There was a time that plans of a sequel were pipe-dreams in the minds of the creators that
conjured their first instalments. Now setting up a franchise is the top of the to-do list for a number
of studios, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. With that said, there are some follow-up films
that we never imagined having, or more importantly, even questioned if they were worth our
attention. Those are the outside Hollywood horses that make it all the more satisfying when they
truly surprise us by being better than we could’ve hoped for.
Film history is littered with entries that were simply too damn good than they deserved to be and
left us wanting more. The ones left to sometimes stew years after we were first introduced to the
world they’re a part of, or spiralling off and building their own. Here’s just a bunch of chapters to
tales we didn’t expect to see and that you definitely should’ve by now.
Some may peg it as a cheap shot to add it on the list, but Creed feels as much of a follow-on
from the Italian Stallion’s tale, as a spin-off chronicling the charismatic colt he takes in. Though
Rocky Balboa may have regained some love for Stallone’s meat-punching icon of an alter-ego,
the thought of introducing Apollo Creed’s son to the fold was scoffed at when it was first
announced nine years later. Thankfully, those doubtful murmurs fell silent with Ryan Coogler’s
stunning passing of the gloves, mainly down to a fluid synchronicity with frontman and filmmaking
Audiences would undoubtedly be drawn to seeing Stallone stepping near the ring again, but the
highlight of film is without question Michael B. Jordan’s knockout performance as Adonis Creed.
Taking the role of Apollo’s unknown son, MBJ electrifies the film as the young hot-head with his
own personal battles that he has yet to overcome before he can succeed in the ring. Packing a
familiar raw punch that almost hits as hard as when Stallone first took to those Philadelphia steps,
Coogler’s take on a new tale in Rocky’s world does so wonderfully because it’s not ashamed to
respect where it comes from, before taking it to new directions. Though, Creed II may not have as
much fight in it as its predecessor, the first round still stands strong enough to warrant this new
challenger as being one we’re happy to see coming back for more.
The Colour of Money
Returning to a character so many years after being apart from them is standard fare for Hollywood
nowadays, but Paul Newman doing it in 1986 was an absolute rarity. Thankfully, under the
watchful eye of Martin Scorsese and starring alongside a young Tom Cruise with a bouffant as
large as the career he’d quickly create for himself, The Colour Of Money marks a wonderful
return of an actor reprising a role he hadn’t ventured into for 25 years. What’s in a number though,
Though Jackie Gleason may not be present to pick up a pool cue as Minnesota Fats, Scorsese
establishes something that so few sequels make an effort to deal with; seeing the first film isn’t
necessary viewing. Instead, he redirects his attention to a not-so Fast Eddie and a brand new
hotshot that pulls him back to the table. The chemistry between Newman and Cruise is dynamite,
as the former tries to set them up only for young Vincent Lauria to smash it apart with every shot
he takes. Add in impressive turns from Jon Turturro and Forest Whitaker who has a game all of his
own and The Colour of Money is just like its core characters; confident with every move it makes
and smart enough to know where it’s come from. Rack ‘em up.
Toy Story 3
The adventures of Woody and Buzz could’ve easily ended at Toy Story 2, with Andy’s bedroom
gaining a few more occupants and our toys living happily ever after. Instead, Pixar felt the need to
give us a bittersweet third chapter that – what we thought – was a perfect finale to the series and
also, one of those real rarities – an entertaining threequel. Shifting the sandbox of time forward
some years, our heroes are now trying to live in a world without their supreme play pal, Andy, now
off to college and no time for toys. This leaves Woody and co. to be packed up and shipped to a
preschool where the only goal is to bust out of it.
Not only is this one great escape movie, the franchise taps back into that ability of having a direct
line to our hearts and never loses its signal. Whether it’s that slow descent into the incinerator that
leads our entire childhood to flash before our eyes, or Woody’s ‘so long, partner’ as his best
buddy drives off into the sunset, it’s undoubtedly the strongest film of the series so far, and we
never even asked for it. With that in mind, we can only wonder what it’s in store when Toy Story 4
unfolds, but if Tom Hanks has already admitted to weeping buckets, you better start ordering your
own in bulk.
