Have you ever noticed that there are some movies that you just want to pretend the sequels happened in an alternate reality? I don't mean that these sequels are bad...necessarily...you don't wish that the film never had a sequel at all...again, necessarily...but you just want to say, "No, that's not what really happened after the end of that movie. That's a fun 'What if?' question. The real ending to the movie is inside my head."
Because believing these sequels to be "real" (if you'll grant me the idea that these movies have a reality to us, even though we know them to be fictional--they're not literally true, but they matter on an emotional level) changes our viewing of the original, spoiling them just a tad. Nobody can cheer for Ripley saving Newt at the end of 'Aliens' when they know she's just going to die off-camera before the next movie starts. So I think we're allowed to cut the sequels out of the world of the original, and restore the original's happy endings to their former glory by deciding the sequels don't "count" in the same way as the original film does.
I'll give a few examples...say, five?
5. Austin Powers. This is the perfect example, in some ways. It's not that the sequels were terrible (although 'The Spy Who Shagged Me' really was, honestly.) It's that the first movie ends with Austin coming to terms with the demise of the 60s culture he represented, growing as a person, and settling down with Vanessa, who had grown to accept him as well. The next movie then opens with her dying, and just expects the audience to be fine with that. And I guess I can be, so long as we accept that the sequels are all just some alternate-reality Austin who shrugs off his wife's death in seconds and goes on to have a string of meaningless relationships (and unfunny sequels.)
4. Ghostbusters. Here, the sequel isn't even that bad. (It's not that good, either, but it's not bad.) But the whole exciting triumph of the heroes from the first movie is given a sour, unpleasant tone when we find out they were blamed for saving the world, driven into bankruptcy, and went their separate ways. As a parallel universe, it works. As a continuation of the first movie, it fails.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took Spielberg and Lucas twenty-seven years to figure out what movie audiences knew all along--Marion and Indy should have wound up together. (And they still didn't do a good job of showing it.) While the sequels and prequel have their merits, they're easier to watch if you just pretend they're fanciful "imaginary stories" and not continuations of the nigh-unto-perfect original film.
2. The Matrix. Arguably, the sequels don't even connect logically with the end of the original film; at the end of 'The Matrix', Neo has total, god-like control over the reality of the Matrix, and can alter it at will. In the next movie, he's a trench-coated Superman. Not only do you need to pretend the sequels happened in a parallel universe to make the original work, you need to imagine a wholly different original movie for the sequels to have a shot in hell of making sense.
1. Star Wars. This one might be a bit controversial, but I'm going to put it in, and here's why. When you watched the original 'Star Wars' movie, back before sequels and prequels and Expanded Universes and video games and metric tons of books, the world of 'Star Wars' existed entirely in your head. Every space in the film is filled in with your imagination--and part of the brilliance of the film is that there are so many spaces, so many clever hints at things that Lucas just leaves you to fill in yourself so that the world grows into you and you grow into it. The world of 'Star Wars' literally becomes a part of your imagination. Every kid in 1977 had a different idea of what the Clone Wars were, or how Darth Vader became evil, or how Luke's father died, or even just what those things in the cantina were called. And every movie, book, video game, and tie-in since then has replaced a bit of your imagination with someone else's. I want to be able to look at this movie and see it just for itself, to say, "No. It doesn't matter what someone else said, even if that someone else is George Lucas. This is what I think happened next."
Anyone got some of their own to add?