Welcome back to Prolific Ranker, the segments I write where I rank stuff…prolifically. Today I am ranking the films of director Michael Bay. The man makes films so patriotically masturbatory, so undeniably ‘Murican, that you wanna watch them while having sex with an eagle on top of the American flag, while surrounded by guns and eating a cheeseburger, because it’s the most American thing you can do.
As with the Ayer ranking, this will only feature the 14 films that Bay has directed, so no 2014 Ninja Turtles film in this one. As a famous Italian plumber once said, lets-a-go.
14. Transformers – Revenge Of The Fallen
In the first Transformers film, we get a solid origin story with actual well-shot action sequences and good chemistry between all it’s actors. So Bay saw that and thought “you know what this needs? More dogs humping things! And the Transformers need testicles. Fuck that’s hilarious!” then he went and
snorted more cocaine didn’t do illegal drugs. This movie ramps all the negative Bay-isms (casual racism, sexual exploitation of Megan Fox, choppy directing, unfunny jokes etc.) to eleven and also features an overly-convoluted storyline with massive gaps in logic. Fuck. This. Movie.
13. Pearl Harbor
Bay was coming off three huge popcorn flicks (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon) and had a chance to make a meaningful film about one of the biggest tragedies in American history. But Bay said “nah, fuck that noise” and made a 3-hour romance film that just happened to feature the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a backdrop. A legendary Hans Zimmer score is the only thing that kept this off the bottom of this ranking.
12. Transformers – Age Of Extinction
There was promise for this one. The previous entry actually tried having a story but also felt like the Shia LaBeouf character had run it’s course. So with those same efforts to actually tell stories, motherfucking dinobots and a fresh start with certified A-Lister Mark Wahlberg, this had to be a slam dunk, right? Wrong, wrong, fucking wrong. It feels like more effort was put into excusing the younger male character from having sex with a minor (I’m not kidding, they put in a whole scene explaining why it was legal) than the rest of the film combined. Mark Wahlberg’s whole character is “I’m an inventor.” He literally says that like 18 times. Plus, the trailer made it seem like the dinobots would be a main feature and they’re in the movie for like three minutes. Yuck.
11. Transformers – The Last Knight
While this one isn’t as bad as the previous two Transformers films below it, it’s still a fucking mess. One thing that baffles me with this is the decision to constantly change aspect ratios throughout the film. For those who don’t know, aspect ratios is basically the size of the frame of the shot on screen. So basically, throughout each scene, the size of the screen is changing near-constantly. It’s so distracting and really fucking annoying. This also features the Transformers staples; unnecessarily convoluted storyline, weird character decisions, terrible dialogue and choppy action sequences. There is even a medieval sequence WITH EXPLOSIONS. Jesus christ, someone needs to stop Michael Bay.
10. 6 Underground
This might be the most Michael Bay film to ever Michael Bay. Holy shit. Netflix gave Bay $150m to make this and he spent it all on
cocaine explosions, and Ryan Reynolds. It does open with a gangster-as-fuck car chase scene that lasts fifteen minutes, and as cool as that sounds, it’s all downhill from there. It does feature some solid stunt work, specifically some very cool parkour sequences. Even the concept is kinda cool; dudes fake their death so they can save the world with no restrictions. The biggest problem here, apart from the Michael J. Fox-like direction, is star Ryan Reynolds, who doesn’t even feel like he’s trying, but is also front and center for near the whole movie. Some decent action, but not a good movie overall.
9. Transformers – Dark Of The Moon
I think overall, this movie gets a bad rap due to the reputation of the Transformers franchise as a whole, and while there is a lot to dislike here, this one deserves a little credit for actually trying. First off, Bay is quite refrained in the choppy editing-style he likes to shoot his action sequences. And, while still way too long and convoluted, they attempt to tell a story here, even bringing in some legit acting talent in Frances McDormand and John Malkovich. But replacing Megan Fox with an even worse actor (I use that term loosely) in Rosie Huntington-Whitely aka Mrs. Jason Statham was a terrible idea, but Bay gotta have that eye candy. This one had some promise but still sucks.
While this one still has an insanely nonsensical story, this is probably the first movie on this list I’d consider ‘not bad.’ It features a really stupid plot; an asteroid is on it’s way to collide with Earth, so the President decides to train a bunch of oil drillers, the best of the best oil drillers, to be astronauts so they can go and drill the asteroid to put a bomb in it. Despite the premise, this features an all-star cast; Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Owen Wilson and on and on, that ALL pull their weight and make this nonsense story seem real. It’s an amazing feat, and if you want to turn your brain off and enjoy something dumb, this is perfect.
