Making a film is a herculean task in itself. The amount of time and labour that goes into the production of a single film is daunting. Worthy of praise then, are those who manage to follow up one film after another, each of respectable quality and repute. Imagine the pressure there is to deliver or even match up to the success of an already well-made film. Here’s a look back at the best movie trilogies ever made (in no particular order). All these are masterpieces, individually as well as collectively.
1. The Godfather Trilogy
The Godfather is one of those rare films that will stay with us as long as an apocalypse doesn’t hit us, destroying even the last vestiges of human civilization. The first part is iconic, legendary and what not. Everyone knows that one and sings its praises (although some might not have seen it).
The second part is quite amazing as well. Where in the first we meet an ageing Vito Corleone, patriarch of the Corleone family, this part introduces us to a young Vito. His struggles and toils are magnificently depicted. His rise in the world of crime is superimposed with his son, Michael’s increasing power over the family crime syndicate.
The third part fails to deliver on the hype of the trilogy. But individually, it is still a movie worth watching. This part tells the story of an ageing Michael Corleone. This is a story of salvation as Michael struggles with his inner demons as he tries to come to terms with his sins.
With acting greats like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and many others, this trilogy stands as a milestone on the road of cinema.
2. The Dollars Trilogy
The Dollars trilogy is one of those examples where the sequels consistently got better than the prequels. Clint Eastwood is obviously the star of this Western tale of gunslingers, bounty hunting and duels.
The first (A Fistful of Dollars) is a great example of the lone wolf hero type as Eastwood is pitted against two warring families. He is a bounty hunter and a smart one at that. He uses his fast trigger finger and wit to play the two families against each other. They have ravaged the town they belong in and have spread the demons of greed and vengeance all around.
The second instalment (For a Few Dollars More) is far superior to the first one in terms of cinematography, dialogue and pacing. The range of emotions displayed by our lone protagonist is also widened as he teams up with another bounty hunter. They team up in order to track down a Western outlaw.
The third and final entry (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) is legendary. The sheer amount of action, great acting, amazing plot and the cherry on the top – the ever suspenseful Mexican standoff all come together to create a cinematic masterpiece. This movie still gives me chills.
With Sergio Leone at the helm, this trilogy is bound to be one of the best ever created.
3. Star Wars The Original Trilogy
Star Wars is epic and nothing less. The first three original untouched George Lucas movies were groundbreaking. They ushered in the era of special effects in movies. The plot is fantastic and obviously is famous for what is perhaps one of the most iconic twists in the history of cinema – “I am your father.”
The trilogy is a proper epic as it also follows some of the rules which actually make an epic an epic. A New Hope is a great beginning to an even greater saga. Luke Skywalker is escorted out of his remote planet by Obi-Wan and is thrown into a war between the powerful Empire and the weak but determined and passionate rebels. He has to deliver a message by Princess Leia and on this journey, he is joined by the Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford.
The Empire Strikes Back is a story of Luke finding and understanding himself. He is stranded on a desolate tropical forested planet. Luke is trained by the ancient Jedi master, Yoda. He confronts his own shadows and tries to rise above them.
The final movie in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi is when Luke finally becomes a full-fledged Jedi Master. You see him doing cool mind tricks and using the power of the force with extreme mastery.
The original trilogy was the best of Star Wars. Most people believe that the prologue which came after this was far inferior to the original.
4. The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan‘s Batman is perhaps the best Batman ever put on film. All three movies are amazing, again improving in quality with each subsequent film. He redefined the superhero genre and DC is trying desperately to recapture that magic but is failing miserably.
Batman Begins tells the story of Bruce Wayne before he was Batman. In what is considered one of the best origin stories, there is immense meaning behind Wayne taking up the mantle of the Dark Knight. His strong commitment to moral principles is reflected immaculately through the character, his decisions and motivations.
The Dark Knight rewarded us with the best villain in any superhero movie – Heath Ledger’s Joker. Batman fights both a psychological and physical war against the deranged (or perhaps hyper-intelligent) criminal. His conviction and his ‘no killing’ rule are challenged time and again and he rises up to that challenge every time.
The Dark Knight Rises is somewhat of a torch-passing story. Batman finally lets someone into his life albeit with much suspicion. Catwoman and Batman fight relentlessly against the guerilla terrorist, Bane who threatens to decimate the entire city of Gotham.
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5. The Matrix Trilogy
The Matrix movies, starring the very talented Keanu Reeves and directed by the Wachowski brothers, have a consistent fan following as well as a devoted cult following. The first two movies are really good while the third one received a lot of flak because of its blurry meanings and controversial ending.
The Matrix gives us a great origin story. Neo, as a character is introduced to the audience wonderfully. The plot of a movie may be psychedelic for some and has hence given birth to countless conspiracy theories that tell us that we are living inside a computer simulation.
The Matrix Reloaded, although not as good as the first one, is still a solid film. Neo has fully realised his role as the chosen one and has embraced his powers. This is a battle to save the last remaining human civilization on the face of the earth – Zion from the machines that are trying their utmost to destroy it.
