Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Movie Trilogy, Series or Franchise

As Hollywood logic goes, if you liked something once, you’ll like it even better three times or more. For this week’s Roundtable, we take a look at our favorite movie series that have had at least three entries.

Drew Taylor

Honestly, my favorite film series (at least that I can currently conjure forth from the boggy depths of my memory) is the ‘Psycho‘ franchise. Yes, the original Alfred Hitchcock film is a masterpiece for sure, one whose influence still reverberates (loudly) to this day. But the ‘Psycho’ franchise as a whole is just as interesting. The second film, directed by underrated Australian auteur Richard Franklin, is a tight little mystery and a solid follow-up to the original. The third (directed by Anthony Perkins) is a seedy, psycho-sexual delight. The third film’s elaborate, theater-ish embellishments gave way to a stricter TV budget for the fourth entry, which originally aired on the Showtime premium cable network. The movie (directed by genre stalwart Mick Garris) is one of the rare horror movie origin tales that doesn’t disappoint. (Hear that ‘Hannibal Rising’?) Even Gus van Sant’s 1998 remake starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates is a bold and fascinating experiment – one that doesn’t quite work, but is still a wonderful little doodle. The franchise, for the most part, also seems to be over. Universal gave the remake a shot, it didn’t work, and no one seems keen on repeating that mistake.

Josh Zyber

Maybe it’s because I just rewatched them all to review the Blu-ray box set (for my other job at Home Theater, not here), but I really love the ‘Alien‘ series. Yes, all four of them. (I’d rather pretend that those awful crossovers with the ‘Predator’ franchise never happened.) The first film is a straight-up masterpiece. The second is a perfect expansion of the concept.

Admittedly, the third film is flawed, but I’ve always appreciated its nihilistic vision, and found it to provide a fitting end to the Ripley storyline. Well, until the fourth movie came along, anyway. ‘Alien Resurrection’ is undeniably an unnecessary cash-in, and is sullied by an incredibly goofy creature effect at the end, but director Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings a warped funhouse atmosphere to the proceedings that I find appealing. The screenplay by Joss Whedon (who reportedly hated the final product) has some snappy dialogue, and that underwater scene is really cool.

Junie Ray

Mrs. Z and I put our heads together to try and come up with good chick-flick series, and really didn’t do too well. Granted, we could think of quite a few, but not many we’d say “favorite” about… save one: ‘Anne of Green Gables‘. We don’t need sunbursts or marble halls, but puffed sleeves are a must.

On the classic movie front, my all time favorite is ‘The Thin Man‘ series. William Powell and Myrna Loy have an effervescent on-screen chemistry that is truly magical, and the detective stories are good too.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

A lot of my all-time favorites are parts of long-running franchises, although just about all of those series have at least one or two clunkers in ’em. One of the few I find consistently satisfying from start to finish is the ‘Evil Dead‘ series. A huge part of the appeal for me is that rather than settle into some kind of comfortable formula the way a lot of horror franchises do, these really are three completely different movies.

The first ‘Evil Dead‘ is an unrelentingly grueling horror flick. ‘Evil Dead II‘, meanwhile, is a splatter-comedy. There are elements of horror, sure, but the point is really to slather every square inch of the frame in slime and blood…to be as dementedly ridiculous as Sam Raimi and company could possibly get away with.

The series is capped off by ‘Army of Darkness‘, and by this point, anything that looks even a little bit like horror is a fuzzy blur in the rear view mirror. No, Army of Darkness plays kind of like a cross between a Technicolor Harryhausen adventure and a bunch of ‘Three Stooges’ shorts. It’s one of the most surreally fun and endlessly quotable movies I’ve ever stumbled across. The kind-of amazing thing is that despite these completely different tones, the three movies somehow manage to gel together as a series too.

Dick Ward

I really tried to think outside the box on this one. You’ll notice I said “tried” and not “succeeded.” When Josh sent out the topic this week, he asked us for our favorite trilogy, series, or franchise. Like Pavlov’s dog the word “trilogy” triggers a certain response in me. After I saw that word, all I could think about was the holy three. No matter how dreadful the new movies are, or how many changes get made to the originals, there’s something so wonderfully pure about ‘Star Wars‘. We know who the good guys are and we know who the bad guys are – we don’t get shades of gray. Even Lando goes from pure good to pure bad and then to pure good again. His loyalty is never called into question. It’s a simple theme. Good triumphs over evil.

