Friday, June 22, 2018

Top 15 Spiritual Sequels

Everyone seems to have a different method of defining what a spiritual sequel is, but to me, a spiritual sequel is a film that somehow clearly lives in the shadow of a movie that came before. Maybe they share a director or members of the cast, maybe the plots are similar or characters are the same. Sometimes, a spiritual sequel is simply getting two stars back together and hoping to repeat the lightning in a bottle effect of the first film. Much like conventional sequels, the spiritual sequel is rarely superior to its predecessor, but this list accounts for some damn worthy follow-ups.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) | The French Connection (1971)
To Live and Die in L.A. is, in many ways, an L.A.-based follow-up to the New York-set French Connection. Both films were directed by William Friedkin and feature a rouge cop hunting a ruthless criminal in the city’s underworld. Both moves also feature insane car chases that rank among the best in film history. (Side note: another worth spiritual sequel to The French Connection is The Seven-Ups, a cop drama directed by The French Connection’s producer, Philip D’Antoni. The Seven-Ups also features a badass car chase, stars French Connection actor Roy Scheider, and was developed in part by Sonny Grosso, who served as Scheider’s character inspiration for The French Connection.)

The Color of Money (1986) | The Hustler (1961)
The Color of Money finds Paul Newman reprising his iconic role as “Fast Eddie” Felson from The Hustler. Both movies are based on books by Walter Tevis, and while many would argue that The Color of Money is a legit sequel to The Hustler, I think the connection between the two films isn’t as direct. Either way, it’s great to see Newman back as Eddie 25 years later – straight, broken, and curiously eager.

Carlito’s Way (1993) | Scarface (1983)
Carlito’s Way and Scarface are directed by Brian De Palma and feature a “Latino” Al Pacino weaving his way through a life of crime. In some respects, Carlito’s Way feels like Tony Montana went to jail, straightened himself out, and was released 10 years later. Personally, I prefer the patience of Carlito’s Way to the bombast of Scarface, but both rank among De Palma and Pacino’s most iconic work.

Casino (1995) | Goodfellas (1990)
Casino is what I call a lightning in a bottle spiritual sequel. A handful of people create a memorable film, then a few years later, they get many of the same people together and try to capitalize off the magic of the first film. Casino brings back Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Nicholas Pileggi, who all helped make Goodfellas so astounding. (Lest we forget, Thelma Schoonmaker, who made both films flow at a breakneck pace). Goodfellas is about a small faction of the New York mob, Casino is about a massive mob undertaking. Lightning in a bottle spiritual sequels rarely work out this well.

Waiting for Guffman (1996) | This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
It’s actually kind of incredible that This Is Spinal Tap was even made. It’s an 82 minute-long movie with fully improvised dialogue starring a bunch of relative unknowns, directed by a first time filmmaker. But once Spinal Tap reached lasting cult status, the co-writer and star of the film, Christopher Guest, was able to use the same improvised style to direct his first feature, Waiting for Guffman. In fact, the majority of Guest’s work (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration) could be called a spiritual sequel to This Is Spinal Tap.

U.S. Marshals (1998) | The Fugitive (1993)
So, yeah, okay, not every movie on this list is a “prestige” film, but what the hell, I enjoy them! Tommy Lee Jones connects these two films, as he plays gruff, sarcastic U.S. Marshal, Sam Gerard, in both movies. Both films feature Gerard chasing an innocent man following a transportation-related accident, and while Wesley Snipes is certainly no Harrison Ford, it’s a blast watching Jones chew the shit out of scenes as Gerard.

You’ve Got Mail (1998) | Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
There may be better, more acclaimed films to occupy this list, but You’ve Got Mail is the definition of a lightning in a bottle spiritual sequel. Same director, same stars, same general plot. Put them together and hope to God you recreate the magic of the first. I enjoy aspects of both of these movies (I love that Sven Nykvist shot Sleepless in Seattle), and think they fit well together in the spiritual sequel mold.

Runaway Bride (1999) | Pretty Woman (1990)
This is the same exact formula as You’ve Got Mail & Sleepless in Seattle: Reteam the same director with the same stars, work off the same basic premise, and hope for gold. Pretty Woman is a decade-defining film that most any movie of its kind lives in the shadow of, but I certainly give Runaway Bride credit for trying.

Finding Forrester (2000) | Good Will Hunting (1997)
People forget how much of a departure Good Will Hunting was for Gus Van Sant. Sure, To Die For helped him cross over to mainstream, but Good Will Hunting was an accessible, Oscar-winning hit that gave Van Sant the freedom to make whatever he wanted. His choice: a nearly shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, which all but destroyed the clout he’d gained from Good Will Hunting. Next up was Finding Forrester, which has a similar plot to Good Will Hunting, but with a softer execution. I appreciate Finding Forrester, but it certainly feels like the most conventional “studio” film Van Sant has made.

