Movie Feature

The 5 best movie trilogies

By Wang DexianMovies - 20 July 2012 2:13 PM

The 5 best movie trilogies

With the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, we decided to take a look at some other epic three-parters.

There's a reason why trilogies are starting to be the norm with any big franchise these day — trilogies have a start, middle and end — just like any single movie but they just happen to be way longer.

Also read: 'The Dark Knight Rises' movie review

Picking the best out of all the countless trilogies was an arduous task but in the end, trilogies were picked based on the quality of all three as a whole as opposed to trilogies with just a single standout movie. That being said, most trilogies tend to fumble on the final movie, so it's pretty tough to find one with three consistently amazing movies. So here goes…


The Lord Of The Rings (‘The Fellowship of The Ring’ / ‘The Two Towers’ / ‘Return of The King’)

One of the most ambitious undertakings in motion picture filmmaking, this film trilogy took a whopping eight years to develop and was shot simultaneously in director Peter Jackson's native New Zealand.

Tasked with finally bringing J. R. R. Tolkien's much cherished literary masterpiece to life, Jackson delivered a trilogy which enthralled audiences with a mix of technology and scale; its fantastical creatures (the various orcs and of course, our precioussss Gollum) and the scope of pure spectacle wrought by the battles to retake Middle Earth from the evil Dark Lord Sauron.

Both public and critical opinion of all three movies is rather high, with the it being the highest grossing movie trilogy ever and a whole bunch of Academy Awards — ‘Return Of The King’ famously swept all 11 awards it was nominated for.

And while it's not without its flaws (female characters like Arwen are largely forgettable, movies are way too long, ‘Return of The King’ has 406 different endings), they're mostly for nit-pickers. ‘The LOTR’ trilogy will remain the standard bearer for all future medieval fantasy epics.

Fun Fact: “The Two Towers” was not originally scripted as its own film. As it had neither a clear beginning nor an end, it was planned to combine elements of the middle film with that of “Fellowship” into one film. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.



The Original Star Wars Trilogy (‘A New Hope’ / ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ / ‘Return of The Jedi’)

Before George Lucas tarnished his legacy with multiple revisions and a prequel trilogy known more for boring expositional dialogue and cringe-inducing “romantic” dialogue, he was known for being the mastermind behind the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.

So where do we start? The simple story of a farm boy destined for greater things, like perhaps aiding a bunch of rebels against an evil galactic empire serves as the backbone of the films. We get to see Luke come into his own, achieving success and becoming his own man despite the burdens of the murky shadow of his father and his responsibilities as the last Jedi in the galaxy.

Along the way he meets a kooky band of characters that help him along; wise Jedi masters, a princess and many funny looking aliens. Perhaps above all else, it's the rowdy cast of characters like Han Solo, Chewie and even fringe ones like Admiral Ackbar that make people fall so deeply in love with the franchise.

The influence of ‘Star Wars’ can be felt everywhere, it's penetration in popular culture almost unparalleled. Everyone knows what a light-saber is. Words like Sith and Jedi are frequently bandied about. The fandom the franchise received is almost unparalleled, with a cult-like quality to them.

The films themselves haven't done too badly themselves in the motion picture world either, having influenced countless filmmakers like James Cameron and John Lasseter to pick up a camera. The original film also ushered in the next level of blockbuster filmmaking to the world, a blend of fast paced spectacle and fantasy combined with a strong narrative that most audiences have come to love today. And while the final instalment ‘Return of The Jedi’ is pretty mediocre, the first two films are fun filled masterpieces of adventure and space opera that give the trilogy a well-deserved spot on the list.

Fun Fact: In an early draft of the screenplay, Luke Skywalker was originally named Luke Skykiller.



The Dollars Trilogy (‘A Fistful of Dollars’ / ‘For A Few Dollars More’ / ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’)

This trio of movies directed by Italian auteur Sergio Leone redefined western movies. Before this, heroes in Western movies were kind to everyone, old ladies, their horses... you name it, and they’ve probably kissed it.

However, after Leone's depiction of a much more crude and desolate world in these movies, moral ambiguity and the concept of the anti-hero became much more accepted, leading to the development of the spaghetti western as a genre. This certainly isn't cowboys whom you pitted against the Indians as a kid. In this Wild West, these cowboys shoot first and ask questions later.

