The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 10:39 am,

Best Threequel Movies Of All Time The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

This weekend marks the release of Toy Story 3, which is already getting rave reviews as a brilliant third installment to a near-flawless franchise. But when you look back at the handful of threequels in movie history, the memories are not quite as bright.

From Batman Forever to Spider-Man 3, there are far more awful third installments of beloved movie franchises than great ones. So, in honor of the hard work from the good folks at Disney/Pixar, we are going in a different direction… Rather than relish in the horrendous examples of failed threequels, we are going to present our 10 favorite third installments of popular franchises.

Some examples are part of a grand saga, while others are the closing chapter of an unforgettable tale. Either way, they won over our hearts and left us smiling.


10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

When Alfonso Cuarón took the reigns of the Harry Potter franchise, everything got a little brighter by getting a lot darker. The tone of the film was what many movie fans hoped for, but maybe the child stars just needed a chance to grow into the roles.

Cuarón set the tone for the rest of the franchise, which begins its final chapter this winter. The Dementors are a staple of Azkaban that remain a favorite of many. But the addition of Gary Oldman as Sirius Black was the move that assured this film a spot amongst our favorites.

9. Goldfinger

James Bond Goldfinger The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

There have been 22 James Bond films, but only one can truly call itself a threequel. It is difficult to find a favorite amongst the classic renditions of the sleek spy. Even some of the more recent films have taken spots near the top of fans’ lists. But Goldfinger became a kind of revolution. It broke boundaries and tested audiences, all the while giving them the spy they wanted.

One of the main reasons for the enduring love for Goldfinger is the henchman known as Oddjob. Featured in our Most Awesome Weapons list, the bladed hat he used to chop the head off a statue became an icon within the film.

Even more memorable is Jill Masterson’s gold-covered body. Shirley Eaton, the actress portraying Masterson, was even featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine in a photographed reprisal of the scene. And let’s not forget Ms. “Pussy Galore.”

On top of it all, Goldfinger laid the ground work for Austin Powers in Goldmember. Unfortunately, that was not as enjoyable a threequel as its the film it spoofed.

8. Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Die Hard With A Vengeance Bruce Willis Samuel L. Jackson The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

New York City has never seen an action film quite like Die Hard: With a Vengeance. It perfectly blended the comedy, thriller and action genres into one cohesive movie. Ultimately, Samuel L. Jackson’s presence alongside the always great Bruce Willis brought a dynamic duo that gave tremendous flow to the film.

While Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is one of cinema’s best villains, Jeremy Irons brilliantly portrays his brother, Simon. The cat-and-mouse games, Simon Says jokes and Advil gag make Vengeance one of our favorite threequels of all time.

7. Mission: Impossible III

Mission Impossible III Tom Cruise The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

Many fans consider John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II to be a minor slip-up after the intelligent and exciting first film. Others love Woo’s escapist action, which used slow motion and a lot of Doves to say that Ethan Hunt can do just about anything. All things considered, J.J. Abrams’ third installment could easily be considered the best of all three.

Abrams truly brought his creativity to the trilogy with a mysterious villain, a deadly weapon and a romantic edge that never felt hokey. On top of it all, Tom Cruise brought his believable performance from the first film back for this threequel.

6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi The 10 Best Movie Threequels of All Time

First of all, Return of the Jedi is the third best of the original Star Wars trilogy – let me put that out there right now. But the least favorite of one of the most cherished trilogies of all time is not exactly the worst label. So, here we are at #5 with Return of the Jedi.

So much is resolved in the final chapter of the Star Wars saga that it becomes a legacy of its own. The epic saber-to-saber combat between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is a near-perfect finale. And just when you thought Vader’s paternal revelation in The Empire Strikes Back was the twist of all twists, Lucas gives Vader a glorious and honorable death.

Return of the Jedi struggles only because its predecessors are so great. A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are a pair of films that are almost impossible to top. But the third installment was created as a closing chapter of the saga, and in doing so it was a success – even with the Ewoks.

Continue to our top 5 threequels…

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  1. Wat about Toy Story? I think Harry Potter should be around #5.

  2. Toy Story 3 was excellent and deserved to be on the list more than at least 3 of the movies on the list.

  3. Where to even begin??? Bourne Ultimatum, over edited rubbish compared to the first two films,

    ROTK, possibly my biggest cinematic disappointment, the acting, the directing, the effects, the story, everything took a severe slide in the final installment, I love the book so much that I find the film version almost unwatchable.

    And MI:3, a film that doesn’t make amy sense!!! It’s just terrible!!!

      • Just because Rottentomatoes rating says they are good doesnt make it so!

  4. I agree with the problem of Return of the King being the multiple endings. When I saw it in the theater, everyone kept standing up to leave, then sitting back down (after the fifth time, we stayed in our seats until we saw the end credits).

    • How are there three, four, or even five endings in ROTK? If you think that it should’ve ended after Frodo destroyed the ring and the screen went to black, then you’re ignoring the fact that Aragorn’s story needed some closure. Similarly, if you think it should’ve ended when the camera pulls away from Minas Tirith after Aragorn’s coronation, then you’re forgetting that Frodo’s story isn’t finished.

