(Photo by Lionsgate courtesy Everett Collection)
Once, during a long-ago era called The ’80s, Hollywood action heroes roamed the Earth with bulging biceps and names like Sly, Arnold, and Bruce. With a limitless supply of weapons and wisecracks, they saved the world countless times, only to be exiled to the land of Direct-to-Video for their trouble, where they wandered lost throughout the ’90s and much of the aughts. But they’re fighting their way back from extinction, thanks in large part to the tenacious efforts of steely-eyed roughnecks like Jason Statham, the veteran of latter-day genre classics like Crank, The Bank Job, and recent Fast and Furious sequels and spinoffs, who rose to stardom on the strength of his appearances in Guy Ritchie‘s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. To celebrate his bravery in the face of indie dramas and romantic comedies, we’ve rounded up all of his major roles to offer a comprehensive look back at all Jason Statham movies, sorted by Tomatometer.
(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: Sony Pictures, Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection.)
If we had known that The Rock was indeed cooking a biggest-star-in-the-world movie career, we would’ve stuck our noses up in there a lot sooner. Yes, we would have sniffed up those early stinkers Doom and Be Cool, because at least nestled somewhere in there was The Rundown, which featured peak Seann William Scott and a cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger passing the action torch to this upstart, the man who would be Dwayne Johnson. And indeed Johnson was the action man of the mid-aughts, tacking on the likes of Walking Tall to his brawny resume. And like his action forebears, he made a curve into family comedy, releasing The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy, and Race to Witch Mountain to the delight, we assume, of some people. On a scale between Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot to Kindergarten Cop, we rate Johnson’s comedy career detour Top Dog.
But things turned around in 2010. That’s the year he jumped face first off a building into the pavement. And thus was born a new action/comedy classic: The Other Guys. Meanwhile, ’70s-style throwback Faster showed a leaner, meaner Johnson back in a hard-hitting groove. He was invited into the Fast & Furious family, helping turn Fast Five into the franchise’s first Certified Fresh entry and a global phenomenon. San Andreas, Rampage, and Skyscraper turned him into the master of disaster, while Moana and Fighting With My Family, which he also produced, are among his highest-rated movies.
Central Intelligence was the first collaboration Johnson had with Kevin Hart, which was merely the opening for the main course: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the unlikely reboot-sequel that connected with audiences and critics worldwide. He, Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan all came back for Jumanji: The Next Level, and we’re taking a look back on all of Dwayne Johnson’s movies ranked by Tomatometer!
(Photo by Universal/ courtesy Everett Collection)
You wouldn’t expect a burly international action franchise like Fast & Furious to have the most complicated timeline. Then again, who predicted the 2001 original about some humble street racing would witness its sequels dragging bank vaults across asphalt, jumping out of planes, sliding off submarines, and likely soon making contact with alien life in deep space?
Some of these Fast & Furious sequels are set later in the timeline, even though they were made earlier than others. To watch the F&F movies in chronological order as the events unfolded, you can still start with the first two: The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. Tokyo Drift is the third in the series but actually set way later in the timeline, so you’ll want to skip that and jump to Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6. Then you can watch Tokyo Drift.
After that, hop to franchise best Furious 7. Follow it up with The Fate of the Furious and spin-off Hobbs & Shaw and then the latest: F9.
See below for the full list if you want to watch Fast & Furious movies in order! (And check out the Fast Saga ranked by Tomatometer!)
(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)
From bursting out the nose of an exploding plane, to skipping skyscraper to skyscraper, to gently guiding a bank safe across public roads and additional civil engineering, the Fast & Furious franchise has made its mission delivering more outrageous action than the previous movies could ever muster. And as the stunts got crazier for Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the whole F&F-in’ family, critics were just as willing to go along for the ride. It was finally the fifth Furious film that earned the franchise’s first Fresh. And since then it’s been on a skyward trajectory, like a souped-up Karmann Ghia ramping off an Arrakis sandworm and barrel rolling between a fleet of nuclear dirigibles (you know we’re heading in this direction). Furious 7 reached a high emotional crescendo in the wake of Walker’s death, while follow-up F8 saw a dip, though stayed in the Fresh lane.
The latest include spin-off Hobbs & Shaw and the long-delayed F9. Now that the whole family’s here, see all Fast & Furious movies ranked by Tomatometer!
We continue our series of “Peacock presents” recommendations with 10 movies that will satisfy everyone in the room – from toddlers to grandparents. After thrills? We got you with two Fresh flicks from the Dark Knight trilogy. Looking to get a bit emotional? Try A Beautiful Mind. Feeling retro? We’ve got plenty to scratch that itch. So, slather that popcorn with butter and dim the lights, because these family flicks – all available now on Peacock – are going to make weekends at your place that much more fun.
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Batman Begins (2005)
A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he’s trained in the martial arts by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), a member of the mysterious League of Shadows. When Ducard reveals the League’s true purpose – the complete destruction of Gotham City – Wayne returns to Gotham intent on cleaning up the city without resorting to murder. With the help of Alfred (Michael Caine), his loyal butler, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a tech expert at Wayne Enterprises, Batman is born.
Critics Consensus: Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.
The Dark Knight (2008)
With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has been able to keep a tight lid on crime in Gotham City. But when a vile young criminal calling himself the Joker (Heath Ledger) suddenly throws the town into chaos, the caped Crusader begins to tread a fine line between heroism and vigilantism.
