Sequels are undoubtedly one of the most contentious categories of storytelling. How many times have you seen a trailer for a sequel and thought, “Do we really need another one?” either because the original was perfect or (maybe more commonly) “Who even watched the first one?”.
The reality is that sequels, threequels, prequels, and wejustwantmoremoney-quels will always get made. The good news is that some of these are excellent films. The SpoilerFreeReviews team (David, Jami, Esta, Eli, and Mike) do a deep dive on their favorite and least favorite sequels.
THE BEST SEQUELS OF ALL TIME 🤩
DOWNTON ABBEY (2019) 🤩
In 2019, DOWNTON ABBEY delivered a beautifully written, filmed, and perfect television series continuation. The entire ensemble of actors participated. The original creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, wrote the script with all the characters and fans in mind. The second it begins, you know you are immediately swept back through the music, the sprawling sets, and the locations.
It’s like “going home again,” only much better because Maggie Smith is in the house with her killer wit and facial expressions that make you feel like you’ve been shot with a hundred bullseye darts. (“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”) Magnificent and “bloody” painful all at once. In this sequel, there was intrigue, a royal visit, romance, dancing at a glorious ball, turmoil downstairs, an attempted murder, and a feeling of community with oodles of pomp and circumstance. In the middle, if it all stands, glorious DOWNTON ABBEY has endured for hundreds of years and will still be standing long after we are gone.
Why do I love this sequel so much? The answer is quite simple. The characters feel like family. They are not perfect. They are flawed and make mistakes. I feel as if I see many characteristics of my own family through them. Most of them have long passed, so when the first lilting notes of the DOWNTON theme are played, I breathe a sigh of pure joy and contentment. I am home again among “people” I love and miss every day. When I watch DOWNTON ABBEY, I smile because I am a part of an entire family (both upstairs and downstairs) that values forgiveness, honesty, loyalty, and always love.
2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT 🤩
Picking THE GODFATHER 2 or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, even though they are two of the finest examples of true sequels ever produced. So, while I am certain I will be eviscerated by my colleagues here at SpoilerFreeReviews, I am risking life and limb to choose the sequel to the beloved, if not somewhat dated 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – 2010: THE YEAR THEY MAKE CONTACT. While the original film’s special effects were truly groundbreaking in its depiction of the near future, there really was not much tension or much at stake until Dave Bowman issued the phrase, “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” In contrast, 2010 is a high-stakes thriller from the get-go. The US must hitch a ride with the Russians on their spaceship, heading to Jupiter to try and figure out what happened to the crew of the Discovery One after the HAL-9000 computer went berserk and killed everyone except Captain Dave Bowman (who disappeared while venturing to the space monolith with a final exclamation, “My God, it’s full of stars”).
Roy Scheider and Helen Mirren lead an all-star cast who wake up from their long space sleep to find the US and Russia on the brink of nuclear war, the Discovery about to plunge into Jupiter, and the black spot of Jupiter suddenly and ominously growing. Add to that the super creepy re-appearance from Dave Bowman with a warning to get away from Jupiter as quickly as possible and an even-creepier resurrection of HAL, who doesn’t remember killing the crew.
With tensions the highest they have been in a long time between the US and Russia, this sequel, also written by Arthur C. Clarke, delivers on so many exciting levels. A VERY different movie than the original, and that is a good thing.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY 🤩
Terminator 2 is the greatest action movie of all time. I won’t go as far as to say that it’s the greatest action movie of all time by miles, but it is by a considerable distance. If you grew up with the MATRIX or the BOURNE movies, or if you grew up with LETHAL WEAPON and RAMBO, even if you grew up with one of those old-school kung fu movies that the Wu-Tang clan tends to talk about at length, I can understand that those movies may have a lot of sentimental value in many ways. However, Terminator 2, at the very least, holds more historical relevance and significance than every action movie that’s out there.
I’ve had this argument with many people, so I’ll go over the points as to why this is as briefly as I possibly can:
- It’s the biggest action star of the time, playing his very best character…as a hero.
I’ve always hated it when people said that Schwarzenegger playing the villainous version of the t800 was better. To sincerely believe that means that you think the t800 lurking around silently and killing innocent people with no inflection of character in that first Terminator movie is better than something that is the heart and soul of T2, and that is the paternal relationship between Edward Furlong’s John Connor and the t800.
It also means that the ending of this movie DID NOT move you whatsoever. At all. And if that’s the case, you possibly have no soul and are a complete and utter sociopath. So it would be best if you got that checked, honestly.
- Aside from Ellen Ripley and MAYBE The Bride from the Kill Bill films, the T2 version of Sarah Connor is the greatest action heroine ever put to screen.
