Top 5 Movie Guide: Third Film of a Franchise

Ever since the invention of film and the realization from production companies and filmmakers alike that money could be made off of this medium, franchises have been a staple in Hollywood and around the world. Believe it or not, though, most not very well-known today, from the 1930's and into the 1960's, there were actually 27 different noted film franchises with more than 10 entries apiece. Even with as many sequels and reboots are going on today, you could make a pretty good case for that era being the heyday of movie franchises. The medium was still a fairly new concept, and audiences loved the comforts and connections of seeing previous characters on the screen again.

Many of us think of the modern movie franchise and something more in the line of the Star Wars films, which took the idea of a movie franchise to a whole new level. This was the first film that truly tried to define what it means to be a "franchise", which was to using the characters and properties from one medium and crossing them over to other areas - TV, games, merchandising, endorsements, etc. It was a massive success and pushed the medium into a new era. Today's standard for a film franchise is the trilogy. From some reason or another, as film fans, we've identified with trilogies, and accept them as the norm. This doesn't mean there aren't exceptions; The Harry Potter and Twilight franchises are some of the most successful of all time, and both offer more than three films. Or, if you want to head over to China, you can still catch new installments in the Wong Fei-hung franchise, which currently sits at 89 films and counting.

But nonetheless, with this weekend's release of "The Dark Knight Rises", Christopher Nolan's third and final chapter to his Batman franchise, we decided to take a look at some of the best third films that movie franchises have had to offer. It did not matter how many total films were included in the franchise, only, and obviously, that it had to have at least three. Each writer breaks down some of their reasonings for their selections, but overall, there's a great and unique variety listed for your enjoyment.

So hit the jump for all the titles - and by the way, whether any of us would have included it or not, this latest Batman film was omitted from contention. Enjoy!

Alex Schopp -
How many films did I have to leave off this list? Way too many, that's for sure. This might have been the toughest list we've done so far, and I could name ten others that should be on a list such as this. I just tried not to over-think it and went with my gut.

     1. Return of the Jedi (1983)

Some might want to argue semantics here, but it was the third film released from this series, and that's good enough for me. Also, I really love Star Wars, and for a long time this was my favorite installment (the first 20-minutes still might be some of the best the entire series has had to offer).
     2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Man, did I love this movie when I was younger! The first film is more impressive to me these days, but I just couldn't leave Indiana Jones off of this list. He's one of the best movie characters of all-time, and even though the first film is a little grittier, it's still hard finding many complaints with this one.
     3. Day of the Dead (1985)
"Dawn of the Dead" will always be my favorite of this franchise, but when my brother and I came across this film many years back, I loved it so much! It almost never gets talked about, but there are so many great things happening. Some of the characters in this film are the best from the franchise.
     4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
An epic conclusion to a Peter Jackson's trilogy. I never read these books, but I feel like Jackson was able to immerse us in this world with these characters so wonderfully that I never need to.
     5. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
Pretty easily the best of the series in my opinion. The action levels are great, Willis and Jackson make a great team-up, there are plenty of fantastic one-liners, and Jeremy Irons even makes for a good villain. Plus I love all the games in this movie.

Ben Foutch -
My approach to this list was finding third films in a trilogy or series that stood out from the rest, or brought something new to the table. It is ranked according to that specification. This list doesn't necessarily showcase my favorite franchises, or my favorite entries in them. However, some of them do represent what I consider to be the most admirable of their respective franchises.

     1. Toy Story 3 (2010)

This is might be one of the best endings to a trilogy ever. It even surpasses the brilliant first installment with ease. So much emotion in this one.
     2. Puppetmaster 3: Toulon's Revenge (1991)
Sit through all of these (I think there are nine) and tell me that this isn't leagues better than all of the others combined in every aspect.
     3. Army of Darkness (1992)
Pretty much a Looney Tunes approach to the Evil Dead story, but it's just so much fun. The second one had ridiculous comedy, but this takes the slapstick hi-jinks to new levels of camp, for better or worse.
     4. Chasing Amy (1997)
Third film in the Jay and Silent Bob universe. If I remember correctly it's called the Jersey Trilogy? Anyway, more realistic and relatable than the other installments and often touching at times. Might be Kevin Smith's best film.
     5. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
One of the best spy movies ever. Almost didn't fit my criteria for this list because it is so similar in tone and style to Supremacy, but I feel that it stands out the most when looking back at the franchise and is without a doubt, the best installment.

Derek Clem -
Sadly this list calls for a heavy dose of explination. a) I don't want anyone to think I don't like "Back To The Future, Part III" (1990); the only reason it's not on my list is due its heavy reliance on the previous installments to aquire its own greatness. BTTF3 is still one of my second favorite movies. b) I wanted so badly to put "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (1984) on my list, however, seeing as in the Muppet film before it, "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981), the Muppets arent playing themselves, "The Muppets Take Manhattan" isn't a true "Part 3" to that franchise. I hope this info provides a little extra insight into how I made my choices.

