This paper presents a novel three-stage control strategy for the motion control of an underactuated three-link passive–active–active (PAA) manipulator. First, a nonlinear control law is designed to make the angle and angular velocity of the third link convergent to zero. Then, a swing-up control law is designed to increase the system energy and control the posture of the second link. Finally, an integrated method with linear control and nonlinear control is introduced to stabilize the manipulator at the straight-up position. The stability of the control system is guaranteed by Lyapunov theory and LaSalle’s invariance principle. Compared to other approaches, the proposed strategy innovatively introduces a preparatory stage to drive the third link to stretch-out toward the second link in a natural way, which makes the swing-up control easy and quick. Besides, the intergraded method ensures the manipulator moving into the balancing stage smoothly and easily. The effectiveness and efficiency of the control strategy are demonstrated by numerical simulations.