Illumination is a very unique animation studio, most known for the popular Despicable Me franchise. It is the highest grossing animated film franchise of all time, currently at $3.7B globally; that’s billion with a B. That’s even before their latest film, Minions: The Rise of Gru, completes its theatrical run. Since the Minions are back in theaters, I thought it was time to rank the films of this global phenomenon. Here’s my personal ranking of the Despicable Me films:
This is an animated movie that will surely entertain the kids it’s intended for, but the parents won’t get as much out of it as they do Pixar films. The Minions are always good for some laughs with their nonsense language and antics, but the journey to get to Gru wasn’t easy. Sandra Bullock has done voice work before (Miriam in The Prince of Egypt) but Scarlet Overkill just isn’t as interesting of a lead as Gru is. The Minions need Gru, and Minions clearly shows that.
4. Despicable Me 3
Even though we get Steve Carell putting in twice the work voicing Gru and his long lost twin brother Dru, it’s not enough to make the third film in the Despicable Me series the best one yet. I would consider it the weakest of the three (excluding the Minions series). We have a colorful villain with Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) and an 80s villain theme, but I would say he’s the least interesting villain Gru has encountered so far. There’s still some humor and heart, but it’s not enough to make the film as good as the first two.
3. Minions: The Rise of Gru
My biggest takeaway from the 2015 prequel Minions was that there was something missing; that something was having Gru with the Minions. Minions: The Rise of Gru fixes that problem by giving us more time with Gru while also allowing our trio of Minions (Kevin, Stuart, and Bob) to have their time to shine. The result is a sequel that is much better than the original. It’s not perfect, but a great voice cast (especially Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Taraji P. Henson) and villain designs make it an enjoyable movie that has a little something for everyone!
2. Despicable Me 2
While the sequel isn’t as good as the original, it comes pretty close in my opinion. Gru gets recruited by the Anti-Villain League and gets paired up with Kristen Wiig, now voicing his partner and love interest Lucy. Kristen Wiig had a different role in the first Despicable Me as Miss Hattie, the orphanage owner, but Lucy plays more to her comedic strengths. She’s also a nice counter for Gru and plays into the opposites attract motif.
We also get the best villain of the series in my opinion in Eduardo Pérez/El Macho, voiced by Benjamin Bratt. He plays the character with a lot of gusto and charisma, and has a better overall plan than Vector in the first film. If you ask me on a different day, this could be number one on the list, but I’m comfortable where it is for now.
1. Despicable Me
The one that started it all remains the best of the series so far. Gru and his Minions are charming right from the start; we know he’s a villain, but he’s not a bad guy. It’s great to see his whole world turned upside down by the three girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) as he transforms from super bad to super dad.
We also got some nice supporting work from Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario, as well as the villain duo of Jason Segel as Vector and Will Arnett as Mr. Perkins. Plus, Julie Andrews voices Gru’s Mom as the cherry on top! I’m glad I did a rewatch of the whole series before making this list because I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed Despicable Me; it really is fun for the whole family.