Strap yourselves in: the sequel to Fifty Shades Of Grey is coming this week, and as the title suggests, it's a lot darker. This is a standard trope for movie sequels, which often seem to equate 'darker' and 'grittier' with 'better'. All those crazy characters you loved from part one? They're really in trouble this time. Fifty Shades Darker might feature slightly harder thwacks from the whip of Christian Grey, but these 10 sequels decided that what they needed to do was up the stakes, pump up the peril and bring on the black clouds on the poster...
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The standard bearer for the darker sequel. A New Hope was just that: brimming with promise and freshness. Empire took that hope and wiped it from the face of the galaxy. Han Solo is betrayed by Lando and is frozen in Carbonite. Luke Skywalker has his hand cut off and finds out his father is Darth Vader. The Empire generally boss it. Then the movie ends. Oof. It's like a kick between the legs after a punch in the stomach. Sure, Return Of The Jedi came along three years later, with fluffy Ewoks and Han and Leia getting it on and good triumphing over evil, but Empire Strikes Back was the real deal: a sequel that knew that you didn't keep audiences on tenterhooks by making them happy.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is available now on Sky Cinema
2. Every Harry Potter sequel (2002 – 2011)
The first movie was all chocolate frogs and jolly banter and owls delivering your post. Delightful! Then Voldemort the buzzkill showed his face and dragged Hogwarts down with him. Each Harry Potter sequel got darker and darker and darker until the action could only be observed by pointing a powerful hand-torch at the screen, and even then it was all evil overlords and horcruxes and digging a grave for Neville Longbottom. An entire generation of children have grown up thinking each year at school gets progressively gloomier and more depressing until eventually your Potions master pushes your headmaster off the school roof or something.
Find The Complete Harry Potter Collection in On Demand > Movies > Virgin Movies
3. Every Marvel sequel (2010 – present)
Iron Man: genius playboy billionaire invents awesome suit of armour, uses it to chase women and kill terrorists and be awesome. Iron Man 2: Tony Stark is dying and everyone hates him. Thor: LOL, look at this space god! Thor: The Dark World: literally the whole world is dark now. Captain America 1: Super Steve stops WWII, does a musical number. Captain America 2: America is terrible now and also hates freedom. The Marvel formula is well established by now: Part 1 gives the character a light and frothy origin story and a fairly rubbish villain to easily defeat; Part 2 turns off the lights and turns up the heat. Of course, The Avengers is the exception to the rule, being an inordinate amount of fun, but all its principle heroes had to go through a gruelling sequel eventually.
Find Iron Man 2 in On Demand > Movies > Virgin Movies
4. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and At World's End (2007)
The first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie was perhaps a first in the industry: a film based on a rollercoaster ride that sucked approximately 0.001% as much as it deserved to. Jack Sparrow was a fun, roguish character in a genre that hadn't worked in decades. Hooray for pirate movies! Then came the first sequel, Dead Man's Chest. Loved ones being separated. Cherished characters facing certain doom. So many bodies littering the ocean floor. And Part 3? Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End opens with a scene featuring small children being hung from the gallows. And these are Disney movies, you say?
5. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)
Steven Spielberg has a strange relationship with the MPAA: his movies, although meant for young audiences, always feature scary or shocking scenes but always scrape through the ratings board unscathed (reminder that Jaws and Jurassic Park were both rated PG). And so it was with Temple Of Doom – which Spielberg wanted to call 'Temple Of Death'. Raiders was A-grade B-movie action. Temple is... really properly violent? Let's do a checklist. Man having still-beating heart torn from his chest? Check! Genocide? Check! Child slaves? You betcha! Last Crusade at least had the good sense to dig up some LOLs.
6. The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
The first Narnia is a delightful family romp, the kind that might be played on BBC1 on Christmas Day. Look, a cuddly lion! There's Tilda Swinton, vamping! Ho ho, there's James McAvoy dressed like a fawn! Santa Actual Claus is in it! Then a few years later, up rode Prince Caspian. War is coming. Swords. Horses. Armies. 'Fantasy violence'. Beheadings. So many beheadings. Should kids' movies really have this many beheadings? I sort of feel like the ideal number of beheadings in a movie aimed at kids is 'zero beheadings', as opposed to 'more beheadings than I can even remember'. Santa was presumably killed in action and buried in an unmarked grave.
7. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Oh god. Toy Story 3 is not a movie for children. They shouldn't be allowed to enjoy it because they can't appreciate it on the same level adults do. It's darker on two fronts: on one level, Woody and the gang are cast out, segregated and at one point, come with inches of being incinerated by a madman. On another level, it's about the characters coming to terms with their own mortality, which – when you think about it – is about as dark as any movie's plot can get, let alone one that's pitched at 7-year-olds. At this rate, Toy Story 4 is going to open with Woody's funeral and it'll turn out that Buzz has Alzheimer's.
Toy Story 3 is available now on Sky Cinema
8. Back To The Future: Part II (1989)
Hmm, on first memory, we don't recall Back To The Future: Part II to be all that dark. It has hoverboards! And flying cars! And Biff Tannen creating an alternate right-wing universe where a racist, sexist, lying, scheming demagogue is running America! Oh right. That. Now that we think about it, Part II also has Biff murder George McFly and then marry his wife (we're assuming against her will), and it has Doc Brown institutionalised just for giggles. For the love of all that is good and holy, will someone please play some Huey Lewis and the News before we have to watch the evening news to cheer ourselves up?
Back To The Future: Part II is available now on Sky Cinema
9. Cars 2 (2011) and Cars 3 (2017)
Pixar's Cars franchise is bizarre to say the least. The first movie is pitched at kids who like cars but is based around the old axiom 'Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around you're gonna miss it', which, last time we checked, did not really apply to hyperactive children. The second Cars movie is a complete tonal shift into the world of espionage and spies, complete with guns, bombs and a scene where a car is literally tortured to death. Cars 3, out this year, goes the Toy Story route and suggests that Lightning McQueen is now obsolete and out of step with his surroundings; the teaser trailer consisted solely of a muted McQueen crashing at high speed, surrounding by flaming debris. Sounds, err, fun.
10. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Not only is this animated sequel darker on a literal level – it's dimly lit when compared to the technicolour original – it's a darn sight more distressing at a story level too. Jack Black's formerly fun panda Po finds out his species was almost exterminated via genocide, a plot point which does tend to hoover up any spare gags, while the fight scenes are way more intense and violent second time around. It's probably all down to the involvement of the movie's villain Gary Oldman, an actor for whom 'violence' and 'intensity' are ways of life, not just potential names for his official fragrances.
Find Kung Fu Panda 2 in On Demand > Movies > Virgin Movies