In an era of sequels, reboots, and remakes, perspectives change. It’s easy to dismiss the umpteenth Transformers movie or ridicule the Fifty Shades of Grey saga, but we don’t take for granted how bad sequels can really get.
In fairness, it works both ways: Thor: Ragnarok is a tidy sequel to be sure, but it pales in comparison to the greats; as far as Rotten Tomatoes is concerned, Thor 2 doesn’t Ragnar-rock our socks off in the same way that, say, The Godfather: Part II does.
The bar, inevitably, is simultaneously both very high and very low. In terms of ‘best sequels’, there’s no room for The Dark Knight, LOTR or Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in this top ten. Meanwhile, Psycho 2 or Son of the Mask barely come into consideration in the ‘worst sequels’ category.
Here are the sequels that critics can’t fault. The sequels that do one better than their predecessors, establish themselves as classics, or just sit and eat marmalade. And here too are the sequels that critics can only fault. The sequels that put their predecessors to shame and scar the minds of anyone who so much as looks in their direction.
Here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) Sequels, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes), ranked according to their Tomatometer, and their average rating.
20. Best: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (97%)
Sergio Leone’s infamous spaghetti Western is the third instalment in the Dollars trilogy. A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More may be classics in their own right, but it’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly that comes out on top as the definitive Western.
One of the most influential motion pictures ever made, Leone’s magnum opus has been parodied, homaged and copied, and the iconic image of Clint Eastwood’s squint has been seared into every cinephile’s mind.
To think, then, that the film received mixed critical reception upon release. Part of the reason was the stigma towards spaghetti Westerns– critics just weren’t prepared for a movie to execute a genre that was looked down upon with aplomb and then some.
19. Worst: The Bad News Bears Go To Japan (0%)
The Bad News Bears was one of 1976’s greatest movies: a hilarious underdog comedy and a scathing indictment of American competition. As far as sports movies go, it was a home run. Cut to two years later, and The Bad News Bears Go To Japan hardly reaches first base.
Remarked as “the worst movie ever made” by cast member Jackie Earle Haley, the third film in the Bad News Bears trilogy takes our baseball team to– you guessed it– Japan, for a high-stakes little-league competition.
Quite why anyone decided making another sequel after The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training is anyone’s guess – the second installment hardly set the critical world alight, and commercially it underwhelmed.
18. Best: The Godfather: Part II (97%)
Seen by many as the best film ever made, The Godfather: Part II is astonishingly assured for a film that had to follow up the Best Picture-winning The Godfather.
In fact, it does one better, matching its widely acclaimed predecessor stride for stride and becoming the first sequel– and only sequel on this list– to pick up the Oscar for Best Picture.
Francis Ford Coppola’s crime caper acts as both a sequel and a prequel. It details the life of Michael Corleone as he navigates a murky mafia underbelly and tries to maintain his family values and legacy.
It also explores the younger years of his father, Vito Corleone, played by Robert De Niro in one of his first ever roles.
It’s ridiculously easy to see why The Godfather: Part II is so beloved: its performances sing, it’s technically outstanding, and its script is thrilling. The only thing more surprising than its narrative is that it doesn’t have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
17. Worst: Amityville: The Demon (0%)
Meg Ryan went on to star in better films, but she may still be having sleepless (in Seattle) nights thinking about Amityville: The Demon, one of her first feature-length films. Otherwise known as Amityville 3-D, this is the third installment in a trilogy about a haunted house.
The house may be possessed, but who knows what possessed director Richard Fleischer to make such a god-awful movie. Trading genuine scares for 3-D gimmicks (the movie was released during the early-80s boon of 3D flicks), Amityville 3 was savaged by critics and viewed as a box-office flop.
Whether it is actually a sequel is disputed: the Lutz family filed a lawsuit against it for not starring them, and so it technically isn’t officially. One suspects that the Amityville series is better off pretending that this critical failure isn’t associated with them anyway.
16. Best: Evil Dead 2 (98%)
From a horror film that barely scares to one that’s scarily good, Sam Raimi’s cult classic Evil Dead 2 is as bloody and bloody brilliant as they come. A parody sequel to the wildly successful Evil Dead, the film is a macabre blend of gut-busting comedy and gut-spilling gore.
It also, somehow, improves on the original (at least according to Rotten Tomatoes), scoring 54 fresh reviews to a single negative. Of course, Sam Raimi went on to bigger films and bigger budgets with his Spider-Man trilogy. He still kept his horror roots: just look at Dr. Octopus’ hospital awakening.
Evil Dead 2 also had a life of its own: it spawned a well-reviewed sequel, Army of Darkness, and an even-better-reviewed television series, Ash Vs. Evil Dead. How groovy.
15. Worst: Highlander 2: The Quickening (0%)
Think of a badass subtitle. Any. Chances are, The Quickening was not what you had in mind. Belonging more to a detergent commercial than a sci-fi action flick, it has the unfortunate position of being attached to Highlander 2.
