threes a' crowd-sourced
September 26, 2018 9:38 AM   Subscribe

What are the best trilogies? And why are they the best?

Across any genre, any medium, any time in history, so long as it was always a thing of 3 things.

One might consider the accomplished Bronte sisters to be a trilogy, for the purposes of this question.
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (54 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Henry Fool, Fay Grim, Ned Rifle
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:42 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Serious answer:
Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is, imo, the best Batman film series. That's a personal opinion, that version is closest to my mental canonical Batman.

Answer that I can't resist because I'm horrible:
Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy. Because there are five of them.
(More seriously, because he was foundational to a lot of my taste in humor and fiction. My own snark should not reflect poorly upon him or it.)
posted by librarianamy at 9:49 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Before Sunrise (1994)
Before Sunset (2004)
Before Midnight (2013)
posted by erst at 9:54 AM on September 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

Yakko, Wakko and Dot!
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

No wait, its actually Toy Story 1, 2 and 3.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2018

Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi

I win.
posted by Draccy at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

One more: Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy is my favorite example of 70s horror films. They're over the top, they're inexplicable, they're visually amazing.

And in Inferno a woman gets attacked by cats and it is one of the most ridiculous scenes in film I've ever seen, since most of the cats are wrangled in ass first.
posted by librarianamy at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2018

The Replacements' Let It Be, Tim, and Pleased to Meet Me.

(alternate answer would be Bowie's Low, "Heroes," and Lodger, but to be honest Lodger is a slight letdown.)
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:11 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Cups and balls is always performed with three cups, and can lay claim to being the best and most foundational magic trick ever (Harry Houdini reportedly said that no one could be considered an accomplished magician until he had mastered it). Here's Ricky Jay's version.

I made an FPP about this a while back but the links are all broken now :(
posted by googly at 10:27 AM on September 26, 2018

Today I think that MCU's Captain America Trilogy is better than Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Ask me tomorrow, I might reverse that order; it's that close.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:32 AM on September 26, 2018

Ac clarke's rama series (because raman's always do everything in 3s)
posted by chasles at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ginger, chilli, lime.
posted by conifer at 10:43 AM on September 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson! Sci-fi trilogy about the terraforming of Mars, incredible science AND incredible character development.
posted by srrh at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Khaavren Romances:
The Khaavren Romances are a series of fantasy novels written by Steven Brust and set in the fictional world of Dragaera. The novels are swashbuckling adventure stories involving war, intrigue, and romance. They are heavily influenced by the d'Artagnan Romances written by Alexandre Dumas.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2018

The Space Series (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength) by C.S. Lewis, because it's an often overlooked predecessor to the Narnia series, and it's really good "idea-based" science fiction.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 11:46 AM on September 26, 2018

Lord of the Rings?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're of certain Christian faiths, then the big three has to be the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If you're not of that faith, Neapolitan ice cream is pretty dandy.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

Len Deighton's Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match (he also has two other trilogies about the same character)
John le Carré's "Karla Trilogy": Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy , and Smiley's People.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:55 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number
The past and the present and the future
The faith and hope and charity
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number
It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand
And it takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle
Every triangle has three corners, every triangle has three sides
No more, no less, you don't have to guess
When it's three, you can see
It's a magic number
posted by kirkaracha at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

J.G. Farrell’s “Empire Trilogy,” three novels which cover the last gasps on the British empire in three very different locales (Singapore, India, and Ireland).
posted by whitewall at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2018

Oh, and if you're willing to accept the standard the songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar set, then those "Three Little Words" would rank pretty high on most lists.

Three little words
Oh, what I'd give for that wonderful phrase
To hear those three little words
That's all I'd live for the rest of my days
And what I feel in my heart
They tell sincerely
No other words can tell it half so clearly
Three little words
Eight little letters
Which simply mean I love you
And what I feel in my heart
They tell sincerely
No other words can tell it half so clearly
Three little words
Eight little letters
Which simply mean I love you
Simply mean I, I love you
posted by gusottertrout at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2018

Philip Roth's first three Zuckerman books (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Anatomy Lesson) were collected as a trilogy, appropriately titled Zuckerman Bound.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2018

The beginning, the middle, and the end?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
The humorous three-part list? (I'm going to need paper, a pencil, and the carburetor from a 1989 Plymouth Valiant")

Actually searching "joke three part list" brings up the "rule of three" WRT telling jokes in general so that seems to be a thing.
posted by turkeybrain at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2018

Proton, neutron, electron.

DNA, RNA, Protein.

Protein, fat, carbohydrate.

Dante's Divine Comedy.
posted by jamjam at 12:40 PM on September 26, 2018

Slings and Arrows Seasons 1, 2 and 3.

Why the best? - because each season focuses on a hapless theatrical troupe performing Shakespeare plays.
Season 1, Romeo and Juliette - young love hysterically depicted
Season 2, Macbeth - the doldrums of middle age and by the way I laughed so hard I wet myself
Season 3, King Lear - the final years can still be funny

I love how this trilogy plays on the classics and ties in to universal themes of living and dying, of creativity and banality. Best trilogy ever.
posted by rw at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

The songs about Virtute the cat by The Weakerthans (#1 and #2) and John K Samson (#3): Plea from a Cat Named Virtute, Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure, and Virtute at Rest. Don't listen unless you're ready to cry.
posted by esoterrica at 12:48 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Animal, vegetable, mineral

because how else could we ever win at 20 questions?
posted by rw at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

g.i. gurdjieff's "All and Everything" trilogy ("ten books in three series") comprising "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson or an Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man," "Meetings with Remarkable Men" and "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'." The front matter (wikipedia calls this page a "prospectus") in Beelzebub's Tales is a nested invocation of the law of threes, called by the first book's protagonist, the Sacred Triamazikamno ( in distinction from the other "cosmic law," that of seven: the Heptaparaparshinokh).

