Movie trilogies seem to be incredibly popular with audiences and filmmakers. The last decade has seen the release of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, a Spider-Man trilogy, the Bourne trilogy and many others.
Sorting through these trilogies to find the best is no easy task. A great trilogy needs to resonate with its audience and accomplish great things cinematically. The following trilogies stood out among tough competition to earn a spot on our list of the top five greatest movie trilogies.
No. 5 – The “Back to the Future” Trilogy
The No. 5 entry is the “Back to the Future” trilogy. “Back to the Future” follows Marty McFly, a teenager from the 1980s, and Doc Brown, a mad scientist, as they travel through time attempting to maintain the correct timeline.
The story begins with 1985’s “Back to the Future” in which Marty travels back to 1955 to make sure his parents get together. The films follow Marty as he attempts to iron out paradoxes and keep his timeline intact.
Traversing dark futures, the Wild West and high school dances, “Back to the Future” covers all the time travel bases and still makes time to explore the nature of family and friendship.
The “Back to the Future” trilogy is clever, fun and still has heart. The witty and high-octane time travel saga secures its place in the top five.
No. 4 – The “Dark Knight” Trilogy
Batman is deeply ingrained in pop culture. The DC Comics hero is one of the best known superheroes in the world.
There are countless adaptations of the crime fighter in comics, film and television, but today’s audience is most likely to be familiar with No. 4 on our list, the “Dark Knight” trilogy. This trilogy is director Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader mythos.
In 2005, “Batman Begins” introduced us to a grittier, more realistic Batman portrayed by Christian Bale. This Batman faced villains that put aside slapstick, one-liners and whimsical props in favor of careful scheming and acts of terror.
The trilogy’s high point was likely 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” in which Bale’s Batman faced of against the Joker, played by Heath Ledger in his last performance.
Captivating villains and a willingness to ask questions about sanity, morality and society earn Nolan’s trilogy a place on the list.
No. 3 – The “Toy Story” Trilogy
No. 3 began by revolutionizing animation. In 1995, “Toy Story” was released to massive acclaim. It was the first feature-length film to be entirely computer-animated.
It was followed by “Toy Story 2” in 1999 and “Toy Story 3” in 2010. Movies about the lives of toys might seem like child’s fare, but within a few scenes the original “Toy Story” establishes itself and its sequels as something far more interesting.
While communicating their heartwarming tales, the movies manage to be funny and action-packed. Films that are primarily comedies are still capable of leaving audiences on the edge of their seats.
The focus of the film is of course the relationship between toys and their growing owner. Through this lens we see parenthood, childhood and friendship.
Perhaps the trilogy’s most powerful message is about the importance of friendship. Throughout all three films our protagonists find themselves struggling to get home to their best friend Andy and overcoming obstacle to build new friendships along the way.
No. 2 – The Original “Star Wars” Trilogy
No. 2 on our list is one of the most iconic trilogies in cinematic history. The original “Star Wars” trilogy continues to captivate new audiences thirty years after its final installment first hit theaters.
The original trilogy won over audiences with impressive and carefully crafted special effects and classic story told in a fresh and exciting setting.
Though audiences are divided over changes to the original trilogy and the quality of its prequel, “Star Wars” has left an undeniable mark on our society. References to lightsabers, Death Stars and Yoda are abundant in television and film.
The original trilogy spawned a massive franchise. Since the first film’s release all manner of merchandise has been released from action figures to furniture. There are also hundreds of books, a number of video games, several television shows and plans to continue the film series.
No. 1 – “The Lord of the Rings”
Adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved epic, Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” is No. 1 on our list. Adapting Tolkien’s 1,008 page work to film was considered an ambitious project from the start.
Nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, the trilogy received 17. Its final installment “The Return of the King” was nominated for and won 11 of these Oscars.
A story of friendship and hardship, the theatrical versions of the movies have a combined runtime of over nine hours. The most recent extended edition is over 12 hours long.
Those hours are packed with visual splendor, a beautiful soundtrack and a powerful emotional core.
Spectacular use of detailed sets and costuming, New Zealand scenery and CGI give the films a strong, unified visual presence. This along with a talented cast and deft handling of a large story earn this trilogy its place at the top of the list.