Best: Toy Story 3 (2010)
We were initially dubious that, over 10 years later, Pixar would be able to recapture that old Toy Story magic for a threequel. As soon as the first trailer arrived, though, it was clear that this Part Three had the same ingredients that made the first two such big hits.
Not the ground-breaking animation (which remains peerless, and has gained an extra dimension here), but rather the characters and the story.
And director Lee Unkrich has been respectful to the passage of time (not happy to simply rehash earlier efforts), making Andy 10 years older and ready for college in this assault on your tear ducts. Total Film has bestowed an honourable five stars on TS3 : read the full review here .
Worst: Shrek the Third (2007)
The original Shrek was the first occasion that Pixar had some worthy competition. The second upped the ante and kept the gag rate high, and had the inspired decision to introduce Puss in Boots. The third was unforgivably lame.
It didn't help that Dreamworks were trying to sell us the same jokes for a third time running. New director Chris Miller's (after 1 & 2 helmer Andrew Adamson headed for Narnia) promotion of Prince Charming to lead villain was another shot in the foot, as was the inclusion of Justin Timberlake's adolescent King Arthur.
These failings made it all the more suprising that Shrek Forever After was actually watchable.
Best: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The amnesiac superspy, who made Matt Damon a bankable box office star and 'inspired' God-knows-how-many imitators, hit his stride in this pulse-pounding threequel.
Admittedly, it offers up a very similar formula to the one seen in Identity and Supremacy , but does so with such vigour, invention and attitude that you're too damn thrilled to notice.
The Tangiers rooftop chase that culminates in a frantic fist fight is one of the most exhausting action scenes of the franchise.
Worst: Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spidey's third cinema outing (that would turn out to be Tobey Maguire's final time in the skin-tight lycra) is a textbook example of bad threequel-itis.
The errors are myriad, but the critical consensus slammed the over-abundance of villains (Raimi was pressured include Venom), Peter Parker's ill-conceived emo phase, and Kirsten Dunst's whining MJ (confounded by the presence of a wasted Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy).
It's a shame Raimi and co didn't get to redeem themselves with their planned Spider-Man 4 .
Best: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
After the epic journeying of the first two films (some six hours worth of cinema), Peter Jackson had The Return of the King to tie up all the loose ends and mount a spectacular conclusion. Which meant battles. Lots of battles.
Sauron's armies launch a relentless siege upon Minis Tirith, Aragorn leads the diversionary battle on the Pelennor Fields, and Sam and Frodo edge ever closer to Mount Doom.
The action pile-up doesn't mean there's no room for emotion though: witness the reuniting of Aragorn and Arwen, the tests to Sam and Frodo's friendship, and the multiple endings. That's how you wrap up a trilogy.
Worst: X-Men: The Last Stand (2007)
After convincingly establishing the X-universe in Part One, Bryan Singer ran with it in X2 , creating what is widely considered one of the best comic-book movies.
While Singer was off doing Superman Returns , the eager studio set Brett Ratner (oh dear God!) to work on The Last Stand , and the results speak volumes. Ratner lacks Singer's sure hand with the characters (just imagine how different Phoenix could have been) and to compensate he simply ups the action set-pieces (and throws in Vinnie Jones).
After the equally disappointing Wolverine , it's up to Matthew Vaughn's First Class to give the flagging franchise a shot in the chest.
Best: Alien 3 (1992)
Sure, Alien 3 was a totally different beast to what had preceded it (but that didn't harm Cameron's Aliens ), and it got a mauling when it was released, but there's still plenty to enjoy.
Fincher was hampered by his late arrival to the project (and the involvement of a studio nervous about their big money franchise), but still brought the brooding atmosphere and visual invention that would become his trademarks.
Ripley is the only human character who survives the transition from Aliens to Alien 3 , so she bears the brunt of the movie. So credit to Sigourney Weaver then, for giving Ripley a fitting (if temporary) send-off.
