Best Movie Trilogies
When it comes to the world of film, the number ‘three’ rule comes to play actively, as the ultimate expression of artistic success is in the form of the perfect trilogy. There are many ways to develop an original trilogy, with the ‘original movie’ being the first and foremost. The most compelling aspects are the characters, setting and the overall scenario that is introduced to viewers in the first movie. It gets a little more dramatic, with many thicker plot complications coming to play in the prequel before the finale is presented with the most memorable ending to wrap up the entire saga. Other trilogies, though extremely brilliant, were intended to be a solo flick, but the success of that single movie encouraged filmmakers to add two more films to finish the tale.
Here is a list of the best movie trilogies that are great examples, which offer an idea of how trilogies should aspire to be. Some may not tell a continuous story, but they have a central theme that is not lost on any of the instalments.
10. The Caesar Trilogy- Planet of The Apes
To think that Planet of the Apes would have a trilogy of prequels was almost impossible. The concept of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, after Tim Burton’s reboot that left many movie lovers nursing sore wounds, spelt out doom in capitals. All these expectations and visions of dread proved to be way off base, thankfully.
Another perspective of the Apes mythology was portrayed in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes; this placed more emphasis on the life and development of the ape Caesar. This movie in effect, managed to forge its path, while it paid tribute to the original piece. The concept was taken further by the sequels Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, as they dove nose-first into provocative socio-political commentary that proved to be of intelligence higher than what you’d expect from movies featuring talking chimps wielding machine guns while riding on horses.
One of the fantastic things this trilogy provides film lovers with is the development of Caesar as a character from a naïve chimp to one who saves all of ‘apekind’, in a span of three films. These movies portray the perfect balance between being entertaining and thought-provoking and demand a place in our list.
9. The Evil Dead
Evil Dead is considered one of the greatest cult horror series of all time, claiming several accolades and reviews of distinction from film lovers all over the world. What started as Sam Raimi heading out into the woods with his buddies to practice their filmmaking suddenly evolved into Ash Williams fighting the Deadites, alongside his trusted companions. The evolution of this fight throughout three movies causes a practical change in the genre and tone of the film by the conclusion of the third installation.
Even though Evil Dead is considered by many as a horror film, the movie displays gory special effects in a cartoonish manner, unintentionally giving the film a somewhat comic outlook. The second installation of this trilogy blends both comedy and horror seamlessly, with each complimenting the other from scene to scene, making all moments both pleasing and yet, very scary. The third film, Army of Darkness, evolves into a blend of action and comedy, with traces of horror lurking in the background. The 2013 remake and TV series of this franchise, titled Ash vs Evil Dead keeps it alive today, but the originals films are a must see for all horror fans.
8. Back to The Future
Back to the Future is probably one of the few trilogies that tell a cohesive story excellently throughout the three films. The unity is marred at a point, with casting changes made for Jennifer Parker and George McFly, but on the whole, this is a movie you can watch back-to-back naturally as a single movie.
Also, this movie doesn’t take the fun out of science, no matter how complicated it may be. It makes excellent use of alternate timelines and paradoxes, and easily stands supreme as one of the best, most iconic examples of time travel known to hit the popular cinema. Back to the Future, much like the Evil Dead, has spawned some of the most quoted lines in cinema, even though the trilogy’s ending may be somewhat tiring to watch.
The characters Doctor Emmet Brown and Marty McFly are both the central focus of this movie and the glue that keeps it together. It is so heart-warming to see their subtle progress over the three films, with the actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd being irreplaceable in the franchise. Thankfully, there has been no effort to get a remake off the ground, because we can’t risk tarnishing this films’ fantastic image.
7. Captain America
The Captain America trilogy, out of all the sub-series, is easily the most nuanced, most consistent and the most integral film to the entire Marvel franchise. Each installation has introduced vital plot elements that have had a significant impact on the future of the universe, shaking up the status quo right before the next adventure of the Avengers takes place.
