THE DARK KNIGHT, Heath Ledger as The Joker, 2008. ©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

10 Sequels That Were Better Than The Original

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Sequels are, in many ways, the bane of Hollywood. Executives eager to wring every last drop of blood out of their original investment will stretch an idea past the breaking point. But sometimes – rarely – a sequel will actually manage to improve on the original, whether due to bigger budget, a more confident vision or some intangible factor. Here are ten second installments that were better than their progenitors.

10. Toy Story 2 

Yes, Toy Story is great. But the second installment improves on everything that made the first film work and adds an emotional undercurrent (those Jesse flashback still get us) that Pixar continues to mine today.

9. Blade II

It’s crazy to think that before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Disney’s cash cow, Wesley Snipes turned a C-list comic character into a franchise player. The second Blade movie snagged Guillermo del Toro to direct and pits the half-vampire and the Bloodpack against a group of super-strong undead infected with a bizarre virus.

8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The first big-screen Star Trek outing was, to be fair, pretty dull. When director Nicholas Meyer was brought in for the sequel, he tossed almost everything out and made an action-packed flick that balanced space battles while also acknowledging the crew’s advancing age. Throw in the performance of a lifetime from Ricardo Montalban and you’ve got a classic.

7. Dawn Of The Dead

The original Night Of The Living Dead single-handedly created the zombie horror genre, but George Romero’s follow-up transformed it into the social allegory we know and love today. When a motley crew of survivors hole up in an abandoned shopping mall, the suspense and gore both climb to absolutely shocking levels. It’s a classic that influenced every bit of zombie-related media to come.

6. Friday The 13th Part 2

The first film in the franchise is kind of an outlier – the murderer is Jason Voorhees’s mother, after all. The sequel introduced the iconic hockey-masked killer for real, making for a much better film. Without the convoluted mystery, Jason is allowed to become an implacable, supernatural agent of destruction and one of the best movie monsters of all time.

5. Spider-Man 2 

Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film did a solid enough job setting up Peter Parker’s world. But Spider-Man 2 upped the action and the emotional stakes, and gave us the best villain the franchise has seen in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock.

4. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film was burdened with the inexplicable need to show the hero’s origin (guys, we get it: dead parents) and the casting of the walking charisma blackhole that is Katie Holmes. The follow-up rectified all that with Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance as the Joker, Maggie Gyllenhaal stepping in for Holmes, a great turn from Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face and a thrill ride of a plot that never let up.

3. The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars kicked off the modern age of science fiction films, but the sequel did everything the original did but better. Relationships were deepened, the action was more dynamic, and the ending – where Vader reveals he is Luke Skywalker’s father – added an emotional layer to the proceedings that defined the entire franchise.

2. The Godfather Part II

Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia masterpiece was a tough act to follow, but the sequel widened the scope to follow both Michael’s struggle to keep the family together and flash back to Vito’s arrival in America and the establishment of the Corleone family as one of the top gangs in the Big Apple.

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron’s first Terminator movie was a solid outing that gave Arnold Schwarzenegger one of his most iconic roles. The sequel took the original and, with the aid of a massive budget, turned everything up to 11. A new liquid metal antagonist, ass-kicking Sarah Connor, and some of the greatest set pieces in action movie history make this an all-time classic.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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