Best Movie Trilogies Of All-Time

By Rick Gonzales | Published

lord of the rings

When putting together a list of the best movie trilogies of all time, the first thing that we needed to come to a consensus on is – what’s a true trilogy? There are franchises, such as Toy Story that had three remarkable films in it, but then added a fourth (with a fifth on the way).

The same goes with Indiana Jones, as much as fans want to completely ignore Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The Die Hard and Mad Max franchises are two other examples of too much of a good thing.

We have searched high and low to come up with our list of the best movie trilogies of all time. Each trilogy on our list meets the criteria of three movies and only three movies, though we could be splitting hairs with a couple of them. Give them a look and let us know what you think.

Best Movie Trilogies of All-Time

10. The Evil Dead Trilogy

  • Evil Dead
  • Evil Dead II
  • Army of Darkness

What a trilogy to begin with. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell had no idea what they had created when they rolled out the first Evil Dead back in 1981. It took them six years to come up with the sequel, Evil Dead II, and then another six years for the finale and the coup de grâce with Army of Darkness.

The entire trilogy revolved around Ashley Joanna Williams, aka Ash, and his battles with the Necronomicon (the Book of the Dead) and the Deadites it brings to life. The first two films leaned more into the horror realm while the third film, which fans often call the best of the three, falls into the campy horror vein that made Ash such a loveable character.

The trilogy spawned reboots and even a TV series, but so far nothing has topped the original trilogy

9. Once Upon a Time Trilogy

  • Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Duck, You Sucker!
  • Once Upon a Time in America

This is the first of two Sergio Leone trilogies to hit our list. This one, called the Once Upon a Time trilogy, consists of a Western, a Mexican Revolution, and a mafia film. The first film, Once Upon a Time in the West, was an epic western starring Charles Bronson and, in a rare occurrence, Henry Fonda as the bad guy.

The second film, Duck, You Sucker, also went by Once Upon a Time…the Revolution. It starred Rod Steiger and James Coburn. The third film was the epic Once Upon a Time in America which starred Robert De Niro (he does mafia films so well), James Woods, and Elizabeth McGovern.

The only thing these three films had in common, besides their titles, was that they were all epic films, and directed by Leone. They are also well worth watching and among the best movie trilogies.

8. The Hobbit Trilogy

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • The Desolation of Smaug
  • The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit trilogy is the first one on our list from director Peter Jackson. This one is based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in all three films. These films are set sixty years before the events that take place in The Lord of the Rings, so it is considered to be a prequel of sorts.

The gist of the three films is that Baggins, along with 13 other dwarfs, are sent on a quest by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to take back the Lonely Mountain that is being held by the dragon Smaug. Obviously, with it being a trilogy, there is much more to it, including new material written by Jackson to expand on certain storylines within Tolkien’s novel.

7. The Before Trilogy

  • Before Sunrise
  • Before Sunset
  • Before Midnight

Typically, trilogies come in the form of action-adventure, comedy, fantasy, or science fiction, so it is very rare that a trilogy would revolve around romance. But that is exactly what the Before trilogy is all about.

These films were made in nine-year intervals and starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The first film, Before Sunrise, was made in 1995 and tells the story of Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) who meet by chance on a train in Europe. They end up spending one fateful night together in Vienna, knowing it would probably be the last time they’d see each other.

Nine years later (2004s Before Sunset), Jesse and Celine bump into each other in France, where Jesse is on a book tour. They again strike up a romance but also know it won’t last, just like the first time.

Forward nine more years and we get the third film, 2013s Before Midnight. This time it is a chance meeting in Greece. Have the stars finally aligned for the couple?

6. The Dollars Trilogy

best movie trilogies
  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • For a Few Dollars More
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone’s second trilogy on our list and by far his best. This one stars Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name in a trio of spaghetti westerns that started Eastwood’s western career.

Clint Eastwood was the constant, though actor Lee Van Cleef was a major factor in two of the three films.

