Michael Bay holds a rare position in the filmmaking universe.
The director has been behind some truly massive Hollywood hits, including one particular money-printing franchise, and has a signature style that makes him a widely recognisable auteur. And yet, his name doesn’t exactly come up in the most positive of conversations. Sure, when Bay misses the mark, he does so on a big scale (cough – Pearl Harbor, Transformers 3 to 5 – cough), but he has a number of solid films that are often discarded when discussing his talents.
Here are five Michael Bay movies that still stand up as some of the director’s most entertaining, strongest films, at least according to this writer. In order of release:
The Rock (1996)
The perfect example of Michael Bay’s over-the-top, cocky, glossy style working perfectly in sync with a script. The Rock tells of a “chemical super freak” (Nicolas Cage delivering perfect Cageisms) and an ex-con (an on point Sean Connery) who go head to head with a rogue group of military men threatening to fire nerve gas from Alcatraz to San Francisco. It’s slick stuff, boasting exciting, violent action, a damn good cast – including Ed Harris, great as the antagonist – and a cracking screenplay that offers up amusing one-liners and an infectious tone. This one ain’t just a good Bay film, it’s a great action film, period.
Who you gonna call when there’s a giant asteroid rocketing to earth? Oil drillers… right? Logic be damned – this is a Michael Bay list! Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck led this big-budget Hollywood blockbuster that ticked off the many, many boxes you’d associate with the filmmaker. Over-the-top patriotism? Check. Cringey dialogue? Check. Slo-mo? Check. Explosions? Check. Explosions? Check. Explosions? You get the idea. As with The Rock, Armageddon gets away with a ton of faults thanks to a seriously fun tone and a strong cast. It’s bombastic popcorn entertainment with strong visual effects, floor-shaking sound design, a ‘hell yeah!’ score by Trevor Rabin, and arguably the most charismatic ensemble in a Bay film. And don’t lie: you know you have a soft spot for Aerosmith’s Oscar nominated “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.
Bad Boys II (2003)
This action extravaganza is pure Bay-hem, and one clearly meant more for those that dig the man’s style. The sequel to Bay’s 1995 big-screen feature debut, Bad Boys II found Will Smith and Martin Lawrence carrying strong chemistry and bouncing of each other in an offensive, very violent, two-and-a-half hour assault on the senses. It’s also a crazy amount of fun. Admittedly one of the more divisive on this list, this action pic showed off seriously awesome action sequences (the huge freeway vehicle-throwing car chase is a doozy), a relentless pace, and a refreshingly middle-fingered sense of humour that either drew you in or pushed you away in disgust. Clearly, it was the former for this writer.
Yes, Transformers. Ignore the fact that we’re now at number 5 and that Bay’s franchise has gone further downhill with every entry, his first feature in the series was a solid family blockbuster. A pre-troubled Shia LaBeouf led Bay’s expensive cinematic imagining of Hasbro’s massive toy-spawned brand. The screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman smartly kept an eye on the ‘boy and his robot’ element of the story and Bay mostly kept his elaborate, chaotic leanings in line with what the overall plot demanded. It’s a fun franchise starter with fantastic VFX and an enthusiastic level of energy; shame about what followed.
Pain and Gain (2013)
This is a bit of a strange one. Arguably one of Bay’s more straightforward comedies, Pain and Gain is also a true-story picture with one hell of a dark and depressing tale to tell. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie play a trio of bodybuilders in Florida who executed an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that, of course, went terribly wrong. It’s an insane true story that’s given a stylish, appropriately hyper-real take by Bay. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s an entertaining, shocking and darkly humourous tale of chasing the American dream. It also features strong performances from the three leads; particularly Johnson, whose simple-minded criminal with a heart of gold is up there with his best turns.
What do you think? Any that we left out? Any that we should have left out? Hit the comments section below and let us know!
And… for the hell of it: