- Francois Durand/Getty
Love him or hate him, director Michael Bay has spent the last two decades completely dominating the box office.
Though he’s a punching bag for critics, Bay’s movies – from the action-comedy “Bad Boys” to the thrilling “Armageddon” – have grossed over $2.1 billion at the United States box office in his career. Only Steven Spielberg has brought in more coin.
The divide between critics and audiences is most obvious with Bay’s “Transformers” movies. Though the highest-ranking of any of the movies on Rotten Tomatoes only has a 57% score (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”), the franchise, entirely directed by Bay, has taken in over $3 billion worldwide.
With Bay’s latest, “Transformers: The Last Knight” (currently in theaters), marking the final time he’ll helm a movie in the franchise (or so he says), we thought this would be a good time to look back on his profitable, yet underappreciated, career.
Here are all of the movies of Michael Bay, ranked from worst to best:
13. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (2009)
Though most felt Bay and star Shia LaBeouf did an impressive job kicking off the franchise with 2007’s “Transformers,” the sequel didn’t give audiences hope that the movies would get any better. With a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the sequel started the critical bashing of the franchise that continues to this day.
“Revenge of the Fallen” is best known for it marking the last time Megan Fox would appear in the movies. She was fired for saying in an interview that working with Bay is a “nightmare” and for comparing him to Hitler.
12. “Pearl Harbor” (2001)
- Buena Vista Pictures
Having just come off of the blockbuster “Armageddon,” Bay could do no wrong in the eyes of Hollywood. And with that power he went and made a three-hour movie about Pearl Harbor. The problem was, it was awful.
Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale, this epic may be cool to look at, but the story it tells is a complete bore.
11. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014)
- Courtesy Paramount Pictures
The beginning of the Mark Wahlberg era of the franchise, the film has little to enjoy and clocks in at a mind-numbing 2 hours and 45 minutes. But audiences didn’t seem to care – the movie took in over $1 billion worldwide.
10. “The Island” (2005)
Starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, this dystopian thriller was an attempt for Bay to expand his storytelling beyond giant machines and explosions. It’s a movie that shows Bay has the capabilities to take on movies that aren’t solely about spectacle and CGI wizardry.
9. “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017)
Bay’s latest “Transformers” starts off wacky and doesn’t let up. From a drunk Merlin to a very angry Transformer named Cogman, it seems Bay decided to go batty in his final time helming the franchise. And we have to say, it’s fun (if you can tolerate the over two-hour running time).
8. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (2011)
In Shia LeBeouf’s final time starring in the franchise, he teams with the Autobots to figure out what’s the deal with a Cybertronian spaceship showing up on the moon. Bay rebounded from “Revenge of the Fallen” and pretty much gave Paramount the chance to greenlight a few more movies in the franchise. So thanks a lot, “Dark of the Moon”!
7. “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” (2016)
- Dion Beebe/Paramount
Always a big supporter of our armed services, Bay put his heart on his sleeve in making this powerful look at the brave security team that defended the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, after terrorist attacks in 2012. Though the movie wasn’t a cash cow like his others, it proved that Bay can make a powerful drama when he wants to.
6. “Bad Boys II” (2003)
Eight years after making his feature directing debut, Bay teamed again with stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for the sequel. As you’d expect, audiences loved it, critics hated it. Though it has some funny moments, we think the original is better, too.
5. “Transformers” (2007)
Looking back 10 years later (that’s right, we’ve been watching Transformers movies for a decade now), you can see so much potential in the franchise. The talents of Shia. The insane CGI. The Transformer Bumblebee. Though we still have the latter two, things are so much different. We suggest this weekend you seek out the original.
4. “Pain & Gain” (2013)
It’s the movie you probably forgot Bay made, but it’s arguably his most impressive work. Mark Walhbert, Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson, and Anthony Mackie play three buff bros who get caught up in an extortion scheme. Watching the antics of three dumb bodybuilders for two hours (yeah, it probably should only be 90 minutes) is actually extremely enjoyable and it captures one of The Rock’s best performances to date.
3. “Armageddon” (1998)
Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck lead a team of deep core drillers to a giant asteroid to destroy it before it hits earth. It’s the movie that pretty much proved Bay was no box-office fluke and also gave us that Aerosmith song that we still can’t get out of our heads. But what it also provided was one of the best DVD commentary tracks ever made. Seek it out, you won’t be disappointed.
2. “Bad Boys” (1995)
After years making slick commercials and music videos, Bay’s first feature film didn’t just bring a new spice to the buddy-cop movie with the teaming of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It also elevated the super-stylized shooting that the movie’s producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson had been giving to audiences since the 1980s.
1. “The Rock” (1996)
- Buena Vista Pictures
Bay followed up the success of “Bad Boys” by combining the talents of Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage to create a thrilling, one-of-a-kind action movie set on Alcatraz that still holds up to this day. With the best Rotten Tomatoes score for any Bay movie (66%), the mix of action and lighthearted moments made it one of the biggest box-office hits of the year. It was even nominated for an Oscar (best sound mixing).
Though Bay would continue to use the same formula, he hasn’t really been able to capture the simultaneous critical and box-office magic on a movie again.