Critics Consensus: Dark, complex, and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.
Assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is one of the most-beloved residents in the small Texas town of Carthage. Sunday-school teacher, choir member and creator of spectacular funerals, Bernie is a friend to everyone, including Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a rich but nasty widow whom no one else likes. When Marjorie is found shot to death and stuffed in a freezer, Bernie is charged with the murder, and concerned Carthage citizens immediately spring to his defense.
Critics Consensus: Richard Linklater’s Bernie is a gently told and unexpectedly amusing true-crime comedy that benefits from an impressive performance by Jack Black.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A human drama inspired by events in the life of John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe), and in part based on the biography A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash Jr. experienced it all. A mathematical genius, he made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery.
Critics Consensus: The well-acted A Beautiful Mind is both a moving love story and a revealing look at mental illness.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), businessman and devoted family man, is about to celebrate his 65th birthday. However, before he reaches that landmark, he is visited by Death (Brad Pitt), who has taken human form as Joe Black, a young man who recently died. Joe and Bill make a deal: Bill will be given a few extra days of his life, and Joe will spend the same time getting to know what it’s like to be human. It seems like a perfect arrangement, until Joe falls in love – with Bill’s daughter.
Critics Consensus: Meet Joe Black is pretty to look at and benefits from an agreeable cast, but that isn’t enough to offset this dawdling drama’s punishing three-hour runtime.
Repairmen Val McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are tired of their dull lives in the small desert town of Perfection, Nev. But just as the two try to skip town, they happen upon a series of mysterious deaths and a concerned seismologist (Finn Carter) studying unnatural readings below the ground. With the help of an eccentric couple (Reba McEntire, Michael Gross), the group fights for survival against giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh.
Critics Consensus: An affectionate throwback to 1950s creature features, Tremors reinvigorates its genre tropes with a finely balanced combination of horror and humor.
Cinderella Man (2005)
During the Great Depression, ex-boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) works as a day laborer until his former manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) offers him a one-time slot against a rising young contender. After he wins a shocking upset, Braddock goes back into the ring full time, against the wishes of his frightened wife, Mae (Renée Zellweger). Dubbed “The Cinderella Man” for his rags-to-riches story, Braddock sets his sights on the defending champion, the fearsome Max Baer (Craig Bierko).
Critics Consensus: With grittiness and an evocative sense of time and place, Cinderella Man is a powerful underdog story. And Ron Howard and Russell Crowe prove to be a solid combination.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the American dream. He has a good job, a beautiful house, great children and a beautiful wife, named Emily (Julianne Moore). Cal’s seemingly perfect life unravels, however, when he learns that Emily has been unfaithful and wants a divorce. Over 40 and suddenly single, Cal is adrift in the fickle world of dating. Enter, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a self-styled player who takes Cal under his wing and teaches him how to be a hit with the ladies.
Critics Consensus: It never lives up to the first part of its title, but Crazy, Stupid, Love‘s unabashed sweetness – and its terrifically talented cast – more than make up for its flaws.
Ride Along (2014)
For two years, security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) has tried to convince James (Ice Cube), a veteran cop, that he is worthy of James’ sister, Angela. When Ben is finally accepted into the police academy, James decides to test his mettle by inviting him along on a shift deliberately designed to scare the trainee. However, events take an unexpected turn when their wild night leads to Atlanta’s most-notorious criminal and Ben’s rapid-fire mouth proves as dangerous as the bullets whizzing by them.
Critics Consensus: Kevin Hart’s livewire presence gives Ride Along a shot of necessary energy, but it isn’t enough to rescue this would-be comedy from the buddy-cop doldrums.
Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
The now-brotherless Ellwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) is finally out of prison, attempting to reunite the old band and find a few new partners in crime – played by John Goodman and J. Evan Bonifant. In this sequel to the original Blues Brothers comedy/musical, Ellwood battles the Chicago police, sings and dances his way out of numerous sticky situations, and manages to get the old band on the road for a hair-raising adventure.
Critics Consensus: Braving onward without the late John Belushi, Blues Brothers 2000 gets the band back together with a spirited soundtrack, but a mission that’s far less divine.
Thumbnail: (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection, © Universal, © Warner Bros.
As we all settle in to stay at home and socially distance ourselves, the planet has been given a unique resource not often afforded in the modern world: time. With no place to go, what shall we do with this new abundance of free hours? Time to finish that book you have had on your bedside table? Maybe take an online French class or learn to play an instrument? Time to binge every series that ever was? Or perhaps, like us, you’re thinking of all the films you wished you’d seen but never had the time to before.
Maybe one of those epic movie franchises that seemed too daunting to jump into late in the game – don’t ever admit you’ve never seen an MCU movie, ever – or a series of which you’ve caught a few entries but want to fill in the gaps. Fear not – we have you covered with our Epic Franchise Movie Binge Guide. Read below as we break down some of the most beloved long-running movie franchises – like The Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible, or the granddaddy of them all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and tell you the best way to approach watching them, how long the binge will take, and which titles you can skip. Because hey, even all the time in the world may not be enough time to make you sit through A Good Day to Die Hard.
Disagree with our picks or have a suggestion for a franchise movie binge? Let us know in the comments.
