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J.D.'s Top 10 Best Sequels

by JD Warnock on October 15, 2007

in Top 10s

The phrase “best sequel” is, in and of itself, a misnomer. There have only been a handful of truly defensible sequels in film history and “The Godfather Part II” is very probably the only sure-fire winner. I have therefore omitted that film from the top of this list. I’ve also left out “The Empire Strikes Back” because it too belongs atop any credible list. Besides, Eric already listed those last week in his list. So, with that in mind, I’ve thrown together a list of sequels that I love… ergo the best sequels. Dig in friends, and for crying out loud people, throw this stuff back in my face!

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

This is my favorite of the three Indiana Jones pictures– a fact that may get some eggs thrown at my head, but I think this is a classic Spielberg picture that works on every level from beginning to end. “Last Crusade” is very nearly a perfect film. To some extent, we all know what to expect from “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (set to release in May 2008), we just have to keep our fingers crossed that Spielberg and Co. wouldn’t take the aging franchise out for a spin if they hadn’t cooked up something spectacular.

Indiana Jones: It’s disgraceful, you’re old enough to be her… her grandfather.
Professor Henry Jones: Well, I’m as human as the next man.
Indiana Jones: Dad, I was the next man.

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

“Prisoner of Azkaban” is widely regarded as the best of the Potter films. Even Potter-outsiders like Eric Melin are forced to concede that this film is the standout in the series. Director Alfonso Cuarón capably helmed this teen-wizard classic and then went on to direct “Children of Men.” So, not it’s a huge shock that “Azkaban” was stellar. The guy is kind of a bad-ass.

Dumbledore: Mysterious thing, time. Powerful, and when meddled with, dangerous. Sirius Black is in the topmost cell of the dark tower. You know the laws, Miss Granger. You must not be seen, and you would do well, I feel, to return before this last chime. If not, the consequences are too ghastly to discuss. If you succeed tonight, more than one innocent life may be spared. Three turns, should do it, I think.

3. X-Men United / X2 (2003)

Oh why, oh why, couldn’t Bryan Singer’s friends and family talked him out of bailing on the X-Men series in favor of the Kryptonite-fearing wonder-wuss. This is a question that will haunt X-Men fans and, I hope, Singer for quite some time. Unlike its predecessors, “X3” didn’t share the exceptional tone and deeper understanding of Marvel’s greatest ensemble team. It was an inevitable result of Singer’s departure, but at least we have the first two films to ease the pain. “X2” was even better than the first film, and it successfully moved the movie versions of the central characters along and looked good doing it.

President McKenna: How did you get these?
Professor X: Well, let’s just say I know a little girl who can walk through walls.

4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Director Sam Raimi went completely berzerker on “Spidey 3,” cramming way too much – a lot of which didn’t work – into what he surely thought might have been the final original cast Spider-Man installment. It was just shy of a disaster, but Raimi knows how to make great movies and Spider-Man will live to web another day. “Spider-Man 2,” on the other hand, was pure comic book movie genius. Raimi beat the crap out of Peter Parker in the first half of the film with such joy and style it was marvelous to watch and I really can’t say too much about Alfred Molina. Molina’s Doc Ock was three-dimensional and worked as well as any comic book villain in film history.

Miss Brant: [Walks in with Peter] Chief, I found Parker.
J. Jonah Jameson: ‘Bout time, where were you? Crazy scientist blows himself up, and we don’t have pictures!
Joseph ‘Robbie’ Robertson: I heard Spider-Man was there.
J. Jonah Jameson: [annoyed] And where were you, photographing squirrels? You’re fired!
Miss Brant: [Peter turns to leave] Chief, the planetarium party.
J. Jonah Jameson: Oh right, you’re unfired, get back here!

5. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Did someone say Fred D. Thompson? Why yes, everyone’s favorite Republican presidential candidate from Tennessee does star opposite your pal Bruno in this excellent follow-up to the original “Die Hard.” While the set-up is considerably harder to swallow than the first movie, and the villains are less than Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, the “Die Hard” franchise would have been born just the same had this been the first installment. There’s a super-sweet fist fight on the wing of an moving airplane for crying out loud, what more do you want from a sequel?

Marvin: So you like that one huh? How ’bout you give me twenty bucks for it?
John McClane: How ’bout I let you live?
Marvin: Man sure knows how to bargain.

