Making a great movie trilogy is hard. In fact, making just one good movie is hard; making three good movies in a row is almost impossible. In a recent piece, I called it the “double rainbow of miracles.”

So let’s celebrate some cinematic double rainbows. Because in spite of the long odds, filmmakers do sometimes pull off not only a great trilogy, but a great final film in a trilogy — the one that is, statistically speaking, the toughest to get right. You’ve got to hope the director stays around and interested, that the cast remains available and happy, the studio continues to support them, and that each successive installment is financially successful enough to merit another one. When you look at it that way, it is sort of astounding it happens as often as it does.

In terms of what qualifies as a “trilogy” we only considered series where there was a clearly defined trio of movies that were best understood in context together. If a franchise cranked out one sequel after another, you could technically pick any three consecutive titles and call them a trilogy. But that felt like a cheat. For example, some might argue that Goldfinger is the end of the first trilogy of James Bond movies, following Dr. No and From Russia With Love. If that’s the case, it’s a great third film in a trilogy. But Bond’s producers intended the series to be open-ended; the fourth 007 film, Thunderball, was released just 14 months after Goldfinger. On the other hand, there are some franchises that do have clear-cut trilogies even if they lasted for more than three films, so it felt appropriate to include those.

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best ends to movie trilogies...

The Best Third Films in Movie Trilogies

These movies achieved the difficult task of finishing a great trilogy in superb fashion.
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The Worst Third Films in Movie Trilogies

For some reason, it’s very hard to nail the finale of a movie trilogy. And here is the proof.

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