All the Michael Bay Movies Ranked

All the Michael Bay movies ranked

Michael Bay is simultaneously one of Hollywood’s most successful and most derided directors.  Say what you will about his hyper-edited, over-saturated, blockbuster style, but the man has his own vision that no one can duplicate.  Ever since he turned himself into the Transformers muse, most cinephiles have written him off, but it can’t be forgotten that Michael Bay’s style has been pulled off to near perfection in the past. The next movie on his plate is 6 Underground for Netflix.  With a secret plot and Ryan Reynolds, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco, and nary a robot in sight, movie lovers are cautiously optimistic.  For now, here are all of his movies ranked, worst to first, so that we can all remember that he has made some that were spectacular.

#14: Bad Boys II (2003)

Bad Boys II is Bay’s most lackluster film.  There is a reason that Danny in Hot Fuzz is constantly referencing this overblown paycheck movie.  It is because Hot Fuzz was perfectly making fun of movies exactly like Bad Boys II. This movie is Smith and Lawrence goofing off.  It isn’t Mike and Marcus, as partners, playfully jabbing at each other. The pair shoots everyone in sight, get shot in the ass, and blow up chateaus, all with no consequences  They don’t even know who Marcus’s Sister/Mike’s Lover actually is. This movie is infuriating. It’s a film that seems to use its astronomical budget to simply get the stars on set and blow stuff up.

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#13: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

The most recent installment of Transformers.  It is unconscionable that this 150-minute, $200 Million-plus budgeted monstrosity exists.  Not a single moment in this movie resembles anything that could ever happen in real life, with or without giant robots. Bay had the audacity to bring the Arthurian legends into the Transformer mythos. The effects still dazzle the eye, but it is all so profoundly convoluted that everyone ceased to care.

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#11: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Everyone checked out of this movie once Sam Witwicky somehow entered Autobot heaven, or something.  How could Michael Bay make such a slick movie based on the Hasbro toys the first time out only to undercut so much the second time?  Instead of the All-Spark, this time it is the Matrix of Leadership. It just felt like Bay was making stuff up as an excuse to get these junkyard mountains to fight each other.

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#10: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

There is a single reason why this Transformers installment sits above the others.  It certainly is not the painful scene where two characters explain away statutory rape.  Forget the Dinobots, which were teased for months but offered very little screen time.  The entire reason to see this one is Galvatron. The sleekness and creativeness of the special effects to animate this thing (creature? device?) is mesmerizing to behold. Everything else is the same clunky narrative that fills every other film the series. 

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#09: Pearl Harbor (2001)

When Michael Bay tackled Pearl Harbor and it failed, it proved Titanic was lightning in a bottle. Pulling off a perfect melding of historical disaster with a great love story isn’t as easy as it looks.  Bay thought he could pull that off with the attacks on Pearl Harbor as his setting.  His love story was a love triangle between Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale.  The battle sequences are sublime. Who doesn’t remember that shot from the point of view of a bomb? But the forced melodrama between these three star-crossed lovers is fake and borderline disrespectful.  It was a valiant effort, but it is no Titanic.

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#08: 13 Hours (2016)

One would think that with Michael Bay behind the camera, dramatizing the Benghazi attacks, would be messy. But Bay has a great handle on the action in this film, effectively transporting the audience into the chaos of the situation.  This was essentially the job interview for John Krasinski to become Jack Ryan, and he shows he does have the action chops for it. As expected, there is not much time for characterization and these are all all faceless soldiers.  However, the adrenaline rush and patriotic swoon the film provides is worth it.

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#07: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Even though the many Transformers sequels are virtually indistinguishable, Dark of the Moon is the only one worth anyone’s time.  The way they integrate the space race with a marooned Cybertron spacecraft on the far side of the moon is actually fun. The introduction of Sentinel Prime as Optimus’s predecessor is decent, with Leonard Nimoy providing the voice.  The big wig actors that always show up — this time John Malkovich and Frances McDormand — bring a bit if legitimacy to it all. It even has a neat twist. All and all, this sequel is more enjoyable than other fare in the franchise.

