The Seven Best American Movie Trilogies

It may have been announced a while ago but I’m still kind of bothered that The Hangover is going to more than likely become a trilogy.  I don’t blame them movie studios for doing this one bit.   From a financial perspective it makes total sense.   But Jesus for once just stop it in the name of logic.

Which brings me to my point.  Do you realize how difficult it is to make a movie trilogy?  In general sequels are bad enough but to make 3, 4, 5, even six movies?  It’s awfully difficult to keep an audience captivated.

That said, here’s a look at the seven best American movie trilogies….

Thanks to Listverse who had done a list with a bunch of foreign trilogies as well.  We wanted to stick locally.

Star Wars “Original” Trilogy

Excluding all the prequels we’re talking most likely the most followed an famous trilogy of movies in the history of cinema.  And if it weren’t for the Phantom Menace we’d have 6 very good movies on our hands.   But honestly I never really group all the movies together anyway.  You’ve got pre crazy technology Lucas and then insane technology Lucas.  I’m old school and this trilogy rules.

Lord of the Rings

I’m very curious about how The Hobbit movies are going to do.  I’m sure they will kick ass and perhaps even surpass LOTR.  However, that one of these won best picture speaks volumes about the series.


The First two were boss.   A lot of people hated the third one.  Don’t worry I know there’s an Alien:  Resurrection.   However, keep in mind that David Fincher directed the third one and you really can’t put a price on that.  Sure it was way more different than the first two but it’s Fincher.  Cut the guy some slack.

The Bourne Trilogy

The guys from Listal had a great quote on this one.  The “Shaky Cam” is not to everyone’s taste, but it is used well in these particular films, and it’s somewhat difficult to imagine them being better if they were done in some other style. Personally I didn’t care for the second one all that much but 1 and 3 kicked ass.


One and two are two of the best movies of all time.   While 3 sucked compared to the first two, it’s still a great movie in and of itself, not to mention got nominated for best picture so it couldn’t have been that horrible.

Indiana Jones

I’m going to pretend that a 4th movie never even existed.    The first three were pure action adventure fun that I’ll never forget.   Which one is your favorite?  I happen to love Last Crusade.

The Matrix

What is the Matrix anyway?

*Honorable mention to Back to the Future and The Kickboxer movies (just kidding).  Also, I’d like to point out series that made it past 5 movies.  Rocky, Harry Potter, and Police Academy


  • Surly Canadian

    I’m actually offended on a personal level that BAck to the Future was not on the list If I were making a list and suddenly realised I had filled it up without BttF, I’d simply go to the top of the article and change it to EIGHT best american movie trilogies.


  • Tom Hahnl


  • Charlie

    Back to the Future was better than ALL of these. Be ashamed, Nattyb. Be very ashamed.

  • JW

    Lord Of The Rings is in no way american… It’s directed by a New Zealand director and published by a British publisher. Stop trying to steal our glory.

  • Piratey

    Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McNatty. Think!

    Agree with the other choices, the Matrix trilogy was far too weak to beat out BttF. Revolutions and Reloaded were beyond awful.

  • Craig

    Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy should be on this list. Period. Even though the director was Italian, as pointed out, LOTR had a foreign director. And if any films besides the Godfather can be said to define an era in American film, it’s these films.

  • john

    Indy + LOTR + SW = :):):):):)

  • Hamburglar

    I realize you tossed in disclaimers about each, but 3 of the 7 movies on a list of trilogies are not trilogies.

    Where do you draw the line?

    “I do not count the last 3 Rocky movies”
    “I do not count the first or the last 6 Star Trek movies”
    “I do not count the Halloween movies that do not actually contain Michael Myers”
    et cetera

    Either way, fun list, but I agree with the crowd, include BTTF.

  • michael

    I think, but not positive that foreign movies are movies made without the help of a major hollywood studio, like 20th Century Fox, MGM, Disney, Paramount etc.

    Origin of director or producer does not effect on if the movie is foreign or domestic, neither does the stuntman….

    Also, I believe a lot of hollywood majors have “foreign” subsidiaries.

    That being said, Matrix 2 & 3 blow, only little kids like that crap.

