Born of a flirtatious running joke between writer/star Mike Myers and his wife, British secret agent and known sex pest Austin Powers went from low budget cult status to household name in the span of just five years between 1997 and 2002, solidifying the former ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast member and iconic Wayne Campbell (of Wayne’s World) as one of the 1990s’ most celebrated and influential comedians.
Made on budgets that doubled release on release ($16.5million, $33million and $63million respectively), and directed by Jay Roach (Meet the Parents; Trumbo; Bombshell), the Austin Powers films may have aged somewhat in the 25 years since the release of the first film (International Man of Mystery) in terms of comedic style and representation, but what remains of the movies beyond such cultural touchstones of controversial 90s culture are intelligent comedy hits that are as quotable and worthy of reference as the great films they are themselves referencing.
Inspired by Michael Caine’s The Ipcress File (1965) character Harry Palmer, right down to the iconic glasses, and obviously deconstructing the Sean Connery James Bond films, Austin Powers is a parody that lovingly pokes fun at the silver screen classics it’s mimicking, always has time for supporting characters to get their moments, and feels as on the pulse as great zeitgeist-penetrating hits whilst remaining timeless in its physical comedy and strong undercurrent of empathy and love.
In this edition of Ranked, we at The Film Magazine are looking back on Jay Roach and Mike Myers’ Peter Sellers-inspired hit comedy trilogy to judge each in terms of laugh-out-loud comedy, cultural importance, artistic merit and relative achievements in bringing joy to each of us, for this: the Austin Powers Movies Ranked.
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3. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Austin Powers goes full meta with the inclusion of A-List cameos for an in-universe Powers movie titled Austinpussy. Meanwhile, Beyoncé ribs on blaxploitation heroines as this movie’s sidekick and Michael Caine debuts as Austin’s father (or “fazher” as titular character Goldmember would pronounce it).
Michael Myers’ favourite Austin Powers movie brings an even stronger focus towards parodying film tropes and in doing so loses some of the heart that proves to be such an important and underrated aspect of the first two trilogy entries.
Whilst certainly the most modern of the Powers films, not only in terms of release date but also in style – it featuring more memorable moments and quotable lines than meaningful characterisation or decisive story beats – Goldmember sits at the foot of this list because the real grit and artistry that tied the comedy together in films one and two is sorely lacking from this more vignette-style entry.
The budget was upped, the influence of Myers had grown as his independent comedy hero had become a mainstream icon, and the result was a less focused “play the hits” barrage of Powersisms; a funny movie for sure, but one without the same empathy or consistent belly laughs.