I’ve had a debate with my friends for years: what is the best movie trilogy of all times. The debates always turned into arguments. Everybody had different favourites and naturally everybody tried to hammer home why their choice was best. Some said, Lord of the Rings, some said the Matrix, others went old school with Star Wars and then some other trouser forager tried to be controversial and chose Robocop (seriously), but just made himself look like a dick.
So what is my favourite trilogy? It’s a tough question, I mean how do you even go about deciding something like that? Do you look at how well the three movies mesh together and tell the overall story? Or do you judge based on how good each movie within the trilogy is? When selecting personal favourite, I tried to use a little of both of these approaches and well, it was close. I mean real close.
In the end, and after much deliberation, I made my decision. It wasn’t easy, but I made it and I’m just as sure a lot of people with agree with it as I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with it, but that’s just the way it goes.
Naturally, this couldn’t be done without any kind of build up or intrigue, so instead of just selecting my one favourite trilogy, in typical GeekZenith fashion, I selected my top 5 trilogies of all time.
I’m sure a lot of people will agree that the majority of my selections deserve to be in my final 5, but the again I’m quite certain more will find my picks controversial and wonder just why in the hell certain other trilogies didn’t make it. That’s natural. Everybody can’t like the same thing, otherwise we’d be robots (which I actually think would be quite cool, but that’s besides the point).
If you disagree with my selections, then good. Great. Come and let me know. Tell me your top 5 trilogies (or even just your all time favourite trilogy) and let the debate continue. Then again, if you do agree with my picks it’s always good to hear from like-minded folk.
Now let’s get to it.
Like all of these lists, picking just 5 selections was tough. REAL tough. Here are the some great trilogies that didn’t make my top 5.
The three from the above honourable mentions list that came closest to being in the coveted Top 5 were Alien, The Matrix and Die Hard.
The Alien Trilogy are a series of films right up my alley – dark science fiction at it’s very best. The claustrophobic first Alien film was a masterpiece beyond it’s time, the strong female protagonist and the genetic killing machines breathing life into the sci-fi genre. Then the second came along. All guns and explosions, with deep undercurrents of corporate greed tying the movies to reality and providing that much more tension to already brutally tense film. The third was clearly the weakest of the trilogy, but still a good movie. A direct continuation, as the second was to the first, of Ellen Ripley’s nightmares come true set on a male only prison planet with little hope of rescue and no hope of escape. This time, it’s Ripley who’s been infected and the trilogy closes to an end as her life does, completing the circle.
The Matrix Trilogy is something of a sore point to fans of the original. The second and third instalments of the movie are considered to be much lesser movies, a serious let down to the first. While it’s clear The Matrix was the better film of the trilogy, I think it’s unfit to say the second two are dreadful; they continue the story started in the first and paint a clearly picture of the real world in which the characters inhabit as well as the digital one. It expands the story and develops the main character’s, Neo, true role as the one. I thought the second and third instalments were genuinely good action movies which were easy to watch and had just as many gorgeous effects as the first (if not better in some cases).
I love the Die Hard Trilogy for many reasons, despite the second two instalments losing the magic of the first (though I maintain, it was rekindled in Die Hard 4, but obviously that cannot be included in these deliberations). I like it’s because I’m a big fan of underdog movies and Die Hard is the ultimate underdog movie (and my favourite Christmas movie too). An action-packed and heart felt movie, with a number of twists and turns, a decent story and great cast to back it up.
So what are my final 5? Let’s get down to it.
The first two Godfather movies are some of the finest cinematic creations to date and highly ranked in IMDB.com’s 250 Top Movie’s list (Godfather ranking 2nd, Godfather II ranking 3rd) as well the more recognised American Film Institutes (AFI) Top 100 Films list (Godfather ranking 3rd and Godfather II ranking 32nd), whereas the third instalment is pretty much critically mauled by fans of the first two instalments. Godfather III is not a bad film by any means, yet made 16 years after Godfather II, perhaps understandably a lot of people questioned revisiting the story and wanted to leave the franchise alone.
The Godfather movies chronicles the history of an Italian-American crime family, the first depicting Don Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) downfall from the head of the family and Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) rise to power to take his place. The second instalment is made up of Michael’s present empire in 1958-1959 and flashbacks to his father’s childhood in 1901, depict how the Corleone family first came to power. The third instalment depicts how Michael Corleone tries to legitimises his business empire in the early 1980′s and was considered by Francis Ford Coppola (director) and Mario Puzo (writer) to be more of an epilogue to the first two movies.
The Godfather a success critically when first released by both film critics and real-life gangsters at the same time, with Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, former underboss of the Gambino Family stating: “I left the movie stunned… I mean I floated out of the theatre. Maybe it was fiction, but for me, then, that was our life. It was incredible. I remember talking to a multitude of guys, made guys, who felt exactly the same way.” The Godather was also a financial success, reaping in a massive $245 million worldwide with a budget of just $6 million.
Godfather Part II was also critically well received and is often lauded as once of the greatest movie sequels in existence and much like its predecessor is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Finanically, it wasn’t as nearly as successful as the first, reaping in just over $57 million from an initial outlay of $13 million.
