Many times, a movie needs a sequel to get everything right. Other times, a sequel capitalizes on what was good, then reshapes it into something better. Even though not all sequels turn out as good as the originals, some rare ones go the extra mile and become something better. Here are, in my opinion, the 10 best sequels of all time.
10. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Sam Raimi proved himself master of the horror camp when he took his original Evil Dead formula and added to it in a new way that made the (admittedly similar) sequel a fresh take. Ash and his friends return to the cabin in the woods and unleash the power of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, releasing the Deadites upon the world. A darkly humorous tone, a knockout performance from Bruce Campbell, and the inclusion of iconic lines ("groovy"), make this horror camp a true successor to The Evil Dead.
9. Shrek 2 (2004)
The first Shrek was a revelation for Dreamworks Animation. It took the classic fairy tales we all know and love and turned them upside down, giving us an original tale about an ogre sent to rescue a princess. The sequel is better in every way. Expanding the cast of characters to include favorites like the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming, then moving the story to the quasi-Hollywood city of Far Far Away made Shrek into something we can all enjoy. Showing Shrek's struggle to fit in in the snobby, uptight society also made better one major theme from the first, namely, being accepted for who you are, not what you are.
8. Back to the Future: Part II (1989)
The classic Robert Zemeckis time-travel film Back to the Future is still considered among the best in sci-fi. Who doesn't remember the moment they first laid eyes upon the now-iconic DeLorean time machine, or when Marty uses an improvised skateboard to outwit the Biff the bully? The second may not be better than the first, but it still manages to carve out its own identity, by placing the characters in the then-future setting of 2015. With hover boards, flying cars, miniature fusion reactors viewers were given a glimpse into a zany future that was within their reach, and was only a few years away. The original and its subsequent sequel gave us a time-travel story we could understand and relate to, while still managing to thrill us and make us laugh (Calvin Klein who?).
7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we found out who he was. In Temple of Doom, we found out what he believed. Then, in The Last Crusade we saw Indiana Jones team up with his father to complete a legendary quest to find the Holy Grail. Arguably the greatest adventure film of all time, we see Jones once again go up against the Nazis in a globe-trotting tale that spans the European continent and the Middle East region. The outstanding addition of Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr. and the chemistry between him and Indiana make this the best film in the series.
6. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
A tonal shift, a new director, and even more galaxy-spanning adventures made this the greatest addition in the Star Wars saga. With an iconic land battle in the frozen wastes of Hoth, the introduction of Yoda into the story, and one of the greatest reveals in cinematic history ("No, Luke. I am your father."), this is one of the films that helped define the modern sci-fi genre and inspired a generation of diehard fans and pop culture.
5. Toy Story 2 (1999)
It's rare when a movie comes along that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of childhood and play. The group from the first film must go on a quest to rescue Woody from the clutches of a scheming toy collector. Woody, on the other hand, meets the rest of his "collection", Jesse the yodeling cowgirl, Bullseye the horse, and Stinky Pete the prospector. Along these two journeys, Woody realizes the truth of being a toy, and how important his role to the rest of the gang is. It surpasses the first film in every way, becoming something new to everyone who enjoys it.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
No list of sequels is complete without the second entry in the Dark Knight trilogy. The late, brilliant Heath Ledger does a perfect job of bringing to life Batman's greatest enemy, the Joker in a performance that embodies the chaos, madness, and pure anarchy that Batman must face on a daily basis (and which earned him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar). The dark, violent atmosphere of Gotham is brought into stark, brutal life by expert direction from Christopher Nolan, and cements its place as the greatest Batman film of all time.
3. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Only a few times are three movies created that may surpass the books in terms of quality. With a near perfect score, incredible special effects, and outstanding performances from the entire cast, Peter Jackson's second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy brings J.R.R. Tolkien's lush and vibrant world of Middle Earth to life. The Two Towers sees Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) grow ever closer to Mordor, aided by his loyal companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), and the shady creature Gollum (Andy Serkis). This is truly a film for the ages, and is not to be missed.
2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
If the original Terminator set the bar, then Terminator 2 not only raises the bar, but smashes through it like a T-800's fist through a human sternum. James Cameron's incredible Terminator sequel turned Arnold into the good guy, facing a brand-new and even more lethal terminator, the T-1000 (played with animalistic precision by Robert Patrick). Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Conner, while her vulnerable, bad boy son is played by Edward Furlong. For a true viewing experience, I recommend seeing the Skynet Special Edition. This is a true example of sci-fi perfection, dealing with time-travel, the effects of violence on mankind, and the destructive power of nuclear weapons.
1. Aliens (1986)
Does it get any better? Despite a new director, new tone, and even a genre hop (horror to action) Aliens went on to become the greatest sequel in film history. Sigourney Weaver's portrayal of Ellen Ripley earned her a nod for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, making her the first female in an action role to be nominated. Her powerful yet motherly spirit helps her rise above the xenomorph threat as she returns to LV-426 with a squad of Colonial Marines to end them once and for all. Not only the greatest sequel, but one of the best films of all time.
Anything I missed? Anything you think should be on this list but isn't? Shoot me a comment, let me know!