6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

It would appear that on his way off the set of 1989’s “Christmas Vacation,” SNL veteran Chevy Chase lost his funny. Maybe someone funny-jacked him on the way off the lot the last day of production, but Chase followed “Christmas Vacation” with “Nothing But Trouble” and “Cops and Robbersons” and his funny hasn’t been heard from since. “C.V.” has been the inspiration for millions of gung-ho American dads to over-tap the local power station, covering their homes in megatons of cheap, sparkling lights. Clark Griswold’s excesses in “C.V.” may be to blame for the horror that is lighted holiday yard art and inflatable snow globes. Either way, this movie was the last great Chevy Chase movie. Personally, I believe in you Chevy– and I know, you know who has your funny. So, I say let’s get a couple of guys and a camera and go make a gritty documentary about stealing it back.

Eddie: You surprised to see us, Clark?
Clark: Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.

7. Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home (1986)

Bring it on, I can take it. Yep, I said “The Voyage Home.” Now take a deep breath, space geeks and haters alike, and then read on. “Home” was originally developed to co-star Eddie Murphy, hence the cast turning up in modern day San Francisco looking for humpback whales necessary to save the future Earth from its own extinction. This all gets started when a mysterious probe is ejected from a massive space turd, disrupting all power on Earth and sending our heroes hurtling back in time. Come to think of it, I wonder if Al Gore is a fan of “The Voyage Home” since it is sort of a sci-fi treatment of “An Inconvenient Truth,” with a twenty year head start and a whole lot more Chekov. I’ve always loved this movie, gigantic flaws and all. It’s funny, and most of the time intentionally so. The story is grounded in yet another clever Star Trek idea and this one works, but only if you let it. Besides where else can you see Captain Kirk fearlessly brave the deep to release the trapped whales, as Shatner does his best impression of Shirley Winters (swimming underwater in “Poseidon Adventure”). It took balls to show everyone what was really going on with your hair just then Bill– and I, for one, applaud you.

Spock: Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall we say, more colorful metaphors, “double dumb-ass on you” and so forth.
Kirk: Oh, you mean the profanity?
Spock: Yes.
Kirk: Well that’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word.

8. Rocky IV (1985)

Ivan Drago, James Brown and more sweet jams from Frank Stallone, are you kidding me – if Rocky can’t thaw the ice of the cold war, then nobody can. I wasn’t afraid of Russians as a kid for nothing! Drago was scary, but Bridgette Nielsen was absolutely terrifying. I still haven’t gotten over Apollo’s death, and the bearded training scenes in the snow are awesome.

Paulie: I know sometimes I act stupid and I say stupid things, but you kept me around and other people would have said “drop that bum”. You give me respect. You know it’s kinda hard for me to say these kinda things, cuz it ain’t my way, but if I could just unzip myself and step out and be someone else, I’d wanna be you. You’re all heart, Rock.

9. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

As a kid, I thought the scene where the guy gets his beating heart ripped from his chest while pinned in a weird cage contraption was about the scariest thing ever. “Doom” didn’t quite have the swagger of “Raiders” or the characters in “Crusade,” but it’s easily one of the best sequels of all time.

Willie: Ooh, what big birds!
Indiana Jones: Those aren’t big birds, sweetheart! They’re giant vampire bats!

10. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

This may not be the pretty bow on my Top 10 Sequels list that some of you were hoping for, but it is the best movie sequel to feature a sweet 80’s metal theme song of the same title from my all-time favorite metal gods Dokken. This was an occasion where the feature film was just a companion piece to the righteous video featuring Freddy himself, and played ad nauseum on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” (Oh yeah, this magic link will take you there!).”Dream Warriors” stars Patricia Arquette as Freddy food and Morpheus himself Laurence Fishburne as Max the hospital attendant. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but “Dream Warriors” had spunk and I always find that a little shredding from Dokken guitar master George “Mr. Scary” Lynch helps the horror go down.

William ‘Will’ Stanton: In my dreams I can stand. My legs are strong. In my dreams I am the Wizard Master.

Now who’s Rockin’ with Dokken?



{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ChrisKnudsen October 16, 2007 at 6:27 am

You seem to be the only person in the world that thinks that Die Hard 2 is the best Die Hard sequel. I’ve never seen Star Trek 4 because I am not a nerd.


