The rule of three pops up in many facets of life, and in the world of movies, it is evident in the perception that suggests the perfect film trilogy is the ultimate expression of artistic success. For a long time - before the modern fascination with franchises and shared universes - it was almost an ideal extrapolation of a successful single movie. If one worked, the studio would then reach for a full hat-trick.
In the successful cases, each chapter practically functions as one act of the story, building
the narrative over time and often ending one film on a lead-in to the next
Unfortunately, there are few good examples of a solid collective trilogy. Many fall apart on the second or third go-around, often tarnishing the reputation of the original for added insult. And with franchises these days trying to continue as long they keep making money, the overarching stories are getting hard to manage without rigid structure and planning.
But when a trilogy works, it’s a thing of beauty, and there are shining examples out there that offer an aspirational model of what all trilogies should hope to be. Not all of them tell a continuous story, and some of them are technically three-film arcs within a bigger franchise, but they all have a distinguishable thematic through line and no instalment significantly drags down the others.
Whether you enjoy them one at a time or binge through them in a marathon, these are the trilogies you need to see in their entirety to truly appreciate.
10. The Dark Knight Trilogy
While Christopher Nolan's epic trilogy may not do everything better than other cinematic Batman attempts before or since, it gets the most right and created what is still the iconic live action Batman of the modern age.
The Dark Knight Trilogy practically invented the "gritty reboot", bringing a sense of realism and tangibility to the comic book superhero, inspiring imitators both good and bad to this day. Its first instalment, Batman Begins, finally brought Bruce Wayne's origin story to the big screen and revitalised the Caped Crusader after the disaster that was Batman & Robin.
The first film may have captured some attention, but its follow-up The Dark Knight is where the series transcended into pop culture legend. Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning portrayal of The Joker is still regarded as one of the best movie villain performances of all time, and the film beautifully dug deeper into the socio-political intricacies of order vs. chaos and vigilantism in a post 9/11 America.
Admittedly, The Dark Knight Rises was a major step-down from its predecessors and became a bit too bloated and self-serious, but it at least put a solid cap on the series' characters and themes. The three films tell a mostly cohesive story over three instalments, and in that time Nolan said everything he needed to about Batman. Now, we just have to hope DC can find its own unique angle for the Batfleck series.