Sequels can be a very tricky subject matter. The very idea of the sequel can be seen as either a brand new way to examine and revitalize a continuing story or as easy cash grabs for lazy movie executives. Some would even argue that the concept of the sequel is dying what with the sudden interest that modern cinema has with reboots and remakes. Regardless of these pre-existing dilemmas there have been plenty of great sequels that have been able to create new chapters within their stories by raising the stakes and rising above their predecessors. These are my top 5 favorite sequels.
5. “Die Hard 2” (Renny Harlin, 1990)
The first “Die Hard” did a lot of things for cinema at the time; it was one of the very first films that raised the bar for how action films should be made and helped to make Bruce Willis a household name. Its sequel, “Die Hard 2,” raised the stakes even higher (insert plane pun here) by setting the terrorist plot at an airport and trapping the hostages in the very planes they are traveling on. The explosions are bigger, the plot twists are grittier and the McClane jokes are funnier. This sequel hits every action movie note with that classic Bruce Willis charm.
4. “Spider Man 2” (Sam Raimi, 2004)
The first “Spider Man” did a very good job with providing a brilliant and engaging origin story. The sequel provided a lot more web-slinging thrills by giving our web-headed protagonist pathos that the audience could become more engaged in. The struggles that Spider-man has with his relationship, his powers, his work, and his history with the main villain all create a story that provides excellent action, drama and a bit of subtle comedy (thanks, Raimi). This sequel definitely proves that anything the original can do, it can do better.
3. “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (Peter Jackson, 2002)
Peter Jackson knew right from the start that this was going to be a tricky movie to make because this sequel would be telling a story that was in the middle; it’s not the beginning or the ending of the story so technically it’s just filler. However, Jackson knew how to work with the material provided by Tolkien and ended up creating a brilliant continuation of the trilogy. By establishing and improving story arcs, creating epic battles set in breathtaking landscapes, and highlighting the psychological and technical aspects of the character Gollum, Jackson was able to continue the Lord of the Rings story by providing a brilliant sequel that surpassed its predecessor by leaps and bounds.
2. “Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back” (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
“Star Wars: A New Hope” was the first film to successfully create an interesting and engaging sci-fi opera with groundbreaking practical effects and easily marketable characters. The story for the first film (ironically titled episode 4) was big so the sequel had to be bigger; thus, we are given “Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back.” This sequel allows for more opportunities to examine the Jedi mythos within Skywalker’s character arc while also providing more action and drama by expanding upon the war between the Empire and the Rebels. This movie has it all: romance, action, philosophy, betrayal and revelation which proves that this movie is by far one of the best sequels in cinema history.
1. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
This movie has some similarities to the Spider-man sequel; the stakes are raised, the protagonists are given a lot more pathos and the villains are much more entertaining and threatening. However, “The Dark Knight” proved to not only be a great sequel but also a great movie on its own. The psychology of every single character in the movie is examined and questioned while Nolan proves to the cinematic zeitgeist that super-hero movies can be gritty and adult without having to remake the character or dumb things down for the average movie-going audience. “The Dark Knight” is an excellent sequel for the Nolan/Batman films and is an incredible movie that everyone must see at least once in their lives.