May 28, 2008

The Best and Most Successful Sequels of all Time

The release of Indy 4 got me thinking about sequels. What were the best sequels ever? I took the Top 250 films list on IMDB and sifted it for sequels. There are 13 sequels in the top 250, or just over 5% of the list. Here's the list of movies which are sequels by the purest definition of the term:
  1. The Godfather: Part II is not only the best sequel ever, but the third best movie ever.
  2. The Empire Strikes Back is a great sequel, perhaps better than the original Star Wars?
  3. Aliens (1986) is an entirely different kind of movie from the original Alien (1979)-- The original was a "haunted house" movie set in a spaceship, while Aliens is a Vietnam war movie with aliens.
  4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is James Cameron's other great sequel on this list.
  5. I think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ranks so high partly because it looks so good in comparison to the widely disliked Temple of Doom. I enjoy the movie very much, but I find Temple of Doom to be underrated.
  6. Return of the Jedi is a better movie than the presence of the reviled Ewoks suggests. Fans are still bitter, and why not? George Lucas populated an entire planet with living teddy bears. Why not introduce The Planet of Happy Meal Tie-Ins while we're at it?!
  7. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) ranks higher than the original Frankenstein film.
  8. Toy Story 2 is definitely better than the original.
Five other movies in the Top 250 are technically sequels, but I haven't counted them. A sequel could be broadly defined as "a movie which continues the stories of characters in a previously released movie". However, I have chosen to define a sequel more strictly. In my opinion, a true sequel is a sequel both in narrative and in its production. A sequel must be an entirely new production, filmed completely separately from the original film. Here are the other five sequels from the Top 250 which I have excluded, with my reasons:
  1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is sort of a prequel to A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but Sergio Leone never intended it that way, and several actors appear in all three movies in entirely different roles.
  2. The Lord of the Rings 2 continues the story from Fellowship of the Ring, but all three films were produced and shot simultaneously.
  3. The Lord of the Rings 3 concludes the story from #2, but all three films were produced and shot simultaneously.
  4. Batman Begins is a reboot, not a sequel. Batman Begins re-tells the origin of the Batman character and discards all the events of previous Batman movies.
  5. Kill Bill, Volume 2 is also a simultaneous production with Kill Bill, Volume 1. While the Lord of the Rings movies were never meant to be edited as one whole feature, Kill Bill was intended as one three hour feature, until producer Bob Weinstein convinced director Quentin Tarantino to re-edit the movie into two shorter movies, guaranteeing a boost in ticket receipts: even if only half of the audience for Volume 1 returned to see Volume 2, that's a 50% increase in revenue for the studio.
Meanwhile, I checked the Top Grossing Movies of All Time (USA, as of May 28, 2008), and, no surprise, 25% of the top 250 are sequels. Here's the Top Eleven, not in order:
  • Shrek 2 and 3
  • Star Wars Prequels 1, 2, and 3
  • Pirates of the Carribean 2 and 3
  • Lord of the Rings 2 and 3
  • Spider-Man 2 and 3