Are There Any Trilogies Released Out of Order?

Okay, random thought about book and movie trilogies: Are there any that are released out of order?

I think I was reading The Poppy War recently when this thought occurred to me. While this isn’t the case for the main character in that book, I love books where you meet a fascinating, fully developed characters (like Han Solo). What if most of the characters in the book/movie are like that, making you wonder about how they got to this point in the story. Instead of telling you about their backstories in book 1, what if the trilogies started in the middle of the action (book 2), and then the second book released in the series is book 2?

Just to make this easier to imagine, think of your favorite movie or book trilogy. Now, imagine that you watched/read the second entry in the series first and THEN were presented with part 1. Are there any series that would have been even better if introduced in that order?

Star Wars doesn’t exactly do this, nor did the prequels turn out as I would have hoped, but I think it was a brilliant move to start the series with Episode IV. How cool is that? It instantly gives you the impression that a ton of important stuff happened in the previous episodes.

There’s also the “Age of War” book series that features an entire trilogy set in the present, followed by the release of another trilogy set thousands of years in the past. So you learn about how the modern-day people view their history, and then you go back and learn how it actually happened. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Last, I understand that not all backstories are created equal. Like, I enjoyed Han Solo for what he was in the latter half of the Star Wars series–I didn’t need a prequel about him. But I think it could have worked better if the prequel is planned from the beginning.

Are there any actual trilogies that successfully use this method? 3 books or 3 movies where the first part released was part 2, then part 1, then part 3, and they’re intended to be consumed in that order.


13 Responses to “Are There Any Trilogies Released Out of Order?”

  1. Matt says:

    Original Indiana Jones – pretty sure Temple of Doom was a sequel. I wouldn’t count the latest movie as part of that “trilogy.”

  2. Eric Fersten says:

    Matt is correct. The second movie in the series, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is actually a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Last Crusade takes place after Raiders.

  3. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    That’s awesome! I never realized that about Indiana Jones. Now I know. 🙂

    • Eric Fersten says:

      Also, if you ever go back and watch The Temple of Doom, the opening scene takes place at Club Obi-Wan. Very cool easter egg.

  4. Eric Fersten says:

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which is the third movie released in Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name trilogy is actually a prequel to A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. It wasn’t the director’s intention, but the three movies ultimately came to be known as a trilogy.

  5. Marc Kirkland says:

    I think the only thing I can think of, that doesn’t _totally_ fit is the Chronicles of Narnia books. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was written first, but it is not the first chronologically. The publishing order was also apparently different from how they were written. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Marc, you’re absolutely right! I read that series as a kid in order, and it was neat to see how it jumped around in timie.

  6. Sandrs says:

    Not a trilogy, but rather a five book series: Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, publishes in the following order:
    Three parts dead; Two serpents rise; Full fathom five, Last first Snow, Four roads cross. They can be read in order of publication and in the order of the numbers in the title, it does not make a huge difference but is fun either way because they are self contained and set at different points in time but depending i. which you have already read you have certain insider knowledge about different people or events.
    Pitch for the series, quoting Max himself:
    Basic:
    “The Craft Sequence books are set in a postindustrial fantasyland: gods with shareholders’ committees, necromancers in pinstriped suits, and soulstuff as currency.”

    For Law, Finance, or Business People: “It’s your job, only with wizards.”

    For Hardcore Genre People: “Phoenix Wright (or Wolfram & Hart, or whatever your favorite legal reference is) meets The Dragons of Babel.”

    For People Who Communicate Solely in Hollywood-esuqe X-Meets-Y Elevator Pitches: “It’s LA Law with wizards.” (Or “meets Harry Potter,” for those with a more severe case of the condition.)

    For Magic: the Gathering people: “It’s what would happen if House Dimir controlled the Azorius Senate.”

    For People Who Dig On Theory: “Late-millennial market capitalism envisioned as a soul-siphoning necrocracy.”

    Bonus: io9 compared the books to secondary world cyberpunk fantasy,

  7. Sandra (who previously couldn't spell her name) says:

    Very much so, I love them. Interesting stories, great world building and diverse characters, a bit complex though, so maybe not the ideal read for when you are very tired from designing the next game for us 🙃.

  8. Dnice says:

    I think the Fast & Furious movies were released out of order – though that was more due to trying to fit in the third movie? (a prequel) into the official canon.

    • Marc says:

      that’s a great example of out of order… also of ingenuity and wanting to make something work when it would have just been easier to write off the 3rd movie like it had never happened. I recently re-watched all of those movies with my kids in order, and it was fun to discuss the timeline with them. They are savvy enough to then make deductions about which characters were “safe” from dying based on the timeline, lol.

Leave a Reply to Marc Kirkland