Worst: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
We were willing to forgive Reloaded , as what it lacked in coherent plot, it made up for with bombastic action (Neo taking on hundreds of Agent Smiths, the highway chase), and we knew we had a final part coming along in six months to tidy everything up… or so we thought.
Delivering none of the innovative action thrills of the earlier Matrix movies, Revolutions sees Neo trapped in a subway for a large portion of the film, before entering into a disappointing battle with arch-nemesis Smith.
The Mecha-suited Zion warriors provide a burst of interest, but it's too little, too late, as you'll already have been sedated by the onslaught of pseudo-religious techno-babble.
Best: Day of the Dead (1985)
The last of the truly decent Romero Dead movies, Day sees human survivors living in an underground facility, trying to figure out what to do in the face of the zombie holocaust. Helicopter teams take trips out, scouring for survivors, while friction between the military men and science folk grows.
Domesticated deadhead Bub was the only Romero zombie to get a name, and a line of dialogue for that matter, though it wasn't the most memorable one. That accolade goes to Captain Rhodes redemptive cry ("Choke on 'em!") as his innards become a zombie feast.
Worst: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
An ageing Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his signature role in this most undignified of threequels. Incumbent director Jonathan Mostow failed to fill James Cameron's voluminous footwear, and T3 sorely missed the presence of Linda Hamilton.
New (female) robot-assassin T-X had all the technology imaginable (including, nonsensically, the ability to control all machines) but none of the threat of Arnie and Robert Patrick's earlier villains.
A decent ending was the only thing that saved this from being a total disaster, but it wasn't enough to earn forgiveness for this camp, neutered franchise-tainter.
Best: Mission: Impossible III (2006)
J.J. Abrams gave Tom Cruise's IMF agent his most satisfying screen outing. Brian De Palma's original was enjoyable but lacked the necessary pace to thrill as a summer blockbuster should, and John Woo's sequel was little more than ludicrously OTT action pieces (and overuse of those masks).
Abrams set up a nice team vibe, bagged an effective villain in the form of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and chucked in enough surprises to keep the twice-jaded audience stimulated.
We're now super-twitchy to see what Brad Bird is going to do with M:I 4 …
Worst: Blade: Trinity (2004)
Wesley Snipes half-Vampire was primed for a decent threequel. The original was an unexpected hit, and Guillermo del Toro delivered a stonking middle before David S Goyer fluffed the last installment.
Adding eye-candy Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds should have been a plus point, but the shockingly poor script manages to waste their talents at the same time as making Blade himself redundant.
Throw in one of the weakest screen Dracula's ever to darken a cinema screen and you've got the ingredients for franchise poison.
Best: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
While this doesn't quite reach the towering heights of its predecessors, Jedi often fails to get the credit it deserves as a Part Three: for starters, it manages to satisfyingly close the space saga while leaving the audience hungry for more (something Lucas managed to undo with spectacular style in his follow-up trilogy).
Yes, there's the small matter of the Ewoks, but, on the plus side, you get a meaner Luke, the end of Vader, an electrifying Emperor, and that gold bikini. Count your blessings.
Worst: Jurassic Park III (2001)
Spielberg's absence was keenly felt in this entry to the dino-franchise. Sam Neill makes a welcome return as Alan Grant, and there's a decent set-up (kid needs rescuing from Dino Island), but that's about it.
This time round, the dinosaurs are brightly coloured (bizarrely), diminishing the threat and realism that made them so fearsome in their original outings.
The spinosaurus is no T-rex, and the one thing that could've saved the film- an enormous three-way battle between spinosaurus, T-rex and marines- was apparently cut from the script due to budgetary constraints. D'oh!
Best: Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Bob Zemeckis may never have been able to recapture the simplistic genius of BTTF , but he gave it two decent fresh coats of paint by sending Marty to the future ( Part II ) then the Wild West ( Part III ).
Marty McFly heads back to 1885 to save temporally stranded Doc Brown, and Biff Tannen's historic counterpart is still causing trouble for the pair. Zemeckis doesn't waste any opportunity for cowboy gags, without forgetting to neatly tie up the series.
