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.
41. Predator 2 (1990 – Stephen Hopkins)
Sequel to Predator (1987 – John McTiernan)
Danny Glover does an admirable job anchoring this film given that previously, the only thing capable of defeating the Predator was the epitome of human physicality. His charisma and ongoing narration colour a darkly claustrophobic viewing experience. Transforming the implicit danger of the first film where it feels as if the world itself is attacking Schwarzenegger and co., Predator 2 chooses to make its antagonist a much more present and realised threat. Urban fears are quite different after all.
42. Another 48 Hrs. (1990 – Walter Hill)
Sequel to 48 Hrs. (1982 – Walter Hill)
Following the original buddy-cop film, Another 48 Hrs. maintains the explicit threat of a highly charismatic black man overwhelming the social order maintained by the white man. Eddie Murphy would replicate the thrill of this across Beverly Hills Cop (1984 – Martin Brest) and its subsequent sequels, but they lacked the mountainous Caucasian hostility found in Nick Nolte. The genuinely terrifying interplay between the two releases itself in the laughter of the audience. It’s the cinematic equivalent of laughing at a funeral for ninety minutes.
43. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991 – James Cameron)
Sequel to The Terminator (1984 – James Cameron)
Directed by the master of sequels himself, T2 is a hint of the apocalypse itself. Disaster upon disaster as machinery simultaneously fails and dominated humanity. The ability to adapt (as homo sapien had to do as it spread across the primitive world) is essential – if only to compete with the fluid, mutative T-1000. Cameron is obsessed with how the human form will need to change – the machine hybridisation of these films will be superseded with the virtual reality avatars of… um… Avatar (2009). The moment when Sarah Connor sees the T-800 once again is a moment of sheer, exhilarating terror.
It’s easy to dismiss the non-Cameron sequels, but I find each of them to be engrossing, and each of them feature some grounded action sequences. They lack that populist touch, that playful approach to chase sequences, and the genuinely therapeutic attitude towards the characters that Cameron brings to each of his films. Filmmaking is only worthwhile if it’s obsessive.
44. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990 – Renny Harlin)
Sequel to Die Hard (1988 – John McTiernan)
Appealingly throwing John McClane into the plot of another pulp paperback, Die Hard 2 plays upon the overwhelming and occasionally baffling geography of an airport. Films often operate within identifiable landmarks, but the real appeal is when we get to see behind those doors we’re not allowed to step across. Real appeal is also found in very big explosions, of which this film has many.
45. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995 – John McTiernan)
Third in the Die Hard series
For years Samuel L. Jackson popped up in supporting roles in movies (he’s much older than you think), but by the mid-nineties he was becoming the main appeal of many films, and was best used when he was presented as a disruptive force. Film with an appealing widescreen sense of scale by McTiernan, this third entry seeks to present a highly cinematic New York as defined a location as the skyscraper and airport of the previous entries. It’s not entirely successful in this regard, but it maintains a sense of momentum the pummels the film along.
We won’t talk about the subsequent films in the series that followed.
46. Lethal Weapon 3 (1992 – Richard Donner)
Third in the Lethal Weapon series
The Lethal Weapon series is one of rapidly diminishing returns as the rough edges of the first film (particularly in regard to Riggs) are sanded down. But the films have a unique approach to sound design as Donner places babbling, seemingly improvised dialogue low in the mix against effects and music. The series ultimately benefitted from the addition of the manic energy of Joe Pesci, but it would have been preferable if he had brought some of the sense of danger that he brought to other roles – ultimately, the films had become just a little too safe at this point.
47. Rocky III (1982 – Sylvester Stallone)
Third in the Rocky series
It’s extraordinary to think of the achievement made by Stallone in the production of this film – leading a huge cast & crew, setting up multiple cameras and getting hit repeatedly by Mr. T. whilst at the same time subsisting on only half a dozen egg yolks and burnt toast every day. But’s Stallone’s endearing honesty comes to the forefront as he explores the consequences of a hero beginning to believe his hype and losing himself in the vagaries of fame. It also explores Stallone’s most conscientious choice of direction – his use of montage. Here he reduces cinema to its broadest strokes – motion and energy are processed at great speed by the viewer’s mind whilst at the same time the filmmaker maintains absolute control over the unravelling of time. It amounts to a manipulated sense of fatigue as we gain an understanding of the exhaustion that Balboa feels.
48. Rocky IV (1985 – Sylvester Stallone)
Fourth in the Rocky series
Underrated as a writer, Stallone is dedicated to exploring the frailty of the human form and mind – it’s easy to forget that “We fill each other’s gaps,” is the most honest account of the necessity of love ever expressed. Here, Stallone delves into the weight we sometimes feel, when others project their hopes onto our own lives, and the duty with which we endure this vicarious desire. Dolph Lundgren remains the most hostile opponent Balboa had to face, and few films capture the bizarre nationalistic hubris that envelops America.
Rocky V (1990 – John G. Avildsen) remains the only film in this series not worth watching; its attempts to pass on to the next generation failing. The Rocky series depends on the scrutiny of Balboa’s life.
49. Rocky Balboa (2006 – Sylvester Stallone)
Sixth in the Rocky series
After some years of experiencing a stagnant film career, Stallone returned to the role that made him – and in turn, cemented Balboa as an almost documentarian character study. Bereaved, bereft and broken, Balboa has become a shadow, subsisting on stories and faded glories. Whilst there is a deftness of motion to the fight scenes, the real delight of this film is found in the simple passion of Balboa – no man has ever purely expressed the determination to just keep living in the face of such brutality, brutality that will take everything you love from you.
50. Creed (2015 – Ryan Coogler)
Seventh in the Rocky series
Despite its depiction of a determinedly individualistic sport, the Rocky series has always stressed the importance of allowing others into your life. Creed move the series into new arenas, shifting the series’ focus on the immigrant experience away from the Italian-American to the African-American it depicts the struggle to define identify within a relatively short history. This shifting of focus is reflected in the incidental music, where the brass of previous entries is mixed with more contemporary beats and rhythms. And the fight scenes are extraordinary, modern technology allowing them to be seemingly filmed without cuts. You never give up. Never give in.