Have your say! Vote now for the 2017 Three Empire Awards.
We asked you to vote for your favourite all-time movie trilogies, and you answered in your thousands. Some of you plumped for pure three-somes, untinged by inconvenient further sequels; others specified which three films in a series you meant - and, where there's a coherent narrative to back you up, we've allowed it. So here, without further ado, are the greatest film trios for your enjoyment...
33. The Jersey Trilogy
Clerks (1994) Mallrats (1995) Chasing Amy (1997)
Director Kevin Smith
Starring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Shannon Doherty, Jeremy London, Claire Forlani, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Ethan Suplee
A loose trilogy, this, but we're assuming you readers felt this list was a little light on profanity and needed some explicit discussion of oral sex to balance out the selection. And on that basis it's hard to surpass Kevin Smith's first three films, a more grounded group than his follow-ons and, in the case of Chasing Amy especially, a near perfect mix of foul mouthery, far too in-depth geek discussions and warm heart. Smith hasn't surpassed Amy yet, but we can only hope he keeps trying to at least equal it. It just goes to show you don't need fallen angels, chimps or even Rosario Dawson to make a great movie.
Weakest link? Mallrats, which didn't deserve the kicking it got on release but is also by far the weakest of the three.
Fun fact: Wondering where the letters in the Clerks logo came from? Well, C is from Cosmopolitan, L is from Life, E is from Rolling Stone, R is from Ruffles potato chips, K is from Clark Bar and S is from a Goobers box.
What to say... "I'm not even supposed to be here today."
...and what not to say. "Hasn't it become abundantly clear during the tenure of our friendship that I don't know shit?"
32. Hannibal Lecter Trilogy
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Hannibal (2001) Red Dragon (2002)
Director Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, Brett Ratner
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Ted Levine, Scott Glenn, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Gary Oldman, Giancarlo Giannini, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Mary Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs is the shortest ever to win Best (leading) Actor at the Oscars. He's only onscreen for 16 minutes, but such is his domination of the film that you'd swear it was two or three times that. It's no wonder that studios kept trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle, recruiting cinema's best ever villain for a sequel and a prequel (there's another prequel, not starring Hopkins and not included here) which saw diminishing returns but which still benefitted from that uncanny, barely blinking performance. So why not settle down with a nice Chianti and enjoy the cannibal holocaust?
Weakest link? For perhaps the only time in history, we're going to argue that a Ridley Scott film is weaker than a Brett Ratner one. Hannibal suffers from the world's worst last act (in fairness, hamstrung by the source novel and improving slightly on it) whereas Red Dragon is a decent if unexceptional thriller.
Fun fact: The Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films ever to win all "Big Five" Oscars: Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress. The other two are It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
What to say... "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
...and what not to say. "I wonder what human liver tastes like. "
31. The Ingmar Bergman Trilogy
Through A Glass Darkly (1961) Winter Light (1962) The Silence (1963)
Director Ingmar Bergman
Starring Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max Von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom, Jorgen Lindstrom
Although it's too much of a stretch to call it Bergman's franchise, this early '60s troika are exquisite chamber pieces built around themes of sanity, madness and the wavering of religious faith, thus earning the right to be called a trilogy. Through A Glass Darkly charts a family's descent into madness on a remote island. Winter Light sees a pastor in a spiritual meltdown and might be the grimmest film Bergman ever made (and that's saying something). The Silence ticks all the art house boxes, depicting lesbianism, a troupe of dwarves, symbolism and Ingrid Thulin dying of tuberculosis; it was a surprise hit due its explicit (for the time) rumpy-pumpy scenes. Each film is marked by eerie settings, minimal dialogue, great Sven Nykvist photography and superb performances from Bergo's stock company. If you're feeling a bit down in the dumps, however, best stick with Glee.
Weakest link? Although it won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (What did you expect? Best Visual Effects?), Through A Glass Darkly is the least affecting of the three. Still compelling stuff though.
Fun fact: When Kabi Laretei (Bergman's wife at the time) saw Winter Lights for the first time, she said, "Ingmar, it's a masterpiece. But it's a dreary masterpiece."
What to say... "These three films deal with reduction. Through a Glass Darkly - conquered certainty. Winter Light - penetrated certainty. The Silence - God's silence - the negative imprint. Therefore, they constitute a trilogy. - Ingmar Bergman"
...and what not to say. "Through A Glass Darkly? Is that the Keanu Reeves cartoon?"
30. Mission: Impossible 1-3
Mission: Impossible (1996) Mission: Impossible II (2000) Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Director Brian De Palma, John Woo, JJ Abrams
Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voigt, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Redgrave, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, Michelle Monaghan, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Simon Pegg, Kerry Russell
Opening with the death of most of its cast, Mission: Impossible made it clear from the get-go that it was going to keep you on your toes. And that's something that the series has largely managed since, with a succession of cunning disguises, plans-within-plans and daring heists unfolding in a way that may dizzy the logic but keeps the entertainment centres of the brain hopping. The second film suffered some setbacks, but JJ Abrams' third effort marked a return to form and some of the most intricate scheming yet. We're still not sure it's possible to make silicone masks that convincing though.
