Sunday, July 21, 2013

Favorite Fourth Films

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of part fours. Haven’t we all? As a general rule, the fourth movie of a franchise is crap. But they can’t all be terrible, can they? With that question in mind, I decided I was going to make a list of my favorite fourth installments.

Just for the purpose of clarification, read that sentence again. It says fourth installments, meaning the fourth movie to be released. Therefore, even though comments and your ideas on the matter are always welcome, don’t get cute and tell me that the original Star Wars was a part four. I know this. However, it was not the fourth movie released. While filming “A New Hope”, George Lucas and company had no way of knowing that they would even be able to make a second Star Wars movie, let alone enough of them to make that Part IV he slapped on the movie’s opening scroll make sense all these years later.

And the answer to the question you’ll have once you’ve looked over this list is no. I have not seen the fourth Harry Potter movie, or for that matter, any of them at all. I keep telling myself I’m going to take a week or two and go through the whole franchise. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I probably haven’t seen that one, either.

So with a little bit of research to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything, I decided that these were my favorite fourth movies in the various franchises I’ve had the pleasure, or pain, of sitting through:

10. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
After the abysmal third entry, At World’s End, this follow-up pared down that flicks roughly a thousand story lines, to a much more manageable number. With a lot less traffic to maneuver, we got a return to the fun we had with the first two installments. Of course, this isn't as good as either, but it’s a good time nonetheless. (Click here for the full review)

9. Live Free or Die Hard
I can say with a straight face that this is my most reluctant choice for the entire list. For one thing, I've never considered it a true Die Hard. It looks like DH, has the same protagonist, and a similar plot, but it’s not quite DH. This is Barry Bonds from 2000 to 2003. For non-baseball fans, I’ll explain. Prior to 2000, Barry Bonds was already one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He would've been honored as such whenever he decided to retire. Then in 2000, he started to do things scarcely believable as humanly possible. Of course, this is precisely the period when many believe his use of anabolic steroids bore fruit. While it was happening many people, myself included, cast a skeptical eye on his most recent achievements. Still, there was no denying it was incredibly fun watching him hit ridiculously long home runs, and a ridiculous amount of them. That, my friends, is precisely how I feel about Live Free or Die Hard.

8. Saw IV
By the time most horror franchises get around to a fourth movie, the series barely resembles what started all the fuss in the first place. Our killer, who somehow manages to survive being killed at the end of every movie is usually transformed from a menacing figure giving life to our darkest fears to a stand-up comedian. The kill scenes seem to be Vaudeville inspired blood-baths. Good times are had by all and it’s on to the next sequel. Whatever you think of the Saw movies, the franchise avoided that particular fate. In fact, this installment succeeded in breathing new life into the saga without sacrificing the elements that drew people to it in the first place. If ranking all of the Saw flicks this one should come in nearer to the top than the bottom.

7. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
What? Don’t look at me that way. I told you the rules on this one right up front. True, I was disappointed with a movie I’d waited quite a few years to see. True, Jar Jar Binks tempted me to track down some pimply-faced theater manager and demand my money back. But, you know what? When it was all said and done I didn't find it to be nearly as terrible as everyone seems to. And I’ll admit that I just love the pod racing scene. If I were simply ranking the Star Wars movies, I’d rank it fifth. However, it’s an incredibly secure fifth because I think Attack of the Clones is one of the worst films ever made.

6. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
Hindsight being 20/20, and with the help of another eight movies or so, why any of us Jason fans ever thought this was really “The Final Chapter” is beyond me. Hey, I was a young teen who didn't know any better. When the big movie studios told me it was going to be the last one, I believed them. Then I saw it. And yeah, Jason’s death did seem to be rather definite, at the hands of a young Corey Feldman, no less. Of course, the only thing definite was that this wasn't the last one. Is it a masterpiece? No. It is one of the better movies in the canon, though. Not that that’s saying much. However, as a guy that grew up on Jason flicks, I even own every Friday the 13th movie ever made, I had to find a spot for this one. Either that, or never be allowed to go to Camp Crystal Lake ever again.

5. Rocky IV
AKA Rocky defeats Communism. While certainly nowhere near the best the franchise has to offer, it’s probably the most fun. What could possibly be more fun than Apollo Creed entering the ring while James Brown serenades us all with “Living in America?” Okay, maybe Mr. T pitying the fool who dares step in the ring with him as he predicts “Paaaiiiinnn.” But that’s part 3. In part 4 it’s Apollo, JB and Ivan Drago, who punches with 1850 pounds of pressure per square inch, or something outrageous like that. Unfortunately, it doesn't end so well for Apollo. For the rest of us, though, you’re damn right it does.

4. Rambo
Yes, two in a row for Sly. Truthfully, this probably isn't a “better” movie than some of the ones I've ranked behind it. However, it is unmatched in terms of an unbridled balls to the wall experience. The main character transformed from an actual man to a superhero two movies and twenty-some odd years prior, so we held no preconceived notions that this was going to be the continuation of a great character study. If ever there truly was a “turn your brain off” movie, this is it. It’s bloody, gory, non-stop action literally starting about two minutes in, and it gets out of our hair in not much over an hour.

3. Scream 4
Some of you will applaud this selection. Some of you will wonder what the hell is wrong with me. I think this is a severely underrated movie. While I wouldn't call it great, I found it to be a very good movie, self-aware of it’s own self-awareness, and the changing of tides in the horror genre. Then again, it’s probably sufficient for me to say I’m a sucker for all things Scream, so I’ll leave it at that. (Click here for the full review)

2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
After seeing M:I-GP, I informed my brother that I've finally seen a Mission: Impossible I liked. Being a fan of the series, he scoffed. I’ll explain. I thought the first movie was unnecessarily convoluted and complicated. I like to think I’m fairly intelligent, but that movie left me completely baffled without entertaining me one bit. Both the second and third movies were the exact opposite, just plain dumb. This movie had the perfect balance of intelligent spy stuff and silly action. For me, it’s clearly the best of the franchise. (Click here for the full review)

1. Lethal Weapon 4
Like M:I-GP, this is the rare fourth installment that it can be argued is the best of its franchise. Unlike Ghost Protocol, or anything else on this list, I'd actually listen to people proclaiming it a legitimately great movie. It maintains the humor and camaraderie from the prior three movies and gives us plenty of action. Much of the action is due to Jet Li, who makes his American debut in spectacular fashion. Here’s how good LW4 is: there are lots of people who are still clamoring for a Part 5.

A quick note on a trio of movies I’ve seen on a number of similar lists that I’ve not included. I know I thought I said everything on this subject in the opening, too. Anyhoo, I feel obligated to mention Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Sudden Impact, and Thunderball by name to clarify why they’re not here. I actually have seen all of them. Unfortunately, I’ve not done so in two decades for any of them. Simply put, I don’t really remember enough about them. Sorry, but such is life. Maybe I’ll get back around to those and re-do this list one day.

Other Part Fours reviewed on this site:


  1. Some great choices. Very hard to think of many good 4th films in a franchise. I might have even put Phantom Menace in it. I even looked to Bond because it's so long running but Thunderball's not really one I like that much. Actually, saying that, Mad Max Fury Road would have probably been number 1 for me.

    1. Might be time for an update. This was posted way before MM: Fury Road came out, lol.