Superman 3 (1983)
A low point for superhero movies and threequels alike, the Man of Steel's third outing takes a turn for the comic, with laughable results. As soon as the risible opening sequence kicks in, complete with wind-up penguins, you know that something has gone awry. Similarly, the replacement of Lex Luthor and General Zod with Richard Pryor and The Man From U.N.C.L.E 's Robert Vaughn seems like a bit of a trade down.
Foreshadowing the camp theatrics that would briefly mar the Batman series, Superman 3 lurches from one misfiring set-piece to the next, with even the supporting cast displaying seemingly superhuman abilities. A pink cape wearing Pryor, skiing off the top of a skyscraper? No thanks.
The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (2008)
The Mummy franchise had been sleeping peacefully for seven years before Rob Cohen decided to jerk it out of its slumber for this dismal third outing. Judging by the acting on display, it seems as though Brendan Fraser and co. have also just been roused from a lengthy coma, while Cohen turns to a vomiting yak to supply the laughs.
The introduction of a smart-alecky kid goes the same way as every prior use of that particular plot device, while Jet Li is chronically underused as a statue for most of the film's running time. With nary a fresh idea in sight, and the fun of the original sadly lacking, it's a film perhaps best summed up by a line from John Hannah's character: "I've seen enough mummies to last a lifetime!" Amen, brother.
Jurassic Park 3 (2001)
We'd never have thought it would be possible to grow tired of dinosaurs, but Jurassic Park 3 pushes its audience pretty close… Operating to the bigger, faster, toothier principle of sequel-making, JP3 employs a fairly flimsy plot to get a new batch of monster-bait onto the ill-fated island, before pitting them against more dinos than ever before.
While that may sound fun on paper, the presence of new mega-dinosaur the Spinosaurus serves only to downgrade the others on show, with the venerable T-Rex the worst affected. An effective Pterodactyl sequence aside, the giant lizards just don't pack as much of a punch third time around, and the less said about the farcical mobile phone scene the better…
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Having turned sequel logic on its head by producing a second instalment that was slicker, bloodier and more entertaining than the original, the Blade saga reverted to type with a threequel so woeful it killed the franchise stone dead.
The problems are manifold. Despite their obvious allure, neither Jessica Biel nor Ryan Reynolds bring much to proceedings, the latter in particular proving more of an irritant than anything else. He's not helped by a script chock full of clunky one-liners, while the villains he and his allies up against are similarly uninspiring. Dominic Purcell's chief vamp is inexplicably limp, while the presence of wrestler Triple H should tell you everything you need to know about the standard of henchman on display.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies live or die by their villains. The major criticism of the first film was that the Green Goblin came off like a cackling, head-wobbling cartoon character, a gibbering loon that even the Power Rangers would struggle to take seriously. On the flipside, Alfred Molina's Doc Ock was heralded as the best thing about Spider-Man 2 , a powerful antagonist with just enough humanity to seem relatable.
Spider-Man 3 drops the ball entirely however, by attempting to cram three villains into the one film, neglecting to flesh any of them out in the process. That would be bad enough without the skin-crawlingly awful sequence in which Peter Parker turns "bad", and yet sadly, that song and dance routine managed to dodge the cutting room floor. Urgh.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Having seen Bryan Singer deliver a superlative sequel in the form of X-Men 2 , the ending of which teased the introduction of the Phoenix storyline, Marvel fans were itching to see where the director would take the series next. Sadly, they would never find out, as Singer departed to preside over Superman Returns , while Brett Ratner was drafted in to wrap up the X-Men trilogy.
Sadly, the well-drawn and well-loved characters of the first two films were shunted to the sidelines in order to accommodate a series of increasingly loud set-pieces and Vinnie Jones in a plastic muscle-suit. Kelsey Grammar's erudite Beast provided a rare silver lining, but the film as a whole was a shadow of the preceding episodes. And to make matters worse, Superman Returns wasn't much cop either!
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
After the superbly crafted sci-fi thrills of the original film (when the techno-wizardry of bullet time felt like the shiny icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself), The Matrix Reloaded drifted slightly astray, with a number of heart-stopping action sequences undermined by an unwelcome slab of cod philosophy.
The conversation with The Architect represented the flabby nadir of that film, but The Matrix Revolutions saw things plunge ever further into tedium, with the hero of the franchise playing second fiddle to a giant robot super-war. Bigger and louder it might be, but this is very much a case of less is more...
The Godfather Part 3 (1990)
Much maligned following its release, largely thanks to Sofia Coppola's gormless performance, the third Godfather film has had a raw deal in terms of the criticism it's been forced to weather over the years. In comparison to the original pair of masterpieces, it inevitably suffers, with the cartoonish scenes of violence falling way short of Sonny at the toll booth or Michael in the restaurant.
