We live in a world dominated by sequels and franchises. Being constantly bombarded by movies that have no endings or drop easter eggs for future stories down the line, it can be easy to become cynical about multipart movies. However, there are times the second movie becomes a work of art unto itself and even surpasses the original. With that in mind let’s count down the top 5 movie sequels:
A good sequel challenges the first film in themes, character, tone and scale. This movie nails every one of those, building beautifully on its predecessor to further the story of Bruce Wayne. Anchored by a tour de force performance from the late Heath Ledger that redefined the iconic Joker for a new generation. The film features countless breathtaking action sequences shot with epic scope on IMAX cameras. It also has many quiet character moments that raise ethical debates about crime, chaos and heroism.
Sometimes the best move a sequel can make is to totally change genres and that’s exactly what James Cameron did when he took over the Alien franchise. While the original film is a terrifying haunted house in space, this sequel is an adrenaline pumping war movie. Pitting a highly trained and heavily armed marine unit against an army of Xenomorphs makes this one of the most exciting sci-fi films ever made. It also beautifully continues the story of Ripley, who moves from lone survivor of the first film to warrior surrogate mother here, a performance that earned Sigourney Weaver an Oscar nomination.
1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture made a lot of money because fans were so happy to see the beloved crew of the Enterprise after a 10 year absence. However, while the movie delivered spectacle, it failed to provide the character moments that defined the TV series. Director Nicholas Meyer made a sequel grounded more in emotion and ethics while still featuring some of the most intense and exciting battle sequences in the franchise. The real sparks fly though in the dialogue showdowns between William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban.
For more Star Trek, check out John's starter guide here.
The idea of making a sequel to a best picture winner and undisputed classic seems like a completely insane choice. Then the unthinkable happens, not only is it arguably better but than the original it becomes the first (and to this day, only) sequel to win the oscar for best picture. The other totally unique aspect of the movie is that it is actually both a sequel and a prequel, telling the parallel stories of Michael Corleone trying to expand his power as we see flashbacks to his father rising through the ranks of the mafia. It creates a rich and deeply tragic story of the corruption of power and the cost of sin.
It’s the defining second chapter of any saga, in the discussion of most sequels at some point one of the filmmakers involved will say something along the lines of “this is our Empire.” This movie is so amazing it’s literally become the definition of a second act. This film takes everything that works about the original and expands on it. Bigger battles, bigger emotions, bigger laughs. The world and the cast expand and the story culminates in perhaps the great plot twist in film history. Often referred to as the “dark one” or something similar, the more accurate description is “the mature one.” Star Wars grows up in this movie, there are hard choices, consequences, betrayals and every character is changed by the end.