I’ve been thinking a lot about movie trilogies lately. Finally, after almost a decade of waiting, I got to watch Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. A few days later I started hearing rumours that Peter Jackson was thinking of turning his two Hobbit movies into a trilogy. A few weeks after that it was made official, three more trips to Middle Earth. I have mixed feelings about that, obviously, as The Hobbit itself has been told successfully in one seventy minute 70’s cartoon. But there is something about threes. The perfect, almighty trilogy. Some are stronger than others, most get weaker the nearer they get to the end, but all of them accomplish something magical in the world of filmmaking. Three stories set in the same cinematic world, usually with more or less the same cast and crew, and telling one great big story over three installments. When done right a trilogy can become a special, timeless achievement in film history. I’ve complied a quick list of my five favorite movie trilogies. I’ll rate each film in each trilogy out of ten and describe my favorite moment of each. Keep in mind these are just my opinions.
What are your favorite movie trilogies? Let me know in the comments.
The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson. 2001, 2002, 2003
The Fellowship of the Ring (9/10) The best in the trilogy. Perfectly cast and containing the most Middle Earth. Gandalf’s stand off with the Balrog is the pinnacle of the film’s greatness.
The Two Towers (7/10) The weakest of the three. The best parts of the book are either omitted, changed, or moved to the third film. Gollum, both as a character and as a digital creation, is a revelation and easily the best thing about the movie.
The Return of the King (8/10) In some ways the most epic installment in the trilogy with easily the biggest battles and most spectacular special effects. Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul in glorious high definition keeps me coming back again and again to this film.
The Dark Knight Trilogy. Christopher Nolan. 2005,2008,2012
Batman Begins (7/10) An above average super hero movie and a game changer, setting a new trend in Hollywood’s approach to the comic book genre. Best part of the movie is the tumbler chase.
The Dark Knight (9.5/10) A masterpiece. Heath Ledger leads a perfect storm of excellence that raises the average of the whole trilogy and secures its place of greatness in film history. Too many good moments to mention.
The Dark Knight Rises (6.5/10) An OK movie that just couldn’t climb out of the shadow of its predecessors. Bane was great at times but the villain side of the story was weak and muddy. Some great moments but nothing unforgettable. Anne Hathaway was the highlight but, like Batman, we just didn’t get enough of it.
The Back to the Future Trilogy. Robert Zemekis. 1985,1989,1990
Back to the Future (9/10) One of the best movies ever made. A true classic at any age. If there was a movie hall of fame this would be in it. This movie is full of best parts but my favorite is Marty playing at his parents’ prom. “It’s a blues riff in B, watch me for the changes and ah… try to keep up.”
Back to the Future II (7/10) A very cool premise allows the movie to revisit the first film in fun and creative ways. Plus it gave us a version of the future we’re all still waiting for – with Hoverboards and self-tying Nike’s and inflating, quick drying jackets. Even as the quality of the trilogy descends this second part is still pretty decent.
Back to the Future III (5/10) Don’t get me wrong – there are a few good parts – but this is definitely the wtf installment in the Back to the Future trilogy. Everybody goes back to the wild west and Mary Steenburgen whines a lot. You forgive all these things, but only because it’s Back to the Future. This movie may be the best example of a typical trilogy law of diminishing returns.
The Jurassic Park Trilogy. Steven Spielberg. 1993,1997,2001
Jurassic Park (9.5/10) Everything you want a summer blockbuster to be. The movie is still exciting and scary and the special effects hold up almost two decades later – plus you get a nice healthy dose of Jeff Goldblum. Very close to being a perfect movie.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (6/10) Remember what I was saying about diminishing returns? The best thing about this sequel is that you get even more Jeff Goldblum. The Lost World definitely jumps the shark by the third act but is still a Spielberg movie and still has some fantastic set pieces. The T-Rex/Trailer scene with everyone laying on the slowly breaking glass is particularly memorable.
Jurassic Park III (4/10) So bad. Ugly dinosaurs. Bad CGI. Not even really a Spielberg movie. The definition of phoning it in. I still don’t own this trilogy boxed set because I don’t want to own this movie. But the first movie is so good the trilogy deserves its recognition.
The Star Wars Trilogy. George Lucas. 1977,1980,1983
Star Wars: A New Hope (8/10) A larger than life space epic. A movie that changed everything. Contains one of the best opening scenes of all time as, following the signature opening scroll, Lucas reveals a huge, terrifying, seemingly endless Imperial spaceship as it pursues the good guys.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (9.5/10) The best Star Wars movie, hands down. Everything about this movie is bigger and cooler and better than the one before.
Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi (7/10) As a kid this was my favorite Star Wars movie. I loved the emperor. I loved the lightsaber battles and the ewoks and the explosions. It’s still a great movie – but when you watch them all back to back it becomes the one I feel like fast forwarding the most.
So, now that we’re at the end of the list you’ve probably noticed a VERY big omission.
The Godfather Trilogy. Francis Ford Coppola 1972,1974,1990
I have a very good (and very embarrassing) reason for leaving this movie off of my official list. Unfortunately I have still not seen The Godfather: Part 3. I’m sorry. I just keep not watching it. I keep hearing bad things about it, and although I know I HAVE to see it eventually I just haven’t done so yet. I have the Blu-ray, I just haven’t put it in and pressed play yet. I imagine that whatever I think about the third Godfather the trilogy will still have a place at the top of my list. I consider the first to movies to be pure perfection. Solid 10/10’s. So don’t worry, I’ll get to it eventually.