M. Night Shyamalan’s duplicitous thriller Split worked just fine on its own, thriving from what may
be the best work of James McAvoy’s entire career. Our first encounter with Kevin Wendall Crumb
and a handful of his 21 different personalities was an unsettling and hugely entertaining thriller
that left you guessing until the very end, and the biggest surprise of it all was that it was a sequel
we weren’t even aware of. As with all great Shyamalan films, the best ones have been those that
paint a completely different picture upon repeat viewing, and the revelation that Split is, in fact, a
follow-on from Unbreakable provides that opportunity.
Clicking into place so wonderfully, and setting a meet-up that had us salivating to see, it was
forgivable that we failed to notice that this tale of a mysterious superhuman-like being was
inhabiting the same world of another from 16 years earlier. Thankfully, worn down lone warrior,
David Dunn laid the breadcrumbs in a Nick Fury-like manner (oh, the irony) making Split even
more rewarding than it already was. Though Glass may have broken fans in two over how things
ended in the super Shyamalaniverse, Anya Taylor-Joy’s nightmarish experience with The Beast,
Hedwig, etc is one that is still universally favoured.
The Incredibles 2
They said it couldn’t be done. They said we don’t deserve nice things. And yet, fans hopes of
another family outing with the Parrs were realised this year with The Incredibles 2, and it was
better than we could’ve imagined. Seen as one of the greatest superhero films that don’t have the
words ‘Marvel’, ‘Nolan’, or ‘Jenkins’ anywhere in the credits, Brad Bird’s comic book-like caper
debut was ahead of its time and the best Fantastic Four film we never had, making the challenge
of forming a follow-up seemed unthinkable. Naturally, the Parr’s answered the heroes call with a
seamless second act that revitalised everything that made us fall in love with them in.
Much like Toy Story 2, Incredibles 2 took familiar beats from its predecessor and tweaked them
for the second time around. Putting Helen on the centre stage and leaving Bob to act as the stay at home parent could’ve felt tiresome, but its the winning additions of Dash, Violet and the superpowered
pick ‘n’ mix that is Jack-Jack to keep Bob busy that ensure the film doesn’t lose its
pace. Add in the stunning animation that’s advanced almost two decades to follow on minutes
from the original, and Incredibles 2 easily earns its place as one of Pixar’s strongest sequels.
Given his gajillion sequels and the original iteration not taking a stab at the big screen since 2001,
the return of Michael Myers was always going to be one wrought with danger given his track
record. But much like the one-man murdering machine, writers Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and
director David Gordon Green went on a killing spree of their own, erasing every entry that followed
Laurie Strode’s fateful first encounter with The Shape and simply kicking things off forty years
later. The result while incredibly daring, was a shockingly successful one.
Honing in on the horror that had followed Laurie all her life, the real nightmare here is PTSD, as
Jamie Lee Curtis slips brilliantly back into her role as the iconic final girl who is now an embittered
woman still wary of the return of the man in the mask. Though there are elements that do stretch
the story to its limits (why the town is shrugging off the suggestion that Myers is a threat is
baffling) Gordon Green does an excellent job of setting the imminent showdown between victim
and attacker with some honestly wonderful homages to the original. More creative in its kills,
sharper in its tension building and a satisfying cat and mouse chase in the film’s final act, giving
him another night to come home may not be a bad idea, either. Cue the music.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Of the recent instalments to the Skywalker story, one chapter is undoubtedly less divisive than the
other. That’s not to say it might be better (honestly, take your heated debate outside to FilmTwitter
if you have to), but there’s no denying that the outcome of The Force Awakens blew away any
fears we had left behind from the not so perfect prequels. Giving us new heroes to follow, new
villains to secretly admire, and a story that set off on its own course to hyperspace, while picking
up familiar faces along the way was a treat we didn’t expect to see. It gave us that rare cinema
magic we so rarely get to grasp, and we’d missed it so very much.
