Top Ten Sequels That Are Better Than the Originals

Posted by Wade Sheeler May 8, 2013 23 Comments 7843 views

In honor of Summer Blockbuster season, which just began with Iron Man 3 and continues until we’re suffering from movie candy diabetes, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at that venerable Hollywood creation – the Sequel. I’ve provoked controversy before, so why not court it again. Here’s my Top Ten Sequels That Are Better Than the Originals. We already debated over remakes that were better than the originals, so why not dig deeper with anthologies that begat stronger second chapters. Note: I’m only listing second part-ers, even when there’s a long line of sequels in a series (i.e.; James Bond, Star Wars, etc.). Speaking of Star Wars, I chose not to track that series because I’m sure my comments/thoughts would end with a ComicCon Wookie stalking and leaving me for dead in the Tattooine desert.

Don’t forget to tell Wade how wrong he is about The Godfather in the comments!

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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Frankenstein’s director, James Whale, was not keen at first to make the sequel, but after the success of The Invisible Man, Universal pleaded and he acquiesced. He put the writers through hell rejecting many versions, until they went back to the original novel to expand on the monster’s desire for a mate. Whale never thought the sequel would outdo the original, so he purposely injected satire, which was what the film needed, to send it over the top to critical and box office success. And Elsa Lanchester, serving as both Mary Shelley and the monster’s bride was an inspired bit of casting by Whale’s himself.

From Russia With Love (1963)

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I recently wrote a short review of the second entry into the world of Bond, and it is definitely not the best in the entire series, but as sequels go, it outdoes Dr. No nicely. There’s actually some continuing story elements from the first to second Bond which you rarely saw in the series (until Quantum of Solace’s immediate following of Casino Royale), not the least of which is SPECTRE’s Number One Villain, Blofeld, mentioning the failure of Dr. No to vanquish James Bond, and the first Bond girl from Dr. No, Sylvia Trench, showing up at the top of the sequel as Bond’s on and off again girlfriend.

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

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People still hold the original Pink Panther up as an untouchable classic, but for my money, the best of the series and the most continuously funny, is Sellers second outing as Inspector Clouseau. I personally believe they should’ve put the series to rest after this one. Sellers’s Clouseau is much more fully realized (almost a different character than the Clouseau he played in the Pink Panther) and introduced us to the two most important supporting characters, Herbert Lom’s Chief Dreyfuss, and Clouseau’s faithful manservant/combatant Kato.

The Godfather Part 2 (1974)

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I know there will be many naysayers (including our fearless editor, Brandy Dean herself) believing the first Godfather is the best. But there is always a sound argument to be made that this is the better film. While there’s no question that the first part is one of the greatest films of the 20th century, Part 2 is really what a sequel should be. It’s not a retread of the original, but a continuing story that focuses and details Michael Corleone’s ascension to power and descent into loneliness. Plus, it masterfully draws parallels between Michael and his father Vito in his younger years. Coppola and Puzo are able to keep several storylines afloat, spanning 60 years and have it all make sense. Godfather 1 may have created a genre, but Godfather 2 refined it.

The Road Warrior (1981)

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The best in the series picks up several years after the original Mad Max leaves off. Now a bitter cop turned lone gunman, living off the post-apocalyptic land, Gibson’s portrayal is one of the best of his career, and one of the archetypal antiheroes of the 80s. Oft imitated but never equaled (can you count how many sci-fi actioners have since used punk scavengers?) , the direction and story are leaps and bounds leaner, meaner and funnier than the original. And at least Gibson’s own voice was used in this version.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

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The first Star Trek was a masturbatory meditation on the Starship Enterprise, with too much time taken re-introducing each iconic character. The sequel is arguably the best of the series, and the most quoted. (“Khannnnn!”) Star Trek 2 works because it feels like an episode of the original series. Ricardo Montalban’s “over the top” scene chewing is only matched by William Shatner’s perpetual self love, with an ending that brought many a trekkie, trekker, and non-Star trek fanatics to tears.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

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This is, again, a remake of an original student film. The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi’s ultra low budget gorefest put characters in a shack in the woods with the famous book you shouldn’t open or read, “The Necromancer.” However, instead of going for pure shock and horror, as the first does admirably well, the sequel takes the story and turns it into an insanely hysterical slapstick comedy on crack. A handless man retro-fitting a chainsaw as a limb extension may be passé today, but it was hipper than hip in 1982. Groovy.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Before Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award winner, we were introduced to Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) in 1986’s Manhunter, a good film in its own right, based on the book Red Dragon from the disturbed mind of Thomas Harris. Fresh off “Miami Vice,” director Michael Mann was still heavily influenced by the neon 80s with this slick and coke-fueled thriller starring William Petersen as FBI Profiler Will Graham, decades before he assumed the role of CSI’s Grissom. Remade with it original title by Brett Ratner in 2002, starring Edward Norton , Red Dragon still doesn’t carry the heft and skill that Demme injected into the Lambs. Only six years after Manhunter’s lukewarm reception, Investigator Clarice Starling would step in front of that infamous glass holding room and stare face to face with Anthony Hopkins’s first go-round as the most notorious fictional cannibal. As good and fun as Manhunter is, it doesn’t hold a candle to this mold breaking horror show.

