For all those hoping that both Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover Part II opening this week are better flicks then their predecessors this is the Starpulse list for you. We’ve delved deep into our movie minds to come up with some of the most imaginative, innovative, and just plain kick-ass awesome second outings to ever hit the silver screen. (And yes, being that it’s part of a trilogy, Empire doesn’t count movie geeks!) Move over impressive or perhaps in some cases unimpressive cinematic originals – you’re new 35mm baby brother is here and he makes this look good. Here is our list of the Top Ten Best Movie Sequels Ever.
10. "Phantasm II"
Not that the very inventive and creepy first "Phantasm" wasn’t a classic, but this sequel had something that eluded the first installment – a big budget. Teaming up with the moneymen at Universal, otherworldly director Don Coscarelli was able to match a big budget look to his low budget ideas and it proved to be a match made in Tall Man’s twisted minion dimension. (Plus who wouldn’t love a little four-barrel shotgun action via Reggie “the ice cream dude” Bannister!) From the new multi-faceted (and multi-slice and dice ridden!) silver spheres to a look at what’s on the other side of those two mysterious metal poles, this is a fine example of creativity and commerce making one hell of a deadly grave robbing couple. The ball is back all right – and it’s got the deadly gold plating to prove it!
9. "Superman II"
What could possibly top the sight of Marlon Brando, as the ever-wise father of Superman Jor-El, banishing baddies General Zod, Ursa and Non to the Phantom Zone in the first film? How about bringing them all back for a little crash, boom, bang in the second! Adding to already memorable characters Lex Luthor (Hackman rules!), Lois Lane (Kidder kicked ass!) and the big red-caped man himself (Reeve owned the role!), Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran introduced us to three of the most incredibly cool villains (even more so in the Richard Lester-less superior Donner Cut!) who finally brought more then just cheese to a comic book flick – we kneel before Zod!
8. "X2: X-Men United"
Any flick that’s essentially a popcorn picture with no less then three Shakespearean classically trained actors (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Manhunter alum Brian Cox!) at the helm is something to celebrate. But infusing even more action (Wolverine finally lets loose the inner animal!), new characters (Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler is delightfully complex!) and Bryan Singer’s always stellar direction and you’ve got a sequel that by one adamantium fingernail actually manages to top the original.
7. "Spider-Man 2"
In a move that puts him par with some of the all time moviemaking greats, helmer Sam Raimi forgoes all the show and spectacle of having a multitude of villains (part three sucked dude!) and instead focuses on just one - and gives the guy depth. And much like what Alan Rickman did as groundbreaking baddie Hans Gruber in the original "Die Hard," Alfred Molina’s brilliant Dr. Otto Octavius is a multi-layered, fleshed out real person and it makes his turn to evil even more of a classic tragedy. Plus there’s a real fun and sense of humor (very "Army of Darkness!") this time around that shows the horror director in a more masterful and accomplished light – Raimi’s second got spidey sense.
As a follow up to what is essentially one of the most disturbing and frightening low-budget films ever made, Raimi and company added one extra ingredient to their sickening soul-swallowing movie cocktail – humor. Paring serious scares with slapstick comedy and quotable one-liners (“Groovy!”), Bruce Campbell gives a tour-de-force performance (he’s alone through a good portion of this one!) that solidified him as the lethal leading man with one hand. (“You’re going down!”) Anti-hero Ash reacts much like the audience to this superb sequel – scared out of his mind and loving it.
5. "The Road Warrior" (aka "Mad Max 2")
Forget the insane Mel Gibson rants of late and remember "Max, the warrior Max, in the blink of an eye he lost everything…" If "Mad Max" was a Aussie exploitation flick that made film fans take notice, then George Miller’s Warrior drove them through the back of the theater and beyond. Uttering only sixteen lines of dialogue throughout the entire film, Gibson was the epitome of silent cool and had the shell-of-a-man inner turmoil to back it up. Mixed with Miller’s crazy psychos (love The “just walk away” Humungus!), weird hair dudes (Vernon Wells’ Wez is one Mohawk freak!) and the greatest car chase sequences of all time, the familiar Road became even more bumpy, delightfully vicious and lovingly barren the second time around.
I remember seeing a teaser trailer for T2 made by late effects giant Stan Winston that featured a Terminator endoskeleton Series Model 101 being built down an assembly line and ending as skin-encased Arnold (pre-scandal of course!) and thinking nothing could top that - I was wrong. Upping the ante big time, James Cameron pulled out all the visual eye candy he could muster to make one of the most groundbreaking (and surprisingly moving!) film follow-ups ever. Keeping the ferocity of the first film (the opening bar sequence is brutally relentless!) and adding big budget visuals (the T-1000 morphing out of the fire is awe-inspiring!), Cameron showed that a little ingenuity and Skynet machine grease could push the medium further. Hasta La Vista "Piranha II: The Spawning," hello payday!
Coming off a ho-hum original movie debut, "Star Trek" looked as though it was going to be cast by the galaxy wayside. But then true starship helmsman Nicholas Meyer (he of "Time After Time" fame!) decided to wisely steer the ship in the direction of an incidental former TV character in one of the Trek episodes named Kahn - and a sequel star was born. As vengeance seeking tyrant Kahn, actor Ricardo Montalbán became iconic for his charismatic performance and in turn brought everyone else’s game up as well. (That goes for you too Shatner!) If revenge is a dish that is best served cold, consider the oven our enemy.
With the original "Godfather" a five-star film, the only way to justify this as a superior part two would be to maybe give it five and a half. (One time deal only folks!) Interchanging the continuing story of the Corleone family following the events of the first film with the initial rise to power of the young Vito Corleone gives a one-two punch that knocks this follow-up out of the ring. But alongside Pacino’s brilliant and now more power hungry Michael, casting Robert De Niro to portray the former Brando heavy is a stroke of genius that makes this a stellar sequel you can’t refuse.
1. "The Devil’s Rejects"
I can hear the outcry now – why is THIS at number one? Well, "The Devil’s Rejects" has the singular privilege of being the only film on this list that’s a sequel to a movie that I despised and detested. "House of 1000 Corpses" is vile, disgusting, void of fun and a just plain nasty flick that I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy. (Snuff films have more joy!) So color me surprised when a friend lent me a copy of this second installment and demanded I watch it…and I actually adored it. (First film zero stars, second five stars – does that ever happen?!) From the engaging balance of good and evil (this time around the three vicious killing leads have their own admirer – bitter revenge seeking Sheriff William Forsythe!) to the campy cameos (with Ken Foree, Michael Berryman and P.J. Soles this is a who’s who of horror icons!) and even the feel of justice served with style (the trio get it good – to Skynyrd’s Free Bird!), it’s like helmer Rob Zombie went to directing school and came back ready to serve up a one hundred and eighty degree cinematic apology – accepted sir.