The recent release of War for the Planet of the Apes (you can find my review here) has sparked a great deal of debate over what the greatest film trilogy of all time is. I thought I’d weigh in on the debate with my look at 10 of my all time favourites.
10) Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good the Bad and the Ugly) – I’m not always the greatest fan of Westerns, and I don’t tend to watch too many. But Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name is another level. All three of the films are regularly held up as the peek of the genre, and Leone’s masterful direction is a huge part of this. Of course one of the most recognisable aspects of the films is the incredible score from Ennio Morricone. The music on each of these films is brilliant, and some of it has become synonymous with the genre. This was also the trilogy that sent Clint Eastwood to stardom. The Dollars Trilogy may be deserving of a slightly higher place on my list, but I just don’t find myself revisiting them as often as many of the others.
9) Mariachi Trilogy (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon A Time In Mexico) – Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi Trilogy are a lot of fun. Starting with the ultra low budget El Mariachi (seriously it was made for just $7,000) the trilogy tells the story of the titular El Mariachi, played by Carlos Gallardo in the first film and Antonio Banderas in the second two. The trilogy consists of modern western action films that grow in scale with each installment. All three films feature El Mariachi taking on various drug lords in Mexico, often as part of his journey for revenge against the men who were responsible for the death of his wife. All of the Mariachi Trilogy films are made with Rodriguez’s distinctive violent and pulpy style, and what more can you ask for in a trilogy?
8) Nolan’s Batman Trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) – Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy sometimes gets knocked down by some people because The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t live up to the first two films. And whilst the final act really looses the plot for me, a lot of that film is still pretty great, and Tom Hardy’s Bane is a great intimidating villain. As for The Dark Knight, it’s the greatest superhero film ever made, and features one of the greatest performances ever from Heath Ledger. Throughout all three films Nolan celebrates the brilliant rogues gallery that Batman has at his disposal to bring some of the villains to life, in great and realistic ways, but he still allows Bale to make his mark as the caped crusader. Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is at its best works of genius, and at its worst still a lot of fun.
7) Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) – Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy are a brilliant series of Romantic drama films spanning an 18 year period. Each film was both filmed and takes place nine years after the one that preceded it, meaning that actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy age in real time. Before Sunrise features the two characters’ first meeting in Vienna and the night they spend walking around the city getting to know each other. Similarly Before Sunset sees them cross paths again, this time in Paris, and the afternoon they have there. The final film sees the two on vacation in Greece. All three of he films have a minimalist plot, and in true Linklater style focus on characters interacting, with Linklater’s brilliant dialogue. These are delightful films, and for fans of Linklater’s style (see Dazed and Confused and Boyhood) this is a must see trilogy.
6) Evil Dead Trilogy (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness) – Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Trilogy still stands up as some of the definitive works of horror comedy. Raimi’s incredibly distinctive style blends so well with the almost slapstick horror. It creates a very unique feeling to the films, and is one of the principle reasons that these films gained such a huge cult following. The other reason is of course Bruce Campbell. His performances as Ash are over the top, hilarious, and all round brilliant. Army of Darkness manages to move away from the cabin in the woods formula from the first two films brilliantly and has a lot of fun with the medieval setting. And if you want more of this brilliance then check out the show Ash vs Evil Dead.
5) Planet of the Apes (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes) – The newest addition to the list is the rebooted Planet of the Apes trilogy starring Caesar as the ape who leads the revolution. The first film is very different to the two that followed, focusing on issues of animal cruelty, but it did a great job of establishing Caesar’s character and the virus that caused the end of the human race. Dawn and War are films far more about human nature, and how this is reflected in the intelligent apes. I love Caesar’s struggle with both Woody Harrelson’s Colonel in War, and Toby Kebell’s Koba in Dawn. These films have done so much for motion capture performances, and thanks to Andy Serkis’ turn as Caesar there is frowning pressure for the Academy to recognise them come award season. And once again my review for War of the Planet of the Apes went up today so go check it out.
4) Toy Story (Toy Story 1, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3) – Pixar generally haven’t had great success with sequels with the only exception to that being the Toy Story franchise. Now I know that it will soon be getting a fourth film, but as of this moment it is still a trilogy, and an incredible one at that. The first film is such a groundbreaking work in the animated film world, and in my opinion the second film is the best; funnier than either of the two installments and just as heartfelt. The genius of holding the third film back until 2010 when the audience for the original film was old enough to be leaving home, much like Andy, cannot be denied. It added an extra layer of emotion for the audience who grew up with the films. The Toy Story trilogy is a perfect example of how to grow a franchise over time. I just wish they didn’t feel the need to go back for a fourth.
3) The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) – Whilst The Cornetto Trilogy is only a trilogy in a looser sense, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have spoken about the three films as a trilogy of sorts, so I’m counting it for my list. Each of the films parodies a genre; horror, action thriller, and science fiction, but still manage to stand up as great examples of each in their own right. The World’s End gets a harsh rap from some, and that’s probably because it isn’t as laugh out loud funny as the previous two films, instead it really focuses in on its lead character, Pegg’s Gary King, a character that has serious issues with depression and addiction. Maybe this deeper look at such issues isn’t what people expected or wanted, but it’s a film that deserves revisiting. Throughout both Frost and Pegg get the chance to show their range and play a host of different character, the stand out of which is probably Frost’s turn as the lovable loser Ed from Shaun of the Dead, one of my favourite characters ever created.
2) Star Wars Original Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) – Now I am someone who will actually defend a lot of aspects of the prequel trilogy, but there is no question that the original Star Wars trilogy is far superior. A New Hope introduced us to all these brilliant new characters, The Empire Strikes Back managed to build on this to even greater heights, and The Return of the Jedi has some of the best and most emotional moments from the trilogy, even if Lucas did make some decisions purely to sell a lot of toys. We’re looking at you Ewoks. There is a reason why Star Wars has become the one of the most marketable and successful franchises on the planet today, and that’s because the original trilogy still holds such a strong place in so many fan’s hearts, mine included.
1) The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King) – To regular readers, or those who know me this will come as no surprise. They are after all my three favourite films of all time, and the reason I fell in love with cinema. This is a near perfect adaptation of a novel that most people said was unadaptable. From a perfect cast, to revolutionary effects, some of the most incredible sets ever made, and not one but two of the greatest film battles ever filmed, The Lord of the Rings is brilliant in every aspect. What makes LOTR stand out as the greatest trilogy of all time though is the fact that there are 3 clear acts to the film that work as each installment, even if they are a little rejigged from the book. You know what? I feel a rewatch coming on.
So those are my favourite film trilogies. Let me know what you think of my choices, and which trilogies are your favourites in the comments.