A wise man once said that cool guys don’t look at explosions, that person never met Michael Bay a director who practically masturbates over them draped in an American flag while Linkin Park plays behind him. Bay likes things to go boom, and his movies are very in your face about it. Some are good, most aren’t, but for you today we present the oeuvre of Michael Bay from the worst, to the best.
14. PAIN & GAIN (2013)
Mean spirited “comedy” featuring jacked up Mark Wahlberg, jacked up Dwayne Johnson and jacked up Anthony Mackie features very little of worth. It’s not very funny, it’s not very interesting and it mocks pretty much everyone. No doubt there are legions of fans of it for those exact reasons but it ranks as one of the worst mainstream Hollywood films for quite some time.
13. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009)
Incoherent to the point of actually being annoying this sequel is hated by everyone who made it citing the 2008 Writer’s Guild strike as a reason it made no sense. The acting from everyone is sub-par, giving LeBeouf a chance to gurn for all he’s worth, awkward comedy in the form of giant robot balls and worst of all Skids and Mudflap two racial stereotype cars that sit there with The Trade Federation as blockbusters being racist as hell.
12. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (2014)
A soft reboot that sees Wahlberg tell us he’s an inventor. He’s not. The film features Dino-bots for reasons, and thanks to the very lucrative market of China the film goes to China for two thirds of it’s runtime. It panders to product placements and the Asian market relentlessly while also a subplot about statutory rape is played out and Kelsey Grammer tries his best not to cry while making it. Also, we’re told that TJ Miller and Wahlberg went to high school together… what?
11. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (2011)
A film that features John Turturro, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich really should be the next Coen Brothers film but instead it’s this headache inducing threequel. Highlights include writing Megan Fox out of the series because she called Bay a nazi, Ken Jeong as someone called Deep Wang, and Leonard Nimoy offering gravitas as villain Sentinel Prime. It’s long, loud and relentlessly dull.
10. BAD BOYS II (2003)
Long, loud and boring this film wastes everything from the charisma of Will Smith to the mad charm of Michael Shannon to the money it took to build the sets. Gabrielle Union is good and got a spin-off show L.A.’s Finest but she can’t save a film that is overly long, quite offensive at times and lacking the kind of rigor a good action film needs.
9. 6 UNDERGROUND (2019)
The kind of movie only Netflix can make because their secret colonisation of Mars for oil hasn’t been discovered yet, 6 Underground is the worst type of Michael Bay film, one that squanders it’s cast including Ryan Reynolds, Melanie Laurent, Corey Hawks and even Dave Franco. It’s filled with butts, flags and badly edited action that makes you think Bay was doing an impression of himself.
8. 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (2016)
The biggest financial flub of Bay’s career his usual callous attitude towards human beings and the nuance of covert affairs is brought to the Libyan conflict. The 2012 attacks in Benghazi are turned into a ridiculous action film filled with hammy dialogue but it coming out four years later and directly reflecting Hilary Clinton’s career in the Obama administration could have helped put Trump in power.
7. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017)
Anthony Hopkins saves this fifth film in the series by acting like a man who just bought a new car, because he probably did. The film is filled with all the badly edited CGI action you’d expect, blatant sexism, poor characterisation and Mark Wahlberg we expect, although it’s Arthurian prologue is pretty much and makes it better than most in the franchise as a result. That’s not saying much though.
6. PEARL HARBOUR (2001)
If taken as a depiction of the attack by Japanese soldiers during the second world war then this all-star war film is tone deaf. If however you buy into the idea that the film is meant to be melodramatic and over the top in the way that a film from that time would be then it’s quite enjoyable. The attack sequence is top notch, and the score is impeccable, it also helps that the film gave us the brilliant Team America: World Police song “Pearl Harbour Sucks (and I miss you)”.
5. TRANSFORMERS (2007)
At least somewhat trying to harken back to the days of Spielbergian wonder and the sort of thrills Independence Day gave us, the first film based on the Hasbro toy line is at least at times filled with slow building character stuff and a good cast of ensemble players. Some of the action is good until the third act gets a bit silly but before them it’s a sort of Iron Giant meets Armageddon and it works for the most part. Plus the teaser trailer on Mars? Boss.
4. THE ISLAND (2005)
Though the film got Bay sued by Robert Fiveson the writer-director of the cult classic The Clonus Horror, this science fiction thriller actually works well because Bay has a sense of the chase and paranoia. The idea might be of the sci-fi world but the organ donor idea chimes with a lot of dinar-children controversy around the same time. It helps that Bay casts Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in the lead roles and offers a great supporting turn for a twitchy Steve Buscemi. Overlooked but much better than his bigger movies.
3. BAD BOYS (1995)
Helped by this being Michael Bay’s debut feature film after directing commercials and music videos, Bad Boys gets by on the sheer charisma of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence playing off each other. The plot is sort of unimportant because when the action kicks in and the quips start flying Smith proves why he was destined for stardom and Lawrence shines as his much more geeky partner in crime and crime solving.
2. ARMAGEDDON (1998)
The toss up between Armageddon and Deep Impact is really a matter of taste, Bay’s asteroid heading for Earth film features a fantastic song by Aerosmith (you love it, I love it, we all love it don’t lie) as well as some great work by a cast trying not to laugh. Yes, it makes no sense that training oil drillers to become astronauts would be easier than the other way round but this is no the cerebral global reckoning of the other disaster film, this is about men doing men things. Peter Stomare gets space dementia and Michael Clarke Duncan takes his clothes off, but Willis oozes that easy charm he used to when he still cared about movies.
1. THE ROCK (1996)
If taken as a follow up to the Connery era Bond film, this is even better than it is normally. Sean Connery’s John Mason is one of his best late career turns offering him tons of cool lines, while Nicolas Cage’s Stanley Goodspeed gets to gurn for all he’s worth. Ed Harris offers classy support as the military villain, and once again the plotting is neither here nor there. Cool guys need to break into Alcatraz, and losers always whine about their best. It’s Bay’s best film, it’s his only film on the Criterion Collection for Christ sake, and it’s balls-to-the-wall fun. If he could make another film as simply enjoyable as this it could be an action film for the ages.