The arc of the Sarah Connor character going from the first movie to what she is in T2 is nothing short of astonishing. The entire sequence of her breaking out of the mental institution is all you need to have seen to understand how great this character became. The performance also emphasizes how much she cares for her son even though she’s lost her mind, which makes her a fantastic character to witness.
- The T1000 is one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time.
Robert Patrick is legitimately 2 inches shorter and was possibly 60 lb lighter than Schwarzenegger at filming. Yet, throughout the film, he seems wholly indomitable and overwhelming, even in multiple hand-to-hand fight scenes with Schwarzenegger. Thirty-one years have passed, and I’m almost certain Robert Patrick still gets referred to as this character at least once a week by people.
The very concept of a liquid metal robot seemed impossible to overcome. And for all but 5 minutes of this 2-hour film (2.5 in the director’s cut), that is precisely what he is. In speaking of the T1000…
- T2 had revolutionary CGI.
It’s important to emphasize that this movie came out in 1991. And yes, a couple of films had introduced CGI up until that point (The Abyss and Tron, for example), but positively nothing could even come remotely close to what the t1000 was. The 1990s became the decade where the Hollywood Blockbuster would heavily, heavily infuse CGI regularly. This movie set the blueprint for other films during that era.
- The most famous moments of this film have stood the test of time all these years later. I’ll list them as briefly as I can because you know them by heart if you know anything about action films.
“Come with me if you want to live.”
It’s a line that is said in the first film, but there’s a good chance that if that line is being recited in your head, it is from Arnold Schwarzenegger and not Michael Biehn.
- “I need your clothes, boots, and your motorcycle.”
- “Hasta la vista baby”
- ” I know now, why you cry.”
- The T800 removing his skin to prove that he has a robotic arm.
- The phone call between John Connor and the t1000 while the t1000 pins his stepfather to the refrigerator.
- The fistfight in the mall between the t1000 and the t800 where they’re slamming each other into the brick walls…
- …. That leads to the motorcycle chase that ends up in the embankment.
- The T800, the minigun on the top floor of the Cyberdyne building, blasting away at the cars.
- Sarah Connor almost killing the t1000 with the shotgun before she runs out of bullets…
Etc, etc., etc. And yes, there’s more awesome s*** that this movie has to offer.
The conversation around other action movies tends to have more fun debates, but really it just comes back to this. Other action movies have about two or three moments that are greatest-of-all-time worthy. The legendary ones tend to have more, but T2 is like the greatest hits record of a really popular band you have respected for a long time. It’s undeniable, it’s historically relevant, and it does not lose its flavoring with time.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME 🤩
There are many sequels I could have put on this list and debated about a few before realizing that the one that never fails to satisfy me, no matter how much I see it, has been AVENGERS ENDGAME. It is the one film I’m most passionate about and the only film to ever get me to scream to the top of my lungs in sheer joy during some of the most memorable moments in comic book movie history. Yes, it’s a direct sequel to the AVENGERS films, which began in 2012. But more than that, it is a terrific, emotionally satisfying conclusion to a cohesive 21 film series. It gives the core 6 Avengers their most logically emotional conclusions and carries the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a new era of limitless possibilities.
ENDGAME is a testament to how well producer Kevin Feige, directors Joe and Anthony Russo, screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, and the entire Marvel Studios cast of superstars understand these characters: how they think, how they feel, what they would do, why they would do it. Couple this with hilarious moments and iconic action scenes, and you have a living work of pop culture art that represents the most significant achievement at bringing a comic book to life on screen ever. ENDGAME is a movie by people who love comic books, for people who love comic books, and perhaps, the most rewarding theatrical experience imaginable for anyone who’s ever fantasized about seeing the universe of Marvel Comics come to life on the big screen.
STAR WARS: EPISODE V- THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK 🤩
How could we talk about sequels and not include the gold standard of sequel films?! You’re doing it wrong if you’re discussing sequels and not including TESB. EMPIRE may not have been the first sequel, and hell, there’s been three prequels, four more sequels, and two more related Star Wars films since (plus several TV shows), but it’s still the BEST of the BEST, the one we should be judging all others on.
If you’re single and meet someone special, and they haven’t seen Star Wars… well, first, RED FLAG. But sure, maybe they’re young (and hopefully you are too in that case), so show it to them. Show them the original trilogy first. Sorry, not sorry, prequel stans. And if they’re not like, “holy shit, this THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK movie is fucking the best thing ever,” then run run away! Okay, okay, maybe not everyone loves Star Wars as much as I do, and that’s OK…I guess. EMPIRE is the pinnacle of so many pop-culture moments. How do I not spoil a film that’s been in & out of theatres for 42 years (WHAT?!), had an infamous reworking by its director George Lucas in 1997, been quoted, memed, and discussed for more than four decades!