The original trilogy also has a sort of grounding effect on me. No matter where I am or what’s going on, when I watch ‘Star Wars’ I feel like I’m home and safe. Try as I might, I just can’t think of a movie series that means more to me.

Aaron Peck

I keep thinking through all the famous trilogies, and can’t really put a finger on my favorite. Most trilogies that I’m thinking of have two amazing films and one that’s pretty subpar, like ‘The Godfather‘ and ‘Back to the Future‘. My favorite trilogy has to be infinitely watchable. It has to be a group of films that will never get old to me – a series of movies that will never gather too much dust on my shelves before I stick them in and watch them all again.

I had three trilogies in mind, and had to whittle them down to one. I started with the original ‘Indiana Jones’ films, before the bastardized fourth movie came into being. I think we can all agree that Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings‘ is a masterpiece. And, last but not least, there’s the ‘Toy Story‘ trilogy from Pixar.

I love ‘Indiana Jones’ and I think I could watch each one of those movies over and over again without getting annoyed by them. My only apprehension as picking it for my favorite is that sometimes I find myself watching this trilogy and picking out all the silly and nonsensical things that happen. Plus, the addition of Short Round, while funny at times, is pretty irritating.

Next up is ‘Lord of the Rings’. I adore this series of films. Jackson did a brilliant job creating the world of Middle Earth. He took some of the most famous books of all time and made them into three of the best fantasy films of all time. There’s one thing that holds me back from picking this trilogy, though. The amount of time it takes to watch it, especially the extended editions, is daunting. The movies stay on my shelf, unwatched, because it’s hard to commit half a day to watching them all.

Lastly we have the three ‘Toy Story’ films. After a lot of deliberating, this is my pick for favorite trilogy. You can watch them any time, anywhere. They never get old. Each one of them is fantastic and enthralling, without a downer in the bunch. They’re short enough not to be a huge time commitment. Plus, I’m an animation nut. Hands down, ‘Toy Story’ gets the nod.

Mike Attebery

Like most guys, I’ve loved the James Bond movies since I was a kid. The first installment I saw was ‘A View to a Kill’, certainly not the greatest 007 movie –not even the best Roger Moore 007 adventure – but I was hooked from the start. That movie was released in the heart of the ’80s, so windbreakers were a popular article of clothing for all of the characters involved. Fortunately, I happened to have my own kid-sized windbreaker, complete with a “French Toast” tag on the front, which I’d don and run around the house pretending to be a spy.

My father was a Sean Connery man, while I liked Roger Moore, and later Pierce Brosnan, and still later (after a bit of a fight) Daniel Craig (who still sort of reminds me of ‘The Great Mouse Detective’). In grade school, I stayed up late watching Bond marathons on TBS. In college, I counted down the days until the release of the next installment. For my 30th birthday two years ago, my wife rented out a theater so I could watch ‘Quantum of Solace,’ drink White Russians, and see the latest theatrical release with my friends.

In terms of pure escapist entertainment, Bond is my fave, which is why I hope MGM and the folks at Eon Productions can get their acts together and get the series back on track before we wind up losing out on anymore Bond adventures! I really don’t want another painfully long gap, like the one we suffered between the Dalton and Brosnan 007s!


  1. motorheadache

    I’m with Dick Ward on this one. I’d like to come up with something really unique, but nope: Star Wars. To say anything else just to feel “different” would be a lie.

    Now, when I say Star Wars, I mean the real Star Wars: Original versions of the original trilogy. I debated between those and Indy, but my problem with Indy as a series is both Temple of Doom and KotCS (I actually like both of those movies, but not nearly as much Raiders and Crusade).

    Of course, if you had to look at Star Wars as a complete series (Episode I-VI) then it gets knocked down several (hundred)notches in my personal ranking.

    • Exactly! Temple of Doom kicked Indy out of the running for me. It’s just not great. The Last Crusade is still one of my all-time favorites, but Doom is a bummer.

      As far as Crystal Skull goes, I feel like it’s one of those movies I’ll enjoy laughing at in five or ten years. I also like to pretend that it’s not an Indiana Jones movie.

      • Callenby

        Last Crusade is my least favorite, because it seems like any franchise with a strong male lead eventually has a movie about the hero’s father complex (Spider-man 1, Batman Begins, Iron Man 2, Return of the Jedi, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest). One out of every two franchise screenwriters must have serious unresolved dad issues, and it bores me intensely because the stories always seem to work out the same way.