However, if taken on its own merits, there's still plenty to enjoy in the third outing, with Andy Garcia and Al Pacino both excellent in the leading roles. Pacino is particularly enjoyable playing a man ravaged by the various evils of his chosen lifestyle, while Garcia more than holds his own as the hotheaded son in law. It might not be heir to the original's throne, but it deserves better than a bullet in the head and a nap with the fishes.
Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
Despite messing with the formula that had made the first two films so successful (confined area, Christmastime setting), the third Die Hard actually benefits from mixing things up, with director John McTiernan managing to recreate the tension of the original by pitting John McClane against a series of increasingly impossible tasks.
Jeremy Irons might give off a strong whiff of ham, but Simon Gruber is a more memorable villain that Die Hard 2 's crooked Colonel, while Sam Jackson is a canny addition as McClane's nonplussed sidekick. It peters out a little by the end, but when Bruce and Sam are dashing around New York desperately attempting to avert disaster, it's real edge of the seat stuff. Great Pulp Fiction in-joke as well...
Army Of Darkness (1992)
Sam Raimi finally extracts a significant budget out Universal's bean-counters to deliver his long-awaited vision of an Evil Dead movie set in the middles ages. The Medievil Dead , if you will. Having seen luckless hero Ash sucked into a wormhole at the end of Evil Dead 2 , we pick up with him in a bygone age, shackled to a group of fellow slaves and seemingly heading to his doom. Fortunately, said doom takes the form of a battle with a Deadite, a head-to-head our hero is only too familiar with…
It might not be as frightening as the original, or as giddily exciting as its off-the-wall follow-up , but Army Of Darkness remains one of the most relentlessly enjoyable threequels of all time, thanks in no small part to Bruce Campbell's scenery-chewing tour de force. If ever there were a better collection of one liners contained in a single script, we've yet to hear them. "Yo…she-bitch… let's go."
Return Of The Jedi (1983)
In some respects, the kiddie-friendly flavour of the third (or sixth, depending on how you're looking at it) Star Wars outing was a terrible warning of what lay ahead, with complaints over the Ewoks set to pale into comparison with the advent of Jar-Jar.
Still, regardless of George Lucas's concessions to the younger audience, there is still plenty to celebrate in Return Of The Jedi , from Leia's gold bikini to the eventual defeat of wicked old Palpatine, not to mention that most grotesque of adversaries, Jabba The Hutt. And by bringing such an epic saga to a satisfying close, Lucas manages to pull off an impressive feat of storytelling. If only he knew how to leave them wanting more...
Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989)
Raiders Of The Lost Ark is generally considered to be the strongest outing of the series, but Last Crusade certainly runs it close. Redressing the balance of the trilogy after the slightly darker tone of Temple Of Doom , Spielberg introduces Sean Connery as Jones sr., ushering in a series of superlative comic set-pieces between the bickering father and son duo.
The chemistry between Connery and Ford is excellent throughout, while the return of the Nazis as chief villains is also a welcome move. We'd also argue that the climactic sequence at the Canyon of the Crescent Moon represents the most thrilling conclusion to any Indy film, even topping Raiders 's face-melt spectacular. The only way it could have been improved upon would have been by introducing aliens to the mix. We jest, of course...
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The Bourne saga seems to go from strength to strength as the years go by. The Bourne Ultimatum represent a near-perfect closing of a trilogy, providing the lead character with a satisfying conclusion without skimping on any of the frenetic, shaky-cam action that popularised the series in the first place.
The addition of David Strathairn as an additional villain is a canny move, allowing Joan Allen to move into the light, while the final audience-teasing scene is a doozie. And as for those set-pieces, they're bigger and better than ever, with Paddy Considine's untimely end at Waterloo station setting the tone in fine style.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)
Whether or not you can class Return Of The King as a genuine "threequel" is an argument for a different day, but as a third instalment of a hugely popular story, it takes some beating. While The Two Towers suffers slightly from the narrative handicap of being the middle slice of a story, Return Of The King is all payoff, as the righteous indignation of Middle-earth finally rains down on the black gates of Mordor.
From the deliciously nasty opening in which Smeagol's backstory is shortly and sharply relayed, the film jumps from one high point to the next, with the battle of Minis Tirith blowing away all that has gone before. Yes there are too many endings, but after nine hours of storytelling, we can forgive Peter Jackson for wanting to give his characters a good send off!
Toy Story 3 (2010)
It's a rare threequel indeed that can claim to be the best entry in the series, but that's certainly the case with Toy Story 3 , which manages to gather up all the residual affection developed for its cast of characters over the previous two films and channel it into one hell of an emotional sucker-punch.
Charting the inevitable human process of saying goodbye to childhood, its the first of the trilogy to primarily pitch to adults, and only the hardest of hearts could resist its bittersweet conclusion. If you aren't welling up from the incinerator scene onwards, there's nothing we can do for you. You're broken.