What is it: The film adaptations of the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, set in ”Middle-earth,” the fictitious medieval land where elves, men, dwarves, wizards, and hobbits co-exist, often not so peacefully. Over the course of several films, we follow hobbit Bilbo Baggins and later his young heir Frodo Baggins as they go on adventures and battle against the forces of evil.
How many hours: Extended editions: 20 hours 30 minutes; Theatrical cuts: 17 hours and 12 minutes.
Starts with: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Ends with: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Best way to watch: Some would argue the second trilogy – though the first by story chronology – from Peter Jackson was an unnecessary and bloated cash grab that should be avoided at all costs, but we have a better suggestion. We suggest you begin with the LOTR animated film from 1978, which will give you all the events of the films in a quicker and to-the-point format. Then, if you are compelled to see the best of The Hobbit live-action series, we would say check out the standard edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is the best of the three. We would also suggest you try to watch the extended editions of the original live-action LOTR series – they are more than worth it for the extra content. This recommendation would make for a shorter, 16-hour watch, which could be broken up easily over two days.
What is it: The 23-film saga that chronicles the epic adventures of various superheroes, based on the comics first distributed by Marvel and its subsidiaries.
How many hours: 50 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Iron Man (2008)
Ends with: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Best way to watch: Not surprising for a franchise that grossed over $22 billion at the global box office, but Marvel Studios’ 23-film, decade-long opus is quite watchable as is. Some folks would have argued in 2010 that Avengers: The Age of Ultron is a skippable mess, but as we detail here, it is essential viewing to truly appreciate the first four phases of the saga that culminated with Avengers: Endgame. Sorry for those looking for a shortcut, but watching it all is worth it. Viewing all 23 movies straight through, without breaks, however, is not the way to do it.
Instead, we suggest you go in release order and complete each day as follows: day one after Avengers; day two after Ant-man; day three after Black Panther; and finish on day four with Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you’ve previously watched the MCU and are looking to watch it in a new way, use our guide here to watch in chronological order based on the events of each film. If the thought of 50 hours of superheroes is still too intimidating for you, but you want to understand enough to get by, watch these character introduction films (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) and these team-up films (Civil War, Winter Soldier, Avengers, Ultron, Infinity War, Endgame). Once you have finished that, check out our Oral Histories of the MCU, in which the directors, producer, and casting director who worked on the epic franchise break down all the behind-the-scene secrets.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. All of the films save The Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man films are streaming on Disney+. The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: Endgame are streaming on Netflix; and Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Thor are streaming on Amazon Prime.
What is it: Follow John McClane, a police detective who seems to be a magnet for maniacal criminals no matter which city/structure he is in, and proves to be a tough man to kill.
How many hours: 10 hours and 14 minutes.
Starts with: Die Hard (1988)
Ends with: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
Best way to watch: The original Die Hard is so beloved that many argue it’s the greatest action film ever made – or maybe the greatest Christmas movie, but that is a debate for another day. The film and its follow-ups have a loyal fanbase, and though the second and third entries pale in comparison to the first, we still say they’re worth a watch. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard, is a true return to form and, frankly, it’s where you should stop unless you are a true completist. The series’ most recent film, A Good Day to Die Hard, is the only PG-13 entry on the list, and without McClane’s iconic “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf–ker,” there’s really no point pushing play.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discounted Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance are streaming now on CinemaxGo; Live Free or Die Hard is streaming on the Starz app.
What is it: Follow Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, which he calls his family, as they shift from illegal street-racing criminals to heist experts and then finally emerge as a new crime-fighting unit that tackles the world of espionage.
How many hours: 15 hours and 57 mins.
Starts with: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Ends with: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Best way to watch: As Dom and everyone in the Fast franchise says – quite often – this is about family. So, if you’re looking for something to skip, it’s hard to imagine who you’d want to kick out one of the family – though, let’s be honest, 2 Fast 2 Furious is definitely not Dad’s favorite. Without Vin Diesel, that entry can barely call itself a Fast and Furious movie, and the 2009 series soft reboot, Fast & Furious, is not much better and an easy call to skip, as well. We would caution against skipping third entry Toyko Drift; its charms are significantly more than its 37% Tomatometer score would suggest (something we wax about in our book Rotten Movies We Love). Not to spoil anything, but when we finally get Fast 9 in 2021, you’ll need to have seen Tokyo Drift to understand everything fully – check out #JusticeForHan after you finish the series, and you will understand.
What is it: Follow Philly underdog boxer-turned-champion, Rocky Balboa, as he battles various fighters in the ring, as well as his own issues outside of it, and later trains the next generation of champions.
How many hours: 14 hours and 55 minutes.
Starts with: Rocky (1976)
Ends with: Creed II (2018)
Best way to watch: This one’s real simple: trust us and skip Rocky V. Just pretend it didn’t happen; we’re pretty sure Sylvester Stallone did.
What is it: The franchise based on JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful novels follows the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan-turned-famed wizard, the evil He Who Must Not Be Named, and the Wizarding World they inhabit.
How many hours: 24 hours and 6 minutes.
Starts with: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Ends with: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Best way to watch: As this is a British series, allow us to put this as politely as possible: Fantastic Beasts is simply not quite on form. The first entry is saved by Eddie Redmayne and mesmerizing magical effects; the second entry is the first and only Rotten flick from the Wizarding World and very skippable at this stage. The original seven films are near perfect, but if you wanted to pass over The Chamber of Secrets you wouldn’t miss much – you won’t be too confused later in the series. (Though if watching as a family, this is one the kids tend to like.) If you follow that suggestion, you can finish the entire series in one day.