Made (2001) | Swingers (1996)
There’s a thinly veiled secret that many of the bros involved with Swingers didn’t think Doug Liman’s contribution was necessary. Liman shot and directed Swingers for $200,000 but the film’s writer and star, Jon Favreau, has hinted that working with Liman wasn’t particularly pleasant, and that Liman acted more as a stand-in director than anything else. Made, which Favreau wrote, produced, directed and starred in, is a hilarious follow-up to Swingers, and, in some respects, it feels like the film Favreau wanted to make the first time around. Regardless, I adore both films, and can watch them repeatedly.

Enemy of the State (1998) | The Conversation (1974)
Admittedly, this is a thin spiritual sequel, at best, as these two films share no legitimate connection. Watching both films, though, there is some fun to be had in thinking that Gene Hackman is essentially playing the same character. Both men are obsessive surveillance experts who are, to one degree or another, fighting to clear their names. The Conversation is obviously the superior film, but it’s a joy to watch Hackman scramble for the truth in both movies.

Band of Brothers (2001) | Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Following the success of Saving Private Ryan, it was clear to most everyone that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg had more to say on the subject of The Great War, and Band of Brothers is a direct result of that. Spielberg and Hanks oversaw the entire development of Band of Brothers, with Hanks writing one episode and directing another. Both works proudly stand on their own, together.

21 Grams (2003) | Amores Perros (2000)
21 Grams feels like Alejandro González Iñárritu’s English-language spiritual sequel to Amores Perros. Both films concern themselves with three stories that are connected by a horrific car accident. The movies share a gritty visual aesthetic, utilize non-linear storytelling, and even end with similar-sounding music arrangements by Gustavo Santaolalla. I cherish both films so much, along with Iñárritu’s Babel, which could be a spiritual sequel to either of these movies.

Inland Empire (2006) | Mulholland Dr. (2001) | Lost Highway (1997)
This is a bit of a cheat, as these David Lynch films form more of a spiritual trilogy, but the point is, these are three distinctly fucked up David Lynch films that I love to explore. Mulholland Dr. is the standout, but the complete lack of cinema convention found in Lost Highway and Inland Empire cannot be ignored. These three movies clearly came from the same glorious, obscure mind. And I can’t get enough of them. 

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) | Dazed and Confused (1993)
Richard Linklater has a serious hold on the spiritual sequel. Everybody Wants Some!! and Dazed and Confused so gloriously capture an eclectic group of kids on the outside of school (in Everybody, college is about to begin; in Dazed, high school just ended), while era-appropriate rock music guides the way. But one could also make the case for A Scanner Darkly & Waking Life, and even Linklater’s latest film, Last Flag Flying, which is said to be a spiritual sequel to Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail. Either way, be sure to check out Everybody Wants Some!! if you can. It’s a fantastic film that got screwed in distribution. Hopefully, like Dazed and Confused before it, Everybody Wants Some!! will eventually find its footing with audiences.


  1. Oh, this is good and it makes total sense. I know you were cheating on the David Lynch films since they're really an informal trilogy set in L.A. and involve identities but it makes sense. Enemy of the State is an OK film but still fun to watch as I do like to think of it as a sequel to The Conversation since it does feature a picture of Harry from that film. I'm glad someone else here likes U.S. Marshals as I thought it was a really good film. My parents were watching that a few weeks ago and had fun watching that film.

    1. U.S. Marshals is fun, right? It's just an easy film to put on, and Jones really has a blast hamming it up. I'm glad you liked the list!

  2. I love these...most of them. I only say that because some of them are actual sequels, but you knew that.

    U.S. Marshals is better than it's given credit for. Glad to see it get some love.

    Can we add Babel and Traffic to Amores Perros and 21 Grams for a spiritual quadrilogy?

    Unpopular takes: Waiting for Guffman is far better than This is Spinal Tap and Everybody Wants Some!! is not very good.

    Lastly, do you mind if I steal this idea for a post of my own?

    1. Oh man, I just rewatched Traffic last night. What a great film. Fits perfect with that quadrilogy. I like Guffman better than Spinal Tap too, but adore Everybody Wants Some!! to no end. But we like what we like!

      And sure thing, have at it! I hope you have fun with the idea.