The evolution of this trilogy is exceptionally fascinating for many film lovers. Following in the light of the Phantom and the Rocketeer, Captain America started as the story of the adventures of a single superhero, which evolved into a different kind of superhero once plunged into modern day Cap. The first Avenger took Cap to a world filled with moral questioning and political intrigue, with Civil War pitting him against his allies, further upping the ante. One thing that stays consistent throughout all films is Chris Evans’ consistency as Steve Rogers, even though the trilogy’s many evolutions. His character is enjoyable to watch as he stays positive in all moments, even those that prove to be extremely dark.
All three movies of the franchise stand tall as a perfect microcosm of the idealist concept Captain America has always held for, as they manage to effortlessly portray a nigh-indestructible and selfless character who is somehow both relatable and likeable.
6. Toy Story
With a fourth movie coming out next year, Toy Story isn’t going to remain a trilogy for much longer. Nonetheless, the first three films still stand as the perfectly complete story, no matter how this new movie turns out. These films aren’t only entertaining with a lot of hilarious scenes, but it makes it a point to address various themes relating to maturity and the child development stages.
In Toy Story 1, human qualities such as anxiety and jealousy are applied to plastic playthings, as we were introduced to the fantastic idea of toys coming to life. The second installation to the franchise left us thinking about themes such as fear and abandonment and kept us wondering about what the future held. In Toy Story 3, all these from the first two films were combined and stretched to their highest resolution and harshest extreme.
The best characters found in all of animation history will include those from Toy Story, from memorable characters such as Mr Pricklepants and Wheezy. The most significant trait of this movie, however, which gives it a place in the heart of many is the evolving relationship that exists between Woody and Buzz. You’re bound to cry at least once after watching the Toy Story movies. They will make you laugh, cheer and smile, but you’re most definitely going to complain.
5. The Godfather
The Godfather, the movie that tells the tale of the most celebrated Corleone mafia crime family is a favourite to many film enthusiasts. For many reasons, the first two installations of this franchise are considered treasured classics in the world of film. The Godfather trilogy is said to have helped kick-start the careers of film stars such as Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando and screenwriter Mario Puzo. The first and second films won the prize of Best Picture, two out of a total of nine Academy awards won by the franchise.
The film trilogy tells the tale of a man who finds himself embroiled in a mafia war waged by his father, after returning home from the World War. He sees himself evolving from good to bad, mainly as a result of the many things going on around him. The trilogy ends with Michael Corleone’s brother taking the place of their father as head of the family after their father Vito’s death.
The second movie focuses on the new Don Corleone, Michael, and all the schemes he undertakes to be successful. It is in the second installation that Pacino gained worldwide recognition, with his stellar performance. The third film finally hit cinemas 16-years after the release of the latter, even though the first two had a two-year gap.
The Godfather is an incredibly compelling story that will get you hooked onto your screen, as it features many masterfully presented scenes.
4. Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones, an archaeologist and professor turned adventurer is a character created by George Lucas and his best pal, Steven Spielberg. Indiana Jones never set out to be a hero; thus the fact that his many exploits brought him into contact with many evil forces, such as the Nazis, was very coincidental. The end of each film left many movie lovers coming back for more of Indiana’s rascal charm, world-weary determination, wry sense of humour and an uncanny knack for survival.
The first installation in the franchise turned out to be a perfect cinematic experience, filled with a lot of excitement and spontaneity; traits attributed with ease to Lucas. With Indy’s leather jacket, fedora and bullwhip in hand, Harrison Ford was able to pull off the role effortlessly with his trusted partner Karen Allen. Indiana Jones quickly became film’s new hero, standing strong throughout many generations, and still loved today.
