Ranked: All Four ‘Expendables’ Films from Worst to Best

Ranked: All Four ‘Expendables’ Films from Worst to Best

by Daniel Rester

The Expendables franchise began in 2010 and promised to bring together A-level and B-level action stars for big and simple ensemble entertainment. Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham have led the way since the beginning, with other faces like Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Terry Crews popping into the series too. There are now four films in the franchise. Let’s take a look at how they stack against each other. 

4. Expend4bles  (2023)

After a nine-year break, the series returned with Expend4bles. Unfortunately the wait wasn’t worth it and the fourth chapter, directed by Scott Waugh, is easily the worst of the series. Stallone is barely in the film and the team is instead led by Megan Fox, who is completely miscast as Gina. The CGI and editing are very poor and the film wastes the talents of Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais. Only Statham gets to shine as Lee Christmas, with his star power breathing a little bit of life into the film. Grade: C- (4.7/10)   

3. The Expendables 2  (2012)

The second chapter, helmed by Simon West, is better than the first in a few ways. It brings the team together more, gives Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis slightly bigger roles, and has cleaner cinematography and editing. It also has Van Damme kicking ass as the villain. However, The Expendables 2 is also much dumber than the first film and has cringeworthy moments of nostalgic references (Arnold basically just says his lines from other films) as it sets a goofy tone. The plane crash scene is completely idiotic as well, as is the flat cameo scene by Chuck Norris. Grade: B- (6.7/10) 

2. The Expendables 3  (2014)

The Expendables 3 is twenty minutes longer than the other films and has too many characters, including a batch of younger stars the film tries hard to make us care about. Mel Gibson is electrifying as Conrad Stonebanks, a villain who has a connection to Barney Ross (Stallone); Stonebanks is easily the most interesting villain of the series. Wesley Snipes is also welcome as a new character named Doc. Antonio Banderas, however, overdoes it as a chatterbox named Galgo. The film dropped the carnage of the first two films in favor of a tamer PG-13 rating. Even so, director Patrick Hughes makes plenty of the action exciting, including a gigantic climactic showdown involving a crumbling building, tanks, and helicopters. Grade: B (7/10) 

1. The Expendables  (2010) 

Though it’s less polished in some ways compared to its first two sequels, The Expendables also feels more focused in other ways. Stallone directed this one, and he and Statham get a lot of character bonding time while the two share great chemistry. The film also has a bit of soul to it, mostly in the form of a surprisingly terrific monologue delivered by Mickey Rourke. The action is messy, but it can be gritty and exciting. The classic rock soundtrack is fitting too. Eric Roberts unfortunately gets stuck playing a generic villain (a corrupt ex-CIA agent using an island for growing drugs) and a subplot involving Lee Christmas’ love life is unnecessary. Otherwise this is an enjoyable B-movie actioner that kicked off the series well enough. Grade: B (7/10)       

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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