Ever noticed most of the movie franchises make 3 movies as a standard? For instance, the Dark Knight trilogy, the Matrix trilogy, Star Wars trilogy (1 and 2), Godfather trilogy and many more. Ever wondered why just 3?
More often than not, the third movie is a hit. Why don’t producers go for a 4th movie then? Sure the X-men series did. But then it wasn’t a continuation of The Last Stand. It took up different origins.
So, what’s the fancy logic of 3? We found a thread on Quora addressing the same question and couldn’t help ourselves from sharing the intriguing answers.
1. The beginning, middle and the end.
All conventions apart, we always perceive stories as being of three parts – the beginning, middle and the end.
Within each of the trilogies, this pattern is apparent and natural.
Within each of the standalone stories, we can see this split too.
(Of course, some stories are simply milked into sequences)
2. Blame three things: two dead Greek guys named Aeschylus and Aristotle and the evolution of the human brain.
In classical Athens, competitions were held as part of a festival called the City Dionysia. For performances, those competitions provided awards for musical choruses, comedies, and tragedies. The tragedy prize required submission of 3 tragedies and one satyr.
Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BC) became known for having his 3 submissions be connected into a single larger story. An example of this is his Oresteia, which is composed of the 3 plays Agamemnon, Cheoephori, and Eumenides.
A century later, Aristotle wrote down the rules of dramatic criticism. He defined the 3 unities (time, place, and action) and through these the importance of having a beginning, a middle, and an end. His 3 unities said that a good play should take place during one brief period of time, at one location, and involve one set of events.
The appeal of the trilogy, in story-telling, is that the conventional three-act structure can be applied to connect the separate units. Each unit is a complete story with its own beginning – middle – end. And then, the 3 collected works serve as a beginning – middle – end for a larger story.
The number 3 has greater appeal for audiences because it takes advantage of how our brains work. Our brains have evolved to detect patterns, because detecting patterns can be life-saving. Patterns really start to distinguish themselves when there are three pieces of information.
This natural preference for three is visible all over stories from many cultures. Aladdin gets three wishes from the Genie, Rumpelstiltskin gives three guesses at his name, there are three blind mice, three billy goats gruff, three little pigs, three wise men, three fates, Goldilocks finds three bears, and Scrooge encounters three ghosts of Christmas.
So, we can see that our brain likes three better than two, because of the comfortable patterns. So why not four or five? Because once the pattern is sensed, the interest level drops.
3. It’s called the Rule of Three!
It suggests that things than come in three are more satisfying, cheerful and tend to be consumed more than the others. There is a Latin phrase conveying the same meaning- omne trium perfectum.
This appears to be sensible because we find an extensive use of this rule knowingly or unknowingly. In the famous story Goldilocks and Bears, we encounter 3 bears; small, middle and large. There are The 3 Stooges, 3 Little Pigs, The 3 Musketeers, The Christmas Ghosts, 3 Laws of Robotics and many more.
There are many pairs of three in Harry Potter(Ron, Hermoine and Harry; also Deathly Hallows are 3 in number), Matrix( Morpheus, Neo, Trinity), Charlies Angels. Other than this the structure of a drama/film is divided into 3 acts ( Three-act structure )- Set Up, Confrontation and Resolution.
There is a Rule of thirds even in photography!
All hail the power of 3!
PS: Noticed how there is a 3 point listicle of answers in this blog?
Got any more theories or interpretations of the mystery of 3? Let us know in the comments below!
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.