Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002); Oldboy (2003); Lady Vengeance (2005)
The only linking factor in Chan-Wook Park’s brutal Vengeance Trilogy is just that: vengeance. I know Oldboy is widely regarded as the best of the three (rightfully so), but I’ve always been drawn to the unique vulnerability of Lady Vengeance. It’s vulnerable up to a point, until it isn’t. And when it isn’t… look out.
9. Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy
A Fistful of Dollars (1964); For a Few Dollars More (1965); The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Also commonly known as “The Man With No Name Trilogy,” Sergio Leone’s trio of masterful westerns put Clint Eastwood on the map, and cemented themselves as a part of classic cinema. Frankly, I find For a Few Dollars More to be the weakest of the three, but I still consider it one of the finest western films ever made. So, yeah, not too bad.
8. Lars Von Trier’s Golden Heart Trilogy
Breaking the Waves (1996); The Idiots (1998); Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Lars Von Trier loves breaking his filmography down into trilogies, my favorite being the ironically titled Golden Heart Trilogy. (But look out, if his Nymphomaniac is any good, Von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, now occupied by Antichrist and Melancholia, could take my top spot). Wikipedia describes the Golden Heart Trilogy as a set of films about naïve heroines who maintain their golden hearts despite the tragedies they experience. Fair enough, but that doesn’t nearly make these films sound as devastating as they really are.
7. Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy
Koyaanisqatsi (1982); Powaqqatsi (1988); Naqoyqatsi (2002)
The entirety of Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy lasts 274 minutes. That’s 274 minutes of dialogue-free, narration-free documentary footage that serve as some of the finest visual filmmaking I’ve ever seen. This trilogy may test your patience (although Philip Glass’ breathtaking score helps move things along), but there’s no denying its aesthetic power. I’ve never seen anything like it.
6. Roman Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy
Repulsion (1965); Rosemary’s Baby (1968); The Tenant (1976)
Repulsion is about a woman driven mad by her own psychosis, Rosemary’s Baby is about a woman driven mad by those who care for her, and The Tenant is about a man driven mad by everyone around him. This results in three of the finest films Polanski ever put on screen. What would it take for Polanski to make a straight-up thriller again? I’d kill to see that.
5. Michelangelo Antonioni’s Alienation Trilogy
L’avventura (1960); La notte (1961); L’eclisse (1962)
I sense a great deal of alienation in the majority of Antonioni’s films, but L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse are similar in design and execution and thereby fit snuggly into an unconventional trilogy. The highlight for me is L’avventura, a spellbinding, visual marvel of a film that quite literally changed the game.
4. Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy
Before Sunrise (1995); Before Sunset (2004); Before Midnight (2013)
Perhaps the most blatant trilogy of this list, Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy is something of a contemporary cinematic marvel. Although Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) occupy nearly all the screentime of these three films, I have never once grown bored of them. I’ve witnessed them talk about any number of things (at great length), but their conversations remain as delightful and honest as ever. Nine years from now, Celine and Jesse will be pushing 50, and I’ll certainly be interested in what they have to say. I only hope Linklater and Co. will be as well.
3. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy
Amores Perros (2000); 21 Grams (2003); Babel (2006)
I’ll be honest, I’ve never considered Iñárritu’s first three films as a collective trilogy, but in researching this post, it seems as though the Death Trilogy is widely regarded. And given my absolute adoration for each of these films, I couldn’t not include them here.
I go back and forth on my favorite Iñárritu film. I’m drawn to the raw brutality of Amores Perros, the emotional complexity of 21 Grams, and the brutal emotion of Babel. To pick one favorite is damn hard, which is precisely why it’s appropriate to consider all three in the same sentence. As far as I’m concerned, these films are as good as movies get.
2. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy
Blue (1993); White (1994); Red (1994)
Kieslowski’s Blue changed how I look at movies. Once I saw Juliette Binoche’s tortured performance, my understanding of film was forever altered. It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, period. White lightens things a bit, but never fails to lose Kieslowski’s classic cynicism. Most consider Red to be the trilogy’s masterpiece, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. The Three Colors Trilogy is, perhaps, the finest filmmaking Kieslowski ever gave us, and that surely is saying something.
1. Ingmar Bergman’s Faith Trilogy
Through a Glass Darkly (1961); Winter Light (1963); The Silence (1963)
There’s a story concerning this trilogy that offers an important lesson. It’s two lessons, actually.
I first watched Through a Glass Darkly on a gorgeous summer day. It was around one in the afternoon and I knew a storm would be coming later. In an effort to capitalize on the good weather, I stopped the film about halfway through, and headed to a nearby pool to enjoy the sun. But something happened. Something wouldn’t go away. A nagging sensation. Something telling me over and over: “You have to go back. You have to know what happens.” I rushed home, started the film from the beginning, and marveled at its ingeniousness. The lesson: you never stop a Bergman in the middle. Never.
Oh, the second lesson. Well, immediately after Through a Glass Darkly, I attempted to watch Winter Light. Couldn’t do it – my mind was still stuck on the first one. Second lesson: only one Bergman a day. Always.
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