Top 10 Movie Sequels that Surpassed the Originals
Throughout the history of cinema, seldom does a sequel hold up to the original film’s uniqueness, story quality, or charm. In fact, sequels usually become more convoluted, tiresome, and soulless, as a series progresses. But sometimes, whether it be by minor tweaking, a fresh perspective, or improved writing, a sequel will come along and break this preconceived stereotype. Remember, it can't be a remake and it has to top the original. In no particular order, here's the Movie Arbiter's top sequels that have surpassed the source material from which they stemmed.
Goldfinger (007 James Bond)
Although the third of the Bond films, this installment is not only regarded as one of the best, but can be credited with thrusting the MI6 agent into the spotlight and pop culture. From the gold paint assassination to the notorious failed laser execution and climax at Fort Knox, this Bond brings a lot to the table.
While many of the Bond girls sport hilariously perverted names, this one has one of the most memorable and best (Pussy Galore). Goldfinger is also the first of the series to introduce Bond utilizing technology and gadgets in order to complete the mission at hand. A staple now, but was conceived here. While Dr. No and From Russia with Love were worthy entries, especially to get the franchise off the ground, Goldfinger surpasses the pair.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
When Star Trek attempted to mirror the success of Star Wars and make transition from the living room to the big screen, the results were less than spectacular. Lacking action and the epicness of the other sci-fi heavy hitters, the Enterprise's debut theatrical voyage was dull and nothing more than a drawn out TV episode (There are far better episodes).
But what came in its wake was the everything a Trekkie could've ever anticipated or dreamed of. Wrath of Khan pits the Enterprise's crew against its fiercest, most intelligent, and powerful opponent. Drawing from an episode of the original series, entitled Space Seed, the movie expands upon the groundwork laid in that story.
While I'm not going to explain the plot, I will say that Ricardo Montalbán playing Khan easily carries the already brilliant story forward. No matter how insignificant the line, whenever the genetically engineered madman is talking, he commands a presence. Fuse this with the space battles and this film far surpasses its predecessor. There not even in the same ballpark. With Kirk at the helm of the Enterprise and Khan commanding another federation vessel, you're in for one hell of a showdown and ride to its climatic conclusion. Almost ironically, this seems to be the case with Abrams' Star Trek franchise thus far, where Khan once again is the sequel's villain.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
What's funnier than Mike Myers playing both the hero and villain in a James Bond inspired parody? Well, it's sequel for one thing. The follow up to International Man of Mystery packs more laughs and brings some brilliant additions to the cast. The enormously overweight Scottish assassin, Fat Bastard (Also Myers), is just hilarious. But the introduction of Mini-Me was one of the best decisions for this comedy.
Also, there's more Dr. Evil and who doesn't love the idiotic antics of the maniacal mad man. But it's the relationship between the evil doctor and his micro-sized clone that produces the most memorable highlights, especially when his angry son Scott (Seth Green) is added to the mix and competing with a sibling rivalry.
I think this is one that most people have sat through numerous showings of. The movie reeks of 90s culture (Jerry Springer), so if you're feeling nostalgic, maybe its time for a revisit. "Yeah baby!"
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Terminator was a sleeper hit and propeled the action, sci-fi genre forward. With brief flashes of a hellish future-scape, James Cameron successfully illustrated a grim future for humanity that shows the horrors of expanding technology. Will it continue grow at such an exponential rate that it will no longer need human influence at all? Well according to The Terminator, that's what happened when the automated defense system, Skynet, went online and decided to wipe us out to preserve its own existence. Although the surviving human resistance eventually prevailed and destroyed the mainframe, the original centers around an infiltration unit (Arnold) being sent back to the 80s to perform an assassination. The rationale is that if John Connor's, the leader of the human resistance, is eliminated before birth the machiness will win the war. So, the first of the series focuses on a terminator being sent back to kill Connor's mother, while the sequel focuses on a termination attempt on John as a child.
With Canon established Camera knocks it out of the park with this sequel, which truly highlights the glory days of practical special-effects and traditional stunt work. Another noteworthy aspect, is only CGI in the movie is for the T-1000 terminator sent back in time to kill a young John Connor and it still looks amazing. The liquid metal effects still to this day hold up a lot better than some of the more modern day uses of computer-generated imagery. It possesses a synthetic look that is only as inorganic as the character itself.
