Top 10 Threequels of All Time

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Third films in franchises rarely get any credit because sequels unfortunately don’t always live up to their predecessors. Often the third movie gets a bad rap because what the filmmakers tried to do with the second film could not be replicated in the third. But, in rare occassions, the third film can be better than the movies that came before it. Here is our ranking of the best threequels of all time. In each case, this third film is not only the best sequel in a franchise but often the best chapter period. Let us know if you disagree in the talk backs below and tell us your favorite threequel.


You may think that other films on this ranking are superior movies to anything in the HARRY POTTER series, but PRISONER OF AZKABAN was a turning point for the wizard saga. Chris Columbus’ first movies were Spielberg-lite and for general audiences. Alfonso Cuaron’s entry takes the franchise into the darker territory that would define the five films that followed. No other film on this list was as franchise-defining as AZKABAN which earns the film the top spot as the best threequel of all time.


Steven Spielberg has not had great luck with sequels unless they feature INDIANA JONES. When they also feature Sean Connery, they are even better. This entry in the action franchise turned our favorite lone archaeologist into part of a father son duo. They tried to replicate that dynamic in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL but failed because Shia LaBeouf is no Connery. This movie is pure summer movie fun that we don’t get nearly enough of anymore. We have chosen wisely.


Marvel films have always started out strong but the only franchise that seems to have improved with each sequel has been Captain America. While THE WINTER SOLDIER remains a benchmark for the MCU, CIVIL WAR gave audiences the most stellar combination of superheroes on screen to date and delivered a battle sequence that has no equal. Marvel haters cannot argue that the airport scene in CIVIL WAR raised the bar for all comic book movies that come next.

#4 – TOY STORY 3

Pixar sequels are not their best products (see the CARS films) but TOY STORY improves with each new chapter. While I am lamenting why they are bothering with a fourth film, it will be nearly impossible to top how good the third movie is. Where the second TOY STORY was technologically better made than the first, the third film expands the scope both emotionally and narratively to make a film that is movie magic in the ways that Pixar and Disney do it best.


James Bond films have been coming and going for five decades. If you go all the way to the first films of the Sean Connery era, you will find the most famous entry, GOLDFINGER, also happens to be the third film in the franchise. Connery hits his stride as 007 with GOLDFINGER and the series found that perfect blend of comedy, gadgets, babes, and awesome bad guys.


Like RETURN OF THE JEDI, many people don’t want to admit there were films that came after this third movie in a famous franchise. DIE HARD should have been an easy concept to continue making films with but neither film that followed VENGEANCE Has come close. Maybe it was the dynamic between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in this movie or the big New York set pieces that could not be topped, but this remains the best DIE HARD sequel ever made.


Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD films are so totally different from one another. The first film is a grindhouse horror masterpiece and the second is a slapstick remake. The third is a wholly unique vision that is more funny than scary and gave us the Bruce Campbell we have come to know and love. This movie is so much fun and yet failed to give us further studio financed adventures for Ash and his boomstick.


The weakest of the original trilogy films, RETURN OF THE JEDI is still an important piece of movie history and a classic regardless of quality. While the Ewoks struck many as too Henson-esque, RETURN OF THE JEDI would be the last STAR WARS movie many of us had until the prequels appeared in 1999. By that point, THE PHANTOM MENACE made this look like APOCALYPSE NOW.


One of the most iconic westerns of all time is not always recognized as the third in the Man With No Name trilogy after A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. Connected only by Clint Eastwood’s character, this is by far the best movie of the three and a classic that should be seen by fans of any genre.


While this film did win Best Picture at the Oscars and break box office records, you may be wondering why it is so far down on this list. Well, technically, RETURN OF THE KING is the third part of a single film just as the novel was a segment of a longer narrative work. So, while it may be one of the best films on this list, it barely meets the criteria for a true sequel. Plus, the multiple endings still piss me off.


About the Author

5886 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.