Keanu Reeves made a triumphant return to action films as the titular character in 2014's John Wick. The first film was a surprise hit that launched the franchise thanks to its stunning action set pieces that also helped revive Reeves' status as an action superstar. As the films progressed, their lore grew and expanded to include aesthetically engaging sets and interesting characters. It's one of the few ongoing action franchises not based on preexisting material, like comic books.
The fourth installment of the franchise -- John Wick: Chapter 4 -- was originally supposed to be released in 2022 but has been delayed until 2023. So while fans await this new film, let's take a look back at the previous three films and rank them from lowest to highest. Scores are based on a combined rating from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
John Wick - 77
The first installment of the franchise, John Wick, has the lowest score of the three films thus far, but it is far from poorly rated. With a Metacritic score of 68 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86 percent for an average score of 77, it is a strong film to launch a series. Featuring rich cinematography and a very reassured directorial debut from Chad Stahelski -- Reeves' stunt double on The Matrix -- the film has a satisfying story with a rich lore.
After his wife's death, John Wick crosses paths with the son of a Russian crime lord who murders his dog -- the last gift from his deceased wife. Wick vows revenge and leaves a bloody trail of bodies as he returns to the criminal underworld from which he previously retired in favor of a quieter life. His return to the action is reluctant but precise, proving he's truly the man the legends have made him out to be.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - 81
The most recent installment of the franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, comes next on the list with a combined critic score of 81. Elevating the action to its greatest height thus far with unique stunts and shocking twists and turns, the fight sequences are creative and fresh, bringing something new to the franchise with each fight. The film brought back familiar characters, including Laurence Fishburne's Bowery King, and introduced Halle Berry's Sofia Al-Azwar. Metacritic awarded the film a 73 and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 89 percent. While some critics commented that the film seemed to have pushed the story beyond its premise and therefore convoluted what was once a simple setup, most of the reviews rave about the action spectacle.
The most recent film features John Wick facing the consequences of his actions at the end of John Wick: Chapter 2. After breaking the rules of the Continental, John is on the run from a legion of highly trained and deadly assassins. The third installment pushes the action fight sequences to the next level as Wick battles for his life through the streets of New York and around the world, calling in favors from his old contacts. The film's shocking ending sets up the upcoming sequel as fans eagerly wait to see what comes next for the legendary assassin.
John Wick: Chapter 2 - 82
So far, the highest-ranked installment of the John Wick franchise is John Wick: Chapter 2. The film pushes the premise to the next level with a bigger budget and a more global scale. Reeves is joined by Fishburne, Common and Ruby Rose, as Wick is pulled back into the world of assassins. He is called upon to pay an old debt now that he's returned to the assassin world after the events of the first film. The audience is introduced to the larger world of John Wick's assassin past as the film opens up the mythos across the globe and showcases Wick's skills that prove he's better than all the rest.
With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 89 percent and a Metacritic score of 75 for a combined critic score of 82, it is currently the highest-rated of all the John Wick films. In her review of the film, Angelica Jade Bastien calls it "the platonic ideal of an action film" and comments on the awe-inspiring nature of the action set pieces. In general, the critics complimented the comedic timing, stunning action and expansion of the John Wick mythos and world-building.
KEEP READING: John Wick vs. James Bond: Who Would Win?