Godfather Part III was pretty much panned from the outset, critically, yet with a budget of $53 million managed to generate over $136 million worldwide.
I love the Godfather trilogies just because of the sheer quality of the film-making, the acting and the story. The Godfather is pretty much the bench mark for all other gangster or crime movies and will no doubt remain in all top movie lists for some time to come.
That is not to say it’s my favourite gangster or crime movie of all time. If the films are judged alone against certain other crime films such as Goodfellas or indeed Casino, my preference is toward the latter for a variety of reasons, however, one cannot argue the Godfather movies were the starting point for all modern gangster movies and TV shows since.
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The Back to the Future movies are lauded by fellow geeks around the world and some would have no qualms about naming this as their favourite trilogy of all time. I mean, these movies had everything: comedy, action, adventure, science fiction, romance and most of all fun.
The first Back to the Future movie sees the main protagonist, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) accidentally sent through time, from 1985 back to 1955, via his friends, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), time-travelling DeLorean. In 1955 McFly upsets the time line by unwittingly becoming his mothers love interest, somewhat over-shadowing his shy father: a situation enough to give any growing boy a complex. From then, he must enlist the help of the 1955 Doc Brown (who looks remarkably the same) to fix the time line and travel, wait for it, Back to the Future. The first movie ends on a cliffhanger, with Doc Brown arriving at Marty’s house telling him they need to go to the future to help sort a problem out with his future children.
The second picks up right from there, Marty and Doc Brown travel to 2015 to deal with the family problems and are affronted with a number of nifty inventions such as the one size fits all jacket and the hover board. Meanwhile, the main antagonist from the first movie, Biff, steals the DeLorean and takes it back to 1955 to give himself a sports almanac to ensure his future. Marty and Doc return to 1985 to discover their present world horribly changed by these events with a dark and dirty world, in which Marty’s mother is married to Biff. Marty and Doc Brown then travel back to 1955 to rearrange the time line once again.
The third instalment picks up where the second left off, with Doc Brown trapped in 1885. Marty receives a letter sent from the Doc in 1885 that’d been kept all this time stating that he was well. However, Marty finds the Doc’s tombstone stating the Doc died just 6 days after writing the letter. Marty decides to go back to 1885 and saved his friend, finding himself playing by different rules in the old west. Marty helps Doc avoid the folk who are trying to kill him and leaves the Doc in the past with the love of his life, Clara. However, not long after arriving in the present, the Doc shows up in a time-travelling train with Clara and two kids to let Marty know their alright, before the train turns into a hover train and ventures off somewhere into the future.
The movies were a critical success, getting thumbs up from famed movie critic Robert Ebert, The New York Times, Variety and the BBC, with Janet Maslin from the New York Times writing about the original Back to the Future movie: “It’s a cinematic inventing of humor and whimsical tall tales for a long time to come.” The second and third movies were not as critically successful as the original, however, they do maintain pretty high rankings amongst all audience based rating systems like IMDB.com.
The first instalment of the trilogy wasn’t just critically acclaimed either, financially the movie also proved successful, starting out with a budget of $19 million and grossing to over $350 million by 1986. The second instalment was pretty financially successful too, generating $332 million worldwide by 1990 with a higher budget of $40 million. The budget for the third instalment remained the same, but this time only managed to generate just over $243 million which is still a chunk of change.
I loved these movies because they were always easy to watch; the story was immediately engaging before the movie took you on a whirlwind adventure through time via the iconic DeLorean car. And can’t stress enough the one word that sums these movies up for me: fun! Indeed, the main attraction for these movies for me is you can watch all three in one go and not get even slightly bored once: the true mark of any decent movie trilogy.
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The Indiana Jones franchise is about action, adventure and romance, as the archaeology lecturer come adventurer hunts historically important artefacts ranging from the Arch of the Covenant (a chest said to contain the stone tablet of the Ten Commandments) in the first instalment of the movie franchise, to a mystical stone which is said to promise fortune and glory to the possessor, to the third instalment of the Holy Grail itself.
The first instalment, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, was received very well by critics, with previously mentioned famed movie critic Roger Ebert stating: “Two things, however, make Raiders of the Lost Ark more than just a technological triumph: its sense of humor and the droll style of its characters [...] We find ourselves laughing in surprise, in relief, in incredulity at the movie’s ability to pile one incident upon another in an inexhaustible series of inventions”. The movie was also financially successfully, generating a box office income of over $384 million worldwide from a starting budget of $18 million.
The second instalment, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was met with mixed reviews from critics. Ebert still gave the movie a thumbs up, whilst Colin Covert of the Star Tribune thought the film was “sillier, darkly violent and a bit dumbed down, but still great fun”. Naturally, with the first rating so highly, like most trilogies, the second struggles to make as much impact, but that’s not to say the movie isn’t good. The film still rates highly amongst most circles and was still financially successful for the studio, generating over $333 million from a slightly higher budget of $28 million.
Again, the third instalment of the trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, got mixed reviews when released, with famed critic Jonathan Rosenbaum even going as far as to describe the film as “soulless”. That said, user rating systems such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes widely rate the third movie above the second and was actually the highest grossing instalment out of the three, generating a worldwide total of over $494 million albeit with a much higher budget of $48 million this time around.
