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The Rule Of Three: Films That Do It Right

Updated on October 10, 2014

Run Lola Run (1998)


run lola run

Three 20 minute segments. Three chances for Lola to save her boyfriend's life.Three different outcomes. Simple premise. Amazing results. Groundbreaking cinema. (Did you see what I just did there? Yup, rule of three.)

Go (1999)


The difference between Go and Run Lola Run is that in Run Lola Run time starts over for Lola again and again, like new lives in a video game. In Go, time starts over, but this is in order to show a different side, a different perspective of events taking place at the same time. First, we see Ronna's attempt to make a little extra cash through a drug deal gone awry. Second, we see Simon and his Vegas escapades. Third, we see Adam & Zach pulled into a drug bust and then tracking down Jimmy, a man with which they've both been cheating.

Three Kings (1999)


This one should be obvious, except I genuinely feel like there is a forth critical character in addition to the George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube triad. That forth character is none other than Conrad Vig portrayed by Spike Jonze. So was David O. Russell being a little ironic with that title? I think so. Spike Jonze may not be on the cover, but like all the other central characters, he makes a huge transformation over the course of the film. This is a film about greed, hypocrisy, and cultural differences. (Sentences just sound so much better with three objects…)

Traffic (2000)


Traffic deals with three intersecting stories pertaining to the illegal drug trade.The first storyline occurs in Mexico and follows Javier Rodriguez, a police officer who witnesses corruption first hand. The second storyline follows Robert Wakefield, a conservative judge whose daughter is an addict. The third storyline revolves around a DEA investigation. Great acting. Great directing. Great editing.

Amores Perros (2000)


Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of Amores Perros, is a bit of a master when it comes to intersecting story lines. He made three (coincidence?) very well-received films employing this technique. In Amores Perros, three separate stories all come together, literally, as a result of a car crash. Likewise, in each of the three stories, dogs play an important role. Amores Perros. Translation? Love's a bitch.

21 Grams (2003)


No surprise here. This film was also directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. This film, just like Amores Perros, brings three separate story lines together through a car crash. Jack Jordan causes the crash that kills Christina Peck's husband and two children. And Paul Rivers, who's in need of a heart transplant, receives Christina's husband's heart. Alejandro González Iñárritu followed up 21 Grams with another film based around interwoven story lines, Babel, thereby completing his TRILOGY of death. The only reason Babel is not included in my list is because it interweaves four story lines, not three.

Inception (2010)


A dream within a dream within a dream? Eh-hem, rule of three anyone?! No, I'm not counting Limbo.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)


This one is a bit less obvious, but look at that title! Three simple words. Many romantic comedies do the obvious rule of three, a love triangle. To me, love triangles are usually pretty stupid because as the film viewer, I can usually predict who is going to end up with who without even watching the movie. The trailer or the movie poster usually gives it away. But the surprise in Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn't give itself away, which is why this film (the only romantic comedy of the bunch) made this list. The core of this film is three relationships: Cal & Emily, Cal & Jacob, and Hannah & Jacob. Yes, all of these characters have separate side relationships (call them "love triangles" if you will): Cal with Kate, Emily with Lindhagan, and Hannah with Richard. But the climax of the film occurs with the intersection of these three relationships. And the central relationship between Cal & Jacob is the relationship in the film that allows everyone to live happily ever after. Cal gains the confidence to fight for Emily, while Jacob learns to recognize true love with Hannah.

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