The Greatest Sequels Of All Time 2: The Sequeling

August 16, 2012


(Yesterday began our analysis of some of the best movie sequels of all time.  You might want to start there, if you missed it, for the explanation and number 10-6.)

And numbers 5-1?

Gizmo when he – literally – goes Rambo in the sequel. “What happened to him?” “I guess they just pushed him too far.”

5. Gremlins 2: The New Batch.   Gremlins was great.  It was creepy, funny and fun.  Gremlins 2 completely derails the first film in favor of just flat-out, anything-goes, having a blast.  Every moment of the film is director Joe Dante rolling around in his love of movies.  Martin Scorsese appreciates movies the way sophisticates appreciate wine.  Dante appreciates them the way 10-year-old boys appreciate Pop Rocks & Coke.  Dante even has a great time lampooning the first film (e.g. trying to explain the “rules” of caring for the Mogwai – don’t feed them after midnight – sends the other characters in to a barrage of questions like, “What if it’s eating on a plane before midnight and passes in to a new time zone?”  “What if it eats before midnight and gets food lodged in its teeth that only comes out after midnight?”)

Chances are if you love Gremlins you will think this movie is just weird for a little while because you’re waiting for a typical “more of the same, only more so” sequel.  But a moment will come – and it will come – when it clicks and Dante gets you to eat the Pop Rocks and Coke at the same time and you will be immersed in the pure joy of this movie.

4. The Dark Knight – superhero films lend themselves to sequels.  Freed from the burden of the origin story and ‘don’t upset anybody’ committee thinking that dominate potential franchises, they tend to open up creatively with the second installment.  Several superhero sequels could arguably take this slot.  What truly elevates The Dark Knight (besides Heath Ledger’s performance, and that motorcycle) is the depth of metaphor in the film about duality – the struggle inside all people between order and chaos, control and rage.  Less a superhero film than a myth, it even has the courage to have an almost action-free ending: a literary ending instead of a cinematic one dedicated to underscoring its central motif.  A work of art masquerading as a blockbuster action movie.


True Fun fact: In order to keep the big twist a secret, while shooting this scene, after Luke says he knows Vader killed his father, George Lucas had Vader say the line, “No Luke, Obi-Wan killed your father.”

3. The Empire Strikes Back – George Lucas makes Star Wars: a perfect, beautiful creation that touched people in ways that few creations – not just films, any artistic creation – have.  How is it possible that the sequel would be even better?  The sequel focuses on the cinematic elements that threatened to derail the original, with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan brought it to help.  A tighter film, better written, and – again – made you feel like the first film was incomplete without this.  The characters got refined, the humor gets funnier, the legends get richer, the action gets more intense.

False Fun fact: in order to keep this moment secret, Coppola had Michael say the line, “I know it was you, Fredo. I know you killed Luke Skywalker’s father.”

2. The Godfather, Part II – Okay, don’t freak out on me.  I know.  Why is this in the number 2 slot?  Everyone knows Godfather II is the greatest sequel of all time.  And it’s pretty damn great.  Godfather II is gorgeously filmed and has some of the most powerful moments of the two films.  It also, though, is virtually incomprehensible, plot-wise, and is in some ways unnecessary.  The final shot of The Godfather tell us everything we need to know about Michael Corleone’s fall from grace. Godfather II walks us through his fall in heartbreaking depths, but still only really elaborates on what we already know to be true.  So while it’s magnificent on its own terms and arguably the best cinematic creation on the list, it’s not quite the best sequel.  That honor goes to…

