Best to Worst: Michael Bay

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Let’s face it, people love to criticize Michael Bay, especially now that Transformers: Age of Extinction just came out. It’s okay, we’re all critics in one way or another. Not everyone likes his style. He makes up for the lack of quality in his stories for quality in his visuals, and even that doesn’t save his movies sometimes. But guess what? He makes a crap load of money either way. With that said, there are a few movies of his–guilty pleasures perhaps–that I have liked in the past, and there are some that I’ve hated. This is all based on my own personal experiences with his movies and a lot of people might disagree with me, which is totally fine. You can tell me about it in the comments if you wish! So here is my ranking of movies directed by Michael Bay from best to worst.

 

1. The Rock (1996)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, David Morse
IMDb rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

the-rock (1)

This is some early Michael Bay here. The story actually isn’t bad and his characters don’t suck. Aside from the fact that I pretty much love Sean Connery in anything, he plays such a badass role here as Mason. The Rock is proof that Bay is capable of directing action with an actual plot. The action is still prominent, but I feel like it plays second fiddle to the character driven story. Some of the images and scenes I’ll never forget are those neon green gas pearls, the scene where Cage’s character, Goodspeed, stabs himself in the heart with a needle, and the part where Cage calls a guy “the rocket man,” blows him away with a rocket, and yells, “How do you like how that shit works?” It’s just an all around fun action movie with a great script, memorable lines and characters, and awesome performances by all of the actors.

 

2. Transformers (2007)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
IMDb rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

transformers2007

The first Transformers movie was extremely fun. It still had that stupid kind of Michael Bay humor but it worked, and Shia LaBeouf I felt was rightfully casted in the main role of Sam, because he brought that certain kind of goofy humor to the screen, but could be serious at times as well. Regardless of whatever people say about him and/or his acting, I thought he did an okay job. People started getting on the Megan Fox kick when this movie came out because it was her first big role. She might not be the best actress, but she is a beautiful girl and I felt like she served an actual purpose to the story (minus the obvious sexual objectification with the skimpy clothing, etc.) The action didn’t seem as mindless and stupid as in his other Transformers movies. Even though there’s no shortage of it, it doesn’t completely overwhelm the story. The effects were great and the robot transitions were awesome. Four Transformers movies later, and I’m still for some reason waiting for Bay to make a movie that comes even remotely close to the fun that this one was.

 

3. Bad Boys (1995)
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Téa Leoni, Joe Pantoliano
IMDb rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%

badboys

Bad Boys is not a very original story, by any means. However, it did manage to be one of the few pretty good cop movies of the 90s. It held its own against similar movies like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon, where the theme of two partnered cops spend most of their time bickering but ultimately become closer friends the more bad guys they take down. Like The Rock and Transformers, I feel like this movie had the right balance of story and action. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are a fun comedic duo, with each of them bringing something different to the film. Téa Leoni didn’t have a bad role either, being the headstrong type who doesn’t want to just sit back and let the boys have all the fun. The buddy comedy genre will probably never get old, as is proven by the widespread enjoyment of more recent movies like 21 Jump Street. Michael Bay’s Bad Boys holds its own special place in that group.

 

4. The Island (2005)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi
IMDb rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

theisland

The Island is more or less a guilty pleasure of mine. I know it’s not the best, but I actually enjoyed it. This kind of story is better portrayed from an emotional aspect in movies like Never Let Me Go, where you really feel bad for the clones whose only existence is to harbor healthy organs for the sick, original versions of themselves. However, this movie is more fun, and that’s all that really matters with a Michael Bay movie. It still brings up the question of morals and ethics when it comes to cloning, but it manages to do that and have a bunch of ridiculous action scenes play out at the same time. Like, of course, why wouldn’t I want to watch the Black Widow and Obi-Wan Kenobi run away from a bunch of people with guns who want to harvest their organs?

 

5. Pain & Gain (2013)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub
IMDb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%

pain&gain

Pain & Gain is a bit of a different package. Yes, there are explosions involved, but there really isn’t much action when comparing this to any of Bay’s other films. It’s a “true story” based on three very stupid, physically fit men. I haven’t read up on the real story so I have no idea how this movie compares. However, in one scene Dwayne Johnson’s character is cooking human hands on a grill outside where everyone can see him, and words come up on the screen reminding you that this is still a true story. Now if that actually happened, that is really f’d up. Whether it did or it didn’t, it was freaking hilarious in the movie. Actually, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was probably the best part of this whole movie. I am not used to him playing that kind of character, but I found him to be really funny. I actually enjoyed this one more than I thought I would have, it’s a dirty, vulgar and violent story, but it’s kind of entertaining.

