15 Classic Trilogies You Can Have A Movie Marathon With Now

From beloved action-adventure films like Indiana Jones to the more introspective Before movies.

by Jessica Lachenal and Katherine J. Igoe
Originally Published: 
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in The Temple of Doom.
Paramount Pictures/Indiana Jones

In a world of easily streamable TV series and movies, few things beat a tight and well-told story, but trilogies provide something special: major long-term character development that’s impossible to condense in a single film’s runtime, combined with an overarching story that gels together over several hours — and the big-screen budgets don’t hurt, either. Some prime examples within this list are The Mighty Ducks, Back to the Future, and, obviously, Star Wars. While some are well-known and well-loved classics, others remain criminally underrated (See again The Mighty Ducks. Just go with it.).

In the same way that television shows make audiences feel like they're growing up with certain characters, these films can very much inspire the same feeling — and what's more, they often manage to play that nostalgia against the viewers’ expectations. If that kind of expansive storytelling sounds good, then go ahead and check out our list of 14 movie trilogies to stream from start to finish when you find yourself with eight or more interrupted hours. (Or, you know, to watch over multiple days. Whatever works.)

The ‘Cornetto’ Trilogy

Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), The World’s End (2013)

So named because of the ice cream brand — one flavor represents each movie, according to director Edgar Wright — the films are somewhat unrelated to each other in subject matter. But each features long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost writing and acting to show off their uniquely sarcastic-yet-sweet comic sensibilities, along with Wright directing and Nira Park producing. Everyone’s got a clearly defined favorite (mine’s Hot Fuzz) and will defend it to the death.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The ‘Before’ Trilogy

Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013)

The first film in Richard Linklater’s trilogy is probably the most well-known; it follows Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) as they meet by chance and spend the day together. The second and third installments, though, are not to be missed. They feature the couple years apart: once, when they reunite after their early romance didn’t pan out, and then (spoiler alert) again, several years into a relationship. The movies are less about action and more about conversation and connection, but it’s still riveting to watch an authentic pairing between two people.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The ‘Dark Knight’ Trilogy

Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman reshaped the superhero movie forever. With Christian Bale playing it straight, and the characters going for authenticity and drama, the trilogy hit a high point with the genuinely terrifying Joker in The Dark Knight — a character that serves as a permanent testament to Heath Ledger’s acting prowess.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Perhaps the most well-known trilogy of them all, this is Peter Jackson’s luscious, sprawling take on J. R. R. Tolkien’s somewhat dated but still much-lauded series. It’s effective because there’s so much source material; the world’s bursting with interesting characters that you wish you had more time with. There’s something for everyone: epic battles, love triangles, very hot elves on horseback. A modern classic if there ever was one.

Watch on HBO Max.

The 'Alien' Trilogy

Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992)

The Alien trilogy also makes the “top trilogies of all time” lists, and for good reason: it remains an expert example of its genre. Between the visuals, characters, and tension thick enough to withstand a flamethrower, it's an immersive film, at once epic and intimate. All that, plus Sigourney Weaver. There are more than three films in the franchise now, but these are the classics.

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The 'Toy Story' Trilogy

Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010)

Technically, a couple years ago, Toy Story stopped being a trilogy and became a quadrilogy with the release of 2019's Toy Story 4. But that doesn't change the fact that these films are well worth your time for the nostalgia value alone — plus, the first three movies arguably remain a self-contained story, centering around one child, Andy, as he grows up. Woody, Buzz, and all the toys change during their time as Andy’s playthings, with most of them completing satisfying emotional arcs by the end of the series. Honestly, re-watching the entire trilogy is 100% worth it if only to get to that emotional payoff in Toy Story 3.

Watch on Disney+.

The 'Indiana Jones' Trilogy

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Each of the first three movies in the Indiana Jones franchise is great on their own, but watched one after the other, they make for a very solid movie marathon. Truthfully, the second film isn't as good as the other two (with the most instances of tired and damaging tropes on screen), but it's still a part of the storytelling power of the pulpy series. (For completists, 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is also a thing, but — in a large part due to the time gap — it has a very different feel.)

