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All 8 Theatrical Transformers Movies Ranked: Does Rise of the Beasts Land On Top?

Since 1984, Hasbro’s Transformers franchise has enthralled kids and adults alike with its stories of interstellar war, ideological conflict, unlikely friendships, and giant alien robots that turn into vehicles and punch each other because that’s cool. What started as a line of action figures and a tie-in animated series has become a global phenomenon spawning countless cartoons, comics, video games, and feature films; with the latest installment, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, hitting theaters this weekend

With the new film coming out, I figured now would be a good time to look back at the franchise’s previous cinematic outings to see how they stack up to one another; going through each entry from worst to best. To reiterate, only theatrical releases will be counted here, so don’t expect to see Transformers: Beginnings, the Transformers: Prime finale movie, or anything else of that nature on here. Without further ado, let’s get started.

#8. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 

Highest Grossing Action Movies Revenge of the fallen Optimus Prime

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This is not only the worst Transformers movie, but one of the worst films I’ve seen in my entire life. The film started production with an unfinished script due to the 2007-2008 Writers’ Strike and it shows. It frequently forgets its own plot, jumps from location to location for no rhyme or reason, and spends far too much of its screen time on human characters that are either lifeless planks of wood or aggressively unfunny.

The action scenes are an unrelenting barrage of shaky cam, exacerbated by the robot designs being so generic that it’s impossible to tell who anyone is, what they’re doing, who they’re doing it to, or more importantly, why we should care about it. Frankly, the fact that Devastator, one of the coolest Decepticons’ ever, shows up in this movie just to dig a hole should tell you everything you need to know.

#7. Transformers: The Last Knight 

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Bay’s final outing with the franchise doesn’t fare that much better than Revenge of the Fallen. Improved robot designs, slightly less obnoxious humans, and a mercifully steady camera fail to make up for the fact that nearly every concept in this movie is ripped off from other better movies. Not to mention that it introduces fan-favorite villains like Unicron or Nemesis Prime only to either not actually show them or only give them five minutes of total screen time.

Speaking of rip-offs, the film opens on a King Arthur movie before cutting to Stand by Me starring Rey and BB-8 from Force Awakens until Anthony Hopkins and C-3P0 recruit Mark Wahlberg and Peter Quill’s mom to be in a different King Arthur movie crossed with Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad. And if you think that sounds cool, you should be prepared to be thoroughly disappointed. Nothing ever coalesces into something resembling a coherent vision and it ultimately inspires a feeling far closer to numbness and fatigue than the wonder and excitement of the various films it’s cribbing notes from.

#6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon 

The third Bay film only really manages to fare better than Revenge of the Fallen due to having a completed screenplay and only fares better than The Last Knight because despite also doing very little with its concepts, the filmmakers at least came up with those concepts on their own. Human/Decepticon alliances and the Autobots being betrayed by one of their own are sound ideas, but they’re not fleshed out enough to really work.

It also doesn’t make up for the fact that all the robot designs are completely indistinguishable from one another. So much so that every action scene comes off less like an intense fight and more like a discordant cacophony of white noise and jagged metal. I will say that the late great Leonard Nimoy puts in a legitimately good performance as Sentinel Prime, but that’s about all the film has going for it.

#5. Transformers: Age of Extinction 

Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: Age of Extinction
Mark Wahlberg in Transformers: Age of Extinction

It says something about just how low the bar is for the Michael Bay Transformers films that the second-best one features a scene in which they stop the movie so that the 20-year-old boyfriend of Mark Wahlberg’s 17-year-old daughter can produce a laminated card from his wallet containing a specific statute of Texas state law explaining why it’s totally okay and not creepy at all for him to be banging her. Yes, that scene is real, it haunts my nightmares, and it might not actually apply to their relationship anyway.

Despite that and Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager being the worst character in a franchise filled with some truly terrible ones, there is definitely stuff to like in Age of Extinction. The idea of the Autobots as fugitives is compelling, the robot designs are a lot more distinct and vibrant compared to previous entries, and while the Dinobots aren’t in nearly as much of this as they should be, Optimus Prime riding into battle on a fire-breathing robot dinosaur will never not be awesome. It’s still too long and often completely incoherent, but not without its moments.

#4. Transformers (2007)

The first film might be the only time that director Michael Bay ever tried to engage with the source material on a genuine level. It’s not perfect or even all that good, but it feels like real thought was put into the idea of what might happen if the Transformers landed on Earth in real life. Despite a myriad of subplots, all of them manage to come together cohesively in one unified central conflict. And while the Decepticons are still really generic, the Autobots actually manage to be fairly distinct from each other.

This isn’t to say that the movie is some kind of underrated gem, far from it, It’s too long, relies heavily on racial stereotypes, treats every woman like a sex object, and might be the most blatant example of military propaganda in Hollywood outside of the Top Gun films. Still, the action scenes are fairly solid and the central conflict between Optimus and Megatron is genuinely compelling, even if it often takes a backseat to Shia LaBeouf’s love life for some reason.

#3. The Transformers: The Movie 

The first film on this list that I would consider genuinely good sends the popular animated series into the then-future 2005 as the Autobot/Decepticon war appears to finally be reaching its end. Our heroes are ready to retake Cybertron from the Decepticons having already driven them from Earth, only for the Decepticons to ambush the Earth base and brutally murder nearly all of the original cast of characters within the first thirty minutes because this movie does not mess around.

Admittedly, like the show, this movie exists to be a toy commercial. Even the shockingly dark opening only happened because Hasbro wanted to start pushing a new line of Transformers figures and needed to get the old ones out of the way. But the manner by which they chose to do that is memorable and gutsy nonetheless. Plus, the film has beautiful art-deco backgrounds, an excellent soundtrack from Vince DiCola, Stan Bush, and Lion among others, and some genuinely solid voice work from both veteran voice actors and then-major celebrities like Eric Idle and the legendary Orson Welles in his final performance ever (Yes, really).

#2. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts"
“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts”

The most recent installment is easily the best of the franchise’s ensemble outings. It’s not too long, the action is easy to follow, and it wastes no time taking its core cast of fan favorite characters from one set piece to the next. I won’t go into too much detail since I have a full review of this movie you can read here, but suffice it to say, while It’s not perfect, I had an absolute blast watching it and I hope they make at least 12 more of them.

#1. Bumblebee 

Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee
Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee

This is the best Transformers movie by a very wide margin. To be fair, prior to Rise of the Beasts, all any Transformers movie would have to do to clear that bar is make all the robots look like the cartoon, have them be the focus with any and all humans being left to a minimum, and have the action scenes shot by someone who knows what a tripod is. And while Bumblebee does all of those things, it does so much more than that.

The action is genuinely creative, every single Autobot and Decepticon feels unique from one another, and despite being mute for most of the movie, Bumblebee himself is a remarkably fleshed-out character just through body language and facial expressions. His friendship with Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie is wholesome, compelling and authentic; with Charlie herself being a great character in her own right. The 1980s setting is captured perfectly and unlike nearly every other entry on this list, the film is well-paced and never overstays its welcome. If the Transformers franchise can maintain the positive momentum of this and Rise of the Beasts, then I think it’s going to stick around for a very long time.

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Written by Callie Hanna

Callie Hanna is an up-and-coming writer, aspiring actor, and full-time nerd. She grew up in a small town in Delaware and was instilled with a love for superheroes, science fiction, and all things geeky from an early age. When she's not catching up with her comically large backlog of movies, games, shows, and comics, Callie can be found working, writing, chatting with friends, or browsing the dying husk of under @MegaNerd98.