This weekend, War for the Planet of the Apes concludes arguably one of Hollywood's finest trilogies ever. We can argue just as passionately about which ones don't deserve consideration.
The Godfather and Back to the Future? Each worthy until their respective Part IIIs, when the Corleone saga jumped the Pope and Marty McFly headed west. Rocky Balboa didn't know when to quit, a great trait for a boxer but not a trilogy. Indiana Jones made the same mistake.
Trilogies shouldn't appear conceived on the fly, after surprise hit beginnings make studio accountants demand more (looking at you, Jaws, Cars and Austin Powers). They should arc like a missile and land with devastating finality, something else Jason Bourne forgot.
Our picks of the Top 5 trilogies ever are 15 movies giving sequels a better name and steering cinema to new heights.
1 Toy Story (1995, 1999, 2010)
For now, Toy Story's escalating artistic excellence and compelling arc tops this list. I say "for now" since Pixar has Toy Story 4 slated for a 2019 release. No reason to believe it will tarnish the legacy, but Part 3 ended so perfectly.
2 Star Wars originals (1977, 1980, 1983)
Might be No. 1 if those Ewoks hadn't shown up in Return of the Jedi. George Lucas probably fibbed about always having a nine-movie plot in mind, but the first three are sublime mythic fantasy.
3 The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
For sheer sprawl and grandeur, nothing beats Peter Jackson's Tolkien trio. The Two Towers is everything a midsection shouldn't be, yet bookended by a game-changer and an Oscar juggernaut. Not a trilogy I'd sit through again, but give Gollum his due.
4 Planet of the Apes (2011, 2014, 2017)
Speaking of Gollum, the only lead actor on this list twice is motion-capture maestro Andy Serkis as Caesar the hyper-intelligent ape. James Franco was the first movie's smartest character; more proof that evolution is real.
5 Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns (all 1967 U.S. releases)
Movies didn't look or sound like this until A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly introduced U.S. viewers to Leone's pore-peering close-ups and Ennio Morricone's music. Oh, and a new movie star named Clint Eastwood. The kid had potential.