This is a subject that movie fanatics debate and debate over the years and just about everyone has an opinion on their favorites, but for my money, these are the 10 best movie sequels.
In each case, the movies below managed to improve upon the original that came before them. Perhaps the story was better, the writing better or the acting better. In some cases, and you can tell from the plethora of superhero films on this list, the story just gets better when you get past the boring, slow origin story and get right into what you go to superhero movies for.
So, in my humble opinion, here are 10 movie sequels that are better than the original.
The Empire Strikes Back - I think most movie fans, and fans of the Star Wars movie, can agree on. While the first movie holds a very nostalgic and fond place in our memories (especially if we were alive when the original hit theaters), but the first movie actually has long parts of it that are quite dull. The movie series hit its stride with this very dark, brooding entry in the original trilogy. The added weight and doom that surrounds this film makes each scene more powerful. Also, abandoned are many of the cutesy things that would doom the future movies and even the previous one (read: no Ewoks). This film also ended the way a serialized movie should end - by not really ending at all, making you want the next film to start right away.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - the first big screen movie that featured the beloved crew of the Enterprise was a giant, high-budget, bloated boring mess. The plot was nearly incomprehensible and the action was pretty much non-existent. It was as if the filmmakers took everything that people loved about the original television show, and decided to chuck them out the window to make a big budget snore fest. All of that was gone in the second movie. This one reduces the story to a personal fight between Khan and Kirk in a battle of might and wits that is truly epic and exciting. Where the first one actually put my own father to sleep in the theater, this sequel had everyone on the edge of their seats and then wanting more.
The Godfather, Part II - this one is hard for me to include. When I watch the original, it becomes my favorite. Then I will watch this sequel, and it becomes my favorite. Coppola escalates the story and drama and makes the story of the Corleone family part of American history and the overall American tapestry. This one also puts the spotlight firmly on Michael Corleone and we watch him turn from the nice young war hero from the first movie into an embodiment of evil so great that even his own brother is not safe from his wrath. It is an American tragedy watching this epic film.
Spider-Man II - the first movie was a lot of fun, but things really got cooking with this sequel. Spider-Man looked better and the story was better. Doctor Octopus was a better villain, the action was better, the characters were more real and the scenes throughout the film just flowed better than in the first one. Most importantly, there was no slow parts at the beginning where we had to endure Peter Parker’s origin story. A prime example of how a superhero movie should do better the second time around.
The Dark Knight - case-in-point to the statements above comes probably the finest superhero movie ever made. While those of us who are fans of this series anxiously await the third installment, we still fondly remember how truly awesome this film was. This was a story that managed to go beyond its genre to create a truly amazing noir thriller. It was helped by the sheer brilliance of the final performance of Heath Ledger (and yes, I am bypassing his short appearance in that Terry Gilliam film). The Joker became the true personification of chaos, evil and madness and Batman actually turned into something interesting and worth watching as well.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day- there is no denying that the first film in this series was great, but things really got ramped up to epic proportions in the sequel. The special effects were state-of-the-art for the time and the liquid metal terminator in this film was something that no one, at that time, had seen before. The action is even greater in the sequel and it starts almost from the first frame of the film and does not let up until the end credits. Never mind that, if John Connor were to succeed in his task, he were to make himself wink out of existence, the fact remains that this sequel outdid the first and was a better all around action epic.
Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) - the first movie was a low budget affair and the temptation might have been to create a much bigger budget movie with the sequel. Smartly, however, the filmmakers managed to make things even more sparse for this sequel. Gone were many of the unnecessary characters from the first film and Max was now no longer a cop. He was now a lone warrior, struggling to survive on the open road and in the world that had, by this movie, managed to become even more desperate and barren. This movie also produced one of the greatest chase sequences in film history with the now iconic chase scene between the tanker truck and the crazy-looking gang in their souped-up cars that ends the film.
Blade 2 - the plot is better, the acting is better, the action is better and the overall story is better. Once again, we got past the origin nonsense of the first one and got into a story that was much more tense and interesting. The villains in this one were also more interesting in that they were a kind of super-vampire that fed on other vampires, turning those vampires into super-vampires. Thus, Blade is forced to actually help out his sworn enemies to try and save them and the rest of humanity from an even greater threat. You always go better when the villain is better and that is the case in this one.
Lethal Weapon 2 - as well as this one! The first movie, granted, has Gary Busey in it, but the South Africans with diplomatic immunity managed to be more evil. The two main characters dealt with more of their own emotional baggage in this one and seemed like more of a team than they were in the first movie. Parts of Riggs past are revealed in this one. Plus, Mel Gibson’s mullet has never been more absolute than in this film. The best part is the end, when the bad guys get their comeuppances and get them beautifully.
Superman 2 - again, proof that the first movie in a superhero series always gets bogged down in the whole origin story thing. In this one, the villains are better and the action is much more intense and epic. There are scenes in this film that have become icons, such as Superman’s battle with the three Kryptonians in the middle of Metropolis. Sure, when the battle moves back to the Fortress of Solitude, things get weird and suddenly Superman develops a whole bunch of weird powers he never had before and never had again (what was with that giant S thing, anyway?), but that does not detract from how great this movie is.
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