February 12, 2015

The 10 Greatest Movie Sequels Of All Time



The Godfather Part II (1974)


Studio film-makers too often treat sequels as a cash-grab: an opportunity to turn a quick profit by offering a second helping of a movie that proved a success. But as a storytelling form, the sequel is ripe with possibility – an opportunity to examine the scenario of an original film from a different perspective or catch up on characters at a later date. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, released 40 years ago on 12 December 1974, achieves both of those objectives, and pushes far beyond what was attempted in The Godfather. The sequel is a vision of American identity in the 20th Century that is less a melting pot than a tapestry, weaving together narrative strands concerning the immigrant experience, urban poverty, ethnic discrimination and even US foreign policy, with a stunning sequence set on the eve of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. It takes the gangster film set-up of The Godfather and pushes deeper, into a nation’s soul. 

Before Sunset (2004)

The best sequels look forward to new storytelling possibilities rather than back to the formula that made the first film a success. That’s what Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset (2004) achieves so masterfully. It catches up with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) nine years after the events of Before Sunrise (1995) when they fatefully met aboard a train to Vienna, spent the day touring the city, fell in love, then parted. The first film is all escapist fantasy. The second concerns itself with shattered expectations, the sadness of time’s passage and regrets over the folly of youth. Like all essential sequels it elevates its predecessor. (AF Archive/Alamy)

Pursuit to Algiers (1945) 
One of the first Hollywood franchises was the series of 14 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone as the detective and Nigel Bruce as Watson, beginning with The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1938. The high point of these collaborations came on the 12th instalment, Pursuit to Algiers, a suspenseful, highly atmospheric wartime thriller set largely aboard a small steamer. It glides with style and wit, getting by on clever wordplay rather than expensive action set-pieces. Today it’s practically a law that new sequels must be more expensive than the last, but for most of Hollywood’s history sequels were actually cheaper than the original. Pursuit to Algiers was made on a shoestring compared to The Hound of the Baskervilles. But it turned its economy into invention: the ‘fog’ that obscures the cheap sets creates a gorgeous mood, while the lack of big chases or fights frames the story more tightly on the characters, providing greater drama. (MPI/Alamy)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) 

The first sequel to 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture benefitted from the ‘Pursuit to Algiers effect’. It had a much tighter budget than the first film – a beautiful, even poetic movie that largely lacks dramatic urgency – so director Nicholas Meyer shunned special effects wizardry for pressure-cooker drama. He staged Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a contest of wills between Admiral James T Kirk (William Shatner) and his titular nemesis (Ricardo Montalban) that plays out as if through submarine battles – it features few wide shots of space but many tightly framed compositions of cramped starship interiors. Meyer was more concerned with the faces of his actors than with any cosmic razzle-dazzle. And that made for one of the most cherished sci-fi movies of all time. (Paramount/Alamy)

Sanshiro Sugata: Part II (1945) 
Akira Kurosawa was at his most elegant in his earliest movies, including a judo epic told over two instalments called Sanshiro Sugata (his debut film) and Sanshiro Sugata: Part II. His later films overflow with masculine brio and violence that erupt unexpectedly, but the Sanshiro Sugata movies are about how the discipline of martial arts can lead to the refining of the soul. Part II is particularly concerned with the containment of violence, beginning with the title character, a noble judo master whose maturation was the subject of the first film, proving his strength by refusing to box an American opponent. Its ending, a quiet battle in the snow, is unforgettable. (Criterion)

2046 (2004) 
In the Mood for Love left hopeless romantic Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) in a place of heartbreak and regret – after his almost-affair with Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) ends, he journeys to Angkor Wat and whispers the secret of his love for her into a hollow part of the ancient structure’s wall. That hollow becomes an abyss that threatens to consume Mo-wan in 2046, and it appears as a motif over and over again throughout the movie as he tries to drown his sorrow over his unconsummated love with other affairs. 2046 is a tone poem of remembrance best thought of as visual music more than as a story. If In the Mood for Love is the theme, 2046 is the variation. (Sony/Alamy)

