Transformers is one of Hollywood's biggest film franchises, but which movie is the best one? With the addition of the newest entry, Bumblebee, there are now six live-action feature films about the war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons since 2007. Including the 1986 animated film The Transformers: The Movie, the franchise as so far earned over $4.3 billion at the global box office.
Development on first Transformers live-action film revved up in 2004 when Steven Spielberg signed onto executive produce alongside producer Don Murphy. Michael Bay signed on as director a year later and would, for better or worse, remain as the primary auteur of the franchise for over a decade, helming the next four sequels as well. Cast as the human hero Sam Witwicky, Shia LaBeouf was the star of the first three films alongside Megan Fox as co-lead for 2007's Transformers and 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Fox was then replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the third film, 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the highest grossing entry of the saga, which earned over $1.1 billion worldwide. Mark Wahlberg then took over as the new lead character of the franchise, Cade Yaeger, and the next film, 2014's Transformers: Age of Extinction became the second Transformers to gross over $1 billion. But the fifth film, 2017's Transformers: The Last Knight drastically underperformed, ranking as the lowest-grossing live-action Transformers.
Bay's Transformers movies are taken to task for emphasizing noisy action, incoherent plotting, and juvenile humor at the expense of character and story. After ten years and five films, Michael Bay finally stepped aside as director (he'd been claiming each film since the third would be his last, but he kept returning) and allowed the Transformers franchise to head in a new direction. The planned Transformers 6 was canceled and instead, everything fell on Bumblebee, directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings). Set in 1987, Bumblebee stars Academy Award-nominee Hailee Steinfeld and doubles as both a prequel and a soft reboot of the series. Let's now assess the entire franchise and determine which Transformers movie is the best one of all.
7. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Set and released two years after Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen introduces a new evil Decepticon threat: the Fallen, a former Prime who wants to use a device called the Sun Harvester, which he hid on Earth in 17,000 B.C., to destroy the sun in order to create Energon. Now working together as the Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty (N.E.S.T.), the Autobots and human military hunt down the remaining Decepticons on Earth. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky begins college but discovers he's the Chosen One who holds the key to discovering the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the only thing that can destroy the Fallen, who comes to Earth to activate the Sun Harvester. Sam reunites with his girlfriend Mikaela Banes and Bumblebee, but Megatron is resurrected and kills Optimus Prime. It all culminates at a battle between the Autobots, N.E.S.T. and the Decepticons at the Pyramids of Giza where the Sun Harvester is nearly activated. Sam dies but receives a vision from the Primes that he's the Chosen One; returning to life, Sam uses the Matrix to resurrect Optimus Prime, who then kills the Fallen and destroys the Sun Harvester as Megatron escapes.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's screenplay was rushed together ahead of the 2008 writers strike and it showed. While the movie introduced fan-favorite characters like Jetfire and the Constructicons, who merged to form Devastator, the story is an illogical mess with both Sam and Optimus Prime dying and being resurrected. However, the film is best remembered for its sophomoric humor, like the Decepticon Wheelie humping Mikaela's leg, a closeup of Agent Seymour Simmons stripping down to his tighty-whiteys, and the outright racist portrayals of Skids and Mudflap, two Autobot comic relief characters that accompany Sam and Mikaela (but were thankfully never seen again in the series). Revenge of the Fallen would be the final appearance of Megan Fox in the Transformers franchise after she referred to Michael Bay as "Hitler" in an interview. Finally, the visual of Devastator climbing the Great Pyramid while displaying wrecking balls that double as its testicles contributes to the second Michael Bay Transformers checking in as the early nadir of the franchise, at least creatively.
To be fair, Revenge of the Fallen's $402-million is the franchise's highest domestic gross, though it ranks third in worldwide grosses behind Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction, respectively.
6. Transformers: Age of Extinction
65-million years ago, aliens called the Creators seeded the Earth with Transformium, a programmable metal that the Transformers are made out of. The main film is set five years after the Battle of Chicago in Dark of the Moon; humans have turned against the Transformers and Optimus Prime is hiding in Texas where he's discovered by a struggling inventor named Cade Yaeger. A government task force called Cemetery Wind arrives to kill Optimus, who is revived and escapes with Cade, his daughter Tessa, and her boyfriend Shane. As Optimus rallies the Autobots, including Bumblebee, the plot expands to involve a corporation using a device called the Seed to build man-made Transformer drones, one of which, Galvatron, is possessed by the spirit of Megatron. Meanwhile, a Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown is on the hunt for Optimus Prime. After another battle in Chicago, the Autobots travel to Hong Kong to stop the Seed from being detonated and terraforming the Earth, with Optimus resurrecting Grimlock and the Dinobots to help him. After the Seed and Lockdown are destroyed, Optimus leaves Earth to hunt for the Creators, setting up the next film, Transformers: The Last Knight.
At a grueling 165 minutes, Age of Extinction is the longest Transformers movie, and really doesn't know how to use it. While Age of Extinction finally introduced the Dinobots (and its marketing sold it with the image of Optimus Prime riding Grimlock), the fan-favorite Autobots don't appear until nearly two hours into the film. Instead, audiences had to endure the Yaegers' embarrassing family drama, specifically Cade's outrage at Tessa dating the much older Shane and Shane arguing the legalities of his dating a minor. Aside from starting the Mark Wahlberg era, Transformers: Age of Extinction is also remembered for Lockdown, the Transformer whose face transforms into a gun, Stanley Tucci as the human villain (Tucci would return in the next film, The Last Knight, as an entirely different character), and for being shot in China, with the Chinese co-financing the production. Despite its poor reviews, Age of Extinction nevertheless was the highest grossing film of 2014 and the second Transformers movie to earn $1-billion worldwide.
Page 2 of 3: The Best of Michael Bay's Transformers
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018