1. Mad Max 2: The Road WarriorMad Max was one of the best films to emerge from the anything-goes Ozploitation films of 1970’s Australia.  It’s a fairly good action film, very basic, raw and cheap.  Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior develops so far beyond the original film it’s stunning to think it’s the same filmmakers and only a couple years later.  Road Warrior moves the central character from a simplistic “society’s goin’ to hell”/ biker revenge setting in response to the gas & oil crises of the time to a fully envisioned post-apocalyptic wasteland; the excuse for revenge in the first film becomes soul-deep scars from which Max seems he cannot possibly recover.  Movies don’t get much leaner and meaner than this.  Stories are legendary of the injuries among the stuntmen, including one stunt which was so dangerous that the driver had to prep for emergency surgery beforehand (God love ya’, Australia).  Like Dark Knight, it often feels more like myth than movie, with sparse dialogue (Max speaks maybe 100 words in the entire film), universal themes and the finale of the film is the greatest car chase ever made (yes, I’m sticking by that ).  In comparison with the first film, a staggering achievement, and one hell of a movie.  Watching it, you see a western, a myth worthy of Joseph campbell, pure filmmaking, and a perfect capsule of the fears and psychology of the time in which it was made.

Take a few minutes to look at this first few minutes of the film (it is, frustratingly, missing the prologue which sets a tone of sadness and melancholy that enriches the scene immeasurably).

Film overview by the Yale Film Club:

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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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55 Comments on “The Greatest Sequels Of All Time 2: The Sequeling”

  1. joehoover Says:

    I agree with your entire list


  2. speaker7 Says:

    I’m going to have to check out the Gremlins sequel.


  3. Blogdramedy Says:

    You’re eclectic I’ll give you that. But now on to MY list, continued from yesterday.

    Top Ten Reasons I follow Byronic Man (5-1):

    5. He can count to ten.
    4. He can divide ten by two.
    3. He has the craziest crop of commenters.
    2. He has nice hair.
    1. He always replies to his comments. No matter how inane or off-topic. But I may be stretching things with this one. 🙂

    Your number 1 through 10 fan.


  4. She's a Maineiac Says:

    Oh, god! Mad Max! Yes! Pure action. And it’s so true, back then, the special effects were done “for real”. I must have seen that movie hundreds of times thanks to my brothers.


  5. Six Glasses of Water Says:

    I used to have nightmares for a month after watching Gremlins 2 as a kid and to this day I can’t bear myself to watch it again. I remember Gremlins and It (Stephen King) gave me nightmares and I still don’t like to see both clowns ( especially when they’re near toilets :D) and toys that resemble Gremlins. But maybe if I watch them both now they wouldn’t be so scary. Oh, and I agree with you on Mad Max 2. Kind of reminds me of my childhood even though I wasn’t even born when it first came out. Great, great movie!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Gremlins was genuinely creepy, that’s for sure. I think if you watched Gremlins 2 again now you’d have trouble finding the scary parts. Maybe the spider/gremlin hybrid.


      • funnyphuppo Says:

        I agree there. As a kid, Gremlins was too creepy for me, but I just loved Gremlins 2 since it was so funny and fun (take that, you silly Proofreading tool!). I felt The Dark Knight was even better than Batman Begins, and I wanted to give it a standing ovation when it finished. But I hate to admit that I am one of those people who has still not watched Godfather or any of its sequels. I was never allowed to watch it as a kid, and by the time I grew up I decided I did not like Mafia movies.


        • The Byronic Man Says:

          Well, what elevates Godfather is that is very deliberately not a mafia movie. In fact when Coppola was in negotiation with the studio he specifically said, “I won’t make a mafia movie. I’ll make a movie about family, but not a mafia movie.” And even though it is – of course – about a family in the mafia, the difference that mindset makes in how he approaches the movie changes everything.


  6. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Says:

    I hate sequels, but I think we covered that in the first post. That said:

    1. You are thorough.
    2. You are funny.
    3. You make a good point.
    4. Your wife is about to make you a daddy and I can’t wait to see how that impacts your cyborg like ability to create perfect posts.
    5. You are hot.
    6. You introduced me to blodramady. She is my new cyber lover.

    It’s math. 6=awesome.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I KNEW Blogdramedy was seeing someone behind my back! Ah, that’s okay.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Oh, and also – thanks for the compliments (re: hotness and cyborgian commitment to quality). My id think you’re very astute, my ego has no idea what you’re talking about and my superego hopes that if there’s that much quality it will sustain good will for a while after the baby’s born and my posts are all, “Uh, politicians, right? Ha ha. What a bunch of boners. Right? Ha ha. Politicians.”


