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The Ultimate Choice #6: Trilogies

To celebrate the start of my Star Wars marathon, a franchise made up of iconic trilogies in itself, I figured it would be fitting to look at the format of the trilogy and what makes it so satisfying. There are so many popular trilogies, whether you want drama, sci-fi, fantasy or action. I asked my fellow film fans to say what their favourite trilogies are, and here is the list. Enjoy this edition of The Ultimate Choice.

Back to the Future
Chosen by Amy Smith (me)

Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite film of all time is Back to the Future. Originally planned as a single film, the script is incredibly clever, there is a brilliant balance between action, drama and humour, and the performances are all spot on. There could be a worry when turning this beloved film into a trilogy, but to me, the other two films in the series are worthy sequels and great entries to the universe of Back to the Future.

Obviously, many people celebrated the events of Back to the Future: Part II in 2015, when we had officially moved beyond the “future” of that particular film. It was a fantastic moment to look back and see what was predicted, and to see what came true and what certainly did not. It emphasised to me what these films can do to the film community, bringing us all together for a single moment and event.

This series is clearly iconic and is a franchise that is still referenced heavily to this day. I have previously made a blog post about the relevancy of this film, whether you want to link it to Rick and Morty or Avengers: Endgame. Despite being over thirty years old from the first film, it still feels fresh and exciting to this day. I will never get sick of this entire franchise, and in contrast to some people, I actually would give every film in this series a perfect 5/5. That is a solid film series to me.

Back to the Future
Also chosen by Lee at CineChat Reviews: Twitter | Blog

I don’t think there are many trilogies that have stood the test of time (no pun intended) quite like Back to the Future. And with a musical version arriving in theatres early next year, its popularity doesn’t seem to be showing any sign of fading either. I have also discovered that if you happen to be flicking through the TV channels and come across Back to the Future, it is physically impossible to change the channel or switch off until it has finished!
At its very core, the story behind Back to the Future is a simple one – a fun, family-friendly comedy-drama about a small town and a boy trying to outwit a bully in order to ensure that two people fall in love. Throw in some zany sci-fi themes, a high stakes plot, plenty of tension and the perfect cast and you really do have something that caters for everyone. I still remember watching the first movie on TV one Christmas day afternoon – kids, parents, grandparents, all transfixed and desperate at the end to know what happens next. As far as I can recall, I never saw the first movie in the cinema, despite being in my early teens when it was released. But I do distinctly remember going to see parts 2 and 3 with groups of friends. I know I’m in the minority, but for me, part 2 is the best of the trilogy. Maybe it’s because I had that big-screen experience with it, but I feel that part 2 takes everything that made the first movie so great, and doubles down on it all. We go to the future, we go back to the past, expertly weaving this new adventure into the events of the first, there are just so many goose-bump moments that get me every single time I watch it. The logic of Back to the Future may not always stand up to close scrutiny (see Endgame earlier this year), but when the storytelling is this much fun, I can definitely overlook it. Part 3 gets treated harshly at times, coming across as a rushed rehash of what’s already come before, but is still a damn fine movie in my opinion. And with a poignantly satisfying conclusion, this is just the perfect trilogy for me. A timeless classic!

The Hunger Games
Chosen by Talking Back Pictures: Twitter | Website

It may seem a little obvious, but The Hunger Games trilogy is one of my absolute favourites in the past decade. Academy Award Winning performers, love in the time of dystopia, people literally catching fire… what more could you ask for? What I love most about this trilogy is the fantastic representation it provides for young girls. Katniss Everdeen is a hero motivated by her undying devotion to her family. She wants to fight for her sister, for her mom, for the people of District 12, and for all of their freedom. She’s not depicted, however, as a strong woman whose strength makes her devoid of emotions. She is a fully dimensional hero, rather than a martyr who feels no pain. Although her love triangle throughout the entire trilogy may be slightly exhausting, it shows that Katniss isn’t a woman who is interested in being saved by a man or whose love for a man (or men) deters her from her ultimate goal. The reason that the love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta plays out for such a long time is that a relationship isn’t her priority. She’s dedicated to her cause and continues to be dedicated regardless of romantic prospects. If there’s anything we can learn from Katniss Everdeen, besides how to rock a signature braid for an entire franchise, it’s compassion. Her compassion, her emotions, her love, her flaws are all the qualities that drive her to succeed. She isn’t perfect, she never claims or tries to be, and it’s her imperfections that make her a human hero. This trilogy is fun, engaging, and heartbreaking but most importantly it’s encouraging. It’s encouraging to see a worldwide phenomenon built on the back of a passionate young female character gain such immense critical acclaim and popularity. It’s encouraging to see the film industry represent heroic women who are more than just heroes.