Starts with: X-Men: First Class (2011)
Ends with: Logan (2017)
How to watch: The critics will tell you that both X-Men: The Last Stand (the third of the original films) and X-Men: Apocalypse (the third of the rebooted, second-gen films) are shells of their brilliant predecessors. And with the last X-Men film to enter theaters, Dark Phoenix, disappointing on the Tomatometer and at the box office, you should essentially skip any film that has anything to do with Jean Gray’s Dark Phoenix. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is admittedly a hard watch to suffer through, but you kinda have to just to appreciate the brilliance of Deadpool and its sequel, if only for what they did differently with the character. Every film that character is in after Origins highlights why Ryan Reynolds was born to play the “Merc with a Mouth.”
Watching in the order of events is the best way to approach things if you don’t want to be confused by the time travel that happens later in the series. That order is: First Class, Days of Future Past, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix, X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine, Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Logan. If you leave off the aforementioned weakest entries (The Last Stand, Apocalypse, Dark Phoenix) you can complete the entire series in one day.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Deadpool are streaming on FXNow; X-Men Origins: Wolverine is available to stream on the Starz app.
What is it: In these films, we welcome you to Jurassic Park, a theme park – and eventually various associated islands, mansions, West Coast cities – where dinosaurs have been genetically recreated to walk the Earth alongside humans. Over the course of series we watch as that combination invariably doesn’t work out well for the humans.
How many hours: 10 hours and 1 minute.
Starts with: Jurassic Park (1993)
Ends with: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Best way to watch: This was a subject of contentious debate among the RT staff: some thought the Jurassic World part of the franchise is unwatchable, while others had strong takes on Jurassic Park 3 and The Lost World. As this is only a five-film series so far, we compromised: Watch them all and make your own determinations. Either way, we all agreed that the original Jurassic Park is a bona fide classic, and if you haven’t seen it, please remedy this injustice as soon as possible. It only takes a day to watch them all.
What is it: Watch secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew of talented spies as they battle the world’s most dangerous criminals along with the bureaucracy of his own organization, the IMF. The films are based on the 1960s television show.
How many hours: 13 hours and 3 minutes.
Starts with: Mission: Impossible (1996)
Ends with: Mission: Impossible -- Fallout (2018)
Best way to watch: It’s apparent after six films (with a seventh on the way): Tom Cruise really likes playing Ethan Hunt. And with every film, Cruise looks to top the jaw-dropping stunts from the last. Still, there is a stark contrast between the first three films and the rest, in regards to quality and scope. Many will tell you the second film, directed by John Woo, and the third, directed by J.J. Abrams, are the weakest of the set, but they’re still thoroughly enjoyable and feature some truly astonishing stunts – so we suggest you watch them all. And thankfully this is not – yes, we’re gonna say it – impossible to do in one or two days.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Mission Impossible: Fallout is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation are streaming on FXNow.
What is it: James Bond, MI6 intelligence officer and international playboy, charms women, thwarts terrorist plots, and sips a shaken martini in well-tailored suits. Based on Ian Fleming’s iconic novels.
How many hours: 55 hours and 11 minutes.
Starts with: Dr. No (1962)
Ends with: Spectre (2015)
Best way to watch: For completists, we recommend you start with the Connery films on day one, then do a day of Timothy Dalton, David Niven (the satire Casino Royale from 1967), and George Lazenby’s films, adding one or two of Roger Moore’s. Finish with Moore on day three, then do a full day of Pierce Brosnan for day four, and end the series on day five with Daniel Craig. If that’s a bit too daunting, you can break up the films we suggested for one day across two days instead. If you’re looking for a few to skip, we’d suggest A View to Kill and Octopussy. We’d also suggest you skip Never Say Never Again, as it is a shadow of Connery’s older work; Moonraker is only enjoyable for how laughable it is; and there’s not enough vodka on earth to make The World is Not Enough a good time. Quantum of Solace is another one you can miss, but at least watch the opening scene – it’s fantastic.
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day are streaming on Netflix; Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale (1967) are streaming on HBONow.
What is it: These are the stories of the USS Enterprise, crafted for the silver screen. Watch Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and later Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) as they lead their crews to the furthest reaches of the universe on a peacekeeping mission to discover new worlds. The films are based on the Star Trek television series and its subsequent spin-offs.
How many hours: 25 hours and 17 minutes.
Starts with: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Ends with: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Best way to watch: At the risk of angering the original series Trekkies, the first film – Star Trek: The Motion Picture – is simply not very good (it’s 42% on the Tomatometer). The same can be said of The Final Frontier. When we shift into The Next Generation part of the franchise, the series starts off strong but fizzles with Star Trek: Nemesis. We suggest you should skip those four. When you start the reboot franchise, some would advise you to skip Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was much maligned by the fandom but which we say is worth seeing for Benedict Cumberbatch, if nothing else. As far as ordering your binge, watching the series as the films were released is the way to go. Begin with the first set of films featuring the original series characters, followed by the films centering on the cast of The Next Generation, and finish with the reboot films that started in 2009. If you are skipping films following our advice, the new order is original series (The Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country), followed by the Next Generation films (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection), and finishing with the 2009 reboot films (Star Trek, Into Darkness, Beyond).
