Working your way through several movies in a single sitting can be a great way to pass the time, but sometimes it can leave you wanting for something more. Sure, few things beat a tight and well told one film story, but trilogies, on the other hand, provide something a little different: major long term character development that would be otherwise impossible in any kind of manageable runtime.
Some prime examples of that long-term character development within this list are
The Mighty Ducks, Back to the Future, and yes, of course, Star Wars. While there's been plenty of ink spilled as to the developments within Star Wars and Back to the Future, there's still some things to be said for The Mighty Ducks as a franchise.
Not only are its component movies really fun examples of sports movies (replete with inspirational themes and trappings), they're running records of the cast's growth. In the same way that television shows make audiences feel like they're growing up with certain characters, these films inspired very much the same feeling, and what's more, they manage to play that nostalgia against the audience's expectations. Charlie's (Joshua Jackson) arc throughout
D3: The Mighty Ducks is a good example of this, as it has him refusing to let go of his past glory days, even when they put the future of his team in danger. He's forced to come to terms with the fact that the only constant in life is change, and in so doing, he grows up and becomes the leader he'd been playing at being for the entire franchise.
If that kind of long-term character development sounds good, then go ahead and check out our list of
11 movie trilogies to stream from start to finish. 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 in succession, they make for a very solid movie marathon. Arguably, the second film perhaps isn't quite as good as the other two, but it's still a good addition to the pulpy series. 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-starring classic spaghetti western trilogy represents some of the most popular, well-known examples of the western genre. In the first film,
Fistful of Dollars, a drifter, Joe (Eastwood) manages to play two rival families against each other, making some cold, hard cash while exploiting their pride, greed, and envy. Every trope you can think of regarding westerns can trace a connection back to the Fistful of Dollars trilogy. Do note that it is certainly a... film of its time, and there are certainly some damaging stereotypes at play. Still, it's a prime example of the spaghetti western genre, and well worth your time (especially the second one, For a Few Dollars More). Available on Amazon with a Starz subscription. The 'Alien' Trilogy Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992)
Alien trilogy usually makes plenty of "top trilogies of all time" lists, and for good reason: it's one of the most quintessential examples of science-fiction horror to date. Between iconic visuals, timeless characters, and tension thick enough to withstand a flamethrower, it's an immersive film that emphasizes the vulnerability core to the human condition. Available on HBO Go, HBO Now, and Amazon with an HBO subscription. The 'Back to the Future' Trilogy Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III
One of the most popular trilogies,
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. Available on Amazon with a Starz subscription. The 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Trilogy Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), and The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
Pirates of the Caribbean franchise reignited a lot of fans' fascination with pirates and piracy. It's an adventure film in almost every sense of the word, very much carried by its strong, iconic cast of characters. This is perfect for a romp through some of the darker Disney fare, with just a hint of ghosts and curses to keep things fun. Available on Disney+. The 'Toy Story' Trilogy
Technically, as of last year,
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. Woody, Buzz, and all the toys change massively throughout their journey, with most — if not all — completing wonderfully 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's. Who knew watching a bunch of toys grew up and mature could be so satisfying? Available on Disney+. The 'Star Wars' Trilogy ... of trilogies
Can't mention trilogies without one of the all-time most popular ones: the
Star Wars original trilogy. It's the trilogy that spawned a juggernaut of a franchise, and for good reason: it's a story that borrows heavily from timeless mythology, with 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 are some fine examples of wonderful storytelling, with The Last Jedi meriting special note with how it upsets many of the tropes established by this very franchise. Available on Disney+. The 'Mighty Ducks' Trilogy
Any of the
Mighty Ducks movies has 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 in one way or another. Available on HBO Go, HBO Now, and Amazon with an HBO subscription. The 'Scream' Trilogy
Wes Craven managed to revitalize the slasher genre with the
Scream trilogy. Rather than relying too much on cheesy, gory kills, Craven sent up the genre, calling out many of the overdone tropes within horror. Scream and its sequels are indeed a bit of a meta commentary on slasher flicks but they're also just well done films. Available on Amazon with a Showtime subscription. The 'Captain America' Trilogy
Captain America: The First Avenger wasn't nearly as well-received as its sequels, but those latter films make the entire trilogy worth watching. 2014's The Winter Soldier stands as an excellent example of an incredible spy film that just so happened to be set within the Marvel Universe. It also presented some universe-shattering twists that came to change the face of the cinematic universe itself, 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. As the first Avenger, it makes sense that the mainline movies featuring Cap would offer plots that would go on to shift the entire universe. Available on Disney+. The 'Iron Man' Trilogy
Can't mention the Captain America films without mentioning the Iron Man trilogy, the first of which kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr. truly 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 great example of an audience bait-and-switch. Available on Disney+.