Readers' Poll: The 25 Greatest Movie Sequels - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 25 Greatest Movie Sequels

From ‘Aliens’ to ‘The Dark Knight’ to ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’

Courtesy Warner Brothers

There are few things Hollywood loves more than sequels. Why take a risk with a new story when you can follow up an existing movie? With budgets swelling to insane heights these day, the movie industry is extremely risk adverse, and thus every summer multiplexes are packed with sequels. Most of them are extremely disappointing, but every once in a while you get a picture like Aliens or Terminator 2: Judgement Day that sounds on it's own as an absolute classic. We asked our readers to vote for their favorite sequels ever. Here are the results. 

Courtesy Touchstone Pictures

25. ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit’

Sequels that come out just one year after the original are often sloppy rush jobs like Wayne's World 2. That wasn't the case with Sister Act 2, which had better music than the original and a solid, fresh story. It also had the addition of unknown teenage actresses Jennifer Love Hewitt and Lauryn Hill, who both went on to absolutely dominate the 1990s. 

Courtesy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

24. ‘From Russia With Love’

The huge success of Dr. No meant that Sean Connery returned as James Bond in To Russia With Love just one year later. This time around, the film had a much higher budget and a tighter script. Some see it as the high-water mark in the entire Bond franchise. 

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

23. ‘Men in Black II’

Paying Will Smith's salary may have eaten seriously into the budget and "Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head)" was beyond horrible, but somehow Men in Black didn't manage to seriously embarrass anyone involved with the picture, even Johnny Knoxville. 

Courtesy Universal Pictures

22. ‘Psycho II’

Psycho II had a lot working against it since director Alfred Hitchcock was long dead by the time it came around and Janet Leigh's character famously died in the original, but Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles revived their iconic characters and managed to create movie that didn't completely sully the original. (It's still not very good, but the voters have spoken.)

Courtesy Lionsgate Films

21. ‘Devil’s Rejects’

Never let it be said that Rob Zombie doesn't have one sick and twisted imagination. The White Zombie frontman wrote and directed this 2005 sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, and somehow found ways to make the Firefly family sicker than ever. Don't watch this movie if you vomit easily. 

Courtesy New Line Cinema

20. ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’

The final movie of Peter Jackson's Lord of fhe Rings trilogy suffers from numerous false endings and a lot of plot to wrap up in a mere three hours, but it does give all the characters a proper send-off. This is also the one that won all the big Oscars, though it seems like the Academy was awarding the entire trilogy. 

Courtesy Sony Pictures

19. ‘Spider-Man 2’

We've all seen Peter Parker become Spider-Man over and over again, so the original Tobey Maguire movie suffered from familiarity. This clever sequel was able to devote its full running time to an incredible battle with Dr. Octopus and Spider-Man's complex relationship with Mary Jane Watson. 

Courtesy MGM

18. ‘Skyfall’

The James Bond franchise seemed to finally be running out of steam when Die Another Day came out to mixed reviews in 2002, but four years later Daniel Craig took over the iconic character and the series was reinvigorated. For 2012's Skyfall, Sam Mendes sat in the directors chair and Javier Bardem portrayed the villain. The critics loved and it grossed over a billion dollars, meaning that James Bond isn't going away anytime soon.

Courtesy Universal Pictures

17. ‘Back to the Future 2’

It's nearly impossible to make a better movie than the original Back to the Future, but they came pretty close with the sequel by adding in hoverboards, power-lace Nike's and a brilliant plot involving trips to the past and future. Also, we're just a year and a half away from the date Marty travels to in the future. No matter what you see on Facebook, the actual day is October 21st, 2015. 

Courtesy Paramount

16. ‘Evil Dead 2’

Evil Dead II is the sort of movie you've seen a million times and cherish, or you're never even heard of it. People in the know are aware that this is Sam Raimi's sequel to his 1981 no-budget film Evil Dead. Like the original, it mixes comedy and horror like few films before or after.

Courtesy Warner Brothers

15. ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’

For the third Harry Potter movie, director Alfonso Cuarón came on board and brought a darker tone with him. For some reason, it didn't make quite as much money as the other movies, but many now see it as the best one of the whole saga. It's also the only one Cuarón directed. 

Courtesy Orion Pictures

14. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

This is technically a sequel to 1986's Manhunter, where Brian Cox portrayed Hannibal Lecter, but that movie tanked and the studio made the wise decision to give the role to Anthony Hopkins when they shot the second book in the Thomas Harris serial-killer series. Despite all the parodies and the horrific sequel and prequel, The Silence of the Lambs is still freaky as all hell. 

