Underrated Sequels To Classic Movies That Are Surprisingly Good
Making a sequel to a classic movie is a dicey proposition. For every Godfather Part II, there's a Blues Brothers 2000. For every Aliens, there's a Caddyshack II. Audiences come to these sequels with high expectations, so if the film can't come close to its predecessor, the sense of disappointment is magnified.
In a separate class are those sequels that are underrated. Every once in a while, a sequel to a classic comes along that lets people down initially, then goes on to prove itself to be okay on its own terms in later years. The following movies all fall into that category. They were either not received with the same enthusiasm as the originals or were unfairly picked apart in comparison to them. They deserve a second chance. No, most of them aren't going to become classics - but that doesn't mean they don't have something to offer.
- 157 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror films ever made, even if Stephen King, on whose book it's based, famously didn't care for it. Jack Nicholson gives a hall-of-fame performance as Jack Torrance, a writer who takes a side gig as a caretaker for a remote hotel over the winter months. During his time there, his grip on sanity slowly recedes, to the terror of his wife Wendy and young son Danny. The chilly vibe Kubrick infuses the movie with is a big part of its appeal. This one feels eerie.
Decades later, King wrote a sequel called Doctor Sleep that was adapted for the screen by director Mike Flanagan. Ewan McGregor plays the adult Danny. He's been severely traumatized by what he went through at the hotel. It's revealed that his extrasensory abilities have developed even further. They come in handy when he stumbles upon a cult seeking similarly powered children to steal their “shine.” In addition to a standout performance from Rebecca Ferguson as the cult leader, Doctor Sleep has powerful themes about trauma and child exploitation. The movie didn't make the same cultural impact as The Shining did. It's nevertheless a horror flick that's as smart as it is creepy.
- 223 VOTES
1961's The Guns of Navarone brings together a powerhouse cast that includes Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Harris. It's the story of American soldiers sent to the titular Greek island for a mission that entails destroying German guns and therefore weakening their military. Tension and peril arise during the mission in about equal measure, so the men have to deal with interpersonal problems as well as physical danger. Much of the appeal is in the strong characterization, which allows us to watch the soldiers bounce off each other in gripping ways during their ordeal.
The year 1978 saw the release of a belated sequel, Force 10 from Navarone. Robert Shaw and Edward Fox take over the roles Peck and Niven played in the original. Having successfully completed their mission, they join an elite unit called Force 10, headed by Col. Barnsby (Harrison Ford), to track down a Nazi spy who's on the run. A big part of the movie's appeal is the chance to see young Harrison Ford, just a year after he became a household name with Star Wars. Beyond that, the story has plenty of suspense, along with some decent action scenes.
- 336 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Distribution
Paul Newman had one of his signature roles with “Fast” Eddie Felsen in 1961's The Hustler. He's a young pool player looking to make a name for himself in the world of professional billiards. To do that, he sets his sights on beating the reigning champ, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Directed by Robert Rossen, the movie is an exciting underdog story, as well as an incise psychological portrait of a driven competitor. Newman received a best actor Oscar nomination for his work.
Twenty-five years later, he won that Oscar for reviving Felsen in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money. This time, the tables are turned. He's the veteran and Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) is the up-and-comer. They team up for a series of billiards-related scams. Vincent's excessive style of showmanship continually threatens the operation, leading Felsen to ditch him. Of course, they end up facing off at the end. The Color of Money has superb performances from Newman and Cruise, and Scorsese gives the film a fast-paced, electrifying style. It's the rare sequel that's arguably as good as the original.
- 456 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
Blade Runner is one of those movies that did okay theatrically but achieved genuine classic status through home video and cable. It really needs to be seen more than once to catch all the nuances. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a hunter of “replicants” - beings that look human, yet aren't. With a visual style that combines grunginess and unexpected bursts of color, it presents a gripping view of the future, where things have not necessarily become better, despite advanced technology. Rutger Hauer delivers an excellent performance as the film's antagonist, Roy Batty. Blade Runner is the kind of movie that continually reveals new layers.
Its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, had its work cut out for it. Ryan Gosling plays “K,” a blade runner tasked with “retiring” a very important replicant. The job proves difficult, leading him to eventually team up with Deckard, who has gone into self-imposed exile. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the film boasts eye-popping visuals and special effects that create a whole world to get lost in. Even better, Blade Runner 2049 builds on ideas and themes from the original, exploring in even more detail what the ramifications of replicants could be for mankind.
- 559 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros.
Gremlins has become not just an overall classic, but more specifically a holiday classic - for people with wicked taste, at least. The story involves teenage Billy (Zach Galligan) receiving a “mogwai” as a pet for Christmas. The furry little thing, whom he names Gizmo, is cute and seemingly harmless. Billy breaks the rules of caring for a mogwai, though, and soon Gizmo is spawning more of its kind, albeit in a nastier form. The film is an endlessly fun creature feature with a twisted sense of humor and tons of amusing mogwai hijinks. Gremlins became one of the biggest box office hits of 1984.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch came out six years later. It puts the mogwai inside a New York skyscraper owned by billionaire Daniel Clamp (John Glover). This allows them to carry out all new levels of havoc. Director Joe Dante wanted to distinguish the sequel from the original, so he intentionally veered from the tone of the first Gremlins, infusing The New Batch with cartoonish slapstick humor and a bunch of meta touches. Audiences who saw it in the theater enjoyed a brief interlude where the mogwai appear to take over the projection booth, burning up the print and replacing the reel. (An alternate sequence was used for the home video release.) People expecting a traditional follow-up were disappointed. Nevertheless, the anarchic spirit of Gremlins 2: The New Batch is totally entertaining if you can disconnect yourself from its predecessor.
- 619 VOTESPhoto: Sony Pictures Releasing
Trainspotting is a harrowing tale of addiction and attempted recovery. It's about a bunch of Scottish friends who are hooked on heroin. Their lives go downhill in various ways as a result. Ewan McGregor gets the largest role as Mark Renton, a guy who dives into a toilet to retrieve his much-needed suppositories and later has horrific hallucinations while trying to detox in his parents' home. Despite downbeat subject matter, director Danny Boyle gives the film energy and style that makes you want to keep watching, even as it explores the darkest corners of its characters' lives.
T2: Trainspotting came and went from theaters in a flash, attracting relatively little notice. A long-sober Mark returns home and is reunited with his old pals. He's in the middle of a mid-life crisis, having recently split from his wife and suffered a heart attack. The others are still in various forms of trouble, from ongoing substance abuse to incarceration. Getting together brings old tensions to the surface and drags Mark back into the dysfunction he managed to escape from. T2 doesn't have quite the same kinetic energy as Trainspotting. Then again, it doesn't need to. It's not about the thrill of drug use before addiction sets in, it's about making amends for the past. Given that addiction is lifelong disease, revisiting Mark at a different phase of his life allows this to be a poignant sequel to the classic.