Weakest link? Mission: Impossible II, which takes the whole people-peeling-off-their-faces thing to ridiculous levels, and definitely places style (and floppy hair) over substance.
Fun fact: At one point, Kenneth Branagh was set to be the bad guy in Mission: Impossible III, but dropped out when delays caused the film to conflict with his own film, As You Like It.
What to say... "This message will self-destruct."
...and what not to say. "It's more of a Mission: Quite Difficult though, isn't it? Because he keeps managing it."
29. Trilogy of the Dead
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985)
Director George A. Romero
Starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Ken Foree, David Emge
George A. Romero loosed a plague upon the world. Before his 1968 salvo, there was essentially no such thing as a zombie - certainly nothing in the mainstream, apt to spawn survival guides and HBO shows and twists on Jane Austen. But such was the power of the ultra low-budget Night of the Living Dead and its equally scathing, satirical sequels, that the zombie became the cultural powerhouse we all know and love. While the three zombie follow-ups Romero's made since have met with mixed receptions, there's no question that these three will gnaw their way into your brain and stay there. Triumphant.
Weakest link? Well, parts four, five and six actually; the original three are all rather brilliant. But if we have to choose, we'll say Day, which has suffered more than the other two from the endless imitations.
Fun fact: Need some fake blood for your black-and-white genre-creating zombie movie? Why, just buy some stocks of Bosco Chocolate Syrup! Delicious and gruesome.
What to say... "This situation must be controlled before it's too late. They're multiplying too rapidly!"
...and what not to say. "Braaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnssss!"
28. The Mariachi Trilogy
El Mariachi (1992) Desperado (1995) Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003)
Director Robert Rodriguez
Starring Carlos Gallardo, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Joaquin de Almeida, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Eva Mendes, Mickey Rourke, Enrique Iglesias
From humble beginnings with funding gained by the director's willingness to undergo medical experimentation to a star-studded finale, Robert Rodriguez' Mariachi trilogy has - and we're willing to put our reputations on the line on this one - more weapons hidden in guitar cases than any other series on this list. Like Evil Dead, the second film is more or less a remake of the first, and the moment when the series really hits its stride, but all three of them are stylish and improbably entertaining, what with the two-handed gunfights and the Mexican stand-offs (of course) and the thousands of squibs popping on every side. It'll make you want to learn guitar, and then want to carve out the middle of the guitar and hide a couple of machine guns in there.
Weakest link? The finale, which pays for its star power in narrative coherence and originality. We still love the bit with Johnny Depp's CIA agent wandering around in a T-shirt that reads CIA, but it can't quite push it to the top.
Fun fact: The villain in the third film and the Chihuahua in the third are both called Moco, which means boogers in colloquial Spanish.
What to say... "Bless me, Father, for I have just killed quite a few men."
...and what not to say. "Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN'T?"
27. The Millenium Trilogy
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010) The Girl Who Played With Fire (2010) The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (2009)
Director Niels Arden Oplev, Daniel Alfredson, Daniel Alfredson
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Yasmine Garbi, Georgi Staykov, Anders Ahlbom, Micke Spreitz
Scientists have shown that every single London Underground train for the last two years has contained at least one person reading a Stieg Larsson book, and with great popularity comes great movie adaptations. What's nice is that the Swedes got a head-start on this, finishing their film trilogy while the English-speaking world was still waiting for the translation of the third book - and it's currently quite hard to imagine how David Fincher's film can measure up. The first film is the best of these, but filmed back-to-back and with exceptional unity of style, they've set a very high bar for future adaptations of the series. MVP for the series is Noomi Rapace, a stunningly well-cast Lisbeth Salander and a heroine for the 21st century.
Weakest link? Perhaps The Girl Who Played With Fire, which doesn't quite have the impact of the first film or the nicely rounded ending of the third. But they're all at least decent.
Fun fact: Dolph Lundgren was offered the part of German giant Ronald Niederman, and had he taken it it would have been his first role in his native Sweden.
What to say... "While I'm looking forward to David Fincher's take on the material, it remains to be seen if Rooney Mara can match Noomi Rapace's performance."
...and what not to say. "So is this some kind of sequel to The Girl With The Pearl Earring?"
26. The Blade Trilogy
Blade (1998) Blade 2 (2002) Blade: Trinity (2004)
Director Stephen Norrington, Guillermo del Toro, David Goyer
Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, Ron Perlman, Luke Goss, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel
Hard as it may be to remember, Blade was really the movie that started the current comic-book superhero trend. From the moment that Wesley Snipes growled his way onscreen and dusted a room full of clubbing bloodsuckers, it was clear that this was a strong, silent vampire slayer we could believe in. Originally paired only with Kris Kristofferson's equally gruff tech-guy, the series opened out to include del Toro's "Blood Pack" in the second film and the third film's Nightstalkers - which, it's fair to say, had mixed results. Still, the series always gave us imaginative vampire kills (we particularly like that UV bow) and Snipes was born to play the Daywalker.
