With Iron Man 3 being released yesterday, I got to thinking about the art of the ‘movie trilogy.’ The Iron Man series will certainly go down as one of the best movie trilogies of this decade, and probably ever, and the critics agree that they ended it in style. To me, this is something that isn’t always talked about. How do you really end a fantastic trilogy. In any movie trilogy, it is essentially one long film and like with a television series, viewers put a lot of time and effort into it. They become emotionally attached to the story and the characters, and they want and deserve to see their efforts pay off with a brilliant and suitable conclusion.
This is easier said than done, however. It is an art that not all filmmakers can manage. There have been a lot of great trilogies over the years, but the ones that truly stand out in history as the finest of all time are those which are able to cap things off correctly. Let’s take a look at some of the best, worst and average endings to the biggest and best movie trilogies ever.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Arguably the finest cinematic experience of all time, is the journey Peter Jackson took us on, through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first film was a storytelling masterpiece, the second film had one of the most iconic and amazing battles ever filmed and the third film, well it was every mentioned above and more. One of the greatest films ever made, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was the perfect ending to such an amazing trilogy, the likes of which will never be matched.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan started the Dark Knight trilogy off in great style with ‘Batman Begins’ and took it to a new level with ‘The Dark Knight’ which many argue is the greatest movie ever. In order for this the become one of the best movie trilogies ever, it was imperative that Nolan cap it off correctly. Following up on the late Heath Ledger’s Joker was a tall order, but Tom Hardy brought an amazing Bane to the table, and the rest was history. What an amazing way to end the Dark Knight saga, and I can say I had rarely felt so satisfied with an ending as I did here.
The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars is certainly one of the most iconic series of movies ever made, starting with George Lucas’ original masterpiece. Of course, there are actually two trilogies within the series, but nobody would disagree that the original is the best. While many fans would argue that ‘Return of the Jedi’ is the weakest of the three, myself included, this does not suggest for one second that it is not still fantastic. Featuring all the usual crew, and the appearance of the Ewoks, the film is every bit as exciting, funny and action packed as the other two.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Let me preface this by explaining that I am just flat out ignoring the existence of the fourth installment in this series. That’s all I have to say about that. Indiana Jones is one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and in my opinion all three films are fantastic. If I had to pick a weakest link, I would probably choose Temple of Doom, but for no real reason I could cite. My personal favorite, however, is definitely The Last Crusade. With Sean Connery taking a wonderful turn as Indy’s father, and some fantastic chase scenes, this is a classy way to close out the trilogy.
Back to the Future Part 3 (1990)
There are very few people out there who don’t love the Back to the Future series. The films are just flat out fun, and fortunately Part 3 was no exception. With Marty McFly and Doc heading to the Wild West for this installment, the immediate reaction would be that it is going to be a silly, gimmick of a third film. This is not the case at all however, as the film turns out to be just as fun, and actually even more charming and emotionally involved than the previous two.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Sergio Leone crafted The Dollars movie trilogy way back in the 60’s and it has certainly lasted the test of time. Perhaps Clint Eastwood’s most memorable work as an actor, the film is the finest of the three movies and is truly a visual masterpiece. It is gritty, dark, barren and violent, but in the most gorgeous fashion. The film is honestly one of the most beautifully filmed Westerns of all time, if not the best, even by today’s standards. This film ended the trilogy and essentially saved the genre. A must see.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Back when Pixar released Toy Story back in 1995, the film took the world by storm. It was one of the most amazing animated films of all time, because it could appeal to literally anyone of any age, and it’s emotional story resonated with so many people for so many different reasons. Often times with these films, the sequels that follow are just money makers without the same heart and effort as the previous, but this was not the case with Toy Story 2, and absolutely not with Toy Story 3, which has been acclaimed as one of the best films ever.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
The Wachowski Brother’s ‘The Matrix’ was an absolute genre changing, revolutionary masterpiece when it was first released, and it changed the idea of what could be filmed and presented in a movie. Visually stunning, and full of some of the best action and fight scenes ever, it was always going to be hard to follow once that initial effect wore off. The second film, ‘Revolution’ was able to stay strong by providing stunning, stunning action but unfortunately the third film just tried too much. It had its moments, but the lack of the man on man combat we saw in the first film, and a self indulgent need to show off it’s smarts (The Architect) it just wasn’t the ending we all wanted.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
So ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was a surprise smash hit for Disney back in 2004 and much of this was due to the Oscar nominated work by Johnny Depp as captain Jack Sparrow. Depp was fantastic throughout the whole series, but the third film suffered from an epic scale it just couldn’t hold up, too much special effects and a bizarre and overly convoluted story line. Still entertaining though, but could have been better.
The Godfather Part 3 (1990)
All movie fans know that The Godfather Part 1 and 2 are possibly the two best films ever made. So when the inevitable Part 3 was released it had a lot to live up to. While it was a good film, and was actually nominated for 7 Oscars it just couldn’t do what the first two did. A valiant effort though, and were the first two not so good it might not fall in this category.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
The first two Terminator films were genre changing and paved the way for a lot of sci-fi, special effects filled films we now consider regular fare. The third film was expected to be a horrible flop, and regardless of how it sold, it actually ended up being a decent film. It certainly has its flaws, but I would never suggest that it isn’t worth a watch!
Spiderman 3 (2007)
By god. Spiderman was always tied at the top with Iron Man as my favorite comic book hero, so I was a huge fan of the Spiderman movies. I actually loved the first two a lot. I really did. My favorite villain was always Venom, so seeing that he was in the third, I was excited. Then I saw the awful, horrible and quite frankly disturbing Emo-Peter Parker dance number and threw up all over the theater. Wow….
Alien 3 (1992)
Alien and Aliens are two of the most suspense filled, scary, action packed sci-fi films of all time, and there is just so much cinematic technique to be learned from both Ridley Scott and James Cameron, who directed the first two. I am a huge fan of David Fincher, but his early work on Alien 3 just wasn’t his best, and other than one fantastic twist, and another iconic shot, this was just a poor, poor film.