      I can’t really pick the other two times you think the film should’ve ended, but counting the actual end of it, plus Aragorn’s coronation, there are only two endings in the film, period.

  5. It’s hard to determine what classifies a “threequel,” but I would definitely include ‘Trois Couleurs: Rouge’ from Kieslowski’s liberty, fraternity, equality trilogy. Also, Ingmar Bergman’s phenomenal religious trilogy that concludes with ‘The Silence’ should be on the list.

    If neither of those count then definitely ‘The Godfather, Part III’ should be on the list. It’s not the best of the Godfather movies, but it’s still better than several movies that made the list.

  6. Agree with most of this list, but ROTK just doesn’t deserve to be here. Bourne and MI3 are good choices though, despite the hate above.

  7. I would add Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris as my top threequel ever made.

    • Great Movie right there, wish they had made a seguel to that one

  8. Gang,

    This article was written prior to the release of Toy Story 3.

    But yes, I totally agree – I’ll have to mull whether to update this post and add it as #1.


    • Vic,
      Do I need to remember Toy Story 1 and 2 very well to enjoy 3? Because I used to watch those all the time, but I must say that much of the plots have escaped my memory now.

  9. It still amazes me how everyone loves the Harry Potter movies. The First 2 were literally spot on the book. You could watch those and start reading the 3rd book and not miss really anything. The 3rd movie was the beginning of the end for me. Literally some of the best parts of the book were left out and everyone always loves them just because the director used some artsy style. In my opinion since the 2nd one they have all just gone down hill the third one started it the 4th one was a travesty (could have been a different book altogether), the 5th one wasn’t as bad but still left things out, and the 6th never really stood a chance because so much was left out before that it cant be salvaged. Movie 1 and 2 are the only 2 movies that share the same feel of the books. It didn’t set the tone for the series, it started its decline and destroyed any chance the movies had of staying close to the books.

  10. im having a hard time here, i like most of whats on the list, but i still feel that there are more bad sequels than good

  11. Great list. But, Army of Darkness being at number 2 seems rather strange. Better than Jedi, last crusade etc? Is that a mistake?

    • Not a mistake. That was my call to put it that high on the list. It’s an AWESOME third film.



  12. I whole heartedly disagree with “Die Hard with a Vengence” being anywhere higher than “Prisoner of Azkaban.” Hats off to Jeremy Irons… he was great, but nobody tops Gary Oldman.

    I’m indifferent on “Missions Impossible III” and James Bond but “Return of the Jedi” needs to break the Top 5. I had forgotten that “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” was a threesome! Nice catch!

  13. Great list! I forgot how may great threequels there are. I really need to see Die Hard 3. I do not agree with Army of Darkness though. Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite movies ever, but I had to give up on AOD about 15 minutes in.

  14. Not sure about the order, but I agree with most of your picks, except for Bourne Ultimatum. I liked the first two, even with the extreme shaky-cam in Supremacy. The over-editing and shaky-cam bothered me a lot in Ultimatum, but the writing is what really ruined it.

    Haven’t seen Mission Impossible 3 yet or any of the Harry Potter movies, so I can’t judge.

    Glad to see Army of Darkness on the list. It’s easily as good as the first two. And I’m glad you didn’t leave out Return of the Jedi just because of the Ewoks.

  15. in the bit for jedi it says number five? sorry to be such a stereotypical nerd.

  16. I have to disagree with many of these especially as a die hard fan of Star Wars. The third movie was…well lets just say a collection of not very fine words. Same goes for Die Hard 3, and MI 3. However there is much redeemed in this article with Good the Bad and the Ugly, four hours of epic western thrill that people do over look as a third. Lord of the Rings: RotK was also fantastic despite the ‘multiple endings syndrome’ and I enjoyed the third Indiana Jones movie as well. Army of Darkness is one of my most treasured Bruce Campbell movies although it poses another short problem: isn’t the Winchester Shotgun the fanboy weapon of choice against the undead? /:?

  17. Vic,update it so it says Toy Story is #1,it DESERVES it. I HIGHLY recommend it,u will feel something you’ve never felt in any movie….

    • Ricky18

      Done. I’ve amended the post to reflect a new #1 Threequel: Toy Story 3.


  18. my only problem with return of the king is that Sam and Frodo seem gay and gullom you want to kill him yourself cause he is annoying.
    But what about King Kong vs Godzilla? Oceans Thirteen? Scary Movie 3?…You know come to think of it those 3 and your list are the few good threequels out there.

    • Scary Movie 3 was God-awful and should be nowhere near on the list with these films. As much as I love a good Godzilla movie, those aren’t nearly the films that are mentioned here. Personally, I loved the American Pie trilogy. Would also rather see the Back to the Future trilogy on here instead of the crap known as Mission Impossible.

    • I love the Godzilla series, but (IMO)King Kong vs. Godzilla was just awful. You should note that I’ve only seen the Americanized version.

