Trilogies have been defined in different ways but in the purest form, it is a three-part film where the three are connected. The first part is an introduction to the whole, characters, and world of the film generally, in the second part, the plot thickens and things get complicated, the final part is then the resolution of all that has happened from the first part. It is also possible to add to films or a stand-alone one to complete or finish the tale. This list reveals some of the Best Movie Trilogies that have been churned out by the movie industry.
Some movie trilogies just never get old due to the brilliance and extraordinary effort and attention to detail that has been invested into the making. To compile this list, we have considered the reception, quality, success in the box office, critics and audience reaction and the movies lasting effect on pop culture and the cinema.
10 Best Movie Trilogies
1. Star Wars Trilogy
Star Wars (1977)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Return of the Jedi (1983)
The films are a perfect example of a classic or original trilogy. The American space opera was created and directed by George Lucas who explores the themes of politics and the struggle between dictatorship and democracy. They serve as a second act of the nine-episode Skywalker Saga. It started in medias res and was followed by its prequel trilogy (1999-2005) and sequel trilogy (2015-2019). They are collectively called the Skywalker Saga. The first two of the series are considered the greatest films ever made and have a score of 93% and 95% on Rotten Tomatoes with the third at 81%. They have a total of 22 Academy Award nominations óut of which they won 10. The movie grossed close to $2 billion worldwide and was added to the National Film Registry for preservation as it was deemed historically, culturally and aesthetically significant.
2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The award-winning film was directed by Peter Jackson it is based on a fantasy saga novel by J.R.R. Tolkien with the same title. It is a perfect example of a trilogy as the three parts were planned from the onset and filmed back to back which resulted in a perfect consistency in costumes, production design, makeup, music, cinematography, visual effects and acting.
The Lord of the Rings is a ten-hour movie, which is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It follows the quest of hobbit Frodo Baggins and Fellowship to destroy the ‘One Ring’ and its maker- the Dark Lord Sauron. Although the Fellowship went their separate ways, Frodo continues his quest with Sam-his loyal companion and Gollum.
It was released in December for 3 consecutive years. The movie had a budget of $281 million and grossed close to $3 billion worldwide. It is considered one of the greatest and most ambitious trilogies ever made. The film won 17 of their 30 Academy Award nomination. The Return of the King won in all 11 categories it was nominated for during the 76th Academy Awards and got the ultimate prize for “Best Picture. It is definitely one of the Best Movie Trilogies you should watch.
3. Toy Story Trilogy
Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
The animation series was created and directed by John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich (he was an editor on the 1st, co-director on the 2nd and director on the 3rd). The film is based on the idea that all toys are secretly alive unknown to humans. It holds the record as the first film made with computer-generated imagery. The movie is among the most critically acclaimed franchises of all time and holds the 20th spot on the list of the highest-grossing franchise worldwide with a budget of $520 million and a gross of $2.9 billion worldwide.
The characters are so vividly portrayed that one easily and fondly remembers the stalwart cowboy hero (Tom Hanks), the delusional space ranger toy who thinks himself real (Tim Allen) and the cast of kooky sidekicks, each with his own distinct personality. While there has been a fourth Toy Story movie which was released in June 2019 with the possibility of a fifth, the first 3 films are considered more of a trilogy.
4. The Godfather Trilogy
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
The trilogy consists of a series of crime drama films directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The story chronicles the trials of an Italian American family- Corleone (mafia). The patriarch (Vito Corleone) of the family becomes a major player in the American organized crime scene and was later succeeded by his youngest son – Michael Corleone. The first of the trilogy is considered by many as one of the greatest movies of all time and the sequel is considered one of the best. The movie has received worldwide praise and numerous awards and nominations. It has a total of twenty-eight Academy Award nominations winning nine out of them. The movie explores the themes of family, immigration, crime and the American dream on a deep level and is one of the best movie trilogies out there as it just never gets old. Its stars include Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, and Richard Bright.
5. Iron Man
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The first Iron Man Series is well known and was well-received. It launched the career of Robert Downey Jr. as it showcased his comedic and dramatic skills. It also elevated him to the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. Most of the cast created their own dialogue in the first movie which made it very real and authentic. The second in the series- Iron Man 2 stumbled a little because it had a rushed production after the success of the first. Critics also complained that it had too much story for a single film but it was still a major success as Iron Man fans couldn’t get enough of it. Iron Man 3 though picked up The Avengers storyline but it dug deeper into Tony Stark’s personality allowing him to find peace in his superhero and personal lives. It became the most successful in the box office grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide from a budget of $200 million and is definitely one of the best movie trilogies to watch.
Although Marvel has released several films that have become more popular and successful, Robert Downey Jr. continues to grow and change in his portrayal of Tony Stark.
6. The Bourne Trilogy
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The action thriller films feature Matt Damon as the title character who suffers from dissociative amnesia and tries to figure out who he is. The first film was directed by Doug Liman while Paul Greengrass directed the second and third film. The movie is distinguished and praised by critics as an action film with most of the stunt work performed real instead of being computer generated. The movies have also been very successful in the box office. While there has been a fourth series (which Bourne didn’t appear in) and a fifth series, the first 3 films are considered a trilogy as they are sequential in terms of plot and storyline. They have a score of 76%, 74% and 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. The Matrix Trilogy
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
The science fiction action film series highlights the journey of a group of heroes who wage war against machine overlords who have managed to enslave humanity in a sophisticated virtual reality. Keanu Reeves takes the lead as they set out to save humanity from the machines. The series were all written and directed by The Wachowskis and is popular for its revolutionary use of slow-motion which became “the in thing after”.
The film changed the cinema overnight with so many new introductions and innovation in action filmmaking. It was added to the National Film Registry for preservation purposes. It also became a critical and financial success with the first sequel The Matrix Reloaded surpassing its predecessor and becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history until 2016. The first film won 4 Academy Awards.
8. X-Men 1-3
X-Men 2 (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The superhero film series is based on a comic book superhero with the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The first and the second films were directed by Bryan Singer and the third by Brell Ratner. Each of the films did better in the box office than its predecessor. While the film has had several spin-offs with some more successful than others, watching the lives, growth, and struggles of these mutants remains pure bliss. While The Last Stand has been described as overloaded with characters and details that are not coherent, they all come together nicely in the end.
9. The Spider-Man Trilogy
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The legend of Spiderman is almost as old as time and has been adapted by several filmmakers and directors over the years all rendering their own interpretation. The very popular one in recent times is the trilogy directed by Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire starring as Peter Parker (Spider-man). The trilogy grossed $2.5 billion worldwide with a budget of $597 million. It has a rating of 90%, 93%, and 63% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes. Although there has been a reboot/ remake titled The Amazing Spider-man which has also been successful too, this series deserves to be on this list as the success speaks for itself.
10. The Blade Trilogy
Blade II (2002)
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Wesley Snipes portrays the character of ‘Blade in the well-received vampire film series directed by Stephen Norrington, Guillermo del Toro and David Goyer. Blade’s mother was bitten by a vampire while she was in labour with him. Blade grows up to become a vampire hunter seeking revenge for the death of his mother. The movies were successful in the box office but had mixed critical reviews with their scores ranging between 54%, 57% and 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie remains a thrill and a classic till date, thus qualifying it to become one of the best movie trilogies to watch.