ByEric Hanson, writer at
Eric Hanson holds a Bachelor's in Film Studies. Some of his favorite films include To Kill a Mockingbird, 2001, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Eric Hanson

Making a sequel to a beloved classic is always a risky venture. More often than not, the film comes up short, failing to live up to the name of the original and leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fans and critics looking to revisit a story they loved. However, being associated with a great movie can actually be detrimental, making an otherwise OK piece of cinema look a lot worse than it actually is.

Many sequels, while not exactly standing up to the original, do possess their own special merits that keep them from being total failures, and today we're going to look at 10 such movies. Not all of these movies are hated, but some are polarizing. Some aren't exactly great either, with their own shortcomings that keep them from being as fondly remembered as the originals. In the end though, all of these have plenty to enjoy for anyone willing to look.

10. 'Back To The Future Part III'

Marty McFly and Doc Brown try to escape in 'Back To The Future Part III.' [Credit: Universal]
Marty McFly and Doc Brown try to escape in 'Back To The Future Part III.' [Credit: Universal]

Back To The Future Part III is the third and final chapter in the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. It tells of their journey home to 1985 after becoming trapped in the old west. While not exactly hated, it has an entirely different look and tone than the first two, relying on the conventions and cliches of classic westerns, and even making minimal use of the series' iconic theme song. It was about as far removed from the original classic and its immediate sequel as you could get.

Still, this third entry does have plenty of points in its favor. Like the original, it is set in only one era, allowing the audience to be grounded in the mood and rules of this new setting. It also effectively ups the stakes of the original. Marty and the Doc are not only separated from the plutonium needed to power the time machine, but from any and all the technology they will need to repair the DeLorean and return home. Because of this, the two have to innovate in order to escape from their bind.

The old west may not be Hill Valley in 1955, but there is a lot to enjoy watching the town we've grown to love being built, and it can be quite fun to see Marty and the Doc play out the cliches that made the western genre so endearing. While it jumped the rails (literally and figuratively) as far as series expectations, it did bring Marty and Doc's adventures to a satisfying conclusion, and shouldn't be considered weaker simply because it is different.

9. 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom'

Indiana Jones brandishes a machete at his foes in 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom'. [Credit: Paramount]
Indiana Jones brandishes a machete at his foes in 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom'. [Credit: Paramount]

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is a prequel to the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. It tells of Dr. Jones's battle against a group of nefarious child-enslaving cultists. Temple of Doom has the deck stacked against it from the get-go. It lacks the structural perfection of the original and the warmth and humor of the third, leaving this one an oft maligned entry in the series, some even going so far as to call it the worst. On top of its graphic violence, dark atmosphere, and portrayal of Hinduism, the film of often criticized for the characters of Willie Scott and Short Round, who many find insufferable deal breakers.

Still, the second is not short on the exciting adventure that makes this series great. This film opens with a rousing tribute to the James Bond franchise, star even wearing Sean Connery's famous tuxedo from Goldfinger. Once the characters descend into the catacombs beneath Pankot Palace, we are treated to some astonishing set pieces such as a lava pit, spike trap, an exciting fist fight on a rock crusher, and most famously, the energetic and spectacular escape through lava-filled tunnels on a mine cart:

The final 30 minutes of this picture contain some of the absolute best action sequences ever put to film, none of which fail to convince even over 30 years later. Even Willie Scott and Short Round prove themselves useful by the end. If you can look past gripes with a few characters, this movie more than delivers on what its title promises.

8. 'The Godfather Part III'

Michael Corleone tries to get out of crime in his later years in 'The Godfather Part III.' [Credit: Paramount]
Michael Corleone tries to get out of crime in his later years in 'The Godfather Part III.' [Credit: Paramount]

The third and final film in Francis Ford Coppola's series tells of an aging Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) and his efforts to move beyond the criminal enterprise he helped to build. The original two told of Michael's evolution from a naive youngster to a ruthless crime boss without any humanity to speak about it. They were perfectly suited for the aesthetic of 1970s cinema, something that this 1990 film could never emulate. On top of that, it featured the often criticized performance of Sofia Coppola as Michael's daughter, Mary, for which she was panned so heavily she ended her acting career.

