Class, now that we’ve mastered how to double feature it’s time to advance your studies to the rarer triple feature. As with double features, I am neglecting to include any movies that are part of a series, so no Star Wars, Rings, Die Hard, Terminator, Alien, etc., etc. If you need me to tell you how to triple feature Back to the Future, you are beyond my help.
As with the double, triples can be split into different categories.
The first, and easiest, is the Director’s Trilogy. A lot of directors, with a large body of work, tend to have a few films that can be put together to form a thematic trilogy. Here are some examples:
- Spielberg’s Running Man Trilogy: Basically movies about people being chased, so you watch Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, and AI.
- Spielberg’s Alien Trilogy: ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and (unfortunately) War of the Worlds.
- John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy: Movies about the end of the world so The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and Into the Mouth of Madness.
- Alan J. Pakula’s Paranoia Trilogy: Klute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men.
- Scorsese’s Greed and Downfall Trilogy: I talked about this in our Scorsese ABCs, but I think that Goodfellas, Casino, and The Wolf of Wall Street form an excellent (and very long) triple feature about the nature of greed and the inevitable downfall that comes from getting rich off crime.
- Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.
- I also recently read an interview in EW with Leonardo DiCaprio where he discusses the idea that Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby, and The Wolf of Wall Street all form an unofficial trilogy as they are “all deeply American stories about wealth and the ways in which these men try to hold on to and achieve that wealth.”
There are also trilogies that, while not being direct follow-ups to each other, are linked by recurring characters. An obvious example is Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. The Man with No Name is in each film, but they can be watched in any order and still make sense. I would also put the first three Indiana Jones movies in this category too. There are little call backs and jokes between the three movies, but if you sat someone down and had them watch Last Crusade before the others, there wouldn’t be huge amounts of confusion about who people are and what’s going on.
A fun one is the Build Your Own Trilogy, most exemplified by the James Bond movies. You can watch the first three Bond films (Dr No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger) as a trilogy, especially as Russia is positioned as a direct sequel to No, something the franchise would then later discard in favour of standalone stories. Or you can just choose three from whichever Bond you like (Expect for Lazenby and Dalton who didn’t get to make three). Or you can choose three from any Bond to get the best experience, for example my choice would be From Russia With Love, The World is Not Enough, and Casino Royale. Or Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, and Skyfall. Or Dr No, License to Kill and Goldeneye. And so on and so on. This is also possible with the original Star Treks (Wrath, Search, Voyage Home), Nightmare on Elm Streets (1, 3, New Nightmare), and Friday the 13ths (2, 3, Final Chapter).
Much like I discussed in Double Features you can make a trilogy from movies with the same basic plotline. If you are dying to watch three movies from the same source material then watch Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, and Miller’s Crossing, as they are all heavily influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, with each movie employing little tweaks. Also this works well with horror movies as it is easy to make a triple feature from zombie movies or vampire movies as the well you can draw from is pretty much infinite.
Finally, I would remiss if I didn’t mention one of the best recent Unofficial Trilogies, that of the Cornetto. However, as much as I love this trilogy, it does need a slight change. If you were to give these movies to someone who had never seen them before my change would be to the watching order. Watch them backwards. World’s End, then Hot Fuzz, then Shaun. I recently watched World’s End again and a problem with it is, once you’ve learned Pegg and Wright’s style and heavy use of foreshadowing, the effect of having the pub crawl flashback opening foreshadow the events of the movie is lost. The first time I watched this movie I knew that the flashback was telling me the plot of the film and it actually detracted from my enjoyment. This was only because it took five watches of Shaun to realise that Ed’s post-break up drinking plan actually describes the events of the movie we’re about to see. By the time World’s End rolled around I was waiting for this kind of thing. A new viewer wouldn’t see it coming and the foreshadowing in Shaun is so subtle that even after watching two similar films leading up to it, it would still take them unawares.
And that’s how you triple feature. Next time, class, we’re going to talk about marathons. Bring your running shoes.