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The best trilogy

III.jpgToday it is officially Filmstalker's third birthday, and what a three years it's been. This is officially the fourth year and in terms of yearage, the trilogy is over, but the franchise continues, just without the box office takings!

So with the end of the trilogy it got me thinking, just what is the best trilogy out there? What series has managed to keep the levels of quality high enough and kept the feel of the first film throughout the franchise?

To start the week of Filmstalker's third Birthday I'll be asking is what is the best trilogy?

Well there's one that leaps to mind instantly and would be included in any trilogy write up, and that's Star Wars. Oh and I'm talking about the first three films that were made, or the last three in regards the story time line, I do wonder if the most recently filmed trilogy should be viewed as a completely separate series of films.

Anyway, I digress. Is Star Wars a contender for the best trilogy of all time? Well obviously it's a contender, it would be mad not to include it in the list, and yet I'm not so sure that it would be viewed as the best ever trilogy.

There are those that think Empire Strikes Back is the strongest part of the trilogy, and those that think that Return of the Jedi is the weakest. In my mind I find the strongest moments of the entire trilogy are in that second and third films, and yet the last film does suffer from those Ewoks. Overall the Star Wars trilogy suffers from the weak aspects of The Return of the Jedi, despite all the strengths.

How about another classic trilogy, Indiana Jones. Does the fact that there's now a fourth film in that series mean that it should automatically be excluded from the list? I'm in two minds, although even if we did include it then the second film would be responsible for dropping it in the stakes for the lead slot.

The first film is fantastic, the second film really does let the series down with some silly gimmicky moments like the mine shaft trolley sequences that felt like it was more advertising a new Disney ride than anything else.

However the third film captured what Indiana Jones was all about once again and really recovered the trilogy, only to see it taken right back down again with the fourth film. Poor show guys. No I don't think that Indiana Jones is the best trilogy there is.

Die Hard is another trilogy that kept going, but unlike Indiana Jones, Die Hard managed to have a great fourth film that really kept with the spirit of the whole franchise. What of the trilogy though? There's the undisputed fact that the second film is a bit silly and a bit over the top in places, however there's no doubting it does still retain that John McClane feel to it, that certainly hasn't been missed.

With the third film the franchise does take a little bit of a turn but it stills keeps the whole thing running strong, and in fact the third film is as strong as the original, and I would perhaps even say that the fourth is as well. So far, Die Hard is leading Star Wars with Indiana Jones taking last place.

Matrix. Now there's a trilogy that sounds like it belongs way up there, but so many of us loved the first film, were let down and confused at the second, and by the third tired of lectures and rather tired of the series. However there are some moments in the second film that really do capture the feel of the first and continue that on, as can be said by the third film too, it just handles them better and integrates them into more of a story.

However much The Matrix promised us though, the other films failed to deliver, and took us in a direction we didn't really expect or want it to go, and we were disappointed. The second and third films let the trilogy slide through out fingers. Above Jaws, but beneath Indiana Jones.

The X-Men is a good strong trilogy to judge here. A great story with a huge following, perfect for film, and with a huge cast. The first film set a great tone for the franchise and the second and third films took that forwards with ease.

Yes the third X-Men film is under some fire for, well, I'm not entirely convinced any more that I do know why it's under fire. It has taken some really strong mythology from the comic series and brought it to the big screen. There are hints of Wolverine's origins, and a great new storyline for Jean Grey, and all the other characters appear with Magneto finally getting his chance to pitch mutant against mutant.

Throw in some strong moral dilemmas for some of the characters, Magneto especially, and only the poor mismanagement of a few characters on the way, and this is still a strong X-Men film. What's surprising here is that as far as trilogies go, this is really ranked up high, In fact my initial thoughts of placing it just beneath the Indiana Jones trilogy have changed, and I think it might, as a complete trilogy, be better than Indiana Jones. What do you think? I'm going to mull that one over as I keep writing.

Superman, another trilogy that's just had another chapter dropped on the end. The first film is iconic and introduces a fantastic cast list to the film franchise, and it's a damn good interpretation of Superman in film. Marlon Brando, Terrance Stamp, Glenn Ford, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Susannah York - that's a hell of a list isn't it? Plus it's a great film too.

The second in the series manages to recapture the power of the first, and I think takes Superman even further with a great challenge which also ties in closely with his earthly desire, Lois Lane. Superman III brings in some darkness to the franchise, and I think it does it rather well, but unfortunately in other areas it falters a little.

I'm now starting to struggle a little, I'm not sure where to place Superman, I think if I step back and look at it a bit coldly, it belongs above X-Men, but just beneath Star Wars.

Lord of the Rings. What can be said about that film which is perhaps the best adaptation we've ever seen, especially of such a difficult and literately rich series of novels. Each of these films live up to the promise of the novels and of each of the previous ones in the trilogy, although it has to be acknowledged just how much has had to be removed to make it onto the big screen in anything near a manageable time frame.

Is there any argument that this belongs high up the list? Trilogy wise you have to admit that the adaptation of all these stories to such rich, flattering and respectful films is a stunning achievement.

