Sequels represent the best and worst of Hollywood. The good ones revitalize tired franchises and add new chapters to stories we already love and the bad ones serve no other purpose than to milk a few more cents out of an already dead cow. Good or bad, they’re an inevitability. Hollywood has always been and will always be a business, with sequels being their bread and butter. This list examines both the bread and the butter, or in other words, the follow-ups that put the emphasis on both the former and the latter of the word.
This list is a collaboration between Sailor Monsoon and Kane, with Sailor tackling the good and Kane taking on the ugly. Both of which had to abide by two rules:
1) Only one film per franchise, unless the franchise reboots with a new cast (James Bond, Star Trek, X-Men, Etc.)
2) It has to be an official sequel, so previous adaptations don’t count (this excludes the Silence of the Lambs) nor do “unofficial” sequels (this excludes the Three Colors trilogy, the Cornetto trilogy and the Vengeance trilogy)
This is the 100 Greatest and Worst Sequels of All Time.
20. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) | WORST
Oh boy. Compared to most of the movies on the worst list, this entry is extremely well made with great visuals. Also, it has one of the coolest characters of all these awful sequels in double-bladed red lightsaber-wielder Darth Maul. Gone too soon and may he rest in peace. An amazing score in John Williams’ Duel of the Fates. Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan in some of the best casting ever. So why is this considered one of the worst sequels of all-time? After more than a 15 year wait, the movie event of the century in the final year of the 20th century was happening. People were camping outside of theaters for weeks in order to buy tickets and be the first to see this epic.
The story of young Anakin becoming Darth Vader, the fall of the Jedi, lightsaber duels, grand battles galore! And what did we get?! A lot of exposition on trade embargos and Jar Jar f’ing Binks. We got stock characters and a sluggish pace between the few positives it did have. Phantom Menace may not be the worst of the prequels, but is arguably the biggest let down in the history of sequels.
19. Goldfinger (1964) | BEST
Dr. No piqued audiences attentions and From Russia With Love got them excited for more but Goldfinger was the one to turn the secret agent with the boringest name ever into a cinematic icon that would endure for the next 60 years. James Bond films are kind of like slasher films in that you judge them on the strength of their villains, how sexy the women are and if the cool moments outweigh the boring talky talk scenes. Take Cabin in the Woods for example. If the first hour was bad, fans still would’ve loved it because the third act was non-stop awesome. If Goldfinger was a horror movie, it would be the the end of Cabin in the Woods stretched out to 90 minutes.
Iconic moments include the phenomenal Shirley Bassey title song, the cool-as-hell Aston-Martin, Honor Blackman’s capable and sassy Pussy Galore, Harold Sakata’s lethal hat-throwing Oddjob, Shirley Eaton’s death by toxic body paint, and Gert Frobe’s deliciously villainous Auric Goldfinger, who sports some of the most iconic lines in the series outside of Bond himself. Pardon the pun but the entire movie is nothing but gold.
18. The Sting II (1983) | WORST
1973’s The Sting is a critically acclaimed and box office success that stars powerhouses Paul Newman and Robert Redford. So, ten years later, they decided to make this humorless and abject bore. Jackie Gleason may have had his day, but he and Mac Davis (North Dallas Forty) aren’t suitable replacements for Newman and Redford. Another rehash of the previous film while adding nothing new. It looked poorly made, because, well, it was, to the point of being unwatchable. The endless convoluted twists and scams are nauseating. The only somewhat saving grace is the addition of Teri Garr, but sadly that isn’t enough to want to watch this car wreck.
17. Toy Story 3 (2010) | BEST
Pixar’s first film was a ground breaking masterpiece that changed the industry forever. Their first sequel, while not as impactful nor influential, was still a perfectly constructed film that’s as good or better than its predecessor. Now with two flawless feathers in their cap, could Pixar pull off the impossible and deliver the first great cinematic three-peat? The answer: yes and no.
While I adore 3 and think it’s the best of the bunch, I do admit that it has problems. Most notably the fact that structurally, it’s a carbon copy of 2. The film recycles a lot of the same themes, character beats (Lotso is Stinky Pete but with Jesse’s backstory) and has a very similar story and, while I can see why many disregard it as being inferior, those issues don’t bother me. I admit that they exist but I think the good far outweighs the bad. I think it’s the funniest one till 4, I love the new setting, the Great Escape-esque prison escape and the new toys but more importantly, when I think of this series, I picture the incinerator scene and that ending. It may not be a “perfect” film but few films have hit me as hard emotionally and for that reason alone, I think it’s the best Toy Story sequel.
16. S. Darko (2009) | WORST
When I started this list, I wanted to stick with theater release sequels, or this list would have been full of never heard of or seen straight to DVD and streaming films. With the exception of Sailor badgering me to place Repo Chick on the worst list, S. Darko was one of the first movies to pop in my mind that had to be on the worst list regardless of how it was released. The sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Donnie Darko, would absolutely crash and burn. Outside of some okay visual style, S. Darko would not be able to touch the original in substance and eerie atmosphere. This superficial imitation just seemed like lame cash grab by trying to piggy back off the success of its predecessor. Everywhere the original succeeded in characters, dialogue, and atmosphere, this would fail miserably by just being soulless. Avoid this at all costs fan or not of Donnie Darko. You have been warned.
