If there’s one thing that “Schoolhouse Rock” taught me as a kid, it’s that 3 is a magic number. It’s no surprise that I love long running film series, but they always feel the most complete when there in a package of three. There are some very famous trilogies, and there’s some less appreciated, but whatever the common critical or cultural consent, these are my personal top 10 favorite movie trilogies all leading to my absolute favorite trilogy ... which might just take you by surprise.
# 10 The Matrix Trilogy
Oh man, in the early 2000’s no other film series held my attention more than the Matrix trilogy. To this day, the first movie is still one of my all time favorites. I’ll admit the trilogy isn’t perfect from beginning to end, especially because the finally is so muddling, but regardless, I just couldn’t leave this series off my list. It may not be perfect, but each film still has something special to offer. Their visually fascinating to look at, the action is some of the most stylized and awesome I’ve ever seen, and I love how their storytelling infuses both religion and philosophical with fantasy and ingenuity. It's also nice that there havent been any prequal or additional follow up films, it's just a trilogy, and that's somthing to admire in this day and age.
# 9 The Back to the Future Trilogy
This is arguably the most perfectly self contained trilogy ever made. Just like The Matrix, this series has no other spin-offs or tie-in’s, it’s just this trilogy. “Back to the Future” is arguably one of the greatest Sci-Fi family movies ever made, and both sequels capture the same spirit and excitement perfectly. Every film in this series picks up right where the last one ends, making it the tightest string of sequels I’ve ever seen. In fact, you could watch all three films back to back, and it would be like watching one long feature film. With lots of exciting time travel adventures, a great sense of humor and with stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as two of the most charismatic leads I’ve seen, it’s hard not to have fun going back to this classic 80’s film series.
# 8 The Captain America Trilogy
Just about every superhero from Marvels ever growing cinematic universe has their own set trilogy of films, and I think the best by far is Captain America’s three part film series. This is a special case in which the films just get progressively better with each installment, leading to an epic finally in the form of “Captain America: Civil War”. Each film has their own respective style and tone, so it never feels like you’re watching the same film twice. The first film is like an adventure serial from the 1940’s, the second is a riveting political thriller, and the third is a clash between various hero’s on opposing sides. Captain America himself admittedly isn’t one of my favorite superhero’s, but his films are without a doubt some of the best the genera has to offer.
# 7 The Indiana Jones Trilogy
Yes, there are technically four movies, even a live action TV series, but I’ll always remember Indiana Jones as a trilogy first, and a great one at that. This is the series that defined that adventure genera, and Harrison Ford as the title character is still one of the most iconic in Hollywood history. Unlike the “Back to the Future” trilogy, these movies are more self contained and can be watched as standalone films, which I like. It’s nice to have a series of films that can be viewed out of order, without the baggage of a linear story. The third film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is hands down my favorite, and personally one of my all time favorite movies.
# 6 The Toy Story Trilogy
When it comes to a near perfect trilogy of films, the “Toy Story” series often comes to mind first. While I obviously love all the previous trilogies mentioned, I’ve still had up’s and downs with individual installments. This is the series that has a perfect entry all the way around, every film is among my top 30 favorite movies, and each installment is a solid 10 out of 10. The “Toy Story” movies will always stand as some of the greatest, if not the greatest family movies of all time for me, as they perfectly capture all the charms and nostalgia of our youths. These films do an amazing job combining laughs with legitimate drama, all while focusing on mature themes of friendship, identity and loyalty at the center. The characters are all so lovable, colorful and genuine that they practically leap off the screen. There’s actually a touch of humanity to these characters that some human characters in other films lack, and it’s that bit of believe-ability mixed with all the charms and impressive visual effects that make these films so timeless. I’ve held a special place for these films for the longest time, and in return can share them with a new young generation ahead. Every installment has the power to make you laugh, cry and just warm your heart with repeated viewings. However, while this is my favorite “movie trilogy”, it’s still not my absolute favorite trilogy ... there’s actually one more left that I feel gets top honors.
# 5 The Dark Knight Trilogy
Often regarded as the greatest comic book film series in recent years, Christopher Nolan’s take on the famous crime fighter blew audiences away and raised the bar for the standards of a great superhero movie. Full of dark themes, ideal casting, sharp cinematography, and a more grounded character driven story, this is the franchise that made Batman awesome again. The respect for the source material is obvious, but the mature tone and execution of these films make them feel like the “Citizen Kane” of comic book movies.
#4 “The How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy”
# 3 The Star Wars Trilogy
Obviously “Star Wars” is arguably the most iconic and legendary film trilogy of all time. Even though it’s not my #1 favorite, it’s still damn good and most definitely one of my top three favorites. The characters are unforgettable, the effects were mile stones, and the imagination behind it captured our attention in a way that no other series did before. More than anything, I love the universe this series creates, it’s so vast and imaginative that I just want to explore it. The first two films are great classics, but personally it’s the third film “Return of the Jedi” which has always stood out as one of my favorite films, and the reason this trilogy has stuck with me. Regardless, from beginning to end, this is a perfect trilogy of movies and one that will last till the end of Hollywood.
# 2 The X-Men First Class Trilogy
This is the third superhero trilogy on my list, and while that may seem a little repetitive, I just couldn’t keep any of them off my countdown. X-Men in general is my favorite comic book franchise of all time, and their second film trilogy beginning with the 2011 movie “X-Men First Class” is hands down one of my all time favorites. The original X-Men film trilogy was obviously very good, but it’s the “First Class” trilogy that just got everything right. The characters are more interesting, the action is much bigger, the themes are more meaningful, the stories are grander and they just feel more satisfying to experience on repeated viewings. I love all three of these films equally, and honestly have a hard time deciding which is my favorite. “X-Men First Class” is a captivating origin story. “X-Men Days of Future Past” balances resonant themes with an exciting time travel adventure. I even like the third film “X-Men Apocalypse”, despite its negative reputation, and consider it an epic finally to a near flawless string of Blockbuster comic-book movies.
Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions ...
The Chronicles of Narnia Trilogy
The Original X-Men Trilogy
Heather Langenkamp’s Nightmare on Elm Street trilogy
The Original Star Trek Trilogy
The Spider-Man Trilogy
# 1 The Avatar: The Last Airbender Trilogy
This is it, right here, when I think of the text book definition of a perfect trilogy, I think of the three seasons of the TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. I sure this doesn't seem fair as it's a TV show and not a movie, but still, I look back at the three seasons as a set three-part story, and it's truthfully my absolute favorite. The overall layout and structure of this series is eerily similar to the original Star Wars trilogy. Both revolve around a small band of hero’s that need to overthrow an evil empire, their guided by a magical force of sorts, and at the center of the conflict is a menacing yet complex villain who needs to find redemption in the end (and ironically is horribly burned too). Yet for all their similarities, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a very different experience, and in many ways is far superior, at least in my opinion. The characters were a million times more lovable, it’s various stories were intriguing, the action was exhilarating, the animation was incredible, the messages were more thought provoking, and even the philosophy was more enlightening. Also, Just like Star Wars before it, this show took old formulas and weaved them all into one of the most intriguing and original franchises to be viewed on screen. Even though there were several episodes in the seasons, each of the three told a self contained story that as a whole came together as a complete trilogy. In my opinion, it’s the most satisfying and solid trilogy of them all, and definitely one to check out.