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All the Transformers movies, ranked

From giant robot fights to ultra-cheesy relationship dynamics, the Transformers franchise has brought spectacle to the big screen for decades now. The franchise, which just welcomed its eighth film, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, has brought in billions at the box office, making it a modern-day action hit that won’t fail to be remembered — for better or worse.

Even before action aficionado Michael Bay transformed the Hasbro toys into live-action superheroes, Transformers had been a part of popular culture for years. The franchise’s immense success has allowed it to grow considerably past its origins as a giant-robot-versus-giant-robot showdown. Its expansive mythology is set to grow even further in Rise of the Beasts, which will pit the Autobots against Unicron, a villainous planet-eating Transformer.

If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, the Transformers series has never been renowned for its high quality. However, that doesn’t mean that the series is devoid of any delights. The low moments are really, really low, but the highs can, sometimes, come together for great, epic, and even weirdly moving filmgoing experiences. Each of these movies, even if they fail by nearly every metric of film critique, has at least one moment that makes viewers want to fist pump the air. And what else does anybody really want from a movie about giant high-tech alien robots?

Transformers has had its valleys and its mountains, from confusing plots to epic action. Now, as Transformers: Rise of the Beasts roars into theaters, let’s take a look at how each film stacks up.

7. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

the last knight 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays
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The crown for the worst Transformers movie goes to 2017’s The Last Knight, which is as remarkably confusing and ridiculous as ever. The film, the fourth direct sequel to the original 2007 Transformers, tries to ask the question: What if Optimus Prime went rogue? When Optimus goes in search of his creator, the rest of the world — and its remaining Autobots — are left to fight the ongoing Transformer war. In order to save the world, Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager must team up with Bumblebee and friends to uncover the Transformers’ past.

The Last Knight is as forgettable as it is ridiculous. The movie runs nearly two-and-a-half hours, and you really feel every … single … minute. It’s tough to sit through, and it left me scratching my head when I wasn’t laughing at its sheer ridiculousness. The Last Knight feels like one long retcon, an uninspired and uninteresting mess that would rather explain the mythology of the Witwicky family than create some kick-ass action scenes. But hey, at least Megatron looks cool.

6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen -- Optimus Prime
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The first sequel to the original Transformers movie shows the first real glimpse of what this franchise will become: a weirdly mythologized saga of robot aliens that has a few really cool action scenes. Revenge of the Fallen sees Shia LeBeouf’s Sam Witwicky and Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes return to the fray when an ancient Decepticon threat resurfaces. The 2009 flick is bigger and more ambitious than its predecessor, but it’s also way more bloated.

Although Revenge of the Fallen has a couple great, adrenaline-pumping action scenes, the vast majority of the movie feels like an uninspired rehashing of the first movie’s plot. It’s predictable and uninventive. The characters — human or robot — fail to connect on a substantial level, and the movie’s villain is as uninteresting as he is weird to look at.

5. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Age of Extinction served as the franchise’s soft reboot in 2014. Instead of bringing back Shia LeBeouf and whatever girlfriend he had at that point, Bay instead chose to turn the clock back a bit. The movie follows a new human protagonist, Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager, years after the events of Dark of the Moon. Transformers are being hunted down, as humanity has turned against them due to the Battle of Chicago. Now, a greedy company led by Stanley Tucci gets in over its head when it attempts to create Transformium, a programmable metal that can turn into anything.

In all honesty, most of these movies live in a place in memory that’s entirely foggy. Most of them kind of blend together, with only a few moments really being remembered. Age of Extinction is one of the biggest culprits of that forgettable nature. Aside from Optimus’s electric final fight with Lockdown, dinosaur Transformers, and Tucci’s weirdly hilarious performance, I remember exceedingly little about Age of Extinction. On rewatch, it’s clear why that’s the case.

4. Transformers (2007)

Bumblebee (Transformers)
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The original 2007 Transformers is a mixed bag. At some points, it’s a fun, oddly character-focused action flick with some impressive VFX and explosions galore. At other times, it’s almost startling at how rarely Transformers focuses on the actual Transformers. Some people might forget that the vast majority of this movie is about Sam, Mikaela, and the team trying to crack the Decepticons’ code. It’s more of an alien invasion movie than an adrenaline action flick.

Nevertheless, Transformers still possesses some of the series’ most intimate and memorable moments, from Sam and Mikaela’s budding relationship to Bumblebee’s introduction. Bay’s touch can be seen in specks throughout the movie, but it’s easy to wish there was more: more action, more robots, and more explosions.

3. The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

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Although it’s likely the most forgotten movie featuring the titular robots, The Transformers: The Movie is completely different from the live-action films that came after it. Nearly everything about The Transformers: The Movie is goofy in the best way. From Megatron turning into a pistol to a bonkers soundtrack, it makes sense why this animated film, which first came out in 1986, has become a sort of cult classic.

The Transformers: The Movie is a fun, silly Transformers adventure outfitted with all sorts of characters. The movie follows the Autobots as they fight against Megatron and the Decepticons, as well as the arrival of the planet-eating Transformer Unicron, which causes all hell to break lose. The movie takes bold swings, and it’s a dated, yet wonderfully campy gem. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: Orson Welles voices Unicron. Yes, the man who created Citizen Kane voices a giant planet Transformer. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.

2. Bumblebee (2018)

Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee
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Bumblebee is a fascinating object in the Transformers library. Instead of continuing on with the original timeline, 2018’s Bumblebee takes a step back and focuses instead on a personal story of friendship. It’s more of a family movie than any other before it, one that cares less about mythology or robot fights and more about how a lost soul finds connection in their car.

The movie, set in 1987, follows Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie, a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Meanwhile, a broken and battered Bumblebee crash-lands on Earth, where he is found by Charlie. Together, the new friends must work together to fight off incoming Decepticons. Bumblebee functions most effectively as a coming-of-age movie, resulting in a movie with more heart than any other in the series. It’s also notable that the movie’s visual style for the Transformers is refreshingly new, one that simultaneously mimics and evolves the look of the original animation.

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

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While it’s debatable if any of the movies on this list are “good” movies, I will always contend that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a legitimately great action movie. The previous two movies in the franchise at this point both had cool moments, but they rarely just say “screw it” and turn up the dial to 15.

Previously, I discussed how each of these movies has “a moment” that really encapsulates why they are worth watching. For Dark of the Moon, that “moment” is essentially the entire final hour. While the rest of the movie is fine and does what it needs to do, once Dark of the Moon gets to Chicago, it kicks into a third gear. Bay absolutely lets loose on his filmmaking, going balls to the wall in set piece after set piece.

The action is unbelievable, and it’s everything one would ever want from a Transformers movie. Giant robots slicing each other’s heads off? Check. Shia LaBeouf absolutely hamming it up and screaming at the top of his lungs? Check. Optimus Prime — and Michael Bay — going absolute Sicko Mode? Check and check! Dark Side of the Moon is sick, and that’s all a Transformers movie really needs to be.

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