Scott Harris December 12, 2012
It’s safe to say that Peter Jackson knows a thing or three about trilogies. After all, he was the mastermind behind the wildly popular “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which raked in roughly $3 billion worldwide, won 17 Oscars and became a cultural touchstone for an entire generation.
Still, his decision to transform “The Hobbit” from one book into three movies did get us wondering just how well “The Hobbit” is going to stack up as a trilogy against some of the great trilogies of the past.
Of course, it will be another two years before we can answer that for sure. But in honor of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” hitting theaters this week, here’s our look at the best trilogies of all time.
10. Indiana Jones
The Movies: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
The Case: What’s that you say? There was a fourth movie? Sorry, we can’t hear you, we have bullwhips in our ears. Sure, it’s cheating, but we think it’s probably for the best if everyone collectively agrees to just pretend that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was an unfortunate mass hallucination. After all, it came out nearly two full decades after the trilogy’s actual final film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” meaning there are whole generations who fondly remember this as a trilogy. Let’s not disabuse them of that notion, okay?
The Marathon: At 360 minutes of pure action, you’re looking at exactly six hours of pulse-pounding cinema. Settle in during the early afternoon, and it’s the perfect way to spend a lazy holiday weekend.
9. Jason Bourne
The Movies: “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
The Case: Two entries and two kinda cheats, but this time around we don’t think our decision to list this as a trilogy is out of order at all. This fall’s “The Bourne Legacy,” after all, didn’t actually have Bourne in it, making it a spinoff rather than a legit fourth installment. And it’s really Matt Damon’s focused, introspective intensity that makes the Jason Bourne trilogy a modern classic.
The Marathon: 342 minutes makes this a fine marathon candidate, but only if your heart can handle the frequent abrupt adrenaline surges.
8. Evil Dead
The Movies: “The Evil Dead” (1981), “Evil Dead II” (1987), “Army of Darkness” (1992)
The Case: Like many of these trilogies, Sam Raimi’s series of “horror” films wasn’t originally intended to be a trilogy at all. And it shows, as the tone of the series not-so-subtly transitions from tense if offbeat horror in “The Evil Dead” to straight-up madcap comedy in “Army of Darkness.” For our money, though, it’s the middle entry, “Evil Dead II,” that best realizes Raimi’s vision — and stands as his masterpiece. Bonus: The series gave us Bruce Campbell, a living national treasure.
The Marathon: Weighing in at just 250 minutes, this entire trilogy is barely longer than “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” A Halloween tradition in many households.
7. Back to the Future
The Movies: “Back to the Future” (1985), “Back to the Future Part II” (1989), “Back to the Future Part III” (1990)
The Case: “Back to the Future” didn’t just provide movie audience with some of the most entertaining moments of the ’80s, it also provided a blueprint to Hollywood on how to make trilogies. After the success of “Back to the Future,” director Robert Zemeckis became one of the first filmmakers to write and shoot two films at the same time. Now, of course, filming multiple movies at once has become an industry standard — just ask Peter Jackson, whose years-long shoots for “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” have become the stuff of legend. And it all started with Marty McFly and a wonky flux capacitor.
The Marathon: The “Back to the Future” trilogy clocks in at 342 minutes, which is exactly the same length as the “Bourne” trilogy. This one, however, is a bit more family friendly, so if you want to do a marathon for a younger crowd, this would be a pretty good pick.
6. The Man with No Name
The Movies: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars More” (1965), “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966)
The Case: Also known as the “Dollars” trilogy, Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns turned Clint Eastwood into an international film icon and remain a barometer for everything cool in movies. “A Fistful of Dollars” was a remake of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Yojimbo,” which proved to be a good choice as audience demand resulted in two quickly thrown together sequels that somehow managed to be even better than the original. Quentin Tarantino once called the final film, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” “the greatest achievement in the history of cinema.” So, yeah, it’s pretty good.
The Marathon: The first two films are pretty short, but “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”‘s two hour and 41 minute run time makes watching the whole trilogy at once a bit of a haul. Just make sure you don’t skip it if Tarantino is watching them with you.
