Michael Bay Movies


Michael Bay movies take a lot of grief, and for good reason. A lot of Michael Bay movies are genuinely awful. The Transformers thing is something I’ll never fully grasp (I’ve tried three times), and you’ll see Michael Bay movies falter, too, the more their fearless leader tries to blend often juvenile humor with intense and brooding seriousness. Pearl Harbor is a particularly egregious example of this, but we’ll get there.

Michael Bay movies will seemingly always feature two things: action and humor. His latest, Pain & Gain, was definitely more the latter than the former, but I’d argue the filmmakers simply conceived of action differently here than in most other Michael Bay movies. It’s the humor, then, that the director can really hang his hat on. Is Michael Bay movie humor always funny? No. Is it usually funny? Probably not, no. But does Bay’s attempts at humor lend a light and airy tone to his movies that make them easily identifiable? Yep, sure do.

Genuinely great actors seem to see big dollar signs in Bay’s eyes. Why else would you get the likes of Will Smith, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Michael Shannon (yep), Ewan McGregor, John Turturro, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich sign up for a Michael Bay movie? By most accounts, Bay isn’t exactly the most jovial director around? Still, he brings in talent; you can’t begrudge the man that.

He also brings it in the effects department. Michael Bay movies look as expensive as they are, which is more than you can say for a lot of blockbuster movies over the past 20 years. Yes, Michael Bay movies are often brainless—sometimes painfully so—but there’s a reason we all keep watching. He makes entertainment for the masses and doesn’t apologize for it. Even when a Michael Bay movie falls flat on its face, I can still respect (to a certain degree) the attempt to allow an audience to escape.

Michael Bay Movies

Bad Boys

Two mismatched Miami cops must pretend to be the other to win the trust of a key witness and regain a cache of stolen drugs.

(1995, 0 viewings)

Right off the bat, critics weren’t wild for Michael Bay movies. This one wasn’t savaged in the same way its sequel would be (more on that later), but the film’s tepid critical reception is one reason why I’ve never bothered to circle back to it.

The Rock

After a rogue U.S. general and his loyal subordinates take over Alcatraz Island and threaten San Francisco with chemical weapons, the only man to have ever escaped the island’s prison returns to help a weapons expert prevent disaster.

(1996, 1 viewing)

I’m just days removed from my first ever viewing of The Rock, but as it’s a Michael Bay movie, I didn’t/don’t need to think long and hard about the resonance of certain themes or motifs. The movie is unpretentious and electric. It doesn’t quite reach the highs of Bay’s next film if only because it aims lower. And that’s fine because The Rock is a straight-up blast.


With a world-destroying asteroid hurtling toward Earth, NASA sends a group of oil drillers into space with a nuclear weapon in the hopes of saving the planet.

(1998, 5+ viewings)

Oh, I love this movie so much. It’s incredibly goofy, but it’s hard to get hung up on a film’s issues when it’s so much damn fun.

Pearl Harbor

Two best friends go to war and fall in love circa 1941.

(2001, 2 viewings)

Michael Bay movies work best when they don’t take themselves too seriously. Movies don’t get much more self-serious than Pearl Harbor. Not fun…not fun at all.

Bad Boys II

Two Miami cops find themselves going head to head with a dangerous drug kingpin.

(2003, 0 viewings)

One of the first film reviews I ever remember reading was James Berardinelli’s take on Bad Boys II, which he gave a paltry half-star. That always stuck in my mind for whatever reason, and I’ve been hesitant to ever give this one a chance. Hell, it probably has something to do with why I’ve never seen the first one, too.

The Island

In the future, a man and a women learn that, while they live in paradise, they’re merely meant to be used for organ harvasting.

(2005, 0 viewings)

The Michael Bay film many seem to forget about. This came out right around the time I was getting into movies, so I’m not sure how I missed it, but it doesn’t sound so bad.


Two breeds of robotic aliens, one good and one evil, come to Earth and fight to destroy each other.

(2007, 1 viewing)

Terrible, terrible, terrible, and we’re only at the beginning of the trilogy.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Sam Witwicky finds himself, once again, in the middle of a centuries-long war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. (Click here for my full Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen review.)

(2009, 1 viewing)

This is possibly the clunkiest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s such nonsense being spewed here that I don’t really know where to begin. It actually is my “favorite” film of the franchise, however. Where Transformers and its threequel are so bad, this one is definitely “so bad it’s kinda sorta good.”

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

More stupid robot shit. (Click here for my full Transformers: Dark of the Moon review.)

(2011, 1 viewing)

The same movie happens a third time. It hasn’t gotten any better.

Pain and Gain

Three bodybuilders concoct a scheme to kidnap and extort a crude millionaire, but it goes horribly wrong. (Click here for my full Pain and Gain review.)

(2013, 1 viewing)

Bay’s latest is kind of an icky film, but if you know that going in and are capable of checking your morals at the door, you’ll have a good time. Also worth noting, the film features two of the very best performances in Michael Bay movies from Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson.


More Director Spotlight posts:
Sofia Coppola Movies
Noah Baumbach Movies
Guillermo del Toro Movies
Nicolas Winding Refn Movies
Woody Allen Movies
Christopher Nolan Movies
Jeff Nichols Movies
Lee Daniels Movies
Michael Bay Movies

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