The Greatest Movie Sequels Of All Time

August 15, 2012


Sequels.  Much maligned and mocked.  Yet some of the best films ever made have been sequels.  Also some of the worst, laziest pieces of crap ever put to celluloid.  But those are for later.  Today we begin a look at sequels in three categories: the good, the bad, and the contentious, and we begin with The Good.  (Of course, I don’t really claim that these are the greatest sequels of all time – that would be impossible to actually prove, but “10 Really, Really, Really, Really Great Sequels” is a crappy title, and this ones’s totally Google search friendly, so we’re sticking with it.)

Here are the criteria by which I’ve selected:

  • It must be a part 2; we’re looking specifically at sequels, not entries in a franchise, or continuations of one film broken in to chunks (sorry, Two Towers).
  • It must be a proper sequel, not something made 15 years later, or a quasi-remake, or something involving almost none of the participants in the original.
  • It must be examined in relation to the quality of the original.  It can’t be just high quality, it must stand up to the original and justify its existence.

So, in only a tentatively deliberate order, here are numbers 10-6 of some of the greatest part 2’s, to be continued tomorrow:

10. Toy Story 2Toy Story was a revelation in animation and a beautiful story.  The sequel seemed, like most animation sequels, sure to be a sloppy cash-in that sullies the memory of original.  Instead, somehow, they managed to not only generate the same joy and affection as the first film, they left the audience with the feeling you always hope to feel with a sequel: “Of course!  This had to come next!  This is what comes next!”

9. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn – Sam Raimi, best known for the Spiderman films, made The Evil Dead on a shoestring budget and a cursory knowledge of filmmaking.  It’s campy, cheap, crass, and pretty good.  The sequel is his attempt to make the film again with what he learned.  He learned a lot.  It’s hilarious, bizarre, brilliant, at moments creepy, and insane fun.  It’s like being a party just watching it. It is, in a word?  Groovy.

8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek: The Motion Picture was thrown in to production to cash in on Star Wars mania.  Its slow, ethereal spirituality was not a hit.  That should have been the end of Star Trek, and – legend has it – the only reason the sequel was made at all was because the daughter of the Paramount Studios president was a Star Trek fan.  It’s lean, smart, and genuinely exciting.  There’s no dead weight in the film: it engages immediately and never stops.  A Star Trek movie for the non-Trekker.  And, come on – Ricardo Montalban.

7. After The Thin Man: The makers of this sequel knew The Thin Man was never about the incomprehensible plot, it was about the deliriously fun interplay between Myrna Loy and William Powell (okay, and Asta, the dog).  Still, operating independently of the Dashiell Hammett story that framed the first could have easily gone south; instead, it took what worked and built on it with depth and charm.  Watching the film, it’s hard to believe they aren’t really in love with each other, with life, with adventure.  And booze.  In love with booze.  Here’s a selection of moments (sorry about the subtitles).


6. Before SunsetBefore Sunrise was a small indie film by the brilliant Richard Linklater about two travelers who meet one night in Vienna and spend the night wandering the city.  Virtually plotless, it explores youth and dreams and the ephemera of the moment, ending on a promise to meet back in that exact spot in six months.  Ten years later, Linklater made Before Sunset, returning to the couple, ten years older, as they encounter each other again when she attends his book signing in Paris.  A film exploring adulthood, the things we give up, the choices we make.  A film so beautiful and complex it makes the original feel like merely a prologue so that the director and cast could wait 10 years and make the real film.


Continue to Films 5 – 1.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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59 Comments on “The Greatest Movie Sequels Of All Time”

  1. Blogdramedy Says:

    Top Ten Reasons Why I Read Byronic Man (Part One)


    10. He writes about sharks.
    9. He writes about sharks…a lot.
    8. He wears a shark costume at Halloween to scare the little kiddies.
    7. He played the part of “Loan Shark” in that episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and totally nailed the accent.
    6. He doesn’t care that I comment on everything but the post of the moment.

    To be continued.


  2. joehoover Says:

    I believe a third ‘Before…” is being planned. Did he get the flight? Not sure it we need to know, it was a perfectly enticing ending and I don’t mind being left to wonder.


  3. She's a Maineiac Says:

    I have never seen Before Sunset/Sunrise. I will have to now.

