Ah, sequels. They’re pretty much the lifeblood of the film industry. Whether it’s one sequel, or several (as seen with some horror franchises), a sequential film is always a possibility as long as enough people watched the first movie.
But, when it comes to sequels, there are none that are more heavily lauded than the trilogy. Yes, the power of three is very real when you consider beloved trilogies like Episodes 4-6 of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings movies, and the Captain America trilogy (which, for my money, is even better than The Dark Knight trilogy).
All of these aforementioned film series rank as some of the best of the best, and people were clamoring for their Part 3’s. However, with every great trilogy, there’s a sea of mediocre ones that nobody asked for. That said, some of these trilogies aren’t that bad, despite their reputations. Here are just a few of them.
The Hobbit Trilogy
When ranking the Lord of the Rings films, I think most people would agree that The Hobbit movies, which consisted of 2012’s An Unexpected Journey, 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug, and 2014’s The Battle of the Five Armies, were quite a step down from the original trilogy. Not only that, but the novel, The Hobbit, is not even that long, so it could have conceivably been told in just one movie; two movies at max.
So, why then did we get three movies when most fans would have been content with just one? Well, because of money, of course. Duh. However, that doesn’t mean that The Hobbit trilogy is a complete failure, because there’s a lot of good will that went into this trilogy, even if it didn’t feel entirely necessary.
For instance, even though Peter Jackson himself acknowledges that The Hobbit movies could have been better, you can still tell there’s a lot of love in these films. We got more backstory to Sauron, and there are elements that tangentially tie The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings, like Orlando Bloom’s Legolas returning to the franchise.
Sure, one might argue that Legolas didn’t even belong in The Hobbit, but for fans of the original trilogy who just wanted more Lord of the Rings, they certainly got it with The Hobbit trilogy. And then some.
The Hangover Trilogy
When it comes to R-rated comedies, there may not be one better than 2009’s The Hangover. You really just had to be there, as the misadventures of Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug (as well as others from The Hangover cast), just seemed to be the perfect blend of gags and debauchery at the time.
Honestly, the film stands fine on its own. But, because of its seismic success, we got 2011’s The Hangover Part II, and 2013’s, The Hangover Part III. In Part II, we actually had our continuation in Thailand, with Stu getting married this time around, and Part III sees the Wolfpack coming back together again, but this time, to help out Alan.
A lot of people will tell you that the films got less and less funny with each subsequent movie, and I agree. Part II feels like a retread of the original, and Part III is actually even less funny than II, and a lot more action-y.
That said, the cast from the first movie is so strong that it’s actually interesting to follow Ken Jeong’s Leslie Chow, or Stu’s ex-wife Jade, played by Heather Graham, throughout these movies. And, the third film actually ties in quite well with the first, so they don’t just feel like separate stories, but rather, cohesive, which is definitely worth something.
The Charlie’s Angels Trilogy
I didn’t grow up with the TV show, Charlie’s Angels. In fact, just like with the Mission: Impossible movies, my introduction to Charlie’s Angels was actually through the films. So, like many people, I had no attachment to Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcet, or Kate Jackson. Because my angels were Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore from the 2000 movie. That film, directed by McG, was successful.
So successful, that we got 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, which, despite its title, didn’t feel as fun as the first movie. So, when 2019’s reboot, directed by Elizabeth Banks came along, nobody seemed all that interested.
But, let me tell you. The 2019 Charlie’s Angels movie might be my favorite of the three, and it all comes down to the chemistry amongst its cast, which includes Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska.
This movie was a lot more fun than the first two, and actually enhances them by being a part of, rather than completely ignoring, the previous movies and TV show. In that way, it makes it all feel like a universe, just like James Bond, which was awesome.
The Darkman Trilogy
1990’s Darkman is definitely one of Sam Raimi’s best movies, and it was certainly a precursor to what he would go to do with actual comic book flicks, like his Spider-Man movies (another good, but flawed trilogy), and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Also, it has Liam Neeson in it, and it’s one of his best movies as well.
So, why in the hell would they make sequels if the original is as good as it is? Well, because believe it or not, the original did much better on VHS than it did in theaters, so it got two direct-to-video sequels in 1995’s Darkman II: The Return of Durant, and 1996’s Darkman III: Die Darkman Die.
The first sequel, The Return of Durant, is actually the less interesting of the two. We get a new actor as Darkman in Arnold Vosloo, but since Darkman can mold his skin, it actually works out quite fine that there’s a different face underneath those bandages now. Larry Drake returns as the villain from the first movie, and it’s all pretty by-the-books action scenes.
The third movie, though, actually feels more comic-booky, with a more out-there plot, and better action. Sure, it’s not as good as the first movie, but even half as good is good enough for me.
The Unbreakable Trilogy
I consider 2000’s Unbreakable to be M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie, and it works so well on its own. But, lo and behold, when we got that shocking reveal in 2016’s Split, I think I’m not alone when I said, “Well, I didn’t see THAT coming.” And then, we got 2019’s Glass, which tied them all together.
Now, upon first viewing Glass, I hated it. I mean REALLY hated it. I thought the big twist devalued everything that made Unbreakable cool, as an organization that tracks down superheroes is just so comic-booky.
But then, it hit me. In an era of comic book movies reigning supreme at the box office (at the time), Glass’ interesting take on what it means to be a superhero in a world that would most likely shun them, is a fascinating one to say the very least.
So, while I don’t necessarily hate Glass anymore, I definitely appreciate it more for what it means in the wider scope of Shyamalan’s trilogy.
The Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Trilogy
I once posed the question of which was the best Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie, and the 1989 original came out on top. But, that’s not to discredit 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up the Baby, and 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves.
In fact, going from small, to big, to small was an interesting choice for a trilogy, and the adults shrinking themselves rather than the kids in the third movie was a smart choice. In the end, I like them all.
The French Connection Trilogy
Lastly, I want to talk about a trilogy that most people might not even know exists, which is The French Connection. The 1971 movie won Best Picture, and didn’t really seem like it needed a follow-up, but it got one in 1975’s French Connection II, directed by John Frankenheimer this time rather than William Friedkin.
The sequel actually finds Popeye Doyle in France this time, following Alain Charnier from the first movie, so it feels like a worthy sequel, and the action and police work is engaging enough. But, what I really want to talk about is the 1986 television film, Popeye Doyle, which sees a pre-Married…With Children Ed O’Neill in Gene Hackman’s role.
The TV film brings it back to New York, and O’Neill is actually convincing in the part, as he takes on a new case involving terrorists and smugglers. It’s worth a watch, if you can find it!
So, those are just seven movie trilogies that are better than people may think. For more news on all things trilogy-related, be sure to swing by here often!