In light of David Gordon Green’s canonical sequel to the 1978 “Halloween” masterpiece, it seems appropriate to list the best sequels that made the most of their hiatus and came back with scorching vengeance in the quality department. Check out the complete list below!
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
(Time Between “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”: 30 Years)
More “side-quel” than sequel, George Miller completes his post-apocalyptic quadrilogy with the highest standard of onscreen action. Like every outing following the 1979 original, the adventures are only related by the sheer mayhem in Max Rockatansky’s (Tom Hardy) enduring survival. Unparalleled stunt work makes every sequence on wheels feel like the chase event of the century. However, this is the first “Mad Max” installment featuring wider character scope beyond its central protagonist. Charlize Theron’s embittered Furiosa and Nicholas Hoult’s faith-embroiled Hux prove that Max is but a footnote in mankind’s struggle at large in this desolate wasteland. Never before has a round-trip expedition been so tantalizingly turbulent.
2. Toy Story 3
(Time Between “Toy Story 2”: 11 Years)
Yes, Lotso and “Toy Story 2’s” Stinky Pete are essentially the same villain, but that doesn’t discount how emotionally taxing this trilogy closer is. Accidentally placed in what amounts to toy foster care, Woody and company must find a way to escape or be doomed to eternal daycare toddler torture. The camaraderie among companions has never been stronger, culminating in a face-off with death so mature that Pinocchio would have gone from wooden boy to adult man had he experienced it. The voice actors never fail their digital avatars, making this sendoff (for now) one for the family album history books.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(Time Between “Terminator”: 7 Years)
James Cameron made sure his time-traveling cybernetic assassin would “be back,” but this time in heroic bodyguard form. Upping the violence, worldly stakes and weaponry at hand, there was no stopping Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from protecting her Messianic son. Robert Patrick as the upgraded T-1000 Terminator model is even more frightening than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prototype, unstoppable in his mission to eradicate. Best of all is Schwarzenegger stepping aside to let Sarah’s bad-assery take front and center, though his duty to safeguard never wavers. It’s a shame that this franchise couldn’t have continued riding into the sunset forever.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(Time Between “Return of the Jedi”: 32 Years)
All seemed positively chummy at the conclusion of Richard Marquand’s “Return of the Jedi.” The Rebel Alliance celebrated their decisive victory against the Empire with tribal enthusiasm on the moon of Endor. With Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader vanquished in one fell swoop, the Force restored to balance and an Imperial dictatorship completely govern-less, the galaxy was surely at peace again, right? Despite their forced relegation to the Outer Rim, the Imperial remnant returned three decades later with a vengeance – this time as the First Order – with yet another master-student duo of evil taking the reins.
The cyclical “good versus evil” nature of “Star Wars” cannot be undone, it seems. The enemy may be new but the conflict never fully changes. Blistering in nostalgia, the sequel is remedied by powerful new heroes with development and motivation aplenty. It’s not the joy of seeing the gang back together that makes this installment such a triumph – it’s the realization that by shedding the old without losing its spirit, the franchise can evolve to even greater astronomical heights.
(Time Between “Alien”: 7 Years)
With James Cameron at the helm, the horror avenue wasn’t going to be repaved for this follow-up to a classic. Flipping genres was an intriguing way to navigate Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) nightmare reentry. With a brute force of Space Marines fighting alongside her, one figures the possibility of Xenomorph containment is possible. Once again, no one takes the warnings of a woman seriously, and extraterrestrial hell breaks loose. Other than the distraction of an annoying kid to protect, Ripley’s tough exterior is even more inspirational the second time around.
6. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
(Time Between “Mamma Mia”: 10 Years)
Given the current state of affairs, “Mamma Mia” is the flooding warmth we need to counter this frigid social climate. Launching the film with an untimely death is one of the boldest storytelling decisions a sequel has ever made. Despite its tragic beginnings, the movie loses none of the first’s charm or fluorescent disposition. In fact, director Ol Parker improves upon the original by spryly weaving back and forth between past and present without ever missing a cohesive genre beat. The musical sequences are opulent yet lyrically intimate; they utilize ABBA’s discography to embolden the film’s unforgettable female ensemble. Lily James delivers a career-best performance as Young Donna, radiating bountiful optimism, comedic aplomb and steadfast agency. With cameos and twists that will have your head spinning in delight, there’s no better time to revisit this Greek paradise of sensational songstresses.
7. Jurassic World
(Time Between “Jurassic Park III”: 14 Years)
I’m sure many are wondering why this polarizing blockbuster made the list. The answer is simple: it’s my list. Fans came out in record numbers without hesitation to support a franchise that, quite frankly, never amounted to anything deeper than dino destruction. The distorted reality that this universe is more intellectually vital than others is a simple case of childhood fascination. Perhaps more mentally stimulating themes can be gleaned from Michael Crichton’s original novel, but rest assured that genetically reconstructed dinosaurs are pure and simple popcorn bait. This is what makes “Jurassic World” such a breath of fresh air. It’s completely unapologetic in design, steamrolling audiences with fun, one “HOLY SH*T!” chase sequence after the next.
From the direction to the performances, there’s a Spielbergian throwback cheesiness that endears more than one could have expected. The most telling moment that sums up “Jurassic World” is when a velociraptor cuts off Vincent D’Onofrio’s stereotypical villain monologue mid-speech and proceeds to eat him whole. In other words, dialogue and plot are of no importance – give the people what they want! And what we justifiably got was an epic showdown between the Indominus Rex and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Peak blockbuster satisfaction served!
8. Blade Runner 2049
(Time Between “Blade Runner”: 35 Years)
One stunning visual achievement begets another with “Blade Runner 2049,” a film that plays more like an ambitious passion project than cash grab sequel. Auteur Denis Villeneuve revisits the neo-noir milieu where replicants and humans continue their cold war of species supremacy. Gosling is mesmerizing as an internally conflicted Blade Runner who may have more personal stake in a case than he bargained for. It’s a shame the marketing failed to capitalize the volume of female characters in positions of immense power. Ana de Armas, Syvlia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis and Carla Juri each propel the plot in stunning, unforeseen ways. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this follow-up is just how anticlimactic Harrison Ford’s return is, pivotal yet proof that a franchise can grow past its staple characters.
9. Evil Dead 2
(Tim Between “Evil Dead”: 6 Years)
What makes this sequel so spooky is how it presents an altered version of the events of the original film. This concept of revisiting the exact same nightmare but having an entirely new experience amplifies the notion of never-ending terror. The big change is that Ash (Bruce Campbell) turns into a full-fledged warrior as opposed to his previous “last man standing” role. Wielding chainsaws and shotguns to battle the army of possessed demons, Ash escapes his frat boy trappings and carries a hero’s burden of perpetual conflict. For fans of Raimi’s outrageous use of prosthetic violence, this sequel ups the gruesome ante to unimaginable proportions.
(Time Between “Unbreakable”: 16 Years)
The sequel nobody saw coming until the last few moments, “Split’s” tonally confusing unraveling is made better by its connection to “Unbreakable.” M. Night Shyamalan’s signature twist ending features a jaw-dropping cameo by none other than Bruce Willis’s David Dunn. Instead of focusing on the birth of a superhero cop, “Split” obsesses over the inner-workings of the titular condition.
Manifesting several unpredictable personalities – sometimes simultaneously – James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb is a menace that eventually surrenders to the literal “Beast” consuming him. Spellbinding as he jumps personas, McAvoy always has the audience on edge even when the script occasionally halts the brakes on suspense. By film’s end, audiences are resigned to the fact that no amount of therapy will ever tame this creature of wicked concoction.