    I agree about Toy Story 2. And even the third one was great (well my kids and I thought so) I was just watching on TV the story behind the films, how they were made and the director John Lassiter (no idea how to spell it) said they had to scrap the entire first film and start over before Disney gave up on the project completely. Good thing they gave them a second chance, they all were brilliant movies.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Toy Story 3 is brilliant. Possibly the best of the series. (ineligible here, though, because it’s a 3). Great sequels are unusual. Great #3’s are freakishly rare.

      And I highly recommend “Before…” (obviously). The first one is better now than then. Watching it in your 20’s it’s charming, but now it totally captures the naive hope, self-centeredness, fun, and doofy bullshit of being 24.


      • Jackie Cangro Says:

        Good point – I should watch Before Sunrise again. I bet I’d have a different take on it now. Maybe it will spur me out of my mid-life crisis. 🙂

        I’m glad you included After the Thin Man. What a great series. Myrna Loy is awesome.


  4. thefoodandwinehedonist Says:

    I walked out on Before Sunset halfway through the movie, but your description of Before Sunrise has got me interested in seeing that…Somehow I don’t think I’ll miss a beat because there wasn’t any kind of, you know, major plot element I would’ve missed.

    And Wrath of Khan was the bomb! Best part – Ricardo Montalban’s rock solid pectoral muscles. Who knew Mr Rourke was benching 350?


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Every moment of Star Trek 2 is great. I quote Khan all the time, to the delight of no one but me. Whenever I meet people I want to say, “I don’t know you. But you… I never forget a faaaaaaaaace…”


  5. speaker7 Says:

    I’m surprised “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” didn’t make it on the list.


  6. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Says:

    Downloading “Before” right now.


  7. susielindau Says:

    I loved the Thin Man series! It seemed pretty modern for its time.
    So many films cry out for a continuation and yet sometimes the sequels waters down the brilliance of the first film. Jaws, Rocky, Porkeys….


  8. santaflash Says:

    I did enjoy Evil Dead II, but my favorite is Army of Darkness. It is the most quoted movie among my friends! “Shop smart, shop S-Mart”, “Come get some”, “Well hello Mister Fancypants”, “Gimme some sugar, baby”, “Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun”, and “Hail to the king, baby”. Gotta love Bruce Campbell.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I’m in the Bruce Campbell fan club. True story. Mr. Campbell lives here in Oregon and a theater group here did a production of Evil Dead: The Musical. I was talking to a couple of the actors and they were saying “Maybe he’ll come to the show!” and I thought “psh, yeah, right,that’s exactly what he wants” and HE DID. AND I MISSED IT.


  9. pegoleg Says:

    I’m beyond delighted that you included “The Thin Man”; that it’s not just about modern stuff. They showcased the kind of sophisticated banter and cocktailing I expected of married life. In reality; not so much.

    And I love Toy Story 1, 2 AND 3. I would like to propose “In Like Flint” – a movie that one doesn’t see in reruns often enough.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The final one, “Song of the Thin Man,” is only pretty good, but otherwise the Thin Man films are just wonderful, start to finish.

      It’s funny, because in compiling my list I kept thinking I was forgetting older films, but – of course – sequels are so much more common in the last 30 years that contemporary movies take up a lot of the dance floor. In the 40’s & 50’s instead of a sequel they just put Bogart & Bacall new foils and called it a different movie, or put “Rio Bravo” in a different town and called it “El Dorado,” or “Rio Lobo,” or “Assault on Precinct 13,” or…


  10. Go Jules Go Says:

    I’m with ya’ll. The Toy Stories-es were all fantastic. Although even after the second, I still went to the third one thinking, “No way. Absolutely nope. No way. It CAN’T be good.”

    I was about to comment on other sequels I love and then remembered this is only half of your ‘good’ list. Engage Patient Bear.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      That’s the strategy of splitting them two: if someone complains about a missing entry I can just say, “You’ll have to wait for the other list!” Then, if it’s a glaring omission I can add it. Otherwise, when they complain tomorrow I’ll just say “it’s on the previous list!” and keep them bouncing back & forth until they give up.

      And statistically speaking, there was no way that Toy Story 3 was going to be that good. I still wonder if I remember it accurately.