        Temple of Doom’s my favorite (because it’s the funniest and the Thugi cardiectomy scene), but Raiders is the best.

      • Alex

        I gotta ask, what’s with all the hating on Temple of Doom? It’s not just here, but everywhere. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia that I have for the move movie talking (I saw it when I was 4. Yeah, I don’t know why Mom let me, either), but I love Temple of Doom. It’s daring, it’s interesting, it’s downright terrifying at points. It sends genuine shivers down my spine every time I see that scene with Indy convulsing on the altar surrounded by candles after having been forced to drink the Blood of Kali. Not only that, but Indy becomes murderous and evil afterward, but it takes love and child-like innocence to pull him out. That’s good stuff, people! It’s the only movie in the series that takes a chance and plays gore off for laughs (I’m thinking of the eyeball soup here), which had to have been a little bit of an influence for later horror-comedy films such as “Army of Darkness.” Does it seem out of place with Raiders and Crusade? Parts of it may, but the mining car chase at the end would easily have fit into either of those two. It is vintage Indy, and I think the trilogy would be the less if it were left out.

        • There are so many good parts of Temple of Doom, but it just doesn’t work as a whole. It’s way over the top with the cheese, though not as bad as Crystal Skull.

          Also? Willie Scott may be the most annoying character ever created.

          • Alex

            I’ll give Willie Scott being incredibly annoying.

            Anyone else think Alison Doody was crazy hot in “Last Crusade”? Whatever happened to her?

          • Callenby

            I liked Willie Scott partly because she is an incredibly sexist caricature. It’s the same reason I have a soft spot for Transformers 2 despite it being incredibly bad; there is zero pretense of good taste.

          • @Alex – Ridiculous hot, no question. Sadly, she appears to have dropped off of the face of the earth.

            @Callenby – You made me laugh sir. And looking at it from that aspect I can see what you mean. It’s a new way to love bad movies. That said, I hope you’ve seen the trailer for Uwe Boll’s ‘Blubberella.’

        • motorheadache

          Now, I’m not hating on Temple of Doom, I just always thought it was the black sheep of the trilogy and didn’t work as well as the other two. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it though, its still freaking Indiana Jones. I even think KotCS is overbashed– it was a bit disappointing, but nowhere near the level of the Star Wars prequels IMO. I’m actually hoping the come up with a part V and do a better job (and no CGI this time for real!)

          • Crystal Skull was just as bad as the non Phantom Menace Star Wars movies if not worse. Greaser monkeys, digitally animated groundhogs and “Looks like you just brought a knife…. to a gun fight!” 🙂

            I’m not saying it was ‘Avatar’ bad, but Crystal Skull was all sorts of not good.

      • I am completely with you on this. Last Crusade was wonderful, but Temple was just, well, weird.

        I liked Crystal Skull – well, I loved the opening 10 minutes of it. Its not my favorite, but it actually plays pretty well.

  2. Nick

    The Rocky series. It has pretty much everything – movies that critics/”serious” movie fans like, movies geared more towards straight-up action fans, a cheesy, ultra-slick 80’s installment that tells us how bad communists are, and a final chapter that wound it up in a fantastic way.

    Plus Burt Young being a drunk prick.

  3. I fully agree with Josh Zyber. I love the ALIEN franchise dearly. I find the good in all of them, including the oft-maligned fourth film (it brings the story of Ripley full circle, and is an inversion of the themes of the first three!).

    I also greatly love the INDIANA JONES trilogy (yes, *trilogy*), even TEMPLE OF DOOM.

    TOY STORY is perhaps the only flawless trilogy of films I’ve seen (discounting LORD OF THE RINGS, as I generally consider it a single film in three parts).

    Being a die-hard Guillermo del Toro fan, I’m enraptured by his HELLBOY films, but unfortunately they’re not really far enough along (only two) to be considered a series proper.

  4. Callenby

    Among modern franchises, Toy Story and Lord of the Rings tie for first.

    Of classic films, you can’t go wrong with Chaplain’s tramp. His movies are undeniable classics and his DVD extras include authentic time travelers. I’d also throw in the four Marx Brothers. Zeppo sucked as a straight man, but the movies he was in were better than those without him.

