Home T-Boy Society of Film & Music Best Directorial Film Trilogies

Best Directorial Film Trilogies

Ed Boitano, Curator

A trilogy is often defined as a series of three books, plays or films that have the same subject or the same characters. But, for the T-Boy Society of Film, Travel & Music, film trilogies must absolutely include the same filmmaker allowing them to expand on their cinematic themes. Granted, an auteur’s filmography includes those very personal themes and visions throughout their entire body of work, but many directors, critics and film scholars often pinpoint three films that accent their themes.

At a recent T-Boy conference the following film trilogies were selected as among the best in the history of the cinema.

The links to director’s names and films courtesy of IMDB.com

Roberto Rossellini: The War Trilogy

Anna Magnani in Rossellini’s Rome, Open City – one of the defining images of Italian neo-realism.

I try to capture reality, nothing else. – Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy

Michelangelo Antonioni: Modernity and its Discontents Trilogy

Monica Vitti and Alain Delon with a column between them in Antonioni’s L’Eclisse.

My work is like digging, it’s archaeological research among the arid materials of our times. – Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni’s Modernity and its Discontents Trilogy

John Ford:
The Cavalry Trilogy

The principal actors in John Ford’s Fort Apache: Henry Fonda, John Agar and John Wayne.

My name is John Ford and I make Westerns. – John Ford

John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy

Satyajit Ray: The Apu Trilogy

Subir Banerjee as Apu in Ray’s Pather Panchali.

Cinema’s characteristic forte is its ability to capture and communicate the intimacies of the human mind. – Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray’s Apu Thrilogy

Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy

Wender’s regular Rüdiger Vogler in Alice in the Cities, photographed by another Wender’s regular, Robby Müller.

Sex and violence was never really my cup of tea; I was always more into sax and violins. – Wim Wenders

Wim Wender’s Road Trilogy

Alice in the Cities (1974)

Wrong Move (1975)

Kings of the Road (1976)

Fritz Lang: The Mabuse Trilogy

Closed frame in Fritz Lang’s 1922 masterpiece, Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler.

I am profoundly fascinated by cruelty, fear, horror and death. My films show my preoccupation with violence, the pathology of violence. – Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang’s Mabuse Trilogy

George Stevens: The American Dream Trilogy

Method actors Shelley Winters and Montgomery Clift in Stevens’ A Place in the Sun,
based on novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.

The camera is not the instrument. People are always the instrument. – George Stevens

George Stevens’ American Dream Trilogy

Ingmar Bergman: Trilogy of Faith

Harriet Andersson descends into madness in Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly.

I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.– Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s Trilogy of Faith

Sergio Leone: The Dollars Trilogy

Clint Eastwood as the man with no name in Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

As an actor, Clint Eastwood has two expressions: with and without the hat. – Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy

Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The BDR Trilogy (Bundesrepublik Deutschland)

Hanna Schygulla in The Marriage of Maria Braun, one of Fassbinder’s most commercially successful 44 films in his 13 year-long-career.

I hope to build a house with my films. Some of them are the cellar, some are the walls, and some are the windows. But I hope in time there will be a house. – Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BDR Trilogy

Anthony Mann: Frontier Justice Trilogy

James Stewart in The Man from Laramie by director Anthony Mann.

Geniuses sometimes end up very unhappy, without a penny. – Anthony Mann

Anthony Mann’s Frontier Justice Trilogy

Alan J. Pakula: The Pakula Paranoid Trilogy

Warren Beatty in Pakula’s Parallax View.

I am oblique, I think that has to do with my own nature. I like trying to do things which work on many levels, because I think it is terribly important to give an audience a lot of things they might not get as well as those they will, so that finally the film does take on a texture and is not just simplistic communication. — Alan J. Pakula

Alan J. Pakula’s Paranoid Trilogy

George Miller: The Mad Max Trilogy

Tom Hardy takes on the role of Max in Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Film is, to me, the trickster. I think I can be around a thousand years and never understand the process. – George Miller

George Miller’s Mad Max Trilogy

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) is eliminated due to its co-directorial status with director George Ogolivie.

Krzysztof Kieślowski: Tree Colors Trilogy

Irene Jacob on a billboard in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red.

If I have a goal, then it is to escape from this literalism. I’ll never achieve it; in the same way that I’ll never manage to describe what really dwells within my character, although I keep on trying. – Krzysztof Kieślowski

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy

Nicolas Roeg: The Rock Star Trilogy

Mick Jagger as the reclusive rock star and James Fox as the gangster on the run in Performance.

Movies are not scripts – movies are films; they’re not books, they’re not the theater. It’s a completely different discipline, it exists on its own. – Nicholas Roeg

Nicholas Roeg’s Rock Star Trilogy


William Wyler: The Pacifist Film Trilogy

Dedicated to John Hartl, former Seattle Times film critic, who coined the term.

Harold Russell, Dana Andrews and Fredrick March as three WW2 veterans returning to their homes
in Main Street, USA in The Best Years of Our Lives.

I’m here to make good pictures. If I don’t see it, I won’t touch it. I may not make a good picture, but I still gotta believe in it! – William Wyler

William Wyler’s Pacifist Film Trilogy

In Memory: John Hartl

John Hartl in 1993. Photograph courtesy of Barry Wong / The Seattle Times.

John Hartl was the Seattle Times film critic from 1966-2001. John died peacefully on the morning of June 3, 2022 at the Seattle home he shared with his husband, Michael Upchurch. A cinephile since his childhood in Wenatchee, WA, he would save money from his paper route to buy 8 mm films. He once invited me to his house for a screening of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of the Nation; a film he adored for its form and innovations, well aware that cinema is a visual medium, not a literary one, corrupted by plot.

I’ll always remember John as a kind and thoughtful man, who never stopped loving the cinema, even when he walked away from the Times due to his disdain of corporate driven movies and hyperbolic marketing, where only the bottom line mattered. Near-criminal foolishness has always been a large part of this business, he wrote in his farewell piece. It’s the escalating hype surrounding the release of the junkiest stuff, the willingness of the press to play along, the lust to be ‘No. 1 in America’ on thousands of screens. Nevertheless, he was still committed to film as an art form, and would write freelance reviews and features until 2018.

John graciously appeared in my 1977 film, Seven Days in a Movie Town in an interview section discussing his insights on cinema. He never once commented on the poor film exposure in some of his footage that I shot. He was that kind of guy. John donated brain tissue to the UW for research into brain activity in the elderly, including those with dementia, in his final act of generosity.

– Ed Boitano, T-Boy Editor

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One Comment

  1. Raoul

    August 10, 2022 at 8:11 am

    Surprised the Godfather wasn’t among the list.


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