Weakest link? By several country miles, Blade: Trinity. With the exception of Ryan Reynolds' delivery of one of cinema's greatest all-time insults, it has very little to recommend it.
Fun fact: Oliver Hirschbiegel was at one point in line to direct Blade: Trinity, but left to make Downfall instead when that came together. YouTube parodies or not, that's what we call a win.
What to say... "It's open season on all suckheads."
...and what not to say. "You cock-juggling thundercunt!"
25. The Mighty Ducks Trilogy
The Mighty Ducks (1992) D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996)
Director Stephen Herek, Sam Weisman, Robert Lieberman
Starring Emilio Estevez, Joss Akland, Joshua Jackson, Lane Smith, Heidi Kling, Kathryn Erbe, Carsten Norgaard
You guys! You were kidding, right? Or maybe it's just the nostalgia of a certain generation kicking in, or the fact that many people brought up on Dawson's Creek will forever love Pacey, or "Charlie Conway" as Joshua Jackson was known here. In any case, here we are, and the Mighty Ducks trilogy is higher up this list that Ingmar Bergman or George A. Romero. Let's just take a moment and think about that - or, even better, let's not. We'll be charitable, and credit it to Pacey love and a continuing admiration for Emilio Estevez and/or Joss Akland. And then let's draw a veil over this entire affair.
Weakest link? It's hard to say, but D3 is generally regarded as the weakest, what with its been-done snob team vs. ragtag team plot. Over. It.
Fun fact: Like, OMG, Charlie in the movie says he is allergic to nuts because - get this! - Joshua Jackson is allergic to nuts in real life. I know, right?
What to say... "Are you going to Pacey-Con next year? Wanna book our rooms now?"
...and what not to say. "Are you kidding?!"
24. The Austin Powers Trilogy
Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997) Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Director Jay Roach
Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Heather Graham, Rob Lowe, Verne Troyer, Beyonce, Michael Caine, Fred Savage
After Wayne, but happily long before The Love Guru, there was Austin Powers and his wonderfully mediocre arch-nemesis, Dr Evil. Mike Myers dual performance may have paled from over-familiarity and a million pub mimics, but looked at with fresh eyes they're still genius. As the series wore on, however, it became crystal clear that it was Dr Evil who was the real star of the show, stealing most of the films along with his inspired pantheon of henchmen and hangers on (chief among them Scott Evil and Mini-Me; least among them Fat Bastard, an unfunny one-note effort). Last we heard, Myers was talking about a Dr Evil-focused fourth film; we can only hope.
Weakest link? Goldmember, where the smuttiness finally battled the cleverness into submission. The combination of the admittedly ace and star-studded opening number (with Spielberg, Cruise, Paltrow and Spacey) and Michael Caine almost saved the day, but couldn't quite make it.
Fun fact: Austin Powers' licence plates read SWINGER and SWINGER2. His dad Nigel, played by Michael Caine, got GR8SHAG on his Mini-Cooper.
What to say... "Groovy, baby, yeah!"
...and what not to say. "Are we still quoting lines from Austin Powers? That doesn't feel old to you?"
23. The Mad Max Trilogy
Mad Max (1979) Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Director George Miller, George Miller, George Miller & George Ogilvie
Starring Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Geoff Parry, Michael Preston, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Tina Turner
Born out of the same mix of Aussie can-do attitude, dangerous stunt work and tiny budgets that spawned the likes of Razorback, Roadgames and Long Weekend, Mad Max takes a stripped-down concept and a couple of souped-up motors and makes them into a legend. The sequel amps up the action and feels a little like a do-over (as is practically the law for sequels to mega low-budget originals), while number three goes all large-scale and Hollywood - but also gives us Tina Turner as a sort of super-violent ringmaster and the theme song We Don't Need Another Hero, so what it loses in isolation and nihilism, it gains in glamour. The fact that the trilogy also gave us Mel Gibson may account for its current position outside the top 20.
Weakest link? Depends on your tastes, really. Beyond Thunderdome usually comes in for the most schtick, but that's more because it feels bigger and broader than the other two rather than down to a lack of quality.
Fun fact: In the first film, Max himself was the only cast member to wear real leather. The rest had to make do with vinyl.
What to say... "Be still, my dog of war. I understand your pain."
...and what not to say. "G'day, mate! Throw another shrimp on the barbie!"
22. The Infernal Affairs Trilogy
Infernal Affairs (2002) Infernal Affairs II (2003) Infernal Affairs: End Inferno 3 (2003)
Director Lau Wai-keung & Alan Mak
Starring Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Carina Lau, Francis Ng, Leon Lai
The first film has the greatest why-didn't-I-think-of-that plot ever: a police mole among the Triads and a Triad mole in the police force try to smoke one another out. But what makes it unique is the even-handed way that both characters are portrayed, and the compassion the film shows for the impossible situation in which each finds himself. The follow-ups, one a prequel and one a flashback-filled expansion on the original, expand on that theme but lack the simple elegance of the first film's structure.
Weakest link? There's a little back-and-forth between the second and third films, but conventional wisdom has it that the second is just a smidge superior. Perhaps that's because the third film's tricksy time-jumping between past and present makes it overly complicated.
