Most of the time Part 3 is a lazy retelling of the first two movies (“Friday The 13th Part 3”), a studio cash-in (“Spider-Man III”), a misjudged change of direction (“Halloween 3: Season of the Witch”), or a weak ending to a film trilogy (“Scream 3”, “The Godfather Part 3”).
But sometimes we’ll find a really good third movie – one that we discover is better than Part 2. Continuing our (controversial) look at film sequels, read on to see the 10 best Part 3s that are better than the Part 2s which preceded them.
10. Poltergeist 3 (Sherman, USA, 1988)
A massive improvement over the sequel “Poltergeist 3” has enough scares along the way to make it a worthy follow-up to the successful original.
9. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Chechik, USA, 1989)
Many people’s favourite Griswold family film, this second sequel is a huge improvement over the messy first sequel. This time the Griswold aren’t travelling anywhere, they are planning a relaxing Christmas at home. But of course things don’t go smoothly.
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Russell, USA, 1987)
After John Carpenter’s “Halloween” we were subjected to endless horror film sequels that span decades and continue today. In the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, Wes Craven would return to the director’s chair for the brilliant “A New Nightmare”, a pre-“Scream” postmodern horror film that was gleefully self-aware and parodied the conventions the original film helped make doctrine. Of the other sequels, however, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” stands out. It hasn’t yet fallen into the trap of making chief villain Freddy Krueger a comedic figure. It takes the essence of the original story and moulds it around a largely unique tale of a bunch of harassed kids fighting back in their dreams with the help of original heroine Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp).
7. Exorcist 3 (Blatty, USA, 1990)
Writer of “The Exorcist” William Peter Blatty writes and directs this second sequel which seeks to be closer to the tone of the original film than the overblown “Exorcist 2: The Heretic”. By far the better film, “Exorcist 3” features one of the best jump-out-of-your-seat moments in any horror film. While it doesn’t live up to the original’s overpowering terror, the film is still an excellent sequel that again intelligently investigates one of Blatty’s favoured themes – faith.
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuaron, UK/USA, 2004)
This was the first Harry Potter film I saw and remains one of the best of the franchise. The film before it, however, is one of the weaker efforts in the Harry Potter catalogue so this is an easy one to include here. But that should take nothing away from the “Prisoner of Azkaban”. The key characters including Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter had become more accustomed to their roles, they had improved as actors, and with that improvement so had the story. This is much darker than the first two films and has a wonderful time-travelling sub-plot that works particularly well. The film also benefits from top performances from the older members of the cast, especially Gary Oldman who appears far too scarcely but is at his devilish best.
5. Die Hard with a Vengeance (McTiernan, USA, 1995)
After the mixed reception to “Die Hard 2” John McTiernan, director of the original film, returned to the helm to get the franchise back on track. Based on a script that was originally a stand-alone film and then adapted to the Die Hard characters, “Die Hard with a Vengeance” is a fast-paced, high-octane, hero versus villain action film that benefits from an on-form Bruce Willis back in the character he personifies so well with the addition of sidekick Samuel L. Jackson.
4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, New Zealand/USA, 2003)
There isn’t much to choose between the films when it comes to Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”. It is one of the best trilogies ever made. Many feel the second film is the best of the trilogy, some feel the first is the best, but for a trilogy that is all about scope and scale, the third and concluding part is the perfect third course.
3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Spielberg, USA, 1989)
The Indiana Jones trilogy (well, what was a trilogy until Spielberg decided to produce a CGI-ed mess of a fourth film) ended in a flourish. With the swashbuckling bravado of the first film reinstated, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” has become one of the most loved Part 3s.
2. Back To The Future Part III (Zemeckis, USA, 1990)
Director Robert Zemeckis simply had to follow-up his story of time-travelling teenager Marty McFly and his eccentric friend Doc Brown after leaving the audience on tenterhooks at the end of “Back To The Future”. Zemeckis has frequently said the ending of the film was a joke on the filmmakers part – the film had come to a satisfactory conclusion and the inferred time-travelling adventures to come were simply a way of saying our two heroes were not done yet. But after the success of the original and sequel was requested by the studio. Now Zemeckis and co-writer Bob gale had to come up with a whole movie based around their joke ending. Instead of one movie, we got two. And Part 3 is, by a small margin, the better of the two. What makes “Back To The Future part 3” so great, and one of the best sequels ever made, is how the focus switches to the most interesting character of the trilogy – Doc Brown. Zemeckis and Gale concoct another fine story that is the almost perfect construction of classical narrative you’ll ever see, but the focus on Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown makes it the more interesting, more emotionally moving of the two sequels. With its suitable epic ending it’s also the more satisfying.
1. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, Italy/Spain/West Germany, 1966)
If “The Godfather part 2” is the film everyone thinks of when contemplating the virtues of sequels over originals, then “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” is the one everyone thinks of when it comes to Part 3. The greatest Spaghetti western ever made brings together the component parts seen in the first two movies to create this crowd-pleasing, epic finale. The concluding part of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy is considered by many as one of the best films ever made.
NB. Due to a gross oversight, a clerical error, and coffee spilt over the computer “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was unfairly missed when collating this top 10. Thanks to Will at Silver Emulsion for pointing out the mistake. Several staff members have now been fired. Indy has now replaced the contentious choice of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”.
Discover More on Top10Films.co.uk:
Search our collection of Top 10 lists sorted by type:
THEME | ACTOR | DIRECTOR | TIME PERIOD | GENRE | COUNTRY | SPECIAL INTEREST | FUNNY
See the A – Z of films featured on Top 10 Films / Check out our film review database