Indiana Jones (excluding Temple of Doom)
Chosen by Simon Whitlock: Twitter | Blog
When I was a kid, like so many kids around the world, I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up. His adventures on-screen were like a hit of adrenalin for the younger me every time I watched them, and as I grow older and realised that the dream of being a Nazi punching archaeologist was never going to come true, I could at least take some comfort in watching Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’s love letters to classic Hollywood adventure films.

That is, with the exception of Temple of Doom. Of the series to date, this was always the instalment which never did it for me: from the racist stereotypes to the appallingly written female lead of Willie Scott, the second film in the franchise is painful to watch. Therefore, and I know this is pure fuel for Indy fan outrage, my favourite film trilogy is Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade and… Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

For me, these three films together make a fantastic series of films with a great narrative woven for cinema’s most famous whip owner. In the first film, Indiana Jones is the sceptical man of science who is made to come face to face with a real, powerful deity, in the second of this trilogy he has to deal with getting older and taking care of his father – all while chasing an artefact which can literally stop death. By the third, Jones is a man who has seen and done enough for multiple lifetimes, and where he was once a young man searching for glory and immortality, he’s now ready to let that life go – well, almost.

It would be easy for a series like the Indiana Jones films to give no thought to character, but Dr Jones and everyone around him are fully realised, flawed yet endearing human beings. The female characters aren’t just eye candy for adolescent boys to gawp over; they have their own reasons for joining in the adventure, for good or ill.

Every great hero needs a great villain to go up against, and who better to cast as the adversaries than the Nazis and the Soviets. It’s pure pantomime each time they appear, and even at their most boo-hiss, the villains are always a match for our fedora-donning protagonist.

All three films are pure Hollywood brilliance, and there’s so much to enjoy in each film that they’ll be enjoyed forever. Long live Indiana Jones.

John Wick
Chosen by Realweegiemidget Reviews: Twitter | Blog
Reviews: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

When it comes to film trilogies there can be only one, and we’re not talking about Highlander. John Wick is the only franchise to be hooked on, with Keanu Reeves consistently returning for all three chapters (so far) as hitman of mystery, John Wick. We are learning all we need to know of him and his life as it happens, with this man full of surprises.

So what do we know so far? In John Wick, John is a widower and was a hitman working for a Russian crime boss. Wick came back from hitman retirement after his wife Helen’s death, after the puppy she gave him was killed and his car was stolen. Revenge is his, as the son of the Russian crime boss finds out to this cost.

Now, by Chapter Two, Wick is honouring a long term debt and be the end he’s broken by the rules of the Continental, run by his friend Winston. As killing another hitman in this hotel sanctuary for hitman breaks the in-house rules, John Wick is a wanted man by Chapter Three. There is a bounty on his head from the Continental, as every hitman is out to kill him.

Wick is fighting the bad guys in everything like a first-person shooter, showing he’s pretty good at using anything as a weapon from a pencil to a horse. He’s an arsenal with anything and everything. How will this all end? I, like the rest of the universe, hope for a Chapter Four, to learn more on this enigmatic hitman, the Continental and his world.

Inspirational trilogy
Chosen by Ryan: Twitter | YouTube

I wanted to take a different approach to this, I wanted to talk about a trilogy of films that, from a narrative standpoint, are not connected but have had an impact on the film industry beyond the release. Akira Kurosawa’s brilliant trilogy of Rashomon, Yojimbo and Seven Samurai where their impact lives beyond their release.

