One is a standalone, two is unfinished business, but three? Three is a company. And what better to keep you company than a trilogy of films each a three-hour runtime? If you’re gonna soak in entertainment that long until you marinate into a hunched couch-goblin arbiter of pop culture, you might as well pick the best movie trilogies of all time.
Actually, leave the picking to us, we’ll leave the watching to you. Here’s our pick for the best movie trilogies for your viewing pleasure. That’s 10 trilogies with each trilogy lasting around nine hours each in a buffet of of binge-worthiness. Based on our quick math, that runtime adds up to a century, which is around 51 years (we said quick math, not precise math).
Anyway, check out these trilogies if you haven’t already.
Back to the Future Trilogy
The Back to the Future trilogy, directed by Robert Zemeckis, consists of three films:
- Back to the Future (1985)
- Back to the Future Part II (1989)
- Back to the Future Part III (1990)
The trilogy follows the adventures of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as they travel through time in a DeLorean car.
The films are known for their perfect blend of humor, science fiction, and heartwarming moments. Back to the Future has remained culturally relevant for decades due to its imaginative storytelling, memorable characters, and the DeLorean time machine.
Even popular shows such as Rick and Morty owe much of their direction and premise to this pop culture classic.
Three Colors Trilogy
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, the Three Colors Trilogy consists of:
- Blue (1993)
- White (1994)
- Red (1994)
This trilogy is named after the three colors of the French flag and poetically explores themes of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Unlike most trilogies, each film is a standalone story with its own unique narrative and characters, yet they are interconnected through recurring motifs and subtle references.
The trilogy’s relevance lies in its deep exploration of human emotions and the human condition. Kieślowski’s masterful storytelling and the stunning performances of the cast make these films timeless classics, examining the complexities of life and relationships.
The Before Trilogy
Directed by Richard Linklater, the Before Trilogy is a unique exploration of love and human connection. It’s comprised of
- Before Sunrise (1995)
- Before Sunset (2004)
- Before Midnight (2013)
The three films chronicle the adult lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) every nine years. They are known for their authentic, lengthy conversations and profound character development, which resonates with audiences. It’s hard to create a special romance trilogy since most romance films are just one-shots, but here we are.
It’s a reflection on life’s choices, challenges, and the enduring power of love, making the trilogy memorable for its innovative storytelling and naturalistic dialogue.
The Mad Max trilogy, directed by George Miller, is a legendary post-apocalyptic film series that redefined not just the action genre, but also kicked off the post-apocalypse genre. It consists of:
- Mad Max (1979)
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
All three films see Max in his post-apocalyptic misadventures where his loner and survivalist attitudes kept getting challenged by his yearning for sanctuary and redemption as well as his tender spot for the downtrodden.
What makes the Mad Max trilogy so iconic is its groundbreaking blend of dystopian storytelling, high-octane vehicular combat, and gritty, visually stunning world-building.
George Miller’s visionary direction, accompanied by practical stunts and breathtaking car chases, set new standards for action cinema.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man
The MCU would be stumbling if not for the foundation laid out by the Spider-Man trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi. It popularized the superhero genre and introduced the concept of a superhero film series after the Batman movie blunders of the 1990s. The trilogy consists of
- Spider-Man (2002)
- Spider-Man 2 (2004)
- Spider-Man 3 (2007)
All three captured the essence of the comic book hero, combining thrilling action with the signature Peter Parker character development and moral dilemmas. Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Spider-Man was celebrated for its relatability and earnestness.
The films also featured memorable villains and groundbreaking CGI effects, setting a high bar for superhero films that followed. Raimi’s trilogy laid the groundwork for the modern superhero genre, helping it achieve mainstream acceptance and paving the way for a new era of comic book adaptations.
Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy consists of three epic Spaghetti Westerns:
- A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
- For a Few Dollars More (1965)
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
These films are renowned for redefining the Western genre and creating the venerated Man with No Name character, portrayed by Clint Eastwood. The trilogy has become pivotal due to its influence on the Western genre and its captivating exploration of moral ambiguity and greed during the American Civil War.
Leone’s cinematic style, including his signature use of close-ups, sweeping landscapes, and Ennio Morricone’s masterful scores, has left an unforgettable mark on cinema. The films were primarily inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and similar samurai movies, but the cowboy spin them more engaging for the Western audience.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy consists of:
- Batman Begins (2005)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
These Batmen revitalized the superhero genre by presenting a mature, more realistic take on Batman, with Christian Bale in the lead role.
The Dark Knight particularly stands out for Heath Ledger’s haunting performance as the Joker. Nolan’s visionary direction and the trilogy’s darker storytelling have made it a benchmark for superhero films, especially Batman films.
More importantly, it demonstrated how comic book adaptations can transcend genre conventions and become thought-provoking cinematic experiences.
Star Wars Original Trilogy
George Lucas’s original Star Wars original trilogy includes
- A New Hope (1977)
- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Return of the Jedi (1983)
These classics introduced audiences to an enthralling galaxy far, far away, featuring legendary characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader.
The series is immensely crucial to the sci-fi genre, as it redefined cinema. It’s renowned for its groundbreaking special effects and epic storytelling, blending elements of mythology and the classic hero’s journey. The original Star Wars trilogy remains a cultural touchstone, even with the prequel trilogy and sequel trilogy‘s presence.
The Godfather Trilogy
Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy comprises:
- The Godfather (1972)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- The Godfather Part III (1990)
They are often considered the pinnacle of the gangster film genre. These films follow the Corleone family’s saga, led by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his son Michael (Al Pacino).
The trilogy is revered for its masterful storytelling and exploration of power, loyalty, and family. It’s incredibly relevant because it sets a standard for organized crime movies. And of course, it’s a critic’s favorite, even if the third film wore out its welcome.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels includes:
- The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- The Two Towers (2002)
- The Return of the King (2003)
Each film is celebrated for its epic scale, detailed world-building, and compelling characters. The trilogy has become immortalized due to its groundbreaking use of CGI and practical effects, shaping modern fantasy filmmaking.
There’s also no denying The Lord of the Rings‘ cultural impact, with its enduring legacy evident in the continued fascination and exploration of Middle-earth. Like how Star Wars set the bar for sci-fi, this one set the bar for fantasy adaptations, providing an epic and emotionally resonant journey that captivates audiences across generations.