      • @ Andy S
        Scary Movie 3 is hilarious and is the best of the series, but then again they are retarded so i can understand that lol
        I would also rather see back to the Future on here than Mission Impossible.
        @ Matt Keith
        IMO King Kong vs Godzilla wasnt the greatest nor was it really good but you got to mention the series somewhere cause most people wave it off cause of the campy 70′s movies. If you want to watch the Japanese versions of some of the films get the Classic Media release of the Godzilla DVDs the only have about 5 to 7 released right now but the Japanese versions are a lot better than the American versions.

        • I’ve seen the original versions of most the Showa era films, but King Kong vs. Godzilla hasn’t been released in it’s original form yet.

          • The Japanese version is better in some ways. It has more footage. You see more of the story. For the most part I always prefer the Japanese versions, but this is one case in which I prefer the American version. The American version has some of the funniest dubbing I’ve ever heard, and Akira Ifukube’s music has been replaced by stock Universal music, including some Creature From the Black Lagoon. I’m a big fan of the Ifukube scores, but in this rare case I think I prefer the stock Universal music. It makes it a lot more exciting.

            Then again, the American version is what I grew up with. So that could be why I prefer it.

  19. How about Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Pretty good film.

  20. I think that

    Once Upon A ime In Mexico
    Clear & Present Danger
    Lethal Weapon 3
    The Search For Spock
    The Enforcer

    and **Gasp**

    Matrix : Revolutions

    Should be at the very least honorable mentions.

    • I would actually put Hannibal on a WORST sequels of all time list.

  21. I am the only person in the world who would have Terminator 3 and Star Wars Episode III on my list.

    • Only if it’s worst threequel list.

      • Why the preguel trilogy sucked:
        Episode I – Pod Race, Killing off Qui-gon and Darth Maul
        Episode II – Really wasnt that bad soo going on to the next
        Episdoe III – it seemed like something you would watch on lifetime not a Star Wars film
        I wouldnt call them total flops either but they could have been way better. But like you said d-man, there was alot of great battle scenes and also CGI.

  22. If your going to add Mission Impossible 3, why not Starship Troopers 3 Marauder. ^
    Come on those MI films are gay action comedies,,, Toy Story3 tops the list whatever, I’m outnumbered and surrounded by scary people. 8-O

  23. This list is pretty bad considering that there is someone who thinks that Die Hard 3 is better than the first installment,Return Of The Jedi better than Empire.

    Personally,I will agree with most on here with there complaints of ROTK,and I will just add that I always felt like that movie just didn’t know when to end.

    Hey,and where is Toyko Drift on the list?

    Just kidding ;)

    • I think you missed the point.
      It was not said they are better than their predecessors, they are just great 3rd movies of a series. Not exactly comparing in-series but rather between series (exclusively the second sequel of those series).
      At least that was the impression I got..

      Anyway, great article. Don’t really agree with the hate for ROTK but I can accept it had it’s flaws.
      Regarding The Good, the Bad and the Ugly I completely agree that it stands alone and I love Morricone’s score.

  24. I think you should make a Worst threequel list.

    • @Rabbit93

      That would be too long a list. Basically almost every threequel not mentioned here. :-P


      • i agree vic, thats why i stayed away from commenting on this one, all the ones on the list are pretty much the tip top. i tend to avoid most sequel, most, NOT all you guys lol

      • Thanks for the update, Vic! Toy Story 3 definitely deserves the top spot. Saw it tonight. AMAZING!

  25. Personal taste wise, I don’t like Indy or Star Wars or Mission Impossible and wasn’t fond of LOTR so none of those would make my list.

    Toy Story III sounds like a worthy #1 and I’m looking forward to it. Goldfinger I’d rank much higher (which is not just good Bond, but a good film, otherwise)

    I also like the choice of the Leone film.

    But the best for me, and one that is glaringly missing, is “Red” from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, followed by the 3rd installment of the classic, Samurai Trilogy (the one about Musashi)

    I’d also add, Naked Gun 33 1/3, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (not a great movie, but entertaining) Rio Grande (John Ford’s Calvary trilogy) and the Return of Daimajin.

    I’ve never seen “The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” but I hear the uncut version is a gem.

  26. I agree completely with this list except Return of the Jedi should NOT be on the list. That was my least favorite Star Wars installment! AAgh.

    • well, but it was a GREAT third film though…i mean everyone knows Empire was THE best of all the SW films

  27. I know that since this movie the serie has spun out of control into a straight to DVD mess but what about American wedding, from american pie. I thought that was a pretty good closing story even if chris Klein sucked out.

    • ekk, terrible man, just terrible…arent they gonna try for a 4th one too?

  28. Agreed with greenknight about Lethal Weapon 3 and The Search for Spock. Great 3rd films in a series. (Although I prefer The Voyage Home, but that is for a best FOURTH film in a series! :P )

    • Yeah, The Search for Spock was a good one.

  29. Vic,u do know how to rate movies,not like Armond White:) way to go!!!!