Two years ago today, I posted first review to What The Craggus Saw… so I thought I’d mark the day with a countdown of 22 sequels I enjoyed as much as or more than the original film. I’ve only allowed the first sequel (sorry, “Fast & Furious 6”) and I also disqualified the second parts of planned trilogies so, for example, “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” couldn’t make the list (although not just for that reason).
Have I missed your favourite sequel? Or have I committed a grievous error including something on the list which has no business being there? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!
22 Damien: Omen II
Creepier and tackier than the original, it’s still an effective biblical horror thriller with a chillingly proto-Joffrey teenage anti-Christ making his way through high school and family members on his way to the disappointingly limp trilogy closer.
21 Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation
A shallow, cynical cash grab toy commercial of a movie and yet…it’s better than its predecessor and it actually has some pretty good tunes as well as a decent plot and villain. It’s super-saccharine in its resolution but it still deserves a place on this list. And if you’re wondering why I watched it at all, I grew up with two little sisters.
20 Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
Daft as a brush ‘Die Hard on a train’ premise, peak Segal whisper-voiced posturing and a pre-fame Katherine Heigl. This is pure, concentrated nineties action guff and, for my money, it’s just flat out more enjoyable than the first film.
The first “Jaws” is rightly considered a seminal cinema classic. It’s sequel…is actually a bloody good killer shark movie. The presence of Roy Scheider classes it up no end, as does the returning cast and continuation of the Brody story. Often overlooked because it simply didn’t measure up against its predecessor (what could?), the “Jaws” franchise didn’t actually jump the Fonz until the terrible third outing.
18 The Mummy Returns
What it lacks in freshness, it makes up for in just plain, good old-fashioned adventure. Rachel Weisz gets more to do this time out too, and even the overly CGI reliant finale can’t undermine the swashbuckling fun that’s gone before.
17 ‘Crocodile’ Dundee II
As the first one relied almost solely of the gimmick of taking a humble no-nonsense Australian and plonking him into contemporary eighties New York, the sequel can’t just do that again. Instead, it takes the contemporary New Yorkers back to the outback, along with some eighties go-to bad guys: South American drug dealers. A decent action comedy, it’s a treat to see Dundee in his native environment, taking out the cartels best and brightest with rustic low cunning.
16 Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
More convoluted than the first one, but arguably cleverer with its irreverent and escalating take on temporal mechanics. Of course, it’s William Sadler’s Death that puts this one ahead of the first one – one of his finest roles to date.
15 Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Never has a sequel so adored and disrespected it parent as this one. Breezily anarchic, the plot rambles along a series of thinly connected pop culture references and in-jokes which gleefully bring a decidedly meta feel to proceedings. Gizmo, the star of the first one, is comprehensively outshone here by the variety and hilarity of the gremlins on offer. A textbook definition of a sequel which wasn’t content to be just more of the same.
14 Addams Family Values
Sharper, darker, weirder and just plain funnier than the well received original. The splitting up of the family allows for all of the star players to get their moments, especially Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams. Joan Cusack is brilliant as the psychopathic serial killer who sets her sights on Uncle Fester’s fortune only to realise that she is way, way out of her league with her new inlaws.
13 Spider-Man 2
The first of several superhero films on this list, super sequels often benefit from not having to tell the origin story and just get straight down to action. Raimi’s second go around with ol’ webhead is near perfect. Some of the regular casting still grates, Kirsten Dunst’s poorly written Mary Jane really starts her selfish and self-centred character arc here but Alfred Molina is note perfect as Doctor Octopus and, of course, J K Simmons is a peerless J Jonah Jameson.
12 Batman Returns
I have a friend who derides this Batman movie for the same reason “The Big Bang Theory” skewered “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, the plot carries on pretty much as it would without the hero. But without the dominant haminess of Jack Nicholson, this film feels grander and more fully realised. Although Walken’s Max Schreck is perhaps one villain too many, DeVito is a great and grotesque Penguin and Pfeiffer is a sensational Catwoman. Added to Burton’s not-yet-overplayed aesthetic and the dark Christmas twist and this is a festive feast of a movie.
Not just a great animated family comedy but a great kung fu movie. Skadoosh!
10 Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Bigger, bolder, better. James Cameron’s first appearance on this list is for taking his own work and taking it to the next level. More polished than the semi-Indie grunge of the first instalment, despite the best efforts of the groundbreaking effects, the story manges to stay on top here thanks to standout performances from Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the bad guy turned good in a clever twist on the original.
9 Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
My personal favourite of the Indiana Jones films, I’m not saying it’s better than “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” but it’s pretty equal in my book. Indy is at his most heroic and principled in this film, and it’s possibly the only one where he actively decides that he needs to fight the good fight rather than be coerced or stumble into it. The set pieces are great and the McGuffin is a million times better than a stupid alien skull.
8 Poltergeist II
Despite the unexplained disappearance of the eldest daughter (you’d think the family would be particularly sensitive to disappearing children), pretty much the whole cast returns for a follow up which feels less sequel and more second part of a two part story as we get more information on the haunting and the motivation of the spectral troublemakers. Kane, played by Julian Beck, is a classic horror villain.
Singer’s best X-Men film to date should maybe lose points for promising, right at the end, something the follow-up didn’t deliver but there’s so much goodness on offer here that we can overlook the fumbling of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Darker and more complex than the first movie, it nevertheless builds on the themes of the original and moves the overarching story forward. The action is better, the characters are better and the effects are smoother.
Whether you like the Richard Lester theatrical release version or the Richard Donner cut, there’s no disputing this is the best Superman film to date. Terrance Stamp cuts an immensely imperious figure as Zod and while the special effects are necessarily limited by the era the movie was made, the end fight is clever, fun and so much closer to the essence of the character of Superman than the orgy of wanton destruction from the end of “Man Of Steel”.
5 Blade II
The original was gory, violent fun but the sequel manages to be both a sensational superhero action adventure and an effective horror film as we find out what the monsters are afraid of. Snipes is never better as Blade than he is here, and Guillermo Del Toro’s directorial flair makes this a movie to savour.
4 22 Jump Street
Almost reaching “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”-levels of self-reference and lampooning, this fourth-wall breaking sequel is an almost bigger surprise than the success of the original, and is devilishly happy to wear that surprise on its sleeve. Indulgent, anarchic and irreverent, the cast are having a whale of a time and so are the audience.
3 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The yardstick by which nearly all genre sequels are measured, richer, smarter and cleverer, it’s still the best “Star Wars” film of all time.
Cameron takes aspects of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and extrapolates an entire military industrial complex, an expansive human civilisation and pits it against the universes more perfect organism. Riffing on themes from the first film, Cameron uses our knowledge of what came before to surprise us with characters like Bishop and provides so much more depth to Ripley that we’ve come to believe it was all there from the beginning.