Let’s face it – most sequels suck. Sequels often fail to recapture the elements that made the first movie so great and are churned out by movie studios to rake in the cash. Some sequels, though, expand and improve the source material from the first movie and make for an even better experience. It’s not easy coming up with sequels that are as good or better than the original movie, but here’s a list of ten that happen to fit that bill. For the purposes of this article, I’m only considering movies that are the second in a series – therefore, movies like Return of the Jedi or The Last Crusade – while perhaps “sequels” – would be ineligible. I’m sure that won’t stop many of you from commenting “Where’s Army of Darkness!?!?!” though.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The original Terminator is a sci-fi classic (and I’ve lauded it on this site more than once), but Terminator 2 takes everything up a notch. The story isn’t bastardized but instead is expanded logically, as we are introduced to the infamous John Connor and updated as to Sarah’s situation. A new model of Terminator is featured and the special effects were groundbreaking at the time this movie was released. Terminator 2 serves as a perfect expansion to the mythology James Cameron created in his first movie and gives us an intriguing story to boot. Even though this movie made a ton of cash, you can tell that Cameron’s heart went into it.
The Godfather Part II
This Best Picture winner serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the original film, and Franci Ford Coppola brilliantly presents Mario Puzo’s depiction of the Corleone family. We’re treated to a mature Michael Corleone and also get to see Vito Corleone’s rise to power, and The Godfather Part II actually enhances the viewing of the first film, one of the defining marks of a great sequel.
The original Spider-Man movie was pretty good, but origin stories are obviously predictable and the Green Goblin isn’t the most ideal villain for a big screen adaptation. Spider-Man 2, though, gave us a more dynamic and interesting villain in Dr. Octopus (played by the very underrated Alfred Molina) and explored the human side of Peter Parker. Peter’s having to deal with girl and work issues is what made the comics so interesting, so it follows that the presentation of these issues on the big screen would add an extra layer of depth to what would have been an otherwise generic superhero flick.
X-Men 2 gives us Wolverine in berzerker mode and the ultracool Magneto escape scene, both of which are reasons to put this movie over (or equal to, at worst) the original X-Men movie. There’s the emotional death of a major character, Nightcrawler teleporting like whoa, and even some focus on the Weapon X Program. It’s a shame that X-Men 3 was such an abortion, because really, how exciting was it when we saw the outline of the Dark Phoenix just before X-Men 2 ended?
The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope had a typical Hollywood, happily-ever-after type ending, but Empire Strikes Back flipped the script and left us hanging in eager anticipation of Return of the Jedi. Empire is perhaps the darkest of the Star Wars movies (with only Revenge of the Sith in the conversation). By the film’s end, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and – in one of the greatest twists in movie history – Vader revals to Luke that he is his father. Look, I love the bar scene on Tatooine as much as the next guy, but Empire is where it’s at. And save your breath; Empire was the second Star Wars movie released and is therefore eligible as a “sequel” under this article’s standards.