My favorite movie sequels of all-time

    From ‘Empire’ to ‘Last Crusade,’ the movie sequels everyone will remember

    Christian+Bale+and+Tom+Hardy+in+the+2012+film+%22The+Dark+Knight+Rises%22

    Christian Bale and Tom Hardy in the 2012 film “The Dark Knight Rises”

    With less than half of 2015 remaining, huge sequels are still coming out such as “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” the final film in the over bloated, overly long franchise, “Spectre,” the 24th entry in the James Bond franchise, “Creed,” the seventh film in the “Rocky” franchise, and, of course, “Star Wars: Episode VII.” Undoubtedly, all will be huge at the box office, yet there is a very good chance that none will match the quality of their predecessors. Below, however, are my five favorite sequels that matched or, in some cases, actually ascended above the previous film

     

    1. Jurassic World (2015)

    The newest film on the list, “Jurassic World” was released earlier this year, 14 years after the release of “Jurassic Park III.” “Jurassic World” easily exceeded the quality of both “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III” within the first half hour of the film. The cast is great, the music is beautiful, and who didn’t love the ending? “Jurassic World” was the only worthwhile Jurassic Park sequel, and is actually close to being as good as the original classic from 1993. I saw it four times in theaters. Four. I only saw “The Dark Knight Rises,” my favorite film of all time, three times in theaters. “Jurassic World” received a standing ovation at the opening night showing I went to, and I am glad to say that I was the first one to applaud the excitingly awesome film.

     

    1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

    Once upon a time, before “The Avengers” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Spider-Man” was king at the box office, becoming the highest grossing movie of 2002. That same year, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “Star Wars: Episode II,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and “Men in Black II” were all released. “Spider-Man” exceeded expectations and was a phenomenal film. Then came “Spider-Man 2,” which took it to an entirely new level. The character of Peter Parker is completely fleshed out now, becoming something of a tragic hero. In addition to the upgraded Spider-Man, the effects were better, the music was better, the story was better, and even the villain, Dr. Octopus, was better. Alfred Molina steals the show as Doc Ock, somehow upstaging Willem Dafoe’s crazy performance as the Green Goblin.

    Before The Dark Knight Trilogy, “Spider-Man 2” was the definitive comic book movie that really pushed the envelope of the genre and helped turn it into a powerhouse.

     

    1. “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”

    Back in 1977, director George Lucas started his enormous empire with the original “Star Wars,” which became the highest grossing movie of 1977 and won six Academy Awards. With “The Empire Strikes Back,” they somehow improved upon the original, with the main characters completely fleshed out and exciting new ones such as Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, and, of course, Yoda. What followed that was “Return of the Jedi,” the perfect way to end the trilogy. While it definitely wasn’t as good as neither “Empire” nor “Star Wars,” “Jedi” has two of my favorite moments from the entire saga among many others from Vader’s redemption to the Battle of the second Death Star. Without both “Empire” and “Jedi,” “Star Wars” would have still been a great movie, but it wouldn’t have nearly the impact that it has had.

     

    1. “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3”

    Typically, animated film franchises seem to suffer the most in terms of a failing quality over installments. “Cinderella,” “The Lion King,” and “The Land Before Time” all had sequels that, quality wise, were bad enough that they didn’t even go to cinemas but straight to video. “Toy Story 2” was the film to sort of change this. While the film isn’t quite as good as the original, it is still a superb landmark of cinema. This has one of the most talented voice casts I have ever heard, from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to newcomers Joan Cusack and Kelsey Grammer. The story was intriguing, the jokes were once again hilarious, and the film packed even more heart than the original, dealing with issues of abandonment. Following “Toy Story 2” was “Toy Story 3.” Made over ten years after part 2, “Toy Story 3” captured a darker, more sentimental tone heavy with nostalgia. While I think it is the weakest of the series, this is one of the few movies that have been known to make grown men cry. The film is equal parts sad, funny, moving, heartwarming, and exciting. The voice acting is once again great, this time adding a fantastic Ned Beatty and hilarious Michael Keaton to the cast. The two Toy Story sequels turned a great film into a great franchise, and with “Toy Story 4” coming in 2017, I could not be any more excited

     

    1. “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”

    Very few sequels to comic book movies ever live up to their predecessors, with “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Superman III,” and “Batman Forever” all failing miserably. Not only did the later two films in the Dark Knight Trilogy live up to “Batman Begins,” but somehow they surpassed the at-the-time quindecennial Batman flick. Both showed off impressive acting (mainly the late Heath Ledger as The Joker and Tom Hardy as Bane), impressive cinematography, beautiful music, and epic storylines. With “The Dark Knight,” director Christopher Nolan grounded the franchise in reality, making the film more of a crime drama than a straight up action flick. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have great action. Batman taking down the S.W.A.T. team, the Batman impersonators, and the car chase all being some of the most memorable action sequences of the past few decades. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker, however, is what truly made the film fantastic. Ledger’s Joker was intimidating, scary, methodical, and even funny, easily giving a better performance than Jack Nicholson did in 1989s “Batman,” which is no small feat considering he was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. Ledger’s Joker will go down in history as one of the greatest screen villains of all time and “The Dark Knight” will go down in history as one of the greatest movies of all time. “The Dark Knight Rises,” in my opinion, is actually the best in the entire franchise. Tom Hardy’s Bane reminds me of Darth Vader from “Star Wars,” which few villains ever seem to do. In addition to Hardy’s performance, the story was the most epic of the franchise, the scenery and production was beautifully grand, and it featured my favorite ending to a franchise of all time. “The Dark Knight Rises” is criminally underrated and is still my favorite movie of all time.

     

    Honorable Mentions:

     

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

    X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

    Army of Darkness (1992)

    Aliens (1986)

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
    So these are the five (really eight) sequels that I believe are the best cinema has had to offer us. From comic book films to sci fi epics, sequels are probably the most popular films that Hollywood brings us in a given year. While most fail to live up to the hype, some rise above expectations and make movie history.