In 2014, Director Chad Stahelski introduced us to the world of John Wick, a former assassin who comes out of retirement for some revenge against Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) over murdering his innocent dog. While the premise of a former killer/assassin/spy is nothing new, what made John Wick such a welcome surprise is the tremendous action that would become a game-changer for many actions films to come.
Instead of relying on the tired action tricks of having too many cuts during a fight scene, Chad Stahelski, who’s been a professional stunt coordinator for nearly a decade, scrapped that Hollywood tradition in favor of actually showcasing the beautiful choreography and over-the-top fights that have become the bread and butter for the franchise. Of course, it helps that Stahelski has a solid script and a top-notch cast on board. Thankfully, Wick’s reported $20 – $30 million production budget made $86 million worldwide, which prompted the executives to bless audiences with two more films. This franchise also revived the career of Keanu Reeves, who was on a slump as recent films 47 Ronin, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Street Kings were both critical and commercial flops.
Now, let’s be clear, there isn’t a bad John Wick film. Hell, there isn’t a mediocre John Wick film. That can change with John Wick: Chapter 4, but for now, three movies range from good to excellent. So, which films are the best in order? Let’s get started with the list to find out.
John Wick: Chapter 2
John just can’t stay retired. After successfully getting his revenge on the bastard that killed his dog in the first movie, the former assassin has gone back to a life of relaxation. However, that changes when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio makes a home visit with a gold marker, forcing John to trade in his slippers for guns and repaying past favors by traveling to Rome to take out D’Antoni’s sister who’s apart of the top Italian Camorra crime syndicate. The sequels expand the world of John Wick and it’s all the better for it. Of course, the highlight is the amazing fight scenes. Whether it’s the gun battle in the museum or concert to the combat at the subway, John Wick: Chapter 2 does an excellent job of differentiating each and every fight. A special nod to that pencil kill scene, which was both sick and cool at the same time. The gorgeous cinematography and environment help boost the visuals as well. John Wick’s story is fairly simple, but so was Die Hard, The Raid, and The Terminator, and those films are considered all-time classics.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
The world of John Wick continued to expand in Part 3. This time, Wick was seeing the aftermath of breaking the rules by killing one of the High Table in cold blood. Now, John is on the run as a $14 million bounty is on his head, with every assassin looking to take out the legendary hitman once and for all. Of course, the amazing fight choreography is the star here, with the motorcycle fight the highlight of a grand film. The introduction of Halle Berry‘s character Sofia was well done and the Academy Award winner carried herself well, especially during the action scenes. Just like Chapter 2 and the first film, the cinematography is stunning and the deeper exploration of the world is great. It’s smart of the writers to trust their audience by avoiding too much exposition, which often feels forced and slows down a film’s momentum. Unfortunately, the only part that drags the film down a bit is the character of Mark Dacascos’ Zero, whose comedic admiration of Wick often feels forced and out of place. Despite the beautiful landscape, their final battle leaves a lot of be desired, though no fault of either Reeves or Dacascos.
The film that started it all. as previously stated, the premise of a retired assassin being forced back into work is nothing new; however, John Wick has so much style and jaw-dropping fights that the movie still feels fresh and exciting. The villains of the film don’t have many layers to them, though that doesn’t matter much as the purpose is to see John Wick kick ass and save the day. The introduction into this world is intriguing and the characters are fun. Part of the excitement of being in the world of John Wick is the air of mystery inside of it. Granted, there’s nothing so different and new that you haven’t seen before; however, Chad Stahelski does an excellent job of presenting The Continental without giving too much away. Not surprising, Keanu Reeves is perfect as the title character and despite being in his 50’s, the action star doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. The small scope and generic story are what keeps the first film at the bottom of the list, but this is still a damn good movie regardless.