6 Great ‘Middle Chapters’ of Iconic Movie Trilogies

Published 7 months ago by This is a list post.

6 Great 'Middle Chapters' of Iconic Movie Trilogies

Improved Middle Chapters Feature While the era of the film trilogy has given way to the blockbuster, multi-film franchise, there are still a few properties out there that want a clear beginning, middle, and end. Unfortunately, even some of those franchises have since been re-opened. Yet, there are still some great film trilogies out there, but a few got off on either the wrong foot or didn't find their footing until the second film. The middle chapter is hard to perfect, as oftentimes it feels too open-ended (The Two Towers), or maybe it even feels like a completely different film (Aliens), but whatever the case there are a few second films that improve upon their predecessor. This weekend, for example, sees the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a middle chapter that, based on reviews, is a much better film than the first. With that in mind, here are 6 middle chapter films that are the best of their trilogy.

Oldboy (2003)

Improved Middle Chapters - Oldboy While Park Chan Wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" is quite the twisted treat as a whole, a lot of that cult status comes from the trilogy's middle film, Oldboy. All three films center on revenge stories, but Oldboy's is so unique, but also bizarre, that it went on to win the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Yes, the movie with the "hammer scene" also won some pretty prestigious awards…and that's saying something. We've already gushed at length about Oldboy in the context of comparing it to Spike Lee's remake, but in the "Vengeance Trilogy" it's easily the best. In fact, it may even be the best film in Wook Park's entire filmography.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

Improved Middle Chapters - X2 As one of the first blockbuster superhero films of the 21st century, the first X-Men was a calculated risk, keeping things relatively small and not branching too deep into comic mythology. However, once X-Men proved the property's viability, X2: X-Men United was able to take the gloves off and unleash its claws. Knowing what the filmmakers now had in star Hugh Jackman, X2 puts a lot of the focus on Wolverine's origin story, but it doesn't neglect any of the other X-Men either. In fact, X2 actually throws even more mutants into the mix, including fan favorites Nightcrawler and Colossus. Since X2, the X-Men franchise has changed drastically, and split off into three different franchises, but that huge boom can likely be traced back to this improved sequel.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Improved Middle Chapters - The Godfather Part 2 Arguably the most controversial choice on our list, The Godfather Part 2 isn't necessarily an improvement, it's almost a completely different, but equally excellent, film. While the first Godfather introduced us to the Corleone Family and its inner workings, Part 2 showed audiences its humble beginnings and future. Where one has Brando, the other has DeNiro, and where one has "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse," the other has "I know it was you Fredo." It's basically comparing two masterpieces, but there are some out there who prefer Part 2 to the first and suggest director Francis Ford Coppola found a better overall approach with the second film. But, in all honesty, you can't go wrong with either of the first two Godfather films, as both are Best Picture Oscar winners. But, you're better served avoiding the third.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Improved Middle Chapters - Terminator 2 Another case of "not necessarily better, but different," Terminator 2: Judgment Day is almost like the Aliens of the original John Connor trilogy, which is funny considering James Cameron's involvement with both films. He takes his first, more suspenseful film and reinvents it as almost pure action, while still preserving the same tone and overall feel. What makes the film particularly memorable is that this sequel takes the villain from the first movie and makes him the hero, but does so in a way that works within the property's mythology. Sure, the general conceit is the same, but the amount of one-liners and memorable moments in T2 make it the film that most will look to when they think of the Terminator franchise. After all, who hasn't said, "I'll be back," at least once or twice in their life?

