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 always has 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)
These are the films that, for whatever reason, didn’t make our main list. They’re ordered based on how close they came to making the cut.
10. Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992) | WORST
1989’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a successful family hit that was full of heart and laughs. A sequel seemed inevitable and with the idea of a Godzilla sized toddler, you would think that the jokes would write themselves. However, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid simply leaned too much on the gimmick forgetting what made the original special and ran out of laughs early.
09. The Rescuers Down Under (1990) | BEST
Even though the house of mouse has been criticized for making soulless cash-grab sequels to most of their animated films, they’ve only made a handful that have gone theatrical and with the exception of Ralph Breaks the Internet, they’ve all been solid, with The Rescuers Down Under being the best of the lot. An improvement over the original in every way, the sequel has better animation, a great cast of side characters, a truly menacing villain and a much more memorable plot. Tragedy unfortunately killed plans of a second sequel but there’s a reason this was going to be Disney’s first trilogy. The Rescuers Down Under is just that good.
08. Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) | WORST
The original had the charm of it’s lead actors Dan Aykoryd and John Belushi taking their Saturday Night Live characters to the big screen. It was a hit at the box office and with the critics. A sequel almost 20 years later and the loss of one the originals key elements was nothing, but a fun soundtrack and a cliched mess. Just stick with the original because as this film proves, you can’t replace Belushi’s soul.
07. X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014) | BEST
There may not be a franchise with higher highs and lower lows than X-Men, with its sequels either being near perfect masterpieces or god awful shit-shows and while it may lack the mechanical precision of X2 and the emotional depth of Logan, Days of Futures Past is most definitely the former. It not only had to juggle the biggest superhero cast ever assembled up to that point, it had to craft an enjoyable time travel story-line that made sense while simultaneously retconning everything dumb that happened in the terrible third one. It did what Endgame couldn’t, five years previous.
06. The X Files: I Want To Believe (2008) | WORST
The X-Files was a hit TV show that explored the unknown with two leads that fans had fallen in love with. The first film took place between seasons 5 and 6. That film rode the momentum of the show with success at the box office and mainly positive reviews. I Want to Believe was supposed to follow the conclusion of the ninth season, but remained in development hell for six years. It should have stayed there. Even hardcore fans have trouble enjoying this mess. Just seems like one of their bad episodes stretched into a featured length film.
05. Skyfall (2012) | BEST
Any fan of the series will tell you that, since there are no “bad” James Bond films, the only way to properly judge a James Bond film is through the set pieces, the villain, the Bond girl and the theme. If graded on that metric, Skyfall might be the best sequel in the franchise. The theme was so good it was the first to win an Oscar; the action, while never topping the amazing parkour sequence at the beginning of Casino Royale, is still top notch; Bérénice Marlohe is stunningly beautiful; and Javier Bardem is delightfully over-the-top as Silva, the ex-spy with a grudge to settle. And on top of that, it’s the best looking film in the franchise with gorgeous cinematography and impeccable direction by Sam Mendes. If you’re new to the series, this is the one to watch.
04. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) | WORST
Most of the sequels on this list follow a solid to great original or is at least a part of a once hit franchise. This is a sequel to what consider one of the worst superhero films. Sub-par acting with bland storytelling that’s too goofy for most kids in 2005’s Fantastic Four. You get the same exact things in this Rise of the Silver Surfer with maybe a slight improvement over the original. That just tells you how bad the first really is. Only good thing to come from this film is that it was so bad it effectively shut down any future entries to which helped free up Chris Evans to be Captain America.
03. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) | BEST
Shrek might be their most popular and How to Train your Dragon their most critically acclaimed but for my money, the Kung Fu Panda series is Dreamworks crowning achievement. Admittedly the third one isn’t as good as the other two but the series, most notably the sequel, are among the most entertaining animated movies outside of Disney. They’re funny without relying on pop culture references; they perfectly blend action with heart and the second one has Gary Oldman as a sinister peacock and Jean-Claude Van Damme as kung fu crocodile. What more do you want?
02. Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven (2011) | WORST
Didn’t know there was a sequel to one of the worst movies of all time? Neither did I and this makes the 1995 original look like a masterpiece. Following the story of the one character that no one remembered or cared about from Showgirls, Penny. The plot, if you can call it that, is basically following Penny for 143 minutes trying to be famous as a middle aged showgirl while parodying many scenes from the original. This was a Kickstarter that actual people put actual money toward.
01. Rocky II (1979) | BEST
The Rocky franchise is one of the most consistently enjoyable series in history, with only one dud among eight films but the success of its first sequel was not a guarantee. In retrospect, it’s obvious one of the most popular films of the 70’s would get a sequel but at the time, no one predicted an Oscar nominated sports film would or even should get a follow up. Rocky Balboa’s arc was pretty much done. The underdog fought the champ and although he lost, the fact that he put up a fight and lasted as long as he did, was a victory. Where do you go from there? The answer is: you flip it. You have Rocky grapple with his new found celebrity and have Apollo know what it’s like to feel like a bum now that everyone loves Rocky. It’s a trope at this point but Rocky II might be the first sequel to invert the stakes. The different points of view keep it from feeling like a rehash and add depth to both characters. It’s not as good as the first but taken on its own, it’s a damn fine movie.
How do you feel about the sequels that didn’t make it? Comment down below and let us know how right/wrong we are.