The action is non-stop, the tension is always high and the ending scene is one of the truly great “chills” moments in movies. Better than the original? NO – but pretty close
7. Terminator 2 – Judgement Day: The original was an all-timer in my mind – one of those movies that ages really well and can be seen countless times. However, James Cameron’s sequel is the better film. This time the original Terminator is sent back in time to help Sarah and John Connor fight a new, and even more dangerous model determined to kill them and give the machines world dominance. The action sequences are superb, the story better than the first and the performances all great. This was Arnold in his absolute prime and he kicks major ass in this movie. It makes me sad that the series has taken such a tumble after this one. Sad, Sad Ed. Better than the original? YES
6. The Dark Knight: Batman Begins gave us a new, darker look at the Batman story and it was really the shot in the arm the character needed in the movies after the whole “Batman and Robin” disaster. No more camp – this was REAL and plausible. As much as I loved that movie and Liam Neeson, Rhas Al Ghul is no Joker. The Dark Knight, now free of origin story BS, was able to give us a transcendent villain played beautifully by Heath Ledger. The stakes are very high in this one, as Batman even has his love die at the hands of the Joker. Smart, brooding and tons of really great set pieces, this is a masterpiece in movies – not just superhero movies but movies – period. Better than the original? YES
5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: As a huge Star Trek fan this hurts to say, but the first Star Trek absolutely sucked. Sucked. Boring and long, it was successful because it was Star Trek. This movie, though, was 100% certified awesomeness. Ricardo Montalban plays expertly and beautifully the best villain ever to appear on Star Trek – Khan. His battle for revenge with Kirk in this movie makes this the best Star Trek movie ever made. Throw in the fact (SPOILER ALERT) that Spock dies at the end and you have both huge emotional and personal stakes here too. I defy you not to cry at the end of this movie. Khan is one of my all time favorite villains and Shatner has never been better as Kirk either. “Khaaaaaaaannnnnn!!!!!” Better than the original? YES
4. Evil Dead II: The first Evil Dead was cheaply made, and while great, it shows. Evil Dead II is, in essence, a remake of the original, but with more budget, better story and far better performances. This movie gives us ASH – no longer the hapless victim of evil forces just trying to stay alive, but now the badass one liner delivering hero we deserved. The special effects are better and the dialogue 10,000 times better too. It is both scary and hilarious all at once. The fact that for at least 30 minutes of this movie there is one character, with little to no dialogue in a remote cabin in the woods and it is some of the best scenes in the whole movie should tell you something – this movie is, as Ash would say – “Groovy”. Better than the original? YES
3. Superman II: Much like the case with Star Trek, it kills me to say the original Superman movie kind of blows. Yes, Gene Hackman was awesome as Lex Luthor, but I have always felt Luthor was not a really good villain to Superman. Yes – he is a genius, but a guy with no powers against the mightiest superhero ever is not a good movie. That is why in Superman II they give us General Zod, Ursa and Non – three Kryptonians with the same powers as Superman. Now that is a match and then some! This movie is both exciting and campy – and the action sequences are amazing and still hold up today. Terrance Stamp as Zod is one of the best villain performances ever, and Christopher Reeve is in his absolute peak as Kal-El. My favorite Superhero movie to this day, even with Marvel doing the great stuff they have been up to. Better than the original? YES
2. The Godfather Part II: As I have stated in prior blogs, I am a HUGE fan of mob movies, and obviously The Godfather is widely considered the best of the best, and rightfully so. I believe though, that Godfather II is the superior film. The parallel of young Vito Corleone making his way from Sicily to America and adult Michael Corleone’s downfall is some of the finest film-making ever done. The movie is just beautiful to watch, the characters all great and numerous, and the story is unbelievably good. Fredo betraying Michael is at the core of the film, but for my money the scenes of Deniro playing Vito as a young man steal the movie. I still love the scene with the landlord realizing who Vito is and then coming to his shop begging forgiveness. Gangster indeed. Better than the original? YES
1. Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back: It is not secret to any of my readers that I am an unabashedly huge Star Wars fan. I LOVED A New Hope, but Empire is the best Star Wars movie ever made. So many reasons: Hoth battles, The Wampa, Cloud City (Lando!), Dagobah and Yoda, Darth is Luke’s Father(!), “I know”, and Boba Fett’s first appearance to name a few. This is a dark movie for Star Wars, evidenced by the fact that it ends with Han Solo frozen in carbonite being delivered to Jabba, Luke’s hand severed and the revelation that Vader is his father and that he might not be able to fight him. Not a happy ending for sure. This movie has so many cool things going for it, like the Han and Leia relationship, the Luke training montage and introduction of the AT AT Walkers. Not just the best Star Wars movie, one of the best movies ever made. Better than the original? YES
There you are peeps – my Top 10 Sequels of All Time. Did I miss any? What are your favorite sequels? Have a great Fourth of July and until next week – there is no spoon.