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5 best movie threequels

If making a sequel is sometimes impossible, then making a threequel can be even trickier. After all, having the ability to make a threequel typically suggests that the first two films worked well enough to generate demand for a third.

Making a threequel can also be liberating, though. At this point, a franchise can shift or change, and the creative minds behind it can start to experiment. The best threequels do exactly that, and their gambits often pay off exquisitely.

Logan (2017)
Genre Action, Drama, Science Fiction
Stars Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart
Directed by James Mangold

As it turns out, Hugh Jackman may not actually be done playing Wolverine. Even so, Logan served as a fitting end to his 17 years playing the character. The movie, which was famously rated R, took the character to new and darker places.

Not every plot choice in the film works perfectly, but Jackman’s performance anchors everything so beautifully. There’s a reason the screenplay for this movie was nominated for an Oscar and became one of the first superhero films to do so. Logan is a movie about pain and hope, and it changed what superhero movies could be. 

Logan | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Genre Adventure, Action
Stars Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Raiders of the Lost Ark was such a triumph that it felt foolhardy to even try to replicate that film’s success. While Temple of Doom is a bit of a mixed bag, though, The Last Crusade validated Steven Spielberg’s decision to make Indiana Jones a franchise.

This third installment, which famously features Sean Connery as Indy’s father, makes the entire enterprise into something close to a farce. There was a careful balance between comedy and seriousness in the first film, and while The Last Crusade still has plenty of great actions, the jokes are what ultimately make it last. 

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Genre Adventure, Fantasy, Action
Stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler
Directed by Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson’s entire Lord of the Rings franchise is great, front to back. Return of the King might not be the strongest movie in the series, but it’s nonetheless a wonderful capper to the story. Does it have at least four endings? Sure, but can you blame Jackson and the cast for wanting to take a bit of a victory lap?

The story of the fellowship and the destruction of the ring is moving, and the battles that make up this final installment are genuinely thrilling. In the end, as Frodo realizes he can’t go home again, we’re reminded that it’s not easy, and sometimes impossible, to actually leave your trauma behind. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Official Trailer #1 - (2003) HD
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Genre Adventure, Fantasy
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter wasn’t the franchise it would eventually become until The Prisoner of Azkaban, which brought in director Alfonso Cuaron to take the entire series in a decidedly more stylish direction. Azkaban is perhaps the smartest movie in the series, and it’s the first one to realize that slavish devotion to the books didn’t have to be the ultimate goal.

The young actors at the center of the series also fully proved that they could see these characters through to the bitter end. Add in a couple of new, thoroughly captivating characters, and Azkaban cemented itself as one of the best Potter films. 

Skyfall (2012)
Genre Action, Adventure, Thriller
Stars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Directed by Sam Mendes
Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond was among the more accomplished in his entire run, and it stacks up with the best Bond films ever made. The movie, which follows Bond after he’s presumed dead in action and then returns to MI-6 quietly, is perhaps the most visually stunning installment in Bond history thanks to Roger Deakins’ cinematography. What really makes Skyfall sing, though, is the way the movie balances the seriousness of the Craig era with enough genuinely great action beats to make you feel like you got your money’s worth. 
SKYFALL - Official Trailer

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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