With the larger story structure of the trilogy, several lessons of smaller-scale storytelling get carried over to help with the sense of continuation. So the Act Break in a film trilogy can end up acting like a tv show's act break and so put in a cliffhanger to bid you over in the production break. It is nearly ubiquitous in the Two-Part Trilogy. The first installment is often rather introductory and may aim for a more fulfilling tie-up at the end. This is often because after just the first one, people don't have the sense of the story as part of a larger whole, and that may include the creators and financiers of the project. Alternatively, the first part was planned and made as a stand-alone story. However, the end of the second installment often makes a good point for a significant Cliffhanger to be carried over to the final part.
More than just a Sequel Hook, the Second Chapter Cliffhanger will to a degree rob the second film of its own sense of resolution, often putting the characters in the Darkest Hour with everything still up in the air. This helps make an easy way to keep the audience interested in a third installment and makes the third part feel like it is genuinely the same story and not just another sequel. This trope often sets up the third part as being the kind of movie where all of the various threads come together.
Contrast Conclusion in Another Medium, when a show is wrapped up through means other than its primary medium, and To Be Continued... Right Now, when a cliff-hanger is set up but then then immediately explained.
Ending Trope, spoilers abundant!
- Kingdom Hearts II: For a while, the manga entered a hiatus as Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days was written. It leaves the Power Trio in their Gummi Ship, trying to get Cid Highwind, who has just announced that they've found Ansem's Computer —which contains the world Space Paranoids. Meanwhile, Kairi and Pluto are in prison in The World That Never Was.
- The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: Subverted. The movie seems to end on a low note, with Rex Dangervest revealing himself as an embittered future version of Emmet who tricks him into starting the Armageddon but then strands him on Undar of the Dryar. Meanwhile, the Systarians and all of Emmet's friends are trapped in the Bin of Storage, unable to help. Then Lucy interrupts "Everything's Not Awesome" to rally everyone else to turn things around and save the day.
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ends on several heavy notes linking it up to the upcoming third movie, Beyond the Spider-Verse: Miles is trapped on Earth-42 captured by an alternate version of him who became the Prowler and that Earth's Uncle Aaron and is set to glitch out of existence if he doesn't get back to his own Earth in time, Miguel and several members of the Spider-Society are out hunting for Miles to prevent him from saving his father from his seemingly preordained death to The Spot's havoc, The Spot has become an Eldritch Abomination intent on ruining Miles' life starting by going after his family and home, and Gwen, having realized that Canon Events may not be truly preordained after her father effectively prevented one (The death of a police captain close to that Earth's Spider-Man) by quitting his job as police captain, assembling a team of Spider-People to find Miles and get him back home.
- Wishology: Parodied in the sixth season's three-parter finale of The Fairly OddParents!. Timmy wishes to do his own Movie Trilogy but things start going haywire when his fairies are removed from the picture. While "The Big Beginning" ends with a very vague Sequel Hook, "The Exciting Middle Part" ends in a Heroic Sacrifice, with Timmy turning himself to The Darkness. We are meant to believe it ends like this but, as any genre-savvy viewer knows, of course, it doesn't. The over-the-topness doesn't help in taking it seriously either.
- Back to the Future Part II: It resolves the alternate timeline story but Doc Brown winds up trapped in the past and everything else is saved for a big fat "To Be Continued".
- The Empire Strikes Back: It ends with Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and captured by a new enemy and crime boss Jabba the Hutt (who is not strictly in league with The Empire) leaving us with just Luke and Leia's promise to rescue him, and that's not even getting into the Trope Namer for Luke, I Am Your Father.
- The Matrix Reloaded: In a Two-Part Trilogy case, it ends with Neo in a coma and the emergence of Smith as an enemy unaligned with the machines, though just as dangerous. It also removed the possible solution that Neo had been working towards during the rest of the movie. This possibly reduced the drama because it made a lot of the actions of the second movie a great big "Shaggy Dog" Story when going into The Matrix Revolutions.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: It ends with Captain Jack Sparrow killed by the Kraken and thus captured in Davy Jones' locker, leaving us with the promise of Will, Elizabeth, the crew, and Tia Dalma to get him back. Shock heightened by the return from the dead of Captain Barbossa.