5. Dark Knight
The Movies: “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008), “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
The Case: Though writer/director Christopher Nolan may deny it, the “Dark Knight” trilogy is one of the few film trilogies that seem to have been planned out from the beginning. Which isn’t to say that the individual episodes aren’t quite satisfying in their own right; “The Dark Knight” in particular is one of the best films of the last decade. But if you haven’t had a chance to watch the entire trilogy in one go, take it from us: As good as the films are individually, they compliment each other so well that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Making three great movies is hard enough, but making three that form one even greater story arc? Now that’s worthy of praise.
The Marathon: At over seven and a half hours total run time, this is one film series you may need to dedicate an entire day to watching. But can you think of a better way to spend a day?
4. Toy Story
The Movies: “Toy Story” (1995), “Toy Story 2” (1999), “Toy Story 3” (2010)
The Case: Shucks, you guys. The better question here would be, how could anybody make a case against “Toy Story” being one of the best trilogies of all time? Sure, there are rumors that Disney/Pixar may be working on a fourth film, but until that happens, Woody, Buzz and the gang remain the gold standard of all-ages cinema. We’d say that the depth of emotion brought out in the series-capping “Toy Story 3” is surprising, except it isn’t, because every frame (or … pixel … ) is jammed with such heartfelt honesty that it would take a grade-A jerkweed to dislike the series. They say you can’t be all things to all people, but the “Toy Story” trilogy proves that adage wrong.
The Marathon: The entire trilogy is just 276 minutes long, meaning you can fit it in between your nephew’s soccer game and your niece’s karate practice. What are you waiting for?
3. Star Wars
The Movies: “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Return of the Jedi” (1983)
The Case: The pop culture phenomenon to end all pop culture phenomena, “Star Wars” remains as vital 35 years later as it did when it first hit theaters back in 1977. How good is the original “Star Wars” trilogy? So good that they’re about to film a third trilogy in hopes of recapturing that original magic. Sure, the water is muddied a bit by all the different versions, but no matter which edition you end up watching, the heart of “Star Wars” remains the same: good, old-fashioned sci-fi adventure, done better than ever before or since.
The Marathon: Has any series been the subject of more movie marathons in more living rooms around the world than “Star Wars”? Who cares how long they are; double down and see the fad that started it all one more time.
2. The Godfather
The Movies: “The Godfather” (1972), “The Godfather: Part II” (1974), “The Godfather: Part III” (1990)
The Case: It’s pretty hard to put “The Godfather” on any best-of list without making it number one. But, well, since this is about trilogies, we kind of had to weight the vote a little. After all, the first two entries in the “Godfather” trilogy are arguably the two greatest movies of all time. The third, on the other hand … Well, it did get nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but it’s still not quite up to that level. Even with the third film being a fifth wheel, though, “The Godfather” trilogy remains one of the top achievements in film.
The Marathon: The good news is that with the entire trilogy running 537 minutes long — or just short of nine hours — you can dump “The Godfather Part III” entirely and still have more than enough material to fill an entire day of movie marathoning.
1. Lord of the Rings
The Movies: “The Fellowship of the Rings” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002), “Return of the King” (2003)
The Case: As great as these other picks are, could there be any doubt? Conceived as one complete story, and then filmed that way over the course of two years, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy epic remains the gold standard by which other trilogies are judged. And that’s gold as in the 17 Oscars it won. Sure, the films may be just a tetch too long, but as someone once said, you can never have too much of a good thing. The real question facing fans in the future is: Do you watch “The Hobbit” trilogy first and then “The Lord of the Rings,” or do you watch them in the order they were made? We’ll get back to you with the answer in, oh, two years or so.
The Marathon: At nearly ten hours long (558 minutes to be exact), you might want to take some No-Doz before you even think of watching these back-to-back-to-back. And if you want to watch the extended versions, well, you’d best have some vacation time saved up and a sleeping bag handy.
A Fistful of Dollas, Army of Darkness, Back to the future, Back to the Future II, Back to the Future III, Batman begins, Evil Dead II, Features, For a Few Dollars More, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Movie marathons, Movie trilogies, Peter jackson, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, Return of the King, Star wars, The Bad and the Ugly, The bourne identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, The dark knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The empire strikes back, The Evil Dead, The Fellowship of the Rings, The godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Godfather: Part III, The Good, The hobbit, The Two Towers, Top ten, Toy story, Toy story 2, Toy story 3