In the world of the unexpected there is one thing you can just about always expect- the sequel to a movie will be worse than the original. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some movies show that they are not simply cash-ins on a franchise; they are made with care and show that the bar can indeed be raised even further. Here is a list of ten movies that show care and skill in filmmaking and stand out even more than the original.
10. The Bride of Frankenstein- Following the events of the first film, The Bride of Frankenstein following loosely the story of the classic novel. The Monster, played by Boris Karloff, is given more of chance to show his acting range. A new villain is introduced and the doctor must walk a moral gray area to keep those he loves safe. In a scene involving a blind hermit and the Monster, the Monster is finally given a voice and really becomes a more pitiful creature than he ever was in the first movie. It is a lovely film of the Universal Horror series and a classic of genre.
9. Superman 2- Superman was a great interpretation of the Man of Steel. It was fun and a bit cartoonish at times too. Superman 2 ramped up the action and made the risks all the more interesting. Three Kryptonian criminals escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth. They have the same powers as Superman and soon attempt to take over the planet. While Superman has to battle three foes that share his powers, he must also rise above the usual challenges he has faced in the past with Lex Luthor alone.
8. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was for all intents and purposes as happy an ending that a space battle movie could produce on film. The Empire Strikes Back takes the events that occur after that movie and give it a much darker ending. Things do not end well. It showed us that sometimes evil wins and what you need to do is escape and live to fight another day. It is a harsh lesson to pick up from where in the last film the heroes were winning medals for blowing up the Death Star. The final film, Return of the Jedi, was also a great movie that ended the series on a positive note.
7. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior- Mad Max was a harsh movie with great driving scenes and good action sequences. The Road Warrior shows the mood of the apocalypse as a grim reality shown on every character’s face. The action is amped up in a big way. With people struggling for gasoline and ammunition, and death lurking around every corner, it is a great early Mel Gibson movie. The characters wheel and deal and live like savages. It paints the most fun version of an apocalyptic wasteland possibly ever seen on film.
6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day- The first Terminator film plays a lot like a horror movie where a woman is being hunted by a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. The second movie ups the ante by making a Terminator, similar to the one in the first film, an ally and adding a new threat- hunting her son. The action and special effects are top notch. The liquid metal Terminator is ahead of its time as the actor moves like a shark through every scene. The sequels, while satisfactory, would never feel the same feeling of epic this film would produce.
5. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly- The movies involving the “Man with No Name” are mysterious and fun. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly gave us a search for gold with three characters that were intricate and well developed. It was gritty and it was as harsh as the wild west was ever portrayed in fiction. This movie also taught us the age-old lesson if you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk. It shows a world where you fight, shoot, cheat, and steal to survive and only the smartest and quickest man wins.
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- While the first Hobbit film was very pretty and had a few good moments, it did suffer a lot from a dull story. The Desolation of Smaug made up for that. The action was revved up and the characters were made a lot more likable this time around. The movie was actually much more enjoyable than the first film. The appearance of Smaug was thrilling as was the scene where the dwarves escape the elves using barrels. Seeing the ring slowly take over Bilbo’s mind is quite fascinating as well.
3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade- The Indiana Jones movies have always been fun and over the top like the movie serial that they were made to emulate. Indiana Jones seems like the perfect person to find the Holy Grail. Not only that, but it teamed him up with several of his allies form previous films as well as his father, played by Sean Connery. Pitting him against the evil of the Nazis he must find his faith in order to find the artifacts that lead to the Grail.
2. Dawn of the Dead- After Night of the Living Dead it seemed that folks had the outbreak of the undead under control. It turns out that the outbreak was much larger. A group of survivors find a way to a shopping mall and decide to stay there. At first they’re happy with it and treat it like a kid in a candy store. Soon though, raiders attack them and they have to defend themselves. It turns out that the biggest danger isn’t the zombies but the people in this dangerous world. One of the best quotes from this movie is “When there is no room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
1. The Dark Knight- After Batman Begins it would be hard to raise the bar- however The Dark Knight did just that. With Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker it knocked it out of the park. The Dark Knight explored what it meant to be a villain, that it is nothing but chaos unleashed, and what Batman actually stood for. It was smart and took things to a whole new level. Many other superhero movies will likely look to this one for inspiration in the future. It seems that more folks will want an element of dark realism in their superhero movies to some degree.
Sequels can sometimes be very good. Some people seem to take sequels as a challenge to learn from past mistakes or to attempt to see things in a brand new vision. In some rare cases it works. In other cases it is a transparent cash-in of the Hollywood machine. In either case we, as the audience, vote with our wallets when we decide to go to these movies. Choose wisely and producers will make things that matter.