Greetings friends, acquaintances and mortal enemies. Thank you once again for tuning in to the Trove blog series! As you all have undoubtedly noticed, it’s almost summer time -- the proverbial Garden of Eden when it comes to studios hoping to make some serious cheddar, some fat stacks, some Benjamins, baby. All the studio large cheeses are hoping to release that new movie that will not only make some moola, but have audiences clamoring for a sequel to it to make even more moola.
Which brings us to this week’s blog! Every year we get an obese amount of sequels or reboots, but really, it's truly rare to find one that warrants its own existence, or that isn’t a steaming pile of absolute garbage. Never mind finding a sequel that is actually somehow better than the original, expanding the franchise's potential and story. You know, what a sequel … should do ... Now, those sequels are few and far between, but our massive team of researchers at Trove (i.e., me) have gone ahead and hunted down some worthy of such praise. While some need time to digest for consideration (the fantastic “Blade Runner 2049” and “War for the Planet of the Apes”), others just fell short (“X2: X-Men United,” “Kill Bill Vol.2”), and one was viciously vetoed by Trove leadership (somebody isn’t a fan of “Aliens” ... Ben ... it's Ben), these are the ten best sequels of all time!
10. “Before Sunset”
2004, written and directed by Richard “Chit-Chat” Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talking a lot
So I know some of you may read this and just be like, “What the heck are you talking about? What IS this movie?” But bear with me, because this is an amazing film. It’s actually the second in Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, which is a pretty miraculous trilogy given that; A: the first movie was released in 1995, and the third in 2013; and B: it follows the same two characters in the trajectory of their relationship, from meeting to marital disarray, and each movie is just them … talking. Casually realistic but engaging dialogue is Linklater’s forte -- see “Dazed and Confused” and “Boyhood." “Before Sunset” is one of his best, as we see characters Jesse and Celine run into each other nine years after a passionate night in Vienna. Time is of the essence, though, because Jesse has to catch a flight home. What follows is a real-time conversation that has a surprising amount of urgency and sadness to it as the two reconnect with the knowledge that their time together will be fleeting. Organic, down to earth, beautiful film making.
9. “Spider-Man 2”
2004, written by A Wonderful Man, directed by Sam “I-Make-Awesome-Sequels” Raimi, starring Tobey “Ugly Crier” Maguire, Alfred Molina, and Kirsten Dunst
So we go from totally off the grid to ON THE FREAKING GRID. If you haven’t seen “Spider-Man 2,” or prefer the dreeeadful Andrew Garfield versions or the latest with Tom Holland -- that one ain’t too shabby -- you can just go on n’ git’, because Tobey is the Spider-Man. Nobody puts Tobey in a corner! And with “Spider-Man 2,” Tobey and director Sam Raimi had their home run hit of their “Spider-Man” trilogy. It stands as one of the best superhero movies of all time and just a genuinely great movie. In a mixture of comedy, camp, thrills and legitimate drama, “Spider-Man 2” sees Tobey’s Peter Parker go through a serious existential crisis. He questions the toll being Spider-Man has taken on his life as Molina’s Dr. Octopus wreaks havoc on New York.
Oh, and it also has some AMAZING action sequences. HE FIGHTS DR. OCTOPUS ON THE SIDE OF A TRAIN -- I MEAN COME ON.
8. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”
1991, directed by James Cameron When He Had Cajones, written by Cameron and Some Other Poor Unfortunate Soul, starring Ahnold “GET TO THE CHOPPA’,” Edward Furlong, and A Frighteningly Strong Linda Hamilton
So there’s a small cult of people who will argue that the first “Terminator” is the better movie, but the first one is missing, A: The freaking T-1000 (he’s made of LIQUID METAL and can SHAPE SHIFT C’MON), and B: A Linda Hamilton that could probably rip my head from my shoulders if so provoked. But really what makes this entry to the “Terminator” franchise a standout is the humanity that’s brought to the story. As opposed to the straight hunter/hunted plotline of the first film, “T2” sees the young Sean Connor, future leader of the human resistance against murderous machines, team up with a Terminator gone good, played by Ahnold himself, as well as Connor’s mother Sarah (Hamilton) against the aforementioned T-1000. You’d think two robots fighting would be enough, but the filmmakers chose to give Arnold’s Terminator a legitimate arc, and the movie is exponentially better for it.