  5. I’m with Drew, I’ve always loved the Psycho series. I got a healthy dose of them as a kid, watching cable TV at Grandma’s house. I’ll also go the way of my beloved Euro-Trash and say that the Emanuelle (also Emmanuelle w/Laura Gemser) series tops my list.

  6. Brent Umina

    While the Alien franchise will always be my favorite, I have to say the original Scream trilogy is my favorite. The first film brought back what was great about horror and while the last two lost some steam, they were still a fun ride.

  7. Jane Morgan

    Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises. I’m voting on faith that #3 will be almost as good as #2. I hope they go with cat woman, like the rumors suggest, so we can all get the taste of Halle Berry out of our mouth.

  8. BostonMA

    without a doubt, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. even if the 3rd film is ONLY great, i’ll still feel like i owe him forever for making my favorite pop culture icon by far in a unique and R-E-A-L vision, and infusing it with his perfectionism, not to mention my favorite actor of all time playing Batman/Bruce Wayne and Heath Ledger putting in one of the best performances in film history as arguably the best character of film history.

    The Dark Knight Rises will be all kinds of awesome.

    i’d probably put The Godfather Trilogy at 2 because i do think Part III is great, though inferior of course to the first two, with Toy Story at 3rd, and Mike A’s 007 series to close it out.

    • besch64

      “Heath Ledger putting in one of the best performances in film history as arguably the best character of film history.”

      You best be playin, playa.

    • Noticed something over the weekend while watching ‘Black Dynamite.’ Both Heath Ledger’s Joker and Jack Nicholson’s Joker sound a bit like Richard Nixon impressions.

      I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, mind you. I just wonder if Tricky Dick was intentionally brought into the equation when they worked up the voice. Want pure evil? Nixon.

  9. Daniel O'Reilly

    The Man with No Name Trilogy. Leone’s films would only get better from there, but there are no greater spaghetti westerns than Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (my favorite film).

    • BostonMA


      i completely forgot about the Dollars Trilogy, which is then my second fsvorite next to Nolan’s Batman series (and TGTBATU is in my first tier of favorites, as is Once Upon a Time in the West).

      thank you for reminding me.

  10. The original zombie trilogy from George Romero. It has EVERYTHING a horror fan can dream of:

    Night of the Living Dead- a film that redefines and reinvents a horror icon, the zombie/living dead, that has been imitated to death, but never equalled. iconic. period. dark as a film can get. inexpensive, yet effective.

    Dawn of the Dead- possibly on par w/ NotLD in terms of its fame and place in zombie history, the film went past the racial and cultural analogies and went straight at us and our ways. few horror films truly have NO villains, just plug and play elements, that still work this good. again, iconic.

    Day of the Dead- my favorite of the trilogy, considered the least of the three by most. least everything, effective, valuable, influential, but i see it the opposite way. the film doesn’t give you a second to rest, every inch is tension, from zombies, or the even more dangerous, and far more desperate, waning miniature civilization that has gone too militaristic, with too much power in the hands of those who would use force rather than logic, those whose impatience will doom everyone. Bub is, bar none, the greatest zombie, period. an amazing analysis of both the creatures (particularly their inner workings), and the survivors, an absolute gem, loaded to the hilt with the most inappropriate (and at the same time, truly amazing) soundtrack in history. i still LOVE the Gorillaz for sampling this film’s opening.

    Romero went to shit really fast when he returned to the genre he created, basically, but nothing, and i mean nothing, can spoil the legendary creations back when he wasn’t a complete fucking fool.

  11. and all that coming from a life-long star wars fanatic. as much as the star wars OT is epic, it kinda went downhill pretty fast w/ ROTJ. while some say the same about Day of the Dead, i say those people are nuts.

    seriously. i’ll never quite get how fucking midgets in furry costumes could yiff their way into overthrowing the fucking empire, basically. the rebels couldn’t do it, despite destroying death star 1, so how these spear chucking, hut living, stinky little rat bastards could, beyond me.

    thank god George Lucas didn’t give us an Ewok jedi in the PT.

  12. I don’t know how in the world no one has brought this up yet, but there are two fantastic francises no one has talked about – StarGate and Star Trek

    I loved the StarGate movie, but, man, SG1 is just, well AWESOME! Take a sci-fi series, stretch it over 10 seasons, tack on an awesome backstory, throw in a great cast, and enough action each episode to keep the endorphans running, and television gold! More so, the spinoff Atlantas was just as awesome, if not more, than the original show! Sadly, I feel that hte francise pretty much died with Stargate Universe. Feel free to disagree.