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#06: Pain & Gain (2013)

This comedy released right in the middle of Michael Bay’s Transformers zietgeist.  Believe it or not, it’s a hoot.  With Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie headlining Pain & Gain, it is already A-list material.  It follows the semi-true story of a bunch of idiot bodybuilders attempting a kidnapping and extortion scam.  To watch these actors portray meathead stupidity and naivete is always funny. Wahlberg thinks his plan is perfect.  He is also positive he can fix it when his plain fails. This is a comedy of errors with the Michael Bay flair. That flair can be grating to some, but the hilarious star power keeps it all on the rails.

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#05: The Island (2005)

The Island has to be Michael Bay’s most underappreciated film.  Of course, just when things are going well, it slips into that hyper-kinetic action he feels he needs in his films.  That being said, this story about Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as survivors in a futuristic bunker of sorts, and it’s a lot of fun.  These survivors live a Logan’s Run life. They all wear the same clothes and await the lottery to choose them to be sent to the Island.  The Island is the only place on Earth that escaped fallout after an undisclosed war. The secret behind this movie is wonderfully dystopic and this underground facility is full of a lot of imagination.  Once things get to the surface, the mysteries are exciting but the hover bike chases are exasperating.

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#04: Bad Boys (1995)

In 1995, before Michael Bay, Will Smith, and Martin Lawrence got all cocky and money hungry, they made a great action-comedy.  The original Bad Boys involves drugs being stolen from the Miami police vault.  Mike and Marcus are given 5 days to recover it or the unit will be shut down.  Boom!! Nice and simple. The icing on the action-comedy cake is the plot device where Smith and Lawrence have to impersonate each other.  It is a riot.

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#03: Transformers (2007)

There is no denying that when Michael Bay first tackled the Transformers back in 2007, it was something special.  The way he conceived of the transforming sequences, with the sounds and the flawless CGI, was absolutely astounding.  But the effects aren’t what made the film work. Bay focused on the humans as much as the robots, and it grounded the story. Shia LaBeouf really carried the film and pulled off a poignant relationship with Bumblebee. The squad led by Josh Duhamel was well handled and exciting.  Finally, the mythos building of John Turturro and Sector Seven had that great secret society trope. Put that all together and you get an action extravaganza that had yet to become exhausting or insulting.

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#02: The Rock (1996)

Honestly, who doesn’t like The Rock?  This uber-popular action film has it all.  It has Nicholas Cage going delightfully bats**t crazy.  Sean Connery is at his most wonderful Sean Connery-est. Ed Harris is perfectly portraying the morally complex villain.  Then Michael Bay threw in San Francisco-destroying car chases, the mythic island of Alcatraz, and horrific poison gas. The result is a roller-coaster of bullets, quips, and hi-jinks that may be the best action films of the 1990s.  

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#01: Armageddon (1998)

Michael Bay really pulled out all the stops for this one.  It is a perfect example of how the frenetic editing, hammy acting, and preposterous plot-line style synonymous with Bay can work.  It works perfectly. End of the world disaster, a large cast of misfits, American flags waving in the sunset…Michael Bay really does not go the subtle route.  On the DVD commentary, Ben Affleck famously asked Michael bay why NASA would train drillers to be astronauts instead of simply training astronauts to drill.  Michael Bay’s response? “Shut the f- up, Ben.”  That story so perfectly underlines how immensely ridiculous and infectiously fun Armageddon is.

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Bonus: Meat Loaf’s I Would Do Anything For Love Music Video

Did you know that Michael Bay directed this perfectly cheesy music video?  Well, now that you do, you might consider it the best thing he has ever done.

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Weekend: Jul. 18, 2019, Jul. 21, 2019

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