    2. You bet. Let me know when you post it, I'm eager to see your picks!

  3. Good list, thanks!

    A couple of other interesting suggestions:
    California Split (1974) and Mississippi Grind (2015)
    Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and A Cool Dry Place (1998)

    1. Thanks for reading! Those are some interesting picks there. This is such a cool concept when you start to wrap your head around films that make sense to pair together.

  4. Very interesting list. I have not thought about this much. Love the connection between a lot of these. And i must say, as someone who wasn't a huge fan of Everybody Wants Some when i first watched it, it has slowly turned into one of my favorite Richard Linklater movies. The more i watch it and think about it, the more i like it. I might even like it better than Dazed and Confused at this point.

    As for some other spiritual sequels all i can think of right now is maybe The Cornetto Trilogy by Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End aren't exactly sequels, but they are all written and directed by Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. They are also all their spin on a classic genre like zombie movies, buddy cop movies and alien invasion movies. Hot Fuzz is probably my favorite of the three though. I can quote that movie all day long.

    1. I think Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead work great for this list. I nearly included them, but something had to get cut!

      And I hear you on Everybody Wants Some. Like many of Linklater's best work, it can be hard to classify it as great upon first viewing. All of his best films have virtually no plot, so you really have to focus on character and overall story. Basically, I've had an "about face" stance a lot of his films, and I now think most of them are great, including this one for sure.

    2. Yeah, i probably would even have gone back to Everybody Wants Some if you hadn't recommended it so much, so thank you for that. I find a lot of new and interesting movies reading this blog.

      And i thought of another spiritual sequel last night. What about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys? They are both detective movies written and directed by Shane Black. They also have very similar style and humor.

    3. THAT is a great spiritual sequel. I dig it. I really wish The Nice Guys did better financially. I thought much of it was hilarious.

  5. I've been reading how people are trying to connect Get Out with Being John Malkovich as its spiritual successor. Even the creative types behind the two films are getting in on it.

    1. Hmmm that's a little too big of a stretch for me. I don't think it's fair to connect two films based on theme alone. I think you need another component (actor, character, director, writer, etc). Get Out and Being John Malkovich may make for a groovy double feature, but I can't see Get Out being a spiritual sequel of BJM.

  6. I sense Tully could fit here with Young Adult in 'no matter what women do their lives are miserable' pair

    1. Oh, that definitely works. Good call there. (And what a damn sad theme haha)

  7. Interesting post with some food for thought. I'm a bad cinephile because your post just informed me that Tommy Lee Jones is essentially playing the same character in both U.S. Marshalls and Air Force One. It completely went over my head (in my defense, I watched those movies a long time ago and years apart from one another).
    Last thing I'll say is that I need to cover some blindspots asap. One being Christopher Guest's work, and the other being both Swingers and Made. Your posts have put them near the top of my list.

    1. Sam Gerard, gotta love him! (And just FYI: It's The Fugitive, not Air Force One, which is also awesome).

      I'm so glad you liked the post and I cannot recommend those movies enough. I actually prefer Made to Swingers, and Best in Show is easily my favorite Guest film. Enjoy!

  8. An out-of-the-box idea to consider:
    E.T. -> Poultergeist. Two 1982 films derived from the same script, Night Skies. I'm sure you know that story already.

    Some more to consider:
    Pulp Fiction -> Kill Bill
    Because of the similarities between Fox Force Five and the Deadly Viper Assasination Squad.

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -> The Sting
    George Roy Hill, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford come together to tell the story of old-timey American free-spirited outlaws.

    Manhunter -> The Silence of the Lambs
    Technically, Silence of the Lambs is actually a straight up sequel to Manhunter, but seeing as how the latter would get remade as Red Dragon to tie it into the Hopkins as Lecter series, I'd say "spiritual sequel" fits just fine.

    Jaws -> Jurassic Park
    A stretch, certainly, but one could view these not only as the two most beloved Spielberg films, but also examples of the two extremes in how to use visual effects, one barely showing the monster, the other showcasing it in its full glory.

    Close Encounters -> E.T.
    Another Spielberg one. Interesting. Two films about aliens with more optimistic views of first contact. Also, no one ever refers to them by their full names. (Seriously, when was the last time you said "... of the Third Kind" or "...:The Extra-Terrestrial"?)

    The Killing -> Reservoir Dogs
    A bit of a no-brainer, but I do think people overhype the similarities.

    Le Samourai -> Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
    One greatly influenced the other. Two films about Western hitmen who abide by the bushido.

    1. These are all great picks. My favorite, just to highlight a few, are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid & The Sting, Close Encounters & E.T., and Le Samourai & Ghost Dog. Brilliant picks there! Thanks so much for sharing, I always love your insight!