People tend to prefer things in threes. There’s three strikes and you’re out. There’s three outs in an inning, and... there’s probably a third thing that’s hard to think of right now. Anyway, the point is that people like things in threes. With movies, a solid script, good casting, competent direction, and excellent marketing (that’s 4 things), you can create a franchise that can sustain over multiple movies. In this case, it’s trilogies. The best part about trilogies is that legendary characters and memorable stories make watching these movies so much fun.
Most of the movies on this list did well both critically and financially. Their critical success was due to their high quality of writing, acting, and direction. Financially, if killing at the box office were a crime, most of these trilogies would be found guilty on all counts (probably 3 counts). Most of the movies on the list are extremely well known. However, there are a few shining examples of what smart people can do to a movie franchise even if they don’t follow the typical moviemaking formula.
This list is a definitive end to the long-standing argument of the best trilogies ever. Don’t bother searching the Internet for anything else.
10 The Jurassic Park Trilogy
Remember that scene in the first one where that goat’s leg falls on the roof of the car when the T-Rex breaks free? Or how about in Jurassic World when those pterodactyls started flying through the park? That scene was so intense, most people probably crapped a pterodactyl in the theater.
What made this trilogy so great was that each film was scary, honest, action-packed, and came with a deep storyline with underlying themes of money, power, and the human tendency to play God.
9 The Godfather Trilogy
There’s a chance that the only people who haven’t seen any one of The Godfather movies live under a rock. The franchise is so incredible that some aliens in a far away galaxy are discussing how amazing it is that the first and the second one ended up on the American Film Institute’s 100 best films.
What makes the Godfather trilogy so interesting is its stunningly accurate portrayal of Rwandan refugees making the harrowing journey from their homeland to several European countries. Wait... that might be the wrong plot.
8 The Dollars Trilogy
According to movies, the Wild West was like Compton but with more cowboy boots. The daily task list for characters in westerns was basically shooting guns, getting money, and settling disputes (kind of like the premise for most rap songs). Movie buffs can thank the Dollars trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the bad, and the Ugly), for setting this up.
7 The Vengeance Trilogy
It’s xenophobic and (probably) racist to only include American trilogies or trilogies with Americans as the stars. Budgets in United States for movies are gigantic. Actors are paid a fortune. Directors are paid a fortune. Writers... well, no one cares about the writers, but that’s a different story. The point is that America often churns out the most flamboyant, big-budget films more than any other country. Either that or Americans have nothing better to do than go to the movies.
6 The Matrix Trilogy
The working title for these movies was probably Movie Special Effects: A How-To Guide. All jokes aside, The Matrix trilogy did more than just offer up sweet computer graphics. The movies were so memorable that even just mentioning the name of some things conjures up memories of how good the franchise was. The Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus, Neo, and the Oracle are instantly recognizable because of the complicated, but consistent and well-told plot.
5 The Toy Story Trilogy
For those who are unfamiliar, the trilogy centers around the group of toys that come to life when a young boy, Andy, is not around. The main character is a cowboy named Woody who is their unofficial leader. There is also a Mr. Potato Head with a Brooklyn accent and of course Buzz Lightyear, a space commander, who is probably the coolest toy in the bunch. All the toys get themselves into and out of a heap of trouble over the course of the three movies and make deep connections with one another. Andy, the toy’s personal God, never finds out his toys are possessed and watch him sleep at night. Maybe that last part is untrue.
4 The High School Musical Trilogy
Before hitting the red X button on the internet browser, just keep reading. High School Musical (HSM) was a massive, massive success. Most of the movies on the list are ones that most people have heard of. Unless there is a 12-year old in the house, the movies may seem unfamiliar.
HSM tried to be different with its premise. The movie didn’t rely on sex, violence, or have some political message it tried to slip in. The producers based the movie on singing, dancing, and good clean fun only. They took small budgets, on the small screen, and squeezed every dollar they could out of it.
3 The Dark Knight Trilogy
There is little point in ignoring how amazing this trilogy was. Even for non-comic book geeks, the success of the franchise was undeniable. The trilogy made a super star out of Christian Bale and it eclipsed $1 billion in sales since the original’s release. The director, Christopher Nolan, admitted that he can’t even get his arms around the fact it was so massively successful.
2 The Original Star Wars Trilogy
There is no question that Star Wars would have ended up on this list. The only debate is about which trilogy in Star Wars was the best. Naturally, this could wage on as long as there are nerds to bore people about the topic.
1 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
To help understand the insane cost of The Lord of the Rings franchise, it is important to look at numbers in comparison to something else. For all three movies, the production budget was a combined $1.1 billion. Compare this to the Gross Domestic Product of Grenada. It’s a small country that would take longer to get to than Mount Doom. Their GDP? $1.2 billion.
And that’s not the craziest part. The films have made so much money that it could probably just buy Grenada and just use the whole country as a set for future films. Grossing nearly $6 billion, The Lord of the Rings is one of the highest grossing movie franchises ever.
It would be unfortunate to characterize this trilogy only by the money its made. The Lord of the Rings has had a cultural impact that can hardly be quantified in dollars. With a worldwide following hardly seen in any genre, this trilogy is truly something special.
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