The characters are developed well and are compelling, as each one of them undergoes a change by the movie's conclusion. Arnold reprise his role as the T-800 Terminator, but this time is actually sent back by Connor to protect his younger self. what can be said it's Arnold at his that his best, blowing shit up and throwing out ridiculous one-liners. Robert Patrick's performance as the T-1000 is also commendable as he really personifies the cold calculating killing machine that he plays. His body language, expressions, and the few lines that he delivers, all really add to the role. But the most commendable performance goes to Hamilton, who packed on some serious muscle, through extensive exercise and weight training. No longer the easy going, carefree waitress that we saw at the beginning of the first film, Sarah Connor is now a badass. Forged from the horrific apocalyptic nightmares and the messages she received from her future son, Sarah is a serious and nearly crazed individual, (institutionalized at the beginning) who just wants to prevent the doomsday that she knows will inevitably unfold. She will do anything to protect her son and humanity's future even even though it often oversteps moral lines, which often reflects the coldness of her enemies.
While most action films today story is sacrificed for more explosions and gore, that's definitely not the case at this one. The writing is very tight and it successfully wraps up the story arc set by the first one. If you're a fan of the original or just the diehard fan of the action genre and are looking for one hell of a ride, give this one a watch.
Superman 2 (The Richard Donner Cut)
Many have seen this now classic, but few have experienced the film as originally intended through the restored Donner cut. The director and studio parted ways while shooting Superman II, which resulted in the reedited version hitting theaters and was the edition most people ended up seeing. While this version still superseded the first movie, Donner's original story was more of a direct sequel and didn't leave us with quite so many plot holes. Not to mention, the shots with Marlin Brando as Jor-El were restored upon its release, as opposed to the nonsensical hologram of Superman's mother.
Not only does this sequel pit Superman against enemies of equal might and demonstrates what the Man of Steel can do, but further develops the character's alter ego. This is namely the relationship that comes to fruition between the glasses-wearing poindexter and the beautiful Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). We have to see the savior of earth make some tough decisions and this film shows what the hero must sacrifice in order to protect the people of Earth and those he loves. But if you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it.
However, what makes this movie great is General Zod and his Kryptonian fugitives. While teased in the first movie, their arrival on the third rock from the yellow sun show what Superman could really do without the guidance of his moral compass. Terrance Stamp hams it up as Zod and for the role its a perfect performance. He demands an audience with his lines. "Son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!" sums it all up.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
What can be said about the original Star Wars (Episode 4 now) movie? It became an instant classic for an entire generation of moviegoers, while singlehandedly revolutionizing the special effects and filmmaking industries. The very expectations of what is anticipated from a movie in terms of quality were changed upon the release of this sci-fi juggernaut.
However, I don't think anyone would have expected its sequel to not only resonate the original's success, but completely surpass it. There are so many memorable moments in this second installment (ironically the fifth episode). We begin with the epic snow battle on Hoth, which follows with the pursuit in the asteroid field, and concludes with the city in the clouds, Bespin.
More importantly, all of the characters are explored more thoroughly and the relationship between Solo and Princess Leia is developed. Luke receives training from the legendary jedi master Yoda in order to further hone his force-wielding abilities. This is where the new prequel trilogy failed to emulate the success of the original, as the viewer actually cared about these characters and their fates. But let's conclude with one of the strongest aspects of Empire. The climatic showdown between Vader and Luke is probably the highlight of the film, which concludes with a double cliffhanger. The film closes with a frozen Solo being taken to the vile crimelord, Jabba the Hutt and the audience truly wondering if the evil sith lord is actually Luke's father (imagine having to wait until Return of the Jedi's release). It is undisputedly the darkest and most suspenseful of the original trilogy, but that's why we love it.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Following in the wake of Family Vacation and European Vacation, the third installment in the series is the most recognized. The Griswolds may have survived traveling across country and abroad, but no one could prepare them for what was in store for them when the family comes to town for Christmas.
The family dynamic is similar to the other films, with Chevy Chase holding the pack together and driving the comedy forward as Clark. Ellen and the rest all assist in the humor, but Clark's ridiculous antics are certainly the focal point. With too many hilarious moments to account for, this movie has itself become a holiday tradition for many families.
Another Cameron follow up to earn a place on our list, for which the man can be credited with arguably creating two of the greatest sequels of all time. Unlike The Terminator, the first installment in the Aliens Franchise was not a James Cameron film, but a creation of Ridley Scott's.
Before diving into Aliens, we should discuss the film that started it all. Alien successfully merged the slasher genre's popularity at the time with the growing sci-fi craze. The film builds tension well and cleverly only teases with glimpses of the many manifestations of the horrific space creature. This is certainly one of the strong points of the film, as you're always wondering when the alien is going to strike next in the claustrophobic confines of the ship. The sole survivors are a cat and Ellen Ripley who would become the main character of the franchise. After blowing the ravenous extraterrestrial out the evacuation ship's airlock, Ripley uses a sleep pod at the movie's conclusion and awaits rescue.
Following the events of the first film, Aliens picks up with Ripley being awoken fifty-seven years after her ship's destruction. After the colony on LV-422 goes dark, she once again finds herself facing down the xenomorph alien (it's the same planet her team set down on the original hostile). However, this time there is more than one, as the title so accurately portrays. Even with a team of colonial marines, the aliens still prove to be a vicious foe and quickly incapacitate most of the team. With this movie, the less said is probably for the best, with a queen alien and a false climax, followed by one hell of a finale. If you're a fan of sci-fi or just want to sit through a good action flick, this one's a must see. I say stick to the first two with this franchise, but the original isn't necessarily required to enjoy this sequel. The remaining sequels are probably not worth your time, unless you're a diehard fan (and even then...).
The Dark Knight
While Christopher Nolan successfully rebooted the Batman franchise, Batman Begins was lacking in a lot of areas. Although the action was decent, the close quarters combat scenes were filmed very poorly (most physical altercations will leave you wondering what just happened). The camera is entirely too close and any choreography, which I'm sure was good, loses all meaning. While all of Nolan's entries into The Dark Knight trilogy start slow and build momentum as they progress, this one just feels too lethargic for much of the first half. Also, Scarecrow is an interesting enough villain, but just seems a bit lacking. The one major advantage over its sequel is that Katie Holmes plays Bruce's love interest, Rachel Dawes. I don't think anybody would argue that Holmes is not only a prettier actress, but delivers a better performance than Maggie Gyllenhaal.
But let's talk about The Dark Knight. Even if it's not your absolute favorite, you can't dismiss that it's one of the best Batman movies. Nolan builds tension steadily throughout the film, as the Joker slowly drives Gotham into complete pandemonium. Needless to say, you'll be engrossed even during the slower sequences. Christian Bale returns and is a good Batman (yeah I know, minus the voice), along with many familiar faces from Batman Begins. The most noteworthy reprisals are Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Luscious Fox, and Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. But it's Heath ledger's Joker that truly steals the show. The decision to not provide the clown prince with a backstory and mold the character into an anarchist only mirrors the modern tones the Nolan was trying to purvey. The addition of Two Face, although not given too much screen time, is welcomed as he demonstrates what Bruce could become should he allow the persona of Batman to consume him. It definitely deserves a watch for any superhero, Batman fan, or anyone who is just a fan of a good crime drama.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
With the infamous release of The Phantom Menace and the dull second installment, Attack of the Clones, George Lusas was able to somewhat redeem the prequel trilogy with the closing act. Sure Revenge of the Sith is not on par with any of the original three films, but its still meets the criteria of genuinely feeling like a Star Wars movie, which its two lesser brethren were so desperately lacking.
Sure some of the dialogue is still bad and Hayden Christian as Anakin does not improve the situation (Come on, out of all the actors in Hollywood, we’re stuck with him to play one of the most badass villains of cinema history). But this film packs a punch with its plethora of action scenes and music that actually sounds like its from the originals. Undoubtedly the darkest of the Star Wars saga, the foreboding atmosphere and steady build to the collapse of the jedi order and the rise of the empire definitely work in Episode III’s favor.
The final conflict between Vader and Obi-Wan on the hellish wasteland Mustafar, while Yoda duels the Emperor simultaneously on Coruscant, is undeniably the highlight of not only the film, but the prequel trilogy. If you’ve given up after Episode II, it’s time for a revisit because there was a light at the end of the prequel tunnel.
But I couldn't stop there, without mentioning this one. Yeah, I know it says top 10 at the top, but we can't forget about this little gem...
What's Trolls 2, let alone Trolls? Well no one would even remember the first had it not been for its cult-followed sequel. The original was a humble horror movie, with some interesting creature effects and nothing else too special. It's no masterpiece, but not horrible. The sequel is well, as horse of a different color.
I won't even begin to explain this movie, as it falls into the category of being so bad it's good. I don't know of anyone who has not seen the now infamous, "Oh my god" clip. If you got some time and you're in the mood for some crap, give it a watch.