- Catching Fire: The first novel ends on a mildly happy note. Although Katniss's PTSD might come back to haunt her later, we're still assured that she manages to survive the game. Then comes the second book, which ends with the destruction of her district, the death of her best friend, and the abduction of her Love Interest, which is an obvious bridging gap for the final book and is definitely not self-contained (or happy).
- The Daevabad Trilogy: In the climax of the second book, Daevabad falls in a surprise attack. The Big Bad reveals herself, King Ghassan (The Heavy until then) is killed, all the djinn are Brought Down to Normal, and the protagonist and her friend narrowly escape in an emergency teleport to another country. Nothing Is the Same Anymore in the third book.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: It ends with the only surviving protagonists as public enemies, a major villain still alive, the main character stabbed in the chest, being hauled towards a helicopter, and when the pilot is told they have to get out of there, he replies that he "knows a place".
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: All three protagonists end in dire fates. Kian is arrested, April is dead, and Zoë is in a coma with hints that she might have died too. On top of that, The Bad Guys Win.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2: It ends with Serah abruptly dying and the world suddenly being reformed due to the release of Chaos. Lightning is revealed to have been crystallized again and "To Be Continued" is displayed. Although this was thought to be a hint for the player to unlock the rest of the game's multiple endings, the Paradox Endings were simply alternate ways to end the story early, while the secret Omega Ending reveals that Caius succeeded in his goal.
- Halo 2: The cliffhanger between this installment and Halo 3 most certainly counts, as it leaves players knee-deep in The Climax but gives them no denouement. After defeating the Final Boss Tartarus, the removal of the Index shuts Halo down, which triggers the "Feel Sick" protocol. This causes the remaining platforms to enter standby and get ready for remote activation from the Ark. Then Truth's ship arrives on Earth, Admiral Hood utters that he's "finishing this fight" and the game ends.
- Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception: It ends with conspirators having seized control of the Imperial Capital, the Princess and rightful heir poisoned and on the run, most of the main characters forced to flee with her, and the main character, Haku, forced to fake his own death and disguise himself as his late boss, Oshtor, in a desperate attempt to keep the Empire from falling completely apart, leaving his team heartbroken as to his apparent demise.
- Red vs. Blue: The Recollection: "Recreation", the seventh season of the trilogy, ends with Washington teaming up with the Meta and capturing the Reds at Valhalla while the remaining characters are trapped by attacking aliens.
- Amphibia: The first season ends a bit triumphantly as Anne finally stands up to Sasha and Wartwood gains a decisive victory over the toads. At the end of the second season, King Andrias reveals that he's Evil All Along and is planning an invasion of Earth, Anne is shown to have a powerful Super Mode, Marcy is gravely stabbed by Andrias, and Anne and the Plantars end up on Earth.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the first season, the heroes successfully repel the enemy Fire Nation navy from the Water Tribe. In the second season's finale, "The Crossroads of Destiny", the heroes are betrayed by Long Feng and Prince Zuko, Aang is apparently dead — shut down by Azula's lightning attack, and the Earth Kingdom falls to the Fire Nation.
- Hilda: The first season has a bittersweet ending with Hilda having adjusted to life in Trolberg and Frida successfully mending her friendship with Hilda and David. In the second season, Hilda and Johanna successfully mend their friendship. And then, Hilda is teleported from Trolberg and begins learning what life is like as a troll while Johanna begins her search to bring back Hilda before Erik Ahlberg kills her.
- The Owl House: The first season ends with Luz handing over Eda's portal to Emperor Belos and destroying it, leaving her stranded in the Demon Realm — and as it later turns out, only hindering his plans since he's able to rebuild the portal). Meanwhile, Eda and Lilith, though now on better terms, have lost their ability to use magic. Despite this, it's still much more upbeat and less of a cliffhanger than the ending of the second season, where Luz and her friends are trapped in the Human Realm while the rest of the Boiling Isles are left at the mercy of the Collector thanks to King making a deal with him to save everyone from Belos' attempt to murder them all, and we don't see the other main characters recover onscreen so their fates are left up in the air.