‘Transformers’: From worst to least-bad
They might have an abundance of robots in disguise, but the Transformers have not been able to hide their terribleness. Calling the big-screen versions of the 1980s cartoon/toy franchise a mixed bag would be generous — quite a few have been absolute garbage fires. Autobot mainstays Optimus Prime and Bumblebee have had human allies in stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and most recently Mark Wahlberg, yet no one goes to a
Transformers movie to see the people. It’s all about the explosions, heroic Autobots punching evil Decepticons, and robots transforming into cars, planes, tanks and stuff. The new Transformers: The Last
Knight is in theaters now, so let’s see how it fits into the canon with the definitive ranking of Transformers movies:
1 ‘TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE’ (1986)
Perhaps it was the era or the fact that Transformers just work better in animation, but the cartoon movie gets everything right that the live-action movies don’t: robot characters we care about, a story balancing grand mythology and emotional stakes, and a super-rad soundtrack. Plus, not only did they have the giant mechanized cajones to kill Optimus Prime — a move that shocked an entire generation of kid fans — but they also put together an all-time great cast including Nimoy and Orson Welles, who voiced a planet-eating supervillain. Michael Bay only wishes he had that.
2‘ TRANSFORMERS’ (2007)
The first live-action film is the best because it keeps things simple. The Autobots want to rebuild their cosmic home of Cybertron, their war against the Decepticons deepens when the villains want to turn Earth’s machinery against humans, and LaBeouf ’s Sam is an ordinary high schooler thrown into the middle of this conflict who also gets a shot at romance with his crush Mikaela (Fox). It’s not Oscar-worthy or anything, but at least makes for a fun popcorn flick.
3‘ TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON’ (2011)
Take away LaBeouf ’s character and his job woes ( being the Autobots’ mascot doesn’t pay the bills!), and Dark of the Moon is at least kind of decent. The story ties in the moon landing with the ongoing struggles between Autobots and Decepticons, unleashes the wicked-cool Shockwave and tosses in a little drama with the addition of Sentinel Prime, Optimus’ predecessor, who is revived and betrays the good guys. (Leonard Nimoy’s voicing of Sentinel Prime marks his final major film role before he died in 2015.)
4‘ TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION’ (2014)
Even Wahlberg can only do so much to save a plot revolving around an organization that creates its own evil Transformers to battle our mechanical protagonists and a trip to China whose lone purpose seemed to be boosting international box office. Ex
tinction reintroduces fan-favorite Dinobots from the old cartoons, turns one of its main human characters to literal ash, and originates a metal called Trans-formium, which impressively manages to make Avatar’s unobtanium sound much less stupid.
5‘ TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT’ (2017)
Batman battling Superman was disconcerting. Superhero bros Captain America vs. Iron Man seemed strange. But Optimus Prime beating the Energon out of his old pal Bumblebee is just plain wrong in the latest installment. Bay re-creates Ar
mageddon with transforming robots — with Prime breaking bad and betraying humanity — which presents a core question: Who are these movies meant to attract? Not adults who grew up with Optimus and Bumblebee as friends till the end.
6‘ TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN’ (2009)
This is not only a bad movie by
Transformers standards but it’s one of the worst movies ever, period. LaBeouf ’s college kid Sam Witwicky is seduced by a sexy robot spy in a truly unsexy sequence; one gigantic Decepticon has a wrecking ball for genitalia; another Transformer is so old he needs a walker; and two Autobots are racial stereotypes gone wrong. A stupid plot about an ancient Decepticon harvesting the Earth’s sun is probably the least worst aspect of this disaster.