Worst: RoboCop 3 (1993)
The half-man, half-machine, all cop had little left to lose after RoboCop 2, but somehow this manages to ruin the big guy's cinematic reputation even further.
RoboCop is relegated to something of a supporting role in this 'family-friendly' movie, which makes him more of a toy commercial than the ultimate crime-fighter (he has interchangeable arm weaponry and a rocket-pack!).
The presence of robot ninjas and the hamming of Rip Torn can't save this one (which really says a lot).
Best: Army of Darkness (1992)
Sam Raimi proves he can deliver an ace threequel in this second follow-up to The Evil Dead . If Evil Dead II was a change of pace, Army of Darkness takes an even more drastic gear change.
Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his further adventures with the Necronimicon are the only familiar elements, but the trademark Evil Dead sense of fun survives. Ash is in the Middle Ages (glimpsed at the very end of ED II ), having to lead a battle against an army of Harryhausen-style stop-motion skeletons, the Deadites.
Checking out the multiple endings is essential ("Remember, shop smart- shop S-Mart!").
Worst: Scream 3 (2000)
Wes Craven's seminal slasher Scream defibrillated 90s horror (and the whole slasher genre) with its self-referential, movie-literate stylings. Oh, and the fact it was actually scary.
Scream 2 was a satisfying sequel, bringing more of the same fun and games, even if it lacked a little of the original's freshness. By that token, the third is totally rotten, with none of the spooks or smarts of its predecessors, and some unwelcome tinkering with the series' chronology.
Maybe Wes Craven was making some kind of meta comment about the frequent awfulness of threequels? Or perhaps it was just that the impact of writer Kevin Williamson's absence was was greater than Craven had anticipated.
Best: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
The final part in Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti western trilogy (unofficial as it may be) more than met the high standards that preceded it.
A Fistful of Dollars made a movie star out of TV actor Clint Eastwood, who has never been better than as the laconic, poncho-ed gunslinger, and For a Few Dollars More upped the ante in what is essentially a bigger budget remake.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is probably the best-loved of the three, a remarkable feat for a threequel. It doesn't scrimp on the action, style or grit of Parts One and Two, but scores big time with its triumvirate of leads, and its resounding anti-war cries.
Worst: Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
This atrocious installment of the Eddie Murphy franchise was, unbelievably, directed by John Landis. The pair previously collaborated (and mined comic gold) on Coming to America and Trading Places .
Maybe it's the fact that every idea feels like a diluted re-hash of Axel Foley's previous outings. Perhaps, it was too little, too late, coming seven years after the previous installment. Is the theme park setting to blame? Regardless, you know you're in trouble when the laugh highlight comes from a shonky ferris-wheel set-piece.
The threat of a fourth film directed by Brett Ratner couldn't be more undesirable after revisiting this one.
Best: Three Colours: Red (1994)
The third installment in Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterful trilogy, which was thematically inspired by the colours of the Tricolore: liberty (blue), equality (white), fraternity (red).
To call Red a great threequel is perhaps misleading, as each part feels equally weighted, and the structure eschews the standard trilogy model. The constituent elements are all different, yet there is shared DNA between the three.
That said, Kieslowski adeptly revisits earlier themes and explores the concept of fate in such a way that Red neatly ties up the collection whilst telling its own story.
Worst: Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
Ocean's Eleven was a light breezy romp, powered by old school star wattage and a simple conceit: the gang knock off a casino, allowing Clooney to steal his ex's (Julia Roberts) heart alongside the considerable stack of cash.
Steven Soderbergh's first sequel tripped up on it's scattershot approach, but the only thing the second one is guilty of is laziness. The gang undertake a revenge mission against Al Pacino's casino magnate, but you'd be hard pressed to care about it.
Sure, there was never really much tension in Eleven , but it was slick enough to get away with it, whereas Thirteen 's heavy-handed approach brings the smugness of the whole endeavour to the fore.