Spider-Man is an interesting trilogy, and one that is hugely let down by its closing segment, a film that just had too much studio influence pushing too much into the film. The first is a strong comic adaptation of the much loved character, and although some casting met with a little negativity, the film was overall well accepted. The second did much the same, and had a great villain in Doc Oc and a strong battling relationship between Parker and Osborn, the film does really well to increase on the franchise. However that last film dropped the ball and delivered a typical studio film. Not such a good trilogy and that slips down the list.

Jurassic Park? Well I think the whole premise of these films stinks, since it's a rework of the story Westworld which Michael Crichton wrote and reworked into each of the Jurassic Park stories. That said the first film is great fun and starts off the trilogy well, but the second is a pale imitation of “let's do the same again” with an island no one knew about. The third, well, it's a stretch of the story even more and it just doesn't work as well as the others, not at all. For me, Jurassic Park belongs well down that list.

There's one more I'm going to look at before I hand it over to you, and that's Blade. I love the first film of the Blade trilogy, it really does set-up the hero and the franchise superbly well. The character is wonderful on screen, and they've cast the roles really well, okay the closing fight sequences turn a little odd, but apart from that it's all great. Blade II does very well, perhaps even improves on the original in places, but I can't help but feeling that there needed to be a bit more meat around the vampires and the reapers, still it's a promising run for the franchise.

Then there's Blade: Trinity. This film dilutes everything that Blade had been built up to be in the previous two films, and it gives more screen time to the duo assisting him than to the character leading the franchise, a fatal flaw for the film. Then there's the rather daft plot, even for this fantasy kind of film, and some pretty poor lines for the characters too. This film causes the Blade trilogy to drop down the list somewhat.

So what's the standings for the trilogies that I've chosen? Starting at the top with the best, here's the rundown:

Lord of the Rings
Die Hard
Star Wars
X-Men
Indiana Jones
Spider-Man
Blade
The Matrix
Jurassic Park

I think that list is pretty surprising, looking at some of the title I find myself concerned that I've made some poor decisions, but then I step back and remember that we're talking about all three films together and how they work as a complete trilogy.

Now what do you think? Is that list in the wrong order? Can you argue a different one? Or are the more trilogies that you think deserve to be on the Filmstalker's third birthday trilogy list?





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Comments

Your list is rather surprising Richard, but a good list nevertheless. Could of been stronger maybe?

My list would have to be as follows:

Lord of the Rings
Star Wars
The Godfather
Back to the Future
X-Men
Shrek
The Matrix
Spider-Man
Jurassic Park
Mission Impossible


The Terminator would be listed, but now (and thankfully) no longer considered a trilogy thanks to Terminator Salvation, released this year ;)

I think you should've examined Leone's No-Name Trilogy with Eastwood. One of few trilogies that actually get better with each film. However, links between the films are not obvious, plot-wise... Which may eliminate it from this kind of analysis. But I like to see Leone get some love any time he can.

Have to say, theres some good ones up there, however I'd add a couple to those lists. Certainly in our house, The Evil Dead get a lot of watching. I'd also add Bourne to the list, just three great films.

So my top 5 would be (in no order):

Bourne
Evil Dead
Star Wars (Original)
Lord Of The Rings
Back to the Future

And, as a curve ball, Beverley Hills Cop, still make me laugh!

It will come as no surprise to you that my favourite trilogy, and one which nobody has mentioned yet, is Romero's Dead Trilogy - Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead. Using the same rules as you used above, you'd have to ignore Land of the Dead (Diary is a reboot of the cycle anyway, so no need to explicitly ignore that one).

Another one that nobody has yet mentioned is Alien (you'd have to ignore 4 again). I rate Alien 3 quite highly, it's been given a raw deal over the years, and the restored version brings it close to the original vision.

Others:

Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy (Suspiria, Inferno, Mother of Tears).

Scream (let down by its third instalment, but one and two are great).

John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy - The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and In The Mouth of Madness.

Ginger Snaps (I'll admit I haven't seen anything beyond pt 1)

The Exorcist - Got to love George C Scott and Brad Dourif in 3.

Also got to love some of the ones already mentioned:

The Evil Dead
Back to the Future
The Matrix
Bourne

Oh man there are so many trillogies nowadays. But you know what? One certain one, in my opinion, has forever become the benchmark of the art form. This would be "The Lord of the Rings." Hands down, for me, it is really one movie split into 3 parts, which is what a trillogy is supposed to be. People call some movies trillogies once there are 2 sequels.

Even the original star wars movies were not set out to be a trillogy. the first in the series was made to stand on it's own and the sequels followed per Lucas' original vision. the rings trillogy was different. If the first movie would have been the only one, the story would not have been complete.

Plus, the effects were groundbreaking, the acting was perfect ( even, miraculously, from orlando bloom ) and the ending was satisfying closure to the story, where no further movies were "possible", barring the pre story Hobbit coming out soon.

for my money, LOTR has officially become THE trillogy. No other one has ever or will ever come close for me.

