Movie sequels have become so synonymous with cynical cash-ins and anti-climactic disappointments, that any continuation of an adored hit gets viewed with suspicion. And yet, how remarkable it is when a sequel surprises us and reveals a world we never could have imagined in the original film.
10. Army of Darkness (1993)
The third and final installment of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy is one of the most outrageous, ridiculous, and purposely campy sequels ever made. Unlike the original Evil Dead, which was a straight-up horror film, Army of Darkness throws surly, steel-chinned hero Ash back in time to the Middle Ages, where he encounters “primitive screwheads,” skeletons performing Three Stooges slapstick routines, and his own undead evil twin.
9. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Director James Whale outdid himself with this follow-up to his iconic original Frankenstein. Funnier, stranger, and more morbid than the first, in this, Dr. Frankenstein and his mentor, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, create a wild, Marge Simpson-haired mate for Boris Karloff’s Monster. Whale, an openly gay man working during the production code, placed as many subversively camp overtones in the film as possible, creating a classic for audiences who both got the joke — and didn’t.
8. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
While Night of the Living Dead updated the zombie movie for a new generation of horror fans with its unflinching violence and sharp social commentary, Dawn of the Dead holds up as the best of George Romero’s zombie cycle. The reason? Location, location, location: By setting Dawn in an abandon Pennsylvania shopping mall, Romero found the strangest obstacle course/isolated castle environment for his brain-eating set-pieces, one that could also do double duty as a giant metaphor for zombified American consumerism.
7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After 1984’s excessive and gruesome Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , Steven Spielberg brought back Indy for a fan-friendly affair that restored the series’ original action-adventure swagger. Teaming up with long-absent father Sean Connery, Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones battles Nazis for control over the one and only Holy Grail. A perfect capper to a beloved story that started with Raiders of the Lost Ark ; this week’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which will have a lot to live up to.
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
How often is a sequel considered the best of a series? Not many at all, and that’s why The Wrath of Khan is so special. Even hardcore Trekkies agree it’s the inimitable peak of the cinematic space saga. The movie focuses as much on the bond between Captain Kirk and his son, and Spock’s ultimate sacrifice, as it does the Enterprise’s confrontation with the titular villain, delivering truly emotional moments in the most exciting story of a voyage “where no man has gone before.”
5. Before Sunset (2004)
Nine years after Before Sunrise ,
Richard Linklater decided to revisit characters Jessie and Celine in
this low-key, dialogue-driven comedy of love lost and renewed. Their
night of romance in Vienna a distant memory, the two searchers — once
young idealists ,but now hardened adults — meet accidentally in Paris
and find in each other the partner that could have been. Using the real
life experiences of actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Sunset is the rare sequel where the time in between movies is not only felt, but cherished.
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
“Episode V,” as it’s now called, of George Lucas’ Star Wars
series is really the only other film that can be seriously considered
in the same league as the original. Instead of the children’s fun fairs
of Return of the Jedi and the recent prequels, Empire
is an exotic and serious turn, featuring memorable new characters
(Jabba, Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, and Yoda) and follows Luke
Skywalker’s maturation and the revelation of his sinister ancestry, Vader himself.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
As good as the original was, the Terminator
trilogy is remembered most for its middle component, a dark science
fiction action adventure that showed off computer-generated effects, never before achieved so realistically and thrillingly. (It has yet to be matched 17
years later.) Terminator mastermind
James Cameron turned Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular killing machine
into the hero this time, but even the Governator’s enormous bulk was
overshadowed by Judgment Day’s sheer visual ingenuity.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
James Bond is more franchise than series, but it’s safe to say we
wouldn’t be talking about Ian Fleming’s super spy at all if it weren’t
the best Bond at the box office and last truly iconic 007, before the
films became bogged down in gadgets and self-parody. Featuring a
gold-suffocated beauty, a hat-throwing Oddjob, and, of course, number
one Bond girl, Pussy Galore, Goldfinger is the pinnacle of Bond cool and excitement. Its larger than life thrills are shaken and not stirred.
1. The Godfather Part II (1974)
The capo de capo of movie sequels, and the yardstick by which all
others are measured. Francis Ford Coppola heeded the rule of “Bigger is
better” in bringing the Corleone family back to the screen. Along with
a longer runtime, a backstory tracing the rise of original godfather,
Vito (Robert De Niro in an Academy Award-winning performance), there’s
the sibling rivalry between strong-willed Michael and inept Fredo.
Beyond taking The Godfather ‘s
mafia saga forward, Coppola took it deeper, adding darker dimensions to
the characters and sealing the Corleones’ fate as tragic
representatives of the American dream.
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