Where to watch: FandangoNOW (Discount Bundle), Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay. Star Treks 1-6, First Contact, Insurrection, and Generations are streaming Amazon; Star Trek: Into Darkness is streaming on FXnow; and Star Trek Nemesis, First Contact, Generations are streaming on Crackle.
Thumbnail image: yParamount, Paramount, courtesy of the Everett Collection
Enough with the space jockeys, unqualified cartographers, and people who run in straight lines: How about terrorizing someone who can put up a real fight? Vote on our 10 suggestions below or leave your dream Alien deathmatch in the comments!
There’s no shortage of movies playing at your local cineplex this weekend, but for filmgoers craving high-octane action, there’s really only one option: The Fate of the Furious, which brings the blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise roaring to its eighth installment. While we wait to see what Dom, Luke, Letty, Roman, and the rest of the gang are up to this time out, we decided to take a look back at the rest of the series by Tomatometer — and you know what that means. Buckle up, it’s time for Total Recall!
Seven movies. Dozens of featured cars. Hundreds of millions in property damage. As the eighth Fast & Furious movie, The Fate of the Furious, exits the garage, now’s the time to take our gallery quiz matching F&F stars to their badass cars!
Vin Diesel‘s journey in the movie biz has taken him from bit player to $100 million-grossing franchise topliner, multi-hyphenate media mogul, social media star, and multi-franchise hero. Get your engine revved up for plenty of action, folks – now it’s time to look at the 10 best-reviewed movies of Diesel’s career!
Any film that takes place in the 46th century — and suffers the ignominy of being dumped into theaters in February — faces a fairly steep uphill battle with critics. Although Pitch Black didn’t quite make it over the hump, running out of steam at 57 percent on the Tomatometer, it did far better than most would have guessed — and it helped make a star out of Vin Diesel, whose turn as the hulking, creepy-eyed escaped convict Richard B. Riddick helped David Twohy’s low-budget sci-fi epic transcend its less inspired moments. In the end, Pitch Black became the rare winter feature that ends up spawning a sequel, thanks in part to the begrudging respect of writers like Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, who praised it as “so jaunty, so limber, and so visually self-assured that art peeks through where crap has traditionally made its home.”
After the relative failure of 2004’s Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel labored for nearly a decade to give the franchise another installment — first trading a cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in exchange for the rights to the character, then laboring for years with director and screenwriter David Twohy over ideas for the script. Ultimately, Diesel ended up mortgaging his home and heavily investing his own money into 2013’s Riddick, which finds our hero marooned on a distant planet and beset by ravenous beasts as well as a pack of mercenaries. The picture found a warmer reception at the box office, where it brought in nearly $100 million, but critics weren’t entirely sold — Riddick ultimately ended up just shy of Fresh territory, and even its fans openly conceded that it was more of a goofy good time than a serious piece of sci-fi. As Stephanie Merry wrote for the Washington Post, “Riddick can be cheesy and silly, not to mention excessively violent, but it’s also fun.”
The same year he starred in The Pacifier, Diesel packed on 30 pounds — and grew hair! — to take the lead in Sidney Lumet’s Find Me Guilty, a legal dramedy based on the true story of the longest Mafia trial in American history. As reputed mobster Jackie DiNorscio, who famously represented himself during the trial, Diesel finally won the nearly unanimous critical praise that escaped him in earlier films; sadly, critics found fault with just about every other aspect of Find Me Guilty, including what many saw as an irresponsibly rosy portrait of the real-life mobsters at the heart of Lumet’s screenplay. Still, even if it is, in the words of the Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt, “guilty of moral stupidity and misguided hero worship,” Diesel could take comfort in praise from the likes of the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who wrote that his “volatile performance finally proves he is much more than an action star.”
A sort of miniature blend of Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street, Ben Younger’s Boiler Room looked at the seedy underbelly of the tech bubble’s millionaire boom, peeking inside the price-fixing exploits of a seedy Long Island “chop shop” brokerage firm. It wasn’t a big hit, and critics were fairly divided in their opinions, but it gave Diesel the opportunity to deliver a nicely understated dramatic supporting role, and with just a few more reviews from writers like the New York Times’ A.O. Scott — who said it “reflects the sensibility of the generation it holds up to critical scrutiny, and it’s a cunningly ambiguous act of self-portraiture” — Boiler Room would have a nice fresh tomato next to its title.
After shifting into a higher critical and commercial gear with Fast Five in 2011, the Fast & Furious franchise kept the pedal to the medal with Fast & Furious 6 two years later, retaining the series’ new heist thriller approach (and recent cast addition Dwayne Johnson) for another round of souped-up action and automotive mayhem. While the series’ sixth installment ultimately fell a few percentage points shy of its predecessor, it still went down as one of the summer of 2013’s better-performing blockbusters, rolling up nearly $800 million in worldwide grosses — along with applause from critics like Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote, “It’s a ripsnorting carmageddon that stylizes automotive annihilation the way John Woo used to choreograph death and destruction with guns and explosions.”
