BEST FILM TRILOGIES
Article By Abbey Archer
War for the Planet of the Apes is officially out, marking the end of the ape journey — and boy, what an ending. War is an immensely satisfying conclusion to a surprisingly effective trilogy, and this got me thinking: how many trilogies are out there that have three truly good films? While there are plenty of trilogies that are led by two excellent entries and one dud (I’m looking at you, The Godfather Part III … go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done), trilogies with three knockouts are few and far between. I’m confident I’ve found the ones that fit this criteria as laid out.
The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Kicking off this list are the films that made everyone in America think, “Wait, Will Hunting is an action star? And he’s actually decent?” Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, a former assassin who loses his memories of his past and goes searching for the people responsible for making him into the man he is — and kicking butt all along the way. Each film offers an engaging story, stellar action, and hold-your-breath thrills, and it doesn’t hurt that the overall cast are at the top of their collective game.
Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman was in need of serious resuscitation after the disaster that was George Clooney’s Bat Nipples, and Christopher Nolan not only delivered the dressed-in-black goods, but he effectively changed the way superhero films are done today. Batman Begins set the standard for origin stories, with rich characterization and well-choreographed fighting; The Dark Knight is already considered one of the greatest films ever, offering thought-provoking morality and a Magnum Opus performance from the late Heath Ledger; and while there are many that consider The Dark Knight Rises the messiest entry (ahem, John Pugh), it still gave us a formidable Bane and a whopper of an opening scene.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), The Return of the King (2003)
When news broke that a horror-comedy director from New Zealand was attempting to bring the public the generally regarded “unfilmable” trilogy from master J.R.R. Tolkien, there was a sense of excitement and worry over the quality. Our worries were quickly put to rest once we beheld the behemoth that was The Fellowship of the Ring, and the adaptations only got better with each film. Between the pitch-perfect cast, the game-changing visual effects, and the gorgeous, expansive Middle Earth interpretation, this trilogy will forever be respected until the end of time. (The same, sadly, cannot be said of the Hobbit trilogy. Wah-wah.)
Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Star Trek is one of the most beloved franchises of all time, and when J.J. Abrams took the task of revitalizing the story for younger audiences, he really gave it to us. I remember watching Star Trek in the theatre with my best friend and being entranced by that opening sequence, and I think it’s safe to say everyone else in that room was gearing up for some serious fun. Like the above-mentioned Peter Jackson trilogy, these films gave us possibly the most perfect cast, and it doesn’t hurt, either, that each film brings the laughs, heart, and dazzling space battles with a bang. Well done, guys!
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983)
Back before his perpetual fall from sci-fi grace, George Lucas and company started the Star Wars universe. I mean … need we say more? Yes? Okay, here we go: A New Hope gave us the lore of the Jedi, the terror of the Empire, and the awesomeness that is Han Solo; Empire upped the value and stakes to eleven and arguably surpassed New Hope in every way possible; and Return, despite its very furry flaws, delivered an overall satisfying conclusion to an almost perfect trilogy. Here’s hoping the sequel trilogy sidles up with the likes of the originals … I’ve a feeling it will.
Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), The World’s End (2013)
The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, brought to you by the genius of Edgar Wright, by and large features some of the funniest films ever brought to fruition. Tackling different universes with the same leading men — Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, bros for life — Wright gives us unique spins on zombie infestations, 90s action potpourri, and alien apocalypses. His trademark filming style and humor are present as he lovingly parodies and pays homage to the overused tropes, all while bringing the belly laughs and stupidly smart dialogue. I suggest watching these in order, chowing down on strawberry, vanilla, and mint chocolate chip ice cream. (Three flavors. Get it?)
Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010)
The granddaddy of Pixar, and computer-animated films as a whole, is universally revered and adored, and for good reason: Toy Story’s trilogy manages to bring us the nostalgia, imagination, and adventures of our early years, something every one of us can relate to. With Toy Story, we laughed at the all-too-familiar scenarios that Andy plays out with his bunch; Toy Story 2 filled us with unimaginable guilt at the thought of abandoned toys; and Toy Story 3 sucker-punched us with the moving-on-from-childhood emotion that all of us adults blubbered like whales in the theatre. All three films are masterfully animated, expertly written, and to this day stays with us well after the credits have rolled.