Top 11 Best Movie Sequels
January 3, 2017
(The shortened opening)
NC: (looking listless; monotone voice) Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. (rolls his eyes) And welcome to Sequel Month. (rolls his eyes again) The sequel.
(We hear the sound of pooping in a toilet, then cut to a shot of the NC's head, with a disgusted look on his face, being flushed down the toilet in question, spinning all the while. Surrounding his head are the titles "Sequel Month (the sequel)")
NC: For those who don't recall, there was a theme month called "Sequel Month", where I looked over all the sequels to awful films I've already reviewed. (holds up index finger) Well, you know what? I want some goodness before I start this shit-storm!
(Cut to an image of a poster for Son of the Mask)
NC (vo): You see, sequels have gotten a reputation as always being inferior to the original.
(Cut to a shot of a poster for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen)
(Cut to a montage of clips to such movies as the Rocky sequels, The Dark Knight, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Aliens, among others)
NC (vo): ...there aren't some amazing ones out there. There are people who saw part 2, 3 or 4 not only as a way to make more money, but as a chance to continue a story, provide a brand-new angle, or even outdo what the original did to win over so many people. There's plenty of them to look at, and they deserve to be acknowledged as much as possible.
NC: And we're gonna look at the Top 11 of them here today! Why Top 11? (suddenly becomes worried) Because, by God, I need as many of these as possible. (cheerful again) These are the Top 11 Greatest Movie Sequels!
(Cut to a shot of a futuristic hangar, straight out of Star Wars. The camera zooms in on the opening, which is zooming at light speed, while the video's title zooms out. This will be the interlude footage throughout the video. The number 11 zooms in)
NC (vo): Number 11: Mad Max: Fury Road. The Mad Max movies are known for having some kickass, mind-blowing sequels. The first film (poster of Mad Max) started off as a low-budget, seemingly exploitation-style revenge flick. But as they kept moving on, they turned into apocalyptic bloodbaths, each one getting stranger and more action-packed. Well, the crowning achievement by many is Fury Road, which, like the other Mad Max films, can be seen as a continuation, a stand-alone film, or a little bit of both. All the movies have a mix of past themes, imagery, and ideas. Even some of the actors come back in different roles. This takes the exact same thing and cranks it up to a million. This is, by far, the biggest Mad Max movie with the best eye candy, creative stunts, and visual storytelling. So much of the narrative is done just through the characters' expressions and actions, which, when you think about it, is very difficult to do. But you just look at any of these people, whether they be side characters or main players, and you immediately know their backstory. I've done a whole review on this film, so you can check that out if you want more details. But needless to say, it's both totally different from where the film started out, but also a perfect fit for where they naturally, and even unnaturally, seem to be going.
NC: (imitates Nux) Oh, what a film. What a lovely film!
NC (vo): Number 10: Rocky II. The Rocky films also have a fascinating legacy. When the first film came out, it starred basically a nobody who wanted to prove his worth. Once he did, his success exploded, much like the main character, and each movie, as well as his career, got a little bigger and a little goofier, until age finally started (a poster for Rocky Balboa pops up) to set in and things slowed down, (a poster of another Stallone movie Creed pops up) making room for the real world. Yeah, it's amazing how much art imitates real life, isn't it? These films, in the strangest of ways, are kind of like personal portraits. But the one that shocked people the most in how good it was was Rocky II. The first film won Best Picture in 1977, so the idea of doing a follow-up almost seemed silly. Why top what already won one of the biggest awards there is? In many respects, it shouldn't have even worked, with a plot that almost seemed repetitive of the original. But there's just enough new problems to get in the way to still make it interesting, little things that you wouldn't even think of. Rocky thinks his life will change with endorsements, but he has no charisma with the camera. He thinks things will get better with more fights, but his eyes seems too damaged to do so. What should've been a fairy tale ending from the last film has a reality that's all too good at nickel-and-diming one's dignity away. On paper, you would think it wouldn't work, but it pulls out a strong, emotional, heartbreaking, but also inspiring sequel that confirmed that both Stallone and Rocky were not just one-hit wonders. Even after seeing the same story before, they once again got us to cheer for the right person for the right reasons.
NC (vo): Number 9: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan*. The interesting thing about this one is it's coming off the heels of a movie that, (poster for Star Trek: The Motion Picture pops up) while financially a hit, didn't get much praise from audiences and critics. While not awful by any means, the film seemed more concerned with being 2001 rather than Star Trek. The sequel was a way of seeing if the financial hit of the last film was a fluke or if Star Trek actually had staying power. Thus, it pulled off what many consider to be the best Star Trek film. It incorporated both the ideas of Star Trek and the emotions of Star Trek, focusing on revenge, strategy, life, death, just about anything that makes a grand epic.
