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Let ‘Dune: Part Two’ inspire you to revisit these other timeless sci-fi sequels

By Dan Heching, CNN

(CNN) — Dune: Part Two” is landing in theaters this weekend, and the movie is already a promising franchise hit, with (to date) an impressive 94% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an audience score one percentage point higher.

After 2021’s first entry fared similarly well – and picked up a total of six Academy Awards – the zeitgeist is inevitably comparing director Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling world of “Dune” to those of “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings.” With that said, there’s no time like the present to use Arrakis, the desert planet at the heart of “Dune,” as the jumping-off point to explore other amazing sequels in science-fiction, a genre that’s luckily been fertile ground for various second chapters in cinema.

Behold, a list of some the most notable, in no particular order.

‘Aliens’ (1986)

What better way to start off than with one of the greatest sequels – and sci-fi films in general – ever made, with a screenplay that’s been taught in film schools. James Cameron’s Oscar-winning followup to Ridley Scott’s haunted-house-in-space classic from 1979 broke the mold in many ways, from its deft ability to develop every member of the ensemble cast of mercenaries to the heart-wrenching crux of the story, Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) fiercely protective and maternal relationship with a young survivor named Newt (Carrie Henn). And that’s not to mention the absolutely iconic face-off between Ripley and another maternal figure in the movie – namely the horrifying Alien Queen, as seen above.

‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ (1982)

A groundbreaking achievement in terms of special effects and world-building at the time, “Star Trek II” was a sequel no one saw coming, as it felt very different from the troubled first feature film based on the historic television series. From early use of CGI to full-throttle performances from both heroic William Shatner and villainous Ricardo Montalban, “Khan” stands the test of time – especially with that whopper of an ending.

‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ (1991)

James Cameron (yes, he’s been referred to as the king of sequels) struck cinematic sequel gold again with his awe-inspiring revisit of a world fated to be dominated by evil killer robots, and the few people – along with a now friendly cyborg in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most unforgettable performance – who stand in the way. Among its many, many credits, including a truly badass turn from Linda Hamilton as a stronger and more resilient Sarah Connor – the second “Terminator” also marked a massive leap forward for CGI effects, helping to lay the groundwork for “Jurassic Park” and beyond.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (2014)

After a bold new beginning in 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” this sequel raised the stakes in this rebooted franchise that finally had the incredible special effects to back up an idea first planted with the 1968 original. Featuring Andy Serkis in top form as ape leader Caesar, “Dawn” builds to an explosive crescendo anchored by chilling post-apocalyptic visions and real emotion, as viewers are confronted with the true nature of what it means to be human. A fourth entry to the series, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” is out this summer.

‘The Road Warrior’ (1981), ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985) and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)

In the post-apocalyptic space, it doesn’t get any more bonkers than the world of Mad Max, which has seen several sequels reinvent and build upon what came before in truly eye-popping fashion. Franchise mastermind George Miller’s second entry “The Road Warrior” took the ingredients from his gritty first outing and crystallized them into a superb sequel, while the third installment remains memorable if for no other reason than Tina Turner’s unbelievable appearance as the menacing Auntie Entity. Thirty years later, the Tom Hardy- and Charlize Theron-led reboot “Fury Road” showed just how many new mind-bending possibilities there were for this world. Miller is at work on not one but two new installments, including an origin story for Theron’s Furiosa starring Anya Taylor-Joy.

‘Ghostbusters II’ (1989)

While this franchise borders on both the supernatural and comedy genres, it deserves a place on this list for being an inventive and under-appreciated sequel that took the elements from the original “Ghostbusters” and ran with them. Giving more room for performers including Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver to play – not to mention a truly madcap performance from Peter MacNicol as an outlandish museum employee-turned-possessed demon, sometimes in drag – “Ghostbusters II” still brings the chills as well as the fun, giving new meaning to the idea of “feel-good music” thanks to the prominent placement of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” as sung by Howard Huntsberry.

‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)

Truly and deservedly the “father” of all sequels, “Empire” blew the spaceship door off the “Star Wars ” franchise and is most likely the reason it has not only lasted this long, but become a perennial element in pop culture the world over. Its blueprint for deepening the story and expanding the characters has been followed – but never bested – by many a sequel since, including “Dune: Part Two” (the source material of which, it must be said, served as a heavy influence for George Lucas when he was first conceiving his “Star Wars” universe). If for no other reason, the decision to end “Empire” on not only a cliffhanger, but a down note at that, is a daring move few franchises have ever attempted, “Dune” among them.

“Dune: Part Two” is produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, which, like CNN, is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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