Unfortunately, the term “Bayhem” is not in the dictionary.
If so, the definition might look like this: “A scene of utter carnage, creeping destruction and utter chaos in a Michael Bay film caused by explosive measures, endless gunfire and/or transforming alien robots.”
Since the mid-1990s, when Bay transitioned from directing music videos (for everyone from Tina Turner to Meat Loaf) to directing big-budget Jerry Bruckheimer productions, the filmmaker has honed a signature touch with his action movies. Want the power of an A-list star? To verify. Dig hero shots, close-ups and busy camera work? Everything is here. Do you mind having your senses hammered? Because it totally happens. Some love his work, while others hate it, but one thing you can say: a Bay movie is rarely boring.
His latest, “Ambulance” (in theaters Friday), stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal as foster brothers teaming up to pull off a $32 million bank robbery. To celebrate Bayhem’s return to the big screen, we’re ranking all of Bay’s movies, from the worst “Transformers” to his best efforts at the time.
‘Ambulance’:Jake Gyllenhaal Talks Riding A Shotgun For Michael Bay
15. “Transformers: Revenge of the Dead” (2009)
This successful franchise is mostly made up of bad movies. How can you tell the really unfortunate: it features a gigantic Transformer with a wrecking ball for genitals, another so old it needs a walker, and two that exude offensive racial stereotypes. Oh, and don’t forget the sexy spy robot.
14. “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017)
Bay’s swan song “Transformers” dared to turn Optimus Prime on his heels and battle his old Autobot pal Bumblebee. Sacrilege! Worse still, Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins has signed on to be part of this cinematic nonsense that not even a forced insertion of the Arthurian legend can help.
13. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014)
Let’s give him some credit: Bay finally brought in the fan-favorite Dinobots of our Gen X cartoon-loving youth. Mark Wahlberg is also making his franchise debut in a film that involves an organization creating evil Transformers and a trip to China that now seems to exist just to boost the international box office. And let’s not even get into what the heck “Transformium” is supposed to be.
12. “Pearl Harbour” (2001)
After so many good things in the 1990s, we got this war drama that won the battle scenes but lost with a melodramatic clunker of a plot. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are flyboy best friends who love the same woman (Kate Beckinsale) – one guy goes with her when the other dies, then that guy ends up living, making it all awkward – in a sadly underwhelming effort.
11. ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ (2011)
We’ve come out of the dregs of “Transformers” movies and finally hit the opportunity to watch. This movie is tied to the 1969 moon landing with the epic war between Autobots and Decepticons; Leonard Nimoy has his last major film role voicing Optimus’ predecessor, Sentinel Prime; and Decepticons’ Shockwave is as cool as it was in the 80s.
10. “Bad Boys II” (2003)
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s talkative Miami cops return for a sequel that blasts more stuff than the enjoyable original, but bigger isn’t better here. At all. Lawmen take on Russian mobsters, Cuban drug lords, the Ku Klux Klan and, yes, bro code when one starts dating the other’s sister (Gabrielle Union).
9. “The Island” (2005)
Bay plunged into thought-provoking sci-fi with this thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as residents of an isolated community who learn they are clones. And a lottery system that sends lucky people to an idyllic island is actually a front for organ harvesting and other bad things. They escape just in time for the film to transition from smart futuristic drama to raucous action fest.
8. ‘6 Underground’ (2019)
Ryan Reynolds makes headlines as the billionaire leader of a secretive group of disparate people – including a soldier (Corey Hawkins) and a former CIA “ghost” (Mélanie Laurent) – who fake their own deaths to undertake international self-defense missions that the government does not want. But it’s not the A-Team. The movie gets wackier and sillier as the team tries to pull off a coup against a brutal tyrant.
7. “Transformers” (2007)
Shia LaBeouf plays a teenager who finally gets his crush (Megan Fox) a chance – just as they are caught up in an ancient war between factions of alien robots that arrive on Earth with much destruction. The original is by far the best of Bay’s “Transformers” movies — admittedly a low bar — but it managed to bring back Hasbro’s 1980s toy and cartoon characters like Optimus Prime and Megatron in a big way.
6. “Ambulances” (2022)
This tense thriller is like an outing of Bay’s greatest hits, starring Mateen as an ex-Marine who needs money for his wife’s cancer surgery and finds himself embroiled with his criminal brother (Gyllenhaal) in a audacious bank robbery. It goes horribly wrong, as the pair hijack an ambulance with an EMT (Eiza González) trying to save an injured cop, and everyone tries to stay alive as a never-ending police chase carves a hellish path through downtown Los Angeles.
5. “1 p.m.: the secret soldiers of Benghazi” (2016)
Based on the true story of the 2012 attack on a Libyan compound, Bay’s military thriller is not only intensely intense, but also surprisingly moving and personal. John Krasinski plays a former Navy SEAL who puts his family life on hold to lead a security team of ex-soldiers (including James Badge Dale and Pablo Schreiber) as they try to prevent an all-out onslaught from Islamic militants.
4. “Bread & Gain” (2013)
Dwayne Johnson seems genetically engineered to be Bay’s perfect movie star. So it’s interesting that this dark action-comedy, based on a true story, is more of a dramatic showcase for him as Johnson, Wahlberg and future Marvel regular Anthony Mackie play a trio of former bodybuilders embroiled in a drug scheme. kidnapping and extortion that goes very wrong.
3. “Bad Boys” (1995)
The buddy-cop comedy meets “The Odd Couple” with changing identities and lots of things that will blow up. Will Smith is Miami’s cool cop and Martin Lawrence is his family partner as they fight, bicker, investigate the disappearance of $100 million worth of heroin, and try to protect Tea Leoni from a drug lord checked. The film made Smith a bonafide action star and Lawrence a big-screen commodity.
2. “Armageddon” (1998)
When a Texas-sized asteroid is heading our way, of course you want Bruce Willis and Affleck to lead a group of oil drillers into space to do a “Road Runner thrust move” around Earth, land on the invading cosmic junk and blow it up with a nuclear weapon. The movie is just ridiculous and serious enough to work, and as Aerosmith so aptly points out, you don’t want to miss a thing.
1. ‘The Rock (1996)
Sean Connery essentially plays a James Bond who’s been rotting in prison for decades, Nicolas Cage is a nervous FBI chemist, and the duo break into Alcatraz to stop a group of rogue military men from firing rockets filled with deadly nerve gas into San Francisco. (If only 007 had this cool movie.) A piece of all-time macho cinema that has no right to be this great.