(*NOTE: "Khan" is misspelled "Kahn")
NC: And keep in mind, this is at a time when Star Trek was still associated with this.
(A clip of an episode of the old Star Trek show is shown: the infamous fight between Captain Kirk and a Gorn; cut back to The Wrath of Khan)
NC (vo): Everything from the music to the effects to the perfectly over-the-top acting made this a marvel that really would have gone over fine if it just played as an expensive episode. But they didn't just do that; they put all their talent and effort into it, making it one hell of a suspenseful, action-packed, funny, depressing, uplifting, all-encompassing film. It retreaded what made Star Trek so great, but also went where no Trek film had gone before. And it still holds up even to this day.
Kirk (William Shatner): KHAAAAAAAN!!
NC (vo): Number 8: Toy Story 2. The first Toy Story was already something of a risk. Disney was not doing (a poster for A Kid in King Arthur's Court pops up) especially well at the time, and the idea of the first CG movie being this bright, colorful, kid-friendly flick did not seem like a good idea. But, thanks to great writing and great direction, now every animated film (a shot of the Minions in Despicable Me 2 pops up) is trying to be Toy Story. But then (a poster for the following pops up...) A Bug's Life soon followed and was very rushed, due to [Jeffrey] Katzenberg leaving Disney, saying he was taking the bug idea with him. So, two ant movies (shots of A Bug's Life and the aforementioned Katzenberg bug movie, Antz, pop up) came out that year, and while they both did...good, neither was seen as Toy Story. So there's a big fear that maybe Pixar was a one-trick pony. Was Toy Story just a lucky fluke? Was there possibly no future for them? Well, Toy Story 2 was a chance for them to redeem themselves, and by God, that's exactly what they did! They pushed the technology further, the comedy further, and most of all, the story further. It introduced brand-new characters with brand-new problems and dilemmas. Nothing seemed redone; it felt like the exact perfect direction the story should go, causing audiences to laugh and applaud all the way through. Some would debate (a poster for the following pops up...) Toy Story 3 is a better sequel, but here's the thing. Whatever you think of that film, there was no risk that it would be a bad movie. Pixar already established itself with hit after hit. Toy Story 2, on the other hand, was not only a better film, but it showed that Pixar was there to stay, and that they had a lot more talent and creativity to bring. There was something to be lost if it didn't do well. While Toy Story 3 was a great goodbye... (a poster for the then-upcoming Toy Story 4 pops up) sort of, Toy Story 2 is what showed there was plenty of staying power, with its adventure, comedy, and surprising amount of emotion, proving once again they know exactly how to go to infinity and beyond.
NC (vo): Number 7: Aliens. A sequel so good that they have the greatest sequel title of all time. We already know what one alien can do, so simply making it plural is beyond terrifying. And it's not just one, but hundreds of aliens that attack while also adding a new twist with there being a queen alien, the most badass bitch in the galaxy. Taking more of an action route than a horror route, Aliens still brought the intensity as well as long-lasting themes. The ideas of trust, family, and bonding for survival are all explored in adult yet still exciting ways. There's two mothers duking it out, people disbelieving others, and new connections that have to be established, all for the goal of figuring the best way to get through the worst nature has to offer. All these characters are memorable; they're not just people you're waiting for to die, you want them to get through and feel pretty damn bummed when someone doesn't. We like them and don't want to see them go, as a true horror film is supposed to be. The effects are amazing, the action perfectly paced, the emotional moments legitimately effective, it took one of the best horror films of the past few decades and elevated it to a whole new level.
Private Hudson (Bill Paxton): That's it, man. Game over, man, game over!
NC (vo): Number 6: Terminator 2: Judgment Day. From one James Cameron sequel to another James Cameron sequel, Terminator took the idea of a killer Austrian robot that was corny but still cool to a whole new dimension of action, stunts and effects, making what many consider to be the best action film of all time. While many of us are used to seeing Arnold as the good guy now, keep in mind, the sequel wasn't advertised like that. In fact, a lot of it was kept in secret. You just saw him looking menacing with the red eye, and that was it. So everyone thought most of it was just going to be Robert Patrick as the hero and Schwarzenegger once again as the villain. What an awesome surprise to discover the character we like watching most in the first film is now the one we're rooting for in the sequel. While it certainly has its repeat moments for fan service, it still never feels like it's just a retelling. It feels like real shit is at stake. Real people have evolved. And real lives are put on the line because a lot of these stunts were actually putting lives on the line. As groundbreaking as the CG was in this movie, people forget whenever something was destroyed, it was really destroyed in front of the camera! It was only when something was repairing itself that the computers came in. So this was a perfect mix of both practical and computer effects. Because of this, we can still watch this film and be blown away and not just say, "Oh, that's computer, that's computer, they didn't really do any of that." No, so much of it was really there! We get to say, "Wow! They really crashed that truck off a cliff! They really flew that copter over a bridge! They really blew up a metal Robert Patrick!" It's incredible! It's an amazing spectacle, to say the least, and we're all happy as hell that Arnold came back.