Clint Eastwood plays a quiet and gruff stranger, a ‘Man With No Name’ who is armed with his own sense of justice and an impressive proficiency with his revolver.

Unlike most movies, the plot of these movies isn’t really that important. Not to say that the plots of these movies are completely forgettable or anything like that but they're really not very complex. Instead, it's relatively straightforward, and they serve as an extensive study of Eastwood’s character.

The atmospheric tones of this trilogy are really strong — Leone really lets the films breathe; something we don't see much anymore. Especially with such a silent and mysterious character, every twitch, every expression and nuance of Eastwood gets amplified further into our understanding of him.

This role would catapult Eastwood into the tough badass we know and love. Just check out this nail biting scene: a Mexican stand-off at the end of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. Still one of the most tension-filled scenes ever.

Fun Fact: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ is an unofficial remake of legendary Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa's ‘Yojimbo’.



‘Indiana Jones’ (‘Raiders of The Lost Ark’ / ‘The Temple of Doom’ / ‘The Last Crusade’)

It's technically not a trilogy anymore, but everyone pretends that the fourth movie never happened so we guess it still counts. With Indy, George Lucas (and Steven Spielberg), continued building on what he started with ‘Star Wars’, fusing some of the best action scenes ever filmed with character and situational driven humour.

Inspired by the film serials of the 40s and 50s, this continued the shift of movies from more sophisticated fare to fantastical larger than life pulp adventures of old. The opening of ‘Raiders’ is pulsating and it introduces us to the adventure-filled world of Indy. Problems just keep piling on and on in that movie, to the point where the viewer is just exhausted when the credits start rolling — in a good way, of course.

Perhaps what makes it all work so well is that we've all probably wanted to be like Indy in our lives. He's got his fears (snakes!), he's made mistakes (fell out with best friend/estranged from Dad) but he's never been afraid to own them and come out of those ordeals a better and wiser person. So in a way, we all aspire to be like Indy. And, he's the only person who could make a wearing fedora and bullwhip cool.

‘Raiders’ is an all-time classic, ‘Temple’ is a bit of a let-down but we still consider it a quality flick and ‘Last Crusade’ was just a great way to send Indy off.

Fun Fact: Conceptualized by George Lucas, Indy's original name was Indiana Smith. After the script was presented to Steven Spielberg, the ‘E.T’ director suggested changing the last name to Jones.



‘Toy Story 1, 2 and 3’

Another rather surprising factoid, out of every trilogy ever, including those on this list is that the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is the best rated series ever made. Take a look at its ratings on RottenTomatoes, 100 per cent, 100 per cent and 99 per cent for 1, 2 and 3 respectively. And given that it's a film about toys, the franchise sells quite a bit of toys as well; so really, Disney and Pixar's got both critical and commercial success with their franchise.

Not only that, the first ‘Toy Story’ was also a significant technological milestone, being the first movie to be made entirely with CGI (Computer-generated imagery) and sparking the shift in the animation industry away from traditional hand drawn animation.

More than anything else, ‘Toy Story’ has universal appeal. Despite a rather fantastical premise of toys having a life of their own when humans aren't around them, everyone just goes along with it (hey, it’s a cartoon!). And the themes that the films have touched upon are just amazing. In the first one, misplaced jealousy is explored. The sequel touches toy collecting and the final one really comes full circle as the toys' owner, Andy, goes off to college and hits home on the themes of attachment, sentimentality and the friendship that is trademark of the entire series. Who can really forget scenes like these: Buzz's crestfallen reaction after discovering that he was merely a toy in the first movie and Andy's tearful farewell after giving away his toys in ‘Toy Story 3’?

Watching ‘Toy Story 3’ in a cinema and hearing both adults and kids bawling their way through the movie is one of the most magical moments we’ve experienced watching a movie and it's precisely that all-around excellence and appeal that cements the ‘Toy Story’ franchise as perhaps the closest trilogy there is to a perfect one.

Fun Fact: ‘You've Got a Friend in Me’, the film's famous theme song, was rather infamously composed in a day by Randy Newman. Much of the song is closely based off an older song he wrote for the 1989 film ‘Parenthood’, called ‘I Love to See You Smile’.



Dexian or just Dex if you have an inability to pronounce Chinese names, is a fervent film lover who's known to read up on the most inane pieces of cinema trivia just so he has something to talk about when he's drunk. When he's not watching something, he can be found reading other useless Wikipedia articles on things like Nebulaphobia.