This month saw the release of a third Riddick film, starring Vin Diesel as the titular space fugitive. For this list, I’m going to take a look at ten movie sequels I feel are better than, or at least on par with, their predecessors.
Criteria: Sequel must improve on the original in some way, exceed original, or be a worthy continuation of the franchise (if it’s part of one.)
10. The Silence of the Lambs
First up is the sequel to 1986’s Manhunter, featuring Hannibal Lector: the most memorable cinematic cannibal ever. This time around, Anthony Hopkins plays Lector, and Jodie Foster is Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee tracking down another serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill.” I personally didn’t like Manhunter much. I thought Brian Cox’s performance as Lector was forgettable at best. This is definitely not the case with Hopkins (he won an Oscar, after all). Both Hopkins and Foster are fantastic, and the terror is top notch. Hopkins portrayed the character in the sequel and the remake of Manhunter (re-titled Red Dragon, which I like a lot more).
9. 28 Weeks Later
Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later was a seriously frightening horror film featuring some of the scariest zombies seen in 21st century cinema—mainly because they were also the fastest zombies seen to date. Although I liked its dark, sinister tone, and Cillian Murphy’s performance, 28 Weeks Later impressed me slightly more. It was more action-packed, just as bloody, and featured one scene which actually made me gasp and cover my mouth and eyes (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about).
8. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
This comic book hero first blazed the screen in Guillermo Del Toro’s stylish Hellboy. I really enjoyed this unusual superhero and the lore of the world, but it still seemed to have some difficulty establishing the hero while simultaneously telling a story worth telling—an issue I feel many comic book film adaptations face. With Hellboy 2, there’s no messing around—the main characters are already established, and now we get to really enjoy some of the drama they go through. With better visual effects, a better story, and more spectacle than previously seen, you’ll have a hell of a time with Hellboy 2.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
I don’t need to talk too much about this film, but rather why I chose it as number seven. Of all The Lord of the Rings films, Two Towers squeaks by as my favourite for a few reasons. All three movies are great—however, Fellowship was very slow at times and had trouble getting the story moving, and Return of the King just wouldn’t end; despite being extremely epic, Peter Jackson still felt he had to make three separate endings. With Two Towers, everything is perfect—there is a fantastic end battle sequence, great characterization, excellent creatures, and it’s well paced. I cannot deny Return of the King’s sheer scope and emotionally gripping scenes (it won how many Oscars, after all?), but Two Towers immersed me in the world of Middle Earth most effectively and was never boring.
6. Die Hard With a Vengeance
Many deny that any of the Die Hard sequels come close to the original, but I think Vengeance does as the third in the series. Vengeance sees John McClane in his native New York for once, the return of director John McTiernan who did Predator and the first Die Hard, and the addition of Samuel L. Jackson as McClane’s sidekick. The action may reach points of total ridiculousness, and the villain is a pretty cheesy throwback to the first film, but Jackson and Willis make a good duo and exchange some great dialogue—a hundred times better than the comparably lame Die Hard 2. This is an underrated action flick that I highly recommend.
5. Spider-Man 2
Last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man was admittedly way better than Spider-Man 3. A lot of fans claim it’s a better origin story than Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man, which I think is debatable. What I can’t debate is which Spider-Man film is the best, because I firmly believe Spider-Man 2 is indisputably the greatest. The depiction of Doc Ock is superb, the action is great, but the emotional journey Peter Parker/Spider-Man goes on is unparalleled by superhero movie standards. One of the best superhero films, Spider Man 2, still thrills me as much today as it did when I saw it as a kid in theatres.
4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Now I’m getting into some seriously awesome movie territory. The original Star Wars is beloved, but many fans and critics alike see Empire as being the pinnacle of Star Wars films for a number of reasons. It is considerably darker, the special effects were perfected, and of course it has one of the most renowned lines of dialogue ever: “Luke, I am your father.” It’s not just my favourite Star Wars movie, but one of my favourite movies of all time.
3. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy reinvented Batman in a bold, realistic way three successful times—a feat within itself. It’s probably not surprising the second entry is my favourite. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker will be studied by film students decades from now, I’m sure. He may be the highlight of the film, but everything else about The Dark Knight works—from Christian Bale’s solid performance to the edge-of-your-seat thrills and action.
Ridley Scott’s Alien was a benchmark for both the science fiction and horror genre. When it was announced that James Cameron, a relatively unknown director then (he would one day claim the top two spots for most successful films with Avatar and Titanic), people were shocked to hear that his sequel would be more of a hard-hitting action flick than a slow-paced horror. The bold move paid off, as Aliens received even higher ratings than the first film. Full of fantastic effects, totally quotable dialogue, and emotional depth lacking from the first film, Aliens is a near perfect movie in my eyes. “Game over man, game over!”
1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
James Cameron claims the top twospots on my favourite sequels list, just like the list of most successful films. If you read my previous piece in Issue 2, “Top 5 Movie Trailers: Better Than the Actual Movie,” then you know my opinion on the Terminator films. Terminator 2 is a masterpiece. It’s incredible to think that it came out in 1991, and the effects don’t even look dated. Everything one looks for in a sequel was checked off by Cameron, who crafted what I believe to be his greatest film achievement ever. It could not have been better—the action is flawless, the plot is incredible, and the list goes on. If you call yourself a fan of action movies (or movies in general) and haven’t seen Terminator 2, then you won’t truly be one until you see this.