While we’re all stuck at home in the lockdown with much binge-watching on our to-do lists, most are looking to TV shows to meet their bingeing needs. But movie franchises aren’t much different and can be just as satisfying. So what better time to revisit some great trilogies?
Three films that belong, in some way, to a larger collective whole, either in story or sprit. Some are linked narratively, as a single story told over three parts, others thematically. But all are worth your time.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
Arguably one of the greatest trilogies of all time, Peter Jackson’s visionary book adaptation marked the rare instance that movies adored by the masses also dominated the awards season with 17 well-deserved Oscar wins across the three films. One of the greatest good vs evil stories seen on film, Jackson’s three-part epic was event cinema meeting intimate and emotionally driven storytelling.
With path-breaking visual effects for its time, LOTR had us consumed by the rich world of Middle Earth along with offering some of the grandest war sequences seen on screen, without losing sight of its finely etched characters. If you really want to go all in, this writer recommends you watch the extended editions of all three amounting to over 13 hours of footage.
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is available on Netflix.
The Oceans Trilogy
Suave, stylish and sophisticated, Steven Soderbergh’s popular trio of heist flicks brought a fresh energy to the genre. With a glorious Ocean’s Eleven, an underwhelming Twelve and a grand return to form with Ocean’s Thirteen, Soderbergh skilfully built tension and excitement with his sparkling ensemble of smooth conmen and kooky characters.
While they hit all the core beats of great heist movies, the Oceans movies are far from conventional. They’re smart, irreverent, bursting with swag and far less concerned with showy car chases and explosions as they are with carefully concocted plans and a war of wits. Unlike others on this list, Danny Ocean’s crew aren’t trying to save the world or defeat bad guys- they’re just looking to settle scores and steal in style, and we have a ball of a time watching them do it.
The Oceans trilogy is available on Netflix.
The Planet Of The Apes Trilogy
Apart from being a deeply underrated trilogy, the new Planet Of The Apes movies are powerful pieces of storytelling with each film exploring newer and darker territory.
From the highly entertaining Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes to the emotionally driven Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes to the unexpectedly dark War For The Planet Of The Apes, all three had us explore the world through the eyes of an unforgettable central character – Ceasar, brought to life by a career-defining motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis. The series took us through Ceasar’s evolution from a gifted adolescent in search of his place in the world, to leader, father and eventual saviour. The new Planet Of The Apes series are compassionate, intelligent movies which ask pressing questions about what it means to be human and are right up there among the finest modern film trilogies.
The Planet Of The Apes trilogy is available on Disney+ Hotstar.
The Star Trek Trilogy
Years before he was asked to reboot another iconic space saga, JJ Abrams was tasked with reimagining Star Trek, leading to three well-conceived and sorely underrated movies.
The first and strongest film, Star Trek, masterfully paid homage to the old while paving the way for the new, whilst also making it accessible to those of us who weren’t previously married to the Star Trek franchise. With a strong ensemble cast recreating beloved characters, Abrams gave us an origin story of the USS Enterprise and its colourful crew, led by the Chris Pine’s charismatic James T Kirk. While Star Trek Into Darkness upped the ante with mixed results and Star Trek Beyond serving as another fine addition to the series, there’s an enjoyable consistency to all three which just don’t get the attention they deserve.
The Star Trek trilogy is available on YouTube and Google Play.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy
Granted it’s since become a tired franchise that will likely go on till the end of time, but that doesn’t change the fact that Gore Verbinski’s original Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy remains immensely enjoyable.
The idea of a theme park ride being adapted into a film may sound absurd, but that it gave us a wonderful world of myths and monsters to explore, with unforgettable characters is something no one would have expected.
Centred, of course, on the bizarrely brilliant and wonderfully weird Captain Jack Sparrow who proved that a single character could elevate a trilogy to greatness. Throw in some exhilarating sword fights, all-out ocean warfare and great comedic action sequences – see Dead Man’s Chest giant wheel fight or bone cage sequence. All of which made the original POTC trilogy incredibly fun and unexpectedly earnest with Hans Zimmer’s score taking it to dizzying heights.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy is available on Netflix.
The Bourne Trilogy
One man’s heart-pounding crusade to tear down the crooked system that created him, the Bourne trilogy is yet another shining example of a single story told over three parts, (the less said about the 2016 attempt to reboot the series, the better).
The sophisticated espionage series that reinvented onscreen action gave us a new, more rooted kind of spy thriller, far removed from the Bond school of blockbuster, but no less exhilarating. Despite their flair for pulsating car chases and fight sequences involving death by pens, the Bourne movies never placed punches over the personal, putting gripping drama before spectacle. Outside of the action, it’s how these movies navigated seedy government programmes, conspiracies and coverups that made them some of the most mature and tightly crafted action films of all time.
The Bourne trilogy is available on Netflix.
Ritesh Batra’s Loneliness Trilogy
Few filmmakers connect lonely hearts quite like Ritesh Batra.
What’s come to be known as his ‘loneliness trilogy’ refers to his first three films, each set in entirely different cultural settings, all dealing with isolated souls in search of connection. The Lunchbox was a simple yet profound story of two people forming an unlikely bond through a case of mistaken food delivery. Batra followed it up with an adaptation of a book considered unfilmable – The Sense of an Ending – about a recluse (Jim Broadbent) forced to reckon with his past and the consequences of his actions.
Batra then teamed up with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Our Souls At Night – his most affecting and accessible film. It is centred on a love story between two neighbours seeking companionship late in their lives. While his latest Photograph, deals with similar themes, there’s a certain sense of collectiveness to these three – his loneliness trilogy.
The Lunchbox and Our Souls At Night are available on Netflix.
The Cornetto Trilogy
Comedies don’t often tend to dominate great trilogy lists, but filmmaker Edgar Wright has never been one to play by the rules. His ‘Cornetto trilogy’ refers to three genre-hopping films, comprising of the cult horror-comedy with heart, Shaun Of The Dead, action-comedy Hot Fuzz, and ending with sci-fi comedy The World’s End. Each starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and all written by Wright and Pegg, all three featuring scenes with Cornetto ice creams. I dare you to find films with a more profound thematic thread. While they’re all different stories, all three feature the same distinct, clever comedic style that’s both hilarious and surprisingly sincere.
The Matrix Trilogy
The Wachowski’s cocktail of path-breaking action and heady philosophy firmly placed the Matrix trilogy among the most celebrated and influential sci-fi films ever made. The series offered so many things never seen before on screen, and despite announcements of further instalments, the original trilogy offered us a complete journey of The One.
Not to mention some truly astounding and now-iconic action sequences, be it the bullet-dodging in the first film, the exhilarating highway chase in The Matrix Reloaded or the attack on Zion in The Matrix Revolutions. While the two sequels were accused of not living up to the original, the sheer scale and ambition of all three and the complex ideas behind them remain just as impressive.
The Matrix trilogy is available on Disney+ Hotstar.
The Captain America Movies
If you’re willing to go the whole hog, it makes sense binge your way through the entirety of the MCU. But for less ambitious viewers, the Captain America trilogy works just as well, representing the strongest storytelling from Marvel’s sprawling universe, each better than the last. The First Avenger served up a rousing origin story, while The Winter Soldier saw the MCU at its most grounded, asking tough questions about security at the cost of privacy. All grandly culminating in Civil War, which I maintain remains the best Marvel film – a glorious combination of spectacle and storytelling that challenges.
The Captain America movies are available on Disney+ Hotstar.