We’re tackling the greatest movies trilogies in the history of cinema today, but before we proceeded to list what we think are the greatest three-peats around, we wanted to tell our esteemed readers just how we chose the trilogies you’ll read about. While we’ve tried our damnedest to make sure the films here exist in trilogy form, in today’s contemporary cultural climate (where sequels and reboots reign supreme), there’s nothing that movie studios love more than bastardizing treasured intellectual property with gibberish sequels produced only as a quick cash grab. While we’ve done our best to hone in on series that work best as trilogies, do remember that we can’t control studio execs and their wanton greed any better than we can convince Nicholas Cage to start taking real movie roles again. With that in mind, we think there are some great trilogies listed here, and if nothing else they will give you some binge watching options for those dire times in life.
So without further ado, here are 15 of the greatest trilogies ever made. Enjoy!
15. Terminator Trilogy
Series contains: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
One of the greatest sci-fi action series to emerge out of the 1980s, the Terminator franchise has fallen off a cliff in recent years, with both Terminator Salvation (2009) and Terminator Genisys (2015) failing to live up to the pedigree set by James Cameron’s first two installments. Released in 1984, The Terminator was not only an impressive action movie made on a modest budget but also found a way to tell a surprisingly emotional story involving a killer cyborg sent back through time to murder the mother of a human resistance leader from the future. The film can be credited with helping turn former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger into a legitimate action movie star and for tackling cultural fears about artificial intelligence and the rise of computer technology.
Seven years later, Cameron brought back Schwarzenegger and co-star Lina Hamilton for Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which remains one of the most influential action movies ever made. A sequel that bests its predecessor in nearly every way, T2 expanded the scope of the Terminator universe and lore while taking the risky approach of turning the franchise’s villain into its hero, as Schwarzenegger plays a reprogrammed terminator sent back through time to protect the son of Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Speaking of Hamilton, she’s almost unrecognizable as the battle-hardened Connor — a far cry from the innocent young waitress we meet in the first film. Sarah Connor has since become one of the most popular action movie heroines of all time and it can all be traced back to Hamilton’s impressive transformation in T2.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is easily the weakest of the first three Terminator films but it still has some redeeming qualities. The film picks up with John Connor (Nick Stahl) about a decade after the events of T2. In a surprising twist, Connor looks and acts nothing like the resistance leader he’ll one day become, as he’s living off the grid and in constant fear of judgment day taking place. Claire Danes came pretty close to stealing the whole movie as John’s future wife Kate Brewster, who unwittingly joins up with John after a new Terminator model, the T-X, begins hunting him down. Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in a reliably competent performance as yet another T-1000 model sent back to protect Connor, even if he’s a bit long in the tooth. It’s a bit derivative but worth it for the ending alone, which takes a seriously shocking twist.