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.
60. Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983) | WORST
The “Bandit” is one of Burt Reynolds’s more iconic roles that most know or have some familiarity with. Even if they have never seen the original Smokey and the Bandit. Burt Reynolds’s charm, Sally Field’s cuteness, and Jackie Gleason being as ornery as ever made for a fun road trip chase movie. Every redneck in the south longed for a black 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with a golden eagle painted on the hood. People ate that film up so much it made $300 million dollars at the box office off a $4.3 million budget. So of course, we got the inevitable sequel with all the same parts returning that did not do too shabby either.
Then here came the abomination of a part 3. Oh, we get back some of the anchors of the franchise in Jackie Gleason and Jerry Reed, but no Reynolds (except for a cameo) or spunky Sally Field. Instead, we get a fake Bandit in Jerry Reed trying his best to impersonate Burt Reynolds, a rehash of the tired same chase scenes and comedy bits in an incoherent manner that ended up only making $7 million off a $9 million budget. Simply an incomprehensible addition that Burt must have thanked his lucky stars he was able to avoid this as should you all as well.
59. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) | BEST
Tarantino may not consider this a standalone film but since there’s still no official release of “the Whole Bloody Affair”, it counts. Stylistically different than it’s predecessor, Vol. 2 ditches the wuxia chop socky action mayhem of the last film, for a straight up spaghetti western revenge tale. The sword play and hand-to-hand combat are still here of course but the whole thing feels more Sam Peckinpah than Shaw Brothers. Which is a good thing. The film contains some of Tarantino’s sharpest dialogue, best performances (Thurman, Madsen, Hannah and Carradine have never been better) and has a rare emotional center rarely found in the director’s work, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is the better half of a two part love letter to all things cinema. Now bring on Vol. 3!
58. Batman and Robin (1997) | WORST
I don’t know of too many sequels that are such a departure from the original that the only somewhat connection they have are a couple of characters with the same names. Batman & Robin doesn’t even seem like it takes place in the same universe as Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. That’s not really a stretch in the comic book world had that been done with some purpose. No, we got overblown caricatures of well-known characters and some of the worst dialogue ever written with eye roll inducing puns. Long gone is the dark themes and excellent character driven stories that had superhero elements. Here we get Arnie delivering riveting lines such as, “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” “Let’s kick some ice!” One of the biggest disappointments of this putrid film is that it has a really cool look. The set pieces and the architecture of Gotham really captures the essence of the comics. It’s a shame the rest of the film couldn’t match its awesomeness.
57. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) | BEST
Amongst the more underrated of the MCU films, Captain America: The First Avenger was a consistently entertaining origin film that took inspiration from WW2 adventure films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rocketeer and Force 10 from Navarone. It’s setting, as well as its aforementioned influences, helped set it apart from the rest of the MCU. But as removed from the typical superhero film as it is, it doesn’t hold a candle to how different Winter Soldier feels from its Marvel brethren. Mixing a political espionage thriller with a big budget action movie, Winter Soldier is one part Three Days of the Condor, two parts Mission Impossible and three parts fun*. This was the first and last time a film in the MCU felt more substantial than a piece of bubblegum. It has an intriguing plot that didn’t feel like a lead in to another MCU property, has some of the best action in the entire franchise and gives Evans enough material to turn him into the second most important character within the Marvel movies. The back-end of the MCU would look a hell of a lot different if it wasn’t for this film.
*It should be noted that I have no idea how to make cocktails nor am I any good at math, so those numbers may not add up. And speaking of cocktails, take a shot every time the acronym MCU is used in this review. Bet you won’t make it back here sober. Or alive.
56. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) | WORST
You can usually read the writing on the wall whenever there is a sequel to a film 20 years after the original’s release. “Is it necessary?” and “Why Bother?” might be some of the first things to pop in your mind, but the sequel to 1987’s Wall Street was actually very timely and made some sense considering the country’s economic issues around 2010. Oliver Stone returns to direct with Michael Douglas reprising his Oscar winning character, Gordon Gecko, and with the new additions of Shia Lebouf and Josh Brolin, you should have winner, right? Instead of focusing on the social climate of the time, Stone decided to go the relational and inner demons aspect which failed miserably.
