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Proven: Book trilogies get better as they go, movie trilogies get worse

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Finally, it seems the scientific community has stopped wasting everybody’s time and used their collective brain power to answer important questions, like whether it’s worth it to watch the sequel to a movie you like or read the next installment of a book series you’re only half invested in. These questions have plagued mankind since the earliest of sci-fi/fantasy trilogies, but now we can definitively and objectively say that book trilogies get successively better while movie trilogies get worse. Sort of.

Pulling data from Goodreads and IMDB ratings, statistics grad student Kaylin Walker compiled a series of helpful charts that illustrate the varying quality within trilogies according to the reading/viewing public. Walker’s ultimate conclusion was that, “Movie trilogies get worse, losing favor with each film, while book trilogies secure higher ratings for book 2 and maintain them for book 3,” but she’s quick to point out that these results are contingent on multiple factors beyond pure quality of product. For example, movie sequels are more often than not just cash grabs put on rush order by the production company and thus fall short in terms of quality when compared with the first installment. Alternatively, book trilogies are more planned out from the start, but the ratings for later books are likely overweighted because only fans of the books would bother reading that far into the series.


When taking a look at the averages across all trilogies, Walker noticed that the difference in quality between the second and third book was marginal, but the decrease in quality for movies was much greater as each series progressed. In the end, using barebones ratings from sites like Goodreads and IMDB may not be the most scientifically accurate assessment of a particular trilogies’ worth, but it gives an idea of how the general public feels about it. Either way, we now have definitive proof that Return Of The King is a pretty good book and Robocop 3 is a really bad movie. So, there’s that.

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Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.