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Movie Sequels: A List Of The Best & Worst

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
February 7th, 2008 9:40am EST
Spider-Man 2It seems every year we are inundated with dozens of sequels to films we love and those we've already forgotten about. But what are the best? What are the worst? What shouldn't have been made and what beat the original? Answers to those questions are below, but before a list of the best and worst sequels is determined a few ground rules must be established.

1. The Sequel Cannot Be Planned. There are plenty of movies where the sequel is somewhat planned (I highly doubt anybody wasn't thinking sequel during Spider-Man) but some movies are part of a planned series from day one. The most notable example is "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy where all three movies where shot at once. The same rule applies to series of children's books and adaptations of other trilogies. If the sequel is planned then it's simply and extension of the original.

2. The Sequel Cannot Be Part of a Long Series. This precludes movies from the James Bond and Harry Potter (which falls under rule #1 as well) canons from inclusion on the list. Sure "Goldeneye" was technically a sequel to "Dr. No" but when it's twenty films and thirty years later does it really count? I think not.

3. A Bad Sequel Must Actually Be a Bad Movie. People despise Star Wars Episodes 1-3 but they weren't actually bad movies, only when compared to the originals. If "The Phantom Menace" were the first film released in the saga and released in 1999 people would have probably looked upon it favorably, and "Godfather III" was nominated for Best Picture for crying out loud.

4. For a Sequel to be Considered Bad the Original Must Be Good. A movie like "Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood" is an awful piece of swill but how can you really include a movie that's a sequel to a story about a murderous Irish sprite? True sequel misery only takes affect when the first film is beloved.
5. A Great Sequel Must Improve Upon or At Least Equal the Original. There are lots of sequels that are pretty good movies, but when a film is worse than the original how can it be considered great? Movies like Ghostbusters 2 and Wayne's World 2 are great, but the originals remain the gold standard.

Now that we know the rules, let's see the lists. Starting with the best:

X2: X-Men United5. "X2: X-Men United"
The first "X-Men" movie was a fun little superhero movie with some humorous moments from Wolverine and a brunette Jean Grey. "X2" dramatically raised the stakes, giving the mutants a formidable enemy in the rogue army colonel William Stryker, a man bent on destroying the mutants. The X-Men must team up with Magneto's crew in a very uneasy truce. The climactic showdown is thrilling and the film touches on some deep issues with Stryker's detest for mutants manifest in the way he treats his son. Add to the mix one of the best characters ever introduced to a film series in mid-stream, Nightcrawler, and you've got a sequel that puts the original to shame.

The Godfather Part II4. "The Godfather: Part II"
So low? This may be the best movie on this list but it isn't the best sequel, only because it doesn't significantly improve upon the original, but the fact it matched the best American film of the last half of the 1900's warrants its inclusion. This movie is radically different from its predecessor relaying the events that led to the first film as well as the aftermath of its story. It's also much more of a mob movie than the first. While the original was more of a moral play set against a mafia backdrop, its sequel brings the underworld to the forefront while never ignoring the moral conflict enveloping Michael. The story of Vito paints the mobster as a hero for reclaiming the streets from the wicked Don Fannucci. This duality paints draws an interesting comparison between father and son with the former regarded as hero and the latter seen as wicked by even close members of his family.

Spider-Man 23. "Spider-Man 2"
The original "Spider-Man" film was mediocre at best. The special effects stunk and the Green Goblin did not make for the most terrifying arch-villain and the result was a pretty straight-forward superhero movie. Its sequel focuses internally on its characters showing us the strains of heroism that eventually cause Peter Parker to give up his costume. Doctor Octopus also gives us a truly frightening villain in the person of a very kind man consumed by his creation. He loses himself in a similar fashion to our hero and is only able to find redemption after being defeated by Spidey. "Spider-Man 2" is both more exciting and has more to say than its predecessor.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day2. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day"
James Cameron's "Terminator" was more of a horror thriller than sci-fi epic. It seemed to end with our heroine averting crisis and everything nicely wrapped up. Seven years later, Cameron blew the story wide open, showing us the Judgment Day of the title that led to the machines' dominion over the earth and the affects of the first film on Sarah Connor. The villain of the first movie became a hero and the frightening T-1000 provided one of the most eye-popping visual effects ever. Questions about the affects of time travel were raised as was the morality of what should be done to prevent catastrophe.

The Empire Strikes Back1. "The Empire Strikes Back"
"Star Wars" is certainly one of the best sci-fi fantasy films ever made. Its screen debut was like nothing before and it created a model for nearly every fantasy film to follow. "The Empire Strikes Back", however, is simply one of the best movies ever made, period. From the beginning battle on Hoth where the forces of good are sent scurrying for their lives in order to evade the overwhelming encroachment of evil until the final revelation that Darth Vader is Luke's father - a good man consumed by darkness, this film demonstrates the awesome power of evil and its ability to engulf all that is just. This is also the "Star Wars" film with which George Lucas was the least involved. Coincidence? I think not.

And the Worst:

Next Friday5. "Next Friday"
"Friday" was an incredibly sweet coming-of-age story set in South Central Los Angeles. It provided a very humanizing look at the gangsta culture represented in such a violent manner in the media. Several years later "Next Friday" arrived and nearly undid all the work of its predecessor. "Next Friday" was a disgusting film that found Ice Cube's character's family winning the lottery and no Chris Tucker whatsoever. The humor in the film relied on sophomoric sex jokes and copious amounts of scatological humor. "Friday After Next" was just as bed, but the fact that this was the direct predecessor to such a groundbreaking film makes it the greater offender.

Speed 2: Cruise Control4. "Speed 2: Cruise Control"
"Speed" was one of the most buzzed-about action movies ever. It launched both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock into superstardom and gave viewers second thoughts about ever again taking the bus. "Speed 2" decided it didn't need Reeves or a coherent plot for that matter. Set on a boat and featuring Jason Patric in a performance of borderline somnambulism, our Wildcat heroine was held hostage by Willem Defoe who chewed more scenery than Al Pacino in a bad movie. The insipid plot finds said boat out of control and set to collide with an oil tanker. Couldn't the oil tanker just move?

Batman & Robin3. "Batman & Robin"
To me, Joel Schumacher is the worst A-List director in Hollywood. In his canon of bad films this one stands above them all. After taking the reins of the franchise from Tim Burton, Schumacher showed flashes of the cartoonishness to come with "Batman Forever" but nothing could have prepared anyone for this neon mess. This was possibly campier than the original series and when sparklers are going off to indicate explosions once expects "Pow!" to pop up on the screen next to them. This movie basically ended both Arnold Schwarzenegger's and Chris O'Donell's careers and put one of our most beloved superheroes on ice for nearly a decade. Speaking of ice, why did Batman and Robin have skates built into their shoes?

The Matrix Revolutions2. "Matrix Revolutions"
"Matrix Reloaded" wasn't too good, but it was really just a fun car chase movie. "Revolutions", however, was essentially unwatchable. Set largely in the core of the earth and depicting the final battle between the humans and machines, the film looks like a video game with a completely ludicrous plot. Somehow Agent Smith, a computer program, becomes a human and takes over the Matrix from the outside. Eventually Neo kills him, sacrificing himself in the process, and is honored by the machines and humans. Unfortunately, nothing really makes sense at any point in the movie and the profuse amounts of chatter about nothing dominate most of the film. "The Matrix" was one of the most fascinating movies of its time while its final chapter, "Revolutions" is simply one of the most dumbfounding.

Caddyshack II1. "Caddyshack 2"
How bad is "Caddyshack 2"? You can't even find it in a store or online packaged with the original. Come on, in this age of boxed sets and cellophane wrapped pairs of sequels and originals it would have had to found itself joined at some point with its predecessor. Never happened. It could be that Jackie Mason's hackneyed act that was stale in the 1950's is the centerpiece of the movie. It could be that Bushwood Country Club morphs into an amusement park/miniature golf course at one point. It could be that apart from about 2 minutes of Chevy Chase not a single original cast member appears in the movie. It could even be that the gopher now looks way too realistic. No, the reason you won't find this movie paired with "Caddyshack": It sucks. It just plain sucks. It isn't funny, it has Dyan Cannon and Jonathan Silverman in it and Randy Quaid gives the funniest performance. Read that sentence back again and see how easily this desecrated one of the five best comedies of all time. "Caddyshack" is an incredibly beloved film among golf nuts and non-golf nuts alike. The fondness for its predecessor leads to the its sequel being the most reviled second chapter ever written.

Story by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer