Movie sequels are now the norm, as nearly every successful film with franchise potential tends to spawn several follow ups, and a majority of the widely released films each weekend are either a sequel, prequel, remake, reboot, or some other retooling of a popular franchise. If sequels once felt like a rare event that occurred only out of necessity or popular demand, they’ve become a tiresome trend and they rarely live up to the quality of their predecessors.
The 1990s saw the release of many popular sequels, with some, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Toy Story 2, Die Hard With A Vengeance, and Army of Darkness often cited as some of the greatest movie sequels of all-time. Those films are great, but there were also many other great sequels that have been lost in the shuffle. Most of these films were financial successes, but they are deserving of more favorable ratings from critics and fans. Here are the top ten most underrated movie sequels of the 1990s.
10. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park was one of the biggest movies of the 1990s, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park was an anomaly in that it retained Steven Spielberg as a director; the only other sequels directed by Spielberg were the Indiana Jones films. None of the Jurassic Park sequels could ever match the sense of wonderment and adventure generated by the first film, but while Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom were terrible films that failed to comprehend why the first film worked, The Lost World still contained some of the magic of the original classic.
Outside of the wonderful visuals and the welcome return of John Williams’s iconic score, the best aspect of The Lost World is the return of Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm. Goldblum was only a supporting player in the first film and primarily provided comedic relief, but The Lost World put him front and center in the story and forced him to be more vulnerable, as he must save his daughter Kelly. The Lost World became easy to mock thanks to a few ridiculous moments, but the majority of the film works as a solid adventure journey.
9. Lethal Weapon 3
Not only is Lethal Weapon cited as one of the best and most influential buddy cop movies of all-time, but its first follow up Lethal Weapon 2 became one of the rare sequels that lived up to the first film. The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover remained consistent throughout the entire franchise, and while the fourth film is generally cited as the one that jumped the shark, the third film in the series is sorely underrated. Most notably, the film featured the first appearance of Rene Russo as Sergeant Lorna Cole.
Much of the film deals with Riggs and Murtaughs’ anxieties about settling down in the future, with the two being called back into action prior to Murtaugh’s official retirement. Riggs, who has always struggled with personal relationships after the death of his wife, finds a new romantic partner in Cole, and Russo is able to match Gibson’s energy with a similar sense of humor. The Lethal Weapon films are often distinguishable by their villains, and Lethal Weapon 3 features a memorable performance from Stuart Wilson as the former cop turned smuggler Jack Travis.
8. Tomorrow Never Dies
1995’s Goldeneye saw the resurgence of the James Bond franchise with the first appearance of Pierce Brosnan as 007; Brosnan was a great and very charismatic Bond, but unfortunately the later films The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day suffered from weak screenplays and uninspired direction. However, his second film, Tomorrow Never Dies, is quite underrated; while it didn’t quite match Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies featured a memorable love interest, a fun villain, and some truly original action sequences.
The main plot of the film revolves around Bond attempting to stop the villainous media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) from manipulating the news into starting a global conflict. While the characterization is over the top, it was a different type of villain for the franchise, and allowed the film to insert some clever social commentary. Tomorrow Never Dies was also one of the rare Bond films that featured a romantic interest who was Bond’s equal, as Michelle Yeoh’s character Colonel Wai Lin is a spy who teams up with Bond to stop Carver.
7. Clear and Present Danger
Clear and Present Danger is the third film in the ongoing Jack Ryan franchise and the second to star Harrison Ford as the CIA analyst. Ford’s previous outing Patriot Games was a solid reintroduction to the character, but Clear and Present Danger delved deeper into the psychology of the character, as it forced Ryan to question his own moral compass when he learns startling truths about the actions of his own government.
After being promoted within the CIA, Ryan discovers that the murder of a close friend is related to a covert U.S. military operation in Columbia. The film was the introduction of one of Tom Clancy’s best known characters, John Clark, who is portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe works wonderfully as a more aggressive counter to Ryan, and Ford once again delivers a phenomenal performance. The final scene, in which Ryan confronts the U.S. President about the conspiracy, is among the best of the entire series.
6. Back to the Future: Part III
Back to the Future: Part III is often derided as the worst of the trilogy, and the film’s lighter and more outwardly silly tone marks a sharp contrast to the darker and more intense Back to the Future: Part II. It’s true that the film is the weakest of the trilogy, but considering how strong the first two entries are, that isn’t a detriment; not only does Back to the Future: Part III serve as a fun send up of western movie tropes, but it ends the series on a positive note by providing satisfying wrap ups to Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
After escaping the darker alternate 1985 at the end of Part II, Marty travels to 1885 to save Doc. The remixing of the familiar Back to the Future plot elements into the formula of a western movie is very entertaining, and the duology of Marty learning the consequences of his action in multiple timelines remains true to the essence of the franchise. As fast as funny as its predecessors, Back to the Future: Part III helped close out one of the greatest trilogies in film history.