Fun fact: The first film's psychiatrist is called Lee Sum Yee, which sounds very like the Cantonese for "your psychiatrist".
What to say... "Not being a Buddhist, I'm worried I'm missing some of the theological subtleties."
...and what not to say. "I prefer The Departed. Can't stand subtitles."
21. Terminator 1-3
The Terminator (1985) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Director James Cameron, James Cameron, Jonathan Mostow
Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken
The first Terminator film changed the world far beyond cinema. Without it, we might never have known about the current Governor of California, for it was this film that broke Arnold Schwarzenegger and introduced us all to the Austrian Oak. It also gave us James Cameron, a man who's made by far the highest grossing film in the world - twice. And it was, y'know, actually a good film to boot. You can get into a lengthy pub debate over the merits of the stripped-down original versus its bombastic successor, with Arnie reprogrammed as a good guy and Robert Patrick the new Most Sinister Thing Ever, but T2 is inarguably one of the slickest, most effective action thrillers the world has ever seen. And the belated threequel, Rise of the Machines, may not quite stand on the same level, but it's a respectable attempt.
Weakest link? That'd be Rise of the Machines, which is OK but further messes with the timeline, and really misses Linda Hamilton's steely presence.
Fun fact: Arnold Schwarzenegger earned $21,429 per word in the second film, given his reported $15m salary and 700 words of dialogue.
What to say... "Come with me if you want to live."
...and what not to say. "It's all horrendously paradoxical. I mean, if he's only born because he sends his own father back in time, he can't possibly change that future."
20. X-Men 1-3
X-Men (2000) X-Men 2 (2003) X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Director Bryan Singer, Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner
Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Ian McKellen, Ray Park, Rebecca Romjin, Anna Paquin, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Shawn Ashmore, Kelsey Grammer, Aaron Standord, Ellen Page
Marvel's flagship superhero* team struck it lucky when Bryan Singer adopted them and proceeded to cast the perfect people for the roles in a first film that worked as a scene-setter, if rather skimping on the action. The second film, however, delivered both human drama and mutant mayhem in adamantium buckets, showing just what director and cast were capable of, and all looked rosy for the future. But then Singer went AWOL to hang out with Superman, the studio decided to introduce a couple of dozen new characters and it all went a bit wrong in the (still OK) third film. But at least we got to see them in one great film and two OK ones, right?
*Strictly, mutants rather than superheroes - but let's not split hairs.
Weakest link? That'd be The Last Stand, overloaded with characters and incoherent in its detail. While the Wolvie / Jean bit at the end is nearly perfect, the rest is a hot mess.
Fun fact: Hugh Jackman's last big job prior to starting work as Wolverine was as Curly in the National Theatre's production of Oklahoma! Altogether now: oh what a beautiful morning.
What to say... "Mutants are not the ones mankind should fear."
...and what not to say. "You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning?"
19. The Naked Gun Trilogy
The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad! (1988) The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (1991) The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (1994)
Director David Zucker, David Zucker, Peter Segal
Starring Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy, OJ Simpson, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban, Richard Griffiths, Robert Goulet, Fred Ward, Anna Nicole Smith
Police Squad only ran for six episodes, but they were six episodes of fried gold and eventually, with the as-silly but less funny Police Academy series going strong at the box office, Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin got his shot at the big time. And thank goodness for that. The first film is a treasury of silliness, crammed with one-liners, absurd visual gags and defiantly dead-pan performances. But then, it did still have the full Airplane! team of Abrams, Zucker and Abrams aboard. The two sequels, while not as packed with goodness, still provide at least 5 of your 5 recommended helpless giggles of the day. And in the words of Frank Drebin, "I like my sex the way I play basketball, one on one with as little dribbling as possible." Well you didn't expect him to say something relevant, did you?
Weakest link? The third entry, which still lands some zingers but feels more formulaic and less sharp than the previous two.
Fun fact: Recently Priscilla Presley was interviewed on BBC Radio. Returning from a music break, the presenter said, "Nice beaver!" and she smoothly replied, "Thank you; I just had it stuffed" just like in the first movie. Made our day.
What to say... "I promise you; whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute until he's behind bars. Now, let's grab a bite to eat."
...and what not to say. "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!"
18. The Vengeance Trilogy
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance (2002) Oldboy (2003) Lady Vengeance (2005)
Director Park Chan-Wook
Starring Song Kang-Ho, Shin Ha-kyun, Bae Doona, Choi Min-Sik, Yu Ji-tae, Kang Hye-Jeong, Lee Yeong-ae, Oh Kwang-Rok, Kim Byeong-ok
Revenge is a dish best served cold, say the Klingons, but the Koreans might disagree. Park Chan-Wook's first film in this loose trilogy suggests that vengeance is a dish best not served at all, since it can lead to the death of everyone who gets involved in it. The second sees a rather more elaborate - and much longer-term - plan of revenge similarly backfire, with arguably even ickier consequences than the first. And the third, while boasting a sort-of happy ending, sees an uncomfortable amount of blood spilled along the way and makes it clear that this vengeance lark isn't easy. Any way you look at it, however, these cleverly plotted and twisty-turny thrillers are a worthy addition here, proving that Korean cinema's turning up some of the most interesting films in the world right now - and that it features a lot more octopus eating than the Europeans typically employ.
