Every Bad Boys Movie Ranked From Worst To Best, Including Ride Or Die

Though they’re not everyone’s favorites, I can’t get enough of the Bad Boy movies, and it’s been that way for about as long as I can remember. Over the years, I’ve watched Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey and Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett pull off some crazy feats, nab some bad guys, and solve various crimes in and around the greater Miami metropolitan area. From the franchise starter back in 1995 to the most recent addition, you could say I’m a ride-or-die fan of this buddy cop action series, and I’ll be one for life.

That said, after watching Bad Boys: Ride or Die in theaters (an experience that was wild as hell), I decided to go back and rewatch the entire franchise and rank them from worst to best. But, don’t let the term “worst” fool you, as I am a big fan of all four movies and will be there on opening day if Bad Boys 5 happens.

Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) fist bump in Bad Boys: Ride Or Die

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Bad Boys: Ride Or Die (2024)

I don’t really see this as last place because the movie is just so much fun, but I have to start things off with the most recent entry in the franchise, Bad Boys: Ride or Die. Though I didn’t think the movie was as bad as described in CinemaBlend’s official Bad Boys: Ride or Die review, it felt like some things were missing while others felt rushed or heavyhanded. 

Working against Ride or Die are things like characters disappearing between movies with no explanation, key events from previous films being retconned to work within the plot, and Mike getting married to a woman we’ve never met before who’s treated like a familiar face. However, the action sequences are great thanks to Adil & Bilall’s unique style, the banter between Smith and Lawrence is top-notch, and the short runtime makes this a rather straightforward affair that doesn’t let off the gas.

Though it was a breath of fresh air for the underperforming 2024 box office, had some oddly cathartic moments, and had some of the greatest hits, Bad Boys: Ride or Die at times felt like a compilation instead of a continuation. 

Martin Lawrence takes an upsetting phone call while Will Smith watches in Bad Boys II.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

3. Bad Boys II (2003)

If Bad Boys II was about 25-30 minutes shorter, it would be in the number-one spot on this list, but man, is this movie bloated. Clocking in at a little under two-and-a-half hours, this Michael Bay-directed 2003 summer blockbuster includes so many scenes that could have either been shorter or left out entirely (I’m looking at you electronics store scene). Hell, Mike and Marcus don’t even cross paths with Jordi Mollà’s Johnny Tapia until nearly an hour into the movie.

When Bad Boys II is working, it’s WORKING! The action is wild and ups the ante so much that it makes the first film look like a made-for-TV movie. The highway chase (one of three in the summer 2003 blockbuster season alongside 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Matrix Reloaded), the attack on the KKK rally that opens the film, and quite possibly the best Michael Bay hero shot of the franchise, you could make an argument for this being one of the best action movies of all time.

However, with so many characters, so many bits, and so many subplots holding it down and extending the runtime, it’s impossible to put Bad Boys II ahead of the original Bad Boys or For Life

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

2. Bad Boys (1995)

For the longest time, I was in the “Bad Boys II is better than Bad Boys” camp, after watching all four movies in the span of a few days, I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind. While the first sequel has the GOAT of hero shots (look at it and soak in the awesomeness), a thrilling chase sequence, and perhaps the franchise’s most over-the-top villain, its predecessor is a lean, mean, buddy cop action movie machine that’s pretty much all killer and no filler. So much happens in its sub-two-hour runtime, but it never feels bloated, slow, or bogged down in any way. In fact, it could have had a few extra minutes and I would have been fine.

There are a few things that really sell this movie, and chief among them is the pairing of Mike and Marcus. They’ve already been partners for some time when we are introduced to them in the hilarious opening scene, but we immediately feel like we’ve known them and there’s no need for an origin story slowing things down in the first act. Second, Tea Leoni’s Julie Mott is not only a great character with a tremendous story, but she also provides so much exposition and fleshes out the Lowrey/Burnett dynamic. 

However, a lot of the movie feels underdeveloped and rushed, but this might be a case of “hindsight is 20/20” as I look back nearly 30 years later. But, because this is Michael Bay’s directorial debut, I’m willing to overlook the movie’s short list of shortcomings.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence walking down street in Bad Boys for Life

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

1. Bad Boys For Life (2020)

Fans of the series had to wait a long time between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys for Life, and a lot of that was because Will Smith didn’t want to wreck the franchise. It appears that the long break was worth it, as it was not only one of the biggest 2020 box office draws, it’s also the best entry in the franchise so far. 

Directors Adil & Bilall, who took over the reins from Michael Bay, added so much style to the Bad Boys franchise while also adding a lot of substance and emotion to the story as well. First, the action, which was turned up a notch and modernized from what had come before, created a fresh and unique spin and pushed Smith and Lawrence (and the rest of the cast) to their limits, and it worked masterfully. There’s still that signature style the franchise has always had, but the young directors honored that while also treading new ground.

Everything about Mike’s story in Bad Boys For Life is great as well. From him getting shot and left for dead to finding out that the shooter was a son he never knew about to coming to terms with his past, so much happens in under two hours. The decorated detective with a trust fund experiences so much character growth over the course of the story, and it takes him in a new direction that was further explored in Ride or Die and hopefully will do the same in the future.

Like I said at the beginning, I love all four of these movies and will be there day one when the next installment finally hits the big screen. Until then, make sure to check out our 2024 movie schedule for all the latest on the big releases landing in theaters (and on streaming services) this year.

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