7. “Toy Story 3”
2010 written and directed by Sadists Intent On Making You Cry, starring Tim “The Tool Man” Allen and America’s Sweetheart Tom Hanks
So obviously I’m biased, something I described a couple blogs ago, in that I am completely and eternally devoted to “Toy Story.” It totally defined my childhood, and I wouldn’t be nearly as charming and whimsical today without it.
Having said that, “Toy Story 3” might somehow be … better. Sure, it does sort of feed on the nostalgia of the original film, but it sure as shootin’ stands on its own as a darn fine movie, too. It’s impossible to not feel SOME form of emotion as Andy is left to give up Buzz, Woody, and the rest of his toys to a daycare center, leaving our titular playthings to ask themselves “What now?” Despite being an animated movie, this is some existential crisis stuff here, which culminates in reducing bloggers to a pool of tears at the film’s conclusion. 8 years later, I’m still crying.
6. “Evil Dead 2”
1987 directed by Sam “I-Make-Awesome-Sequels” Raimi, written by Raimi and A Poor Guy No One Remembers, starring Bruce Campbell, Baby
So in 1981 Sam Raimi (there he is again!) made an absolute horror classic with “Evil Dead.” THE archetype for all cabin horror movies you’ve ever seen … then blatantly decided to parody it with the film’s sequel. While the first film is mostly pure horror, “Evil Dead 2” is its own entity and exists in its own plane of filmmaking as this incredibly bizarre amalgamation of comedy, camp, and horror. Directed with ridiculous chutzpah by Raimi, who does things with a camera that are still jaw dropping today, “Evil Dead 2” is simply one of the most bonkers movies ever made. Whether it’s Bruce Campbell acting so gonzo you fear for his own sanity, Ash (Campbell) fighting an evil version of his own hand, or Ash replacing that hand with a chainsaw, the movie is an absolute thrill ride.
5. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
2003, directed by Peter Jackson Pre Career Destruction, written by Writers Who Found the Work Bogged Dwarfed by Spectacle, starring Elijah Wood, the Kid From “The Goonies,” and Gandalf the Ayyy
Despite the overwhelming praise this movie has received (including 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture) and it’s common appearance on Best Sequel lists, this was a source of great controversy in the Trove office since “The Lord of the Rings” movies are all just too good to pick which is the best. And by great controversy, I mean a small debate. And by a small debate, I mean a brief, professional dialogue, but I digress.
So as a tiebreaker, we went with the masses, and the masses say this one is “King.” And when you’re capping off arguably the greatest trilogy of all time, you’ve got a good shot to make this list. While I personally am a fan of “Fellowship of the Ring” (sweet Eru, that sounded nerdy), it’s hard to argue that “The Return of the King” doubles down on what makes the trilogy so good: genuinely moving emotion (when the posse thinks Frodo’s dead, omg stop), sweeping, epic action (THERE ARE GIANT MIDDLE EARTH ELEPHANTS, THEY’RE SO COOL), as well as continuing to build the world of Middle Earth in general. These filmmakers … bow to no one …
4. “The Dark Knight”
2008, directed by Christopher “The Freaking Man” Nolan, written by Nolan and David S. Goyer (I spared him), starring A Growling Christian Bale and Modern Legend Heath Ledger
So I feel like legitimately 98% of mankind have seen this one. You could be blind and you’ve seen it. You could live under a rock and probably watched it down there at one point. On top of that, I feel like I haven’t met many people who dislike this movie. And that’s because, to be frank, it’s a fantastic movie.
