Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word


noun [countable]

a third film in a series of three films based on the same story or theme

'… the deeply average Pet Detective flick (which was followed by the distressingly unfunny Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) is set to get the threequel treatment …'

Time Out 15th August 2006

In the summer of 2006, cinemas across the world saw the action hero Superman return to the skies after a gap of nearly 20 years. Although the late actor Christopher Reeve starred in four Superman films made between 1978 and 1987, the 2006 film Superman Returns has been described as a belated threequel, taking up the storylines followed in the first two movies.

particularly successful, are threequels that are based on stories originally conceived as trilogies

Recent trends in the Hollywood film industry show that 'three' really is thought of as the magic number, since a sequel (a second film taking up a previous story) is increasingly being followed by a threequel, a third movie in the same series. Examples of high-profile threequels during recent years include The Godfather Part III, Die Hard – With a Vengeance, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and in 2006, Mission Impossible III. Many threequels have enjoyed box office success as, for example, the Return of the Jedi, the threequel in the original and immensely popular Star Wars series. Particularly successful are those that are based on stories originally conceived as trilogies, such as The Lord of the Rings, which culminates in the critically acclaimed threequel Return of the King. However, given that third movies often have a reputation for being disappointing, relative to those that preceded them, the word threequel is often used with slightly disparaging overtones, with the implication that it is more about box-office returns than good-quality film-making.

Background – threequel

The term threequel is a blend of the words three and sequel that has been in use since the late 1990s. It entered the Concise Oxford Dictionary in 2004.

The word sequel originates from the Latin sequella, based on the term sequi, meaning 'follow'. In the 1970s it blended with the prefix pre- (meaning 'before') to give us the now regularly-used expression prequel, referring to a film which describes events which occurred before those featured in the original movie. The term gained currency in 1999 when the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was launched as a prequel to the Star Wars trilogy made between 1977 and 1983. Two more films have been subsequently made, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). These three films are often described as a prequel trilogy, and in fact the last of them, Star Wars Episode III, can legitimately be described as both a prequel and a threequel!

Two other less commonly-used variations on the same theme are an interquel, a film portraying events which occurr between those described in two existing movies, and a midquel, one portraying further events which occurred during the timespan of the original film.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 10 November 2006.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog