Sequels don’t have the best track record as it is, and most of us have a running list of follow-ups that let us down in a mighty way. Yet some sequels that are perceived as disappointments may actually be better than the zeitgeist — or your faulty memory — judged. Here is a full dozen oft-maligned sequels that deserve a second chance if you wrote them off a long time ago.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
What you hear: “We waited a decade for this? And it’s rated PG-13? Without James Cameron? C’mon! Toss this in the bin with the rest of the bad Terminator sequels.”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: This was before all of the wonky history-rewriting sequels. Arnold is still not-old (and did this right before he became governor of California). A haunted and messed-up John Connor. Claire Danes! The action scenes are surprisingly good, even for PG-13. Equal opportunity terminators. There’s a dreadful foreboding as the Skynet-led apocalypse begins through the failure of electronics. And that gut-punch of an ending offers a great closed loop on the series, if so chosen.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
What you hear: “Just skip it and go on to Holy Grail! I can’t stand Willie’s non-stop screaming! It’s racist and gross and kind of mean-spirited.”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Indiana Jones in the prime of his life. Indy’s journey to becoming less self-centered. Absolutely stellar set design and memorable action scenes. Short Round rocks! Perhaps not quite as racist as the internet has declared. Spielberg and Lucas brought a darker edge to this before they mellowed out. John Williams’ best Indiana Jones score, period.
What you hear: “Yet another disposable Alien entry. They keep pushing that David guy on us. Main characters who act like the dumbest of all horror movie casts.”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Brutal, creepy scares from O.G. director Ridley Scott. Far more of an Aliens movie than Prometheus was. Daniels is a terrific lead on par with early Ellen Ripley. Some well-connected themes that run throughout. Special effects and cinematography are stellar.
What you hear: “If it’s not Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it’s automatically inferior.”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Seriously underrated ’90s scifi flick. Great score and unnerving camera work. Short and sweet. And it has one of the most epic bad guy (well, girl) speeches ever.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
What you hear: “It’s a blatant copy of the first movie! The twists come out of nowhere! The whole airplane setup is implausible! And what about that super-cheesy ejection seat bit?”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: The villains are actually kind of memorable in the best of ways. John McClaine tearing across an airport (while still over his head) is a great way to keep the formula fresh in a new setting. Some fun action and shootout scenes. And as much as people hate on it, they’re still talking about it quite a lot decades later. It’s nothing more or less than an audience-pleasing blockbuster.
What you hear: “Far inferior to the first but way more bloody! That kid is super-annoying, and nobody likes seeing RoboCop following a million rules. Only the first movie is worth your time!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: The series still had teeth back then with an R rating and Peter Weller in the suit. The “evil” RoboCop (and all of the freakish prototypes) made from a brain in a jar… with eyes. RoboCop struggling to overcome being programmed by a committee. It’s an ’80s action movie through-and-through that happened to come out in 1990.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
What you hear: “Only the even Trek movies are good! It’s an entire movie about retconning a single death! And a rogue Klingon ship is a letdown after battling Khan!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: It’s part of a great Trek movie trilogy, carrying forward the themes of loss, aging, and sacrifice. An amazing score. Two iconic moments — stealing the Enterprise and destroying the Enterprise — that are must-sees. It’s more of a caper with the core crew at the center.
What you hear: “Not nearly as good as the first one! A real let-down! Bill Murray is just collecting a paycheck! Statue of Liberty is just Staypuft Marshmallow Man 2.0!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: It’s not as though we have an over-abundance of Ghostbusters movies with the original cast. Acknowledges the passage of time. Actually pretty funny and Viggo is a better spectral villain than the first movie. Lewis gets to strap on the proton pack. A couple genuinely freaky moments. Statue of Liberty is the height of cheese… and still really fun even so. Mood slime. Getting the team back together. And WAY better actual ghostbusting than the original.
House II: The Second Story
What you hear: “Not nearly as great as the first one!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Three words: Zombie cowboy gramps. So incredibly ’80s. Cheers’ John Ratzenberger! Time rifts. Kane Hodder… as a gorilla!
Major League: Back to the Minors
What you hear: “The death knell of a once-great comedy franchise! It doesn’t have the original cast or even the Indians!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Way more funny than Major League II. Scott Bakula is terrific in the lead role. A farm team vs. a major league team is a great concept for a showdown. Cheery and upbeat.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
What you hear: “It’s the worst of the franchise! The one where Steve Guttenberg didn’t return!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: It’s simply a fun holiday with your favorite goofy police cops. Florida setting is a great change of scenery from a boring city. Deep Space Nine’s Odo as the bad guy. New lead is likable and able enough.
What you hear: “Another horrible Predator sequel! That super-predator was ridiculous! The creation process was botched beyond belief. And I don’t know how I feel about that autistic kid’s subplot!”
Why it’s worth reconsidering: Cult legends Shane Black and Fred Dekker worked on this together. Comes up with a new angle on the franchise while keeping continuity intact. New hero squad is unorthodoxly funny. Brought the series back to an R rating.