Top Five Film Trilogies

I’ve been catching up on Filmspotting over the last few weeks (more alone driving – it actually works out well to be a bit behind, because it takes longer for many films to be released here, and many films I only get around to seeing once they hit DVD (and Fatso) anyway).  In #324 the top 5 list was trilogies, and I found I could come up with a list myself.

I have more stringent rules than Adam/Matty: the trilogy must tell a continuous story in all three films – it’s ideal if each film can stand alone as well, but there must be an overarching storyline that connects the three.  This means that a pair of sequels doesn’t count (e.g. Toy Story, Die Hard (before #4), Mission Impossible (before #4)), and it can’t be a ‘triple-feature’ (i.e. three films that are just connected in some way).  Like Filmspotting, all three films had to be good (e.g. no Matrix or Back to the Future).  This actually narrows it down a lot (most sets of three are movie+sequel+sequel or triple-features).

My top five:

  1. The Bourne Trilogy (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum).  #3 on the Filmspotting (joint) top 5.  I guessed they’d pick this, and it’s well deserved.
  2. Star Trek 2-4 (The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home).  Not normally considered a trilogy (but I’m certainly not the first to think that), but it is really – there’s a continuous story that runs through all three (clearest in the first two), although they stand especially well alone (better than the Star Wars films do), and if Episodes IV-VI can be considered a trilogy, then these ought to be able to as well.  These are clearly the best three of all the Star Trek films (including the 2009 one), and it’s often hard to rank them against each other  – i.e. the films in the trilogy are (for the most part) equally good, which is not common.
  3. Star Wars IV-VI (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi).  Not considered for the Filmspotting lists because Star Wars (IV: A New Hope) is in the “pantheon”.  It’s pretty clear why these are great films (especially for the time), and they stand reasonably well on their own (much better than LotR), but definitely tell a continuous story.  Placed low because they are really #4, #5, and #6 in a series of six films (but they qualify because of the amount of time between the release of the first ones, and because they were released in this order, not #1, #,2, #3, (long gap), #4, #5, #6).
  4. The Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, all extended editions).  These are not great adaptations (the worst bits are all additions, and many parts are just badly done), but if you forget about the source material, then they are a really good set of films.  Placed low because (a) if you do consider the source material they are considerably worse, and (b) they don’t stand on their own very well at all.
  5. X-Men (X-Men, X2, The Last Stand).  I really struggled to come up with a number five (it was the Star Wars prequels for a long time, but having all six on the list is too much of  a cheat).  These films aren’t great, but they are ok, and there is something of an overall story, although they mostly stand alone.
Since writing this, I finally got around to seeing the Millennium Trilogy, and I’d put those at #2, bumping everything else down (sorry X-Men!).  The films are pretty dark, and I’m don’t usually watch many subtitled films, but they were very good, and clearly a trilogy, and of approximately equal quality (the first being the best, and oddly the third being the weakest).
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2 responses to this post.

  1. I must agree with the numer 1. and put number 3 in second place.

  2. Posted by Ben on May 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    If it weren’t for Godfather 3 that would have been my top trilogy. The first two I find to be superb films but the third one is simply awful. And as you point out the conditions obviously exclude Toy Story which otherwise would deserve a place imo.

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