As we head into the heat of July—and yet another summer of sequels, prequels and remakes—I was forced to remind myself that sometimes, it's not all that bad. OK, it’s usually pretty bad. I only need to take a quick peek at Caddyshack 2 on TBS to be reminded of that. So, either I truly am the eternal optimist or I have developed some bizarre, cinematic form of Stockholm syndrome because I keep going back, hoping that maybe this time, the sequel (or the prequel or the re-imagining) will be worth the price of a ticket.
As inspiration, I came up with my list of the 10 greatest movie trilogies of all time. Now, I feel I should preface it by saying that if a movie franchise has multiple films a la Harry Potter, Star Trek or James Bond, I did not include it for consideration unless there was a distinct trilogy to start. I should also add that I couldn’t limit the list to 10. It seems that when filmmakers have an expansive story and care about more than the box office, magic can happen. So, without further ado, these—in my opinion—are the 13 best movie trilogies:
13) Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
The Best: The Road Warrior
The Weak Link: Despite a breathtaking, pre-scandal Mel Gibson, Mad Max is low-budget, and the Australian accents are almost unintelligible.
Highlight: Tina Turner as emcee of the thunderdome cage matches
12) Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead
The Best: Dawn
The Weak Link: The '70s special effects leave much to be desired.
Highlight: The visionary prediction of the zombie apocalypse and scathing social commentary.
11) Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
The Best: Sunset
The Weak Link: The relaxed improvisational style can lack focus.
Highlight: Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are flawless, sharing a magical moment in time.
10) National Lampoon's Vacation, Christmas Vacation, European Vacation
The Best: Christmas Vacation
The Weak Link: The ever-changing Griswold children
The Highlight: The squirrel in the Christmas tree, and of course, Cousin Eddie
9) Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3
The Best: Toy Story 3
The Weak Link: Humans
The Highlight: The message
8) The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum
The Best: Identity
The Weak Link: The sometimes dizzying handheld camera work and the inexplicable casting of Franka Potente.
The Highlight: Matt Damon's well-deserved action-star status
7) Star Wars Episode IV, V, VI
The Best: For me, IV; for most, V
The Weak Link: The garbage compactor monster—that, or the middle of VI.
The Highlight: Luke, I am your father.
6) The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The Best: 2
The Weak Link: Kristanna Loken proves that even playing robots, models can’t act
The Highlight: The truck spilling liquid nitrogen, and of course, I’ll be back!
5) Alien, Aliens, Alien 3
The Best: Aliens
The Weak Link: In a far-fetched world, things really start to spin out in 3.
The Highlight: The Ripley-queen alien face-off.
5) A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Best: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Weak Link: For A Few Dollars More, while good, doesn’t hold a candle to 1 and 3.
Highlight: Eastwood as the man with no name. Oh, and the cemetery scene at the end.
4) Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard: With a Vengeance
The Best: The first one—no, 2...no, 3...no, 1.
Weak Link: McClane’s irritating and usually irrelevant personal life
Highlight: Either the Agent Johnsons’ helicopter crash or the Simon Gruber helicopter crash—much like the characters, I’m torn.
3) Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises
The Best: The Dark Knight
Weak Link: The mildly annoying Katie Holmes gets replaced with the incredibly irritating Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Highlight: Heath Ledger’s Joker
2) Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Best: Raiders
Weak Link: The Temple of Doom love story felt like Indy was cheating on Marion.
Highlight: When Indy brings the gun to the sword fight.
1) The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, The Godfather: Part III
The Best: The Godfather
Weak Link: Part III pales in comparison
Highlight: Two words: horse’s head