This sub-par sequel was touted by Roger Ebert as “the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day,” and other critics were even less generous.
The reason? Well, Highlander 2 kind of forgets the concept of continuity, for one. It retcons the well-received original by doing away with silly mystical warriors and replacing them with aliens.
Its internal logic is flimsy, its plot has more holes than a net, and its characters lack any motivation whatsoever. In short, it’s bad. In long, it’s bad. No wonder its filmmakers have released several alternative versions in order to salvage some degree of credibility.
14. Best: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (98%)
Mad Max: Fury Road is sure to go down as a classic, but Rotten Tomatoes’ favourite film in the Mad Max series is its second, The Road Warrior– and for good reason: bearing the most similarities to the 2015 reboot, The Road Warrior is a high-octane thrillride heavy on the action and low on plot. To an audience in 1982, this was revolutionary.
Mel Gibson returns as the titular Max, in a sequel even greater than its predecessor (as well as crazier, louder, and more thrilling). With psychotic villains, mohawk and leather, it paved the way for the rise of the post-apocalyptic genre.
13. Worst: Staying Alive (0%)
Watch Saturday Night Fever to see John Travolta make a name for himself, and to remind yourself why dance musicals were popular in the late ’70s. Watch Staying Alive to see Travolta make a fool of himself, and to remind yourself why dance musicals stopped being popular in the early 80s.
Staying Alive is, as far as musicals go, the worst sequel of the lot. Heck, even Grease 2 received some positive reviews. Not the case for Sylvester Stallone’s follow-up, a turgid sequel that lacks the heart and grittiness of its predecessor.
To be fair, its audience lapped up the film, with Staying Alive ranked in the top ten most financially successful films of 1983. Proof that an audience will go to anything as long as Travolta takes off his shirt.
12. Best: Aliens (98%)
Ridley Scott’s Alien was a landmark movie for the sci-fi genre: a tension chamber containing suspense, a Xenomorph, and Sigourney Weaver. She returns in James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens (now, get this, there’s more than one Xenomorph), a movie that couldn’t be further apart in tone.
While Alien was all about the horror of suspense, Aliens is all about the horror of bloodthirsty, nigh-unstoppable creatures. I know which one I’d rather face.
In a rare feat for sci-fi, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, deservedly winning Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. And, while Rotten Tomatoes may not see it as such, Empire magazine regard it as the “Greatest Film Sequel Of All Time.”
11. Worst: Leprechaun 2 (0%)
Life is full of surprises. That the concept of an evil leprechaun got past the development stage is a big one.
That someone then thought it would be a good idea to make a sequel to it is a bigger one still. That they then made five more sequels following Leprechaun 2 is perhaps the biggest surprise yet.
To put it bluntly, Leprechaun rivals Beethoven for the ‘most pointless series in which there are wayyy too many films’ award. Leprechaun 2, somehow, is the worst of the lot– yes, even worse than 2000’s Leprechaun in the Hood, which may have been given a pass just for the sheer audacity in switching Warwick Davis’ leprechaun to the ghettos.
10. Best: Toy Story 3 (99%)
To say that there was an air of nervousness after Pixar announced another Toy Story sequel, fifteen years on from the original, would be an understatement. How wrong we were: whereas Finding Dory and Monsters University have underwhelmed, Toy Story 3 prospered.
The reason? Well, simply put, it’s very good. Critics agree: for a long time, Toy Story 3 looked like it was going to become the best reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes (both the previous holder and the current holder are on this list). It only took notorious contrarian Armond White to stop it in its tracks.
White couldn’t stop Pixar in its tracks, though, as the critical and commercial success has provoked them to go for a fourth installment in the Toy Story saga. The public may have groaned at that announcement, but wasn’t Toy Story 3 treated with the same trepidation before release?
9. Worst: Look Who’s Talking Now (0%)
John Travolta’s shoddy sequel track record continues with Look Who’s Talking Now, the final installment in the Look Who’s Talking trilogy.
If you couldn’t tell from the talking dogs (always a bad sign in any movie), maybe the terrible Rotten Tomatoes score can convince you that Tom Ropelewski’s pointless sequel isn’t worth your time.
Though no wonder they went ahead with a trilogy: Look Who’s Talking stormed the box office, and Look Who’s Talking Too didn’t disappoint either. However, by the time Look Who’s Talking Now was released, people had moved on.
8. Toy Story 2 (100%)
Toy Story 3 may be one of the best sequels of all time but it’s not even the best sequel in its series. That title goes to Toy Story 2, a film that held the record for the best reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes with 163 positive and 0 negative – until another sequel came along to spoil the party (more on that later).
Pixar’s best-reviewed film is a joy from start to finish, taking the magic of original, sprucing up its animation and adding an inventive narrative.
