Sequels get a bad rap, and I’ll be the first to admit that in the past I’ve grumbled about what seems to be a never-ending parade of one installment after another from several blockbuster franchises. But every once in a while, a follow-up film is so good it makes me realize that — as with most things in life — it’s not fair to draw sweeping generalizations.
Here are 12 movies that smash the sequel stereotype and are in fact actually great.
Bad Boys for Life – New to the Box and Redbox on Demand, the third chapter of Detective Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett’s (Martin Lawrence) Miami adventures was my favorite so far, as evidenced by my theatrical review. After Lowrey nearly loses his life to an assassin’s bullets, he convinces his one-foot-in-retirement partner to reunite for one last case in order to track down whoever’s behind a string of related murders. It’s the perfect mix of action, aging buddy-cop humor and even a little heartstrings-pulling drama.
10 Cloverfield Lane – Cloverfield was a groundbreaking “found footage” film, but its shaky-cam direction left me a little nauseous. I much preferred the psychological drama in this distantly connected — but definitely still connected — follow-up, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a woman who wakes up from a car crash to find herself in a Good Samaritan’s (John Goodman) underground bunker.
Magic Mike XXL – The boys (Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello) are back in this sequel to Magic Mike, which finds the crew wanting to end their … um… dancing careers on a high note by performing in a competition in Myrtle Beach. You know who wins? THE AUDIENCE.
Paddington 2 – And in this corner we have the complete opposite of Magic Mike XXL: it’s the beloved Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), back for more fun with the Brown family in London after his antics in 2014’s Paddington. People love love LOVE this movie, and so did critics — it scored a very rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. What better movie to watch with your family while on lockdown?
Shrek 2 – Sticking with family-friendly picks for a moment, we have the sequel to 2001’s smash hit Shrek, which follows the continuing adventures of the big green ogre (Mike Myers), Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Shrek’s best friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy). See why it was the highest-grossing film of 2004, on top of being nominated for two Oscars!
Spider-Man 2 – I must admit that there are a lot of great superhero sequels. The first I’ve included on this list is from the Tobey Maguire-starring trilogy. The second installment finds Spidey battling Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) while trying to come to terms with his own identity — as well as his love for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). Perhaps now is the perfect time to remind yourself why this movie is considered one of the best superhero films in existence?
The Dark Knight – … As is this follow-up to Batman Begins. The late Heath Ledger posthumously won a Best Supporting Actor for his magnificent turn as The Joker, a true master of chaos who always kept poor Batman (Christian Bale) on his toes.
Annabelle: Creation – I tend to stay away from movies about freaky-looking murderous dolls, so I confess I haven’t actually seen this one. But I’m trying to represent some other genres, so this one’s for the horror fans out there. I hear that this sequel-that’s-actually-a-prequel is superior to its predecessor thanks to director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise was a leap forward for film technology — especially motion capture. The entire new series is great. But hmm, on second thought, it IS about a group of pandemic survivors trying to deal with societal collapse and the uprising of another species, so… you be the judge if you can handle it right now or not!
Terminator 2: Judgment Day – You know how there are some movies where the experience of watching them for the first time just sticks with you? This sequel is like that for me — I can still remember myself in the theater, watching this with my high school friends and being blown away by the coolness of the metallic, shapeshifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick) as he chased and tormented The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong).
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – As a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, I was completely thrilled with all of Peter Jackson’s adaptations. The Fellowship of the Ring remains my personal favorite because I always like “beginnings” overall, but The Two Towers is just as amazing, and no one can deny that The Battle at Helm’s Deep is one of the most impressive and jaw-dropping battle sequences ever filmed.
The Godfather Part II – I’ll end with THE most celebrated sequel of all time, and the first sequel to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture (in addition to 5 other Oscars). It follows the continuing saga of the Corleone family of Italian mobsters, but with two different plots it functions as both a prequel and a sequel to The Godfather, showing the rise of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) and the eventual fall of his son Michael (Al Pacino).
What’s the best sequel you’ve ever seen?