Very few franchises notch critical high marks with their fifth installments, and The Fast and the Furious series — a perennial critics’ target since its debut in 2001 — hardly seemed like a logical candidate for ever achieving Certified Fresh status. But lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened in 2011, when Fast Five roared off to 77 percent on the Tomatometer (and over $625 million in worldwide grosses). So what changed? Well, it didn’t hurt that Five’s storyline took a “heist action” approach rather than the “street racing action drama” of previous installments, and the returning cast members (including Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and of course Vin Diesel) benefited from the copious charisma of new addition Dwayne Johnson. Whatever the reasons, longtime Furious fans had company in critics like Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald, who called Five “Embarrassingly fun, the sort of speedy, senseless, violence-crammed action flick that virtually defines the summer season, with superheroes who aren’t gods or crusaders in tights but guys in T-shirts and jeans who can drive cars really fast.”
The Fast and Furious franchise has openly defied the laws of diminishing box-office returns — not to mention physics — over the course of its long lifespan, but it isn’t entirely immune to real-world concerns, as fans were sadly reminded when star Paul Walker was suddenly killed in a car crash while still in the midst of production on Furious 7. Walker’s death cast a shadow over the movie, adding a dash of poignancy to the action, and his surviving cast members proved up to the responsibility of sending off their co-star with one of the hugely lucrative saga’s more critically successful entries. “When a film is this exciting in its action set pieces and this meaningful in its quiet moments,” argued Tulsa World’s Michael Smith, “the filmmakers are getting it right.”
We come here to praise Vin Diesel, not bury him — and yet we’re compelled here to point out that he’s delivered some of his finest, most emotionally affecting work with a bare minimum of dialogue. All of which is to say that while some may have raised a quizzical eyebrow or let slip with a chuckle when word got out Diesel had been cast as the monosyllabic treelike alien Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, longtime fans knew he could deliver — and he didn’t disappoint, anchoring the ensemble MCU space adventure with action, humor, and even a little heartstring-tugging pathos despite only ever uttering varying inflections on the phrase “I am Groot.” As Joe Williams wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “If you’re old enough to remember when sci-fi and comic books were fun, Guardians of the Galaxy will be your new favorite movie. If you’re not, it will set a standard for everything you see.”
Movies like xXx and The Pacifier make it easy to forget this, but Vin Diesel has always been more than your average action star; in fact, he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in his film debut, 1995’s Strays — and managed to have it screened at Cannes, where it attracted the attention of Steven Spielberg, who was inspired to create the role of PFC Adrian Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan specifically for Diesel. And while it wasn’t the film’s biggest role — in fact, Diesel’s character is the first member of the squad to be killed — it still gave him a nice leg up from one of the biggest directors in the business, and allowed him to be a part of what James Berardinelli of ReelViews called “a singular motion picture experience.”
Today, he’s animation royalty, but in 1999, Brad Bird was still a relative unknown getting his first big break with a Warner Bros. feature based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 children’s book, The Iron Man. Commercially speaking, Giant was a less than auspicious debut — thanks to what many saw as a misguided promotional campaign on the studio’s part, the movie only managed a pitiful $23 million domestic gross — but the adventures of young Hogarth Hughes and his imposing metal friend struck a deep chord with critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro, who wrote that “animated films excel in conjuring up colorful fantasy worlds, but few evoke an actual time and place as vividly — and playfully — as The Iron Giant does.” Diesel, of course, was the voice of the titular giant — and lest you scoff that lending your voice to an animated robot doesn’t require much in the way of actual, you know, acting, we defy you to watch the film’s climactic sequence without having your heart torn out by Big Vin’s delivery of one simple word: “Superman.”
This week on streaming services, we’ve got a handful of hugely popular TV series, a classic live-action animated comedy, and a couple of Certified Fresh smaller films you might have missed, plus a great selection of new choices available on FandangoNOW. Read on for details.
H. Jon Benjamin voices the titular superspy, one of a handful of agents and skilled operatives of dubious moral fiber in the employ of an espionage outfit run by his mother.
Available now on: Netflix
AMC’s follow-up to Breaking Bad follows Bob Odenkirk’s character before he became Saul Goodman, when he was still a scheming attorney who fell into some hard times and partnered up with former cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).
Available now on: Netflix
Robert Zemeckis’ mind-bending animation/live-action hybrid follows a star cartoon rabbit who is framed for murder and the private eye who reluctantly agrees to help clear his name.
Available now on: Netflix
Viola Davis stars in this drama about an esteemed law professor whose interns become implicated in a complicated web of murder and deception.
Available now on: Netflix
This Australian thriller, written by Joel Edgerton (who also co-stars) and directed by his brother Nash, centers on a small town couple having an affair who make plans to leave their spouses — one of them a dangerous gangster — and run off together.
