Good things come in threes, right? In the case of motion picture trilogies, one good movie can be turned into three in the hands of capable people. Sometimes a trilogy seems the right fit, and other times producers smell box office money and just keep going until they have sucked the life out of a group of characters. (Think the Saw franchise, or the Halloween films.) Here is a list of some of the best movie trilogies of all time.
The Star Wars Trilogies
A New Hope (1977) The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Return of the Jedi (1983)
When George Lucas created the Star Wars Saga in 1977, no one knew it would become one of the most successful films in history, spawning not only the two sequels in the original trilogy, dozens of books in the Star Wars Universe, and an empire of merchandise. It also gave rise to a second trilogy as well. It was the story of a rebellion against an evil Empire and made major stars of unknowns Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher, and some guy named Harrison Ford. The first film ended on a high note, the second on somewhat of a downer, and the third tied up all the loose ends.
The Phantom Menace (1999) Attack of the Clones (2002) Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The prequel trilogy to Star Wars told the story of how young Anakin Skywalker, the father of heroic Luke Skywalker, made the journey to the Dark Side of the Force, and became the Evil Lord Darth Vader. Ewan McGregor played the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi (Portrayed in the original trilogy by Sir Alec Guinness). Jake Lloyd played Anakin at 9 years old in The Phantom Menace, and when the second movie begins 10 years has passed and Hayden Christensen then played the part. Watching Anakin fall to the Dark Side and help bring the rise of the Empire made it worth watching even if you hated Jar Jar Binks.
The Godfather Saga
The Godfather (1972) The Godfather Part II (1974) The Godfather Part III (1990)
Based upon the Mario Puzo bestseller, the Godfather Saga tells the story of the Corleone family. They were a fictional member of one of the five Mafia families in New York. Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola the film starred Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, with Al Pacino and James Caan as his sons Michael and Sonny. The first film gave us the phrase “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse!” These violent films about the inner workings of the mob family won a total of eight Academy Awards including best actor nod to Marlon Brando, supporting actor win for Robert De Niro (who played the younger Vito Corleone in Part II) and Best Picture wins for Parts I and II.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) The Two Towers (2002) The Return of the King (2003)
Bringing the classic J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings Trilogy to the big screen was a massive undertaking. Peter Jackson chose to film all three movies simultaneously over the course of a year and a half. The films were then each released one year apart beginning in December of 2001. The first film The Lord of the Rings was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 4, including visual effects and makeup. The Two Towers was nominated for 6 Oscars and won in 2 categories, visual effects and sound editing, however the final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King won all 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for. These included Best Picture, a director nod to Peter Jackson and of course visual effects, makeup and other technical awards. Strangely enough though, no acting Oscars were awarded. Despite the snub from the Academy Awards Elijah Wood was wonderful as the tragic hobbit Frodo, and Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf was both majestic and commanding. There are far too many other standouts in the large and excellent cast to mention here.
The Matrix Trilogy
The Matrix (1999) The Matrix Reloaded (2003) The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie Anne Moss starred in this cautionary tale about a computer hacker who discovers that the normal world he sees may be nothing more than a façade created by a malevolent cyber intelligence. Hugo Weaving plays his main adversary for the three films, Agent Smith (Weaving was also seen as Elf Lord Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). The first film won the 4 Academy Awards it was nominated for, mainly in the visual effects and sound categories. While the remaining films in the trilogy did not garner any Academy Award nominations, they were visually stunning, and commercially successful.