 

6. Armageddon (1998)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Will Patton
IMDb rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 39%

armageddon

I mean really, who hasn’t seen this movie? Armageddon is a guilty pleasure for sure. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you’ve at least heard Aerosmith’s song on the soundtrack “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” If you haven’t, you’re clearly living under a rock, but that’s okay. I don’t judge rock dwellers. The plot is totally unrealistic, there are a lot of corny parts, a lot of dumb humor, the characters are mostly stereotypical, and I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the science didn’t make any sense at all. I didn’t bother checking my facts after watching it though, because this movie wasn’t even meant to make any sense. It’s just a fun, stupid sci-fi/action movie about a possible incoming apocalypse that has been done over and over again. It’s not good, but I still find it more enjoyable than some of his other stuff.

 

7. Bad Boys II (2003)
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Jordi Mollà
IMDb rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

bad-boys-2

The problem with Bad Boys II is that it’s just a recycled, less good version of Bad Boys. Nothing really special happens. Gabrielle Union’s character is introduced as a woman who might turn out to be a badass, until you realize she’s stupid and can hardly accomplish anything on her own except looking good in skimpy clothes. The relationship between Smith and Lawrence’s characters is strained and uninteresting. They were like best bickering buds in the first one and here they are just whiny bitches who barely even respect each other anymore, which makes no sense. This movie has some examples of Bay’s attempt at exciting car chases, but really only succeeded in boring me half to death. The only music that I can remember from this movie, because it is played like a hundred times throughout (yeah, exaggerating), is that stupid “Shake Ya Tailfeather” song by Nelly. Not a fan.

 

8. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer
IMDb rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes score: 18%

transformers-age-of-extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction suffers from being way too long. A lot of people hated this movie, and while I didn’t exactly hate it, I was thankful for not having to sit through something exactly like Transformers #2 and #3. Mark Wahlberg was a good replacement, but Nicola Peltz’s character was so bad I actually started to miss Megan Fox. A lot of the issues I had with this movie I already described in my full review, which you can read here.

 

9. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson
IMDb rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes score: 36%

Transformers-Dark-of-the-Moon-2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon held my attention right up until the last hour maybe. This is also an example of a Transformers movie just being too freaking long. I think somewhere in the middle of the robot fights, I wanted to get up and scream and run the hell out. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Sam’s new girlfriend was just stupid. I mean, how the hell? Even Megan Fox was a stretch, but a Victoria’s Secret model? Even the first scene she was in and the way it was filmed made me feel like I was watching a Victoria’s Secret commercial. The action in this movie was so drawn out. Ken Jeong’s character was random and strange. I can’t even recall most of the plot because it just wasn’t memorable to me, and I haven’t bothered to watch it again.

 

10. Pearl Harbor (2001)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding Jr.
IMDb rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%

pearlharbor

I know, I know, why isn’t Pearl Harbor ranked the worst Michael Bay movie of all time? Well, just one reason really. I was like 12-years-old when this movie came out. I was hooked by that whole love triangle story, not to mention I was pretty much in love with Josh Hartnett. These are stupid reasons, I know, now I feel bad for criticizing Twilight fans. Well that’s the way it is, Bay had successfully managed to reel in unsuspecting pre-teen girls into liking this movie by giving them that incredibly stupid, cheesy love story they had been missing ever since Titanic came out. I haven’t really watched this movie in recent years, but I’ve caught a couple of scenes here and there on television, and yes, it is bad. I see that now–better late than never? At least I liked it at one point, which is more than I can say for some other movies. Actually, the only reason this is ranked after Dark of the Moon is because I can’t in my right, matured mind even pretend like this movie is good, and even though that one wasn’t very good either, this movie tried to be something it isn’t. Bay took an important event in history and turned it into complete ridiculousness.

 

11. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
IMDb rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes score: 19%

transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is in last place because it began the downward spiral that is the rest of the Transformers franchise. Like with Dark of the Moon, I can barely recall the plot because I just didn’t care. There’s nothing memorable about it. I think I might’ve been daydreaming in the theater when I saw it. I think they go to Egypt or something? Who even cares? Stuff happens, robots clash, explosions happen, something about ancient symbols, Sam goes to college and is almost raped by a girl robot thing. Sam and Mikaela’s relationship is dumb. I mean, how are you going to go from obsessing over and chasing this girl in the first movie, to becoming this egotistical dick who can’t even say, “I love you”? The whole reason he even bought Bumblebee was because he wanted a car to impress her with, and then he turns around and acts like that. Talk about douchebaggery. This movie–for lack of a better word–sucks.

