Every Michael Bay film – ranked!

Will the director’s latest effort, 6 Underground, a vigilante revenge thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, match the bombastic grandeur of the rest of his oeuvre? And which Transformers film was the least bad, anyway?

13. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

You can tell that this was Michael Bay’s final Transformers film. It’s basically a compilation of every bad idea the man has ever had. There’s King Arthur. Stanley Tucci is Merlin. There’s a sexy Oxford professor called Viviane Wembley. It’s heavily implied that planet Earth was a great big Transformer all along. Everyone hated this film, even the idiots who went to see the other four.

12. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

The second Transformers film is unintelligibly stupid. Visually and narratively, it is the equivalent of locking yourself in a wardrobe with a million alarm clocks and then tipping yourself down a staircase. It is a long, embarrassing, self-serious mess. Worst of all, it features two characters – called Mudflap and Skids – who are almost certainly the most offensive racial stereotypes ever to hit the silver screen in robot form.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

11. The Island (2005)

I paid money to watch The Island in a cinema 14 years ago, and I am still furious about it. Ewan McGregor is wasted as a clone trapped on – that’s right – an island. However, the real crime here is Scarlett Johansson playing a character so one-dimensionally sexualised that she may as well be an airbrushed picture of a sports car. A small contingent is starting to claim that The Island is Michael Bay’s masterpiece. It isn’t.

10. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

After Dark of the Moon, Bay and Shia LaBeouf said they were done with the Transformers franchise. And yet Bay returned almost immediately with this monstrosity, dragging Mark Wahlberg into the lead. As always, this is an indecipherably bad film, the only memorable aspects of which are Wahlberg’s apparent attraction to the actor playing his daughter and the inexplicable presence of Stanley Tucci.

Pearl Harbor … ‘Absolute disaster.’
Pearl Harbor … ‘Absolute disaster.’ Photograph: Reuters

9. Pearl Harbor (2001)

If this was a list about any other director, then Pearl Harbor would be last. A film that heavily borrowed the “lovelorn romance against the backdrop of a real-life disaster” formula from Titanic, only to mash it beyond all recognition with a pair of dumb ham-hands, Pearl Harbor was an absolute disaster from start to finish. It is, nevertheless, one of Bay’s Top 10 films.

8. Transformers (2007)

The first Transformers film rode the wave of childhood-destroying franchise reboots, and was tonally and visually incomprehensible to boot. The robots lacked definition, the Shia LaBeouf scenes felt half-finished, the camera letched over Megan Fox to such a harrowing degree that you felt the need to hose yourself down by the time the credits kicked in. It was terrible, but it is also the second-best Transformers film.

7. Bad Boys II (2003)

A huge disappointment after the success of Bad Boys (although not financially because it did almost double the original’s box office). Bad Boys II saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence twisting in the wind, trying to recapture the magic of their double act through a script that is cartoonishly problematic in its depictions of gender and race. This film would never get made today, thank God.

6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

To call something the least-bad Transformers movie is to damn it with the faintest praise imaginable, but here we are. This isn’t the best film in the series because of the plot – I’ve seen it more than once and, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened if you put a gun to my head – but for its technical prowess. The entire film was shot on 3D cameras that had to be designed to Bay’s specifications. At least there’s that.

5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi (2016)

After five Transformers films, each more stupidly large than the last, Bay wanted a change of pace. He wanted to slow things down, tell a real story and maybe win an Oscar. The result was this, a film based on a true story that nevertheless stars Jim from The Office looking like a walking human growth hormone. Had any other director tried this, it would have at least contained a modicum of intelligence. It did get nominated for an Oscar, though, for best sound mixing.

Armageddon … ‘The worst film of 1998.’
Armageddon … ‘The worst film of 1998.’ Photograph: Allstar

4. Armageddon (1998)

Armageddon tells the story of a bunch of roughneck miners (and Ben Affleck) who are sent into space to explode an asteroid heading to Earth. This was Bay’s third feature film, but it already bore plenty of defining traces; especially the editing, which appeared to have been performed by an octopus having a seizure. Roger Ebert called Armageddon the worst film of 1998. It is Michael Bay’s fourth-best film.

3. Pain & Gain (2013)

In his first non-Transformers film for almost a decade, Bay recruited the two stars with broad enough shoulders to carry his shtick. Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are perfectly cast as a pair of musclebound knuckleheads whose terrible rampage of crime and violence is, incredibly, based on a true story. It’s a horrible story played for laughs; imagine Scorsese trying to make Goodfellas after having had a grade-three concussion and you are in the ballpark.

2. Bad Boys (1995)

Bad Boys was instrumental in helping Will Smith to world-conquering status. After dabbling in middlebrow fare such as Six Degrees of Separation and Where the Day Takes You, this is where Smith cranked up his charisma as far as it would go and watched the money roll in. It’s stylish and lightweight – a perfect first film for Bay – and it’s telling that it’s this film that Smith is returning to now his career has taken a nosedive. A very belated third instalment is due next year.

The Rock.

1. The Rock (1996)

This isn’t just the best film that Bay has ever directed (finally, Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage together!), but perhaps the most notorious. A fake intelligence source ripped off parts of this film for a 2002 chemical weapons program dossier, meaning that The Rock is probably directly responsible for Britain’s participation in the Iraq war. Not bad for one of the stupidest movies ever made.

6 Underground is released on Netflix on 13 December


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sequels in disguise: Transformers cinematic universe on the way
Paramount planning an Avengers-style expansion of Michael Bay’s robotic franchise

Benjamin Lee

30, Mar, 2015 @8:06 AM

Article image
Michael Bay: how the people’s pyromaniac redefined action cinema
As the boombastic director’s first hit Bad Boys celebrates its 20th birthday, we pay homage to the godfather of the brainless billion-dollar blockbuster

Daniel Bettridge

27, Apr, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Every Stephen Frears film – ranked!
The director’s last two projects - Quiz and A Very English Scandal – have been big hits on the small screen. So where should you start with his movies?

Peter Bradshaw

16, Apr, 2020 @11:30 AM

Article image
Every Jason Statham film - ranked!
We rate the action man’s bone-crunching output from Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer to the Fast & Furious movies

Graeme Virtue

25, Jul, 2019 @12:22 PM

Article image
Every Judi Dench film – ranked!
From her 1964 big-screen debut to the 90s roles – including James Bond’s boss, M – that made her a Hollywood star, here’s the rundown of every single Dench movie

Peter Bradshaw

18, Apr, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Every Angelina Jolie film performance – ranked!
Witness Jolie’s trajectory from 90s jobbing actor to fully fledged Hollywood star – with a few bumps along the way …

Andrew Pulver

03, Oct, 2019 @11:19 AM

Article image
Hollywood zooms in on China's film market
As Transformers becomes China's biggest ever box office smash the US film studios are aiming to reel in Chinese audiences in their millions

Jennifer Rankin, and Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing

11, Jul, 2014 @3:20 PM

Article image
Bruce Willis films – ranked!
With the actor starring in not one but two iffy thrillers out this month, we take a look over the more successful end of his long, action-packed career

Ryan Gilbey

06, Jan, 2022 @12:15 PM

Article image
The 20 greatest smackdown movies – ranked!
As the world awaits the monstrous thrills of the new blockbuster Godzilla vs Kong, the genre’s big-hitters slug it out for top place

Stuart Heritage

25, Mar, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
The top 20 duels in cinema – ranked!
Forty-four years after The Duellists, Ridley Scott draws swords again with his star-studded swashbuckler The Last Duel. But which one-on-one fight film is the champion? Let mortal combat begin …

Anne Billson

07, Oct, 2021 @11:00 AM