Whether or not you’ve seen Tron: Legacy, and whether or not you liked it if you have, you have to admit that it’s pretty darned cool that a seriously geeky movie from the 1980s got a sequel 29.5 years after its original release. Since the ’80s pretty much were my formative years, and since I had the good fortune to have a mom and older brother who were (and are) pretty geeky, too, I saw a ton of geeky ’80s movies.
Now, of course, some of those movies were lousy. And some of them (even some of the lousy ones) got sequels. But there were a lot of really good films that deserved a sequel but never got one. I mean, seriously, if they could make several really bad sequels to Highlander — a mediocre movie that ended in a way clearly not intended to lead to a sequel — why couldn’t they make ones for genuinely good films?
Here, then, are my top ten geeky movies from the 1980s that still need a sequel. If I missed your favorite film that fits those criteria, please leave a comment about it.
10. Innerspace – It’s a fairly unusual buddy movie in which the actors playing the protagonists don’t actually share any screen time until close to the end. But Martin Short and Dennis Quaid make it work anyway, with some assistance from Meg Ryan. The secondary characters have some geeky connections: The Cowboy is played by future Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate SG-1 regular Robert Picardo, and Short’s character’s doctor is played by character actor William Schallert, best known to Trekkies as Nilz Baris from “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Even without those connections, though, it’s a really fun film that (as all shrunken-people movies do) laughs in the face of science, but has enough cool gizmos and special effects to endear it to almost any geek. And it ends in such a way that you can tell they were thinking about a sequel, but it never got made. With special effects so vastly improved, a sequel to Innerspace now would be excellent!
9. Repo Man – This movie has what is very likely the best performance of Emilio Estevez’s acting career, which I realize may seem like damning with faint praise. If you haven’t seen it, describing it will make it sound bad, because it really doesn’t make that much sense. Suffice it to say it has a lot of cars, a couple of space aliens, and a mad scientist. It’s a strange movie that earned its cult status the hard way: by pulling in only $129,000 at the box office. Its ending doesn’t preclude a sequel, and hey, they could even give Otto (the main character, played by Estevez) a brother, since I hear rumors that Estevez has a brother who’s not working on much right now. NOTE: I’ve discovered that a sort-of sequel to Repo Man was made a few years ago, called Repo Chick, but as it’s not really a sequel and doesn’t have Estevez in it, I’m not counting it.
8. The Last Starfighter – It doesn’t have a terrifically original plot, but it more than makes up for that with humor, better-than-average acting, several inspired casting choices, and CGI special effects that look decent today but were blow-your-mind amazing in 1984. It scores extra retroactive geek points for a pre-Stand by Me Wil Wheaton in what had been a speaking part before his lines were cut (but he’s still in a few scenes), and a hitchhiker played by Marc Alaimo, who went on to play Gul Dukat on ST:DS9. There is actually a sequel reported to be in the works in this case, which could be very good despite its inability to bring back Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy, and despite the fact that Lance Guest is nearly 51 years old.
7. Real Genius – If you haven’t seen this film, go watch it now. I mean it: Leave this page up in your browser and go watch Real Genius, because it is very probably the best purely geeky ’80s film and as such should be required viewing by all geeks (though it is sadly unavailable for streaming by Netflix). Here is a film that needs a sequel! Aren’t you interested to find out what Chris Knight and Mitch Taylor are like as adults? (I have a strange feeling that Mitch is now more attractive than Chris, but what do I know?) They could even bring back William Atherton, who, between this, Ghostbusters, and Die Hard, managed to perfectly personify a colossal… well, this is a family blog, but it’s a word for what a needle can do to your skin.
6. Return of the Jedi – I trust I don’t need to explain this one much. The good sales figures for the vast number of books in the Star Wars “extended universe” perfectly demonstrate how much fans want to know about what happened to their favorite characters after the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of Emperor Palpatine. This isn’t ranked higher for two reasons: First, because the actors are all old enough it’d be tough to make it work live-action, so they’d probably have to do it as an animated movie — which isn’t a bad thing, but isn’t as cool; and second, because if the prequel trilogy proved anything it’s that George Lucas should write the story, then hand off screenwriting and directing chores to someone else, but that he won’t.
5. Weird Science – Ilan Mitchell-Smith, aka the only one of the main guys whose acting career didn’t take off afterwards, is an English professor at CSU-Long Beach, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be convinced to appear in a sequel. Really, the only actor who might be hard to pin down would be Robert Downey, Jr., since I’ve heard that he’s been getting a few acting jobs here and there lately. What would the plot be for a sequel? Maybe someone gets hold of the computer that causes things to come to life and uses it for nefarious purposes… or maybe not. The point is there’s plenty of room for a sequel.
4. WarGames – Is there any doubt this would be good? It could be kind of like Tron: Legacy in a way — maybe David has become like Dr. Falken, and has gone a bit crazy from the things he worked on. Maybe he left his wife and children to live as a recluse, or maybe it’s his niece or nephew who’s following his lead from the first film. But it could totally work — Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy are still acting, so what could go wrong?
3. The Princess Bride – There is a bit at the end of the book that the movie doesn’t cover: details about how the four protagonists escape Prince Humperdinck’s men. And William Goldman has been promising to write a sequel, to be called Buttercup’s Baby, for years, though the only bit of it that’s emerged is one rather strange “sample chapter.” Still, perhaps he could find some inspiration and come up with a screenplay, maybe incorporating some of the other bits the movie skipped over, such as the Zoo of Death. The only real trouble would be finding someone who could fill André the Giant’s enormous, but sadly empty, shoes as Fezzik. Hey, I hear Arnold Schwarzenegger’s going back to making movies… (Kidding! I’m kidding!)
2. The Goonies – How much would a sequel to The Goonies rock? The cast reunited in 2001, and again for the 20th anniversary in 2005, so why not in 2011? And, hey, as long as they’re together, why not film a sequel — with them as the parents, of course, and their kids as the ones who get in trouble searching for treasure?
1. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – Possibly the weirdest film of the ’80s, which is really saying something. But for all that parts of it were utterly nonsensical, enough other parts were brilliant that on the whole it worked out to be a great film — but only, I think, if you’re a serious geek. They can do this, still — heck, Peter Weller isn’t even 65 yet! And now Jeff Goldblum is actually someone people have heard of, so he’d be a box office draw, and maybe they could even bring back Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow! Besides, they promised us a sequel — Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. There’s no time like the present to make good on that promise!