15. Evil Dead II (1987) | BEST
Somewhere between a remake and a reboot, Evil Dead II feels less like a sequel (although it definitely is one) and more like Raimi trying to one up himself. By essentially remaking the first but with a bigger budget, Raimi wanted to show the world that the first one wasn’t just a good low budget movie, it was a good movie period. Trading in spooks for absurdist laughs, the movie reinvents the formula established in the last one by diving head first into another genre. Evil Dead II is no longer a straight horror film but an insane comedy that beats you into submission. Once the film starts, it doesn’t stop punching you in the face with gags until the credits start rolling. Upping the ante in every way possible, Evil Dead II feels like walking through a homemade haunted house on Halloween that lasts 5 hours. It’s non-stop entertaining to an almost exhausting degree. Stephen King might’ve called Evil Dead the “future of horror” but Evil Dead II is the future of cinema.
14. Son of the Mask (2005) | WORST
Say what you want about the original, but in 1994 The Mask was hilarious, and Jim Carrey was on fire starring in three hit comedies that same year amassing over $700 million. It was a given that there would be a sequel, but after Jim Carrey had a negative experience with Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, he decided not to return to a character at that time. The project was scratched until 2005. Insert B-list comedian, Jamie Kennedy, as the Son of the Mask. No one can match the funny charisma that Carrey brought to the role as basically a cartoon himself. It was going to be tough for anyone to fill his shoes, but the people behind casting Kennedy practically ensured this movies demise from the beginning.
This is one of those movies that is painful to watch and dead at the launch. The film lost more than $30 million at the box office, and was torn to shreds by critics. Lazy storytelling with inappropriate jokes for kids, doesn’t leave much room for anyone to really enjoy your film. The makers of this film failed in every possible way including frantic cuts that makes your head spin. This seemed more like a horrible mash up of a bad Wile E. Coyote cartoon and a Gallagher routine. Everything they tried just had them running into walls with something usually ending up smashed. Are there any “Son of” movies that are any good?
13. Aliens (1986) | BEST
While working on the set of Galaxy of Terror, a young James Cameron noticed that everything from the cast, to the crew, to the sets, were as low quality as possible and wondered why they weren’t trying to make a film as good as Alien. The crew, having worked on many a Corman production beforehand, were used to banging out cheap knockoffs made solely to chase a hot trend but Cameron couldn’t fathom why, if they were going to a movie anyways, not make the best movie possible? Cut to five years later and that same set designer who had to make a futuristic set out of spray painted Styrofoam containers he bought from McDonald’s, was helming Aliens.
Cherry picking the best elements of Alien, Cameron took what worked in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and ditched everything he didn’t like. Namely the haunted-house-in-space setting and slower pace, and adding in action hungry space marines, while also fleshing out the xenomorphs biology and giving Ripley some much deserved emotional weight. The xenomorph queen is a brilliant creation and say what you will about Cameron as a writer but Weaver was nominated for a reason. Ripley is finally given something to do outside of opening and closing doors or arguing with men and Weaver attacks the role like a hungry dog. She’s spectacular in it and amazingly, the film is worthy of her performance.
12. Caddyshack II (1988) | WORST
Although the original wasn’t a critical success at first, it was a solid box office hit and garnered a cult following soon after. Caddyshack help set the standard for slapstick sports comedies with most people falling love with Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, and a gopher. So, what’s the best way to follow up on an R-rated comedy hit eight years later? By making it without any of the stars from the previous film, except Chevy Chase, because that has ever worked in sequels. One of the most unfunny and incoherent films ever made that is truly devoid of anything that made the original special. We couldn’t even get a fun 80’s sequel name. No, just slap two Roman Numeral I’s on the end, and send one of the least creative films to theaters in order to lose $9 million. Receiving a PG rating didn’t help when the film still had some of the same language and raunch that would should have fallen into PG-13 territory. Gotta love the 80’s.
11. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) | BEST
Good sequels restart the hero’s journey set by their predecessor but offer exciting new challenges for the protagonist. Great sequels do the same but also expand upon themes touched upon in the first, while also fleshing out the old cast of characters and introduce new ones that are just as good. The Wrath of Khan is one of the only sequels that’s so far past the first one in quality, it doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with other part 2’s. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is like watching a kid learn to play basketball; he can’t dribble for shit, he can’t get the ball anywhere near the net and he falls down every other time he tries but goddamn is it entertaining watching him fail. You can see the passion and desire but the skill is wildly off. The Wrath of Khan is that kid in three years dunking on kids twice it’s size.
The jump in quality from one film to the next, must have felt like watching Magic Johnson first alley-oop the fuck out of someone in the 70’s – it was mind blowing sorcery the likes of which were nearly incomprehensible, and what’s even crazier is, the other team getting their ass handed to them was their own first movie. The script is nearly flawless, the acting is substantially better, the set pieces are more memorable, the villain is an all timer and the ending is still amazingly effective. Khan took the Motion Picture to court and made it its bitch.
How do you feel about the selection so far? Comment down below and let us know how right/wrong we are.