Michael Bay's Best Movies - Featured - StudioBinder

Here at StudioBinder, we’ve written extensively about auteurs in the field of film. We’ve discussed artists like Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, and David Fincher at length. And then, there’s Michael Bay.

Love him or hate him, his films have influenced the filmmaking world. His 360 shot and his unique editing strategies have impacted filmmakers young and old alike. For this list, we’re counting down the best Michael Bay films of all time, and yes, there are some pretty good ones. Let’s dive into it.

Michael Bay Movies List

14. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Behind the Magic | The Visual Effects of Transformers: Age of Extinction

Age of Extinction is a Transformers film that promised Dinobots in all of the marketing, and then didn’t have them show up until the last 30 minutes. Promising one thing and delivering a film that spends as much time explaining why it’s okay for a guy to date an underage girl as it does explaining the villain’s motivations is entirely monstrous.

20%
Filmmaking
65%
Bayhem
10%
Fun to Watch
32%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Too Many Characters
  • Lack of Cohesion
  • Far Too Long

Michael Bay's Best Movies

Conclusion

Transformers: Age of Extinction barely qualifies as a film. With no stakes properly established, it’s just a bunch of chaos onscreen.

Movies Directed by Michael Bay

13. 6 Underground (2019)

Behind the Scenes | 6 Underground

One thing becomes abundantly clear watching 6 UndergroundYou can have all the cool set pieces and explosions you want, but without actual scenes stringing it all together, it just becomes meaningless noise. 6 Underground shows Bay indulging in his worst instincts, and the result is something destined to get lost on Netflix.

25%
Filmmaking
70%
Bayhem
20%
Fun to Watch
38%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Deadpan Humor
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Incoherent Plot
  • Over the Top
  • Exhausting

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Netflix clearly wanted a big bombastic blockbuster to call its own. Unfortunately, they made that wish on a monkey’s paw and ended up with 6 Underground.

Michael Bay Films List

12. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Behind the Scenes | Transformers: The Last Knight

World building is an incredibly important aspect of any fantasy film. For a primer in how not to world build, just look at The Last Knight. It’s implied that Earth was a giant Transformer all along and Merlin and Hitler get thrown in the mix. It’s messy. It’s convoluted. It’s a Transformers movie.

25%
Filmmaking
75%
Bayhem
30%
Fun to watch
43%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Just Too Much
  • Convoluted Plot
  • Too Loud

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Transformers: The Last Knight is misguided in every sense of the word. Making Transformers movies should be fun, but Bay just throws everything at you without any consideration for the bigger picture.

All Michael Bay Movies

11. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Special Domestic Destruction | Transformers 2

Revenge of the Fallen ran into some trouble due to the 2007-2008 Writers’ strike. Needing to crank out such a massive sequel in two years is no easy feat, and you can feel for the filmmakers trying to put something cohesive together in such a quick turnaround time. However, it’s ultimately no excuse for a film that just feels lazy. If you need more time to make your movie, then definitely use it.

30%
Filmmaking
75%
Bayhem
35%
Fun to Watch
47%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • Lack of Humility
  • Overly Long
  • Racial Stereotypes

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen loses sight of what people enjoy about Transformers in the first place. It’s supposed to be fun, but this just feels overly serious and dark.

Top 10 Michael Bay Movies

10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Autobots Storm Chicago | Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Just one more and then we’ll stop talking about Transformers movies for a while. Cool?

Timing is an important issue for any filmmaker. When studio heads spoke to Michael Bay about a release date for Dark of the Moon, he assumed they were talking about 2012. He agreed and later learned they meant 2011. An entire year off of production definitely shows itself in this film. Who knows if more time could’ve saved this franchise? At least we may have gotten something somewhat comprehensible.
40%
Filmmaking
80%
Bayhem
55%
Fun to Watch
58%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • 3D Effects
  • N/A
  • Overly Long
  • The Last Hour
  • Indiscernible Plot

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Dark of the Moon may have been a slight improvement over its predecessor. However, it’s still just noise with little plot to move it along.

Michael Bay Films

9. Pearl Harbor (2001)

Movies With Mikey | Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor wants to go down the Titanic route of being an epic romance set against the backdrop of a tragedy. Unfortunately, the film never finds its footing. It tries to give a romanticized ideal of a 1940s romance alongside a gritty depiction of war. The movie never strikes a balance and despite an impressive action sequence, the whole thing just falls flat.

60%
Acting
75%
Filmmaking
50%
Writing
62%
OVERALL SCORE
  • 40-Minute Action Scene
  • Cinematography
  • N/A
  • The Dialogue
  • Many Performances
  • Too Many Cliches

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

The action in Pearl Harbor is impressive. It’s just a shame the dialogue between characters is so clunky that it feels like a PSA to join the military rather than an actual exploration into human emotion.

The Complete Michael Bay Movies List

8. The Island (2005)

Making Of | The Island

The Island wants to be two different films. It wants to be an intriguing sci-fi film, which it accomplishes decently well, but it also wants to be a mindless action flick. The result is a film that feels like it wants to be a Minority Report but gets too caught up in the action to properly deliver any kind of thesis.

60%
ACTING
50%
Writing
80%
Action
63%
OVERALL SCORE
  • The First Half
  • Intriguing Concept
  • N/A
  • The Second Half
  • The Dialogue
  • Poor Characters

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

The Island could’ve been a chance for Bay to establish himself as a thoughtful sci-fi director. Instead, he fell back on old habits and lost track of what could have been an interesting premise.

All Movies Directed by Michael Bay

7. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

The Men Who Lived It | 13 Hours

A lot of controversy surrounded 13 Hours with everyone from CIA officials to the Libyan people disputing some of the events portrayed in the film. While some historical revisioning happens with pretty much every true-life film, it’s important to consider viewpoints from multiple sources. Politics aside, which is kind of  hard to do with this film, it’s a pretty engaging thriller that’s welcomingly restrained.