While “Spider-Man 2” at the time elevated the superhero genre, “The Dark Knight” took it up innumerable notches by turning what could have easily slipped into superhero stereotype fodder into a believable crime drama that borders on Greek tragedy. Every aspect of the film’s production is approached with serious effort and craft, as Bale’s Batman and his allies are faced with impossible questions of morality and Heath Ledger’s Joker runs rampant through Gotham, introducing a little anarchy wherever he goes. The acting is great across the board, but hot-diggity, Ledger is absolutely epic in this as one of the greatest film villains ever. R.I.P. Heath, we hardly knew you.
3. “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
1980, directed by Not George Lucas, written by The Star Wars People, starring Mark Hammy, Harrison “I Know” Ford, and the Dearly Missed Carrie Fisher
Man am I gonna’ get flack for putting this one at three … but hey, third all time ain’t bad! What needs to be said here? Giant AT-ATs, Luke getting cozy in a space critter’s tummy, Master Yoda (“That is why you fail!”), the cool as a cucumber but duplicitous monster Lando Calrissian, and, of course, “I am your father,” hands down THE biggest twist in the history of film. Those words, spoken by James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, completely steal the movie in another of the greatest villainous roles in film. “The Empire Strikes Back” not only raised the stakes for the “Star Wars” franchise, but it challenged all franchises to raise the stakes and completely and totally go for broke. People die, are betrayed, love is lost, hope is lost (both old and new), stuff gets dark prettaaaay quick. But the franchises that do this right are often much, much better for it, and you can thank “Empire” for that.
2. “Mad Max: Fury Road”
2015, directed by A SEVENTY YEAR OLD MAN?!, written by Said 70 Year-Old and His Pals, starring Tom “Always Has Something On His Face” Hardy and A One Armed Charlize Theron
After taking a break from his dystopian ultraviolent roots with the likes of “Babe” (that’ll do, pig, that’ll do), Australian director George Miller brought his beloved “Mad Max” franchise roaring back to life with “Fury Road.” It's one of, if not, the greatest action movies of all time, and a film that critics sincerely believe to be on the best movies of the CENTURY so far (no joke, check it out).
Those of you who’ve seen “Fury Road” may be genuinely baffled as to that statistic because the movie is pretty basic. Hardy’s Max and Theron’s Furiosa are chased across the desert by insane mutants in a post-apocalyptic world. Then they go back across the dessert a second time. The end. Sure, the movie is undeniably awesome, directed with reckless abandon and fervor by Miller, pacing the film like a kid with severe ADHD who just took some pre-workout. And sure, the movie is a technical marvel, with insane usage of practical effects, beautiful cinematography, and a refreshing lack of CGI.
But what makes “Fury Road” so great is its substance. It may not seem that deep on an initial watch, but it ages like a fine wine. On repeat viewings, Miller’s intent on creating a film that emphasizes the value of life around the world, whether it be mankind or the environment or even just optimism, is a helluva’ message for “just an action movie.” WITNESS IT!
And the best sequel of all time is …
“The Godfather Part II”
1974, directed by Francis “Made Three of the Greatest Films of All Time” Coppola, written by Coppola and The Guy Who Wrote the Book, starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, Need I Say More?
Alright, alright. Yes. I totally conformed and went with the masses because virtually everybody thinks that “The Godfather Part II” is the greatest sequel of all time. But, I mean, most people think that because … it is. When you make what many believe to be the greatest American film of all time, then make a sequel that might actually be better, how does that not top the list?!
Intertwining the stories of Michael Corleone, a truly evil Pacino, in the 1950s and his father Vito, a truly awesome DeNiro, in the 1920s, “The Godfather Part II” continues to explore the themes of the first film -- family, power, and the American Dream. The plot is freaking Shakespearean, as we watch Vito build the Corleone empire with dignity and nobility (or as dignified and noble as a criminal can be) while his son Michael goes down the other path, strengthening the empire with merciless, cold savagery as he becomes dominated by greed and power. It’s a knockout tragedy that is as engrossing as a movie can be. And like its predecessor, it's a devastating look at the good and the bad that can come out of the American Dream.
So there you have it folks, your top ten sequels of all time! Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed it (which you probably did, I killed it this week), check out our other blogs on our website! Thanks again, and we’ll see you next week!