Already reviving one massive sci-fi franchise (even though it has an uncertain future of its own
now), J.J. Abrams taking us to the galaxy far, far away was a film full of hair-raising moments that
tapped into that fandemonium that had followed Star Wars for so many years. It reignited the
enthusiasm to see more of that world, and stories we didn’t know were coming. Regardless of
where you stand on where the franchise has been taken since, this first new step was one made
with love and admiration for the history of Star Wars and has become so highly-regarded as
much as those that came before it. The Force was strong with this one.
Given the crazed metal-infused Canadian’s track record, and the unnecessarily uneven X-Men
universe he was always at the centre of, there was no doubt that we’d see Hugh Jackman back
as the Wolverine; the question was whether he’d reprise the role that really was worthy of the
character? Thankfully, Hugh Jackman felt the same about the icon that had defined his career,
and after a first-time team-up with James Mangold in The Wolverine, the two decided to send
Weapon X out in a blaze of claret-coated glory with Logan.
Honestly, we weren’t prepared for a Wolverine story with such ferocity, simply because of how
family-friendly one of Marvel’s most lethal characters had been up until then. Sure we’d seen him
pop his claws against various foes, but the camera always managed to carefully hide where they
ended up most the time. From the opening moment of a carjacking gone wrong, Logan makes it
clear that our hero’s last stand was going to be a brutal, bleak encounter. Not only was it
relentless in its violence, but it finally painted the finest interpretation of the man who was good at
doing not-very-nice things, and the price he paid for the long life that had rarely seen any hope in
it. More importantly, it established that this was without question, the final appearance of the man
who had played Logan for 19 years. What a way to go.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Everyone assumed that the world of the Road Warrior ended with Tina Turner and ‘We Don’t Need
Another Hero’, but George Miller had other plans. Grand, bombastic plans, coated in guzzoline
that didn’t just focus on Max Rockatansky, but an all-new character to star alongside him that
also stole the spotlight. Fury Road shows immense bravery on so many fronts, not simply for
having someone else take the mantle of the Road Warrior, with gruff grumbling Tom Hardy getting
behind the wheel of the Interceptor, but going on to blow everything else off the road with any
chance he gets.
With enough dialogue to fill a glove compartment, Miller instead goes to immense effort in making
what is the best chapter to a franchise he hadn’t touched in 30 years and firing it into a scorched
desert sky. Boasting an array of action sequences that raise the heart rate and get you amped to
go for a drive all of your own, Fury Road feels like one of those rare gems that feels less like a
movie and more like an experience. It’s a shock to every sense it can grab hold of and rattles it for
two hours while Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron lead the charge. Of all the films on this list, this is
one we need a sequel to like, yesterday.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Ask your parents, and they’ll tell you crazy tails about how before the internet, fans knew as much
as they saw in the previews with regards to what was actually heading to cinemas. One such
mind-blowing trailer was (and still seen by many) the construction of an unknown object that only
formed a nightmare we thought we’d seen the last of. Not so, of course, because when a freshly
pressed T-800’s eye glowed red, the screen slammed shut with the name of what would become
one of the greatest blockbusters of all time; Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Clueless as to what was in store, the world anticipated another hard-wired horror film from James
Cameron, as Arnie’s death machine came back to the future with another name on his list. The
groundbreaking filmmaker had other plans though, and what we got was a non-stop action film
still lined with an undercurrent of terror, only this time being made by the liquid metal ripples of
Robert Patrick’s T-1000. Like a few others on this list, Judgement Day set up and shut down the
franchise just right, before the future was set for more instalments (all of them paling in
comparison to this one) and it did so with a perfect story, stunning special effects, and Arnie in his
absolute element. This might not just be the best surprise sequel on the list, but the best sequel