It seems like nowadays a film has to be a complete bomb for it to not receive a sequel, and then it still might get one (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The phrase, “it’s great, but not even close to the first,” is a saying we’ve been hearing a lot lately from films in the MCU, DCEU, Monster-verse, the Dark Universe, and many other sagas. The release of Annabelle: Creation (read our review here), the newest film in the franchise that transpired out of The Conjuring series, is causing much buzz because the sequel is a VAST improvement over the first. That surprise hit gives us our next Cinema 35 Top Ten: Top Ten Sequels That are Better than their Predecessor.
Now, unfortunately, just because a sequel is great doesn’t mean it will make the list. Films such as Back to the Future II, The Godfather Part II, Aliens, The Conjuring 2, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 28 Weeks Later, and Evil Dead II are undoubtedly incredible, but the first was just too great to beat out.
10. The Purge: Anarchy (sequel to The Purge)
The Purge was a mediocre film with an incredible premise. Throughout, many audiences wished they could be out in the streets, exploring the horrors of The Purge; yet instead were stuck in a home with four amateur horror movie characters. The Purge: Anarchy was large enough in scope to quench our thirst for what the original lacked and it’s upholding of the same director was able to maintain the tone and aesthetics. Filmmaker James DeMonaco said of the first film that they only had, “19 days to shoot and $2.7 million to spend” and vowed that the sequel would dive deeper into the tradition, which it did satisfactorily.
9. Split (sequel to Unbreakable)
Split was a great thriller, with an unbelievable performance by an amazing actor. The plot twist, that we may have accidentally spoiled already, was one that divided fans; some Shyamalan fanatics seeing it as a stroke of genius while others not so familiar with his work were underwhelmed. Regardless of your own opinion, Split was a great genre-film that is proving a renaissance of sorts for the director. A third film in the trilogy, titled Glass, is in the works and should be coming sometime in 2019.
8. V/H/S 2 (sequel to V/H/S)
V/H/S was a revelation in the indie-horror genre, and the second one seemed to double down on its idea by having stories with a higher production value, more passionate directors, and detailed plots. Both movies are a collection of short films (five in the first and four in the second) that are thinly connected by a through-line. Ghosts, zombies, cults, and aliens make up the latter’s four shorts with acclaimed directors Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), and Jason Eisner (Hobo with a Shotgun) make up a few of the directors who contributed to the bloody, graphic, comical, and inventive mosaic.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy)
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit no one saw coming; so for its sequel to meet, and exceed, expectations is a true sign of a well-developed film. The opening sequence of baby Groot dancing though a battle is one of the cutest things on screen, Kurt Russel’s Ego is superior to Lee Pace’s Ronan, fan favourite Yondu is given more screen-time plus effective with it, and the chemistry between the Guardians is in full swing. Marvel’s attempt to start a “space” franchise of their own was an analytical success; be sure to see the Guardians next year in Avengers: Infinity War before their announced third film debuts.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel to The Hunger Games)
Here’s my rating of The Hunger Games saga: 1) good, 2) astounding, 3) abysmal, 4) didn’t even see it because the third was so dreadful. Other than a few Harry Potter films, Catching Fire is easily the paramount young adult novel-turned-movie as of yet. It has cowering drama, humour, a fantastical world, nail-biting action, a script with purpose, and performances from capable actors. The second film in the franchise was precisely the success the studio could hope for, critically (89% on RT) and financially ($424 million domestically); too bad both Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 were loathed and failed correspondingly ($337 million and $281 million, respectively).
5. The Devil’s Rejects (sequel to House of a Thousand Corpses)
House of a Thousand Corpses was a horror through and through, while The Devil’s Rejects was a disturbing crime-drama that gave us an unwanted insight into the lives of the sadistic and merciless Firefly family from its originator. Rob Zombie is a fantastic filmmaker who proved with his second feature that he doesn’t have to rely on sheer shock to make an effective movie. The filmmaker took lesson from The Silence of the Lambs; an unknown villain can scare but an acquainted one can horrify. House of a Thousand Corpses will disturb you throughout, The Devil’s Rejects will disturb you for weeks after.
4. Before Sunset (sequel to Before Sunrise)
There might be larger trilogies in scope and in their popularity, but few have the critical endorsement that is drenched on Richard Linklater’s Before films. All three films are filmed nine years apart with the couple Jesse and Celine being the through-line. In the original, Before Sunrise, we see a romantic evening between two strangers before one leaves the country for good, but the second is where their relationship truly is dissected. They’ve matured and settled into their own lives, which makes the rekindled romance especially vivid.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
On /Film, there’s an article that talk about how each of the Apes films would have succeeded even more had their names been swapped. For all intents and purposes, the second film in the trilogy should have held the name War for the Planet of the Apes, predominantly because it’s the only one in the trilogy to actually contain a war. The first was a surprising gem, while the second had to live up to the hype and then add to it. Caesar showing his true heroics, Gary Oldman, that tank scene, and Koba all culminated into one of the greatest sci-fi actions films of the new millennium.
2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (sequel to Star Wars: A New Hope)
(Since I’m a film snob, I will use the film’s original titles.) Star Wars may be my favourite film in the saga, though I’m humble enough to acknowledge that it may not be the best; that trademark goes to its successor: The Empire Strikes Back. Director Irvin Kershner replaced George Lucas, and it seems like his distance from being the creator allowed him to helm it as a fan. The distress that each character experiences at the end is one of the best cliffhangers in film history and despite knowing the resolution in Return of the Jedi, still puts pits in the stomach of its viewers.
1. The Dark Knight (sequel to Batman Begins)
Personally, The Dark Knight, is the greatest film in history and therefore is of course the greatest sequel. Not only did the film have to be as good as the tremendous Batman Begins, but it had to outdo it. Because of a disappointing third film, this trilogy will always have a baggage attached to it, but The Dark Knight holds none of the fault. The Joker is single-handedly the greatest cinematic antagonist and Heath Ledgers performance is widely regarded as the peak method acting. Chris Nolan has constantly been trying to chase the success of the film, but it’s a long shot that he nor anyone will ever be able to surpass it. If you haven’t seen it in a few years, give it another watch and allow yourself to just fade in its brilliance.
Honorable Mentions: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger); Ouija: Origin of Evil (sequel to Ouija); Spider-Man 2 (sequel to Spider-Man); X2: X-Men United (sequel to X-Men); The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (sequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring); Letters from Iwo Jima (sequel to Flags of our Fathers).
Be sure to comment any we may have forgotten or ideas for future Top Tens!