The Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) are films directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Pegg and Wright. Although it now plasters the films DVD box sets, it started with an offhand comment. ‘We had this joke in Shaun of the Dead,’ Pegg explains, ‘where Ed, having a hangover, wanted nothing more than a Cornetto on a Sunday morning’, something that Wright used as a hangover cure in college. ‘In Hot Fuzz we had a repeat of that line, so that suddenly we had this linking factor in the two films’. ‘This came up in an interview’ Wright clarifies, ‘they said “Are you going to do a trilogy of Cornetto-based films?”’, to which he replied ‘It’s like Krzysztof Kieślowski [director of the ‘Three Colours Trilogy’], this is our “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”’.
Each instalment takes an extra-ordinary concept and injects it with recognisable culture and humanity. Wright commented ‘Shaun [of the Dead] is like the nonchalant Londoner’s take on the zombie apocalypse; Hot Fuzz is the passive British policeman’s take on a Michael Bay film; and The World’s End is like a quest movie with an extremely irresponsible King Arthur at the helm’. Pegg feels they are often misunderstood as “parodists”, “Shaun of the Dead was never supposed to be a parody of zombie films. We wanted to make a zombie film, and we just happened to make it a comedy as well”. The TV series Spaced was the team’s original collaboration, and could be seen as blueprints for The Cornetto Trilogy. It used cinematic and stylistic references not just for their own sake, but as a language through which the characters communicate.
There are clear surface-level similarities between the films – they all come from the same core creative team; feature high-octane, kinetic filmmaking; are driven by the extraordinary intruding into ordinary settings; contain a Cornetto-related gag and a moment of fence-jumping slapstick. There are even supporting actors who feature across all three films, such as Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. However, there are also links on a deeper level. It wasn’t ever intended to be a trilogy, yet Wright admits as they wrote The World’s End it became clear to them ‘maybe we can make this a trilogy […] it is like a thematic wrap-up. It’s a new story, with new characters, but it does continue and resolve themes from the other movies’. While Shaun looks for safety in the pub, and Nicholas Angel finds friendship there, Gary King hopes to relive the past and rectify where he went wrong. The World’s End is on one level a film about assimilation into adulthood, but finds it’s climax in a deeply affecting portrayal of alcoholism. If Shaun of the Dead is about becoming a man, and Hot Fuzz is about becoming the best man you can be – then The World’s End is about accepting your failures and learning to live in the ashes of the world you’ve created.