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The 10 Best Michael Bay Movies (According To Rotten Tomatoes)

Michael Bay is probably one of the most well-known action movie directors, and he’s definitely made quite the name for himself in Hollywood. He’s had billion-dollar box office hits with his films in the Transformers franchise and his most recent movie, Ambulance, is still impressing audiences with his high-octane energy.

RELATED: 10 Movie Franchises That Michael Bay Could Make Better

But what’s the best Michael Bay movie according to critics? From Bad Boys to 6 Underground, the director has proven to have a successful approach to more than just his famed explosions, incorporating elements of romance and comedy to great acclaim in some select cases.

Updated on April 11th, 2022 by Mark Birrell: The release of Ambulance has marked some of the best reviews of Bay’s directing career but does that mean that there’s a new best Michael Bay movie? It’s a close race in the end, and it certainly looks as if the director may finally be getting back into critics’ good books if Rotten Tomatoes’ calculations are correct.

10 Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) – 35%

Available To Stream On Netflix

This Transformers sequel involves a hidden spacecraft on the moon and a race between the Autobots and the Decepticons to undercover its secrets.

As Megan Fox had gone through a very public departure from the franchise, moving on to the similarly produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series from Michael Bay and Paramount, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley takes on the love interest role here. Fans of the series of movies still got the rest of the original cast though, along with Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich for a big blowout event movie that may not be really counted amongst Michael Bay’s best movies but is still generally considered a cut above the rest his Transformers sequels.

9 6 Underground (2019) – 36%

Available To Stream On Netflix

Written by the duo behind the screenplay for Deadpool, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, this fittingly excessive action-comedy assembles its own crew of near-superheroic mercenaries to take down a dictator’s regime.

RELATED: The Best Movies Like 6 Underground

It was Bay’s first movie released straight to Netflix and, though critics haven’t been kind to it, it’s ranked as one of the platform’s most successful movies since its release.

8 Armageddon (1998) – 38%

Available To Stream On Tubi

Though generally considered to be an iconic entry into the disaster genre, this doomsday asteroid movie isn’t actually very highly rated by critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, and many other stars in supporting roles, the cast is really what elevates Armageddon. Though Bay’s playfulness with set pieces and camera work was functioning at peak efficiency also.

7 The Island (2005) – 39%

Available To Rent Or Purchase On Prime Video

Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor in The Island (2005)

This is another sci-fi action-adventure movie but with a thrilling twist. Ewan McGregor is Lincoln, a man living in a futuristic, sterile colony, who begins to question his existence when his friend, played by Scarlett Johansson, is chosen to go to the Island, the last uncontaminated place on the planet.

Full of chases and inventive designs for a vision of a near semi-dystopian, semi-believable, future, The Island is often counted by fans as Michael Bay’s most underrated movie.

6 Bad Boys (1995) – 42%

Available To Stream On DIRECTV

Bad Boys (1995) - header only

The star power of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence turned Michael Bay’s first movie into a successful franchise that still exists today. This action-comedy follows two detectives who are assigned to protect a witness to a murder. Meanwhile, they investigate a case of stolen heroin, taken from the police precinct.

Bad Boys is hilarious, action-packed, and totally outrageous, combining both the director’s and the stars’ love for over-the-top spectacle.

5 Pain & Gain (2013) – 50%

Available To Stream On Paramount+

A trio of bodybuilders gets caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme, and everything goes very, very badly.

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie, Pain & Gain was adapted from a true story chronicled in the Miami New Times but brought in Bay’s signature style to emphasize the outlandishness of the tale. Though critics were still split on the director’s relative scaling down, it’s generally regarded as one of Michael Bay’s best movies.

4 13 Hours (2016) – 51%

Available To Stream On Paramount+

During an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to do their job amidst the chaos. Starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, and James Badge Dale, this flick definitely has all of the drama a Michael Bay fan could ask for.

Based on a non-fiction account of the attacks, 13 Hours is without doubt one of Bay’s most emotional movies and general audiences have responded much more positively than critics.

3 Transformers (2007) – 58%

Available To Stream On HBO Max

Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf in Transformers (2007)

This live-action take on the famous toy franchise and its fairly extensive lore won over a healthy majority of moviegoing audiences by being hilarious, suspenseful, and totally thrilling.

RELATED: 10 Ways Michael Bay’s Movies Strayed From Original Transformers Canon

Though it doesn’t quite break through into being counted as “fresh” on the site, the first Transformers movie is still ranked by both critics and fans as one of the best Michael Bay movies ever.

2 Ambulance (2022) – 67%

Michael Bay Ambulance Jake Gyllenhaal

Bay’s most recent movie has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as one of his best ever, achieving his first “fresh” rating since The Rock. It was adapted from a Danish film of the same name and combines the dramatic skills of Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González.

Though its critical score is likely to fluctuate, even after it’s out of theaters, Ambulance looks to be a welcome return to form for Bay, who critics had clearly felt had become too mired in either sci-fi concepts or directly political imagery.

1 The Rock (1996) – 68%

Available To Stream On Prime Video

Nic Cage trying to signal a stop to the Rock explosion.

A chemical weapons expert and a mysterious ex-con team up to lead a counter-strike against a group of rogue military men. Amidst a threat of a gas attack from Alcatraz against San Francisco, this odd couple must team up to save the day.

Starring Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, and Ed Harris, this adventure is a delight for lovers of star power and Connery’s James Bond charms especially.

NEXT: Every Michael Bay Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best (According To IMDb)

Split image of Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 and Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk


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