Happy 4th of July holiday! There are few things more patriotic than pairing grilled food and movie franchises, but given the nature of the holiday, we found it prudent to look strictly at the fourth installment of various franchises and rank them from worst to best. While age may be just a number, and plenty of franchises get tired by their fourth go-around (as evidenced by the list below), there are quite a few “fourth” movies that are pretty good, and a handful that are even terrific. Take a trip down memory lane with us as we celebrate Independence Day by counting down the worst and best “fourth” franchise films from a variety of film series, from “Mad Max” to “Toy Story” to “Jaws” to “Star Wars.”
34. “Jaws IV: The Revenge” (1987)
“I have never seen it (‘Jaws 4’) but by all accounts it is terrible,” star Michael Caine said about the movie. “However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
33. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
Thank the heavens that “Logan” and “Deadpool” happened.
32. “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” (1987)
Did you know the Razzies had a “Worst Original Song” category? The one from this film was Brian Wilson’s “Let’s Go to Heaven in My Car.“
31. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master” (1988)
This sequel is easily confused with the third, far superior film, “Dream Warriors.”
30. “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace” (1987)
“Uh, No pain, no gain?” is our kryptonite.
29. “Batman & Robin” (1997)
Not to sound cold, but between bat nipples, that whole Poison Ivy-Bane thing, and Mr. Freeze’s puns, they should’ve put this movie… on ice.
28. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008)
This is the movie that got “Jump the Shark” replaced with “Nuke the Fridge.”
27. “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” (1984)
“The Final Chapter.” That’s hilarious.
26. “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988)
Skip this and watch the excellent 2018 sequel instead.
25. “Sudden Impact” (1983)
This movie is, uh, not great. No, not even “Go ahead, make my day.”
24. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (2014)
This is the “Transformers” movie with dinosaurs/dinofours.
23. “Alien Resurrection” (1997)
It’s probably aged better than a lot of the other fourth films, but “Resurrection” suffers from a thin plot and an obvious attempt to keep a franchise alive.
22. “Terminator Salvation” (2009)
The only good thing that came out of “Salvation” was Christian Bale’s freakout.
21. “Vegas Vacation” (1997)
Why would we watch “Vegas Vacation” when “Christmas” and the original exist?
20. “Shrek Forever After” (2010)
It’s “Shrek FORever After.” Like “FOURever.” Get it? GET IT?
19. “Saw IV” (2007)
Might as well have been “Saw IV: The Final Chapter.”
18. “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007)
A PG-13 John McClane film with boring, blood-free action was bad, but the real cardinal sin was censoring the f-word out of McClane’s iconic catch phrase. That really happened! Yippie-ki-boooo.
17. “The Bourne Legacy” (2012)
Remember when Jeremy Renner starred in a Bourne film? No? Then I guess you can’t tell us where they keep the chems.
16. “Lethal Weapon IV” (1998)
Fun yes, and Jet Li is awesome. But, by this point, the franchise was getting too old for this sh–.
5. “Bride of Chucky” (1998)
One of Jennifer Tilly’s best roles, without a doubt.
14. Men in Black International (2019)
The soft-reboot starring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth basically James-Bonds the franchise. The film is actually delightful, if also kinda forgettable. (No, that’s not a neuralizer joke.)
13. “Thunderball” (1965)
But what if James Bond went underwater?
12. “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Yes, it’s officially “Episode 1,” but it’s also the fourth theatrically released (in the US) “Star Wars” movie, so it makes the cut. More interesting than it is good, this film’s weird mix of parliamentary minutia and convoluted worldbuilding, in service to a story setting in motion the end of a democracy, has aged surprisingly well. Except, of course, for the numerous arguably racist alien accents and “Now that’s podracing!”
11. “Scream 4” (2011)
It’s easily a cash grab, but it’s one of the most fun horror movies to come out in recent years and is way better than it has any right to be.
10. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011)
We thought we’d get bored of watching Tom Cruise jump out of things. We were wrong.
9. “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972)
The chilling, highly topical final speech by Roddy McDowell’s Caesar alone qualifies this underrated gem for cinematic immortality. Especially the unrated version.
8. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)
The third and last films in the franchise are probably the best in terms of quality and how successfully it adapted the source material… but “Goblet of Fire” killed off Robert Pattinson and broke our hearts.
7. “Rocky IV” (1985)
Say what you will, but more than 30 years later, Rocky vs. the Russians might be the most quintessentially ’80s concept ever put to film, and it hasn’t been topped since.
6. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986)
They made us really care about those whales in this fish out of water sci-fi.
5. “Fast & Furious” (2009)
You have this film to thank for turning a disjointed (but still awesome) series of car-based action films into what is arguably a superhero franchise. NOT a complaint. (Also, as always, R.I.P. Paul Walker.)
4. “Toy Story 4” (2019)
We’ll let TheWrap’s review speak for itself:
“There’s adventure and growth and the subtlest brands of messaging and metaphors that current family films can offer… ‘Toy Story 4’ is, in its way, as much of a game-changer as ‘Avengers: Endgame.’”
3. “The First Purge” (2008)
The prequel showing how America turned into the “murder is legal once a year” authoritarian dystopia has only become more relevant and timely in the years since it came out. Especially after 2020.
Come for the extremely unambiguous politics, stay for the franchise’s hands-down best action scenes.
A nation reborn!
2. “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977)
Technically, this is the first “Star Wars” movie made, and you might have noticed there’s another “Star Wars” entry on this list. But because George Lucas gave us a sequential order that we have to stick by, it makes the list. And of all the “4th” movies in the franchise, it’s definitely the best one.
1. “Mad Max Fury Road” (2015)
George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” managed to reboot a dead franchise, making it explosively modern and fresh, and it stands as one of the best action movies of the 21st Century. It lives. It dies. It lives again. Shiny and chrome.