The 1995 film “Bad Boys” launched the careers of Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and director Michael Bay. All three were rising stars at the time – Smith and Lawrence on their own sitcoms, and Bay in the world of commercials. The movie’s success propelled them all to even greater heights. A sequel, “Bad Boys II,” arrived in 2003, cranking up the action and humor. Talks of a third film rumbled on for years, finally coming to fruition in 2020 with “Bad Boys for Life.” This sequel received the best reviews of the series and became a box office hit just before the pandemic. The latest installment, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” finds Mike and Marcus facing a new threat while on the run from the Miami PD. Today, let’s look at the Bad Boys Movie Franchise and how it ranks according to it’s Rotten Tomatoes approval ratings.

4. Bad Boys II (2003) | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 24%

Miami is awash in ecstasy, and the cops are determined to shut it down. Enter narcotics detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith). These partners are about to face a firestorm. Their investigation leads them to Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà), a ruthless Cuban smuggler embroiled in a vicious turf war with Russian and Haitian mobs. As if that’s not enough, tensions rise between Burnett and Lowrey when it’s revealed Lowrey is dating Burnett’s sister, Syd (Gabrielle Union).

Despite being the commercial juggernaut of the Bad Boys franchise, the second film, Bad Boys II, holds the lowest rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics weren’t impressed, but audiences loved it. Reviews on the website likely criticized the over-the-top action and humor, something captured in the phrase “banter and action.” However, these elements resonated with audiences, making the movie a box office success and landing it a spot as one of the highest-grossing films of 2003.

3. Bad Boys (1995) | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%

Bad Boys Movies Ranked - Bad Boys (1995)

The first film in the franchise stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. Despite their contrasting personalities – Lowrey is reckless and a ladies’ man, while Burnett is a family man – they have to work together to recover a massive blunder. Here’s the deal: $100 million worth of heroin they confiscated vanishes from police headquarters. Internal Affairs suspects an inside job and gives them a tight deadline of five days to find the drugs or face the shutdown of the narcotics division. The action gets comical when Burnett has to go undercover as a call girl (played by Tea Leoni) to gain the trust of a key witness.

While the movie was a box office success, it received below average reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. So, it delivers on the fun and action but may not hold up for critics. On the consensus, it reads, “Bad Boys stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have enjoyable chemistry; unfortunately, director Michael Bay too often drowns it out with set pieces and explosions in place of an actual story.”

2. Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024) | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Bad Boys: Ride or Die reunites Miami detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, played by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, for another action-comedy adventure. This time, their world is rocked when their late police captain is unexpectedly linked to a dangerous drug cartel. Determined to clear his name, the wisecracking duo dives headfirst into a case that throws them up against unexpected enemies.

Currently at a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the latest film in the franchise is mid as far as critics’ receptions are concerned. The website’s consensus reads, “Will Smith and Martin Lawrence remain good company even when Bad Boys strains to up the ante, proving there’s still life left in this high-octane franchise.”

1. Bad Boys for Life (2020) | Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

Bad Boys for Life follows Miami detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett as they reunite after years apart. Mike is targeted by a vengeful cartel leader’s wife and son, forcing him to team up with Marcus and a new high-tech tactical squad, AMMO, to take down the threat.

This film boasts the highest Tomatometer score among the Bad Boys movies, with a very impressive Audience Score as well, just 1% shy of the latest release, Bad Boys: Ride or Die. The website’s consensus is overwhelmingly positive, reading, “Loaded up with action and a double helping of leading-man charisma, Bad Boys for Life reinvigorates this long-dormant franchise by playing squarely to its strengths.”

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