Ultimately, the Indiana Jones movies were as easy to watch as the Back to the Future movies – action-filled, with adventure and comedy to accentuate the quality that the movies boasted. I also liked the way George Lucas wove in a degree of myth and history into the narrative, for me it gave the story much more realistic feel despite the more mystical aspects of the movie. Indiana Jones was and still is, the ultimate fast-paced action movie that rarely takes a second to stop for air.
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I know this must be controversial choice to place only second and I have no doubt fellow geeks and movie aficionado’s all over the world no know which movie trilogy will undoubtedly be number 1 on my list now. When discussing this with my friends and other people, The Lord of the Rings seemed to by the first thought when I asked them what their favourite trilogy was, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best by any means. The Lord of the Rings is an epic movie made on the grandest scale and impacted both the movie industry and society that much it has become the go to film when thinking about trilogies in general. It is very much a generational thing.
The book in which the movies were based upon, written by Philologist and Oxford University Professor, J.R.R Tolkien, was already very much a cult fantasy classic and the second best selling book of all time with 150 million copies sold worldwide. The fan base was already established for the trilogy and fellow geeks were chomping at the bit to see the much loved written pages imagined on the silver screen by cult director Peter Jackson.
The first instalment, The Fellowship of the Ring, was critically well received, with Roger Ebert summing up the movie well: “Peter Jackson … has made a work for, and of, our times. It will be embraced, I suspect, by many Tolkien fans and take on aspects of a cult. It is a candidate for many Oscars. It is an awesome production in its daring and breadth, and there are small touches that are just right”. Also, the financials were very good; with a budget of $93 million, the movie managed to generate over $870 million worldwide.
The second instalment, The Two Towers, was just as good as the first with critics and user rating systems not showing much preference between the two. Also in this movie, the Battle for Helms Deep has been named the greatest battle sequence of all time. Financially, however, the second instalment did much better than the first, generating over $920 million worldwide from a budget of $94 million.
The third instalment, The Return of the King, rated just as highly as the first but was perhaps more critically successful, being named by Total Film readers in 2007 as the third best movie in the past decade (behind The Matrix and Fight Club), also ranking number 8 on Empire’s 100 greatest movies of all time in 2004. The Return of the King was also more financially successful reaping in over $1.1 billion worldwide from the same budget of $94 million.
The critical and financial response of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy cannot be ignored: the movies are loved all around the world by a varied mix of folk and one could easily understand why a lot of people would pick LOTR as the greatest trilogy of all time. Indeed, the difficulty for me to choose between number 1 and number 2 on this list was great, The quality in both story, acting, visuals and pretty much everything else you look for in a movie is clearly there and that cannot be debated, but ultimately it came down to taste.
I chose my number 1 pick more than this because not only does it have all of the appeal, quality and fan base as the LOTR but’s also science fiction and, well, I prefer science fiction over fantasy. I enjoyed it more. In making very difficult decisions such as this, what else can it possibly come down to?
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With LOTR being number 2 on my list, I’m betting it was easy enough to deduce that the Star Wars Trilogy would be number 1. The original trilogy of course, but the modern one.
I’ll let this clip from Clerks 2 discuss the difference better than I can:
Okay, so I’m not as down on the LOTR as Randal but you get the idea and the argument that is likely to go on forever.
The first instalment, A New Hope, was critically well received with Roger Ebert describing the movie as an “out of body experience” and listing on his top 10 films of all time list. It was also financially successful, reaping in over $775 million worldwide in the box office, from a budget of just $13 million.
The second instalment, The Empire Strikes Back, is regarded by most fans to be the better film in the trilogy and user rating on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes seem to agree with it, however, at the time of its release the movie received with mixed response from critics. Financially, the film was inferior to A New Hope, generating over $538 million in the box office world wide from a budget of $18 million.
The third instalment, The Return of the Jedi, is rated the weakest of the three films by user rating systems, yet was rated highly by movie critics at the time. Financially, Return of the Jedi brought in over $475 million worldwide in the box office from a budget of $32.5 million
The Star Wars Trilogy had something the others in my list did not. Yes, all the action, adventure, mystery and intrigue were all present, but Star Wars had the science fiction element which I’ve found fascinating from an early age and obviously allowed my engage the movies more than the LOTR.
Star Wars created it’s own world; a place of legend, honour, evil and power. A world carved out of the stars, with many alien races casually intermingling, including presumably humans, without a thought about discussing precisely how the empire was created. That is not the story and I still find that fascinating to this day. It’s as though there’s a galaxy of history crafted and we’re only witnessing a very tiny, yet significant, fraction of the history. I guess what I’m really driving at, is that the Star Wars universe engages my imagination more than the LOTR, perhaps more than any movie, and increases my enjoyment of the movie because of that.
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That’s my list and I’m happy to stand by it, but I’m curious what you will make of my list and how it compares to yours. So I ask, what do you think? Do my selections differ from yours? Does LOTR win the race for you, rather than Star Wars?
Please let me know, in the comment section below!
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