Weakest link? Probably Lady Vengeance, which lacks the intricate plotting of the other two and spends more time focusing on red eyeshadow.
Fun fact: Four octopuses were used to get Oldboy's famous eight-armed scene. Actor Chi Min-Sik is a Buddhist, and said a prayer for each one.
What to say... "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone."
...and what not to say. "Turn the other cheek, that's my motto!"
17. Scream 1-3
Scream (1996) Scream 2 (1997) Scream 3 (2000)
Director Wes Craven
Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Sarah Michelle-Gellar, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O'Connell, Patrick Dempsey, Lance Henriksen, Parker Posey, Patrick Warburton
The slasher film was pretty much dead and buried in 1996. But Wes Craven, who'd spun a post-modern but relatively little-seen twist on it for New Nightmare two years before, managed to single-handedly bring it back to life with this witty deconstruction of the whole genre. So this time our unstoppable killer (who always comes back for one last scare just when you think he - or she - is dead) faces victims who know how to survive a horror movie, who don't always run upstairs and who frequently fight back. The first sequel riffed on the cliches of Part IIs, while the less-successful but still original third instalment got really meta, visiting a sequel movie within the movie. Oooh, our heads are spinning!
Weakest link? Scream 3, which isn't as effective as satire and perhaps stretches the willingness to suspend disbelief just a little far.
Fun fact: Much more blood was used in Scream (50 gallons) than Scream 2 (30 gallons) or Scream 3 (a measly 10). By that measure, the upcoming Scream 4 should be blood-free.
What to say... "The reason that Scary Movie doesn't work is that it's a spoof of a satire, which is just silly."
...and what not to say. "I'll be right back."
16. The Spider-Man Trilogy
Spider-Man (2002) Spider-Man 2 (2004) Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Director Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Rosemary Harris, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Thomas Haden-Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bruce Campbell
Blade and X-Men had hinted that these superhero movies might be going places, but it was Spider-Man that actually went there. But its huge box-office success was thoroughly earned, director Sam Raimi placing Peter Parker's character front and centre (and casting indie star Tobey Maguire rather than some he-man), with Spider-antics taking a secondary - but nonetheless effective place. The sequel, pitting Spidey against Alfred Molina's brilliant Doc Ock, was a further step up, and if the third one tried to cram in too much, at least it gave us Thomas Haden Church's bittersweet take on the Sandman. Why on Earth anyone thinks this series needs a reboot we'll never know, but these three are first among superheroes for a reason.
Weakest link? Spider-Man 3, where a tussle over bad guys between director and studio led to a film overloaded with evildoers and short on focus.
Fun fact: In the first film, Norman Osbourne's presentation to the board opens with the same dialogue as a similar board meeting in The Hudsucker Proxy, which Raimi was a co-writer on.
What to say... "With great power comes great responsibility."
...and what not to say. "I want Venom! Narrative coherence be damned!"
15. The Star Wars Prequels
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Director George Lucas
Starring Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Temuera Morrison, Jimmy Smits, Ahmed Best, Christopher Lee
While each of them has come in for schtick from the fans (we're looking at you, Spaced), the fact that the Star Wars prequels made this list, and placed this high, suggests that there are those of you out there who love them despite their flaws. After all, each has (at least one) stand-out action sequence; each gave us full-on Jedis battling bad guys after twenty years of waiting, and each gave us the chance to revisit the Star Wars universe, which was a treat in itself. So let's ignore Jar-Jar, and focus on the Duel of the Fates, and the sight of Yoda drawing his lightsaber with the power of the Force, and Obi-Wan standing on the higher ground. If you just look at those bits, these are just as good as the originals.
Weakest link? Hmm. The Phantom Menace has the biggest helping of Jar-Jar, but also has that ace lightsaber fight at the end. Attack of the Clones is the most often derided, but has a bit where Yoda gets his 'saber out, and that has to get it bonus points. But while Phantom was the biggest disappointment relative to expectations, Clones still probably edges it overall.
Fun fact: If you look closely during the opening sequence when the second Separatist ship is destroyed, you might spot the kitchen sink that ILM threw into their digital footage.
What to say... "May the Force be with us all."
...and what not to say. "You so do not understand! You weren't there at the beginning! You don't know how good it was!"
14. Die Hard 1-3
Die Hard (1988) Die Hard 2 (1990) Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995)
Director John McTiernan, Renny Harlin, John McTiernan
Starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedalia, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, William Atherton, William Sadler, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons
One man. One building. A handful of terrorists. There's no way Die Hard should be this good. And yet it's a nearly perfect action movie, combining one of history's best underdog heroes with a blast of great action and one of the all-time snarkiest villains. The second one ups the stakes, giving us a crowded airport - and the skies above it - packed with hostages and ready for disaster. And the third steps it up again, to an entire city, but adds in the least annoying sidekick in history (well he is Samuel L. Jackson) and plays a nice twist for good measure. Just think: before this movie Bruce Willis was best known as the romantic lead in Moonlighting. What a difference a white vest and no shoes makes, eh?
