The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked

Michael Bay is one of the most divisive filmmakers working today. While some moviegoers love the spectacle his films provide, others criticize his films as shallow, bombastic, and downright offensive. Perhaps the best example of both sides of this argument is the Transformers franchise.

Thus far, Bay has directed all four of the live-action films, and he will return to expand the burgeoning shared universe with this year’s Transformers: The Last Knight. Let’s look back at all the films we’ve seen starring the Autobots and Decepticons.

5. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked
Transformers: Age of Extinction | Source: Paramount Pictures

This fourth entry may have earned more than $1 billion worldwide, but it currently stands as the worst-reviewed film in the series so far. Marking a bit of a soft reboot (at least on the human side of things), Age of Extinction replaces series star Shia LaBeouf with a new character played by Mark Wahlberg, as conflict rages between the U.S. government and the Autobots. Fans may have been pleased to see several fan-favorite characters, including Galvatron and the Dinobots, but the story itself pales in comparison to its predecessors.

4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen | Source: Paramount Pictures

After the first Transformers established that there was a massive audience for the franchise, this sequel squandered audience goodwill with a subpar film that brought few new elements to the table, receiving a critical beating in the process. Potential strikes led production to be rushed, which is likely responsible for the sloppy story. Even the action itself becomes too unwieldy, devolving into an incomprehensible rush of metal that might leave audiences more confused than ever.

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked
Transformers: Dark of the Moon | Source: Paramount Pictures

After the second film received a less-than-warm reception, Bay and his team stepped the franchise up a notch with this entry. Incorporating elements of real human history into the story is an interesting move, and some of the action sequences here are among the best in the franchise. Moreover, original star Megan Fox is absent here for the first time, but for many fans of the films, there’s so much going on that one may not miss the actress that much.

2. Transformers: The Movie (1986)

The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked
Transformers: The Movie | Source: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

While Bay’s films have come to define Transformers on the big screen, this animated film took the television series to theaters and remains a nostalgic favorite for a generation of fans. Although it may not have been a box office hit, the film marked the final film credits for the legendary Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers. In addition, its poignant death scenes colored the film with a darker tone than its television counterpart, making it a bolder release than many may have realized at the time.

1. Transformers (2007)

The Best and Worst of ‘Transformers’: The Franchise Ranked
Transformers | Source: Paramount Pictures

With this film, Bay turned a nostalgia-fueled property into one of the most popular film franchises ever. Moreover, this action thrill ride launched Shia LaBeouf into the adult phase of his acting career and made Megan Fox an instant household name.

While even the best Transformers film received mixed reviews, it’s hard to deny that the series’ balance of comedy, action, and characters has never been quite as solid as it is here. Even though the film is rife with just as many explosions as one would expect from Bay, there’s still enough of a story to keep the film afloat.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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