  • Joe

    How’d you leave off Toy Story? I don’t think there’s ever been a trilogy that was as consistently amazing from beginning to end. Easily my pick for the best trilogy of all time. At least til the new Batman movie comes out.

  • Dzuksi

    Watch Alien 3 Extended cut – it’s the real deal, and the great movie. It’s still not the movie Fincher tried to make but with it’s 20min+ footage it is damn close.

    Also FOX is to blame for most bad things regarding Alien 3.

    Still i think that A3 EC is very great movie.

    Too bad we got rapefest called Alien Resurrection after that.

    Anyway – Predator 1 is fantastic, Predator 2 is very good (extremely underrated) and Predators is very disappointing.

    Also can’t believe that you didn’t put LETHAL WEAPON on the list. Shame on you.

  • Janson

    The Bourne movies are an atrocity. I think the LOTR trilogy is grey area, Kiwi director, British Author, but American distributor. I am kind of disappointed in this list. The Matrix started well but got bogged down in messiah complex imagery. Aliens fell apart with the last one.

  • Did anyone else know that there are 13 The Land Before Time movies? Now that’s staying power.

  • Schiapu

    There is NO way that the Matrix trilogy stands above the Back to the Future trilogy. Just NO way.

  • Zombiepumpkin

    The MAtrix movies are

  • Steve

    NeverEnding Story trilogy lol.

    Nah seriously. Terminator trilogy has also been neglected here. Part 3 was nowhere near as good as 2, and still not as good as part 1, but as a straight up action film it does its job. Time travel continuity inaccuracies be damned. Salvation doesn’t count IMO.

  • Zombiepumpkin

    The Matrix movies are soulless pieces of eyecandy which sit in their DVD

  • What no Karate Kid? 🙂

  • Lionel Boy

    Toy story for the win !

  • LMIH

    What a shitty list, nice job NattyB you numbnuts. You can’t call them trilogies if they have more than three movies…

  • HenryVIII

    Yes, I realize that there have been approximately 8 grillion Star Trek movies.

    But —

    I submit that the following three movies SHOULD be considered a trilogy, and furthermore are extremely deserving to be on this list.

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
    Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

    Yes, 1 and 5 were pieces of crap. VI was an excellent signoff for the original series characters, and stands well on its own.

    But taken together – 2, 3, and 4 follow a single story arc (the death and rebirth of Spock and the Enterprise) while remaining consistently entertaining. I think they qualify – particularly since you have included other trilogies that outgrew three-film status (Indiana Jones, Alien, etc.)

  • Brian

    Toy Story?

  • wtf jones

    How about Terminator?

  • Drester

    I like the list, although only Star Wars, LOTR an BTTF are the only really good Trilogies overall.

  • chelsea

    i tried to get through the list but the typos and grammatical errors were too distracting.

  • JoeD

    Sorry, but I had to chime in too, despite the numerous comments already expressing my view. The second and third (especially the second) Matrix movies obtained Hurricane Level 5 status because they blew so hard. Put them on the list of the 7 worst and you might be onto something.

  • You don’t have Toy Story trilogy but have Matrix:|

  • hazard2600

    007 anyone???

  • Creedcow

    Ummm…what about the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy? I know, the third one left a little to be desired, but still, classic Americana.

  • UrMom

    WTF where is Back to the Future, Toy Story, Rocky, Jurassic Park, Terminator, and Evil Dead??? You’re a fucking idiot who thinks Lord of the Rings is American, quit stealing there thunder. Stick to your Goddamn title American Movie Trilogies

  • Sean

    the Dollars trilogy and LotR can’t be on the list because they are not american.
    and cutting Fincher slack for a weak movie is stupid. just cause he did it doesn’t mean i have to say it’s okay. had it been by someone else, then the alien “trilogy” would have not been on the list.

  • Corey

    Pirates of the Caribbean anyone?

  • Generic

    How dare you make a list of trilogies, and leave out Back to the Future except for an HM. Not cool..