Aliens (1986) 
Sigourney Weaver practically invented the concept of the female action heroine in Alien, even though she’s essentially just ‘the last girl standing’ of so many horror movies. It took James Cameron to transform the franchise from ‘female-driven’ to genuinely feminist with his superior sequel, Aliens. Whereas Weaver’s Ripley practically stumbled into her own survival in the first movie, she’s a hardened pro in Aliens, ready to enter battle against the mindless beasts like a soldier who has nothing to lose. Aliens is essentially a war epic about the conflict between two warring tribes, each led by a fearsome female (Ripley and the alien queen) who draw power and ferocity because of, not in spite of, their tender motherly instincts. (20th Century Fox/Alamy)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) 

Raiders of the Lost Ark established the template for the modern adventure film and revolutionised how action scenes are shot. But its sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade goes deeper and becomes a richly layered character study, in which the whip-cracking archaeologist (Harrison Ford) and his father (Sean Connery), who’ve barely spoken in 20 years, join forces to search for the Holy Grail. The Cup of Christ isn’t used here as a mere Hollywood MacGuffin, but, like the original medieval Grail quest tales, is symbolic instead of an inward journey toward maturation. That might be due to the fact the script received an uncredited polish by playwright Tom Stoppard, who director Steven Spielberg says wrote much of the film’s dialogue. It might be the best written action movie of all time. (Lucasfilm/Alamy)

For a Few Dollars More (1965) 
Before he veered toward longform storytelling with The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, Spaghetti Western maestro Sergio Leone followed up his seminal A Fistful of Dollars with a spare, perfectly structured caper: For a Few Dollars More. The movie follows two bounty hunters (Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef) who eventually team up to track down and kill a truly evil outlaw (Gian Maria Volonte). It might be the most serious-minded buddy movie ever, and in precision of tone and technique it’s a massive advance on A Fistful of Dollars. It also marks the first occasion Leone takes up the experience of time as his subject, lingering far longer on the build-up toward gunfights, with searing close-ups and Ennio Morricone’s raucous music, than the actual gunfights. (MGM/Alamy)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 

In space no one can hear you squeal for delight. The second instalment of George Lucas’ Star Wars saga (or Episode V overall) takes us to a darker end of that galaxy far, far away. Where the first Star Wars film reveled in triumph and catharsis, The Empire Strikes Back sees its heroes battered, bruised and on the run. It draws from the most elemental roots of cinema for its construction – the Battle of Hoth sequence is staged much like a DW Griffith battle scene from six decades earlier – and burns countless images in our brains: giant space worms chomping on starships, a city floating in the clouds, a spaceship rising out of a swamp, a debris field of garbage floating in the cosmic void, a smuggler caked in carbonite, a knight clutching the stump of his severed hand. The Empire Strikes Back compounded and deepened the success of Star Wars to the point that it is still the premier film franchise in global cinema. It showed that the light can shine so much brighter when surrounded by the dark. (Lucasfilm)

With thanks to BBC Culture

Some related posts:
How Sergio Leone’s Westerns Changed Cinema
Top 10 Movie Twists of All Time
Oscar Winners 2016: The Full List The 100 Most Iconic Movie Lines of All Time
The Importance of Costume in Films: Some Iconic Images of our Culture
Hollywood Costume Exhibit In Los Angeles
The Splendid and Spacey World of Star Wars Posters 
Star Wars Veterans Ford, Fisher and Hamill Return For New Film
The 100 Greatest Movie Characters
The Man Behind the Most Iconic Movie Posters of the ’80s and ’90s
MovieClips – Find That Unforgettable Scene
New Book: Mom In The Movies By Richard Corliss 
Clint Eastwood - A True "Renaissance Man" - Updated 
10 Films That Changed Filmmaking
The Book Every Movie Lover Should Own:David Thomson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Film
Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films
10 Historical Movies That Mostly Get It Right

Hans Solo's 'Chewie, We're Home' Teaser Trailer For New Star Wars Film Delights Fans
The 100 Greatest Movie Characters
Orry-Kelly:The untold story Of A Hollywood legend - "Women He's Undressed" Review
Top 10 Movie Sets Ever Built
23 James Bond Themes And How They Charted
George Lucas Defends Greedo Shooting Han First

Here is the list of 2015 Oscar winners.