    And Star Trek! Talk about a francise! 43 years, 11 movies, six series! We can all have our little arguments over who was the best captain (cough Archer), but you cannot miss out on the awesomeness of this franchise!

    Now, maybe the reason it wasn’t brought up is that Star Trek started as a series, and Stargate didn’t have a second and third movie until after teh 10 seasons of SG1 ended, but I think these result in great series.

    I’m also a pretty big fan of the Left Behind series. I got the third one in my Netflix instant que to watch.

    Poltergeist was a pretty great francise, and as a kid, I loved all three movies, but as an adult, I’ll now only watch the first.

  13. Brandon Erwin

    I pretty much agree with all of you guys’ choices, especially Aliens. I do want to throw in the Spider-Man Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harry Potter. I guess they’re all more childish than some of the more obvious choices but I always seem to enjoy them. Then again I ENJOY the Resident Evil Franchise for what it is…An Action/Zombie Flick with mostly bad acting, over-used slo-mo, and a complete butchery of the games characters. Nevertheless with the exception of Apocalypse, I love em’

  14. Brandon Erwin

    I would have added Dances With Wolves, but it won’t technically be a trilogy until Avatar 2 comes out…

  15. besch64

    Dick Ward just took the words right out of a million people’s mouths. I am one of those people.

    I mean, when you get right down to it, there’s just no other options. It’s just… Star Wars.

  16. BambooLounge

    The Godfather Trilogy and there isn’t even a close 2nd. The first two films are arguably two of the greatest film ever made (personally, I prefer 2) and 3 gets bashed because it could not live up to 1 and 2, but if you take it on its face and out of the shadow of the previous films, it is actually an excellent film (not a masterpiece though).

    Far down the list at number 2 is the Dollar Trilogy followed by Toy Story to round out the top 3.

    Favorite guilty pleasure Trilogies:
    The Mighty Ducks (D2 is my favorite)
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Go Ninja! Go Ninja! Go!)

  17. Bryan

    For me, it’s one of two: either Indiana Jones (yes, Temple Of Doom is weird, but it’s really grown on me in the past few years – maybe since I realized it’s a million times better than Crystal Skull!) or Back To The Future. Yes, I know not a lot of people think the sequels stand up to the original, and I tend to agree to a point, but man – that original film became my favorite film when I first saw it on the big screen at the age of 12. It’s still my favorite today. (and I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for parts 2&3 over the years – recently – especially for part 3.)

  18. EM

    “‘Star Wars’…nothing but ‘Star Wars’…gimme those ‘Star Wars’…don’t let them end!” Well, the first, pre-1997 trilogy, anyway. Even if “Jedi“ suffers in comparison, I find it more entertaining than 99% of what’s out there.

    Even more consistent in quality is the excellent “Toy Story” trilogy. Those movies not only bring out the kid in me, they make me wish I could have seen them as a kid.

    Not yet mentioned in this roundtable is Universal’s classic “Frankenstein” series of films. The groundbreaking original was followed by “Bride of Frankenstein”, perhaps the first sequel to outshine its predecessor—and, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most enjoyable films ever made. The next sequel, “Son of Frankenstein”, was also a tour de force. Unfortunately the sequel after that is hardly worth watching (or mentioning); later installments blended with the “Wolf Man” and “Dracula” series to create the so-called “monster rally” films. In my opinion, the monster rallies tend to fall short of their promise until their last entry, 1948’s “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein”. “A&C Meet F” is not just a spoof but a full-fledged part of the series in which the monsters are taken seriously. Surely it is one of the greatest horror-comedies ever made.

  19. Ellis

    For me, the Lethal Weapon movies without a doubt. Each of the movies are seperate stories, yet they all gell together perfectly as a character driven franchise.

    The first one has Riggs as a suicidal loner paired up with Murtagh, the family man cop. The last one has Riggs starting his own family and finally comfortable with his situation in life, and Murtagh becoming a proud grandfather. The story comes full circle by the end of 4 and in between are non stop explosions, rampant swearing and killer one liners. For me it’s really just a perfect series all round.

    I also find it oddly satisfying that each of the sequels having a number in the title ie LW2, LW3, LW4. It’s probably just me though.