  7. spilledinkguy Says:

    Michael Corleone reduced to the deuce?
    *pretty sure that would’ve been funnier had you not made much better use of the first part of the quote above… but you know… I steal, er, do what I can*


  8. susielindau Says:

    I never was a big Gremlin fan. Maybe it was the disturbing blender scene..
    Loved the others especially Mad Max 2!


  9. tinkerbelle86 Says:

    And all the Ghostbusters sequels! As a child, in a pink party dress at some family gathering I loudly informed a load of old people that when I grew up i wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Suuuuuure


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Ghostbusters 2 may show up on the “contentious” list – there are people who llluuuurrv that movie, and people who think it’s pathetic.

      Also an interesting phenomena: I know a lot of people who are positive – positive – that there have been 3 Ghostbusters movies, instead of just 2. I don’t know if it’s because of the TV cartoon or what.


  10. mistyslaws Says:

    Oooh, Gremlins 2? Bold choice my friend. I would not have ever guessed that one. Especially because after I watched it I wanted to poke my eyes out with a stick. Just a little too campy for me, I guess.

    I never saw the second Mad Max. I hardly remember the first one. Something about Tina Turner, yes? Maybe I’ll have to look into it. I mean, number one on your list, there has to be something to that.

    Also bold move to put Godfather II as second. Very bold indeed.


  11. Go Jules Go Says:

    Only for you, B, would I watch 10+ minutes of video the blogger’s not in and enjoy it.

    But I want to talk about your Gremlins write-up! I loooooved everything you said there. That’s exactly why I DIDN’T like “Hugo” (I know. I know. I’m sorry). Not that Scorsese hasn’t earned the right to make a movie for himself, but. That was precisely my problem with it. For me, though it was visually beautiful, it was distractingly pretentious. (And slow.)

    “Dante appreciates them the way 10-year-old boys appreciate Pop Rocks & Coke.” That’s one of the best things you’ve ever written.


  12. Amy Says:

    Unexpected choices, but I tend to agree with every one. Especially Mad Max 2. It stands on its own beautifully, but is also a great sequel.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Good point – it functions either way. Partly that was intentional, because the original did so poorly in the US that they felt it needed to be able to survive on its own for any hope of US success, but it balances the two state perfectly.


  13. sj Says:

    What the actual snape, B-Man. Where the hell is Highlander II: The Quickening?!

    EVEN MORE EGREGIOUS is the absence of Aliens on this list. I even went back and re-read yesterday’s post to make sure I hadn’t missed these.

    [sobs while finger hovers over unfollow button]


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, Highlander II certainly earns special praise on the short list of “Worst titles.” Like “Electric Boogaloo,” you can add “The Quickening” to anything and it instantly becomes ridiculous.

      And Aliens is coming in a few weeks on the “Contentious” list. It’s a hell of a movie, but people get pretty divided on it, particularly as – specifically – a sequel to the somber, quiet psychological terror of Alien. I know a number of people who think it’s a desecration. I know a number of people who think it’s wonderfully awesomely brilliantly great, too. But it is a pretty big leap – sequel-wise – from the silence of the first film to the militarism and “Get away from her, you bitch” of the second.


      • sj Says:

        Well, I just checked with my dad and he agrees that Aliens is superior. He also wants to know how you could possibly leave out Rambo: First Blood Part II.



        • The Byronic Man Says:

          Aliens and Rambo – you’re dad is quite the James Cameron fan! What are his feelings on “Piranha Part Two: The Spawning,” one of Cameron’s first movies/sequels?

          And I’ll have to check with my dad for my retort.


    • Sandy Sue Says:

      Oh, thank ghod someone else said it first. I was running around here like a spas muttering,”Aliens! Where’s Aliens!” As for the change in tone, I thought the sequel followed Ripley’s character development/PTSD wonderfully. Now if we were talking about the third installment, I’d have to vomit in the gutter and politely pat my mouth dry.