Rashomon (1950) was a film that was all about points of view. Trying to decide what happened in a forest, we are taken down four different points of view from a Bandit (Toshiro Mifune), a woman, her fallen husband (through a medium) and a woodcutter. The acting is wonderful and the film leaves you unsure who was honest. The way it tackles truth and memory laid down the term Rashomon Effect that would continue on in such films like Gone Girl (2014), Hero (2002) and Hoodwinked! (2006).

Yojimbo (1961) is a story about how a man saves a town from the grips of two criminal organizations. Toshiro Mifune plays the wandering Ronin who saves the town. Some of my favorite cinematography in cinema is in this film. It didn’t take long for others to take inspiration. In 1964, a remake of Yojimbo happened that you may have heard of: A Fistful of Dollars (1964). It was a legal battle to happen because Sergio Leone didn’t secure the rights before making the film. Beyond that, there have been countless films and TV shows that uses the story beats, even the Pokémon anima had an episode inspired by it!

Seven Samurai (1954) is an epic drama centring around a village that is being abused by bandits and the samurai that band together to help the village. My personal favorite has to be Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) but all seven samurai are excellent. Epic action that goes to show how wonderful Akira Kurosawa was at directing. Like Yojimbo, Seven Samurai would get the remake treatment. The Magnificent Seven is switching out Samurai era Japan for the American old west. Pretty much any misfits come together to save the day is influenced by Seven Samurai.

I went with these three because they are my personal favorites from Akira Kurosawa but there are other films of his that has influence beyond their years. If you are a film fan, go and pursue his films to see his fingerprints all over the history of cinema.

Lord of the Rings
Chosen by Jacinda Perez: Twitter | Blog

“In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the dark lord Sauron forged in secret a master ring to control all others. And into this ring, he poured his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all…”

Watching The Lord of the Rings is an all-day event. As you sit down on your couch, bed, or any other comfort place, you know you’re in for 9+ hours of pure adventure. Hobbits, orcs, elves, humans – all the species that co-exist in the magical world created by J.R.R. Tolkien – take part in this grand story directed by Peter Jackson. In this epic, Howard Shore contributed a classic score that captures the highs, lows, serenity, and danger of the journey. The scripts by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Jackson, and Stephen Sinclair ensure that very speech brings you deeper into the moment. The creation and use of practical effects will always be remembered on the grossly realistic orcs. The settings of the film were carefully chosen to make you feel like you’re anywhere but here on earth, and they are still being visited by fans all over the world.

Not to exaggerate but when I first watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I felt like I had seen something transcendental. We all know the story of a young hobbit named Frodo, who gets pulled into the adventure of his lifetime. As you watch your favorite protagonists being pulled through the ringer, every fiber of your bring roots for them to make it to the end. You never lose hope, and there are moments of this trilogy that solidified its place in my heart as my favorite of all time. From the moment Frodo volunteers to take the ring to Mordor, the many speeches Samwise Gamgee gives that conjure butterflies in your heart and a lump in your throat, and more, you are guided through this special experience. When you watch the ring slowly eat away at Frodo – to the end when he can’t even remember the taste of strawberries – it’s heartbreaking. And when Frodo is free of the weight, and as death seems almost impending, there is peace and relief found at the moment that he can finally remember The Shire again.

Watching Frodo, Sam, Pippen, and Mary leave their comfortable lives to traverse the dangers and looming evil is the ultimate underdog story. Everyone’s blind faith is placed amongst their success. No one knows where they are in the war, no one even knows if Frodo is alive – all they know is their part in the grand story that they must not abandon.

At the end, when Aragorn tells the young hobbits, “You, my friend, bow to no one,” I can feel my spirits lifted, and it never fails to bring me to uncontrollable tears. After you’ve traversed a gruelling journey with our heroes, the final gratification makes this one of the best stories created and the best trilogy I’ve ever seen.

Star Wars (1980s)/Planet of the Apes (2010s)
Chosen by Shark Wrighter: Twitter | Blog

Am I really saying that the most successful and the most beloved (or at least in that conversation) franchise of all time and the plucky 2010s Planet of the Apes trilogy are equal? Of course not. Buy, my childhood lived in the B.I. (Before Internet) world. My adulthood liked in the A.I. world. I contain multitudes. And we both want our day.

