It’s quite elusive for a sequel to outstrip its predecessor. Sequels are often panned for being lazy and derivative excuses to pinch more pennies out of an already exhausted idea. No matter how atrocious the predecessor is, if the cash is rolling in, a sequel more disastrous than its predecessor is probably in the pipeline. However, on a very rare occasion, a sequel will surpass the original; a brief respite for cineastes everywhere when faith is restored and we rejoice in the brilliance of narrative continuation. So here are 10 movies that were better than their predecessors.
James Cameron takes over the reins from Ridley Scott, surpassing his English counterpart in the process. Cameron ups the action and alien quotient in what is one of the most exciting movies ever made. A whirlwind of panic and violence ensues as US Marines drop like flies leaving Ellen “Get Away From Her You Bitch” Ripley to clear up the mess, cementing her place as the most iconic action heroine in cinematic history.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Thanks to this gripping follow-up we now have the modern movie cliché that the sequel should be darker than the predecessor. The Empire Strikes Back is constructed of scenes awash with Lucas’s unworldly imagination, consisting of immense screen battles, none more memorable than the Hoth Battle; new characters including Yoda, Land and Boba and shock revelations (“I am your father”).
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Is Hannibal Lecter’s second outing technically a sequel? It certainly wasn’t marketed as one. But there is some narrative continuation from Manhunter to The Silence of the Lambs, so that’s enough for me. Its calibre is certainly undeniable. This deeply scary study in terror was the first film to scoop the Oscars and the Chainsaw awards and begun an ostensibly masochistic love affair between the audience and Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal, and his screen time was only a total of 16 minutes.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Originally intended as a straight to DVD movie, Toy Story 2 hits all the right buttons and asserts itself as the greatest animated sequel to have graced the big screen. This heart-warming family movie grips the audience from start to finish with fresh new characters whilst taking old ones into new territory. A tragic tale of a child growing out of toys, old-fashioned cowboy Woody is told to forget about being loved by kids forever and embrace his role in a retro toy collection.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of the Batman lore is simply tenacious and arguably the greatest comic-book movie ever made. This enthralling sequel is all the more haunting as we witness Heath Ledger, in his penultimate movie; give the performance of a lifetime, exquisitely portraying the psychotic Joker. Nolan’s rumination on the aftershocks of Batman’s origin belongs on the list of the greatest films of all time.
Godfather II (1974)
Opinions are divided whether this sprawling epic outstrips its predecessor. Coppola’s reluctant return see’s him delivering a damning picture which capture’s the intensity of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in the way The Godfather simply couldn’t. The effectiveness of the two intertwining tales is sheer brilliance, following the rise of Pacino’s mobster as he gains the world but loses his soul, whilst simultaneously exploring the founding of the Corleone crime empire by Vito Corleone, played by De Niro.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
James Cameron’s pulsating spectacle keeps its chase-plot moving at breakneck-speed. T2 sees the coming of age of CGI, Cameron’s morphing metal villain is unprecedented from an FX point of view. Occasionally, incessant gun-fire and innovative special effects are pushed to one side as Arnie’s killer cyborg develops a touching and humorous relationship with John Connor as he adopts the role of surrogate date and bodyguard. But the T-100 isn’t the only hero here, like another Cameron sequel; a strong heroine shares the limelight this time in the form of gutsy Sarah Connor.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The best of the Rings trilogy see’s the story carried briskly to the stirring battle of Helm’s Deep. This epic battle segment is arguably the greatest ever to grace our cinema screens and is intertwined effectively with the adventures of ring bearer Frodo and his faithful companion Sam. And of course, like all good sequels, a new fresh character is introduced. Andy Serkis is sensational as the manipulative Gollum, as a major advance in CG characters is made.
Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior)
With Mad Max, George Miller created one of the greatest independent action movies ever made. But when Warner Brothers came knocking for a sequel, Miller now had the funds to expand on his dusty post-apocalyptic world by accelerating the action with enthralling car chases, darker sub-plots, whilst also creating a mythology and legend to give depth to his dystopian world.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Sam Raimi’s low budget cult film is essentially a B-movie come good. Evil Dead 2 made zilch when it opened in 1987, but has built up a diehard fan following due to its downright ridiculous and incomprehensible narrative. So why is it placed? For one it’s hilarious gory. Also, star Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw/shotgun combo is outlandishly genius. But the main reason is the witnessing of a young Raimi demonstrates his undoubted potential with manic montages and genius camera work.
Aidan Donovan is an award-winning writer who produces articles for a number of companies who sell cheap dishwashers.