If STAR WARS made you fall in love with Luke & Leia, then EMPIRE will have you head over heels for HAN SOLO, while continuing your love for L&L and cementing Darth Vader as the best villain of our lifetime. Directed by Irvin Kershner (RIP) with a screenplay from Lawrence Kasden from an early draft from the “Queen” Leigh Brackett (RIP – she tragically passed away before the film even went into production), EMPIRE is the quintessential reason Lucas should have let the someone else do those prequels. And I haven’t even mentioned yet that John Williams’ score is perfection, like so many of his are. Dammit, I might need to watch this movie right now…but I know I’ll go down a rabbit hole of watching all 11 Star Wars films AGAIN. So if you’ve never seen EMPIRE on the big screen, put that on your bucket list and thank me later.
On another note, extra credit to the BEFORE film series. BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT are three of my favorite films. In a sea of mega-blockbuster trilogies is this little semi-indie perfect one from Richard Linklater.
THE WORST SEQUELS OF ALL TIME 🤮
ARTHUR 2: ON THE ROCKS 🤮
ARTHUR is one of the best comedies – it stands up there with AIRPLANE! and BLAZING SADDLES. But unlike those two, ARTHUR is an excellent double romantic comedy. First, there is the wonderful father and son comedic romance between Arthur, played by Dudley Moore, and Hobson, played by Sir John Gielgud (who won an Oscar for this role). Now throw in the fabulous Liza Minelli as Arthur’s love interest Linda and an impressive supporting cast, and you have a comedy for the ages. There are so many great one-liners (“Steal something casual”) that I still quote them today. Writer and Director Steve Gordon loves the characters he created, and that love shines through in every scene. Unfortunately, Steve sadly passed away from a heart attack shortly after the movie was released, so he could not write or direct ARTHUR 2, and does it show.
Written by Andy Breckman and directed by the great comedy writer/director/producer Bud Yorkin, this sequel, which takes place shortly after the ending of the original Arthur story, is so painfully unfunny that I remember cringing in my theater seat. This is not so much a sequel and a remake of the original story, using the same premise of Arthur risking the loss of his fortune by being with Linda. But instead of being sweet and loveable, Arthur is just annoying. Poor Liza is stuck with the unenviable job of laughing at Arthur’s wisecracks, which are neither wise nor funny.
But the greatest tragedy of ARTHUR 2 is the loss of Hobson. I won’t even go into the character of Fairchild, his replacement as Arthur’s butler, and the total absence of chemistry between the two. And the 2011 remake with Russell Brand is only slightly better. It’s like remaking CASABLANCA.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM 🤮
I debated whether to do this film or THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK as they’re both floppers. Truthfully, I went for the FALLEN KINGDOM because it’s fresher in my mind. I’ve been able to basically ignore TLW for the past 25 years while watching the original, Part 3, and JURASSIC WORLD multiple times.
Now I know JW isn’t loved by many, but I had a blast with it. I saw it twice in the theatre. Once with my mom at the Arclight Cinerama Dome and then another time in 4DX with the moving seats, spray, and smells. So I was very excited for a sequel, but what a stinker that sequel was. It’s almost always bad news when you take the dinosaurs off the islands…which doesn’t bode well for JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION. FALLEN KINGDOM is just a series of stupid scenarios happening to stupid characters. I was rooting for the dinosaurs to maim and kill most of the characters, including the heroes Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) that we’re supposed to be rooting for.
To paraphrase Ian Malcolm’s famous quote from the original JURASSIC PARK, “Your film producers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE 🤮
Or as Mike calls it, YAWN OF JUSTICE
On the exact opposite side of the spectrum from AVENGERS: ENDGAME lies one of the biggest insults to comic book movie-making imaginable: BATMAN V SUPERMAN. A movie that makes absolutely as little sense from a conceptual standpoint as it does from a narrative standpoint, BVS represents everything wrong with the state of Hollywood filmmaking today, serving as a representation of a clueless studio system that sees only dollar signs in copying or cloning superior product.
Starting with the selection of a filmmaker who literally lost the studio millions of dollars with his gross misunderstanding of the classic Alan Moore graphic novel, WATCHMEN, and his insane incompetence at being able to tell a coherent story with SUCKER PUNCH, WB put their faith in Zack Snyder to be a godfather for a universe he barely comprehended, to begin with. And while MAN OF STEEL was actually decent, he followed it up with a dull, drab, heartless, pointless slog that embodies pretentious, self-congratulatory filmmaking without any reason for the filmmaker to be proud. Snyder clearly spent $200M dollars trying to film shots that exist only because he thought he was being “cool” or “stylish” or “badass”. And his representation of a bloodthirsty Batman whose sole ambition was to decimate humans with his car, do CrossFit and swing Superman into columns for killing some guy named “Jack” that the audience doesn’t know or have any emotional connection to is an insult to the spirit of the brilliant, dark, compassionate vigilante detective character fans grew up reading for 70+ years.