     1. Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)

One of cinema's greatest achievements.
     2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
This is my favorite flick out of the entire Harry Potter franchise. It was really the first time we saw the lead characters begin to grow up. This installment has a remarkable tone and scores highly in technical proficiency. Alfonso CuarĂ³n really made this movie his own. His directorial stamp is obvious.
     3. Rocky III (1982)
Rocky fights Mr. T AND Hulk Hogan. How could it not be one of the best ever third installments for a movie franchise?
     4. Toy Story 3 (2010)
This could possibly be the best movie out of the bunch, but that Lotso Bear is just so mean and terrible that it puts me off watching the film very often.
     5. Christmas Vacation (1989)
This is a flawless Holiday comedy. non stop laughs!

Nathan Hinds -
This was one of the more interesting and fun lists to do. Even though this list isn't reflective of how I would rank the overall franchises, it was still a unique way to do a list. Also, it should be noted that while 'The Lord of the Rings' films are my favorite all-time, I don't consider them a trilogy because the books aren't a trilogy. It's really just a nine-hour movie, so that's why you won't see "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" on my list.

     1. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

This is one of the greatest spy movies/franchises of all time, and my personal favorite spy movie. That scene in the train station is so great. I really hope we haven't seen the last of Jason Bourne.
     2. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)
This actually is my favorite Indiana Jones movie. Most people list "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when they throw Indiana Jones on a list, but that one is third on the list for me. I loved Sean Connery in the movie, and this won't be the only time you see one of his films on this list.
     3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The film where Harry Potter became more than strictly a movie for kids. We were introduced to one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series, Sirius Black (played brilliantly by Gary Oldman), and like Derek said, we really started to see a growth in Dan, Emma, and Rupert. While Harry Potter is still my favorite film franchise, and I like every Harry Potter film more than the one before it, it wasn't until the fourth movie where I went from really liking the films to loving them.
     4. Rocky III (1982)
This is where the franchise starting going for a more broad appeal versus being just a great sports drama. We get that revenge plot, and old rivals joining forces for the greater good. Two great villain boxers, and the introduction to "Eye of the Tiger".
     5. Goldfinger (1964)
Widely considered the greatest of all the James Bond films. It's not my overall favorite, but it's definitely one of the best. And for anyone else who has seen these early James Bond films, I think we can agree that they could never get away with making films like this today. SIDE NOTE: I plan to rank all the James Bond films once we get a little closer to the release of "Skyfall".

Andy Schopp -

     1. Return of the Jedi (1983)

If Star Wars is able to make a list then it will almost always be in the number one slot. Sorry world, that's just the way it works.
     2. Superman Returns (2006)
I'm going to have to explain this one a bit, I presume. Superman Returns is officially cannon after "Superman II", so according to the studios and Bryan Singer, Superman Returns is the third movie in the series.
     3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
Just a perfect shining example of what a third movie in a trilogy of movies should be. I find almost no flaws with it.
     4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Indy goes in search of the Holy Grail! Who better to accompany him on the journey than Sean Connery? No one, that's who. It's silly, it's serious and it's a historical good time!
     5. Army of Darkness (1992)
Ash is one of the best heroes to ever hit the screen. When you put him in a medieval setting and make him a destined hero then you've got yourself a perfect concoction of movie making magic!

So that's what we're looking at this week, everyone. Plenty of great variety this time around. A few films stood above the rest, but not by much. Our two most selected films were "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", each with three selections. And it is interesting to note that nothing received more than three picks this week. Both of these films are/were at the time conclusions to their said franchises, but since then we've seen a new Indy film, and The Hobbit is set to release this winter (though, technically a prequel, but still an additional film to the franchise). Both of these films offer great closure to all characters, provide some of the best and most exciting material from their entire franchises, and of course, are able to be seen as stand-alone films, which I think is something that each writer above paid some attention to in their list construction. Both of these are easily two of the most noted third films of movie franchises, and if you do start your viewing journey with these, you can't go wrong (though as movie fanatics, we really do want you to check out those earlier installments first, just so you can be more immersed in the universe - and we realize that's not the point of this list, but we just can't help it).

Otherwise, we have six total films that each had two selections: "Return of the Jedi", "Toy Story 3", "Army of Darkness", "The Bourne Ultimatum", "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", and "Rocky III". All of these are fantastic representations from this criteria, and all deserving of a little extra attention. But each film on the above lists in truly a stand-out in some way or another, and we hope that you find the time to give all of these a chance.

Whatever your navigation through these titles though, as always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films this unique category has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!