With no motive behind this list, other than I recently read an article on the best sequels ever made so I wanted to give my two cents, and I was bored so here it goes…
1. The Godfather Part 2: I’m not going to go into the “is the sequel better than the original” debate. Suffice it to say, both “Godfather” films are masterpieces. The sequel can be deemed far more ambitious and experimental as it juxtaposes stories between young Don Vito Corleone with his son Michael. They pinpoint two different eras of the family. Vito’s rise to crime came out of necessity, while Michael is trapped within that legacy, becoming doomed and damning himself more and more . The acting is on point in this film as it is in the first one. Particular points should be given to Robert De Niro as the young Vito, and John Cazale as the youngest brother Fredo. But after watching this again recently I was blown away by how good Al Pacino is in this as Michael. The transformation of Michael from idealistic war hero in the first film to the final frame in this one where he becomes more or less a walking zombie without a soul. A shadow of a man haunted by his misdeeds. The moment he closes the door on Diane Keaton’s Kay for the last time, I got the sense that all of his humanity was gone and it gave me the chills. If you haven’t in a while, I’d recommend you re watch the first two “Godfather” films if anything just to be reminded just how great they both are.
2. The Bride of Frankenstein: The original “Frankenstein” was a classic, I love the creation scene in it, with Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein orgasmically shouting “It’s Alive!”. Boris Karloff was the monster you could love and his scene next to the pond with the little girl is still unsettling. “Bride” had everything the original had but more. Production design was bigger with a tremendous score adding a grandiosity to the proceedings the original didn’t have. Karloff’s monster becomes more profound and tragic by adding a speaking voice. The dark humour is way ahead of its time and hilarious. Elsa Lanchester gives off a great impression as the hissing bride giving one of the great finales in film history.
3. Three Colors: Red: The final film in the interconnected trilogy of stories by Polish Filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski is the best in the series. The story of fate and second chances focusing on the relationship between a young woman and an old retired judge. The two may be strangers or they may have met in another life or another world. No other film focuses solely on the theme of connection such as this with Kieslowski cleverly linking the other two films of his trilogy at the end of this making it seem like one wonderful piece.
4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Dare I say, without trying to sound contrarian that I sometimes think the Temple of Doom is the best Indiana Jones film. I have to say “Raiders of the Lost Ark” works so well as a full throttle, non-stop entertainment filled with child like glee and joy that doesn’t let up. “Temple of Doom” does that too, but with more audacity taking it to its full “heart-ripping” potential. I can watch “Raiders” from beginning to end basking in the old-fashioned adventure of it all. I watch “Temple of Doom” with that same elation but with trepidation and shock.
5. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: The last film in the famed “Dollars” trilogy with Clint Eastwood’ss iconic Man with No Name teaming up with Eli Wallach’s anti-hero Tuco to find some gold hidden in a graveyard as they are persued by Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes. All through this trilogy, director Sergio Leone was building up to this film. The first film “A Fistful of Dollars” was a modest homage to Akira Kurosawa, by the time he got to this one, he had found his full voice. The final showdown in this film is one for the ages. There is enough excitement and poignancy to fill five films.
6. Kill Bill Vol. 2: Some may argue that the “Kill Bill” films was one film released in two parts. Maybe, but there is such a difference in tone between the two films, I would suggest they work as individual pieces. At any rate, the entire “Kill Bill” saga remains my favorite thing Quentin Tarantino has ever done. Doing what he does best, Tarantino mixes and remixes genres in ways that suit him giving us an all time classic heroine in the process. Uma Thurman rips through these films with righteous fury you can’t help but root for her. Volume two enriches her story more, personalizing it with her moments with Bill and her extensive training under taskmaster Pai Mai. The scene where she breaks out of a coffin is one of the all time great epic moments in any action film.
7. Before Sunset: The second and best film in the Richard Linklater series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meeting up in Paris nine years after their one night together which ended “Before Sunrise”. Taking place in real-time before Hawke’s character has to make a flight, the two rekindle their romance, and both look back on their one night together and departure thereafter as a missed opportunity. This film is all about that “what if” moment when you meet the love of your life again after letting them go, what would you do? The film glows with its Paris setting, Hawke and Delpy ease into their characters as if they have been playing them all of their lives, and Linklater has never made a better film.
8. The Empire Strikes Back: Probably the only reason this film isn’t higher on my list is I’m one of the few people who thinks the original Star Wars film is still the best one. That being said, I can’t deny the emotional depth of “Empire” as well as the introduction of new characters, particularly Yoda who says the most poetic lines in the entire series. The series does get darker with this, but never loses its sense of fun or old-fashioned excitement which was really what the original trilogy was all about. In the annals of history “Empire” will always be the “Star Wars” movie all others are judged upon. Many have tried to emulate it with their sequels, but its hard to think of anything coming close to it.
9. After the Thin Man: The second film in the “Thin Man” series is every bit as charming, witty, and sophisticated as the original. William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Norah Charles are one of the great couples ever to be put on film. Only they could make a gruesome thing like murder feel as lighthearted as a cocktail party. This film is also an added bonus in that it features Jimmy Stewart in a very early role in his career and completely killing it as someone you wouldn’t think he would ever play.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road: I went back and forth on this or “The Road Warrior” which at least deserves an honorable mention. But in the end “Fury Road” is just a juggernaut of visual storytelling. The “Mad Max” films are more or less chase movies, but it’s what director George Miller can convey in all that action that remains so compelling. Through “Fury Road” Miller is able to depict a story about the abuse of power, feminist empowerment, personal redemption, as well as creating an honest, truthful relationship between Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) which grows from distrust, to a true understanding without hardly a sentence between the two of them.
A few honorable mentions would be “Back to the Future Part 2”, “Gremlins 2” “Stolen Kisses”, “The Curse of the Cat People”, “John Wick Chapter 2″,”Creed”, “Superman 2”, “Spiderman 2”, “Batman Returns”, “The Dark Knight”, “Sanjuro”, “From Russia With Love” , both “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”, “and most recently “Blade Runner 2049”.
So did I miss anything? Am I way off on some? Do you flat-out disagree? Am I a pretentious snob for having a film by a Polish director on here? Please let me know and share with me your thoughts.