Just to be clear: this list notes the greatest chasm of misery between a film and its sequel. The Phantom Menace, for example, represents such a tragic drop in quality from the original trilogy that it must be included on any list of the worst sequels. But that is not the list . Phantom Menace is not the follow-up to an original film. Thus it does not qualify. (You got lucky, Superman IV and Never Ending Story 3). Here are only considered Original and Follow-up.
Arbitrary parameters are critical to define at the outset.
5. Jurassic Park – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Do you remember how, in 1993, Jurassic Park was pretty much the best thing you’d ever seen? It was beautiful to behold, a visual masterpiece, suspenseful, it had real fucking DINOSAURS!!!! just as you always imagined them. It is still a masterpiece of blockbusting proportions. If you buy a new sound system and want to try it out, put on the blu-ray of Jurassic Park and crank it.
Then came Lost World: Jurassic Park. What makes Lost World the worst is that its just so mediocre and lazy. After such a bland experience one knows two things for certain: Jurassic Park is brilliant, and Spielberg must have been bored out of his mind making the sequel. Look out, San Diego! (and yes, Jurassic Park III is even worse).
4. Speed – Speed 2: Cruise Control
Despite the American cultural past-time of hating on Keanu Reeves, Speed is a very good thriller. Speed was the action/thrill-ride of the 90s every other 90s action movie failure thought it could be (The Chase, for example, or Terminal Velocity. Basically, 90s Charlie Sheen action movies). Dennis Hopper was terrifying and they kill off Jeff Daniels and Sandra Bullock was affable and cute. Speed is very good and everyone loved it.
Then came Speed 2: Cruise Control. Speed on a boat without the star returning and before Sandra Bullock could carry a film. Even the trailer was terrible.
3. The Blues Brother – The Blues Brothers 2000
Blues Brothers possesses that rarest of exuberance one finds in the movies. It is an utterly ridiculous and totally wonderful and preposterous movie. Also, I love Henry Gibson and every role he’s ever played, including Head Nazi in Blues Brothers. Blues Brothers is the first and best Saturday Night Live inspired movie and has a car-chase scene that is both mad-cap madness and so perfectly orchestrated that it rivals the French Connection (though with less grace).
Then came Blues Brothers 2000. I don’t know what possessed the world to make Blues Brothers 2000. Even more so, why it was made in 1998. Filled with excellent musicians giving it their all in honor of the Blues Brothers, watching 2000 is a bit tragic. It leaves a terrible legacy for the original because it is a terrible movie.
2. Saturday Night Fever – Staying Alive
Some in my generation are surprised to learn how great a film is Saturday Night Fever. Travolta, as Tony Monero (who works for a long time on his hair, and then you hit it), was dynamic and touching. Now that John Travolta is a crazy known for the Xenu stuff and occasionally being in terrible, terrible films, we forget that he used to be a talented, subtle, accomplished actor. This was never more apparent than in Saturday Night Fever.
Then came Staying Alive. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive reduced John Travolta to shards of his former self. But you can’t have your career revived by Quentin Tarantino unless you first destroy that career.
1. Highlander – Highlander II: The Quickening
The 1986 film Highlander is a fantasy sci-fi genre masterpiece. They say it’s a cult classic now but screw those assholes. It’s just classic, no modifier necessary. The Highlander is Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And he is immortal. The story of the Scottish swordsman is awesome, and I’ll forgive you if you don’t know this. But even if Highlander is just a good 80s movie, it still gets to be #1 on this list, because the sequel makes it so.
Highlander II: The Quickening is garbage. Highlander II demonstrates not just how to make a bad part 2 (anyone can follow a good movie with a bad sequel) but how to make such a bad sequel that you retroactively harm the original. The plot and back-story of Highlander II so substantially alters the continuity of the original that not only is part 2 completely incomprehensible, but it must also be forgotten if one is going to enjoy the first. It’s just a big cheat. I have spent 15 years trying to forget Highlander II: The Quickening. It is the worst sequel ever. Also, Connery, come on, just give us a go.
It does have the best airplane safety video ever, though. I’ll give it that.