In some circles, filmmakers and critics have complained that the 1980’s is one of the worst decades in American cinema, among them, Quentin Tarantino. Despite the negativity of those critics, the decade will be known for some of the most epic Hollywood movies ever released. This was the decade when the big studio movie or high-concept ‘blockbuster’ was created and this formula has been driving the massive financial success of those same studios and, more recently, their streaming divisions, ever since. There are a host of beloved titles that movie fans fell in love with in the 80s that released sequels in the 90s, much to their fans’ delight. These are some of the most memorable titles and franchises in history, although many of these sequels, if not being outright disappointments, failed to live up to either the expectations or performance of their predecessors.
Back to The Future 3
This sequel, and bookend, to a three-part story was released May 25, 1990. It had the task of ending a successfully escalating storyline. The time travel trilogy concludes with Marty McFly having to travel to the year 1885 to rescue Doc Brown who had been stranded there. The fun of any old western is amped up when the accents are hard and the people are dirty. Seeing Hill Valley in its primitive state and the ancestors of known characters is enjoyable. Back to the Future Part 3 takes us on an adventure through time, including the time, we the audience have spent watching and discussing the film series. It is painful as the film shows us our characters one last time and creates an environment is which we have to say goodbye. As Doc Brown flies off in his new time travel train, the viewers feel satisfied that the characters was safe and happy at the end.
On June 16, 1992 fans of the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman were treated to a sequel ahead of its time. Batman Returns is a Christmas movie released over the Summer, which only adds to its oddness and charm. Bruce Wayne, again played by Michael Keaton, must fend off the feline toxicity that is Michelle Pfeifer’s Catwoman. He must also play a game of propaganda and politics with the Penguin played perfectly by Danny DeVito. Christopher Walken is cast as Max Shreck and his sleaziness, greediness, and charisma are a pleasure to witness. The performance is done as only Walken can do it. Batman Returns is a love story. The chemistry between Batman and Catwoman is hot and full of red flags. Selena Kyle was the one that Bruce Wayne should have been with. The love lost because of personal trauma is tragic. Equally sad is the Story of Oswald Cobbelpot, also known as the Penguin. Abandoned by his parents as a baby because of his penguin-like deformities. Oswald Cobblepot was raised in the sewers by a circus gang and a group of feral penguins. Audiences don’t deserve the performance put on by DeVito. The dark undertones of the character are terrifying at times. We love seeing Keaton back as The Caped Crusader. This movie has gained popularity in recent years. Perhaps the times have finally caught up to the ugly beauty that is Batman Returns.
Young Guns 2
Young Guns 2 brought back the cast we had seen as boys in the 1988 film Young Guns. That film followed The Regulators as they became outlaws and eventually got away to live out their own lives. Emilio Estevez steals the show as William H. Bonnie, alias Billy the kid, and is the center-piece for the sequel. Lou Diamond Philips is the last of his people as Chavez. His story is noble and tragic and is an important representation of what happened to Indigenous people during the colonization of the United States. Keifer Sutherland returns as Doc Scurlock, poet and teacher. It’s unfortunate to see Doc in this film as the end to the original had the character move away to get married and live a civilized life. Alas, Doc finds only the violence he was always destined to succumb too and it’s epic! Strong storylines involving Balthazar Getty, Alan Ruck, and William Petersen as Pat Garrett keep the story moving and entertaining. Christian Slater gives a memorable performance as an outlaw douchebag. Bon Jovi supplies a hitter in the form of Blaze of Glory. Young Guns 2 tells a great story of handsome young outlaws in the old west. The film does a good job at making the audience feel like they are one of the boys. We the audience feel the tragedy that is carried over from the original and the inevitable fates of our group of doomed pals.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
As A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels were diminishing in quality, 1994’s New Nightmare gave audiences a fresh look at the franchise. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare took us away from Elm Street and invited us to explore the concept of Freddy Krueger as oppose to just the character of him, who had become somewhat cartoonish at the time. The entity in New Nightmare is not Krueger at all, but more a demon who has personified the character in order to feed off of fear. Maybe it was Pennywise? Theory crafters get to work!
