The Expendables 4 has finally been released in theaters, and that makes this the perfect time to look back at all of The Expendables movies and rank them. There are only three movies that we’ve seen so far, which means that this won’t take too long to go over. The first movie came out in 2010, and it was the culmination of Sylvester Stallone’s efforts to create an ensemble film comprised of other action stars. Stallone co-wrote the film, directed it, and starred as Barney Ross, the leader of the Expendables.
Stallone also recruited Jason Statham to portray Lee Christmas, with Jet Li as Yin Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road, and Terry Crews as Hale Caesar. With few exceptions, that team has largely remained intact in the subsequent films, with a few additions and subtractions to the cast. But the core idea has always remained in place, and this is a franchise that loves using action icons as both heroes and villains. And if The Expendables 4 is a success, then it’s an easy bet that there will be more sequels in the future.
The biggest complaint that people have about The Expendables 3 is that the action was toned down to a PG-13 level, and fans were not happy about that. It also sidelines the original team for an extended period in order for Ross to recruit the next generation of Expendables: Galgo (Antonio Banderas), Luna (Ronda Rousey), Smilee (Kellan Lutz), Thorn (Glen Powell), and Mars (Victor Ortiz). Note that none of the next gen Expendables are coming back for The Expendables 4.
If there’s one thing that The Expendables 3 has over the other films in the franchise it’s Mel Gibson’s Conrad Stonebanks, the cofounder of the Expendables who betrayed the team and became their greatest enemy. Gibson was the most convincing adversary that the Expendables have faced. Additionally, Harrison Ford joined the cast as the team’s CIA contact, Max Drummer. That was a nice bit of casting that we appreciate, it just wasn’t enough to place The Expendables 3 higher than the two previous films on this list.
Watch The Expendables 3 on Netflix.
This is the one that started it all. In The Expendables, the team was rocked by the departure of Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), after his mental instability endangered them during a mission. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a cameo as Barney’s rival, Trench Mauser, but it was Bruce Willis’ Mr. Church who gave the team their mission to take down a dictator named General Garza (David Zayas).
Even some of the minor roles in this movie were played by recognizable action stars, including Mickey Rourke as a tattoo artist named Tool and Stone Cold Steve Austin as a henchman called Paine. Eric Roberts also had a primary role as James Munroe, a renegade CIA agent who was the real power behind Garza’s regime. The Expendables wasn’t beloved by critics, but it gave fans pretty much everything they wanted from this team-up.
Watch The Expendables on Netflix until October 4.
Among fans of The Expendables films, The Expendables 2 is usually the consensus choice for the best in the franchise. It really has a lot going for it, including Jean-Claude Van Damme as the bad guy, who was not-so-subtly named Jean Vilain. Chuck Norris joined the team as Booker, while Liam Hemsworth appeared as Ross’ protégé, Billy the Kid. The film also gave the Expendables team personal stakes when one of their own was killed by Vilain.
As an additional touch that helps make this film the best in the series, Schwarzenegger and Willis both had larger roles in the sequel as Mauser and Church gave the team a much-needed assist late in the movie. Everything just seemed to come together for this one, and The Expendables 4 has an uphill battle to surpass it.
Watch The Expendables 2 on Netflix until October 4.
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