Weakest link? It's generally considered to be the second film, set at Washington's Dulles airport just before Christmas and featuring a slightly weaker villain than the trilogy's book-ends. This is all, of course, assuming you don't count Die Hard 4.0 - but we don't because that sits outside the definition of a trilogy and would just get messy.
Fun fact: Die Hard: With A Vengeance was originally called "Simon Says" and was at one point a possible fourth Lethal Weapon movie.
What to say... "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho."
...and what not to say. "Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..."
13. Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
Director Gore Verbinski
Starring Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Mackenzie Crook, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Lee Aranberg, Naomie Harris, Kevin McNally, Tom Hollander, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy
When we talked to Pirates screenwriter Terry Rossio last year, he was rather irate that the philosophy and plot twists of the Disney series haven't garnered the sort of academic attention that, say, The Matrix did. And it's certainly true that these intricately structured adventures resemble operatic farces as much as they do traditional summer blockbusters. But in the end, the main reason we love them is because of someone originally conceived as a supporting character, the barmy, brilliant Captain Jack Sparrow. "You're the worst pirate I've ever heard of!"; "Ah, but you have heard of me!" Proof that a single great character can elevate a film, and indeed a series, to greatness.
Weakest link? At World's End, which twists and turns and meanders far too often on its way to the conclusion, with every character betraying every other on their path.
Fun fact: While the series is based on one Disneyland ride, there's a reference to another in Dead Man's Chest: on their way to Tia Dalma's house, the crew sail past a shack identical to one in Disney World's Jungle Cruise.
What to say... "Captain Jack is very much a hero in the Figaro mould, the sort of trickster servant who crops up regularly in folk legend."
...and what not to say. "I've always preferred Space Mountain."
12. Alien / Aliens / Alien3
Alien (1979) Aliens (1986) Alien3 (1992)
Director Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Charles Dance, Charles S. Dutton, Paul McGann
Again, arguably not strictly a trilogy, what's interesting about the first three Alien films is how distinct they are in tone. Ridley Scott's shipbound film is essentially a haunted house movie in space, a claustrophobic, psychological horror. James Cameron's follow-up turns the tone to balls-to-the-wall action, establishing a tough-as-nails cadre of Marines and then giving them an enemy far beyond their capabilities. And Fincher's film (well, he shot it; he didn't edit it and disowned the result) sets the Ridley vs. xenomorph story in a prison and combines the scale of Aliens' kills with the sweaty, enclosed atmosphere of Alien.
Weakest link? No question: Alien 3, which saw directors come and go through a revolving door and the shooting director, David Fincher, walk out before editing began.
Fun fact: Apparently Michael Biehn was paid more for the use of his image early in Alien 3 than he was for his role in Aliens.
What to say... "Get away from her you bitch!"
...and what not to say. "I prefer Alien Vs. Predator myself."
11. Three Colours Trilogy
Three Colours Blue (1993) Three Colours White (1994) Three Colours Red (1994)
Director Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Emmanuelle Riva, Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy based on the French tricolor (thanks to French financing) was intellectually challenging, emotionally satisfying and cinematically ambitious; we haven't seen its like since. Blue (the best) stars Juliette Binoche as a bereaved wife and follows her attempts to liberate herself from her anguish. White follows the comic adventures of a divorced husband (Zamachowski) trying to get even with his ruthless wife (Julie Delpy). Red returns to the seriousness of Blue with the touching friendship between a retired Judge (Trintignant) and a model (Irene Jacob). Caracters criss-cross the films, which are united by stunning sumptuous filmmaking (all controlled colour palette and virtuoso camera moves), Zbigniew Preisner's score and that rare thing: three great roles for supremely talented women.
Weakest link? While still compelling, White is the slightest of the bunch, lacking the gravitas of the two heavyweight bookends that surround it.
Fun fact: For a close-up of Juliette Binoche allowing a sugar cube to soak up her coffee, Kieslowski demanded the shot last five seconds so he had his assistant director test multiple brands of sugar cubes (which took anywhere from 3 to 11 seconds) until he found the right one.
What to say... "Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irene Jacob are symbolic of the Tricolor values of liberty, egality and fraternity."
...and what not to say. "Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irene Jacob - phwoar!"
10. The Evil Dead Trilogy
The Evil Dead (1981) Evil Dead II (1987) Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness (1992)
Director Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich, Sarah Berry, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert.
Made for next to nothing, the first Evil Dead hit our screens with such bloody bravado it was soon hailed as the ultimate in Video Nasties, all red-dyed corn syrup and seriously hammy acting, making up for what it lacked in production values with out-and-out gruelling horror. It scared the hell out of people, and they wanted more. Six years later and Raimi, Campbell and Tapert returned with more of a budget and more buckets of blood, creating what has now come to be regarded as a zombie-movie masterpiece and one of the most quotable films in horror history - nay, in history. And to complete the set, Raimi had long wanted Ash to get medieval on those deadites' asses and in 1993 he got his way, completing the finest horror trilogy ever created with a bigger, barmier finale. Groovy.