  14. pegoleg Says:

    Surprising choices here. Empire, Mad Max – I’m with you, if only on a pure entertainment level. I know this is heresy, but I don’t like any of the Batman movies. They ruined the campy Pow! Boff! perfection of the TV show for me with their brooding, genuinely evil bad guys – and hero, to some extent.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      You know, that’s actually an element I think elevates Dark Knight, in particular – it’s one that even if a person doesn’t enjoy it, could be appreciated for it content, particularly for it’s symbolism. Even though, I’ll grant you, at no point does anyone do The Batusi.


  15. thefoodandwinehedonist Says:

    WHAT?!?!? No Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo? Movie was as awful as the first, but it’s gotta make the list for it’s name alone.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I was just saying to someone above that the beauty of “electric boogaloo” is you can add it to anything and it becomes funny. “Patriot Act 2: Electric Boogaloo.” “Godfather II: Electric Boogaloo.” “World War II: Electric Boogaloo.”


  16. Igal Aciman Says:

    I agree with your picks. Good list! Sequels are generally huge letdowns. So, when they turn out to be really good, they deserve special recognition.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, the snark is coming with the 10 worst and 10 most contentious sequels – so I hope I don’t disappoint. I would have saved this one, in order to end on a high note, but I couldn’t pass up the “The Good, The Bad and The Contentious” gimmick.


  17. thesinglecell Says:

    So true – I had never thought of it, but Star Wars “A New Hope” would be nothing without “Empire.” Cookies without chocolate chips. Oreos without milk. Jelly without peanut butter. Sex without… well, nevermind.


  18. Love & Lunchmeat Says:

    I remember going to see Gremlins at the theater with my parents. I was five. I cried, and begged to leave. I’m going to guess that’s why they didn’t take me to see Gremlins 2…

    I was voting for the Godfather as number #1, but Godfather, Empire, and Dark Knight were all phenomenal sequels! *mutters something about the Batman series getting way better thanks to the addition of Maggie Gylenhaal and the deletion of Katie Holmes*

    I’ve never seen any of the Mad Max series so I really couldn’t say… No Twin Towers? That was probably the best of the LOTR trilogy.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, as I note briefly above in the boring “Here’s my criteria” blathering – Two Towers was disqualified because it isn’t, to my mind, actually a sequel – LOTR was one novel broken in to three parts by the publisher, and the films were made with that strength already in place. They didn’t make Fellowship and say “WOW it did really well, what shall we do for a follow-up?”


  19. atothewr Says:

    Good list. Probably would have moved Max down to 4 and Empire up to 1, but that’s me.

    Nice to show some love for Gremlins 2.

    Nice job.


  20. Sarah S. Says:

    I’ll have to check out Gremlins. Both 1 and 2. It’s been, like, 15 years or so. I call my son a Gremlin. We must not feed IT after midnight, lest we never be able to sleep again!

    Don’t be alarmed. I let him eat when the sun’s out.

    I’m with you on Dark Knight. Have you seen the Dark Knight Rises? I want to see that. Plus 100 other movies that came out over the last 9 months.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I need to see DK Rises again – I thought it was fine… with all the baggage that implies. I was prepared for it to be awful, and it certainly wasn’t that, but it was so much more clumsily scripted that the second, and a much more lumbering film. Some fantastic moments, though, and by no means the train wreck most Part 3’s are.


  21. Elyse Says:

    I am still so broken up about Johnny Depp playing Nick in the Thin Man sequel to actually comment on other, less troublesome sequels.


  22. Angie Z. Says:

    Great list. I know The Godfather II might’ve been a given but I’m still pleased to see it on here. Gremlins II must be added to my Netflix queue.

    I would add to this list Return to Witch Mountain. Creepy as hell. I assume it came after another Witch Mountain movie? Otherwise, why “Return”?



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