While A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More were solid films, it was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that was the most memorable of the three. Nevertheless, the Dollars trilogy was a winner on all accounts and although Eastwood was at first hesitant to be a part of spaghetti westerns, their success propelled him to bigger and better things.

5. The Dark Knight Trilogy

the dark knight best movie trilogies
  • Batman Begins
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Dark Knight Rises

How can we say “best movie trilogies of all time” and not include Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy? True, Nolan may not be your chosen one when it comes to a favorite director, or especially when it comes to films not Batman-related, but you can’t complain about how he handled The Dark Knight trilogy.

The first choice he made, to have Christian Bale become his Batman, was a brilliant move as Bale wore the cape and cowl better than most. He also handled his duties as Bruce Wayne quite well too.

Nolan’s films followed Batman from his early beginnings through dealing with a steady Rogue’s Gallery of villains, punctuated by Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in the middle film of the trilogy.

While the third installment wasn’t perfect, it did cap off a great run of films about the character.

4. The Back to the Future Trilogy

back to the future michael j fox best movie trilogies
  • Back to the Future
  • Back to the Future 2
  • Back to the Future 3

When director Robert Zemeckis first introduced audiences to Marty McFly in the 1985 hit, Back to the Future, there were no plans for a sequel, much less a trilogy. But the likeability of Michael J. Fox as McFly, plus an adventurous and fun story, had everyone begging for more.

It took four years, but Zemeckis and Fox delivered by once again going Back to the Future. Christopher Lloyd returned as Doc Brown and by the time the second film was over, we knew a third was on its way.

The third film took our two heroes back to the past and turned the setting into a Western, making it one of the best movie trilogies out there.

3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Lord of the Rings best movie trilogies
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King

Peter Jackson did it again. Well, actually, this was the first of his successful trilogies. Epic in scope and story, Jackson and his cast and crew blew away audiences first with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which he based on the Tolkien novel, The Lord of the Rings.

Now, before Jackson even shot his first shot, he made sure everyone knew they would be in it for the long haul as it was known from the start that they were making three movies.

The ensemble cast included Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, and Viggo Mortensen. This crew would return for the following two films and let’s not forget the amazing performance of Andy Serkis, who did the motion capture and voice for Gollum.

The trilogy earned over $3 billion at the box office.

2. The Original Star Wars Trilogy

star wars comedy best movie trilogies
  • A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi

Okay, we know. Technically this group of three films is not a trilogy. There, eventually, was a prequel trilogy as well as a sequel trilogy. It was planned out this way from the very beginning by Star Wars mastermind George Lucas. But since the Star Wars Universe is broken up into three trilogies, this is how we are looking at the original.

We all know the story, we all have seen each and every movie within the Star Wars universe, and we can all say without a shadow of a doubt, that these original three Star Wars movies are by far the best in the bunch. Drama, action, romance, terror (some would say redundant since we already said romance), the original Star Wars trilogy proved exactly what the best movie trilogies look like.

Household names were made in this trilogy – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, C3PO, and R2D2. Classics in every sense of the word.

1. The Godfather Trilogy

best movie trilogies
  • The Godfather
  • The Godfather Part II
  • The Godfather Part III

Depending on when you grew up, The Godfather trilogy is often considered the best ever made. We know, the third film in the series didn’t offer the same punch as the first two, but after director Francis Ford Coppola went back with a new eye, he brought out a new version of The Godfather Part III that was a much better cut.

The trilogy followed the Corleones, a mafia family run by Don Vito (Marlon Brando). When his youngest son, Michael, returns from the Second World War, rival mob families begin to move in on the Corleone’s territory. Coppola doesn’t shy away from the mob violence that ensues.

The second film tells two stories. The present-day (in this case the ‘60s) story and a flashback set that explains Don Vito’s (here played by Robert De Niro) rise to power.

The third film catches up with Michael Corleone as he tries to distance himself and his family from any mob connections. All three films were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar with the first two films taking home the prize.

This is the way.

Subscribe to get exclusive Star Wars news in your inbox, once a week!

We don’t spam! We aren't Jawas!