Ever since the dawning of cinema, sequels have been an object of controversy. They often really drop in quality from the original. Sometimes though, the audience is surprised when the real masterpiece of a series is one of the later installments. Below is a list of sequels that completed this rare achievement(not in order of greatness).
1. "Monster's University" (Sequel to "Monster's Inc") - This is the first of several Pixar films on this list, and it is certainly one of the greatest. "Monster's Inc." had been one of my favorite films as a child, and when I heard that a sequel was coming out, I jumped right to it. "University" brought an entirely original plot, the characters we love, and twice the laughs. I was so impressed by how well done this movie was, and it made me want another installment in the series.
2. "Despicable Me 2" - "Despicable Me" had been a solid children's film in my opinion, but it lacked the emotional connection that was needed. I went to see this sequel at a drive-in on the same night I saw "Monster's University," and I was very impressed. Everything had improved with this movie. The jokes were funnier, the characters were more likable, the animation was nicer, and I really felt invested in the story. I felt that this was more than a basic kid's movie, as it was one that everyone could enjoy.
3 & 4. "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3" - As I mentioned, there would be a lot of Pixar on this list, and these two happen to be some of my favorites. "Toy Story" was a good film, but as I mentioned with "Despicable Me," something was missing. "Toy Story 2" was then released, and my dreams were fulfilled. This movie was funny, touching, beautifully animated, and memorable in every way. I just remember being a young kid and feeling extremely engrossed during the climatic chase sequences, and laughing my head off at the various jokes throughout. While "Toy Story 3" was a step down from 2, I felt that it was very superior to the original. It was absolutely adorable at times, the animation was at its best, and there were a plethora of exciting moments.
5 & 6. "Spider-man 2" and "Spider-man 3" - Spiderman has been one of my favorite superheros for a long time, and the original Tobey Macguire films amazed me. The problem with the original though was that I felt it was a little too dry for my taste, and the overall look wasn't pleasing enough for me. When the second one came out, I was thrilled by the cutting-edge action, the stellar special effects, and the evil performance by Alfred Molina as "Doc Ock." The third installment has been maligned by many over the years, but I saw it as a pretty underrated and amazing movie. The villains were great, the main plot of Spidey being turned to the dark-side was painfully gritty(in a good way), and the acting was great. I felt very entertained by the finished product, and that is something I couldn't say about the original.
7 & 8. "Friday the 13th Part 2" and "Friday the 13th Part 4" - These are two of the many horror films that you will see on this list, and they actually happen to be from my favorite series of the genre. "Friday the 13th" was not a film that I can complain about at all. It was a great starter for a fantastic saga, and it had plenty of jumps to satisfy any fan. "Friday the 13th Part 2" is just so much better. It is miles scarier, the characters are better, it had the first(and best) look of Jason Voorhees, and it had the most memorable scenes of the series."Part 4" is just about tied with 2, as it has the greatest ensemble cast, the most horrifying scenes, and amazing writing.
9. "Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors" - "Nightmare On Elm Street" was the first R-rated horror flick that I had ever seen, and I was blown away by its unflinchingly graphic violence. I jumped right into the sequels, searching for even more improvement. "Part 2" was a close contender, as it was much more fun, but in the end its parent takes the cake. Then I got to "Dream Warriors," and I was psyched. This film was so much scarier than the original. The "puppet string" scene has always been one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen, with its macabre sense of humor and gruesome imagery. The film also had much better acting, writing, and the greatest ending-credit music ever.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - "Captain America" was not a film that I liked. It started well, but it then turned into a CGI mess, and I hated it. When the second movie came out, my brother begged me to see it. I watched it, and was so surprised about how amazing this film actually was. The action was very realistic(huge improvement), the characters were way better, the overall story line was cooler, and I was exhilarated the entire time. This actually turned into one of my favorite superhero flicks of all time.
