With the new John Wick movie hitting screens this week, we’ve updated our ranking of the franchise to include all four chapters. So read on to find out which installment reigns supreme.
The John Wick series kicked off with men killing John Wick’s dog, and John Wick killing those men. With that a new action franchise was born; one that has grown in size, scope, and success over the last nine years.
Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a former assassin drawn back into his former life thanks to a tangle of rules and regulations.
Chapter 4 hits screens tomorrow (March 24). In advance of that release, we’re ranking all the John Wick movies.
How many John Wick movies are there?
There are now four movies in the franchise: John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, and John Wick: Chapter 4.
The first movie was a surprise hit in 2014, earning $86 million from a $25 million budget, and scoring 86% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Chapter 2 dropped in 2017, and with a bigger budget ($40 million) it made much more than its predecessor at the box office ($170 million). The sequel also scored even better on RT, achieving a massive 89%.
Chapter 3 – subtitled Parabellum – reached screens in 2019. The budget yet again swelled, to $75 million. While those box office returns also grew, to a huge $327 million. As for the critics, they were once more enamored, with 3 matching 2’s whopping 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
And even though Chapter 4 hasn’t yet hit screens, we’ve already reviewed it, while the early RT score is 95%, which suggests it’s the best of the movies thus far. But do we agree with the critical consensus? Read on to find out…
The John Wick movies, ranked from worst to best
Now you know the numbers, these are the John Wick movies, ranked from worst to best…
4. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Official Synopsis: In this third installment of the adrenaline-fueled action franchise, super-assassin John Wick returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. After killing a member of the shadowy international assassin’s guild, the High Table, John Wick is excommunicado, but the world’s most ruthless hit men and women await his every turn.
The genius of the first John Wick is in the simplicity of the premise, with the greatest assassin in the world killing everyone connected to the death of his beloved dog making for genuinely compelling drama.
In Chapter 3, his story is just too convoluted. The rules of The Continental become ever-more complicated – and at times seem more stupid. The Director, Adjudicator, and Elder all come into play, though none of them make much of an impression. While the climax finds John killing a bunch of students, which is less satisfying than seeing him murder a canine killer.
Halle Berry makes a good foil for John, and Mark Dacascos a fine foe. But while the action is terrific, Chapter 3 never quite connects dramatically or emotionally, making it the worst of the bunch. If still a bloody great time.
3. John Wick: Chapter 4
Official Synopsis: A new day is dawning in Wick’s world: new rules, new ideas, and new management, as personified by The High Table’s sadistic frontman, Marquis. But now, win or lose, Wick has a way out: challenge the Marquis to single combat. If Wick prevails, the Table will honor its word and Wick will no longer have a target on his back. Whatever the fateful outcome, John Wick knows that he left a good life behind a long time ago.
There are times when John Wick: Chapter 4 gets back to basics via the tale of one man (Donnie Yen’s Caine) hunting down another man (John Wick) at the behest of a third man (Bill Skarsgård’s Marquis).
But then, like Chapter 3, the film becomes bogged down in side-characters and side-quests, all of which contribute to the film’s ridiculous near-three-hour run-time.
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As we wrote in the Dexerto review: “The makers of these movies are just too concerned with the larger John Wick world. So we’re suddenly at a card table with Scott Adkins in a plus-sized bodysuit, watching him laugh for what feels like an eternity. It’s superfluous story for superfluous characters that sometimes prevents man and movie from being as mean and lean as they should be.”
In spite of those issues, the action is still immense however, most notably during an extended climax that features two explosive action sequences followed by a tense finale. All of which make up for those earlier misfires.
2. John Wick: Chapter 2
Official Synopsis: In this next chapter following the 2014 hit, legendary hitman John Wick is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
While Part 3 is the weakest of the films, it’s much more difficult to chose between Chapters 1 and 2. The sequel was rushed into production following the success of the first film, but nevertheless added engaging new characters to the blend, while at the same time masterfully expanding the world.
The story finds John at loggerheads with an Italian crime boss whom he owes due to a “marker,” or blood oath. John refuses – breaking a hallowed Continental rule – and all hell duly breaks loose as scores of assassins endeavor to take Wick down.
Which results in one of the best action movies of all time, with the film’s fabled stunt team doing incredible work, and Keanu Reeves pushing his body to the limit for two hours of bone-crunching celluloid magic. All that, and we even finally see our hero kill a man with a pencil.
1. John Wick
Official Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, John Wick is a fresh and stylized take on the assassin genre.
It all began with a longtime friendship and working relationship. Stuntman Chad Stahelski doubled for Keanu Reeves on the Matrix movies, before becoming a stunt co-ordinator and second unit director. The pair were looking for a project for Stahelski’s directorial debut, read Derek Kolstad’s script, and John Wick was born.
The resulting film is a tight 100-minutes where not a single moment is wasted. John is introduced, tragedy strikes, hope springs, that hope is snuffed out, and by the end of Act 1 he’s embarking on the ultimate revenge mission.
The concept of The Continental is inspired, suggesting a criminal underworld all around us, hiding in plain site. While the cast is filled with superb character actors clearly having a blast, from Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, to Willem Defoe and MVP Michael Nyqvist.
The role of John Wick is perfectly suited to Keanu, who can say and do so much with so little. While Stahelski and longtime collaborator David Leitch know exactly what Reeves is capable of, and how best to use his talents. Resulting in some of the best fight scenes ever committed to film.
But the first chapter in this franchise is about more than just cracking action. It’s about a man who loses everything. Twice. Kills everyone and everything responsible, in hugely satisfying fashion. Then regains some semblance of humanity come the film’s end. That emotional journey is what elevates John Wick, and makes it the finest film in this fantastic franchise.
For more John Wick: Chapter 4 coverage, check out the below articles…
Review | Is John Wick true? | Killa explained | Ranking the movies | Is there a post-credits scene? | Marquis explained | Ballerina cameo | How long is Chapter 4? | Caine explained | Potential Chapter 5 | What happens to Charon? | 13 Best John Wick kills | Post-credit scene explained | Does the dog die? | Keanu Reeves on emotional ending | Is Chapter 5 streaming? | Movies to watch if you like JW | Will there be a Chapter 5?