Available now on: Netflix
Jim Jarmusch’s Certified Fresh documentary is a tribute to the pioneering punk band The Stooges, charting their rise and fall through first-hand accounts from Iggy Pop, his bandmates, and others close to the band.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Henry Fonda stars in John Ford’s adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel about a Great Depression-era Oklahoma family who are evicted from their home and journey westward to California.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia spencer, and Janelle Monáe star in this historical drama about three gifted African-American women who played a substantial role in launching NASA’s first manned spaceflight missions.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Dev Patel stars in this true story about a man, adopted by an Australian family as a boy, who uses Google Earth to track down the small Indian village from which he disappeared as a child.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
This time out, rogue ex-secret agent Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge on our heroes after they injured his brother in the previous film, and in turn, the gang teams up with the government to bring him down. It’s now available in an Ultra HD Extended Edition.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts star in this horror film about a pair of girls who encounter a malevolent presence during a winter holiday they’re forced to spend alone at their boarding school.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and the rest of the Furious gang reunite when Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) coaxes them into helping with an international investigation by revealing a secret from their past. It’s now available in an Extended Edition.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Sylvester Stallone and John Lithgow star in this high altitude thriller about a former rock climber who is taken hostage by a group of mercenaries who have crashed in the mountains with millions in stolen cash.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
This Swedish comedy is the story of a 100-year-old man who climbs out a window and disappears. Yup.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Time flies when you’re watching a franchise spiral into the crazy nebula: We are now approaching the sixth Resident Evil movie, mercifully dubbed The Final Chapter, none of which have ever been fully embraced by critics. But, hey, just because a franchise is long in the tooth doesn’t mean it’s rotten at the root! There’s plenty of Fresh movies in this week’s gallery: 24 best and worst Part 6s in movie history!
From the football field to the professional wrestling arena to the big screen, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has dominated every field he’s entered — and with his latest action outing, Brett Ratner’s Hercules, flexing its way into cineplexes this weekend, we figured now would be a pretty good time to honor that success by taking a fond look back at what he’s been cooking at theaters since breaking into the movie business. Oil up those pecs, because it’s time for Total Recall!
When Dwayne Johnson moved out of the wrestling ring and into family-friendly filmmaking, many of the roles available to him tended toward the excessively kiddie end of the spectrum, a la 2010’s Tooth Fairy. But at least in terms of its outline, 2006’s Gridiron Gang would seem to have offered the best of both worlds — a wholesomely uplifting drama about a tough-as-nails probation officer who lifts L.A. kids out of their lives of juvie crime by offering them a strong example of positive male leadership. Alas, most critics felt that this Gang didn’t flash enough of the right signs during its time on the screen; although few writers argued against the movie’s undeniably admirable aims, they felt screenwriter Jeff Maguire’s script did a poor job of bringing dramatic life to a real-life situation that deserved more depth. Still, for some scribes, the ends justified the means; as Claudia Puig wrote for USA Today, “Gridiron entertains and makes a powerful point about the faults inherent in the penal system, particularly for youths with hopes of rehabilitation.”
As acting gigs go, the prospect of taking over the reins of an effects-driven franchise from Brendan Fraser probably don’t rank high on many movie stars’ wish lists — but after Journey to the Center of the Earth made more than $240 million in 2008, a sequel was pretty much a foregone conclusion, and by securing the services of Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens to round out the cast with returning young lead Josh Hutcherson, the producers of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island probably felt like they had the makings of an all-ages blockbuster waiting to happen. In financial terms, they were right — Journey 2 broke the $300 million mark — but critically speaking, the results proved a letdown, with many writers questioning the clunky mishmash of dopey plotting and Hudgens cleavage shots. For others, though, those were minor missteps worth looking past to see a good old-fashioned adventure; Beliefnet’s Nell Minow, for example, called it “A well-paced and highly entertaining family film made with good humor, panache, and imagination.”
Dwayne Johnson against Billy Bob Thornton in an action thriller about an ex-con out to avenge his brother’s death while on the lam from an aging lawman and psychotic hitman? By all rights, 2010’s Faster should have been exactly the sort of out-and-out smash that makes absolutely no bones about playing squarely to each of its participants’ strengths — especially given that it saw Johnson’s return to R-rated action after an uneven stretch of family-friendly fare. Sadly, most critics felt Faster failed to live up to its title, and audiences seemed to agree, sending the film to an ignominious $35 million total at the box office. Once again, however, our star’s work was singled out as a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing movie: “Johnson’s performance is one of seething rage camouflaging emotional scars as ugly as the physical ones,” wrote Gary Dowell of the Dallas Morning News, calling Johnson’s Driver “a grim, single-minded figure straight out of a Jim Thompson or Richard Stark novel.”
For viewers of a certain age, Disney’s Witch Mountain movies — adapted from Alexander Key’s classic novels — rank among the studio’s better live-action efforts, although it would be hard to argue the notion that the films’ acting and/or special effects offered room for improvement. So when director Andy Fickman took the helm for a franchise reboot in 2009, with Johnson attached to play a cab driver who ends up acting as reluctant protector for a pair of mysterious kids (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) on the run from a cruel Defense Department goon (Ciarán Hinds), it didn’t seem altogether out of the question that they might produce compelling results. Unfortunately, Race to Witch Mountain wasn’t quite the sequel-starter the studio seemed to be hoping for; although it did decent business, racking up more than $145 million in worldwide grosses, many critics were let down by the movie’s lack of depth and reluctance to explore the poignant, intelligent themes in Key’s books. As tends to be the case with even his worst-reviewed films, however, Johnson earned praise for his charismatic performance. “The star of this movie universe is undeniably Dwayne. His cinematic charisma is as big as his biceps,” wrote Film.com’s Christine Champ. “Hard and soft in all the right spots, he’s a badass hero with heart, armed with world-weary one-liners and wicked comic timing.”