55. Shrek 2 (2004) | BEST
Literally wiping its ass with fairy tale bullshit, Shrek successfully skewered the literary fables of old and and took pot shots at the cliched romantic fantasy yarns of today, i.e., Disney and critics and audiences loved it. It was fresh, original and most importantly – funny. Three things sorely lacking in animated movies at the time. Which meant a sequel was inevitable but where does one go once they’ve reached Mount Everest? How do you improve upon perfection? The answer would prove to be fairly simple. Just add three words: Puss. In. Boots. Arguably the greatest addition to any series ever, Puss In Boots is the beau idéal of scene stealers. Every second of screen time involving Puss, is equal to five minutes of any other movie released at that time. He’s adorable. He’s hilarious. And Antonio Banderas is so good in the role, he should’ve been given an Oscar. Oh, and the rest of the film is pretty good too.
54. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) | WORST
If we were doing a list of nostalgia cash grabs this would make the top of that list easily. It also made this list pretty easy for being a less than stellar sequel to a great, trilogy. Although I enjoyed the first three Indiana Jones movies, I wasn’t the biggest fan. So, hearing that a geriatric Indy would be running around yet again after almost 20 years, I wasn’t too eager to rush to the theater for this addition. I wasn’t surprised when we got a tired and bland “by the numbers” film that added nothing. Oh, I guess it added a needless greaser sidekick in Shia Lebouf as Mutt Williams. There just wasn’t anything here to get excited about and nothing delivered other than the initial, “Oh, cool. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones again.” After that the film dives into silly and boring territory. On to the next cash grab!
53. X2: X-Men United (2003) | BEST
Although it feels adorably quaint by today’s standards, X-Men (as well as Spider-Man released two years later) created the template all superhero films have followed since and deserves praise for helping bring comic book movies and other nerd related shit into the mainstream. If it was a disaster, who knows how far reaching those ripples would be. It’s more than earned its place in history for its influence and importance but that’s about all it has going for it. The cast is amazing of course (minus Halle Berry) but the film doesn’t properly utilize most of them and the plot seems ridiculous, even for a comic book movie. The writers took these criticisms to heart and decided the next one would be bigger and better in every possible way. X-2 builds off the world established in the first film and uses the graphic novel “God Loves, Man Kills” as its jumping off point. Deepening the ideas at its core and fleshing out its characters, the sequel deals with complex themes while simultaneously attacking the audience with stellar set pieces. The assault on the White House is still an all-timer.
52. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) | WORST
After the snooze fest that was The Motion Picture in 1979, the Star Trek film franchise was on track with its sequels churning out a classic in Wrath of Khan and two well-received follow ups in Search for Spock and The Voyage Home (yes, the one with the whales). Then came along this turd directed by none other than Captain Kirk himself. Mr. Shatner chased the religious angle and it just didn’t land in the slightest. However, he also failed at making an action sci-fi movie as well resulting in an absolute bomb at the box office. On a budget of $39 million and with a projection of over $200 million, it only managed to rake in $63 million. It was so bad that this would be Shatner’s only time to sit in the directors’ chair for a major film release.
51. Back to the Future Part II (1989) | BEST
Given the cold shoulder by critics and audiences at the time, Back to the Future Part II languished in underrated sequel purgatory for awhile. Occupying the same space reserved for unappreciated gems such as Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Psycho 2 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But eventually, enough people realized how good it was and it rightfully earned its status as a classic. Employing what might be the most satisfying time travel story in cinema history, Back to the Future Part II retains all the fun of the original but ups the ante in every other regard. The setting(s) is more fun, the stakes are bigger and the multiple versions of characters are all a blast. Back to the Future might be the quintessential 80’s film but Back to the Future Part II is the quintessential sequel. Which isn’t as impressive typed out as it was in my head but at least it’s something.
How do you feel about the selection so far? Comment down below and let us know how right/wrong we are.