Men in Black Movie Review
Men in Black films as part of my franchise series. What’s a rankography exactly? Well, it’s my ranking of a filmography, whether that be a director’s output, an actor’s appearances, or even an entire franchise.
My rankographies are based on personal preference and I rank movies according to how much I enjoyed them, rather than any specific technical merit or attribute. Remember, this is just my ranking, not THE ranking, so be sure to post your own personal ranking of the Men in Black franchise in the comments below. The Men in Black franchise is an interesting one to rank for a couple of reasons. We’ve got a set of films that spans 22 years. The first two movies were only 5 years apart from each other, so that’s not too strange, but the third movie came along a decade later. Despite the time gaps, those movies were a proper trilogy with a consistent core cast. Movie number four’s different, however.
Not only did it take another seven years, but it’s essentially a soft reboot, bringing in an almost entirely new cast to the MIB universe we thought we knew. So, the franchise has been fairly inconsistent throughout its existence and, unsurprisingly, that’s manifested in substantial-quality variability too. Sometimes rankographies are really hard for me, but after watching the newest film, I knew exactly what order these were gonna go in. I’ve already reviewed all four of these movies on this channel, so if you wanna check those out for some more in-depth thoughts on each of them, I’ll put the links in the description below and I’ll also link them up in the cards as we go along.
Alright, let’s get this rankography started. Coming in at #4 is Men in Black II. That placement probably isn’t much of a surprise to anybody. I don’t absolutely hate it, but it is the only movie in the franchise that I actively dislike. It’s just such a disappointing sequel after the first movie and I’d say it’s one of the most disappointing sequels of any franchise for me. I just really don’t understand what happened with it. They had the whole core cast back, a budget that was 60% bigger than the previous film, and five years to make it. But, despite all that, it’s not even in the same league as its predecessor.
It had the challenge of following up on origin story. The characters were already established, but so was the world. So, the things that amazed us in the first movie were now expected, meaning they had to step things up to keep us invested in the world that had been built for us. Unfortunately, a lackluster story was combined with some really noticeably bad CGI. Plus, the chemistry between J and K had lost much of its charm thanks to the unnecessary retconning. This movie has its moments, but I’d much rather have watched the sequel that was teased at the end of the first film. Coming in at #3 is Men in Black: International. Even though this film’s in the bottom half of the ranking, I did mostly enjoy it and it’s not even close to the level of MIB-II.
Since this one is essentially a soft reboot of the franchise and is the only one without Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, it’s inherently the outlier. But, as a result, it’s actually a little tough to compare to the other three movies. It still has the classic Men in Black feel and continues the franchise gags like the red button and celebrity aliens, but it definitely does have a more modern touch to it. Everything is a little too polished, which makes the whole movie feel a little generic. It’s not bad, but it does lack some personality. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have good chemistry together, but unfortunately, the movie’s pulled down some by a very predictable story and underdeveloped villains.
I think out of all the movies in the franchise, this one had the toughest job. Not only did it come out 22 years after the original in a time when Men in Black wasn’t exactly something people were clamoring for, but it also had an almost entirely new cast. Even though it’s got some issues, I don’t think this one deserves all the hate it’s been getting. I think a lot of people went in wanting to hate it or had ridiculously high expectations for it. It’s not the greatest, but it’s not a bad MIB movie either. Coming in at #2 is Men in Black 3.
This was a huge surprise for me the first time I saw it. It had been 10 years since the incredibly disappointing Men in Black II and, much like the lead up to Men in Black: International, there wasn’t any big public call for more MIB. So, I skipped seeing this one in theaters and wow was that a dumb thing to do. I really enjoy this one. I love time travel movies and the 60s are my favorite decade, so this already had two checks in the win column going in. But, then the film itself was great too! The story was interesting and Josh Brolin was absolutely perfect as young K. He disappeared into the role and honestly, after the first few minutes, I just accepted that I was somehow watching young Tommy Lee Jones.
Even though K is portrayed by an entirely different actor here, he and J have great chemistry that’s reminiscent of their interplay from the first film. Throw in some surprisingly satisfying emotional undertones and you’ve got a wonderful conclusion to the J and K story. So that means my #1 Men in Black film is the original Men in Black. Men in Black 3 actually comes close, but the first film comes out on top in the end. This is a movie that’s really held up over the years. I can remember seeing this as a kid (and riding the ride at Universal Studios) and thinking how cool it all was.
MIB was definitely popular at the time, but it seemed destined to become one of those fad movies that would eventually peter out. But, I gotta say, this one’s kinda stood the test of time. I mean, I know it’s only been two decades, but I think this is a movie that’s gonna take on the title of classic if it hasn’t already. The premise is fantastic and since this is the first film, it has both the benefit and challenge of introducing us to the universe of MIB with all its aliens, agents, and gadgets. That introduction is done perfectly cause we’re just going along for the ride as J’s being introduced to the universe too.
The story of the first film is fairly simple, but its genre-mixing ensures there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The special effects also still mostly hold up today! But the best thing about Men in Black? The thing that’s never quite been recaptured or replicated in any of the sequels? The incredible chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s, not a comedic pair I would’ve ever thought would work, but they’re amazing together. Whoever made that casting decision was a genius. The set-up of a veteran and rookie buddy cop story wasn’t new, but they were able to turn it into something truly unique and entertaining.
The original Men in the Black movie really doesn’t get old and I imagine I’ll still enjoy watching it in another 22 years. Alright, so that’s my rankography of the Men in Black franchise. A cool premise and story’s important, but it’s the chemistry between the lead characters that really makes or breaks these films. What does your ranking look like? I’d also loves to see some reasoning for your order, so be sure to post it in the comments below.
Also, be sure to check out my reviews of all four Men in Black films for some more in-depth discussion of each, as well as my ratings, pros and cons, and even tailored film recommendations. Okay, now if you’ll just look right here. A combination of solar flares and a slight shift in the Earth’s magnetic poles temporarily interrupted your internet connection and caused a playback issue for this video, so if you just scroll back to the beginning and hit play, you’ll be all set.