The Godfather Part III may not be up to the standards of the first two, but it does deliver a pretty solid gangster tragedy in its own right. Watching the aged Michael finally comprehend all the damage he has done and try to make it right is compelling, and keeps the audience interested in just how far he will go to change. A highlight of the film is when Michael goes to a confession booth, telling the attending priest of one particular murder he committed that has haunted him for almost 30 years. Still, Michael is in too deep. The business he once ran now owns him, and escape this late in life seems but wishful thinking.

Coppola himself said he considered this more of an epilogue than a third entry, and that may be the best way to view it. The first two movies are about a man losing his humanity, and the third is about him trying to get it back, only to discover that it may be too late. It is a fitting and tragic end to the tale of this crime boss, and more than enough to earn this movie another look.

7. '2010: The Year We Make Contact'

The black monolith looms near Jupiter as two ships explore it in '2010: The Year We Make Contact.' [Credit: Warner Bros]
The black monolith looms near Jupiter as two ships explore it in '2010: The Year We Make Contact.' [Credit: Warner Bros]

This sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey tells of a group of Russian and American scientists who seek out the ship from the first movie to find out what became of the crew. Any sequel to attempt to capture the mystery and majesty of the first movie was a stillborn dream. 2010 is more a mainstream science fiction thriller that lacks the grand, sweeping visions of the visionary epic by and Arthur C. Clarke. 2001 is a flawless film that transcended the art to become something akin to a spiritual experience. 2010 is just a science fiction film.

That being said, 2010 is a still a darn good move. Its cast, headed by Roy Scheider and John Lithgow, do a pretty great job carrying the story while they try to uncover at least some of the mystery left open by the first movie. We also see the returns of the iconic characters of Dave Bowman and even the villainous computer Hal9000, the latter of which is still played by original actor Douglas Rain. Rain brings the sinister computer back with the same brooding personality that permeated the original film, and his presence is a welcome addition to an already excellent set of characters.

While it isn't as well made, 2010 is still full of Arthur C. Clarke's writing, which fills the movie with that same wonder and intrigue that so perfectly complimented Kubrick's direction. It doesn't explain much of the mystery the original left us with, only giving us a taste while leaving us with the same unanswered questions that made the original great. For that, it may not have captured the original's style, but it does capture its spirit.

6. 'Ghostbusters II'

The team celebrates a sticky victory in 'Ghostbusters 2.' [Credit: Columbia]
The team celebrates a sticky victory in 'Ghostbusters 2.' [Credit: Columbia]

Ghostbusters II tells of the now disgraced paranormal investigators who uncover a river of sentient ooze beneath New York, something that may be tied to an ancient tyrant trying to come back to life through an old painting. Where this movie really fails is not that the comedy doesn't work, but it isn't as scary as the original . The original is actually a pretty effective horror film with moody cinematography, a thick atmosphere and a story that really does make it seem like the world is ending. This sequel is too bright and colorful, with very little genuine horror to offset the comedy.

Though the film has problems in execution, it still has a pretty good script that brings the characters we grew to love back to the big screen. It features many quotable lines, some great special effects, and even if the ghosts aren't as scary, they are still nice and creative. The villainous Vigo isn't exactly Gozer, but he does manage to be an effective Big Bad for the heroes to tackle, and the river of slime offers some nice visuals that call back to classics like The Blob. By the film's end, we are treated to the image of the Statue of Liberty strolling through Manhattan with our heroes on top.

With a movie like Ghostbusters, we were never going to get something that captured the original, not even with all the original creators and actors coming back for this installment. When you accept that, this movie does deliver it where it counts. Ghostbusters II is Ghostbusters-lite, but since the original was just that good, it still tastes pretty sweet in diet.

