The Seven Best Sequels of Great Original Films
Sequels receive an undeserved bad rap from the popular media. Some sequels are less than noteworthy, little better than rehashes of the original story or uninspired attempts to cash in on a popular franchise. However, some sequels actually improve on what went before, continuing the story of the previous film and carrying it to new heights of excitement, intrigue and fun. The very best stand alone as great films in their own right.
7. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"
This is easily the best of the "Dollars" trilogy, the trio of superb spaghetti westerns that feature Clint Eastwood's iconic unnamed gunslinger. In this film, Eastwood's hero vies with both a merciless hitman and a conniving outlaw as the words of a dying man lead all three on a hunt for a gold treasure hidden in a graveyard. Superb acting, a brisk plot, and rousing, shoot-em-up action make this a true two-fisted western classic.
6. "Spider-Man 2"
This continuation of the highly-successful first film introduces the audience to the series' most complex and compelling villain in Doctor Octopus, played with great skill by Alfred Molina. However, it also takes viewers on the arduous and deeply personal journey of Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, as he struggles with the sacrifices demanded by his double life. It is Peter's angst and anguish that drive the film even more than its larger-than-life battles, making him more deeply identifiable as a protagonist than most superheroes.
5. "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back"
Episode V is the middle film of George Lucas' original "Star Wars" trilogy, and it is considered by many to be far and way the best of the series. The story is dark and brooding in many scenes but still bursting with action and fun. "The Empire Strikes Back" serves up a hefty helping of surprise revelations as the evil Darth Vader sets a trap for the heroic rebels in the fantastic cloud city of Bespin.
4. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
Captain America, the super-spy organization SHIELD, and the world at large face their greatest terrestrial threat since the rise of Hydra during World War II. Steve Rogers struggles to find his place in the modern world after being frozen in ice for over 70 years even as his heroic alter-ego faces a sprawling conspiracy of evil that infiltrates the highest levels of government. Playing out much more like a spy thriller than a superhero slugfest, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" holds many twists and turns that keep coming right until the end.
3. "Terminator 2: Judgement Day"
After a killer cyborg failed to kill Sarah Connor a dozen years before, another Terminator is sent from the future, this time to safeguard her son from an even more advanced killing machine. This film is essentially a long battle with wall-to-wall action, showcasing star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron at their very best.
2. "The Dark Knight"
The mysterious Batman safeguards Gotham City from the worst ravages of corruption and crime. He runs across the greatest challenge of his career in trying to stop the Joker, a brilliant but psychotic anarchist who delights in plunging the city into chaos. Sizzling action sequences and sharp direction by Chistopher Nolan elevate this film beyond most of the more mundane live-action superhero fare. Heath Ledger creates one of cinema's most memorable villains in his turn as the maniacal, ultraviolent Joker.
1. "The Godfather: Part II"
The high-water mark to which all sequels aspire, "The Godfather: Part II" continues the story of the Corleone crime family. The film tells two parallel but interconnected tales: that of a young Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City as he begins his life of crime, and of his son, Michael, in the late 1950s as he struggles to expand the fortunes of the family's underworld organization. Setbacks, betrayals, heartbreak and murder await both men as they fight against forces that do their best to tear the Corleones apart. This film contains some of the best acting and character moments in modern movie-making, with an epic storyline of family and destiny in the unlikely setting of the mafia underworld.
Many factors go into making a superlative sequel. Not only must the work stand alone as a great film, but it must also take the characters, concepts and situations from the previous installments and carry them forward in an entertaining and compelling way. Creating such a balance is not easy, but those films that succeed are remembered for years after as the best of their genre.