Remember when the Star Wars series concluded and pretty much became synonymous with the concept of the film trilogy? That was long before George Lucas countered himself with a much-hated trio of prequels and around the same time Peter Jackson came along and gave us a new definitive film trilogy in The Lord of the Rings. And now there's a potential new champion reigning, as some fans are claiming that Christopher Nolan's run with the Batman character, which just ended with The Dark Knight Rises, is truly the greatest film trilogy of all time.
The "Dark Knight" trilogy is a lot like the original Star Wars films, their reasons for working and not working as a singular, contained three-act narrative being similar. The fact that The Dark Knight Rises often recalls and maybe even repeats too much of Batman Begins is akin to the same issues with Return of the Jedi referencing and redoing a lot of A New Hope. But for fanboys, it seems that the lack of Ewoks in The Dark Knight Rises and the strength of the Joker in The Dark Knight elevate Bruce Wayne's journey above Luke Skywalker's.
Of course, getting away from the fanboy circles, there's far more to be said of trilogies like Satyajit Ray's Apu, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors, Deepa Mehta's Elements, Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost, Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai, Sergio Leone's Dollars and even Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather series. As for the geeky genre contenders, surely there are those loyal to The Matrix, Mad Max, Millenium (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Pixar's Toy Story and, yes, Jackson's Tolkien adaptations.
Personally, I am a great fan and defender of Robert Zemeckis' entire Back to the Future series, a trilogy with a forced yet satisfying narrative arc that is also comprised of three very different kinds of movies. I like triptychs like that, which flow together and are sort of separate at the same time. This is probably why I'd like more examples that employ different directors for each installment, as in the case of the Red Riding trilogy. Even there, though, as is normally the case, the third film is the weakest.
Maybe the issue with trilogy denouements is reason to favor trilogies that are no longer trilogies, those trios made (slightly) stronger by the addition of a forgettable fourth or even further continuation, such as the Alien, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Superman and Terminator "trilogies." Right now, I think Nolan's Batman films are a terrific if imperfect trilogy, but far from the best. Maybe a weak Catwoman spin-off or demanded fourth entry (Dark Knight Returns?) helmed by some hack will make it seem even stronger.
For now, a Game Spot poll shows only 30% of readers naming Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as the best ever. Here is what the people are saying on Twitter about the claim:
Is Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' the Best Trilogy of All Time?
It certainly deserves the discussion. I won't argue with a single person who says it's their fav of all time. - @Adrian_Charlie
It's up there, but "of all time?" No. - @filmnerdjamie
No ... Kieslowski's Three Colors - @vjmfilms
TDKR isn't the greatest trilogy ever, but its damn close. I'd place THE DOLLARS TRILOGY & THREE COLORS ahead of it. - @MannySalazar
I haven't seen Three Colours, but personally, Back to the Future. - @milanmatejka
Not even close. INDIANA JONES, STAR WARS, LOTR. I'm sure I could go on... - @julianrdetris
I'd still go with Lord of the Rings. But Nolan's bat-saga is certainly very high on the list. - @TheTrueBrendanF
No, sorry. I say LOTR. - @Haunt1013
Put me down for LOTR - @andrewplotkin
No. Toy Story remains my pick for the greatest. (And I loved Dark Knight Rises. But Batman Begins was a weak start.) - @mousterpiece
Second to Toy Story (a very close second) - @gyropitus
I think it's very close, but I'd the Samurai Trilogy and Toy Story are tied for #1 in my mind. - @UnpluggedCrazy
I have World Of Apu waiting for me at home - if it's half as good as previous two, it'll easily be one of my fave trilogies. How about the Ocean's movies? Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen make for a fun-filled, colour-soaked trifecta. - @TheLogicalMind
Would have said Die Hard but 4 ruined that. - @jessecarp
I've always had a soft spot for the Tommy Jarvis trilogy (FRIDAY THE 13TH 4-6). - @brandonRohwer
I'll claim that stake then if no one else will. - @mrblue24
Let us know which movie trilogy you think is the best by sounding off below ...