NC (vo): Number 5: The Dark Knight.
NC: Batman has had an... (images of the poster for Batman & Robin and a shot of the old Batman TV show are displayed around him) interesting history, to say the least. (nods)
NC (vo): Through all the ups and downs, it almost didn't seem like there were much possibilities in film for him anymore. Batman Begins was really good, but it wasn't breaking any box office records, and it still fell flat when it came to the action and villains. Its sequel not only fixed that, but took comic book movies to a whole new level. When comic films were still kind of seen as kid stuff, Dark Knight won over everybody with its adult imagery, adult ideas, adult acting...
Batman (Christian Bale): Because you were the best of us!
NC (vo): Okay, mostly adult acting...and adult intensity. This is the film that launched so many famous lines, so many incredible action scenes, so many suspenseful moments. It was the first time since the 1989 Batman that people were saying, "Oh, my God! That was an amazingly badass Batman movie!" It pulled no punches and went all out with how dark it could go. But it also carried many themes of duality, sacrifice, and anarchy. This showed not only could comic book movies be big bucks, but it could be gigantic bucks. And it didn't have to talk down to people or make it too kid-friendly. It could represent the original dark material the way it was meant to be represented. The film borrowed from dozens of famous Batman stories, but still brilliantly managed to stay its own thing as well. Its dark edge got under people's skin so much that not only was this the first comic film to receive a Best Actor Academy Award, but it was also the first award to be given after the actor passed away*. It knocked down all barriers and said there's something to these comic book stories; you just have to use the right people who understand it. It said proudly and confidently why these movies should be so serious.
(*NOTE: Heath Ledger as the Joker)
NC (vo): Number 4: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Some would say Two Towers should get this mark, as it was the first sequel to outdo the already-popular Fellowship of the Ring, but this movie broke tons of records, pleased hundreds of critics, won over most audiences, and even swept the Academy Awards, being the first fantasy film to win Best Picture. Like Dark Knight, this showed a genre that was seen more as kid stuff could be a powerful force to be reckoned with. Where the first two films are also very good, everyone seems to have their own personal problems with them, ranging from tiny to major. But this film was so gigantic that even the problems they had are quickly forgotten because they were just sucked into the size and scope of what we were watching. All the characters, all the storylines, everything that had been built up in hours and hours of entertainment suddenly had to be wrapped up. And it went out with a huge bang. The only major problem people seem to have is that the ending goes on forever, which is a legit criticism. They could drag, and sometimes, they're even a little uncomfortable. (A shot of Gandalf's creepy smile is shown; NC is heard shuddering) But when you factor in the amount of characters these movies had and how long they were, it does kind of make sense that it would be a little long. It's like trying to calm down after so much intensity was thrown in your face. In many respects, it was kind of a good decompressor. In the grand scheme of things, it's not really that big a problem. It was quickly forgotten when they look back at the rest of the film. When people point to epics now, they usually either go to the biblical films or Lord of the Rings. What was seen as box office poison and unfilmable by many fans was now one of the biggest epics of all time and the Best Picture winner of 2004. When it's often said sequels never win, this one definitely went out on top.
NC (vo): Number 3: Bride of Frankenstein. Frankenstein is arguably one of the most famous stories of all time. Because it's in the public domain, people do version after version of it. There's literally dozens of them. Nevertheless, it's the original Boris Karloff version that's still seen as the timeless classic. It scared people to death, with its timeless ideas, Gothic atmosphere, and groundbreaking makeup, so the idea of doing a sequel seemed fitting, but...come on, nobody could top the original classic. Well, not only is the sequel as good as the first, but it's seen by many to be even better. It takes the ideas of creating life to a new level, as well as explore the monster's humanity and his ability to learn, sometimes even beyond his human predecessors, once again playing with the idea of who's the real monster. You'd think you couldn't create something as memorable as the original monster design, but with the bride, they definitely did. Nobody can forget that hairdo with the white stripe, or the hiss she lets out like a frightened animal. Though not on-screen long, she left a big impression, just like everything in these Frankenstein movies do: the shadows, the acting, the downright depressing storytelling. It's both hopeful and innocent, but also mean-spirited and despicable. These two movies are among some of the most referenced in any form of media. They're immediately recognizable because they leave such an impact on us. There's a reason you see them everywhere, whether it's Halloween or not, and the genius of both these films still shines through today. In a medium where horror sequels are usually seen with diminishing results, this is one that definitely knew how to keep the magic alive.
Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive): It's alive, it's alive! IT'S ALIVE!
NC (vo): Number 2: The Godfather: Part II. The first Godfather film was a landmark in motion picture history. Many say it's one of the best American films ever made. It was brutal, stylized, but also highly realistic. A film of that nature had never really been seen, at least not to that degree. So the idea of a follow-up seemed...strange. Granted, it was the same people working on it, but what else was there to tell? The movie seemed to end on a perfect note. Well, this one further explored how much humanity has to be given up for what's apparently seen as the greater good, and how the greater good never really seems to have a finish line. Through family, betrayal and violence, we see how far a person can still go to hold onto power while also holding onto any semblance of decency, if there's any left. But on top of that, we also get the backstory of a character that was done by one of the greatest performances of all time. Who could possibly play the younger version of the Oscar-winning Marlon Brando? Robert De Niro, of course. This was the movie that cemented him as one of the great heavy hitters of acting. Seeing how a child can come from nothing with literally everything working against him and trying to kill him, you can somehow become the epitome of power at a price. This was the first sequel to win Best Picture, and the only one to win with its previous film as well; Godfather 1 also won Best Picture. At a time when Godfather was said to be the perfect movie that couldn't be topped, Godfather II tried it, and not only succeeded, but made what many consider one of the greatest films ever made. It's hard enough to make something as incredible as Godfather once, but to do it twice? That's an amazing feat. What can you say? It made us an offer we couldn't refuse.
NC (vo): And the number 1 movie sequel is...Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
NC: Now, I'll admit, I had a rough time trying to figure out which should be #1, this or Godfather II.
NC (vo): They're both different, but also seen as the best sequels out there. They both took America by surprise and were said that the idea of making a sequel out of them didn't seem like a good idea 'cause the original was perfect, and, of course, they're both seen as better than the original.
NC: But here's where it pushed over the line for me. Godfather had to only impress adults. Star Wars had to impress adults...and kids.
NC (vo): Many people say, "Oh, it's easy to make something for kids", but making something for both kids and adults and being legitimately entertaining for both can be very, very tricky, especially if it's not a comedy. Think about it. You're telling a story about sci-fi wizards. You're gonna get adults interested in this? Well, not only did they do it, in many respects, they got more adults interested than kids, you could argue. Why? Because Star Wars could've very easily just been a retelling. Just finding another big ball to destroy, more comic relief, and more weird creatures to fight. But this movie didn't do that. (Beat) It waited until the last one to do that. (The poster for Return of the Jedi is shown) The film not only continued the story as opposed to repeat it, but it took it to a new, darker, aggressive, frightening, and more adult world. Yet, through all of that, kids still watched it. They didn't run away, they didn't say it was too scary or grown-up, they said they wanted to handle the rough stuff with us. Even the big reveal, which I won't give away, really challenges a lot of children's perceptions of good and evil. For many, it's the first time they're putting together that maybe things aren't always so black and white, in a world that seemed tailor made for things to be black and white.
(Several video clips of children's reactions to the movie's big reveal are shown)
NC (vo): One of my favorite things to do is to watch kids' reactions when they hear that big reveal. They just can't believe it. It takes them totally by surprise. But this is a good kind of surprise, a surprise that challenges them and forces them to think a little different. Hell, a lot of adults are suddenly forced to think a little different, too. They didn't see that surprise coming.
(Back to footage of Empire Strikes Back)
NC (vo): On top of that, this was a sequel to the highest-grossing moneymaker of all time. If it just wanted to repeat itself, it could do that, and it would have little-to-no loss. But they didn't. They took a huge chance. They said, "Let's have it go darker, let's have it go more aggressive, let's really make people uncomfortable, the kids, too." That is a big risk that both kids and adults are really glad that they took. This could've been the easiest money-grab, but instead, they decided to go a different direction that, chances are, most people didn't see coming. It's like Mark Twain used to say, "My books are like water. Those with great geniuses are wine. But fortunately, everybody drinks water." Godfather is the wine, Star Wars is the water. Everybody can get it, everybody can relate to something in it, and everyone of any age can get something of value out of it. There's absolutely no denying the Force is strong with this one.
NC: Were there any sequels I missed? Well, leave them in the comments below and... (sighs and frowns) Pray for me this month. I'm the Nostalgia Critic, and Sequel Month is on the way.
(He sadly leaves as we again hear the sound of pooping in a toilet. The credits roll)