  • greg

    Toy Story Trilogy
    The Evil Dead Trilogy
    Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3
    Die Hard 1-3
    Spider-Man Trilogy
    Terminator 1-3
    Mad Max Trilogy
    Austin Powers Trilogy
    Mission: Impossible 1-3

    So lets rewrite the correct list.
    1) Bourne Trilogy
    2) Star wars
    3) Indiana Jones
    4) Terminator 1-3
    5) Spider-Man Trilogy
    6) Die Hard 1-3
    7) Back to the Future
    8) Mad Max Trilogy
    9) Toy Story Trilogy
    10) Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3

  • JaySin420

    Pretty good list, but I think Back to the Future is easily top 5.

  • Good List by Greg – except Mad Max was an Australian production and Star Wars has to be #1.

  • MergedLoki

    the matrix really?

    So… ONE good movie makes the entire trilogy worthwhile now does it?

    first movie good. 2nd movie I literally fell asleep and never wasted time on the 3rd one.

    i say terminator.

    yes the 3rd one was KIND of weak but only really in comparision to T2 which is one of the best sequels ever.

  • Dixon

    Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead trilogy (ED, ED II, Army of Darkness) seems more American as pop culture than LOTR. Although we should take points off Sam Raimi for killing the Spiderman franchise with S3.

  • the Dylanthropist

    too many obvious mentions (aside from Back to the Future) and not enough of the actual quality trilogies. No discussion as to WHY the matrix films are there? sure the first kicked ass but the last two? seriously? those are new era star wars level of shittiness. And i agree, Toy Story is one of the only consistently amazing trilogies out there, and unlike a few on this list, american, AND an actual trilogy. Also Die Hard!! come on Nattyb! think it through!

  • smite_of_bloodstone

    I completely agree with Sean. Name another instance of a director killing off everyone we cared about from the prior movie.

    I remember skipping school to go see “Alien Cube” and being really, really angry before the title sequence even finished.

    Directors should never feel free to wipe their feet on the prior canon, and before Alien3, what had Fincher done? An f’ing Madonna video.

    I will agree that he has made some fine films after that shite, but the 3rd Alien film had so many directions to explore.

  • ant2206

    a) Lord of the Rings isn’t American, it’s Kiwi.
    b) It sucks.

    @greg: Mad Max is Australian, not American.

    The three biggies are Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future. All others are jostling for 4th.

  • allow me to point out the painfully obvious fail in this list:

    it did NOT start with the Cavalry trilogy by John Ford and starring John Wayne:

    Fort Apache
    She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
    Rio Bravo

    that the rest of you are arguing about lesser movies proves that they know their audience better than they do American movies.

  • looking closely

    Toy Story is the only trilogy I know where the first one was absolutely excellent, and then each subsequent sequel was not only excellent in its own right, but arguably superior to the previous one.

    IE: Toy story 3 was better than 2, which was better than the original. So far as I know, that can’t be said about Indiana Jones, Star Wars, or even Godfather, each one of which suffered from a noticeably weaker third installment.

    On top of that, all three of these movies are rated “G” and absolutely kid-friendly, meaning they’re great with absolutely no sex, profanity or graphic violence.

  • Tyggey

    Obviously overlooked the Matthew Broderick smartass trilogy of “War Games”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Election”. 🙂

  • Christian

    I can’t believe Romero’s Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) isn’t on here!

  • Jeffrey

    You can’t just pretend 4th movies never existed lol. There are more movies after the 3rd alien and Jones because they weren’t meant to be trilogies they just kept making them until they couldn’t.

    And I think you should put Nolans batman trilogy on the list, even though the third isn’t out yet that trilogy will be better than all of these.

  • Androgynous Anonymous

    Pfft– Everyone knows that Matrix is a pathetic copy of The Invisibles.

  • Cris

    People keep mentioning Terminator but part 3 was the mother of all movies that suck. I’ll never get that two hours of my life back. Hopefully Nolan’s Batman will top this list soon.

  • Public Cyberfreak

    The “Lord of The Rings” movies shouldn’t be on this list. It’s not the worst movies I’ve seen, but it’s by far the worst trilogy. I hate all three of them. All the characters do is to walk, and walk, and walk forever until they finally reach the volcano (whatever it’s name was) and toss the ring into it. And the story doesn’t even end there. The third movie runs a half hour longer than that!!! I wish Frodo could have just died.