Gee, I've missed loads. How could I have forgotten the Godfather trilogy? That is another great franchise that had so much promise and the third film let the whole thing down.

Leone's, as with some that Dan mentioned, aren't really trilogies where you can follow a linear story, and yet they are trilogies and worthy of a mention.

Evil Dead is a cracking choice too, but the second film is really a remake of the first with the third being a true sequel.

Back to the Future! I had that on my discussion list and forgot! Although the second film faltered slightly the third did capture the original feel again. That's a really good choice to add in.

Bourne, another one I had on the list. That's a strong trilogy, and actually there's none of them that really let the side down. That said I'm not a fan of the filming style, but the franchise remains strong.

I am highly embarrassed to have forgotten the Exorcist trilogy, although it's confusing as to which prequel you would add and both do detract from the franchise, although not as much as the second.

Would you like me to re-evaluate the list in light of these comments? Maybe even drop in a poll?

The term triology to me would mean one story split over three different movies, no movie tells a truly complete story. Die Hard would never occur to me as a Trilogy. It is one movie with two sequels, and that is a different beast. LOTR, Star Wars, and Matrix would fit into the trilogy category. And as much as I loved the Indiana Jones series, at least the first three, those were always seperate stories, same character yes, but a different story each time.

Martin, that's a really interesting point and would mean many of the titles on this list would instantly be kicked off.

However does it need to be a direct story continuation? I mean would Die Hard count as a trilogy because the main element runs through and his life story does change as the films progress?

If we were to knock that option of as well then we'd be left with:

Lord of the Rings
Star Wars
Godfather
Back to the Future
Bourne
The Matrix

The others really just throw the main characters into the same situations again.

So what defines a trilogy then>

First of all, Happy 3rd annieve Filmstalker! I still remember how it all started and proud to be a part of those 3 glorious years! My participation may have slipped in 2008 because I have been distracted elsewhere but I always come home to Filmstalker for my cinema fix - I don't really go anywhere else for movie news.

My vote for the best trilogies goes to The Godfather, the original Star Wars and Back to the Future.

Happy Birthday! A bit late to this topic.

My top trilogies would be:

The Matrix - Great start, confusing middle, and an over the top atmospheric ending.

Back to the Future - Don't really need to say any more!

Scream - the first two were good, the last turned the events of the first film on its head which i wasn't a big fan of but it was still a good film.

Jurassic Park - I loved the first two and you can't say they didn't try with the third one bringing back Sam Neil. Those movies were the first to really make me go wow at the use of special effects. Even watching them now i'm still impressed (especially the T-Rex & Goat scene from film 1)

The Prophecy - great performances from Christopher Walken

Bourne Trilogy - The story flowed really well between the films and had a satifying ending.

American Pie - Simply brilliant! Even the third tried it's best providing a suitable ending.

Pirate of the Carribean - Amazing effects and worth the mention just for Johnny Depps performance.

There seems to be a theme here of liking the first two films but being disappointed with the third, has anyone else felt this with trilogies?

Happy Birthday Filmstalker!
Richard you continued to run a wonderful site.

Hmm...favorite trilogies...for myself there aren't many that hold up for all three movies.

Lord of the Rings - I will agree, I love all three.

Die Hard - Well, now it isn't a trilogy, and I wasn't a huge fan of the 4th film. We could say it's a trilogy of rated R action flick. lol

Star Wars - I honestly keep these as separate trilogies. IV, V, VI are wonderful, V is my all time favorite and while I found some good in the Prequel Trilogy there was a lot of wrong too. -sigh- All the same I'm still a die hard Star Wars fan.

X-Men - I like to pretend 3 doesn't exist...what an awful movie. I've never been able to sit through it a second time and I've tried....

Indiana Jones - I didn't mind the 4th, but I wish it hadn't been made. This series was better as a trilogy.

Spider-Man - The third movie: BOOOOOOOOO!

Blade - Again the third movie is awful the only entertainment I can find in this movie is Ryan Renyold's humor.

The Matrix - 1st movie is fantastic and it all went downhill from there.

Jurassic Park - Ahh...curse of the 3rd movie!

Hmm..so it looks like Star Wars and LotR wins! hehe
I hear The Pusher trilogy is really good, but I haven't sat down to watch it yet.

Some nice lists above. Mine would include:

-The Evil Dead Trilogy
-Romero's Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living, Dawn and Day)
-Chan Park Wook's Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance)
-Gus Van Sant's Death Trilogy (Elephant, Gerry and Last Days)
-Lord of the Rings
Rodriguez's Mariachi Trilogy (El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico
- The Godfather

Well the worst trilogies post is being written right now and I suspect you Neil, and plenty others, will have a few things to say about how right they are...or not! There's definitely a few mentioned here.

Thought you might like to see this article that shows a compilation of scores on all the big trilogies from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes...

http://ainsworld.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/is-toy-story-the-greatest-movie-trilogy-of-all-time/

The trilogies that are popular but not mentioned by yourself are Toy Story (now that it's finally a trilogy), the Dollars films, and Trois Couleurs (French).

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