Courtesy Warner Independent PIctures

13. ‘Before Sunset’

When Before Sunset was first announced, many thought it would be impossible for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to recapture the magic of the original. They were wrong. The movie finds the two lovers reconnecting during an afternoon in Paris. They're older and wiser now, and this time they (spoiler alert!) stay together at the end.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

12. ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn’

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was instrumental in reviving the long-dormant science-fiction franchise, but it wasn't a very good movie. Thankfully, the sequel — where Ricardo Montalban reprised his role of Khan — was an enormous step forward. It also established a rhythm where the even-numbered Star Trek movies were great and the odd-numbered ones sucked. This lasted until 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis. That one sucked so hard they had to reboot the entire universe to save the franchise. 

Courtesy Universal Pictures

11. ‘Bride of Frankenstein’

Forever proving that there's somebody for everybody, 1935's Bride of Frankenstein found a mate for Frankenstein's monster, though they didn't exactly hit it off in the end. Boris Karloff revived his iconic role from the original, and many modern critics believe this is the superior picture. 

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

10. ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a fun movie when you're seven, but try watching it when you're older. It doesn't quite work. Things got firmly back on track when Harrison Ford teamed up with Sean Connery to track down the Holy Grail. Let's just pretend this is where the series wrapped up. 

Courtesy MGM

9. ‘Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo’

Released just one year after the breakdancing classic Breakin', this sequel features the old gang trying to save the local recreation center. Along the way, they do a lot of dancing and rapping. Critics don't love it, but the film remains an amazing time capsule of the era. 

Courtesy Pixar

8. ‘Toy Story 2’

Most animated sequels prior to this were straight-to-DVD, half-assed efforts like The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island. They were originally going to go cheap on Toy Story 2 also, but wiser heads prevailed and they got the old team back together and made a theatrical film that rivals the original. Against all odds, Part III was also great and there's talk now of another one. Maybe they shouldn't push it…

Courtesy Miramax

7. ‘Kill Bill: Volume 2’

Quentin Tarantino originally envisioned Kill Bill as a single epic movie, but Miramax didn't want to bring a film into theaters that was more than four hours long, so they talked him into dividing it in half. The two pics hit screens five months apart and completely revitalized Tarantino's career after the commercial disappointment of Jackie Brown. There was talk for many years of a third movie, but that now seems quite unlikely. 

Courtesy New Line Cinema

6. ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’

With the pesky and complicated backstory out of the way and no need to bore the audience with 17 false endings, maybe fans feel this is the most satisfying and complete of the Lord of fhe Rings movies. It's certainly better than the hugely disappointing Hobbit movies.

Courtesy Warner Brothers

5. ‘The Dark Knight’

Comic book fanboys often state the second movie in a super hero series is the greatest. Nobody argues that's the case with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight saga. Batman Begins is certainly great, but Heath Ledgers' portrayal of the Joker will go down as one of the best villains in the history of Hollywood.

Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

4. ‘Aliens’

The huge success of The Terminator meant that James Cameron got to take over the Alien franchise from Ridley Scott. He didn't disappoint, bringing Ripley to a faraway planet where aliens had killed an entire colony of humans. Like all great sequels, it didn't settle for merely recreating the original, opting instead to introduce a whole other world and new, unforgettable characters. Cameron was furious when a young David Fincher killed most of them off in the third Alien movie. 

Courtesy LucasFilm

3. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

The Empire Strikes Back was one of the most anticipated sequels in history when it came out in May 1980. This time around, George Lucas had a big budget and the eyes of the entire world on him. In a supremely wise move, he brought in Irvin Kershner to direct so he could focus on other aspects of the production. The result is widely seen as the greatest of the six Star Wars movies. 

Courtesy TriStar Pictures

2. ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’

The Terminator instantly turned James Cameron into one of Hollywood's hottest directors. When it came time for a sequel in 1991, the filmmaker had the advantage of a huge budget and computer effects that were impossible back in 1984. He used them to incredible effect, creating a liquid-metal cyborg that looks impressive even today. James Cameron didn't sign on for any of the sequels, which explains why they are all horrible. 

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

1. ‘The Godfather: Part II’

The Godfather Part II and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King are the only sequels to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. In the case of The Godfather Part II, it was absolutely deserved. Robert De Niro joined the cast as a young Vito Corleone, making the film both a sequel and prequel to the original. It balances both those duties expertly and adds new dimensions to all the characters. It was everything the third movie wasn't. 

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