Movie sequels are big business for Hollywood. Many fans are getting burnt-out on sequels, especially since so many of them are unnecessary. Still, let’s not forget that when they’re done right, sequels can be great. Here are a dozen of the greatest sequels ever made.
12. STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982): Still the best of all the Star Trek films, this excellent sequel corrected everything that went wrong with its disappointing predecessor, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The action, the humor and the character interactions were all excellent. The comparisons to Moby Dick gave it a literary flavor, and Ricardo Montalban was fantastic as the villain, Khan Noonien Singh. The death of Spock was a surprise to long-time fans, even if it didn’t last. This film made the Trek film franchise fun and set the standard for the future films.
11. THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986): This outstanding sequel to The Hustler (1961) brings together a huge star of the past and a huge star of the future, to continue the story of pool hustling “Fast” Eddie Felson, (Paul Newman) who is now dealing with an egotistical new protégé Vincent (Tom Cruise). Directed by Martin Scorsese, this film features an Oscar-winning performance by Newman. There was a 25 year gap between the original and the sequel but it was worth the wait.
10. LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (2003): The third and best of the popular and successful Lord of the Rings trilogy tops its two impressive predecessors in terms of visual artistry and excitment. Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of the classic Tolkien fantasy novel has loads of action, excellent SFX, a suspenseful plot, greats sets and costumes, along with a scene stealing performance by Andy Serkis as the obsessed Gollum. The final battle between the evil forces of Sauron and the gallant heroes of Middle-Earth is one of the most visually stunning finales ever put on screen. This is the first fantasy film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar.
9. A SHOT IN THE DARK(1964): The first and best of the many Pink Panther sequels is blessed with a hilarious tour-de-force performance by Peter Sellers as the incompetent but persistent Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Of all the times Sellers played Clouseau, this was his best work. Loosely based on a play, the rewritten story gives Sellers a lot of great material to work with. Directed by Blake Edwards and backed by a strong supporting cast, including Herbert Lom, Elke Sommer, Bert Kwok and the always-watchable George Sanders, this mix of detective parody and “bedroom farce” is the perfect vehicle for Seller’s comic genius.
8. SANJURO (1962): The teaming of actor Toshiro Mifune and director Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest pairings in the history of the film industry, and this is a good example of why. This sequel to the classic Japanese samurai film Yojimbo (which itself was the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s A Fist Full of Dollars) utilizes more humor than the first film did. Mifune reprises his role as the gruff Ronin Samurai who is just trying to make some money with is sword but his code of honor makes him play the anti-hero. Kurosawa’s evocative black-and-white photography is just beautiful.
7. GOLDFINGER (1964): Bond has never been better. Sean Connery is the best James Bond (sorry Daniel Craig) and this is his best outing. The third Bond film is one of the best ever, giving us some of the most famous moments and lines in Bondian history. Gert Frobe is the quintessential 007 villain and former wrestler “Professor” Harold Sakata as the intimidating Odd Job is the prototype powerhouse henchmen who would become the standard for the franchise. The most infamous aspect of this film is the lovely Honor Blackman as the embarrassingly named Pussy Galore. Much of the satirical humor of the Austin Powers films comes from this movie. If you like 007, this one is in the ‘Can’t Miss’ category.
6. HARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004): The brilliance of this adaptation of the J.K. Rowling novel is that it both deviates and also remains faithful to the literary source. The third film of the Harry Potter franchise keeps the essence of the characters and plot, while jettisoning much of the book. This film maintains a foreboding tone that gives it a resonance lacking in the first two films, setting the stage for the future films, which became increasingly intense but lacked the sense of fun that this one maintained. This film introduced fan-favorite Gary Oldman to the franchise as Sirius Black, the eponymous prisoner of Azkaban. Magic and time-travel merge to make an engaging adventure for the boy wizard and his allies. The ending is one of the most bittersweet of all the Potter films.
5. THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY (1966): This is the peak of the “Spaghetti Westerns”. Clint Eastwood once again plays the enigmatic gunslinger ‘the-man-with-no-name’ (called “Blondie” here) in one of the great Westerns. This is actually a prequel to the two previous entries (A Fist Full of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) and the best of the three. Eastwood --the “Good”-- is joined by tough but not-too-bright Tuco (Eli Wallach)--the "Ugly"--and the ruthless, cunning “Angel Eyes” (Lee Van Cleef)--the "Bad". The three tough gunfighters alternatly compete and join forces in the search for a hidden treasure. With the American Civil War as a backdrop, this is an operatic adventure that is fun, engrossing and sometimes poignant.
4. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008): The greatest comic book-based sequel and one of the overall greatest superhero movies ever. Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films, starring Christian Bale as the masked dark knight of Gotham, set a new standard for comic book adaptations, and this sequel to Batman Begins is the height of the franchise. Focusing on deep emotional and psychological issues to accentuate the plot and action, Nolan created a critical and box office success that turned a genre once lacking in respectability into what it is today. Of course, the highlight of the whole project is the late Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance as Batman’s arch-foe the Joker.
3. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935): The original Frankenstein (1932) is considered one of the great monster classics of Hollywood’s Golden Era. The sequel is often considered to be even better. Director James Whale continued his interpretation of Mary Shelly’s legendary novel with an imaginative sequel. Mixing gothic horror with satirical humor, this continuation of the journey of the Frankenstein Monster gives us many of the classic moments that have been quoted, copied and parodied over the years. The key to the excellence of both films is Boris Karloff, who makes Frankenstein’s creature child-like, sympathetic and yet still menacing. A timeless performance.
2. STAR WARS EPISODE 5-THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980): This is still the greatest installment in the most successful franchise in film history. Exceeding the high standards of Star Wars: A New Hope, which was then the biggest hit of all time, this exciting sequel retains everything good about the first film and adds new layers and characters to make a superior follow-up. The brilliance of this film is that it takes the risky route of going into much darker territory than the earlier film, with superb results. The good guys get pounded for two hours and the bad guys come out on top. The film ends with the rebellion at a low point and a cliffhanger that left fans wringing their hands with suspense for three years. Darth Vader was at this evil best here, marking him as one of the big screen’s best villains. This film also introduced Yoda. Space opera at its finest!
1. THE GODFATHER-PART 2 (1974): Who can deny that this is the absolute greatest sequel ever made, as well as being one of the overall best movies in Hollywood history? Magnificently directed by Francis Ford Coppola, both this movie and the first Godfather together make an incredible adaptation of Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel. Al Pacino is back as young mafia don Michael Corleone, and future screen legend Robert De Niro steps into the shoes of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, giving an Oscar-winning performance and beginning one of the great careers in film. With a stellar supporting cast—Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Lee Strasberg, John Cazale and Talia Shire— this sensational cinematic masterpiece is the ultimate sequel.