Every Bad Boys Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best

The four Bad Boys movies ranked represent an action franchise that defies many trends, most notably that it improves with each subsequent installment. Michael Bay made his directorial debut in 1995 with the buddy-cop film Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as partners-in-crime in a bromance that quickly became one of Hollywood’s most iconic pairings. Just under a decade later, in 2003, a sequel, Bad Boys II, was released, with the third film in the franchise, Bad Boys For Life, set to arrive in January 2020. The fourth entry, Bad Boys: Ride or Die, arrived in 2024.

Smith and Lawrence’s playful banter as Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett is what truly makes the Bad Boys films memorable, though some incredibly impressive action sequences from directors Michael Bay and (from Bad Boys For Life onward) Adil & Bilal have helped. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have excellent chemistry in all four films. Many consider the four films to be among the best action franchises in Hollywood, and the Bad Boys movies, ranked from worst to best, demonstrate why.

Bad Boys

In the first Bad Boys, Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery had to protect a murder witness while investigating the disappearance of a large drug sample from their precinct. However, things become more complicated when the former is misidentified as the latter by the witness and, in order to get her to cooperate, pretends to be the debonair Lowery, forcing the pair to switch identities in order to keep her safe and obtain all of the information they can from her to help solve their case.

Bad Boys does a lot of things right, particularly the boisterous dynamic between Lawrence and Smith, which features sharp, funny banter between the two. They’re a reckless pair of cops who frequently find themselves in sticky situations, putting their guns before their brains and making things difficult for their increasingly angry Captain (Joe Pantoliano).

It also has a lot of great humor and action, and it stands out among the four Bad Boys films as the one that launched the franchise. Not only that, but it was Michael Bay’s first feature film. The 1995 film Bad Boys introduced audiences to Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, the latter being Will Smith’s most badass character to date.

The shortcoming of Bad Boys is that it does not really push Burnett and Lowery outside of their comfort zone yet; everything is safe and reasonable. Furthermore, Michael Bay’s technique had not yet been perfected at this point in his career, and the characters of Mike and Marcus had yet to reach their full potential. It’s a fun film and a great set-up for what’s to come, but the first Bad Boys lacks the punch of the subsequent installments and is the weakest of the bunch.

Bad Boys II

Bad Boys II builds on the first film by fully embracing the characters and world it has created. The shootouts, car chases, and all of the combat in this film are typical of Michael Bay as fans have come to expect. Bad Boys 2 is also funnier than the first, which could be attributed to Seth Rogen’s involvement in script revisions.

The story of Bad Boys 2 remains focused on missing drugs. This time, however, Lowery and Burnett look into a much larger shipment that has gone missing. A Cuban cartel is smuggling an exorbitant amount of ecstasy into Florida, which the pair decide to investigate. Burnett’s sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) is also thrown in the mix. There is also more character development, especially since Marcus’ sister is involved. To complicate matters further, she is also dating Mike, which causes some interesting friction between the two.

What elevates Bad Boys 2 above Bad Boys is that it takes everything good about the original — the banter, the action, the carnage — and adds levity to the proceedings. The sequel is undeniably bloated, but the arcs and themes explored in Bad Boys 2 are far more compelling to watch.

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die

Bad Boys 4, with the full title Bad Boys: Ride or Die, had a complicated production process. The film was originally scheduled to be released in 2019, but it was delayed several times before finally arriving in mid-2024. Following Bad Boys For Life, many fans were surprised to learn that a new Bad Boys film was in the works. Bad Boys 3 expanded the duology into a trilogy, which could have been a fitting conclusion for Mike and Marcus. While Bad Boys: Ride or Die fell short of its predecessor, it was still a worthy addition to the franchise and came close to being the best Bad Boys film to date.

The story of Bad Boys: Ride or Die is one of the most important in the franchise for Marcus and Mike. The pair goes from investigating corruption in the Miami Police Department to fleeing as alleged fugitives, a result of a set-up when they try to prove that allegations against the late Captain Howard linking him to the Romanian Mafia are false.

The events of Bad Boys 4 take the franchise into new territory while also fitting in nicely with where Bad Boys For Life ended. The humor derived from Marcus and Mike’s bromance remains sharp, and the franchise, like Bad Boys 3, has aged gracefully. It never seems to forget that 1995’s Bad Boys debuted nearly three decades ago, with Marcus and Mike always portrayed as world-weary veterans rather than over-eager cops at the pinnacle of their professions.

Bad Boys For Life

Bad Boys 2 is better than the first because it improved on everything that came before it, and the same can be said for Bad Boys For Life. Even though Bay left the third film as director, he had an impact on Bad Boys For Life, making a cameo appearance in the blockbuster. What distinguishes Bad Boys 3 is that it enhances the best Bay-isms of the previous two films while maintaining its own distinct voice.

This time, Mike and Marcus are at the end of their rope. Marcus is ready to retire, while Mike is trying to hold on to his glory days. However, when someone has it out for Mike, Marcus is forced to come out of retirement to protect his friend alongside a younger group of officers.

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