10 of the most underrated movie sequels of all time

If there’s one thing that holds true about cinema, it’s that franchise films can’t live up to the heightened expectations of viewers, no matter whether they’re hardcore fan boys or casual movie-goers. Just because a film wasn’t as good as its predecessor or didn’t cause audiences to ponder weighty questions about humanity doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great piece of entertainment. Here are some underrated movie sequels from successful franchises that were good solid fun, but don’t get their due.

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10 ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’

Believe it or not, back in the 80’s Temple of Doom went through the same backlash that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went through in the late 00’s. It was poorly received because its tone alternated between dark and hokey, drastically differentiating it from Raiders of the Lost Ark. It also featured Short Round and Willie Scott, which many treated as the Jar-Jar Binks of their time. Regardless, Temple of Doom was an extremely enjoyable film with exotic settings and memorably unrelenting set piece action that easily holds up 30 years later.

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9 ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’

Terminator 3 had great dialogue, amazing action sequences (the truck chase and the graveyard shoot-out, anyone?) and a knockout twist at the end of its thrilling conclusion. While it could never reach the heights of James Cameron’s first two cyborg action dramas, T3 was a more than worthwhile sequel.

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8 ‘Spider-Man 3’

Emo Spider-Man and the waste of Venom’s potential are blemishes on this otherwise exciting hero movie that had impressive special effects and worthy story lines as well.

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7/6 ‘Alien 3’/’Alien Resurrection’

Never could Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection conjure up the scares of Alien or the groundbreaking action of Aliens, but they did add meaningful entries to the series by paying respect to the continuation of Ripley’s character arc while engagingly reexamining the way the first two movies played out; Alien 3 is stylistically similar to Alien with its stark atmosphere and horror elements, while Alien Resurrection is like Aliens with its futuristic, over-the-top sci-fi action.

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5 ‘Ghostbusters II’

Clearly, there is no horror-comedy that can beat Ghostbusters, but Ghostbusters II certainly did try and out of that came a movie that was funny, creepy and charming all at once.

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4 ‘Batman Begins’

Technically, this isn’t a sequel; it’s the re-told first chapter in the story of a familiar character. And let me confess: I realize I’m in the vast minority of fans that enjoyed this more than its sequel, The Dark Knight. That was an excellent and very cerebral film with wonderful acting, but Batman Begins had far better action, dealt with Batman’s origins (which in itself are an exciting thing to experience) and had a potent roster of villains (including the horrific Scarecrow, the mysterious Ra’s al Guhl and the sinister Carmine Falcone), making it a superior superhero film.

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3 ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side’

Poltergeist is one of the all-time greatest horror movies because it’s so unique and plays on our greatest fears. Poltergeist II is approached from a more conventional stance on terror, but succeeds because the scares (the old man, the braces, the vomit-beast, etc.) were so visceral and unexpected.

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2 ‘The Matrix Reloaded’

Not every subsequent act in a trilogy necessarily has to be better than the last one. While that opening techno dance scene left a sour taste in our mouths and the confusing plot twists muddled an otherwise follow-able story, the action sequences were mind-blowing, thrilling and well-choreographed. Whether it was a shoot-out, hand-to-hand combat with medieval weaponry or the freeway chase with the straight-razor wielding albino twins, this movie kept our eyes glued to the screen.

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1 ‘Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

When there’s a 20 year real-world gap since the last film and its story takes place 20 years ahead in the main character’s world, it’s not going to be the exact same thing you treasured with childlike wonder back in the 80’s.

No one was thrilled by the monkey vine-swinging sequence, the CGI gophers, the wooden acting of Karen Allen as Marion or the inconsistent character of Mac, but there was never anything wrong with introducing aliens or “nuking the fridge” (which was actually pretty awesome). It was also possible to survive that, no kidding.

What Indy 4 lacked in urgency and believability (c’mon: Raiders featured Jewish ghosts, Temple of Doom had a black magic surgical procedure and Last Crusade introduced an immortal knight) it more than made up for the suspended disbelief with great adventure, thrilling action, nostalgic humor and an intriguing mystery.

In short, all Indy movies are B-movies done AAA-style with crazy logic-defying shit in them that necessitates the viewer to throw believability out the door. And if you don’t believe that anyone could enjoy Crystal Skull, just because your friend whined about there being aliens, take a look at some very decent critic summations here. It might be time for a second viewing.

Photo credit: YouTube/Paramount Pictures

(Previously published on March 5, 2013.)