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Improved Middle Chapters - Spider-Man 2 It's become almost a given that a blockbuster sequel will be bigger, but not always better, than its predecessor. Spider-Man 2, for example, sheds the necessary origin restrictions of the first film, and embraces its comic book inspirations whole heart. Yes, there's still an origin story, but this one focuses on the creation of Spider-Man's villain, Doctor Octopus - played to great effect by Alfred Molina. Obviously, the origin story is important to the overall property, but getting to go full throttle with the action, at the very least, makes the second film more exciting. And that bigger action, combined with better character work and higher stakes help cement Spider-Man 2's place as the best film in the Sam Raimi trilogy. We wouldn't go so far as to say Spider-Man 2 created the superhero sequel formula, but it certainly perfected it. So much so that the reboot is following the trilogy's formula (thus far) almost to a "T."

The Dark Knight (2008)

Improved Middle Chapters - The Dark Knight The new benchmark for modern (solo) superhero movies, The Dark Knight took what director Christopher Nolan teased in Batman Begins and expanded or improved upon it in every appreciable way. That's true of a lot of superhero sequels, but what makes The Dark Knight unique is its improvements don’t stem from bigger set pieces (although it has those) or more effects work. It's simply a better story framed around a unique character (and great performance). From the villain to the scope to the multi-layered plot, The Dark Knight is not just a great Batman film, arguably the best yet, it's a great film in its own right. Say what you will about the Nolan trilogy as a whole, whether or not the final film delivered, there's no denying The Dark Knight's place in cinema history, as both an excellent comic book adaptation and a huge box office earner.

6 Great 'Middle Chapters' of Iconic Movie Trilogies

Improved Middle Chapters - The Hobbit As was mentioned, there are some great film trilogies out there, many of which have expanded past their initial three films. Some, like Star Wars, work as a whole, and make picking a favorite truly difficult, while others change genres from one entry to the next. Still, there are some film trilogies that got better as they went on, and really came into their own in the second film – hence our list. But what about you? Which second films in a trilogy are better than the first in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below. - Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina
TAGS: oldboy, spider-man, terminator 2, the dark knight, x-men

94 Comments

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  1. No The Empire Strikes Back? Hmm…

    • Makes this list an instant fail, ridiculous DC promotion from Screen Rant again.

      • Yeah Screen Rant i so pro DC it’s ridiculous how dare they only have 2 marvel movies out six!!!
        Really makes me mad!!!

        **sarcasm**

        • *is

    • I Know right, that what I was looking for

    • Yup. No ESB!!!??? Unbelieveable.

    • From the post’s conclusion: “Some [trilogies] like Star Wars, work as a whole, and make picking a favorite truly difficult.”

      Plus, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. It’s 6 great ones that we wanted to highlight.

      Again from the conclusion: “But what about you? Which second films in a trilogy are better than the first in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.”

      • Whaaat? With all due respect, taking into account the subjectivity of the topic, there are few more well-defined cases of a second film being considered the best in its trilogy and the general opinion having been that way for decades…than Star Wars.

        • But A New Hope is in and of itself a classic. These are movies that improved upon what was in the film that preceded it.

  2. Everybody loves a good list so here’s mine.

    1. The Dark Knight
    2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    3. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
    4. The Godfather Part 2
    5. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

    Honorable Mention

    X2
    Spiderman 2
    Superman 2: The Donner Cut

    Let’s keep in mind though that this is based on my personal taste and enjoyment. I’m not saying TDK is a superior film compared to The Godfather 2 but if someone told me that I had sit down and watch 1 of the 5 I listed based on my enjoyment of each film I’d pick TDK.

    • WHOOPS!!!
      After thinking about it for a bit I’ve mentioned Superman 2 as a favorite but now remember it’s not part of a trilogy. I forgot about the god awful 4th movie.
      Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is among Batman Forever and Catwoman as one of the worst Superhero Movies ever made.
      Heck, it’s probably in the top 20 of worst all time for any genre.

  3. The fact that X-2 is on this list, makes this list irrelevent.

    • Really?

      • Yes, 100%. X2 was horrible.

      • that they put X2 on the lsit and ignored empire strikes back does kinda make you question the writers sanity

        • Couldn’t agree with you more…

          • What about X2 is horrible?

