Live-Action Transformers Movies Ranked

2. Transformers (2007)

Sam Witwicky buys his first car, who turns out to be Bumblebee in hiding, just as the Autobots and Decepticons arrive on Earth to search for the life-giving Allspark.

Not enough people appreciate just how influential Transformers was on the blockbuster landscape. Marketing, editing, VFX and especially sound design in film changed seismically, for better or for worse.

Shia LaBeouf’s protagonist Sam was always kind of irritating and not all that likeable, but Megan Fox as Mikaela is unfairly derided, Bay’s ogling camera overshadowing a potentially interesting character who actually gets an arc among an ensemble of blank cyphers.

The effects work from ILM was amazing from the start and the opening battle at the airbase involving a helicopter Transformer is a killer scene. Admittedly Bay’s frenetic style of filming and editing isn’t always the most conducive to understanding what is going on, but still, for Transformers fans this was great spectacle even if the storytelling was lacking.

1. Bumblebee (2018)

Eighteen year-old Charlie, still grieving for her beloved dad, discovers Bumblebee in a scrapyard and forms a fast bond just as two Decepticons searching for Autobot rebels pick up their trail.

Finally, after eleven years and billions of dollars, they managed to make one compelling Transformers movie. All it took was a talented director previously known for animation (Laika’s Travis Knight), a concerted effort to scale back the story, and liberal borrowing from ET and The Iron Giant.

The first Transformers spin-off also sees a noticeable change in tone, and perhaps not coincidentally the series’ first female lead character and screenwriter (Birds of Prey‘s Christina Hodson). Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is a great teenage character looking for meaning in her life, and seeing how she bonds with fellow outcast ‘Bee really makes a connection. A crowd-pleasing fireworks display of a prologue on Transformer planet Cybertron didn’t hurt either.

In the end it’s all about friendship, outsiderness and acceptance, timeless and essential themes for this franchise that Michael Bay blatantly ignored in his tenure as director.

Recommended for you: Laika Animated Movies Ranked

Agree with our ranking? Do the Transformers movies rev your engine or make you feel like you’ve been hit with shrapnel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more articles like this one.

Updated to include Rise of the Beasts 16th June 2023. Originally published 21st September 2020.

Sam Sewell-Peterson
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