11, 12, 13, and 14. All of the "Mad Max" sequels - In 1979, "Mad Max" was released, and it had a fan-base, but it was not nearly as successful as planned. I personally like the film a lot, but I feel like each installment improved upon the previous. "The Road Warrior" was released in 1981, and it had some of the most insane stunts ever done, a great story, great acting, and some really awesome costumes(a weakness of the original). In 1985, an even better movie was made, and it was called "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." I especially loved this film, because it had a light-hearted feel, which made the action more fun. The "Thunderdome" battle sequence was extremely original, and it had some of the coolest choreography ever. I also thought that in this film, Mel Gibson finally gelled into the role perfectly.
Just this year, "[Mad Max: Fury Road](tag:41445)" was released. This was the most chaotic movie I have ever seen, and I say that as a compliment. The action scenes were so distinct, with motorcycles dropping bombs in mid-air, crazy car chases, etc. Tom Hardy brought a great feel to the role, and while he didn't talk much, you could really sense his madness. The overall look of the film was also amazing, with crazy color sequences, changing of perspectives, and perfect cinematography. This may be the only series where the continuous improvement happens, and I can't wait for the next installment to be released.
15. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" - While I love every installment in the "Lord of the Rings" series, the second has always been my favorite. The action sequences were intense as can be, the performances were off the charts, and the story was the most interesting.
16. "Jurassic World" - Of all the films on this list, this is the one that surprised me the most. The original "Jurassic Park" was an amazing movie that I grew up on, but the second and third installments were absolutely awful. My friends all dragged me into the theater to see this, and I thought that there was no hope at all. It turned out that I was completely wrong. Right from the beginning, I was blown away by how interesting this film was. The action scenes were amazing(and brutal as could be), Chris Pratt really secured his spot as the "Harrison Ford of a new age," and the movie was miles more fun than the original. While there were obvious errors throughout, I felt they were lesser than its ancestor, and this turned into my favorite film of the "Jurassic Park" series.
17 and 18. "Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi"- In 1977, "Star Wars" was released, and it started the new evolution of the science-fiction genre. While it is amazing in its own right, the next two films really hold the spots as the best for me. "Empire Strikes Back" has always been one of the most iconic films in general, and there are a lot of reasons why. From the introduction of Yoda, to the climatic battle scene that garnered one of the most famous lines ever, this is a masterpiece by definition. The following installment "Return of the Jedi" is my personal favorite of the series, because it was the most creative by far. The scenes in Jabba's palace are so wacky, and the Ewoks bring a lot of comic relief. I also think that the film had a perfect ending, that was sad and touching at the same time. So while you can't go wrong with any of the original three parts of the "Star Wars" saga, the last two are really the ones that will mark a place in your heart.
19. "Rocky IV"- This pick is definitely one of the more controversial on the list, as fans of the "Rocky" series often vary on which one is the best. I love the original, because it is a raw and powerful underdog story, but my favorite will always be "Rocky IV." This installment is powerful, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and it has an ending that leaves you with a great message. Dolph Lundgren portrayed the greatest villain of the whole series, because he really was a humongous guy, and he had so much darkness in his performance, making him actually intimidating. I also feel that the montages were the best in this film, because they had great clips and music to go along with them. "Hearts On Fire" remains to be my favorite song from the whole series, and it is my exercising jam. While the first may be a better film in a technical standpoint, this one is so much more engaging, and it is definitely my favorite.
Now for the greatest sequel of all......
20. "The Godfather Part 2"- At the time "The Godfather" was released, the entire world must have been thinking, "This can not be topped." After my first viewing of the original, I was thinking the same exact thing. The first time I watched "The Godfather 2," I was not convinced that it was even close to the original. I thought it was overlong, dry, and hard to follow. It took me a second watching to fully understand that this was a masterpiece. The writing, filming, and acting blow me away every time I watch this movie. I really love the way that the story switches between the lives of Vito and Michael, because it gives so much more understanding of how the Corleone family came to be. Al Pacino's portrayal of the downfall of Michael Corleone's principles is one of the most haunting performances ever, and it undoubtedly deserved an Oscar.
Did I miss any films on this list? Are there other sequels that were better than the original?