5. 'Predator 2'

An alien hunter brandishes a trophy in 'Predator 2.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
An alien hunter brandishes a trophy in 'Predator 2.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Predator 2 follows the same intergalactic trophy hunter as he stalks a police officer in Los Angeles. The original took the aesthetic of the '80s action film and turned it into a suspense masterwork, at the same time creating a creature that rivaled icons like Frankenstein or Dracula. Like Ghostbusters, everything about this movie should have failed, yet it all came together to make something special. The sequel isn't as smart or scary, and the tight direction by John McTiernan is sorely missed.

In spite of its weaknesses, Predator 2 still delivers a pretty solid thriller that further elaborates on the iconic monster. For one, the film takes us out of the jungle and into the city. We get scenes in penthouses and apartment buildings, down alleyways and on rooftops, even in a packed subway train, the film's most memorable sequence. Even on our home turf, no one is safe. Kevin Peter Hall is once again great as the title character, and he has great chemistry with leading man Danny Glover. Lastly, it takes us out of the war genre and into the world of police thrillers and procedurals such as Dirty Harry and Lethal Weapon.

Playing with these conventions, from the cop on the edge to the angry police chief, Predator 2 makes itself a pretty enjoyable sit, if not always a frightening one. Is it as good as the first? No, and it is unlikely we will ever see a sequel that matches the intelligence and mood of the original masterpiece. The sequel, however, does bring a lot of creativity to the table, and does deserve at least some modest recognition.

4. 'Alien 3'

Ellen Ripley and her longtime foe face off again in 'Alien 3.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Ellen Ripley and her longtime foe face off again in 'Alien 3.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

In this third entry to the hit series starring Sigourney Weaver, Alien 3 tells of warrant officer Ellen Ripley crash landing on a prison planet after the events of , only to find she has been followed by her deadly foe. After both the original films exceeded everyone's expectations, this was one of the most highly anticipated films of the early '90s. Everything seemed in place to make another classic from Sigourney Weaver to H.R. Geiger, even director David Fincher, who was making his big screen debut. However, due to studio interference, production problems and an incomplete script, the resulting movie was an often off-putting and underwhelming experience to fans.

Alien 3 has no shortage of issues, from an overall lack of likable characters to its opening, which pulled off a fan upset people are still talking about to this day. But it isn't an altogether irredeemable film. It boasts some of the highest production value in the series, populating itself with sweeping sets and grand visuals. The score by Elliot Goldenthal is on par with the works of Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner, filled with darkly beautiful melodies you won't soon forget. Best of all, we are treated to a very moving and tragic performance by Sigourney Weaver, who in some ways outdoes her work from the first two films.

What is so frustrating about Alien 3 is that it's a mix of a simple B-movie and a masterpiece on par with the first two. You need to suffer through the jumbled plot and poor script to reach some actually pretty excellent material. In spite of its flaws, Alien 3 is still a great deal better than most monster movie fodder. It's OK. Most sequels can't even manage that.

3. 'Jaws 2'

A killer shark prepares to attack in 'Jaws 2.' [Credit: Universal]
A killer shark prepares to attack in 'Jaws 2.' [Credit: Universal]

Jaws 2 follows the haunted Martin Brody as he becomes convinces another killer shark has set its sights on Amity Island. After failing to convince local officials, Brody must rescue his own sons after a 20-foot monster attacks their sailing party. There was no need for this sequel. The original Jaws was a juggernaut, singlehandedly inventing the summer blockbuster and jumpstarting the career of Steven Spielberg. The three men that made the original work so well could never be reunited, and thus we were forced to endure the odyssey of frightened teens right out of a slasher film.

