Welp, the fourth Expendables movie hit the box office with all the might of a can of tuna, debuting at No. 2 with a paltry $8.2 million opening weekend haul. Not good, especially considering the sequel cost a cool $100M to produce, and it likely means the end of the franchise unless it performs significantly better overseas.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s actually pretty good. I mean, on par with recent action offerings like The Gray Man and Heart of Stone. It gets the job done but doesn’t exactly set the world of cinema on fire, you know? Of course, if you’ve followed the franchise since its introduction way back in 2010, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect on this fourth outing.
So where does the new film rank in Sly Stallone’s tetralogy? Read on to see where we would place it in our list of The Expendables movies ranked from worst to best.
4) The Expendables (2010)
The Expendables franchise was never as gargantuan as it should have been considering the talent involved. Much of the blame falls on the original 2010 feature, which wastes an all-star cast on a weak story, chaotic action scenes, and a script probably written by a very early AI system.
The appeal is watching Stallone blast the bejesus out of faceless baddies alongside Jet Li and his Rocky co-star Dolph Lundgren. While the banter isn’t nearly as clever as the cast thinks, everyone involved looks like they’re having a good time, even if many actors (with a notable exception being Mickey Rourke) sleepwalk through the production. I’ll give the film credit for at least trying to take the material seriously, but most of the time, I wished everyone would lighten up a little, which is why it is at the bottom of our list of The Expendables movies ranked.
3) Expend4bles (2023)
Look, I said Expend4bles was pretty good, not good. Having blown all its casting magic in the first three films, the new pic tries to entice audiences back to cinemas with … Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Ike Uwais, 50 Cent, and Andy Garcia — all great performers and action stars, but without the necessary legacy required to make a venture like this work. The biggest issue is the over-reliance on digital effects, an uneven tone, and a lack of truly memorable action sequences on par with the hanger shootout in Part 2. Every action beat and quip feels played out and uninteresting, and the script is tired and predictable — try not to guess who the main villain is. I dare you.
Still, Sly and Stratham are having a good time hamming it up, and some of the action beats have an infectious charm that’s hard to ignore. I just wished somebody making the pic gave a damn about, well, anything … the plot, the script, the bad green screen … everything feels so half-hearted, rushed, and cheap — which is odd to say considering its production budget. Fox seems like she was inserted into several shots during reshoots; the first act is a complete mess — our heroes gather intel, have a bar fight, engage in a mission brief, and fly to Libya in what feels like five minutes — and the ending lacks the goofy thrills of previous installments, though plenty of things still go boom. Expend4ables is worth a look, if only on home video, where it probably should’ve made its debut.
2) The Expendables 3 (2014)
Where the first two movies leaned on the old timers, Part 3 brings in the youngsters, namely Glen Powell, Ronda Rousey, and Victor Ortiz, in an attempt to bring in younger audiences. It kind of works, though the best bits involve Harrison Ford (in an extended cameo that was likely shot in an hour), Stallone, and Mel Gibson, all of whom have a ball kicking ass and taking names. Gibson, in particular, provides a much-needed spark and plays a formidable villain capable of believably going toe-to-toe with Sly.
Sure, the story is old hat — Gibson was an Expendables co-founder who turned to the dark side — and the big stars often take a backseat to the youngsters, but the formula still works and the entertainment value is high. The climactic smackdown between Sly and Gibson is a treat!
1) The Expendables 2 (2012)
Gimmicky to a fault but undeniably entertaining, The Expendables 2 delights thanks to solid direction from Simon West and a few game performances from its cast of 80s legends. Where the hell else are you going to see giants Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone blowing the holy hell out of Jean-Claude Van Damme? I mean, Scott Adkins fights Jason Statham, Sly takes on Van Damme, and even Chuck Norris shows up! What’s not to love?
Moreover, this chapter handles the action/comedy best, deftly combining silly humor with outrageous set pieces without ever skimping on the stakes. We care just enough to keep the action from blurring together.
Is this peak cinema? Absolutely not. In many respects, it’s merely a shadow of greater films starring the cast. Even so, Expendables 2 plays like a love letter to the action genre. It doesn’t set the cinema world ablaze, but it sure blows up a lot of s— real good! That’s why it earns the top spot in our list of The Expendables movies ranked