Weakest link? Essentially an odd Ray Harryhausen tribute, Army Of Darkness lacks the comedy / horror one-two punch of the first two, leaving it still enjoyable but by no means the finest of the three.
Fun fact: Bruce Campbell's Ash loses his hand in Evil Dead II, attaching a chainsaw to the stump. When his hand is trapped in a can, there are books on top of it, including "A Farewell To Arms." Badda boom!
What to say... "I think you'll find that they aren't zombies, but 'deadites'. There is a difference, you know."
...and what not to say. "What's with all this blood? Is this all really necessary?"
9. The Matrix Trilogy
The Matrix (1999) The Matrix Reloaded (2003) The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Director The Wachowskis
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Gloria Foster, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gina Torres, Lambert Wilson, Helmut Bakaitis, Mary Alice
The first Matrix film was one of those films, like Star Wars, that seems to change cinema overnight. As Keanu Reeves set out to save humanity from the machines, it spawned a million imitators, a thousand parodies and almost no equals. The sequels delved deep into philosophical themes, and while they're rarely considered the equal of the first instalment, there's no question that the Wachowskis swung for the fences - both in terms of action and theme. The second film's freeway chase scene, and the third film's attack on Zion, remain benchmarks for big action, and whether you like or loathe the Architect or the ending, the scale of the undertaking is still impressive. Or as the Architect would say, concordantly the eventuality of the enterprise is inexorably well ambitious.
Weakest link? Opinion varies between the two sequels, but Reloaded is generally considered the weaker of the two. It's probably down to the much-derided rave in Zion.
Fun fact: That bench the Oracle is sitting on at the end of the third film? It has a plaque that reads "In memory of Thomas Anderson".
What to say... "Of course, philosophically the sequels are entirely successful."
...and what not to say. "Hey! They ripped off the bullet time bit in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo!"
8. The Dollars Trilogy
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) For A Few Dollars More (1965) The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
Director Sergio Leone
Starring Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Klaus Kinski, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Luigi Pistilli, Joseph Egger
It's odd to think that Leone never envisioned The Dollars Trilogy as a unified whole, despite Clint's roles, known at times as 'Blondie', 'Joe', and 'The Man With No Name', having the same mannerisms and the same clothes throughout. But judging by the three films' lasting effect on cinema, they belong together. They gave us, after all, the Spaghetti Western genre, Clint's introduction to the Hollywood A-list, and, perhaps most strikingly of all, Ennio Morricone's flawless music. Clint's gruff attitude, look and tone, with Leone's close-ups, set pieces and threadbare, cheroot-chewing dialogue, together create some of the coolest films ever made, cleverly turning the moralistic Western world of John Wayne on its head and giving us a whole new way of looking at the gunslinging genre.
Weakest link? For A Few Dollars More is the lesser of the three, lacking the tight plotting of the first and third (Fistful helped somewhat by ripping off Yojimbo). But it remains an amazing watch, blessed with unforgettable supporting talent in the form of Van Cleef and Klaus Kinski.
Fun fact: Sergio Leone couldn't speak much English, and Eli Wallach barely any Italian, so throughout the production of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, the two spoke in French.
What to say... "Though the Dollars trilogy is excellent, I'm more of a Once Upon A Time In The West kind of guy."
...and what not to say. "Are these the film adaptations of Rawhide?"
7. Indiana Jones 1-3
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Director Steven Spielberg
Starring Harrison Ford, Denholm Elliot, Karen Allen, Sean Connery, Paul Freeman, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan, Amrish Puri, Alison Doody, Julian Glover, River Phoenix
We suspect this would be higher up the list if purist readers hadn't dismissed it following the release of a fourth film recently. After all, Raiders is pretty much a perfect film in every way; Temple of Doom is an impressively dark film and Last Crusade is (arguably) the funniest of the three and had Sean Connery and River Phoenix as a bonus. Indiana Jones himself, failing in his endeavours far more often than he succeeds, is a hero we can believe in - and ladies, he's smart too: check out that tweed and bow-tie combo he wears in class. Hubba!
Weakest link? For years, everyone hated Temple of Doom. Nowadays, you occasionally get people who'll defend that but attack Last Crusade (as too cute) instead. Either way, you're kinda looking for trouble.
Fun fact: Karl Urban named his younger son Indiana, in tribute to Dr Jones. Or possibly in tribute to Henry Jones Sr's dog; we're not sure.
What to say... "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
...and what not to say. "Honestly, Judeo-Christian artifacts couldn't possibly produce those effects."
6. The Bourne Trilogy
The Bourne Identity (2002) The Bourne Supremacy (2004) The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Director Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass, Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, David Straithairn, Albert Finney, Chris Cooper, Karl Urban, Clive Owen, Edgar Ramirez, Paddy Considine, Scott Glenn
Back in 2002, Matt Damon wasn't an action star. Hard to believe, right? And yet, his last starring role in a major movie was All The Pretty Horses, and there seemed a very real possibility that Doug Liman's Bourne Identity could fizzle the way that had. But here we are, in a world where Damon broke the critics and box office's neck with his bare hands, stabbing them with a pen and beating them to death with a book. Astonishingly well-shot action, real-world stakes and a withering contempt for Bond's slickness and womanising combine to give the Noughties an action hero to be proud of.
