lisbeth salander

Good things come in threes: Top 20 Movie Trilogies, Part II

Three is a pretty magical number. Think about it. You get three delicious chocolate smothered peanut butter cups when you pick up a Reese's, the comedy rule of three gets all math-y on us by suggesting that things are inherently funny when they come in the form of that sweet number and there are three bases to score a home run both on and off the baseball diamond. We could go on, but clearly there's something surrounding that prime number that works wonders.

The power of three similarly extends to movies where a franchise soars past a stellar sequel - easy - and manages to overcome the sophomore slump and fill theatres with a third installment worthy of the original.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy captured the imaginations of readers the world over with his crime drama that followed cyberpunk Lisbeth Salander and her friend/lover/cohort Mikael Blomkvist as they unearth mysteries, conspiracies and murders while evading the bounties on their respective heads. With the recent theatreical release of the final film in the three-part series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, we explored what other movies wowed us three times over.

Note: Some films that currently sit as trilogies have a fourth installment planned that negates their place on this list. Sorry, Underworld fans. And some films have recently added a fourth film to their former trilogy selves so that got them disqualified as well. Sorry, Indy, Pirates and Die Hard fans!

So check out our list of the Top 20 trilogies, Part II and revisit what made the list from 20-11.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max

Fresh out of acting school, Mel Gibson took on the breakthrough role of Max, a cop out for revenge in George Miller's dystopian film. At only 23, Gibson's rare intensity blazed across the screen and audiences (and Hollywood) sat up and took notice. The two sequels are perhaps more well-known to movie fans but it's the stark originality of all three films that sets this trilogy apart. The part made Gibson an international star everywhere but North America since his accent was considered too thick for audiences to understand and it was dubbed over for its initial State-side release.

Buy Mad Max as well as The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness

Without a doubt the lowest budget trilogy on our list, what Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead lacked in funds it made up for in pure horror, ham and hilarity. While the first film came out of nowhere to surprise audiences with its genuine zombie fear factor, it is the second film (essentially a higher budget remake of the first) that had horror fans sitting up and screaming “Groovy!” Raimi and star Bruce Campbell returned for a third battle between Ash and the Deadites in 1993, wrapping up the cult series with its best, and most quotable, entry yet. Hail to the king, baby.

Buy Evil Dead 1 and 2 as well as Army of Darkness

the matrix

Spoon-bending, intra-dimensional glitches, slo-mo bullet-dodging and the ideal use of Keanu Reeves' propensity to underact meant that The Matrix was in a world of its own - get it? - when it first delighted, confused and impressed audiences in 1999 and then went on to further push our sci-fi buttons with The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), making stars out of Hugo Weaving ("Mr. Andersoooon"), Carrie-Anne Moss - girl looks fierce in head-to-toe (p)leather - and made choosing between the blue pill and the red pill a new part of the 21st century lexicon. Thanks, Wachowski brothers.

Buy the DVDs


While his partner-in-screenwriting-Oscar-fame was out making The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil and something called Gigli, Matt Damon was turning into a bona fide action star with the fast-paced amnesia-spy caper The Bourne Identity (2002), as our protagonist struggled to find out why he had the innate ability to kill a man with his bare hands and just what he was doing with so many passports. The subsequent two sequels - The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - found reasons for Damon's character to revisit his former life as an assassin and never skimped on story or tense, impressive, way-choreographed fight sequences. Cool.

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The mutants that make up the group known as the X-men were brought to the big screen by Bryan Singer in 2000 and he certainly went for it when it came to casting (Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin and Hugh Jackman all in one film) special effects and terrific action sequences and helped to bring the popularity of superhero, comic book-based films into the mainstream and hinted at the possibility of franchises and spin-offs. He continued the trend of exploring discrimination and intolerance and darker themes within the sequel X2: X-Men United and though Brett Ratner took the helm for X-Men: The Last Stand to mixed reviews, enjoyed as a trilogy, The X-Men whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Buy the DVDs

toy story

Bringing to life inanimate objects with epic levels of emotional and nostalgic pull, the brains behind Toy Story managed to create a world that appealed to kids who still played with teddy bears and adults who had long ago put away childish things. Allowing audiences to explore the interior worlds of their toys, from Buzz and Woody's rivalry as favourite plaything, to a toy collector threatening to separate the group to the fear that their owner Andy had outgrown them, this franchise's popularity and success has continued to grow, even when an entire decade stands between parts 2 and 3. Now that's a dedicated fanbase.

Buy Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 on DVD

back to the future

Especially timely, considering the first Robert Zemeckis-directed gem just celebrated its 25 anniversary, the movie that took Michael J. Fox from "Family Ties" to the big time, toyed with almost-incest thanks to the trippiness of time travel and gave Christopher Lloyd the opportunity to create wacky mad scientist Doc Brown is just as hilarious, cutely bizarre and fun as it was when it first hit theatres way back in 1985. The sequel found Marty McFly getting around town in 2015 on hoverboards (duh) with Elisabeth Shue by his side before heading back to the past and part three, admittedly the weakest, still made the most out of Marty and Doc Brown's one-of-a-kind friendship. Great Scott! Also, Crispin Glover as George McFly. Classic.

Buy the DVDs

Star Wars: A New Hope

No trilogy list would be complete without George Lucas’ original ‘70s space-opera. From the awe the original New Hope inspired in a whole generation, to its bigger and better Jedi sequel, to the impressive, mind-blowing action-sequences of The Empire Strikes Back, it's a trilogy that's spawned numerous spoofs, fandoms, cartoons, conventions and even a second trilogy (though the less said about that, the better). It has become so entwined in pop culture that you don’t even need to have seen it to get every reference out there. Many have tried to imitate its formula and resulting success and fan-devotion, but it remains unique in movie history.

Buy the DVDs

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather

When it comes to cinematic family sagas, Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel about the Corleone clan stands as the shining example to which all others aspire. While the trilogy delves masterfully into themes of corruption, belonging, power, immigration, dynasties and the American Dream, at its core is the story of Michael Corleone (the role of a lifetime for Al Pacino). From his beginnings as the prodigal son, to his reluctant rise to power, to his final days contemplating the choices he’s made and the direction his life had taken, it’s a riveting emotional journey set among a vivid backdrop of violence and crime.

Buy the DVDs

The Lord of the Rings

Could our top pick have been anything else? Peter Jackson's trilogy is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. Filmed consecutively but released once per year over three years, it is also arguably the only trilogy on our list without a real weak link. What makes it really stand out isn’t the amazing CGI or painstaking attention to production detail or even the breathtaking costumes or New Zealand scenery (standing in for Middle Earth), it’s Frodo’s struggle against the odds and the friendship and devotion of the Fellowship and their supporters. Lord of the Rings proved that you can successfully combine action, effects and heart but in doing so may have set the bar so high that it may never be equaled.

Buy the DVDs

Did your top trilogy make Part I or Part II of our list? No? What IS your favourite trilogy? Weigh in below!

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