5. The Man With No Name Triology
OK, I’m going to be plain and simple here — there is nothing wrong with this essentially unplanned “Man With No Name” trilogy. Italian director Sergio Leone’s trio of spaghetti Westerns is operatic, elegiac, often silent, brilliantly scored (by the master, Ennio Morricone) and gorgeously filmed. It not only made an international star out of Clint Eastwood, but was a stunning entry into the Western genre that hasn’t been replicated since. With a plot taken from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai tale Yojimbo, the series begins with A Fistful of Dollars (1964) as “The Man with No Name” (Eastwood) rides into a Mexican border town where two outlaw gangs battle for control. Shifting allegiances from one gang to the other, Eastwood eventually double crosses both sides in one of the smartest deceptions in film. Here we see what marks Leone’s films: camera work. Wide screen, wide-angle lenses, bizarre angles and close-ups all belie an anarchy and openness not seen in cinema. His follow-up, For a Few Dollars More, (1965) teamed Eastwood with Lee Van Cleef as a pair of bounty hunters looking to kill the psychopathic Indio (Gian Maria Volonte). Revenge oriented, the film features the memorable touch of having a Morricone tune playing on Cleef’s watch. The final (though a prequel to the previous two), and perhaps most masterful, is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), in which Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Van Cleef pursue a cache of stolen gold. Double and triple crosses ensue, along with a heady take on the pointlessness of war (the Civil War booms around the men). Amazing widescreen shots of Eastwood’s squinting eyes, not to mention Cleef’s unrelenting (and downright sexy, something I’ve talked about many, many disturbing times) badness, appear throughout the film. This trilogy ushered in a new kind of Western: super violent, incredibly cynical, almost hyper-stylized (but with substance) and mythically potent. Perfecto.
4. Indiana Jones Triology
This series of films about a scientist who is also an action-hero has inspired many of spinoffs including The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, Tomb Raider, and many more. However, nobody can beat the original Dr. Jones and his relic-hunting journeys through ancient ruins as he attempts to discover history. These films are one of the best examples of “action comedy” with a great sense of humor combined with some fantastic action sequences. In each successive film the cast changed, but the one constant was Harrison Ford’s Dr. Jones and Steven Spielberg as the director. And that’s all that we fans needed.
3. The Original Star Wars Trilogy
George Lucas’ opening space-opera salvo changed the filmmaking landscape, energised a generation and set an impossible standard for any sequel. Irvin Kershner’s sequel, with Lucas overseeing, delivered something even bigger and better, and also gave us perhaps the most famous twist in cinema history. And the third, while it may have cutesy teddy bears taking down an Empire, also has a series of fantastic action scenes, from the fight with the Rancor to the lightsaber battle on the Death Star – itself under attack from outside. It’s a triple-whammy that has spawned imitators, prequels, endless other media permutations and even a religion – and how many trilogies can claim that?
2. The Godfather Trilogy
How can this be number two, you say? Because it’s just not perfect enough. Francis Ford Coppola, who, with The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II, (1974) made two of the greatest films ever made, had his trilogy marred by its finale, a film that’s not as bad as originally skewered, but certainly nowhere near the brilliance of its predecessors. Adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel about a Mafia family (though the word “mafia” is never uttered in the first film, thanks suds) led by cotton-mouthed patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the first film sees young, intelligent and levelheaded Michael (Al Pacino) taking control but becoming colder in the process. The second film tells two stories concurrently: a flashback of Vito’s rise in America as a young Sicilian immigrant (Robert De Niro) and Michael’s spiritual fall as head of the family. The second film contains the famous and tragic killing of Fredo (“You broke my heart”) that haunts Michael into the third film. In The Godfather Part III (1990), an aged Michael is so consumed by guilt that he seeks redemption by investing in the Catholic Church. He quickly learns that the Church is also corrupt. Though critics mocked Coppola’s choice of casting his daughter Sofia as Michael’s movie daughter, she was, as looks go, more fitting than his first choice, Winona Ryder. Nevertheless, I’m glad Sofia skipped acting and went into directing, where currently she’s getting more attention than her father. Like the epic scale of the Godfather films, there’s something Shakespearean about that.
1. Lord of the Rings Triology
Peter Jackson’s stunning trilogy, filmed back-to-back and released in the form of Christmas presents for three consecutive years, just pipped Star Wars to the top of the poll. Why? Well, there’s the painstaking attention to detail (characters even had their coats-of-arms emblazoned on the never-seen linings of their costumes for maximum authenticity), New Zealand scenery so breathtaking you could feel the wind on your face, the pitch-perfect casting and the huge-scale effects. In the end, however, it all comes down to friendship, and fellowship, and a struggle against the odds (or, if you will, orcs). It’s the fact that Peter Jackson was able to keep his eye on the emotion even while the spectacle swirled around him that makes this such a stunner. There really isn’t one weakest link – although a few people gripe about Return of the King’s extended endings. While Return of the King is tied with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the Most Oscars For A Single Film record (that’d be 11), it’s notable for winning all the Academy Awards it was nominated for, which neither of the others managed to do.
Worth Mentioning are: Toy Story Trilogy; Spider-Man Triology; The Bergman Triology; The Mission Impossible triology, The Jurassic Park Triology