I wrote an answer in this question Why did the story stop after The Dark Knight Rises?

Which got me wondering - why are most superhero movies taken in three parts irrespective of it being DC or Marvel? (I know there are exceptions like Iron Man 4 but hey, if not for the popularity/lucrative returns there would be no part 4, or just two parts cancelling the 3rd if it's not popular/lucrative enough)

Trilogies include --

Spider Man (Actor: Toby Maguire), Batman (Nolan), Wolverine, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Cyborg(2020 release), Captain America, Thor , Guardians of the Galaxy etc.

So why are super hero movies signed in three-movie deals ?

  • 2
    I once wanted to ask philosophy.stack "Why is number 3 so prominent in our culture?" I guess the answer to your question could be somewhere along the lines. But for example in literature, a three part composition is quite traditional: introduction, major crisis where protagonist usually loses, and the ending where Luke Skywalker rediscovers himself and destroys the evil Empire.
    – ruslaniv
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 9:22
  • 2
    "Third time's a charm". "Triple Play!". "Famous people die in three's". Most jokes that you'll ever hear that deal with repetition always have the punchline on the third repeat. Such as, "A Lions fan, a Packers fan, a Jets fan and a Giants fan are on a mountain. The Lions fan yells, 'This is for the Lions!' and jumps off the mountain. The Packers fan doesn't want to be outdone, so he yells, 'This is for the Packers!' and jumps off the mountain. The Jets fan yells, 'This is for the Jets!' and shoves the Giants fan off the mountain." Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:31
  • @RusI that makes much sense !!
    – Anu7
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 4:12
  • @Johnny, i didn't honestly get the reference, but ill take it :)
    – Anu7
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 4:12

3 Answers 3


Note: it's not only with superhero films but trilogies in general and actor sign contract based on the initial plannings.

Because of Rule of three

The Latin phrase "omne trium perfectum" (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.

Three is magic number to convey a story or even a scene. It's quite common trope in literature too to start with trilogy but lately they get expended later on with prequels and sequels.

And making it in three parts can also act as extended Three-act structure

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Take Dark Knight trilogy as an example:

Batman Begins can act as Act 1: Setup; we introduced with main protagonist and see his origin and reasoning for what he do.

The Dark Knight can act as Act 2: Confrontation; here stakes get higher and hero get confrontation with bigger problem. He got retired and kind of broken.

The Dark Knight Rises can act as Act 3: Resolution; we got resolution of the story which started with first film and hero's name get cleared and he died as martyr (or not died).

Spider-Man can't fall into that structure as it was never suppose to stop at three but it can be applied to many 3 part films.

  • 1
    Arguably, Spiderman follows the same general structure though: (1) The hero's origins (2) The hero at a high point (3) The hero at a low point. (But you're right that the third Spiderman movie did not have closure in the same way that TDKR did, due not burning a bridge for a possible next installation)
    – Flater
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 15:27
  • i kind of understood the prominence of the number three & the breakup into a trilogy of it but i was wondering if there was also a simpler film-technique or budget or a contract related explanation to it !
    – Anu7
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 4:15

First of all, it's not only the superhero movies that has a trilogy, other movies such as Godfather, Twilight, Lord of the rings etc. also ends up like this.

I am giving my personal opinion here.

I think the concept of trilogy was introduced long before and somehow our mindset has been adapted to it (we just love the number 3). Moreover, producing a sequel of a movie gives the audience a thrilling experience and when you stops at third sequel, we all are (kind of)satisfied. That's how our mind works. Also after a trilogy, the filmmakers can start the story afresh if they want to recreate the character. This is what we can see in Spiderman (starring Maguire, Garfield and Holland) where the storyline changed.

However, some sequels such as James Bond, Transformers keep on coming for the fact that they can make more sequels without any proper introduction of the characters involved in and they know that it's gonna be a box office hit.


Because every story can be split in three parts:

  • heroes presentation/plot bonding
  • main story
  • resolution / explanation

This system is firstly seen in Greek tragedies and upon them almost every story share the same system. Antigone by Sophocles, Little Red Riding Hood, Star Wars.

There are many subparts of each segment (like in the first one you can have hero equipped with magic item or in the last one the hero get the princess) but these are three main parts of EUROPEAN and European based stories (so USA Hollywood). Each subpart is usually also divided into three.

So in SW you have introductions, hero presentation (which also is split in three parts) and embarking on a journey in the first part.

Making three movies is the same system but with added money making idea. Why fit story in one when you can gain money from three of them. Hobbit is the pinnacle of such move. And blatantly obvious with the cutting. First movie is hero presentation and embarking, second is the whole story and third part is resolution.

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