There is plenty to enjoy in Jaws 2, cheesy though it is. Original screenwriter Carl Gottlieb helmed the script and keeps it alive with some creative attack sequences. Highlights include chasing down two water skiers, the initial attack on the sailing party, and even the shark taking down a helicopter. Many of the actors in the original, like Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton return with the same intensity they brought back in 1975. The aquatic antagonist was created using the same molds and mechanics of the original shark, and in some ways actually looks better this time around.

The highlight, though, is the score by returning composer John Williams. Williams brings back the classic theme, but also dishes out some new, often moody music that make this movie feel grander than the sum of its parts. In a world filled with many horrible shark-themed movies, you could say that Jaws 2 is the best ripoff ever made.

2. 'Psycho II'

Norman Bates seeks comfort in Mary's arms in 'Psycho II.'  [Credit: Universal]
Norman Bates seeks comfort in Mary's arms in 'Psycho II.' [Credit: Universal]

Over 20 years after the events of Psycho, is released from prison and tries to start a normal life. Soon though, he seems to slowly become unhinged once more. Psycho 2 rode the coattails of movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th, when knife-wielding maniacs became a hot item. Alfred Hitchcock's slick direction is nowhere to be seen, and had it not been for this film's status as a sequel, it may well have vanished like so many others in this genre.

Psycho 2, however, is a pretty competent thriller. What really sells it is the mystery. You think that it would be a no-brainer that Norman is the killer, but the movie makes you doubt it. Is this man really behind the ever-growing pile of bodies? Are the apparitions of his murderous mother all in his head, or is somebody trying to drive the sick man over the edge? Anthony Perkins also does a stunning job bringing this character back to screen. This is not a performance that was sleepwalked through. You can tell Perkins really cares about this character, and he gives it everything he has. The filmmakers even shoot in the same locations from the original, allowing us to see the gothic house and the quiet motel in color for the first time.

Psycho 2 was always slated to fail for the same reason as 2010: It was a sequel to . Taking that away, this is a really good mystery and emulates many Hitchcockian elements, making it one of the best slasher flicks of the '80s.

1. 'Halloween III: Season Of The Witch'

Children don masks with a deadly purpose in 'Halloween III.' [Credit: Universal]
Children don masks with a deadly purpose in 'Halloween III.' [Credit: Universal]

and its sequel introduced the world to the iconic Michael Myers, inventing the slasher genre and proving massive hits with critics and audiences. Halloween III had nothing to do with him whatsoever. It told of a small town doctor's efforts to prevent a modern druid from murdering millions of children on Halloween night using specially made masks from his toy company. In spite of the ad campaign showing nothing of the killer, many were disappointed when they flocked to theaters to find the phantom like psycho absent.

This is a shame because Halloween III is actually one of the best in the series. After feeling nothing more could be done with the premise of the first two, series creator sought to turn Halloween into an anthology series centered around the holiday itself, with III being the first installment. The film owes a lot to classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, creating a sense of paranoia that our heroes can trust no one. It is very moody, has some great black humor, and an amazing score by Carpenter and frequent collaborator Alan Howarth. The movie is overflowing with macabre and imagination, making it far better than most of the movies that actually feature Myers (save the first two).

In spite of a recent reappraisal, Halloween III is still unfairly maligned, many not understanding it was an attempt to free the series and prevent the character of Myers from being watered down. Given the sequels we eventually got, Halloween III has since been vindicated as the fun horror movie it is.

In Closing

Sometimes being a sequel to a great movie can make an otherwise good movie seem a lot weaker. Being a sequel always leaves the audience with certain expectations, and sometimes even if a movie is fine, it will leave an audience unsatisfied if those expectations are not met. Some of the movies on this list are great, others not quite, but they all have something to offer to those willing to look. Even when a film is not a masterpiece, there is a long road between that and being horrible. All these films are, at the very least, OK. In the world of film, OK is no small achievement.

Are you a fan of any of these films? Do you feel there are any underrated sequels we left out? Let us know below.


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