  4. The Godfather 2 not being number 1 makes this list worthless imo.

    Thats easily the greatest sequel in movie history and easily the best on this list.

    Also would be Dark Knight above most of the others you listed.

  5. Nice list, though I wasn’t a fan of any of the Terminator films and I don’t think I’ve seen Oldboy. My personal list would probably have to be:

    1) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
    2) The Dark Knight
    3) Toy Story 2

    Don’t think I have a fourth and fifth one but if there wasn’t a fourth Indiana Jones film, fourth Bourne film or fourth Scream film, two of them would be up there.

    • Good call on Toy Story 2. I’d forgot about that one.

  6. It’s all opinion people, relax a little geez.

  7. The Bourne Supremacy

    • I always thought Ultimatum was better, personally.

      • it’s my favorite trilogy so i’m biased

  8. Back To The Future part 2

  9. No Empire Strikes Back? But we got X-2? What the…

    • Good point there about Empire Strikes Back. Where’s Superman 2 also?

  10. HOT FUZZ

    • +1

  11. No Aliens, either. This list isn’t bad per se, but it’s certainly too short.

  12. Terminator shouldn’t be here, there’s 4 films to start with and most people would rather forget the second 2.

    • Most people would rather forget the second Terminator? What the hell are you talking about?

      • He said that people try to forget the second two films meaning Rise of the Machines and Salvation

        • Ahhh. Thank you for the clarification.

          • No prob. Who ever doesn’t like Judgement Day needs to take filmmaking classes so they can see what an amazing movie it is.

  13. If we see the first 4 Batman movies as a whole,
    Batman Returns is the thing… wait a sec, even taking Nolans films? wow :)

  14. There’s a few on this list that I like, mainly T2, The Godfather 2, and The Dark Knight. However, the others can be argued they belong. No Empire Strikes Back is suspect to me. An Aliens was such an iconic sequel. Just my Humble opinion though

    • @ Jrod

      Aliens doesn’t work for this list because it’s based off of trilogies.

  15. Where’s Superman 2? I thought that was awesome!

  16. IHO, TDK was overhyped. It’s success was half or more than half done by Ledger’s performance of The Joker. Then there was the promoting before & after. Just my opinion.

  17. Two things:

    The list is in no particular order. It’s simply a list not a countdown.

    The criteria we decided on was middle chapters that are the best in the trilogy. So films like Empire and Two Towers, while excellent, were harder to justify as being better than their predecessor and successor.

    Also, a DC promotion list with two Marvel movies on it? Hmmmm.

    • By your criteria, name me a better film in the original trilogy BETTER than Empire Strikes Back. Heck, name me a better ANYTHING in the Star Wars universe better than Empire Strikes Back. The most iconic, most quoted, most well structured, most critically acclaimed, most copied film in the entire series. Its okay to say you missed one. But to say that it there are 5 middle chapter better than this is, at best an oversight.

      • Again, it’s not a list of best middle chapters, period. It’s middle chapters that improved upon their predecessor.

        You want me to name a movie more iconic, more quoted, more well structured, more critically acclaimed, and more copied? Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope :)

      • I have to agree with Anthony, Ep IV is the most quoted of the series.
        It was also the movie that was the true quantum leap forward in film at the time.

        Doesn’t mean it’s better, but this is not a debate that can be won. Although, I would say the same for Godfather I and II.

  18. No EMPIRE…? You should have cut that X2 there, no offense. But this is not the definitive list. I love THE DARK KNIGHT but it’s #2 “just behind” EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. That movie changed the complexion of the “entire” trilogy. Who could forget that famous line. “No… I am your father.”

    • What is the definitive list? And who makes it?

      • must be an age thing. Cause everybody in my generation knows there is only one sequel that is hands down the epicenter of sequels. i love the dark night as a close second but it is not #1.

        That pond has already been fished.

        • Everybody in your generation huh? That’s quite a few people you know.

          There’s no ‘definitive’ list, movies in general are all a matter of opinion.

