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The Best Third Movies in a Film Series

The Best Third Movies in a Film Series

So your first movie was a hit! Somehow you even managed to nail the sequel and expand on your characters… so you have to make a third now, right? In mathematics, religion, writing, and yes, art, the number three resonates with its user. Pythagoras reasoned it was the perfect number as it could chart a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Latin the phrase goes “omne trium perfectum,” stating that every three is perfect, or every set of three signifies completion.

Through history and the wiring of our brains, we are here to seek out patterns, and the number three is the smallest (and therefore easiest) one to find, but in the film world the ‘Part 3’ is so often overlooked for its efforts.

This list of the best third movies in film series is by no means here to state that these films are better than the originals (although some arguably are), but rather just fantastic additions that are an often overlooked part of a trilogy. There is a lot of weight on a trilogy closer, or “threequel” if you will. If your sequel somehow bettered its original, then you only want to do that again and somehow go even bigger. However, go too far and it mars what had come before (note that The Godfather Part III does not appear on this list), creating a delicate balancing act for any filmmaker and their vision(s).

Following the quick succession of Clerks 3 last month and Halloween Ends, here we unpack some of the best ‘part three’ titles in film series.


8/8 Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

In a life-threatening game of Simon Says, cop John McClane (Bruce WIllis) is once again at the wrong place at the wrong time as he must solve the puzzles around New York City to stop a deadly terrorist. Samuel L Jackson as the fast talking New Yorker teaming up with John McClane gives some of the best dialogue across the whole series.

Related: Bruce Willis Made 21 Direct-to-Video Movies in Two Years: Let’s Look at Some

Die Hard With a Vengeance doesn’t seem to stop for a second, and reflects its hustle and bustle setting. Its final scene comes off as needing ten minutes to kill and no idea how to fill it, but the movie as a whole is a hoot and charts one of the last proper movies Bruce Willis made before he just started making whatever was there. Jeremy Irons also does great work in this fun flick.

7/8 Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

In this sequel, a group of gifted teens are utilized to stop the nightmarish Freddy Krueger. Arguably as good as the original (with the weight of needing to add more characters all while expanding on the Nightmare lore), the great Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors adds an incredibly likable collection of teens, all with distinctive personalities, to the point where seeing their inevitable deaths at Krueger’s hand is met with genuine disappointment for any fan.

Dream Warriors would wash away any PTSD from the slog that is Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and Robert Englund as Freddy looks like he’s having a blast as the character again. Dream Warriors‘ nasty deaths scenes stand out in a series of so many, perhaps peaking with its late night TV kill (pictured above).

6/8 Evil Dead: Army of Darkness (1992)

In the ever bizarre timeline that is the original Evil Dead film series, Ash is sent back to the Medieval past, bringing with him a shotgun (or boomstick) and a chainsaw for a hand. There he meets witches, wizards, and a whole army of the undead. With spectacular special effects, puppetry, and the man himself, Bruce Campbell, in a dual role as hero and villain, this is Campbell and Sam Raimi unhinged and with the brakes off. Finally out of the cabin, the scope on this one is so much bigger, and from the groundwork of the excellent Evil Dead II, is now an all out comedy. An overlong run time, but such a balmy ride you can’t help but love it.

Director Sam Raimi’s other part three’s come as an executive pProducer on Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die (1996) and director on the wildly disappointing Spider-Man 3 in 2007.

5/8 Toy Story 3 (2010)

As a teen growing up, the Toy Story series has a special place in this writer’s heart as my age and subsequent important life moments more or less matched that of Andy’s. Toy Story 3 at no point feels like it is phoning it in, but rather is an emotional allegory for growing up and moving on. As the toys realize it’s all over and they head towards the incinerator, they grab each other’s hands to go together. Not yet realizing this, Woody scrambles, before seeing Buzz and conceding to their fate. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and should rip you to shreds if you’ve managed to hold on for this long (the emotionally poignant clip below contains spoilers).

What would have been the perfect end to a trilogy, has been entirely watered down by an unnecessary part four and endless shorts. By the point the toys were selling broadband in commercials, they were dead to us all. Of course, Toy Story 5 is on the way.

4/8 Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave (1995)

A genuine expression of just what can be done in animation, A Close Shave sees out the trilogy of shorts for Aardman Animation. There’s a sheep rustler on the loose, and Gromit has been framed for it. The Wallace & Gromit series (full features and all) have always been experts in the tinier moments and the subtlety of making their scenery look so splendid.

Take how rubbery the cheese of the moon looks in a Grand Day Out, the satisfying air trapping noise as Feathers McGraw slots perfectly into an empty milk bottle, finally captured, or the shaggy wool here of Preston the Cyber Dog’s fur — now turned into a thick jumper. Arguably not quite as good as The Wrong Trousers before it but a spectacular example of filmmaking nevertheless, and at only just half an hour long to boot.

3/8 Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

As the closer to perhaps the greatest trilogy of films ever made, Return of the Jedi gets so much flack, and wrongly so. The Empire is hard at work building a second Death Star and Luke and the gang must mount a final offensive to destroy it for good. Kicking off immediately from where Empire Strikes Back ends, the epic locations of Tatooine and Jabba’s Palace are in full show to marvel at. Ewoks are disliked by most, perhaps fairly so, but characters like Lando, Yoda, The Emperor, and Jabba all shine in this epic closer for the series. Luke and Vader’s ongoing battle (both physically and emotionally) is wonderfully done to the very last.

2/8 Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)

With Temple of Doom firmly set as the black sheep of the series, Last Crusade would look to return Doctor Indiana Jones to form. In the film, Hitler and the Nazis have turned their desire to the cup of Christ, said to be so powerful that it grants its user immortality. The leading expert on the subject however has gone missing, so it’s up to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to track him down. The twist? The leading expert is his very own father. Played by Sean Connery, the back and forth bickering between James Bond and Han Solo is as excellent as it is prickly.

Related: What Indiana Jones 5 Needs to Get Right as the Final Adventure

With some incredible set pieces (plus perhaps one of the coolest openings to a film ever?) and an unmatched sense of fun and adventure, the chemistry between the whole cast versus the jet black evil of the Nazi army is scorching hot. Sean Connery is wonderful in one of his best performances outside James Bond.

1/8 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

With Return of the King, Peter Jackson redefined what a trilogy meant in Hollywood. Bringing the fellowship’s journey to an end, Frodo and Sam finally make their way to Mount Doom to drop the ring and end it all. Charting Aragorn’s doomed romance as a human to someone who will only outlive him, and his step-up to royalty to end evil and unite the nations at an epic three hours long it doesn’t feel it.

An extraordinary cast sees out one of the biggest film events in recent memory, bringing to life the most magical of fantasy creations both good and evil. Not only was Smeagol/Gollum a technological breakthrough, but is a villain for the ages. The world of Tolkien returned to our screens recently in The Rings of Power, which has been met with mixed reviews.