With the release of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part in theaters this weekend, here's our ranking of the four installments of the franchise, from worst to best. Following the initial announcement that Warner Bros. Animation was going to make movies based on LEGO, skepticism quickly mounted. The brick building toys - despite covering many different time periods, realities, and characters - have not been known for their storytelling.
In order to bring LEGO to the big screen in a creative way, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were hired to write and direct The LEGO Movie in 2010. Their work was based on the story originally cracked by Dan and Kevin Hageman. The concept was fairly simple: the vast LEGO world that audiences would experience was actually in the basement of a family home, with the son trying to change the strict rules placed upon the land by his father. The LEGO Movie was a surprise hit with all audiences and wound up grossing over $465 million worldwide. This success propelled Warner Bros. to expand the universe every way they could, and as we'll discuss some were for the better and others maybe not.
The LEGO Batman Movie, a spinoff for Will Arnett's Batman, was the first to arrive in early 2017, but only made $311 million worldwide despite critical praise. Later that year, they also released The LEGO Ninjago Movie and the box office receipts fell again to just $123M worldwide, with reviews a bit more mixed than generally glowing. However, The LEGO Movie 2 appears to be a return to form based on the critical reception. Now that audiences are starting to enjoy the film, here's our ranking of the four LEGO Movies.
4. The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan, The LEGO Ninjago Movie follows a group of teenage ninjas who are the protectors of Ninjago City. The city is constantly under attack by the super villain Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), and it is up to his son Lloyd (Dave Franco) and his Ninja Force to repeatedly stop him. When Lloyd tries to use the Ultimate Weapon (a laser pointer) to defeat his father, a cat by the name of Meowthra levels the city. This sends the team off on a search for the Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon to try and save the city from Meowthra's attacks and defeat Garmadon once and for all.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie maintains the light and fun tone that viewers had come to expect from the series to this point, with the jokes and inclusion of real world elements into Ninjago making it an easily digestible adventure. That said, it is largely just a less compelling rehash of everything covered in The LEGO Movie. A father-son relationship is once again at the center, but there isn't too much development on either side. This fractured dynamic does provide material for some good gags, but the pay off isn't there to make truly satisfying.
The other Ninja Force characters don't receive substantial roles either, so the talents of Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Fred Armisen, and more aren't properly utilized. The movie also does not appear to take place in the same LEGO Universe as the other entries in the franchise, based on Jackie Chan's narration and introduction of the story, which makes it stick out even more. Ninjago still has some enjoyable moments to it, but it just lacks the uniqueness of the other entries - making it the clear choice at the bottom of our list.
3. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The newest entry in the franchise, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part brings back the characters, creators, and world that audiences fell in love with originally. Mike Mitchell takes over as the director, while Phil Lord and Chris Miller remained heavily involved creatively to tell the next chapter of this story. The bulk of the sequel takes place five years after the original, where Bricksburg has become Apocalypseburg due to the invasion of the DUPLO aliens. When General Mayhem from the Systar System takes Emmet's best friends, it will be up to him and his new pal, Rex Dangervest, to save them and their universe.
As a continuation of the main story, The LEGO Movie 2 is a worthy followup and return for the franchise. This time, the relationship between the real-world brother and sister drives the story, as their different playing styles and ages have ripped apart the foundation of this LEGO reality. The film is loaded with jokes and great music, and even adds brand new memorable characters, like Tiffany Haddish's Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi. After the first movie told everyone they were special, the sequel is here to remind them that the most important thing is just being yourself. It is a worthwhile message that can be sent to a predominantly younger audience, and for those with siblings, the story resonates even more.
At the same time, there are moments where the jokes can be firing off too quickly and the balance of characters isn't quite as strong as what the franchise has done before. Emmet, Lucy, and Batman get the most to do, leaving some other fan-favorite roles in the background. There's also a twist in the plot that is a bit predictable and some may even question if it makes any sense. The good of The LEGO Movie 2 heavily outweighs the few areas in which it struggles, so even though there's a strong case it could be a spot higher on this list, it will just miss out on our top two.