i have found Beelzebub's Tales delightful for its glacial, wry and unsoundbytable diction, if not for its clarity. not so much the other two.

full disclosure: i have not read each of them three times as prescribed by the author; i do keep coming back to Beelzebub's Tales to find some remembered passage only to find, again, that it is prohibitively long and quite challenging to summarize or paraphrase. see, e.g., the tale of Karapet of Tiflis at pp.43-47 of the Beelzebub .pdf.
posted by 20 year lurk at 1:11 PM on September 26, 2018

[Cooking filter]: Onion, Carrots, and Celery (Mirepoix) form the basis of SO many dishes.
posted by hydra77 at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
-The Golden Compass
-The Subtle Knife
-The Amber Spyglass
posted by fancyoats at 1:28 PM on September 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble by Ben Winters.

It's great because a) it's set in near dystopian future, which is a great genre IMO, b) there's an underlying mystery to be solved, and, most importantly, c) the final book in the trilogy holds up and has an amazing ending.

There are other trilogies I could mention - Neuromancer, Red/Green/Blue Mars, where I liked the first two books, but then on the third volume things sort of fizzled out or lost focus. Not so with the trilogy mentioned above.
posted by brookeb at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir Trilogy. Great writing, plots that blend the personal and political, and a complicated yet ultimately sympathetic main character.
posted by rpfields at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Historically and artistically significant film trilogies:

The Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray: Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), and The World of Apu (1959).

Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colours Trilogy: Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994).

A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) weren't intended to be a trilogy by Sergio Leone but were marketed as such in the United States.

A personal holy trinity:
Butter, garlic and white wine
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kill Bill
The original Star Wars trilogy, before it got bloated
Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Maskerade all by Terry Pratchett. There are others, but they came later.
posted by Enid Lareg at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2018

John "Mefi's Own" Hodgman's compendium of COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE: The Areas of My Expertise, More Information Than You Require, and That Is All. I recommend them in audiobook format.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake.
Remembrance of Earth's Past by Liu Cixin.
posted by ovvl at 3:41 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Film wise, one of the best trilogies has to be Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy :

Old Boy
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
Lady Vengeance


Because they are only thematically linked and can be enjoyed each on their own without having to have experienced the others.

Because they are superbly made and spark serious conversation (about said theme) after the credits roll.
posted by hoodrich at 4:43 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Godfather

The greatness of I and II more than compensate for any weaknesses in III.
posted by raider at 4:45 PM on September 26, 2018

John Ford’s Cavalry trilogy: Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950)
The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions Sorry, you said good trilogies.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:46 PM on September 26, 2018

And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:47 PM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

The greatness of I and II more than compensate for any weaknesses in III.

Regret to inform there was no Godfather "III."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:47 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Some might argue that

Holy Ghost

is a pretty good trilogy
posted by raider at 4:49 PM on September 26, 2018

Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World
posted by Kwine at 6:10 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Crosby, Stills & Nash
ZZ Top (the early years)

Bagels, cream cheese, and lox
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:26 PM on September 26, 2018

Primo Levi's Auschwitz Trilogy: If This Is a Man/Survival in Auschwitz, The Truce/The Reawakening, and The Drowned and the Saved

My wife says The Hunger Games and To All the Boys I've Loved Before.

Janelle Monáe's Metropolis Trilogy maybe? I think it's five parts over two albums and an EP, but maybe Dirty Computer fits in there too?
posted by hydrophonic at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2018

N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy
posted by karayel at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

i don't think it is controversial to suggest that "The V.A.L.I.S. Trilogy" (V.A.L.I.S., The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer) represent the apex of Philip K. Dick's oeuvre. the quasiautobiographical VALIS is truly unique and worth reading if but for a sense of the author's wild imagination eating itself; invasion is good ol' space colonists & suspended animation with dick's signature reality-bending & an old testament frisson; timothy archer, i think, might transcend genre & represent a very good (not "the great--" but a notable) american novel; offering us, i think, the only female narrator in the oeuvre and the most robust & real of the women written by him, which, in fairness, is not a high bar.

yukio mishima's very excellent Sea of Fertility Tetralogy (Runaway Horses, Spring Snow, The Temple of Dawn & The Decay of the Angel) is not a trilogy.

Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi are a trilogy of films worth seeing.

& you can't go wrong listening to a bill evans trio.
posted by 20 year lurk at 7:08 PM on September 26, 2018

Just a couple of book trilogies I like:
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
Nights Dawn by Peter F. Hamilton.
posted by quinndexter at 9:14 PM on September 26, 2018

the Jewish text of Pirke Avot teaches that the world rests on three pillars: the Torah, prayer [this could be translated as "work" or "service"], and acts of lovingkindness.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:54 PM on September 26, 2018

chocolate, mint, and coffee
chocolate, coffee and orange
chocolate, coffee and vanilla
chocolate, vanilla, strawberry
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:56 PM on September 26, 2018

Tequila, salt, and lime
posted by kirkaracha at 10:21 AM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Bass, Guitar, and Drums.
posted by fings at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2018

Halo, Halo 2, and Halo 3 played a huge role in defining '00s console gaming. The first pioneered compelling, well-balanced gameplay in an evocative universe, the second popularized online multiplayer and machinima and greatly deepened the mythology, and the third had a perfect ending and a refined set of social sharing and content creation tools that IMHO have not been surpassed by any other console title since.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2018

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