B.I. – It was 1984 in Suburban America. I was 10-years-old and a TV commercial on a broadcast network came on and John Williams’ immortal score blasted from the Cathode Ray Tube’s allegedly stereo speakers. I gasped. Audibly. I have never been more excited to see a movie. And I never will be again because you’ll never love anything as purely as you love something at that age. For me, the first Star Wars trilogy was tactile nostalgic love from an analog time. I remember shoving bulky plastic squares into my whirring VHS, waiting in long lines, and sitting on small, cramped theater seats. And unlike many young dreams, the content of its quality proved it wasn’t just for kids. And the movies? I can’t add much nuance to the mountain of existing appreciation but it was the vibrant new mythology. It was Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, Frank Oz, the legendary characters, the eternal quotes, the majestic score, that burst my young, idealistic heart.

A.I. – Eight years ago, I groaned when I saw the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I thought Tim Burton’s 2001 atrocity killed that universe. But I kept hearing whispers from discerning people. Rupert Wyatt’s starter was a poignant film about human hubris that inadvertently launched a new civilization. Andy Serkis, who imbues digital masterpieces with souls, trumpeted Caesar, the honorable, stern, righteously furious leader of the apes. James Franco played a good man well. The ending broke my heart but it felt right. Matt Reeves, a new director, often a death-knell, took over and showed that humans were not the only ones who could be inhumane. Caesar survives but war looms a pregnant ending in the same vein as The Empire Strikes Back, that left the audience needing more. The final chapter ends with a dying Caesar looking upon the promised land but unable to join his people. It’s a beautiful sacrifice. It wounded my cynical middle-age heart. But I recovered. It will hurt you too, but it’s worth it.

Gates of Hell trilogy
Chosen by Matt Rogerson: Twitter | Blog

There is a manifest ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the horror genre, with Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci’s triptych at the centre, giving birth to a new form: absolute film. Horror that disobeys all the rules and conventions laid down since the dawn of cinema.

It begins with the suicide of a priest that triggers the apocalypse, and ends with innocent child Bob, escaping the monster Freudstein to live on in an uncertain afterlife. precisely what happens in between is difficult to describe. Coming off the back of their 1979 horror success Zombi 2, Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti pulled out all the stops, splattering the screen with gore by the bucket, allowing narrative convention (and, at times, the integrity of cinema’s logical mechanics) to disintegrate in pursuit of a pure, unfettered horror experience. Artaudian cruelty; religious trauma; a dreamscape of terrible, abstract imagery set free from the constraints of cinematic rules to provoke a more visceral terror in horror audiences.

The three films do not strictly fit the conventional notion of a trilogy. There is no continuing, episodic narrative featuring the same character or characters. But thematically, it fits the bill. Like most trilogies, Gates of Hell offers a classic transgression-penance-redemption arc. In Star Wars, we follow Luke Skywalker’s journey from farmhand orphan to Jedi Master. Here, it is the notion of the biblical Last Judgment, explored through the Priest’s suicide which brings about the end of days in City of the Living Dead (transgression), the power of Hell corrupting the characters’ very notion of reality in The Beyond (penance) and innocent child Bob’s ascension at the end of House by the Cemetery (redemption).

Hell and its power is Fulci’s antagonist and has been the subject of all of Italy’s greatest art: from Fre Angelico’s painted triptych The Last Judgment to Dante’s Divine Comedy and its 1911 Italian cinematic adaptation, L’inferno. Since then, cinema has known so many depictions of Satan as to make him ubiquitous, yet the notion of Hell itself remained largely untouched for 70 years. Fulci, himself undergoing a personal apostatic journey (as were the majority of Italy’s Roman Catholics at the time), married his own religious trauma with the transgressions of Italian exploitation cinema, giving us a vision of Hell never seen before: of teleporting zombie priests, bleeding walls and plagues of worms, excruciating tarantula attacks, rabis vampire bats, the absolute disintegration of narrative structure and a doorway to Cocytus, the frozen sea at Hell’s final circle.

There simply has never been anything like it in cinema, before or since.

What did you make of our choices? Are you shocked that nobody picked The Dark Knight trilogy? Let me know what you would have chosen in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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