With Transformer: The Last Knight hitting screens, many people find themselves marveling that Hollywood was able to wring a five-film franchise from a toy company. However, those folks might be surprised to find out that Hasbro has a long history with Hollywood, going back to the mid-’80s, and actually have more than a dozen theatrical films based on their toys and games, with even more in the pipeline, including plans for a shared universe. That’s right, ROM: Space Knight may soon see the big screen after all.
Don’t believe us? We watched all 17 theatrically released Hasbro films prior to The Last Knight and ranked them. So scroll down to see which ones held up, which films you’d forgotten, and which should never have happened to begin with. Fair warning: we’re about to get real serious about little ponies and robots that turn into cars.
17. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
After almost two decades away from the big screen, Hasbro hit it big with Michael Bay’s massive hit Transformers in 2007. They attempted to follow up that smash success with Revenge of the Fallen two years later, but while the film made money, the quality dipped substantially.
The film is filled with missteps, from a uninteresting plot to borderline racist caricatures and the repeated, out-of-place uses of Green Day’s worst hit, “21 Guns.” The film focuses far too much on Sam Witwicky’s journey to college, and his gratingly goofy parents interfering in his life, and wastes the audiences time with the lamest of “jokes” when all we really want is to see robots fighting each other. Worst of all, Revenge of the Fallen is perhaps the only Michael Bay film where even the action is unimaginative and boring. Dated and dull, Revenge of the Fallen falls flat on its face.
16. POUND PUPPIES: THE LEGEND OF BIG PAW
Sorry, did you think Transformers: The Last Knight was the first Hasbro franchise to inject itself into Arthurian legend? Then clearly you never saw Pound Puppies: The Legend of Big Paw. To be fair, almost no one did, leading to abysmal box office receipts, and it’s not very hard to see why. From the cheap animation to a story that throws all the show’s established continuity out the window in favor of a bizarre half-reboot and a contemporary framing device, LoBP seems to go out of its way to alienate the viewer.
We’re told that “puppy power” — the means by which dogs can talk to humans — came about when a young King Arthur’s dog uncovered the “Bone of Scone” while his master discovered Excalibur. Flash-forward to the swingin’ ’50s, and it’s up to Cooler and the gang of jive-talkin’ pups to protect the magic bone. Between the sub-par plot and the lawsuit-baiting musical numbers, it’s no wonder this film was written off before it was even released.
15. G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
Say what you will about Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra — and we will — the film had a very distinct aesthetic and take on the franchise. Its sequel/low-key reboot deliberately throws all of that out the window, abandoning the entire initial Joe crew except Ray Park’s Snake Eyes and Channing Tatum’s Duke, and throwing in Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jay and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock.
The film lets us know where it stands right off the bat by exhibiting a drastically more jokey script and killing Duke within the first half hour, letting Johnson (who is ostensibly just playing the stock “Rock” character on display in low-effort flicks like Baywatch) take the lead, making the film a generic Dwayne Johnson action endeavor. It’s a lazily assembled bore that barely resembles the source material and doesn’t even seem interested in trying. Not even cameos from Bruce Willis and RZA can save this DOA do-over.
When Hasbro decided to tackle horror with Ouija, they sought out a partnership with studios who understood the genre. On the one hand, they reached out to Blumhouse Productions, the company behind hits like Insidious, Split and Get Out. On the other hand, they also teamed up with Platinum Dunes, the folks responsible for the glut of bland horror reboots from the early 2000s. Judging by the finished product, it seems the latter studio might have had more say.
Ouija, despite its Rotten Tomatoes score of 7%, isn’t some horrendous abomination that rivals The Room. On the other hand, there’s virtually nothing to recommend about it. The film makes no effort to invest the viewer in any of its characters, nor elicit any real sense of suspense or fear. Like that one girl who’s stuck playing ouija board at the slumber party even though she doesn’t believe in it, Ouija the film just goes through the motions.
13. MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS
The iconic ‘80s ponies were rebooted in the late 2000s and quickly acquired a rabid fanbase of young, empowered girls and the kind of grown men you just smile and nod at when they try to start a conversation at Comic Con. Of course, smelling money in the air and wanting to get more use out of their doll body molds, Hasbro decided to branch out into the bipedal realm, adding to the plastic pony line with “Equestria Girls”, translating all of the popular ponies into human female equivalents.
But why are the ponies suddenly people, children and seriously way too invested adult men wondered? Well, this barely feature length theatrical release sought to tell the story, leaving the audience with the new question: “But seriously, why?” The film’s flimsy storyline reeks of a desperation to sell more merchandise, and its three sequels and massive toy line prove at least there it succeeded.
12. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Look, none of the Bay Transformers films earn their immense, near-three hour run times, but Dark of the Moon particularly drags, as it seems to think the audience is less interested in the Autobots v. the Decepticons than we are in Sam Witwicky’s desperate search for a steady job while vying with Patrick Dempsey for the affection of a bland British stand-in for Megan Fox.
While it suffers from the same grating supporting characters and poor narrative priorities as its previous entry, Dark of the Moon does benefit from a powerhouse cast, including Francis McDormand, John Malkovich, and Leonard Nemoy in a truly inspired and menacing performance as Sentinel Prime. Hell, even Buzz Aldrin makes a cameo. All that, plus a well directed third act action extravaganza, make Dark of the Moon at least tolerable viewing for the dedicated fan.
11. G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA
Under different circumstances, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra could have been this generation’s Dick Tracy; a big-budget blend of nostalgia and watching big names play around as the characters they adored. Indeed, the film does have glimpses of that, particularly Dennis Quaid chewing scenery as General Hawk and a far too short appearance from Brendan Fraser as Sgt. Stone. Alas, the rest of the film falters, consistently feeling much more dated than it actually is.
From its storytelling to the visual effects and editing, the film feels more in line with late ‘90s action clunkers like Spy Kids than a post-Dark Knight cinematic landscape. Sure, maybe the plot of a businessman looking to take over the White House, collude with foreign nationals and sabotage NATO is a bit more stirring now than in 2009, but it hardly makes up for the dreadful “twist” about Cobra Commander. The film wanted to be Hasbro’s Avengers, but felt and flopped just like 1998’s The Avengers.
10. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Sure, we hear you: Age of Extinction is stupid. We know. The key difference between it and its previous installments is it knows it’s stupid. It embraces that dumb fun, goes in weird, unnecessary directions on impulse rather than some fruitless attempt to make meaningful character moments. If the other films tried and failed to be as deep as, say, Call of the Wild, AoE is content to be Clifford the Big Red Dog: Big, dumb, running all over and knocking things down with a smile.
It barely bothers to introduce you to its humans, not even trying to make it terribly clear early on whether the woman in Wahlberg’s life is his lover or daughter, until a gloriously absurd scene between him and her boyfriend about age of consent laws crops up. Yet the movie knows we don’t care. We wanna see robots punching robots, preferably whilst riding robot dinosaurs. And on that count, and only that count, the film succeeds.
9. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
Maligned upon its release, pulled from theaters prematurely, and sharing the distinction of opening on one of the worst box office weekends in history, the circumstances around the film are more memorable than the content itself. And while it is true that this 2015 release is a terrible Jem and the Holograms film, its not a bad film in general.
Jem and the Holograms the film swaps the original premise of a crime-fighting rock star superhero for a cookie cutter story about a band’s rise to fame (see: The Fabulous Stains, Josie and the Pussycats), yet inexplicably decides to toss in a robot sidekick meant to stand-in for the supercomputer Synergy from the original series. Fans of the show won’t be satisfied until the post-credits scene, featuring Ke$ha as the leader of The Misfits, but as a standard music film the movie works, and arguably has more memorable songs than that year’s slew of Oscar nominees.
8. GO-BOTS: BATTLE OF THE ROCK LORDS
Battle of the Rock Lords was Hasbro’s first animated theatrical film, yet it was based around an IP they didn’t particularly care for. Originally produced by Tonka, the Go-Bots toys were to Transformers what Captain Marvel was to Superman, though in this case Go-Bots hit US shores a year before Transformers. However, just like Captain Marvel with DC Comics, Hasbro soon acquired Tonka, and with it their robot rivals, and set about trying to both capitalize on their popularity while burying them in favor of their preferred property.
Establishing in the Go-Bots cartoon series that those characters were, in fact, alternate dimension versions of Transformers, the characters proved popular enough to merit this by-the-numbers excuse to introduce a new line of toys, and attracted a surprisingly noteworthy cast, including Roddy McDowall and Telly Savalas. While Go-Bots have faded from the cultural consciousness, there’s enough in Battle of the Rock Lords to justify a potential reboot.
7. EQUESTRIA GIRLS: RAINBOW ROCKS
Credit has to be given to the team behind Equestria Girls. Unlike their big-budget robot movie-making Hasbro counterparts, this satisfactory sequel shows the team heard the critical drubbing they took for their previous installment and clearly took it to heart. From the same writer and director, Rainbow Rocks improves on all the failings of its predecessor in terms of story, characters and an overall sense of purpose.
The film introduces a trio of banished evildoers determined to rule over the populace of the world they’re stranded in (think the plot of Superman II but with human/pony hybrids). Only the Equestria Girls, with the help of reformed baddie Sunset Shimmer, can stop the hypnotic trio through the power of music. We’re not gonna claim it has any level of depth that might effect a viewer past the age of 12, but as parents can tell you, any kids film franchise that moves from cringe-inducingly bad to a neutral hour of entertainment is a special kind of magic.
6. MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE
Seems like for all the success of the reboot, when it comes to theatrical movies, you can’t beat the OG ponies. Co-produced in part by Toei Animation (later known for Sailor Moon) and Marvel Productions (yes, that Marvel), My Little Pony: The Movie assembled a surprisingly noteworthy cast including Tony Randall, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn and Danny DeVito.
Sure, the story is straightforward kids flick fodder, throwing in some evil witches (Leachman, Kahn and Rhea Perlman), a menacing ooze and a moral about friendship and sticking together, and none of its musical numbers are particularly memorable, but for its target audience My Little Pony: The Movie is a compelling enough adventure. Older viewers will enjoy the voice performances, particularly the late Madeline Kahn, who really gives it her all as a bumbling witch sister. The film’s success would spawn a subsequent TV series and eventually the smash-success reboot, so we technically have this to blame for the whole “brony” thing.
Yes, you’re reading that right, Battleship is #5.Despite what you heard at the time, we’re gonna come out and say Battleship isn’t honestly that bad. While most of the truly brutal reviews focused more on the “absurd” idea of a board game based movie, they missed a pretty engaging B-action movie that’s better directed than any of the Bay Transformers films. Peter Berg, helmer of riveting character dramas like Lone Survivor and Friday Night Lights, attempts to bring that same gravitas to the classic board game, and while the script doesn’t offer him material nearly as rich, he still rings out some quality work at times.
Sure, the film suffers from too much Rihanna and far too little Liam Neeson. And yes, occasionally it feels like a less self-aware Starship Troopers, particularly when it employs “Fortunate Son” like a patriotic anthem. But its clever incorporation of the game’s elements sure beats mentions of “kung fu grip” in G.I. Joe.
4. OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL
Mike Flanagan, one of the best up-and-comers in the horror game thanks to notable entries like Oculus and Hush, got handed the reins to a mostly unwarranted sequel to a terrible film, and ended up crafting one of the best horror movies of 2016. Taking more than a little inspiration from character study cum horror series The Conjuring, Ouija: Origin of Evil takes us back to the ‘60s to provide backstory for the evil spirit haunting the cast of the original Ouija.
Flanagan solves every problem the first film has, deeply investing us in the characters, creating a sense of stakes, and throwing in a clever and compelling twist. The film falls apart a bit in the third act, and its post-credits scene is a bizarre choice considering the unmemorable first film it links to, but is Origin of Evil worth watching? The planchette firmly points to yes.
The series has gotten a bad wrap ever since director Michael Bay stuck with it too long and allowed it to indulge his worst impulses, so its hard to remember the original film for the truly engrossing spectacle that it is. Yes, its humor is hokey, its characters flat, its dialogue jingoistic and every moment seems to defiantly shout “Murica!”, but in this case, all of it works.
It gives just the right balance between human drama and robot antics, invests the viewer in its conflict, makes us care for the Autobots it introduces, and showcases some of the best Bay action this side of Bad Boys 2. For its day, its visual effects were stunning, and the film was robbed of an Oscar for it (The Golden Compass, really?). Today the film is a reminder of how much potential the franchise had.
It’s hard to believe this fun, farcical fan favorite wasn’t a hit upon its initial release, particularly with the incredible cast, including Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd and Better Call Saul’s Michael McKean. Notable for its rapid fire jokes as well as its multiple endings, Clue became a cult classic after its video release and still draws a crowd to this day (including several sold out showings in 2017 at the Alamo Drafthouse).
Several party attendees, acting under aliases, try to figure out who killed the host of their party, Mr. Boddy, with the help of his faithful butler Wadsworth. Of course, with three different endings attached to the film depending on where you saw it (the home video release and subsequent screenings include all three), this whodunnit never really tells you who it was, but who cares? It’s ultimately not about the ending, but the endlessly quotable journey.
1. THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE
Your memory might tell you this belongs lower on the list, that it’s hokey, or dated, or bland. Watch it again. Yes, it’s hokey, yes its dated, yes the soundtrack choices are absurd, but all of it works, and amazingly, the film is packed with the kind of emotional gut-punches the modern films, and and any modern franchise film to date, is lacking. Knowing what’s coming, Optimus Prime’s charge into battle against Megatron, set to the iconic power ballad “The Touch,” is heart-wrenching.
More remarkably, Optimus dies and… stays dead. It’s tragic, it’s final, it’s absolute. There are stakes here that no modern film has the courage to do. We all know that if it looks like Iron Man’s dead, he’ll be fine because they need to make 20 more. Instead, Prime’s death spurs on the rest of the team into a Homeric journey that manages to be more sprawling and varied than any Bay film, and at half the run time.
Which was your favorite Hasbro movie? Let us know in the comments!
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