The Matrix Revolutions is quite convoluted. The Biblical allegories at the end are insufferable. The ending was truly a disappointment. But apart from that one badly rendered CGI Agent Smith mob battle, the rest of the movie is well-executed. The pacing is a bit problematic. Despite its shortcomings, The Matrix Trilogy stands as perhaps the most well-known and recognized trilogies in cinema.
6. The Terminator Trilogy
The Terminator was responsible for making Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name. The original three movies were amazing. The blend of science fiction, horror and thriller genres was done magnificently.
The Terminator revolves around a man who has not been born yet – John Connor. His mother Sarah Connor is saved from a murderous AI killing machine by Kyle Reese, who is sent back in time to protect her.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day takes everything in Terminator and turns it on its head. John is now a whiney kid who is oblivious to the great danger looming in his future. Sarah Connor is a badass and she plays the role amazingly. And the machine T-100 which was previously the enemy is now their saviour.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a tad less good than the other two movies but it is still a good movie nonetheless. The action is thrilling and gut-wrenching as often our protagonists are the underdogs.
7. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy
The Lord of The Rings was an epic trilogy overall. It truly deserves to be called an epic for its scale is absolutely massive. The various factions like the elves, hobbits, dwarves, humans and orcs are constructed meticulously to fit into the world. This form of world-building is commendable and quite frankly, extraordinary.
The Fellowship of the Ring is the beginning of the great journey of Frodo and friends. This is a magnificent start to the franchise. Their quest is to travel treacherous lands in order to destroy the powerful One Ring. All of their efforts veer towards saving Middle-Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.
The Two Towers takes a bit of a detour as it separates the group into two. Frodo and his friend Sam get closer and closer to Mordor with the help of the very suspicious and very creepy Gollum – the “my precious” guy. The others make a stand against Saruman, Sauron’s new ally.
The Return of the King marks the final chapter in the journey. The great wizard Gandalf and warrior Aragorn steer the World of Men against Sauron’s great army. Frodo and Sam finally approach Mount Doom with the One Ring. The final confrontation with Self is iconic and will make you hold your breath in anticipation.
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8. Indiana Jones Trilogy
Leave it to Harrison Ford to star in two of the most epic franchises ever created. Indiana Jones is an icon. With Spielberg at the helm, the movie is a gorgeous work of great plot, acting and cinematography coming together to create a magical experience.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is, according to me and many others, the best Indiana Jones movie ever. We mee Indie for the first time and right of the bat, we get an amazing outlook into his personality and psyche. He is not a conventional goody-two-shoes. He is charismatic, resourceful and charming. The only complaint I have with this movie that it is not driven by the protagonist. The world and the villains would have eventually found the Ark and would have died without Indie doing anything.
The Temple of Doom is interesting. It is not as tight as the first one but is still entertaining. It was more of an experiment and independently, quite a good movie, just not as good as the other two.
The Last Crusade is another great movie where we get to see a lot of Indie’s history. His moments with his father are touching and often relatable. Another great movie with a very famous artefact on the line. Some are bound to like it just because of the awesome plot. And there are Nazis too.
9. Three Colours Trilogy
The Three Colours Trilogy is all about symbols and hidden meanings that are magnificently illustrated through the lives of common people. The three films are named Colours: Blue, White and Red, respectively. These are the colours of the French flag and are representative of the three most important values of the French Revolution — liberty, equality and fraternity.
All these are movies about regular lives of regular people. But the way these characters cope with their problems is extraordinary. You must watch the three movies to understand the underlying brilliance.
10. The Before Trilogy
All three — Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight run along the same theme. They are romantic films with simple premises; time is an essential element in each of the three. The two lovers are constrained by the limitations of fleeting time but not fleeting feelings. Their conversations, spanning 18 long years, is the main focus of the film. Their inhibitions, their intimacies, their world views and passionate proclamations of love over a casual evening stroll, a sightseeing trip and a hotel room make the movie grounded yet magically fantastical.
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11. Apu Trilogy
Satyajit Ray’s magnum opus Apu Trilogy consists of three distinct, masterclass films. Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar/ The World of Apu (1959). They’re not only the among the best Indian films but some of the greatest films ever made. The trilogy stands as a milestone that drove in the golden age of cinema in the Indian context.
The movies form an integral of the Neorealist Parallel cinema movement due to their artistic tendencies and their inclination towards the realistic portrayal of the lives of the subaltern class. Breaking away, from conventional commercial cinema, the Apu Trilogy cements itself in the annuls of history as a revolutionary step towards self-reflexive and modernist moviemaking.
12. The Human Condition
The Human Condition trilogy is a set of three Japanese epic movies that were inspired by a novel of the same name. It showcases with extreme realism, the difficulties of a socialist pacifist in a totalitarian World War II world. The ideological conflicts coupled with the brutal background of the unrelenting war paints a clear picture of the horrors of war. While death and futility of war form some of the main elements, the film focuses more on individual corruption and dehumanisation, which makes it more than just a war trilogy and transcends to become an epic battle between humanity and the inhumane.
Your turn! What do you think are the greatest film trilogies? Let the debate begin.
By Deepjyoti Roy
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