75%
Filmmaking
65%
Bayhem
60%
Fun to Watch
67%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Good Performances
  • Action Scenes
  • Tension Building
  • Dialogue
  • Jingoistic
  • Overly Long

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

13 Hours makes for a decent thriller. However, as far as a realistic depiction of what happened in Benghazi, you should do a little reading on the side to complement the viewing experience.

The Complete Michael Bay Films List

6. Bad Boys II (2003)

Bloopers & Gag Reel | Bad Boys II

For an action-comedy, Bad Boys II gets half of the equation right. The chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is great, a lesson the filmmakers clearly learned from the first film. However, the action is far too bloated to leave any kind of impression. You could cut out several car chases and shootouts and still have the same film albeit a lot more enjoyable than what we see.

45%
ACTING
90%
Writing
90%
Action
75%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Chemistry in Leads
  • The Humor
  • N/A
  • The Editing
  • Overly Long
  • Mean-Spirited

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Bad Boys II is the weakest film in the franchise. If you want dumb fun, you can do a lot worse.

All Michael Bay Movies He Directed

5. Armageddon (1998)

Commentary | Ben Affleck Mocks Armageddon

The best way to watch Armageddon is with Ben Affleck’s commentary because he pretty much talks crap about the movie the entire time. Through his commentary, you pretty much get a good sense of Michael Bay’s sensibilities. It doesn’t matter is a plot makes sense as long as it allows for cool set pieces, like car chases in space, then he’ll do whatever he can to put the characters in the right place at the right time to do something cool.

70%
ACTING
80%
Writing
80%
Action
77%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • Action Scenes
  • The Aerosmith Song
  • Cheesy Dialogue
  • The Editing
  • Noisy and Long

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Armageddon is a quintessential Bay film. It makes fun of “nerds” and has plenty of bombastic action sequences that try to make you forget that none of this makes any sense.

Good Michael Bay Films

4. Pain & Gain (2013)

Michael Bay Interview | Pain & Gain

Like 13 Hours, the biggest flaw with Pain & Gain is how it treats its real life source material. It’s clear Bay wanted to make a Scorsese-esque satirical crime thriller, but the tone doesn’t gel with the actions on-screen. Just looking at the film as a satirical indictment on capitalism, it’s actually not bad. But when looking at the real life events, it’s enough to make your stomach turn.

90%
ACTING
70%
Writing
80%
Action
80%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Dark Humor
  • Action Scenes
  • Chemistry of Leads
  • Historical Inaccuracies
  • Bloated Runtime
  • Sexist

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Pain & Gain wants to be Goodfellas on steroids. It’s fun for a while, but like most Bay films, it overstays its welcome and leaves a bad taste in your mouth at certain points.

Michael Bay Movies List, Ranked

3. Transformers (2007)

Why Transformers Works | iamthatroby

There’s a genuine sense of awe and wonder present in Transformers that’s lost in the sequels. When cars transform into giant aliens for the first time, the camera takes its time. You see every component move into place. It feels like that moment in Jurassic Park when you see the brachiosaurus for the first time. There’s actual care present here, and it’s a shame it was lost in the sequels.

80%
ACTING
90%
Writing
90%
Action
87%
OVERALL SCORE
  • VFX
  • Lead Characters
  • The Final Battle
  • Too Many Characters
  • A lot of Product Placement
  • Some Confusing Action

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

The first Transformers may not be a masterpiece. It’s not even the best Transformers movie (that distinction goes to the amazing Bumblebee). However, it’s not bad when you just want to shut your mind off and watch a movie about a boy and his car.

Great Michael Bay Films

2. Bad Boys (1995)

The Boom and the Bang | Bad Boys

Michael Bay allowed Will Smith and Martin Lawrence to improvise often during filming because he was supposedly unhappy with the script. This decision led to some of the most memorable moments in the film. Yes, there are your typical Bay action scenes, but they’re anchored in a pair of strong performances, which is a winning combination Bay has tried to replicate at other points in his career to mixed results.

80%
acting
95%
Filmmaking
100%
Writing
92%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Chemistry of Leads
  • The Humor
  • Buddy-Cop Formula
  • Overly Long
  • No Emotional Impact
  • Stale in Parts

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

Bad Boys launched Michael Bay’s career. It’s interesting to see his trademark style in development here and where it would eventually lead him.

The Best Michael Bay Films

1. The Rock (1996)

Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer Interview | The Rock

Studio executives weren’t exactly thrilled with Michael Bay’s work during the production of The Rock. However, Sean Connery accompanied him to a meeting and stood up for him, and the rest is pure 90s action movie glory. The Rock is easily Bay’s greatest film, encapsulating everything people love about the director while delivering a quintessential 90s action flick. It’s zany. There’s chemistry between the leads. And explosions abound. The Rock showcases everything Michael Bay is about and really shows you what he’s capable of.

95%
ACTING
95%
Writing
100%
Action
97%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Chemistry Between Leads
  • Action Scenes
  • The Humor
  • Choppy Editing
  • Bloated Runtime
  • N/A

MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIES

Conclusion

The Rock makes a good case for how Bay needed to direct all his action scenes. It’s a shame he got caught up in himself and never ascended to the same heights as this.

Up Next

Tim Burton’s Best Movies

Michael Bay and Tim Burton couldn’t be more diametrically-opposed filmmakers. But now that we’ve counted down Bay’s best films, let’s look at how Tim Burton has fared throughout his career. After you watch The Rock, check out what you need to see next from the permanently gothic director of such classics as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands

Up Next: 19 Best Tim Burton Movies →
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