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
On July 19, 1991 audiences were treated to a bodacious and most excellent sequel. In Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, we Join the air-headed duo, who are destined to save and inspire humanity, to the afterlife. We are introduced to concepts like aliens in heaven and playing the Grim Reaper for another chance at life. This film is full of so many fun ideas like evil robots of Bill and Ted and purgatory being kissing your grandma. The evil Easter bunny still haunts the dreams of 90’s kids. Bogus Journey adds to the story and mythos of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It gives fans new friends like Station and Death. The song that was the destiny of The Wyld Stallyns and would bring world peace was performed. Strangers in a Chinese bar gave each other high fives. The song that was supposed to wake-up the world was God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You by Kiss. I think for a moment it did. Station.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Before 1990, fans of the film Gremlins didn’t think that a gremlin could become smart and sing New York New York. Not in their wildest dreams would they think that a gremlin could take on the form of pure electricity. Before 1990, nobody imagined that Robert Picardo would bang a female gremlin. All of these things happened and more in the 1990 sequel that is Gremlins 2: The New Batch. This movie takes a lot of chances. The idea of mutating the gremlins to have special attributes is intriguing. We love to see Billy and Gizmo reunited again. Gizmo dresses up like Rambo, shoots an arrow that kills a spider-gremlin, and it is adorable. However, there is a vegetable gremlin. The gremlin is made of vegetables. There is a fourth wall break in the middle of the film where gremlins take over your television screen. The idea of a gremlin that can survive in sunlight is great, even putting that into the bat-gremlin is cool, but making a Batman symbol in the wall when the bat-gremlin flies through it is too much. Gremlins 2: The New Batch is fun because it is too much. Some might criticize that is has no respect or reverence for the original and to them I say that variety is the spice of life, just ask the vegetable gremlin.
Die Hard with a Vengeance
In 1995 Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson starred in what is arguably the best sequel to the original Die Hard. John McCLane finds himself pitted against a terrorist determined to play a twisted game of Simon Says with his life and the lives of fellow New Yorkers. Jeremy Irons is brilliant as the mad man, Simon Gruber, but Samuel L. Jackson steals the show as the racist counterpart to McCLane, Zeus (not Jesus). The two men are forced to work together and reconcile their difference in what turns out to be a powerful story about race and the way citizens of America perceive each other. Their friendship becomes one for cinema history and Die Hard with a Vengeance earns a place amongst the great 90’s movie sequels. Yippee-Ki-Yay motherfuckers!
The Neverending Story 2: The Next Chapter
In 1990 we went back to Fantasia. Fans saw old friends like Atreyu, Artax, The Rock Biter, and the Childlike Empress. The audience joined Bastian to fight the emptiness. Lovers of the story were treated to a beautiful performance by the late Jonathan Brandis. It felt good to be back in the world of fantasy. Even though the story was pretty much a copy of the first, that was alright. We were happy to ride Falcor one more time.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 2 may be the greatest sequel of all time. The story and characters evolve and the special effects are groundbreaking. The heart of the movie is the relationship between the T-800 and the teenage John Conner. The introspective look into what a father figure is and what a boy needs to become a man is an important one. Sarah Conner takes her own personal journey into post-traumatic stress disorder. Linda Hamilton gives the performance of a lifetime trying to trust her greatest fear and change the fate of the world. The action is heavy and the concepts are deep. Make your children watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day, for there is no fate but what we make.
Halloween H20: Twenty years Later
The year is 1998 and we had lost track of the Halloween franchise. The story had become confusing and the franchise had fizzled into remnants of what it originally was; pure terror. The only entry of the collection anyone saw was the original that played every year on basic cable. Then Halloween H20 came out. Was it Michael Myers in water? No. It was Twenty years later and Laurie Strode, once again played by Jamie Lee Curtis, has a new life and goes by a different name. She is the headmistress of a private school and has a teenage son played by Josh Hartnett. All is well until Halloween comes and once again Michael Myers sets out to kill his remaining family which now also includes his nephew. Halloween H20 does what a good sequel should. It progresses the story and challenges original characters. It does have some cheese, but it brought the Halloween franchise back into the public eye.
National Lampoons Vegas Vacation
In 1997 The Griswold’s took a trip to Sin City. Shenanigans ensue as is tradition with the Vacation movies. The city and cast make Vegas Vacation worthy of this list. Las Vegas looks great in this film and it is portrayed accurately. Late night gambling, mystery buffets, luck, partying, and Wayne Newton are all apart of Vegas and they are featured enjoyably in this installment of the Vacation franchise. In 1997 Chevy Chase still looked young, Beverly D’Angelo was still our favorite MILF, and Ethan Embry was everyone’s favorite, boy-faced dork. Randy Quaid returns as Cousin Eddie and along with his bizarre family joins Clark and company as they explore The Hoover Dam, cheap buffets, and gambling addiction. It was nice to take one more vacation with the Griswold’s and that is why Vegas Vacation is a worthy 90’s sequel.
