Top 10: Greatest Sequels Of All Time
List by Aaron Haughton
Cinema is no stranger to the sequel, but nowadays, it seems like just about anything gets a follow-up film — even the surprise indie Call Me By Your Name and the Netflix flop Bright have forthcoming sequels announced. While most of them span the gamut from bad to good, very few sequels are truly exceptional. Even more rare are the sequels that manage to surpass their predecessors.
In our mind, there're only a handful of films that are qualified to be in this category, and we've cut them down to what we feel is a solid list of ten. These are our picks for the greatest sequels of all time:
- 10: Evil Dead 2
Sam Raimi's ghoulish spatter comedy sequel is lively, wild, gory good time. With the franchise's second installment we get to see a filmmaker grow and display his talents on a bigger budget doing basically the same movie, but better. The comedy is burnt-to-a-crisp black, and the kills and action are extreme and exceedingly entertaining. Both the effects, the direction and Bruce Campbell are even sharper.
- 9: Paddington 2
It may be a little too soon, but we feel like Paddington 2 deserves a spot among the greatest sequels of all time. It manages to deliver all the warmth, kindness, and charm of the first one, and some. Paddington 2 offers a bit of everything: thrills, laughs, and a whole lot of feels. It's everything a kids film should be with a dollop of marmalade on top: adorable, wholesome, smart and fun.
- 8: Mad Max: The Road Warrior
The Road Warrior is a completely different beast than its predecessor, Mad Max. It abandons the revenge narrative of the first film, and presents you with a desolate and hopeless apocalyptic future. Essentially, it's a straightforward action film filled with kinetic thrills and over-the-top car chases, and it paved the way for glory that is Fury Road.
- 7: Dawn of the Dead (1979)
George A. Romero follows up his 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, with some more social commentary and a much needed touch of color. Just as the first film touched on the Vietnam war and the racism in the late 60s, Dawn of the Dead unleashes the zombies on our material needs and consumerism. In addition to social commentary, Romero also ratchets up the tension, gore, and horror. Dawn is a great sequel because it opens up the world, and builds on the ideas and questions set up in the first film. As opposed to Night taking place in a farm house, Dawn expands the scope and scale to the state level. We see how the media and law enforcement react to an overrun city before we see it all fall apart.
- 6: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
You can't not use the word "epic" when referring to Peter Jackson's follow-up to The Fellowship of the Ring. With the story set up, the real thrills can begin, and despite it's 3-hour runtime, it flies by at a dashing speed. The Two Towers gives us Gandalf The White, more of Gollum, and one of the greatest battlepieces in cinematic history. It's a technical marvel, and it manages to over shroud its predecessor in every possible way.
- 5: The Godfather Part II
The Godfather, Part II is generally heralded as the greatest sequel of all time, and while it's very good, it's not the greatest. The film dives in deeper than Part I in analyzing the mentalities of our mobster protagonist, and the added layer of Vito's backstory intercut is pure cinema gold. However, the Pacino storyline isn't as engrossing and can't really compete with the strength of De Niro's revenge plot.
- 4: The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan delivered a monumental follow up to his Batman origin film with The Dark Knight. His gritty approach to storytelling is the perfect fit for the dark and bleak Batman universe, and The Dark Knight finds Nolan with more solid footing than he did in Begins. Heath Ledgers Joker is superbly terrifying and burns up the screen with his most memorable performance. Nolan takes the philosophical exploration of the symbiotic nature of good and evil and turns it into a wholly engrossing thrill ride.
- 3: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
You can't really have a list of great sequels without some James Cameron on the list. He is, after all, the master of sequels. With Terminator 2, Cameron does a 180 to the events of the first film and gives the film a much needed dose of heart. The obstruction of John Connor's command to not kill forces the action into the kind of inventive box we haven't seen explored in an action film. Cameron antes up on all the stakes, and the result is one of the most visceral action blockbusters ever mad. Even though the film was made over 30 years ago, it still feels fresh and exciting. The special effects are cutting edge and the action and thrills first-rate.
- 2: Aliens
Another James Cameron sequel masterpiece. With his follow up to Alien, Cameron takes everything great about the first film and makes it infinitely more badass. Instead of one xenomorph, it's a nest of hundreds; instead of space truckers, there're space marines. Aliens picks up right after the events of the second film, and builds on the ideas of the first film in really inventive and large-scale ways. Just like with Terminator 2, Aliens still feels relevant and fresh. The tension Cameron manages to create is so palpable you could cut it with the dullest knife.
Before we get to our favorite sequel of all time, here's a few picks that nearly made the cut:
- Blade Runner 2049
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Bride of Frankenstein
- Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade
- Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban
And our #1 pick goes to...
- 1: The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back does everything a good sequel should. It provides deeper insight into our characters and their place in the story, and expands on the framework of mythos and world laid down in the original. It gives us another piece of the story, but also leaves you with so many questions as to what will happen next. Plus, it contains one of the single greatest plot twists of all time. Empire is rich in imagination, full of visual wonder and fantasy thrills. It's quality adventure fun with a touch of the somber and the complex, which were missing from New Hope. Empire offers us a snowy tundra, bigger and better action, plot twists, and Yoda. There really isn't anything Empire doesn't have, which is why it's our pick for the greatest sequel of all time.
Well, that's our list! Did we leave any of your favorite sequels off the list? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!