Sequels, prequels and remakes. One of the greatest pleasures of movie obsession is seeing the films you love reimagined, seeing how different directors bring their own peccadillos to the proceedings. Remaking movies is as old as cinema itself, so quite why the concept is so frowned upon nowadays, I have no idea. Anyways. These are my personal favourites (though it bears underlining that in nearly every case the original movie is superior.) No Jaws (1975 – Steven Spielberg) sequels though because they’re all terrible.
21. The Bourne Supremacy (2004 – Paul Greengrass)
Sequel to The Bourne Identity (2002 – Doug Liman)
The Bourne Identity was a decent action thriller that was ultimately surpassed by this superb sequel. Greengrass directs with a frenetic approach to editing, as if he took the closing attack of Rear Window (1954 – Alfred Hitchcock) and applied it to a whole movie, giving the audience just the right amount of information to stay barely afloat in the plot. There are moments in the movie where you are barely keeping up, and moments when the brutality of action makes you thankful that you’re not seeing it all. Despite the tedious murder of a woman to motivate Bourne, the film features an extraordinary, attainable car chase, where the panic of taxis driving backwards through Moscow keeps you engaged and entertained.
It was followed by The Bourne Ultimatum (2007 – Paul Greengrass), a temporally complex sequel that takes place within the timeframe of this movie and continues Greengrass’ exploration of throwing the viewer into the middle of the action. From then on it was downhill; The Bourne Legacy (2012 – Tony Gilroy) featured none of the key cast or crew, and was unremarkable. These kinds of films you just sit around waiting for the second unit to take over. Jason Bourne (2016 – Paul Greengrass) returned Greengrass and Damon to the franchise; but we were all over it, and it seemed to have little ambition other than repeating the greatest hits of their previous efforts. It had a great chase sequence at the end though.
22. For a Few Dollars More (1965 – Sergio Leone)
Sequel to A Fistful of Dollars (1964 – Sergio Leone)
I once saw a sixties double-bill poster for this film and Goldfinger (1964 – Guy Hamilton) and it seemed like the greatest cinematic experience I’ve never had. Sweaty and oppressive, Leone’s westerns expose the utter compromise of America – a country that will document rights but never respect them. These films are spiritual sequels; Eastwood is imposing characteristics on unrelated men, but at this point in history we are unfamiliar with his tics and range and profound cinematic presence.
23. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966 – Sergio Leone)
Second sequel to A Fistful of Dollars (1964 – Sergio Leone)
It ends with a great moment of tension and a pure expression of widescreen cinema and how it can give scope and scale to scenes that previously would seem claustrophobic. The film is an endless betrayal set against a backdrop of men betraying each other over the most repulsive of politics. Leone had lived these politics, and sought to bring light to the easiness with which men will give their lives. We are as meaningless as dust. One day our entire epoch of civilisation will be a thin black carbon line in the rings of the world. Movies will die.
24. Goldfinger (1964 – Guy Hamilton)
Third in the James Bond film series.
The Bond films have never really been interested in making sequels. From Russia with Love (1963 – Terence Young) is a spectacular film; a straight-forward adaptation of its source text, merged with North by Northwest (1959 – Alfred Hitchcock) and a boat chase. It invents modern movie violence (from this point onwards loss-of-consciousness karate-chops will no longer be acceptable.) But it was Goldfinger that invented the Bond films as we know them. Sly, with outrageous villainy, gadgetry and poor sexual politics. Guy Hamilton moved the films into widescreen composition, ensuring that performance, action and adventure would fill the whole screen. And we can argue the toss, but Sean Connery was never bettered. He returned for four further outings – Thunderball (1965 – Terence Young) is the best of these but is let down by an incoherent, overlong undersea climax.
25. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 – Peter R. Hunt)
Sixth in the James Bond film series.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service exists larger than in our cultural memory than you would suppose. Our understanding of sixties super-spy film comes from this film – wool jumpers, art-deco interiors, ludicrous jump-suits. Despite an underwhelming central performance, it is the only truly moving film in the series, largely due to Diana Rigg’s extraordinarily charming role. Peter R. Hunt applies his frenetic, cut-to-the-bone approach to editing to the whole mise-en-scene and crafts a lush, luxurious and emotionally complex entry in a series that was rarely any of those things.
26. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 – Lewis Gilbert)
Tenth in the James Bond film series.
Safari suits and raised eyebrows – Bond moves into iconography. The Roger Moore films envelop the widescreen and move the films into being events. They create a genre of filmmaking – occasionally comedic action movies that are for the whole family. The Spy Who Loved Me is the one where everything worked, and surprisingly, one of the few Bond film that avoids aping whatever movie genre was at the time. The pre-credits sequence has never been bettered, and reveals the faintly pathetic, unconvincing patriotism that lies at the heart of these films. Bond is a tool, living imperialism designed to prove that British politics, culture and ethics are superior.
27. For Your Eyes Only (1981 – John Glen)
Twelfth in the James Bond film series.
Somewhat strangely, a semi-sequel to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a dead serious Tim Dalton Bond film with Roger Moore in it. With a deliriously funky soundtrack by Bill Conti, it is the only entry in this series of this period that acknowledges Moore’s increasingly embarrassing age. The Bond films are notoriously conservative, and rarely give up on something they deem to be successful. The film features a genuinely terrifying scale up a mountain that reminds us that these films are truly spectacular in a way that most movies only reach for.
28. The Living Daylights (1987 – John Glen)
Fifteenth in the James Bond film series.
Whereas this is a Roger Moore film with Tim Dalton in it. Faintly embarrassed with the cinematic pranks the screenplay is saddled with, Dalton inhabits the role in way that he is rarely given credit for – he only fails to convince as a truly sexual presence. The film subtly underlines the tricky global politics that these films trade in, that imperialism will become bedfellows with whatever suits them at any occasion. And I have no shame in loving a-ha’s theme song – watch the credit sequences one after another and it comes along as a breath of fresh air.
29. Goldeneye (1995 – Martin Campbell)
Seventeenth in the James Bond film series.
Overpraised for being more heavy handed in its faint acknowledgment of shifting global politics, Pierce Brosnan’s first outing is the only entry of his that convinces. Bringing some of the masochism implicit in previous films to fore, it creates a genuinely tantilising Bond girl in Famke Janssen. Bond films are built around set-pieces. They are designed first and the everything follows. The set-pieces are simple and physical and this is never more apparent in the opening bungee jump over a dam. It’s quite extraordinary, and a reason for visiting the movies.
30. Casino Royale (2006 – Martin Campbell)
Twenty-first in the James Bond film series.
A strange, half-hearted reboot of the film series, it remains the only time the Bond films instigated a cinematic movement (in rebooting, rather than sequelising the series). Surprising given the success of the previous entry in the series, the appalling, but disgustingly successful, Die Another Day (2002 – Lee Tamahori), and the essential conservatism of the producers in sticking with what is working. Taking its cutthroat source novel and bookending it with delirious action sequences, the film gives its central character an emotional consequence that only comes from believing it is a standalone film (/book) rather than an endless film series. And in Eva Green, it gave Bond the only Bond girl of equality – her betrayal looms over the subsequent films like a vulture.