7. Bad Boys II
Hear me out but I am gonna say something crazy; this movie has a lot in common with the Transformers franchise. It has an overly long and unnecessarily confusing storyline, the action sequences are incredibly choppy and there is no character development. In saying that, where Bad Boys II excels is the excellent chemistry between the leads, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and the great supporting cast; Peter Stormare, Gabrielle Union, Michael Shannon and Joe Pantoliano. They lift the movie from what could’ve been as bad as any of the Transformers sequels to something that is very enjoyable yet pretty flawed.
6. The Island
The Island is interesting. I actually watched it for the first time earlier this year. The first half was this deep, sci-fi with themes of what it means to actually live rather than just being alive, and it was slowly building characters and, to be perfectly frank, was the furthest thing away from a Michael Bay movie I may have ever seen. Seriously, if it kept on this track, it may have been #1 on this list, that’s how good it was. Instead, Michael Bay had to make up for the lack of Bayhem in the first half and goes completely nuts in the second half of the movie, with motorbike chases, shaky cameras, an over-the-top storyline and of course, explosions. So while the second half goes crazy and drags the movie down overall, it is still worth watching due to the very, very good first half.
5. Pain & Gain
I’m a bit mixed on this one. This has an interesting story; three bodybuilders (who aren’t very smart) decide to kidnap a rich businessman as a means to make some quick cash, and quite frankly, it has some dark humour that did elicit some laughter from me. Now, the main reason I am mixed on it is, well, this is based on a true story, where real people were killed. So the scenes that are shot for comedic effect, someone actually suffered through that. It’s a pretty tone-deaf way to shoot a true story, making a story about people getting murdered a dark comedy, but this coming from the guy that made the Pearl Harbor event into a romance movie. If you can put the fact this is based on real events to the side, this is an enjoyable movie to watch though, with great performances by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthony Mackie.
4. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi
I have to admit, I cringed when I heard Michael Bay was directing this one, a movie based on a true story that involved real people that actually died. However, upon watching I was pleasantly surprised. The direction of Bay was quite restrained, and the story of these soldiers was treated with a great respect. The main criticisms I have with this one is that it is still so overly patriotic and makes all Libyans seem like terrorists. In fact, I do believe when this was released, the Libyans all lost their shit. The second criticism is a lack of character development of these soldiers. Kudos to the cast (James Badge Dale, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber) who do a fantastic job.
3. Bad Boys
This is the movie that started it all. The directorial debut of Michael Bay, a guy who made his name making music videos, gets to start his career shooting an action movie with Will Smith. As with the second one, the chemistry between Smith and Martin Lawrence is off the charts and really boosts the movie overall. The supporting cast is again good, with Joe Pantoliano still here and Tea Leoni in this one as well, in the role of ‘eye candy.’ What I like about this one, and I wouldn’t say this for many directors but for Michael Bay, I welcome it, is that the story is incredibly simplistic and easy to follow. With the movies Bay makes, he doesn’t need to complicate things and thankfully here, he didn’t.
Now you may think this being this high is a typo or something, and when you look at the other movies in this franchise, you couldn’t be blamed, but nope. I believe this movie is legitimately good and that is a hill I am willing to die on. It features (relatively) good character development for the main leads, as well as having good relationships that have good chemistry with Shia LaBeouf and all three of Megan Fox, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. The action, while still choppy, isn’t done egregiously so and is not only fine to watch, it’s actually enjoyable. The story was still a little confusing but not nearly as much as any of the others, and there isn’t any ill-fated attempts at humour. There are a couple of laughs in here, including a scene featuring the late, great Bernie Mac. So yeah, I dig this one.
1. The Rock
This movie is an anomaly. It features ALL of the Michael Bay shit that I’ve complained about throughout this piece. Choppy camera work? Check. Quick cuts? Check. Forced humour that doesn’t always land? Check. Batshit crazy story? Check and check. Yet, these things all seem to work together in perfect balance to create an action movie that is damn near a masterpiece. It features Nicolas Cage who is still crazy in that Nic Cage way, but not so over-the-top that his performance becomes meme-worthy. Sean Connery just plays Sean Connery but the dude is so fucking cool, it works. And Ed Harris, one of the best bad guy actors in all of movies, plays a great bad guy. This movie fucking rocks.
There it is, my rankings of Michael Bay’s films. There are some total shitbombs but also a couple of gems. What do you think? Did I get it right? Or am I crazy for having Transformers so high? Gimme a follow on Twitter (@onpointayden) and let me know your rankings or thoughts.