The Temple of Doom film begins in a nightclub situated in Shanghai, before moving swiftly to the Pankot Palace where Indy comes into contact with the evil-worshipping Thuggee cult. Things pick up steadily after a good thirty to forty-five minutes with a thrilling mince chase that occurs just before the movie ends.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade bring backlight to the entire franchise. In a quest to find the Holy Grail, he comes into contact with the Nazis once again, and gets through alive, together with this fellow Jones, his father, played magnificently by Sean Connery.
The movie released after the first three are not considered a part of the original story, as it moves focus from Indy to his long-lost son. The first three films are easily identified as a winning trilogy as the encompass everything Indiana Jones stands for to completion.
3. Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI
Before Star Wars, was there any such thing as a trilogy? We think not. The most treasures trilogy from the beginning of cinema history has to be the first three original films in the Star Wars series. Try imagining today’s world without characters such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and even Princess Leia. Boring huh? Star Wars had subtly, shaped cinema, pop culture and the world at large for generations to come. Lightsabers and the Jedi, not forgetting Yoda and The Force will forever be ingrained in our minds and hearts.
Star Wars tells the story of a man propelled into a life of adventure, after learning about his unique abilities in what seemed to be a boring life. In a split second, his life takes a drastic turn where he’s needed to save the entire galaxy from damnation. He makes friends and allies alike, meets an old mentor who takes him through his whole quest, and guides him to fulfil his discovered destiny.
With a seasoned director and a bigger budget, The Empire Strikes Back came onto our screens, taking Star Wars to a different level. This film exposed more about Luke Skywalker’s parentage, making this follow-up one of the most high-rated movies in the saga. The destruction of Darth Vader and his Emperor in the Return of the Jedi wrapped up the story once and for all.
Many movies followed, with a series of standalone films, but these three together with all the media and tie-in products such as games, books, music and toys, make the impact of this movie one that cannot be surpassed. Not a classic war movie, but definitely one of the best.
2. The Dark Knight Trilogy
The only way Christopher Nolan knew to make a superhero move was to ensure that it felt as real as possible. Thus when he was handed the keys to the Batmobile he made it a drama that rang true, with no superpowers, science fiction, comic book stuff or fantasy. This trilogy is a dram that rings true, featuring many serious actors.
Batman Begins takes film lovers far away from the hyper colourful fantasy that was Batman & Robin, by doing away with CGI visuals and instead, staging sequences with actual objects. The mid-air jailbreak in the Dark Knight Rises and the Tractor trailer found in The Dark Knight are clear examples. This franchise also introduced IMAX cameras to movie-making, a feature that slowly rose to fame among many filmmakers.
The cast of any film often determines its greatness, which is why Nolan didn’t compromise on quality by casting gems such as Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and a different kind of Joker, Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight Trilogy, unlike many other superhero sagas, is widely regarded as the most exceptional superhero movie ever made, with a storyline that boasts of a kind, final closing.
1. The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is the most authentic example of a classic trilogy, a single story told in three beautifully detailed parts. All three films were planned, scripted and prepped in advance to enable simultaneous filming. J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy saga cannot be competed with by any other existing trilogy, as it is the result of the perfect combination of acting, music, visual effects, production design, makeup, costumes, cinematography and ultimately consistency.
The first film introduces us to Frodo Baggins who is sent on a mission to carry a sacred ring of mystical strength to the one place it can be destroyed. Together with his team consisting of a dwarf, powerful wizard, Hobbits, men and an elf, they make it through the many creatures who try to get in their way.
The second installation in the franchise divided the fellowship into two. With new characters being introduced, this film is a story with no definitive beginning or end. The third film, The Return of the King, shows Frodo and his trusted friend Sam, who have been able to destroy both the ring and their enemy Sauron. This third movie brings a beautiful closure to what is a lovely story.
With a total of ten hours’ screen time when watched back-to-back, The Lord of the Rings is the epitome of a cinematic masterpiece.
Before the modern fascination with shared universes and franchises, trilogies were the ideal extrapolation of a successful single movie for the longest time. Trilogies can be a tricky thing, but when they work out in the end, it is a beautiful thing.