    • I don’t think it is a best to worst list.

  19. Aliens? Empire Strikes Back? The Two Towers? Toy Story 2? Bournce Supremacy? Spiderman 2? Superman 2? The Road Warrior? Evil Dead 2? Dawn of the Dead? Temple of Doom? Hot Fuzz?

    • Also forgot Before Sunset.

      • Thanks for that, I love that movie.

    • The Road Warrior

      Good call

  20. Two Towers is far and away my favorite LOTR movie and one of my all time favorite movies – I love Rohan and part of me wanted Aragorn to pick Eowyn

  21. X2 was a really good movie, but being a superhero one, and a superhero team, the only thing it lacked for me to be really memorable was Epic team action.

    Characters like Cyclops, Rogue and Iceman didnt have their big action moment to shine, and being three very well known X-Men, thats a negative point to me.

    Nightcrawler intro and Wolverine final fight were A-game, but…. that’s just only two characters, so thats the point. The other X-Men had a worse treatment.

    Lets hope Days of future past improves that and becomes the fan favourite movie of most of us.

    • I was thinking the same. After the awesome First Class, if they knock Days of Future Past out of the park and Apocalypse, I’ll be putting the trilogy up there with the rest of my favorites.

      • Im sure the action will be the best of the whole franchise, so yeah…. our top 3 will end being:

        1. X-Men: Apocalypse
        2. X-Men: Days of future past
        3. X2

  22. The Matrix Revolutions should be on there. Not in terms of popularity, just in terms of actually being a good movie.

  23. Id prefer matrix reloaded and pirates dead mans chest over the first two but its your list.

    • I don’t normally say stuff like this, but…

      You are CRAZY.

      In what way was Matrix Regurgitated better than The Matrix?

  24. “I’ll be back” is from the first movie… The way you’ve phrased that sentence implies it’s a one-liner from the second. You should’ve gone with “Hasta Lavista.”

  25. Wow…Empire Strikes Back missing. Aliens missing. I love X2 and Spidey 2. But they are no where NEAR as good as those 2 films. Singer and Raimi would even admit that.

  26. x2 should not be considered it does not fit the criteria of a trilogy IMO. the same actors are returning for a fourth movie. Superman 2 had 3 terrible sequels. that shouldn’t be considered.

    MY LIST GOES… NOT IN ANY ORDER

    Godfather 2(I haven’t seen this movie but everyone tells me its the best of the 3)The dark Knight
    Empire Strikes Back
    Matrix Reloaded
    Naked Gun
    Hot Fuzz (Did anyone think of the cornetto trilogy)
    Austin Powers (Now that I think on it the first one might have been better)
    toy story 2 ( that’s the best cinematic trilogy of all time)

    • i love the naked gun movies hahaha. ever seen wrongfully accused? its a spoof of the fugitive with leslie

    • I liked Hot Fuzz but better but classing it as improving on Shaun of the Dead you kinda lost me there mate, people do realise that Star Wars is not technically a trilogy right as there are 6 films in total, otherwise you will have to include the bourne films, Indiana Jones and all sorts, or am I missing something here?

  27. Empire Strikes Back ? Back to the Future 2 ? Alien 2 ?

  28. This is one of the worst lists I’ve seen screen rant, The Godfather 2 not at number one renders this list useless, its a pure masterpiece just like the first one, No empire strikes back?? No Road Warrior?? No Bourne Supremacy?? No Toy story 2?? and many more, a Bizarre selection..

  29. the title says “great” sequels, it doesnt say this is the best sequel list to end all sequel lists. i was surprised that ESB wasnt there as thats my personal favorite out of all three but its all subjective anyway. it doesnt mean the writer lost his sanity.
    My List
    1)The Dark Knight
    2)Empire
    3)LOTR TT
    4)Godfather II
    5)T2
    6)Aliens
    6)Two Towers

    • Two-Two Towers?

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