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The 'Fistful of Dollars' Trilogy

Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Clint Eastwood-lead Spaghetti Western trilogy offers some of the most popular, well-known examples of the genre. In the first film, Fistful of Dollars, a drifter, Joe (Eastwood) manages to play two rival families against each other, making some cash while exploiting their pride, greed, and envy. Do note that it is certainly a ... film of its time, let’s say, and there are certainly some damaging stereotypes in the portrayals. Still, they’re well worth your time (especially the second movie, For a Few Dollars More).

Watch on Amazon Prime.

The 'Back to the Future' Trilogy

Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990)

One of the most popular trilogies ever made, Back to the Future is also a fine example in meta-narratives and storytelling. Back to the Future took the concept of time travel and managed to skillfully deliver a story that plays with the premise. The way in which the sequels very directly interfere with the events from the past films just add to the final payoff.

Watch on Netflix.

The 'Star Wars' Trilogy ... of trilogies

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Can't mention trilogies without nodding to the original Star Wars trilogy. It spawned a juggernaut of a franchise, and for good reason: the story that borrows heavily from timeless mythology, while introducing an expanded universe of lore that runs as wide and deep. What's more, this trilogy is just one trilogy in a trilogy of trilogies! The Star Wars prequels were certainly less popular, but the newest installments to the saga offer solid storytelling, with The Last Jedi meriting special note for upsetting many of the tropes established by this very franchise.

Watch on Disney+.

The 'Mighty Ducks' Trilogy

D1: The Mighty Ducks (1992), D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996)

The Mighty Ducks movies have nearly everything anyone could want in a sports movie: misfits coming together to do the right thing, hijinks, and, of course, a heck of a lot of heart. A lot of time passes between the three films, and cruising through them all, it's interesting to see how each of the characters grows up throughout the trilogy. It's hard not to get attached.

Watch on Hulu.

The 'Scream' Trilogy

Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000)

Wes Craven managed to revitalize the slasher genre with the Scream trilogy. Rather than relying too much on cheesiness and gore, Craven satirized the genre, calling out many of the overdone tropes within horror. Scream and its sequels operate as meta-commentary on slasher movies, but they're also just great films — and feature an impressive, Psycho-esque bait-and-switch that shocked audiences at the time. It was also particularly impressive for its unifying factor: Neve Campbell, as the final girl to end all final girls. The franchise has gone on to spawn more movies, including one that has yet to hit theaters.

Watch on HBO Max.

The 'Captain America' Trilogy

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Okay, 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger wasn't nearly as well-received as its sequels, but the later films make the entire trilogy worth watching. The Winter Soldier (2014) is incredible spy film that just so happened to be set within the Marvel Universe — and it also presented some world-shattering twists that changed the face of the cinematic universe, informing the entire franchise to follow. The same goes for 2016's Civil War, which managed to feel like an Avengers and a Captain America film at the same time.

Watch on Disney+.

The 'Iron Man' Trilogy

Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013)

I can't mention the Captain America films without mentioning the Iron Man trilogy, the first of which kicked off the entire MCU. Robert Downey Jr. brought Tony Stark to life in a way that only he could, and managed to carry the load of an entire cinematic franchise on his back — at least at first, until the rest of the Avengers could get there. Additionally, Iron Man 3's twist ending still stands as a perfect example of an audience fake-out.

Watch on Disney+.

The ‘Thor’ Trilogy

Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Aaaand finally, the little trilogy that could: Thor started out with as good an origin story as possible for a weird, hammer-wielding, Viking-god from a different universe. The second, The Dark World was ... fine, you know, pretty forgettable except for the Loki shenanigans. But it was all worth it to get to Ragnarok, which might be one of the funniest Marvel movies of all time. In director Taika Waititi’s hands, the film was such a fun reboot of the character that it may have kept Chris Hemsworth in the MCU. Now that’s good.

Watch on Disney+.

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