Another alien hunter is on Earth. He is attracted to war-torn Los Angeles. Gangs use the streets as killing grounds, the police are overwhelmed, and it has Danny Glover sweating a lot. The hunter comes to collect trophies from the most powerful and violent. In Predator 2 we see an inner-city cop, played by Glover, take-on and defeat one of the cosmos’s most ferocious warriors. This movie expounds upon the lore of Predator. We see different creatures towards the end of the film and we learn a little about their culture. One can’t talk about this movie without mentioning the Xenomorph skull which inspired its own franchise; the Alien vs Predator comics and movies. A highly under-rated aspect of this movie is the performance given by Gary Busey as a government insider tasked to capture the Predator, a fucking alien.Predator 2 adds a great deal to the mythos and lore of Predator and no sequel list is complete without it.
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid
Imagine a thousand-foot toddler loose in Las Vegas. If you have been around toddlers then you know that they destroy everything. They pet animals too hard. They have no concept of restraint or mercy. In 1992 Disney made this nightmare happen with the sequel to 1989’s Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I blew Up the Kid. Rick Moranis is a Canadian treasure. He reprises his role as genius creator Wayne Szalinski and instead of his kids accidentally getting shrunk, his toddler, Adam, suffers the reverse effects. There is a gripping scene at the end of the film when Adam is electrocuted by the giant Hard Rock guitar after being shot by officials. When he cries it reminds us all of the innocence of children and how fragile they really are.
Two Alien sequels were released in the 1990’s, 1992’s Alien 3 and 1997’s Alien: Resurrection. The latter is the better film. Resurrection has some bat-shit ideas that I’m glad were seen to fruition. This movie features a clone of Ellen Ripley. Sigourney Weaver returns to the role that made her famous. There is a sadness knowing that the original heroine died in Alien 3, but Weaver does a lot to make the Ripley clone feel like a unique character and fans would say she accomplished that. The cast is diverse and fun. From a badass little dude in a wheelchair to Ron Pearlman acting like the ape man he always was, Alien: Resurrection is darkly creative. If you don’t appreciate Brad Dourif’s perverted performance as a Xenomorph worshipping scientist, then you’re too normal for me. The concepts presented in Alien: Resurrection are dark, taboo, and cutting-edge. The scene where the Ripley clone finds the failed clones is powerful on many levels. Using Ripley’s DNA to resurrect the Xenomorph species is intelligent. The Xenomorph hybrid child is horrifying and heart-breaking.
In 1995 the James Bond series added its best 90’s sequel in the form of GoldenEye. Pierce Brosnan dons the mantle of MI6 agent 007 and knocks it out of the park. As Bond, Brosnan is classy, cool, and courageous. Sean Bean plays ex-MI6 agent Alec Trevelyan, code name 006. It is a lot of fun to see two highly trained agents go against each other. Alan Cummings is fun as the hacker, Boris. Most importantly, this movie introduced the world to Famke Jannsen. As the killer Xenia Onatopp, Jannsen squeezes her way into every male fantasy. Watching that, I have never wanted to die between thighs so much. GoldenEye also launched the blood-lust of every pre-pubescent boy by inspiring the second-best video game for the Nintendo 64, also titled GoldenEye. The best title for the console would be Mario Kart.
Movies that Almost Made the List
No proper movie list would be complete without the obligatory epilogue of honorable mentions. There were, of course, a few more sequels to be mentioned, despite their rather lackluster performance and overall audience appeal.
Ghostbusters 2 is the second entry into the Ghostbusters franchise. The second installment of this classic was underwhelming to say the least. Not even the reassembling of the original cast could overshadow the bland story and lack-luster special effects, which are the reasons this sequel was cut from our list.
In Escape from L.A. Kurt Russell is always a pleasure to watch, but unless you are a fan of 1981’s Escape from New York, then this sequel could seem boring. There are too many call backs to the original and without that movie as a reference the audience could get lost.
Lets talk about Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I wish I could have put this movie on the list, but as it is a prequel and not a sequel it does not meet the criteria. Going chronologically, it can’t be called a sequel proper and even episodes 2 and 3 are widely referred to as the prequels.