2 awas1980 October 16, 2007 at 8:21 am

Don’t wanna dream no more!

(Trick or Treat is a rockin’ horror flick)

Hold on to yr potatoes…


3 jim October 16, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Rocky IV, and a few others that are questionable, but otherwise not bad.


4 cleavy October 16, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Though I typically prefer Eric’s aesthetic tastes, I have to admit that your sequels top 10 may have him beat. Characteristically, sequels are not intended to be particularly artistic ventures, they are attempts to cash in on films that themselves did not likely have grand artistic aspirations (with a few exceptions, of course). Though Eric seems to have tried to ferret out those exceptions, you have embraced the true nature of the sequel. Azkaban is a great choice. I would probably have gone with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Rocky II from those two series. Christmas Vacation is a recognized classic (within the genre, of course), Temple of Doom rules. Being a horror fan, I’m saddened that the one film from the genre is Dream Warriors – what about Dawn of the Dead, maybe? Really, I know that was just your pathetic excuse to mention Dokken. Finally, I’m entirely shocked that The Two Towers or Return of the King is not mentioned – I can’t believe you missed a chance to throw a little LotR in Eric’s face!


5 cleavy October 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Retraction: As I forgot that Eric had listed Dawn of the Dead in his Top 10, I would suggest going with Return of the Living Dead (unofficial Night sequel directed by Dan O’Bannon) or Friday the 13th Part VI.


6 Eric Melin October 16, 2007 at 11:28 pm

Be careful, you may be stealing some of my thunder for next week’s list.
You must be high. “Christmas Vacation is a recognized classic (within the genre, of course)” Ugh. Even within the genre it sucks, but not as bad as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Maybe Dream Theater should do Elm St. 9!


7 ChrisKnudsen October 17, 2007 at 7:05 am

I always forget that the Two Towers is actually a sequel. Its the only one that is watchable and enjoyable. If I was editing the films together, I would have like 45 minutes of Fellowship, the entire thing of Two Towers, and maybe an hour of Return of the King. You guys should do a news thing with the Star Trek remake and cast choices like what you guys did with the Watchmen. Granted I am not a nerd but I am sort of interested in the remake only because its not going to be all nerdy and everything.


8 travis October 17, 2007 at 9:25 am

Just a personal thought on the last bits. I think the best Indys are the ones with Nazis. In fact, there is a theory that any movie with Nazis is better than movies without. Also, any movie with Tom Hanks peeing is bound to end up on TNT with endless repeats…but that’s another story.


9 Dana October 20, 2007 at 11:09 am

This list rocks hard, and you rock even harder for including Nightmare On Elmstreet 3!! I do believe is some versions of this film that Miss Arquette is listening to “Into the Fire” while making the Freddy house. Gotta love Dokken!


10 Def October 24, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Christmas Vacation? You have got to be kidding…


11 Charles October 24, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Nightmare on Elm Street 3 is the best of that series, even without Dokken (though I did wear out my “Back for the Attack” casette in 7th grade).
I like Rocky IV, the whole cold-war drama and the fact that 5’2″ Rocky ends up kicking the ass of 6’10” steroid-fueled Ivan Drago. But if we’re going to get silly, nothing beats Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips and Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III. The tender homoerotic moments shared between Rocky and Apollo in that one also give it an edge.
And where the hell is “High School Musical 2”?!?


12 Marty October 24, 2007 at 8:19 pm

I’m not sure if anyone mentioned this, but wasn’t “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” a prequel? The storyline took place before Raiders.


13 axensmash October 25, 2007 at 10:20 am

What “Aliens” isn’t on the list – I don’t believe it !!!
What about Terminator 2 ??


14 Shane May 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

WHAT? No Empire Strikes Back?


15 alison October 18, 2008 at 11:16 am

evil dead 2!?!


16 Prahanormal April 25, 2009 at 3:07 pm

So I can see that I’m still the only one who thought Temple Of Doom was really bad.


17 Ian Fisch August 10, 2009 at 8:04 pm

No Terminator 2 and no Empire Strikes Back is terrible. Can you really say Star Trek 4 is better than either of these movies? Christmas Vacation? You’ve got to be kidding.

I kept waiting to see these as I was reading down the list assuming you’d saved them for the 1 or 2 spot. But no. Amazing.


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