 

So there it is. I’m curious to know what other people think of him and his movies and how stupid you think I am for ranking these as such. Go for it!

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16 thoughts on “Best to Worst: Michael Bay

  1. Michael Bay, to me, is like the action movie genre’s M. Night Shyamalan: started out hot (i.e. “The Rock”), but crippled that success by making bad choices. Now? Anytime that I hear his name attached to something I am immediately discouraged; I go into it thinking that it is going to suck and just hope that I can be proven wrong. The “Transformers” franchise has ruined him for me because he did cross a line, there, with special effects and action-sequences, where those became the focal point of the presentation. When he got his hands on my beloved “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, that was probably the final straw. I’m boycotting him. I enjoyed your writing, though.

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    • Yeah I definitely think Bay peaked early on with The Rock and Bad Boys. But sometimes he throws a couple decent movies out there, although they’re few and far between. I think the Transformers franchise ruined him for a lot of people. Where he differs from someone like Shyamalan though is that people still actually watch Bay’s movies, haha. I know a few people who share your feelings about the Ninja Turtles, too 😦 it is unfortunate.

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Cool list. I liked The Rock and Bad Boys. They’re among some of my favorite action movies. I liked Pain & Gain, too, simply for the fact that it caught me off guard. Best part is when Bay reminds us “this is still a true story” or something like that.

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    • Thank you! Pain & Gain was surprisingly enjoyable. I had no interest in watching it, but when it came on Netflix I caved. I love that part, too, and it came perfectly at a point when I was thinking, “There’s no way in hell this happened.”

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  3. Totally didn’t know Bad Boys II was a thing! Did not see like a role Gabrielle Union would be in. Then again, I’ve rarely seen Martin Lawrence on a role I actually liked.

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    • “The Rock” is a solid movie. I’d recommend it: Nic Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn… solid cast. It introduced the ultimate response to whenever someone says that they will do “their best” — in my probably crappy Scottish accent/Sean Connery impersonation, I say: “Your best?? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!” Brilliant.

      That was back when Nic Cage (who I am a huge fan of; bias admitted) was pumping out cinematic gold. Then he got screwed in the business, lost a ton of money, and, I imagine, just had to start saying “yes” to any movie that came his way…. so there are certainly some bad ones that he was attached to, BUT, in the mid-90s, when “The Rock” was made, Nic Cage was on a role. Fresh off his Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas”, he starred in “The Rock”, “ConAir”, “Face/Off”, and “City of Angels” (which he did pretty well in a romantic movie with Meg Ryan).

      I wasn’t a big fan of “Armageddon”. Although, I’m not a big fan of Ben Affleck.

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  4. Reading this, I actually forgot how many decent films Bay is responsible for. Love The Rock, Armageddon and Bad Boys. Not a huge fan of Transformers and haven’t seen the other movies because of that. You have the right order with the rest – Aside from the actual attack, Pearl Harbour was a missed opportunity.

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    • Oh for sure, I spent many years not even realizing most of these were his movies. He can make a decent movie, he just doesn’t do it anymore. I agree about Pearl Harbor. It might’ve been decent if it didn’t try to appeal so much to teenage girls. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

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  5. Great list! 🙂 His earlier works may not be cinematic masterpieces, but most of them are rather enjoyable. We can only hope that he’d return to making some actual entertainment after he’s done with the tiresome Transformers franchise.

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  6. In all honesty Bad Boys II is one of my favorite action movies of all time. Keep in mind that isn’t because the plot is engaging. To me it comes down to how absolutely ridiculous it gets. When taken to it’s base level it is a movie about drugs being smuggled in corpses that suddenly turns into a massive war in Cuba. While the humor doesn’t always hit I think the pure insanity and above-action make it insanely fun to watch.

    This doesn’t make the Nelly song good.

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    • There was a lot going on in Bad Boys II, I think maybe it was just a little long to hold my attention and I liked the relationship between the two main characters a lot more in the first one. It’s definitely not short on the action though, if you’re looking at just that, I can see why some would prefer it solely for the action. Fair enough point!

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  7. “Nicola Peltz’s character was so bad I actually started to miss Megan Fox.” Haha, great line. I didn’t see this movie or any of the ones on the Michael Bay list, but the author really knows her movies and I enjoyed reading through them all!

    Like

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