I love movies. They're just fantastic. Cinema is a marvelous art medium. But there's one thing that's incredibly difficult to pull off in film: a sequel. Films are designed to be cohesive, coherent experiences. Until the MCU, movies were really expected to stand entirely on their own as films (as much as I love Infinity War, I can't imagine watching it without having seen most of the rest of the MCU movies). And really, untile Lord of the Rings, most films weren't expected to be transformed into trilogies, either. Because of this, many sequels are completely unecessary. The story is complete. We don't need further information But Hollywood will do what it does and crank out sequels every chance it gets.
There is however, a good number of excellent sequels. I would like to share with you my top 10 movie sequels. There are 2 rules that I am following. I must have seen the listed movie myself (don't attack me for no Godfather II), and I am only including one entry from any particular universe of films. Otherwise this list could be all Star Wars, Harry Potter, or MCU. Without any further ado, here we go!
10-Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
"Let my armies be the rocks and the trees, and the birds in the sky!"
How can you possibly improve upon Raiders of the Lost Ark? Simple. Get Sean Connery. He plays Indiana's father with his standard gravitas and it's beautiful to watch. This movie is an amazing ride. Magnificent adventure, replete with slaughtering nazis by the fistful. I like Raiders, but I absolutely adore Last Crusade.
9-Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
"When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not."
Yes, it's better than Empire Strikes Back (only slightly). It is a magnificent culmination of the trilogy. It truly finishes the fight, to rip off a Halo tagline. All of the major character arcs are wrapped up neatly. The conflict is completely resolved. And it's a hell of a lot of fun. Supremely rewatchable. The highlight of course is seeing Luke as a fully realized Jedi, taking the fight to the Emperor himself. Then he ultimately realizes that true victory comes from having peace within, not from lashing out in anger.
Also, I love Ewoks. Sue me.
8-The Bourne Ultimatum
"If you were in your office right now, we'd be having this conversation face to face."
I dragged my father out to see this movie. He was completey unfamiliar with the series. He was blown away. He loved it so much that he bought the trilogy on DVD as soon as this one was released. Bourne is down and dirty. It is the most plausible take on spy movies that I have personally seen. And it is so much more than just action. It is a deeply personal story of a broken man, trying to figure out his past and put an end to a vast conspiracy. Like other entries on this list, it perfectly rounds out the trilogy. The movies after this one are just so unnecessary.
"I'm wearing women's underwear..."
I don't like the term "millenials." I would rather we be called the Shrek generation. The humor and wittiness and music of Shrek defined us. And then Shrek 2 came along and did it all over again, only better. We now get to see the sexy human Shrek, which is beautiful. Stallion Donkey is great as well. The new characters are super fun. The world building is awesome. I'd argue that it's an even better movie than the first.
6-The Dark Knight
"How bout a magic trick?"
You knew this was coming. You might be surprised that it's so low on the list actually. But that isn't a slight against this film. The only reason the bottom half of this list is on bottom is because they represent a smaller improvement over their predecessors. The Dark Knight is brilliant. I saw it at Midnight with my 3 best friends and it is one my favorite memories with them. So much fun. As good as we all expected it to be, we were not prepared for it to blow our minds as hard as it did. To use a contemporary cool-kids phrase, I was shook! This movie uplifted the concept of action films to new heights, and would have a dramatic influence on films.... well... ever since. It is difficult to overstate how inspirational this film has been to other films. It is just that good.
"Strong focus on what I want."
The first Spider-Man arguably defined the modern superhero genre. It was the quintessential origin story. But this film had all of that out of the way. We already knew and loved the characters. We understood their relationship dynamics. The stage was set for a thrilling, action-packed, heartfelt, show-stopper of a sequel. The train sequence is one of the greatest action scenes in any super hero movie ever, even today. The big thing is the movie allows for such remarkable growth for it's characters. Peter has a true crisis. Am I actually a hero? Am I actually Spider-Man? Can I just be Peter Parker? Can I just live a simply, happy life? Can I go to school, get a job, get married? He makes the ultimate choice to accept the mantle, consequences be damned. He can do more good as Spider-Man than he ever could as a mere mortal.
4-X2: X-Men United
"You know all those dangerous mutants you hear about on the news? I'm the worst one."
The first X-Men was a lot of fun. But it was low budget and, frankly, kind of hokey. But it was an effective proof of concept. The sequel had a larger budget and it shows. The movie takes itself very seriously. In spite of the subtitle, this is really Wolverine's show. He uncovers the mystery of his past. As he does this, he learns of a threat that could destroy every mutant on the entire planet. The unfolding mystery is fascinating. The character work is great. The climax is as satisfying as they come. It even hints at marvelous things to come in the future (that would not be properly fulfilled).
3-The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
"You didn't just play with fire. You soaked the matches in gasoline."
The franchise was about to go direct-to-DVD. 2 Fast 2 Furious is just not a good film. It has a few fun bits, but it's not good. Justin Lin stepped in, rewrote the entire script for the third entry, and brought the franchise from the brink of death, out into the light. It is now one of the most successful film franchises in history, all because of him. This movie is great. It builds the world. It gives us new and interesting characters. Best of all, it showcases the magnificent supercity of Tokyo and a whole new form of urban racing. It is very thrilling. The danger and consequences are real for these characters. The action is blood-pumping. I just love it.
2-T2: Judgment Day
"Hasta la vista, baby."
In a way, I'm breaking my own heart by not naming this as number 1. I would argue it to be the greatest action film ever made. It is astounding in every way. It holds up entirely on repeat view. It gives us a great character in young John Connor. And Sarah Connor has completely transformed from the first film to become one of the greatest badasses in film history. Note that I didn't say one of the greatest badass women. She surpasses even that. She will kick anyone's ass to save her son and save the planet. And most of all, the dynamic of John teaching the terminator to be a better man is beautiful. The end is actually tragic. It hurts to watch him die, even if he's sacrificing himself in a truly human act. Best of all, it is a perfect wrap-up to the series. Everything after is pointless, and largely sucks. Although The Sarah Connor Chronicles will forever hold a place in my heart.
"Shitter was full!"
This also tops my list of favorite Christmas movies. It's just stellar. Uproariously funny. It's really just a simple story of a man that wants to provide a nice Christmas for his family. And nearly everything goes completely wrong. It's just so honest and so true. No good deed goes unpunished. Family parties often end in disaster. Our best efforts are often not enough. But we're still a family and we still love each other in spite of the insanity. I'm not crazy about the original Vacation, or European. Vegas is okay. But Christmas is a masterpiece of comedy that I watch at least once per year and it never gets old.
So what did I get wrong? What did I miss? What are your favorite or least favorite movie sequels?