Snyder fills the movie with long pointless scenes of nothing but brooding either from Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill, and a twitchy Lex Luthor portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg in a Razzie-worthy performance that undercuts the brilliant mastermind fans expected to see. No idea where within his own ass Snyder pulled this interpretation of Lex Luthor from, but dear god, from the jolly rancher scene to the ridiculous jar of pee, this cringe-worthy garbage interpretation needs to be burned with fire. To top everything off after 70 years of history, the entire climax hinges on the one thing Snyder seemed to believe was the only thing Batman and Superman have in common: their mothers’ first names. I mean what the hell?
Sorry dude-bro Snyder fans. No amount of revisionist history or slow-mo music video scenes on Vero will ever get me to like the flaming bag of dog crap that is the ultimate desecration of characters I grew up loving.
SPEED 2 🤮
What the hell was Hollywood thinking when SPEED 2 was created in 1997?
Oh, ok, I get it.
What a total waste of 126 minutes of my life, yet again, when I rewatched the film for this review . I just shook my head in sheer disbelief. SPEED 2 has ample star power with Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, and William Dafoe as the perfect villain. Yes, there was romance and intrigue, but the holes in the script were just too big to wrap my head around. SPEED 2 was poorly edited and filmed. I think I got seasick just watching with all the “shaky cams.” So many characters were introduced and just not important to the story line. (Even the cute deaf child faded to the background.) I did not get “love boat fever” when it was over, especially with the terrible final two lines of the movie. (“Let me be in charge of the travel plans. Deal.”) Is it time to barf?
Sorry I haven’t any redeeming moments to write about…but ok, I can say Sandra is beautiful pre-Botox, Patric has a great bod, and William does crazy well. SPEED 2 is just not my speed.
WONDER WOMAN 84 🤮
I guess there’s a way to misinterpret me saying that this is the worst sequel ever made, or the worst superhero movie ever made, or even the worst superhero sequel ever made. None of those things are actually true. Speaking just on a technical level WONDER WOMAN 84 looks and sounds superior to a lot of bad superhero movies.
Unfortunately what it possesses in excess… Is complete and utter b*******. There are more continuity errors in this film than just about any other film in this genre. And unlike the really bad films of this genre that also suffer from this particular affliction, the continuity errors of WONDER WOMAN 84 are by design. It’s meant to be this way.
Sure, every superhero movie is driven by a MacGuffin in some way. But more often than not that MacGuffin affects one person in a very distinctive way. But here, the MacGuffin that is referred to as the Dreamstone not only affects the main characters that we see on screen but…also society as well. The rules of a dream Stone are explained to the audience, and then those rules are repeatedly broken time after time. All to the point that leads to the climax of the film. The result of which is nonsensical based off of the rules that have been introduced and bent repeatedly.
Do you have to say your wish out loud to the carrier of the dreamstone or not? Do you have to renounce your wish to the dreamstone carrier or not? This is never really specified. And because of this alone the climactic showdown between the main villain of the piece Max Lord and Wonder Woman is flat out nonsensical, and the explanation in the film as to how things are resolved really doesn’t explain it that much.
Doesn’t that sound confusing? That sound overtly complicated? Well, it really is a lot more complicated than even that. And even with all of that going on there’s so many more problems with this film. Problems that plague all the lackluster marvel and DC entries just the same. There’s a lot of repetitiveness. This film steals a lot of the very same beats from the first WONDER WOMAN movie. From the opening Amazonian foot race sequence which takes way too long to go through and has no meaning to the rest of the film, the opening action sequence featuring a grown up Wonder Woman which does not serve the story whatsoever this time around, and the Steve Trevor Love story which hits all of the notes that you can predict from a mile away. Taking the fact that this movie does take place before the BATMAN V SUPERMAN film you also come to realize that Wonder Woman has indeed gained powers in this film that she never uses in any of the films that chronologically takes place afterwards.
I’m not saying that superhero movies are easy to make or anything like that, but pretty much every one that’s ever been good follows a blueprint that’s pretty straightforward. The first Wonder Woman did that while embracing feministic values and was quite celebrated for it. Making a sequel to this isn’t difficult. Copy and paste, no?
The way in which this was fumbled is still pretty confounding. Movies of this size and scale are often too big to fail, but I tend to think this would have been different. The backlash has been way too brutal to think that this could have been a success.