Which is all the more impressive considering it was envisioned as a direct-to-video sequel, had its entire plot redeveloped in one weekend, and faced many production issues. Notoriously the entire 2-year file was accidentally destroyed. In other words, had a backup file not been recovered, we wouldn’t have got a Toy Story sequel at all.
7. Worst: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (0%)
Police Academy was a surprise to us all: despite a mixed reception, and being released in direct competition with such films as Ghostbusters and Gremlins, it was incredibly successful at the box office. So successful, in fact, that six sequels followed: a herd of cash cows.
The worst of ‘em was the fourth film in the series, Citizens on Patrol. By the time of its release in 1987, the whole police comedy schtick had become stale.
Though even if it were fresh, we doubt Citizens on Patrol would earn any plaudits: the humour is tone-deaf and the story is non-existent.
Rotten Tomatoes deemed it “Utterly, completely, thoroughly and astonishingly unfunny” for a reason, after all. The only solace Police Academy 4 can take is that it’s not the only film in its series to receive a big fat zero on the site. In fact, every sequel that followed shared the same fate. Talk about flogging a dead cash cow.
6. Best: Paddington 2 (100%)
Rotten Tomatoes’ current best-reviewed film of all time (at least according to most positive reviews with no negative reviews) comes in the form of Paddington 2, featuring a bear with a penchant for politeness.
The original was charming, but its sequel is magical, immediately transporting us into its larger-than-life world. Passersby accept the presence of a duffle coat-wearing bear, and newsagents can live in rich West London neighborhoods – what’s not to love?
It’s marma-laden with treats: London comes to life in pop-up-book form, the trees of Peru spring out of a prison cell, and Hugh Grant pulls off a riotous dance number.
5. Worst: Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (0%)
The inconceivable follow-up to 1999’s critically panned Baby Geniuses comes Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, a film so foul it can’t even get its title the right way round.
With 45 rotten reviews to zero positive, this comedy that even its audience of toddlers can tell isn’t funny has more negative reviews than any other sequel on this list. There’s simply nothing to salvage it: from the preposterous conceit to the god-awful attempts at humor, 0% feels generous for it.
Thankfully, this monstrosity flopped at the box office big time, earning less than half of its budget back. Which is just as well: with a film as proudly terrible as this one, perhaps the Superbabies should’ve stayed in the womb. I mean, with a title like that, what did you expect?
4. Best: Three Colors: Red (100%)
Legendary filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski directed some amazing films in his time, but he’s most known for his acclaimed Three Colors Trilogy. The third, Three Colors: Red, was his last film before retirement and death, and, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes, the best of the bunch.
It follows the friendship between a model and a retired judge– though that’s just scraping the surface. It’s, as with all of Kieślowski’s films, more of an experience to immerse yourself in; a far cry from the family-friendly fun of the Toy Story series and Paddington 2.
3. Worst: Jaws: The Revenge (0%)
There’s something in the water… no, not a shark. A dead franchise.
Jaws: The Revenge is the third sequel to Spielberg’s classic, and, in spite of how hard Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D tried, the worst one by far.
Started and finished in less than 9 months (for comparison, Jaws took around 2 years to make), the film was rushed out faster than a swimmer out of water.
They were gonna need a bigger boat, and its cast were gonna need a bigger pay cheque. Michael Caine, nominated for a Razzie for his performance in the movie, has since gone on to claim “I have never seen it, but by all accounts, it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it was terrific.”
2. Best: Bride of Frankenstein (100%)
Here it is: the greatest sequel to have ever existed (at least as far as Rotten Tomatoes is concerned). Bride of Frankenstein is the superb and superbly campy 1935 sequel to 1931’s classic Frankenstein. Boris Karloff reprises the role of Frankenstein’s monster, who is this time in search of a, well, bride.
James Whale’s masterpiece is a glorious creation; a stark contrast to the 21st century renditions of Frankenstein. Who needs McAvoy hamming it up in Victor Frankenstein or Eckhart dumbing it down in I, Frankenstein, when you can simply watch the sheer expressiveness of Karloff in his iconic role?
With an average Rotten Tomatoes rating of 9.1, every critic agrees that Bride of Frankenstein is a timeless classic that stands on its own from the original; its addition to the United States National Film Registry is the promethean cherry on top.
1. Worst: Transylmania (0%)
From horror to horrorshow, Transylmania is the spoof sequel to 2006’s National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2. It also receives the accolade of being the worst sequel ever made according to Rotten Tomatoes.
The vampires may get their fair share but there’s nothing to sink your teeth into here; gone are the days of Animal House, and now National Lampoon are left with bargain bin guff like this.
Perhaps bargain bin status is still flattering: David and Scott Hillenbrand’s disaster was a financial flop, making a measly domestic total of just over $400.
Transylmania doesn’t just stop there, no– its opening was the worst ever at the time for films opening in over 1000 theatres– and for or good reason: the only thing that sucks more than the vampires in this movie is the movie itself.
Are there any other sequels that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!
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