Michael Bay movies are frequently derided for their general insensitivity — to character development, to all notions of filmmaking subtlety, to the art of storytelling, to viewers’ eardrums — but if ever a movie seemed like it might call for that treatment, it should have been Pain & Gain, which adapts the true-life story of a group of Miami gym rats (Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie) whose thirst for wealth leads them to make a series of spectacularly ill-advised decisions, including kidnapping, theft, and murder. Unfortunately, Bay’s insensitivity hampered him here, too; in the eyes of many critics, his decision to treat the story as a sort of gaudy action comedy felt wrong, given that it’s a movie about horrible things that happened to real people. Set that aside, however, and you might just enjoy Pain & Gain on its own merits: “Might this be the best Michael Bay film ever?” asked Tara Brady for the Irish Times. “We know what you’re thinking. But we mean it in a good way.”
By 2008, Steve Carell’s work as Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office had elevated him to the ranks of comedy’s preeminent doofuses, so he was a natural choice to step into Don Adams’ hallowed shoe phones when Warner Bros. decided to put together a modernized film adaptation of the classic 1960s TV spy comedy Get Smart. Alas, in spite of Carell’s suitably bumbling turn as clueless spy Maxwell Smart — and the presence of a strong supporting cast that included Alan Arkin as Smart’s exasperated chief, Anne Hathaway as the inexplicably amorous Agent 99, and Dwayne Johnson as the impossibly smooth Agent 23 — Smart left many critics cold. For others, the key to enjoyment was lowered expectations; as Susan Tavernetti argued for Palo Alto Weekly, “You’ll have a better time if you don’t expect this re-imagined work to resemble the original. The phone shoe does fit Carell, and he wears it well.”
It’s got a one-word title and a tough-lookin’ Dwayne Johnson behind the wheel of a truck, but Snitch isn’t your average Rock action thriller. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, it’s actually something of a message movie, starring Johnson as the anguished father of a boy (Rafi Gavron) whose trumped-up drug-dealing charges could send him to prison for at least 10 years — unless Dad follows through on a hastily struck deal with the US Attorney’s office, the terms of which require him to infiltrate a local drug kingpin with no support from law enforcement. With Johnson in the lead, the temptation to turn Snitch into a typically overdriven action flick had to have been high, and it’s to Waugh’s credit that he actually practices a modicum of restraint; unfortunately, many critics felt that left the movie stranded in a rather dull no-man’s-land between thoughtful drama and brainless thrills. Still, it wasn’t without its admirers; as Tom Russo wrote for the Boston Globe, “Nobody is going to confuse a Dwayne Johnson movie with Les Misérables. But Snitch gets a decent amount of drama (and action, of course) out of the argument that there’s paying for a crime, and then there’s overpaying.”
Retooled into an action franchise that just happened to include lots of cars, the Fast & Furious series roared into its sixth installment with a lot more momentum than most similarly persistent film properties, and although the reviews for Fast & Furious 6 weren’t quite as kind as they’d been for Fast Five, critics were still generally on board for another round of Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Paul Walker wreaking extralegal mayhem in order to bring down a truly nasty bad guy. The heavy this time around is Shaw (Luke Evans), whose nefarious plot stretches beyond your average multi-national criminal ring; in fact, he’s gone and — you guessed it — made things personal for our heroes. “Some of the action sequences are insane,” enthused the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy. “No, really. Absurd, impossible, physics defying, triage-required stuff. No matter. That’s the foolish rush of a franchise that must go faster and faster and furiouser and furiouser.”
It’s a formula as old as film: Take a big, strong guy, give him a more averagely built comedic foil, and stand back while the laff-a-minute hijinks fly. Kind of a cheap cinematic trick, but one that still tends to work pretty well; why, just take a look at The Rundown, which throws Johnson and Seann William Scott together in an action caper about a retiring bounty hunter (Johnson) who’s wheedled into hunting down his boss’s twerpy wayward son (Scott) in a Brazilian rainforest where he’s managed to tick off an unscrupulous mining kingpin (Christopher Walken) while pursuing some treasure. It’s the kind of movie that delivers the expected beats at the expected moments, but thrives on the charisma of its stars; as James Berardinelli wrote for ReelViews, “The Rundown offers everything a good movie of this sort should: plenty of suspenseful action, a few good laughs, and a share of obligatory ‘reluctant buddy’ bonding.”
The Fast and the Furious franchise seemed to be petering out after 2006’s Tokyo Drift, but things got back on track with 2009’s The Fast and the Furious — which in turn set up 2011’s Fast Five, the fifth installment that turned the series into the sequel-churning heist thriller factory it’s become. Aside from jump-starting FF‘s creative prospects, Five also gave Johnson the part he may have been born to play: government agent Luke Hobbs, the bounty hunter-turned-U.S. Marshal who goes bicep-for-bicep against series mainstays Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. This time around, even critics — who’d always been notoriously recalcitrant where the Fast and Furious movies were concerned — climbed on board, including Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald, who applauded it as “Embarrassingly fun, the sort of speedy, senseless, violence-crammed action flick that virtually defines the summer season, with superheroes who aren’t gods or crusaders in tights but guys in T-shirts and jeans who can drive cars really fast.”
In case you were wondering, here are Johnson’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:
1. Fast & Furious — 84%
2. Gridiron Gang — 82%
3. Fast Five — 82%
4. The Game Plan — 70%
5. Get Smart — 67%
6. The Rundown — 67%
7. Snitch — 62%
8. Walking Tall — 61%
9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island — 60%
10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation — 49%
Finally, here’s Mr. Johnson’s famous catch phrase: