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The Popcorn-Muncher’s Guide to the Ten Best Sequels Ever Made. EVER.

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Well, now that the whole Matrix: Reloaded brouhaha has died down slightly, I thought I’d take a little stroll down memory lane and present to the gentle reader my ten favourite popcorns cinema sequels* of all time. But why stop there, when I can claim to know what the ten best sequels ever made were?

Believe me, I know. And now, I’m going to prove it.

(Oh, and beware of spoilers.)

#10. T2: Judgment Day.

I haven’t seen T3 yet, but it strikes me as a monumentally bad idea, in part because I don’t see how it’s possible to top the badass-vs.-badass chemistry that Ah-nuld and the vastly underrated Robert Patrick created in T2. The T1000 was just… so… cool. That plus Linda Hamilton’s amazing tough-as-nails Sarah Connor made it even worth suffering through Ah-nuld’s “touching farewell scene” and the pseudo-acting of whoever-it-was that played the kid.

#9. Once Upon a Time in China 2.

Between Jackie Chan and Jet Li, it’s Li who has always owned the Wong Fei Hong roles for me. Li, swooping around improbably on wires and bending his limbs at impossible angles, is who I see in my head whenever I think of the Chinese folk hero — which may be a massive injustice to the long storytelling tradition that created the hero before Hong Kong cinema got a hold of him, but there it is. And this movie, especially with its amazing climactic scene, is a big part of the reason why.

#8. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.

For one thing, it ages far better than any of the other Trek sequels. I watched Undiscovered Country the other day — which I’d enjoyed when I saw it in the theatre, years ago — and found myself cringing and thinking “why the hell did I like this?” Not so with Wrath. Forget the movie’s muddled timeline and weird plot holes: this is simply a masterclass in over-the-top scenery-chewing from Shatner and Montalban, complemented by a gently dignified Nimoy and with Kirstey Alley’s only good silver screen performance thrown in as a bonus.

#7. Blade 2.

A sequel that left the original in the dust. It actually had some complicated and interesting characters — at least as far as comic-book films go — and for some weird reason, the heavy cribbing from the pro wrestler’s handbook for the action scenes actually worked. Don’t ask me why; I can’t imagine another movie that would have been improved by this, but in Blade 2 it makes a twisted kind of sense. Maybe Snipes was channelling Koko B. Ware or something.

#6. Batman Returns.

They should either have kept Tim Burton with the franchise or killed it here as far as I’m concerned. This one almost matched the cool of the original, partly because nobody was trying to imitate Jack Nicholson’s inspired manic Joker performance. Yes, yes, yes, there’s Michelle Pfeiffer and the latex and the whip ‘n stuff, and Christopher Walken deadpanning — but I expected to enjoy them. I didn’t expect to enjoy Danny DeVito, who normally just irritates me, but he was almost pitch-perfect as the brilliantly reimagined Penguin.

#5. Predator 2.

Another sequel that easily topped the original. The first one featured an excess of musclebound clods (Ah-nuld, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura) and a dearth of acting talent. This one featured Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Gary Busey, a gang of vodunistafarian badasses, a gritty urban warfare setting and a harrowing final confrontation on the decks of an alien ship. It’s crystal clear who wins.

#4. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2.

I have rarely, oh but rarely, laughed harder in my life. And that was just at the title of a sequel to one of the all-time gong show sequels to one of the best/worst B-movies ever made. This is cinema of the absurd taken to absurd extemes of absurdity, with rubber monster-suit fights not only between Rodan and Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, but with SuperMechagodzilla thrown into the mix. (Yes. You read right. SuperMechagodzilla.) For all that, it’s almost supernaturally compelling.

#3. The Legend of Drunken Master.

The awful dubbing, tomfoolery and breathtaking stunts make it classic Chan — especially the falling-on-hot-coals scene — but it’s the ensemble here, including Anita Mui, Ti Lung and Lau Kar-Leung, that raises it to the level of greatness. It features a wonderfully over-the-top Evil British Villain (all he’s missing is a moustache to twirl), and some of the most intricate fight scenes ever committed to film — including a massive two-against-a-hundred brawl in a teahouse and a gasoline-drinking drunken master finale.

#2. Aliens.

Sigourney Weaver in a giant robot exoskeleton. Cigar-chomping marines getting torn to pieces by nightmarish creatures. Lance Henriksen. Aliens by the hundreds. My god, even the Cute Kid worked; the Cute Kid never works. It’s too different from the original to say it surpassed it, but almost certainly Aliens is, in its own right, John Cameron’s finest moment as an action director.

#1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Even if the ill-conceived Prequels Project kills every other part of the Star Wars mythos stone dead, this movie will still be standing. “I am your father.” ‘Nuff said.

[* EDIT — This list is confined to “popcorn cinema” only. So you won’t see mention of the classic drama The Godfather, Part II, or Dangerous Liaisons 2: Living Dangerously, or Un-Dead Man Walking, or even Driving Miss Daisy 2 the Extreme. Sorry.]
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About Doctor Slack

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    With you on Batman Returns. Best of the bunch. (Haven’t seen the last, oh, 10 or so, though.) I hardly ever run into anyone who thinks so, though.

    I’d add to the list: Exorcist III. If you haven’t seen it–not kidding. Has one of the most frightening scenes you’ll ever see, and a few other good ones as well.

    (I assume there’s a reason Godfather Part 2 is not on this list?)

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com/ Bill Sherman

    How about Bride of Frankenstein? (If only for the influence it had on Young Frankenstein. . .)

  • http://www.ubersportingpundit.com/hotbuttereddeath/ James Russell

    I agree with Godfather 2 being kept off the list. Always struck me as too long and a bit diffuse. The first one is long too, of course, but uses its time well; I think the extra half hour given to the sequel just pushes it over the edge.

    Word on Batman Returns. That is one strange damn film. The series really should’ve been killed off if Burton wasn’t going to stay on.

  • Dave

    Godfather Part II. Glaring Omission.

  • Doctor Slack

    Thx for the comments. Something I should have noted more clearly: I’m limiting my list to light, cheesy popcorn cinema entertainment (hence the “popcorn muncher’s guide” title). This is why Godfather 2 isn’t on there, though Bride of Frankenstein would be a contender. (I think Exorcist 3 is underrated, but it still isn’t quite top ten material for me. And Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would have made it if I were less of a fan of either Robert Patrick or Linda Hamilton.)

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie

    I love your choices. What did you think of the X-Men sequel, X2: X-Men United? I thought it totally outdid the original and beat the pants off of Matrix Reloaded and T3.

  • http://www.tbotcotw.com/ Matt Moore

    Dude, Aliens is so not better than the original. Otherwise, I agree.

  • Eric Olsen

    I like the subtle menace of “Alien” better than the overload of “Aliens” – also we watched “Toy Story 2″ last night and it may be a whisper better than the great original.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I have to say “Aliens” is my favourite of the four. It really is the high point of Cameron’s career.

    One that you missed was “Road Warrior” which was the sequel to “Mad Max”. And of course the sequel to “Road Warrior” was one of the weirdest things just for being powered by pigshit and Tina Turner, plus chainsaws.

    So, “Road Warrior” is the king of sequels.

  • Doctor Slack

    Yes, X2 is a fabulous sequel. I’d put it on par with the original, actually, which I also thought was near-perfect — though I know some disagreed. Certainly much better as a sequel than Reloaded. I’m not in a hurry to see T3, it has to be said.

    No, I wouldn’t say Aliens is better than the original, just very different. It took the original’s material off onto a total tangent, but one that worked. That’s its major achievement.

    Jim, good point about Road Warrior. I have to admit my perspective on that one is a bit skewed; the post-apocalyptic world it created was already cliche by the time I saw the movie. Had I seen it earlier, my opinion of it would probably have been kinder.

  • diego

    How about “The two towers”, in my opinion much better that almost your whole top ten

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I have to disagree about LtR 2 since the three movies, like the three books, are really just parts of a whole work.

    A sequel is really just opportunism, and because of that is almost never better than the original. So the list of sequels which are better than the first is short.

    Since I’m talking about exploitation, how about the sequel to “American Psycho” (2) which stars Mila Kunis as a serial killer who wants to stalk (by joining the FBI) serial killers and features William! Shatner!. She killed Patrick Bateman (who killed her babysitter). It’s a pretty good exploitation movie.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    oh crap, here’s the proper url, since you can’t edit comments

    http://us.imdb.com/Title?0283877