Desperado (1995)

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Robert Rodriguez’s sequel to El Mariachi is more of a do-over of his freshman outing that was made, legend has it, for $7,000. Now with some Hollywood muscle behind him, he put together a first rate cast, Antonio Banderas taking over the original role played by Carlos Gallardo (who still provided a cameo) as well as adding the stunning Salma Hayek and character actors Steve Buscemi and Cheech Marin, plus a cameo from one of his financial benefactors, Quentin Tarantino. (Rodriguez directed one of Tarantino’s early scripts From Dusk Til Dawn). The action is comic book hilarious, and the story almost a scene for scene remake of the original, but done with the clearer eye lacking from the original’s student film trappings.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

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There’s no question that the Bourne series is a modern retelling of James Bond, and it shows no signs of losing steam. What makes the Bournes so compelling are how well they are made. The Bourne Identity was a solid origin story, but the second found ways to continue the peril and raise the stakes by delving deeper into Jason Bourne’s mysterious past and creating the best motivation to bring him out of early retirement, the murder of his love (whoops! Spoiler!). Doug Liman’s direction was surpassed by the sequel’s Paul Greengrass – his staging should be used as a master class in perfectly executed action sequences.

Don’t forget to tell Wade how wrong he is about The Godfather in the comments!

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About Wade Sheeler

TV Producer & Director, Writer, Frustrated lover of film and obscure music. I still make mixed tapes if I like you enough.

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There are 23 Comments

  1. Brandy Dean
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    Why aren’t thousands of people here to dispute the ridiculous claim that The Godfather II is better than the Godfather I? Pfft.

    • Jon Mullich
      - May 8, 2013
        -   Reply

      I agree, Brandy. I think “Godfather II” is too somber and the mobsters’ rise to being major players on the world political stage is pretty hard to swallow. I also find it compelling that the first movie’s characters have an old world code of ethics which is lacking in II. I always found “Godfather II” to be somewhat overrated. whereas the first one is among the half dozen greatest films ever made.

      • Brandy Dean
        - May 8, 2013
          -   Reply

        Thank you! I think the “good old days” aspect of GFI makes it superior. If there’s no halycon moment, the slide down is meaningless. I contend that had the Vito sections been part of I and not II (and think about, it could have been), there would be absolutely no question.

        • Jon Mullich
          - May 8, 2013
            -   Reply

          I think the Vitio stuff in II diminishes the film because it constantly cuts away from the real story of Michael. But I also think I is more interesting because it show Michael’s descent from light into darkness whereas II shows his descent from darkness into darker darkness, which is less dramatically satisfying to me. Don’t get me wrong: Godfather II is a fine film but I don’t think it’s the masterpiece that The Godafther was.

    • Laura
      - June 26, 2013
        -   Reply

      I’m here!! I feel that when people say they prefer the sequel they mean they really, really, really love the scenes with Robert DeNiro. And fair enough. Those scenes are awesome. But remember Al Pacino in Cuba? zzzzzz

      The first film sets up the story, introduces us to a young and naive Michael, and it one of the most perfectly structured narratives I’ve ever seen. Plus, it has Marlon Brando. And James Caan.

  2. Jon Mullich
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    I think it’s a stretch to call “The Silence of the Lambs” a sequel to “Manhunter” (to me, it’s like saying “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” with Basil Rathbone is a sequel to the silent film “Sherlock Holmes” starring John Barrymore) and I don’t agree that “Godfather II” is superior to the first “Godfather,” but “Wrath of Khan” and “Bride of Frankenstein,” and “A Shot in the Dark” are all inspired choices. I’d also say “Aliens” was superior to “Alien” “Terminator II” was better than “Terminator.” And I know you don’t like “The Lord of the Rings” but the last film of the trilogy was the best.

  3. - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    If you two lovebirds are done dancing over my corpse, I’d just like to add that Godfather 1 is a powerful, game changing story – no question; but Part 2 CONTINUES that story, while delivering a quasi-layered, biblical response to the question “What does a man gain if he loses his soul,” drawing from Michael’s inspiration of his father; revealing how much they had in common, although he was, in his formative years, so different. I also believe that the bigger truth is both films need the other. Part 2 is a continuation of the entire story, and it is actually hard to discuss them as separate.

    On a side note, Aliens is a different genre of film from Alien, and of the two, Aliens is a more fun popcorn actioner, while the original is a meditation on infection and paranoia, using the expanse of space to tell a story of claustrophobia. It also changed how space films were conceived and executed ever after.

    And now to get everyone really riled up, you could take all the LOTR and pour lighter fluid on them, as far as I’m concerned. Twenty years from now we’ll wonder what the big hullabaloo was about.

  4. Jon Mullich
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    There is no right or wrong to which is the best Godfather movie. IMDb ranks I at 9.2 and II at 9.0, which are both pretty good (although I disagree the films need each other; I think you could watch I was a satisfying sense of completion but you absolutely need to see I to get II). I think we are all in agreement that Godfather III sucks the big one though.

    As for LOTR; you’re entitled to your opinion, Wade. Even when it’s completely wrong. ;)

  5. Brandy Dean
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    Godfather III? I’m positive that THERE IS NOT SUCH MOVIE.

    And if IMDb ranks I at 9.2 and II at 9.0, we have conclusive proof: Wade is wrong.

    And, um, I haven’t seen any of the installments of LOTR. As a matter of fact, it took me five minutes to figure out what LOTR even meant. What can I say? I just don’t have that kind of time.

  6. Jon Mullich
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    Actually, Godfather III has one of my all time favorite movie scenes for it’s sheer stupidity. I forget the specifics, but a mobster is sent in to kill a high level mafia chieftain who was seemingly invulnerable. When he got a meeting with him, he asked if he could whisper something in his ear and when he leaned over, the assasin snatched the guy’s own eyeglasses off and stabbed him in the jugular with them.

    All I could do is shake my head and say “THAT was the PLAN?!!!” What was he going to do if the guy WOULDN’T let him whisper in his ear (which he certainly would not have)? What was he going to do if the guy took off his glasses? What if this was reality and not a truly implausible and idiotic scene in a movie?

    It wasn’t a worthy sequel to The Godfather movies. But it WAS pretty hilarious.

  7. Brandy Dean
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    Granted, if there was such a movie as The Godfather III – WHICH THERE IS NOT – I’m sure it would be ridiculous and hilarious. It might even include the stupidest death scene ever, with someone like Sofia Coppola clutching her gunshot and delivering “Dad?” in the finest Valley Girl accent.

    Which is why I am so grateful that no such movie exists.

  8. - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    I would never ever argue in defense of GF3, however it does have a line that has now become iconic for anyone involved in a job they can’t get away from: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

    Plus I’ve always wanted to shoot somebody, and for no apparent reason say, “Zaza!”

    But, as Brandy pointed out, since there is no such movie, what I’ve just talked about is a complete fabrication.

  9. Kerry Fristoe (@echidnabot)
    - May 8, 2013
      -   Reply

    Actually I think you’re right on with these. I’m not sure about From Russia With Love only because I haven’t seen it in years. I won’t find fault with your assessment of the first 2 Godfather films. I agree with you about G2. It is a continuing story and exceedingly well done. I wouldn’t say it’s better, just equally gorgeous. Oddly, the only choice I disagree with is The Bourne Supremacy. I liked it, but not as much as the first film. All in all, I think you did a terrific job in choosing these sequels.

  10. ReggieLampert
    - May 9, 2013
      -   Reply

    The Godfather is great, but the backstory revealed in Godfather 2, combined with Michael’s total conversion to a Don is great storytelling. The bad makeup job on Sonny after he’s riddled with bullets is enough to move GF 2 ahead for me!

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  12. - May 10, 2013
      -   Reply

    I’d like to add another Sequel that improved upon the original: Breakin’ 2. Where would we be without “Electric Boogaloo?”

    • Brandy Dean
      - May 10, 2013
        -   Reply

      Did you start drinking early this Friday? You’ve gone way, way too far. I mean to imply Electric Boogaloo is superior to the great American classic Breakin’ is just preposterous.

  13. Pingback Top Ten Sequels of all Time – #4 | Musings on a different life

  14. Denis Sugrue
    - June 10, 2013
      -   Reply

    From Russia With Love over Dr. No and The Road Warrior over Mad Max? I’d call those “a push”

  15. - July 16, 2013
      -   Reply

    What happens with “The Dark Knight”!? Better than “Batman Begins”!!

  16. George Pappas
    - September 14, 2013
      -   Reply

    How about the least satisfying and most unnecessary sequels? These duds make The Godfather Part III seem like a masterpiece. I’m talking Texasville, More American Grafitti, The Two Jakes, The Evening Star and, further down the pike, Speed 2 (as the enjoyable Speed was never in the category of the originals mentioned above to begin with). I’ll admit to finding The French Connection II somewhat underrated, but rare is the sequel that adds to our appreciation of a classic.

    Any others you can think of?

  17. George Pappas
    - September 14, 2013
      -   Reply

    Oh, yes, Ensign Pulver was a sorry excuse for a sequel to Mister Roberts, wasn’t it?

  18. - December 27, 2013
      -   Reply

    You forgot Terminator 2 : Judgement Day.

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