  11. Sarah S. Says:

    Who knew you were such a romantic? Perhaps many people, as I’m a relatively new reader. 🙂

    But I’ll be hitting up # 6 one day. And the whole Toy Story situation is amazing. I still can’t believe a movie about TOYS had me crying out loud, for crying out loud.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Hells yeah, I’m totes romantic ‘n stuff.

      And the “goodbye” scene of Toy Story 3 is so perfectly done – if that doesn’t have you weepy you have mental health issues that need professional address asap.


  12. atothewr Says:

    Oh yeah! Evil Dead II rocks! Great sequel.


  13. Love & Lunchmeat Says:

    Although there’s really only one sequel that I care about making this list, I’m dying to see part two!!

    Despite the three rugrats, I have never seen a single Toy Story movie. And I still haven’t gotten around to seeing Before Sunset even though I’d heard it was good… Then again, I’ve read three books recently, in anticipation of seeing the movie adaptions, and haven’t gotten around to that either…


  14. Amy Says:

    But isn’t Evil Dead 2 a “quasi remake?” Even so, I totally agree with its inclusion on your list. I love that whole franchise.
    And I couldn’t count how many times I’ve yelled “KAAAAHHHHHNNNNN!” when something has frustrated me. it’s a classic.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I labored over that question (“Is Evil Dead 2 a quasi-remake”) and wrote an entire paragraph explaining my thinking, then deleted it because the post was too long and the paragraph was boring.

      My thinking is that the remake component is really in the first 10-15 minutes, and from there it’s a continuation. That’s the short version.


  15. musingsoftheamusingmuse Says:

    You do realize that now I have to add those films to my Netflix list which I have not seen… Thanks. Thanks a lot.


  16. mistyslaws Says:

    Oh wow. The Befores are brilliant. When the sequel came out, someone was recommending it to me, but I had never even heard of the first one! So I actually watched then back to back. What a vast difference in perspective! But I related so much more to the sequel because it was more relevant to my life at the time. Both were so good, though.

    Can’t wait to see the top 5. I can imagine a few. Curious as to what you come up with.


  17. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Says:

    I hate sequels. Ever since Jaws. Because duh. He freaking exploded, people! Duh!

    Do you consider the KILL BILLs a series? If so, ignore my first sentence.


    • Paul G. Eberlein Says:

      Loved KB Vol.1; Hated KB Vol. 2. ‘Nuff said!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Jaws 2 lost me the moment the shark took down a helicopter. Yes, that’s always my fear when flying – shark attacks.

      And no on Kill Bill. That was just one movie that the studio & Tarantino decided to chop in half instead of editing it down in length. So for me, that’s just one movie in two parts.


  18. marbles Says:

    Please tell me that Back To The Future Part II is coming up in the next list. Although, the title Back to The Future still spins me out a bit – it just doesn’t make sense, peoples!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      You know, it was going to, but I just rewatched it and the first back to back and was startled by how poorly it compared. A fun movie, and really good, but a definite step down form the original. I know, I know. I was shocked too.


  19. Elyse Says:

    So glad you included the Thin Man series. I keep fearing they’ll “remake” it. You know, with Jennifer Aniston as Nick.


  20. Carol O. Says:

    Out of the above sequels, I’ve only seen TS2. You liked it? You realllllly liked it? I’ve already been told to avoid 3 –it’ll make me cry– but TS1 had adult son and I rolling in the aisles almost literally, slapping the seats in front of us at one point and holding our guts (all while husband sat there brows knit and arms folded over his chest, paying close attention to something and we’ll never know what). I think I expected TS2 to similarly level me –but how could it? The first Toy Story was utterly unique. TS2 was good enough, though. I’ll have to look in on the Thin Man sequel! Didn’t even know there WAS one!


  21. Barbara Backer-Gray Says:

    I never even realized Before Sunset was a sequel. It worked perfectly well just by itself.


  22. mj monaghan Says:

    I’m still waiting for the sequel to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Such a classic.'t_Wear_Plaid


  23. earthriderjudyberman Says:

    Most sequels leave me cold. But I like some of your picks, Byronic. While I loved “Toy Story,” the sequel had more to love because it didn’t have the creepy kid next door. “Star Wars” and “The Godfather” – also great choices.

    My candidate for worse sequel ever would be “A Man and a Woman: 20 years later.” (1986) If you loved the first, made in 1966, you would be beyond disappointed with the one that followed. They should have save the celluloid and the trees with that one.



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