Weakest link? Unusually, the first one is generally considered the weakest - although only in comparison to Paul Greengrass's frantic, frenetic follow-ups.
Fun fact: When Bourne looks in the mirror and says something in foreign at the beginning of The Bourne Identity, he's speaking Dutch.
What to say... "But everyone pretends to be Bourne when they walk through Waterloo at rush hour, right?"
...and what not to say. "Oh, it's just like Bond really."
5. The Godfather Trilogy
The Godfather (1972) The Godfather: Part II (1974) The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Director Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert de Niro, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Andy Garcia, Sofia Coppola, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna
Francis Ford Coppola's epic adaptation of Mario Puzo's equally epic book was a perfect marriage of director and subject. Coming from a large Italian-American family himself, Coppola understood the novel's themes about family, immigration and the American dream on a profound level, and just had to add a soupcon of crime and assassination to bring the mix to boil. Part II expertly layered past and present in a brilliant expansion and clarification of the world, while Part III, whatever its faults, completes the arc for Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he faces the consequences of the choices he's made and watches the next generation grow up.
Weakest link? Altogether now! The Godfather: Part III! In retrospect everyone agrees that Sofia Coppola is a better director than Corleone offspring, and while the third film has its defenders, no one would seriously claim it's up to the standard of the previous two.
Fun fact: Originally Winona Ryder was set to play Sofia Coppola's role - but backed out to appear in Edward Scissorhands.
What to say... "Of course, it's such a profound satire on the American dream."
...and what not to say. "Anyone who doesn't like it will sleep with the fishes."
4. Toy Story Trilogy
Toy Story (1995) Toy Story 2 (1999) Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director John Lasster, John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Blake Clark
The release of the first Toy Story film was anticipated chiefly from a technological point of view, as the first entirely computer-animated film ever made. It was only as word from screenings leaked out that it became clear that this was also a storytelling milestone, a blast of fresh air to a moribund animation industry and one that took the world by storm. Incredibly, the sequel lived up to that standard, with Empire calling it an "upgrade" to the original - and even more improbably, the third instalment, fought over and delayed for years, became another triumph. Flawless characterisation, spot-on voice work and the relentless quest for perfection in both story and look may now just be SOP for Pixar, but it's worth remembering how special that is.
Weakest link? You could try to pick holes in them, but honestly, why bother? They're consistently excellent.
Fun fact: Lee Unkrich, who directed the third film, was an editor on the first and a co-director on the second.
What to say... "To infinity, and beyond!"
...and what not to say. "I think I'll just throw all these old toys in the dump."
3. Back to the Future Trilogy
Back to the Future (1985) Back to the Future Part II (1989) Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Director Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, Elizabeth Shue, Mary Steenbergen
Show us a person who doesn't like Back to the Future and we'll show you a person who is tired of life. The Zemeckis-directed, Spielberg-produced time-travelling tale of Marty McFly races along at, oooh, around 88mph, fuelled by plutonium and Michael J. Fox's career-making, insanely charming performance as an average teen thrust 30 years back in time. Part II was a twisty, turny paradox-spinning puzzler, followed by a gorgeous mix of old West and space age in Part III. Consistently fun, funny and about as good an adventure romp as you could wish for, there's a reason that this is still wildly popular - and getting a re-release - 25 years on.
Weakest link? Funnily enough, conventional wisdom at the time tended to rate the second film lowest (as reflected by Empire's reviews) but nowadays you'll find more people slagging off the third. It all smacks of looking a gift horse in the mouth to us though.
Fun fact: Once upon a time, the time machine was going to be a fridge. Spielberg and Zemeckis nixed the idea because they were worried about kids copying the movie and getting trapped in old fridges.
What to say... "1.21 gigawatts?!"
...and what not to say. "There's simply no scientific basis for thinking that time travel like this is possible."
2. The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Jeremy Bulloch
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?
Weakest link? Most of the fanboys would have you believe it's Jedi, but that's got some of the trilogy's best bits in it and - whatever they claim - no one hated the Ewoks even when they were a kid.
Fun fact: Pop quiz hotshot: who has the last line in New Hope? Answer: Chewbacca.
What to say... "Did you know that in some Spanish subtitled releases, R2-D2 name appears subtitled as "Arturito" or "little Arthur" in Spanish, since the pronunciation is similar?"
...and what not to say. "Dude, she's your sister! Yuck!"
1. The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Director Peter Jackson
Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monahan, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Brad Dourif, John Noble
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.
Weakest link? There really isn't one - although a few people gripe about Return of the King's extended endings.
Fun fact: 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.
What to say... "A spectacular achievement! I hope Jackson makes The Hobbit."
...and what not to say. "I wish they'd included Tom Bombadil!"