Here's a few rules, right off the bat; these are second films only, no third or fourth installments (so don't look for Goldfinger, or Casino Royale), and finally, there are no "pre-planned" sequels here (so don't look for Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Rings films, or Superman II). I'm talking real, unadulterated sequels in the classic sense.
Ready? Let's start with numbers 10-6:
10 – Spider-Man 2 – A recurring point in this list is going to be the fact that all of these sequels take the original films and add a greater degree of complexity along with dialling up the more enjoyable aspects that made the first film a success. Spider-Man 2 is no exception, boasting a stronger and more emotionally charged story, a more tragic and captivating bad guy in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, and in Sam Raimi, a director at the absolute peak of his confidence and prowess. The operating room scene is vintage Evil Dead-type Raimi, while the elevated train action set piece is superbly constructed and executed.
9 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day – The first film was basically an ingenious riff on the stalker/slasher films that dominated the 1980s, spruced up with some really cool visual effects and an iconic performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the first film contained some great action sequences and some nifty sci-fi concepts at its core, the sequel took all of that and ran with it. Linda Hamilton morphed from helpless victim into ripped paranoid hard ass, Arnie morphed from bad guy into good guy and Robert Patrick just plain morphed as the T-1000. Not only did its visual effects literally change film forever, but it also was way riskier with the implications of its time travel pretzel plot, and its examinations of fatalism and consequence.
8 – Bride of Frankenstein – After the first film was a hit for a depression-era Universal studios, director James Whale was given pretty much free reign to create a follow up, and he took that reign and went as far as he possibly could. The result is a film that is simultaneously weirder, scarier, more tragic and way funnier than its predecessor. Karloff continues to build on his legendary role but the creation of Dr. Pretorius, as played by Ernest Thesiger, is the film’s most genius move, providing the film with a villain that is both repellent and utterly fascinating.
7- Evil Dead 2 – Raimi and star Bruce Campbell went back into the woods to create a sequel that is so utterly unconcerned with the first film that it’s really more of a remake. Their desire was simply to make the first film scarier, gorier and strangely enough, funnier. And they succeed on all fronts, crafting a film that is basically a macabre, gory cartoon with an idiot for a hero tormented by demons that have watched a lot of Three Stooges shorts. It’s made all the more remarkable by the sheer brilliance of Campbell’s performance and by Raimi’s incredible skill at using the camera in a hyper kinetic way.
6 – The Bourne Supremacy – You know a spy film has really hit the mark when it becomes a major influence on the granddaddy of spy films, the James Bond franchise. Paul Greengrass took the Bourne series in a new direction, visually, as he put you inside fight scenes and car chases, forcing the viewer to experience them as a mad and vertiginous flurry of movement, much as the participants do. And, like many sequels, the subject matter was darker and more intense than the previous film, anchored by Matt Damon’s underrated portrayal of the tormented and irrevocably traumatized central character.
What’ll be in the top five? See you soon to find out.