A Bad Kitty

Puss in Boots is Zorro with way more cat jokes. After stealing the show several times, Antonio Banderas was finally promoted to lead character in his own spin-off. A Puss in Boots movie had been in development ever since his debut in Shrek 2. With the Shrek franchise coming to an end, this was the only way DreamWorks Animation could continue with the world. Turns out a more focused swashbuckling adventure was exactly what they needed to regain a Best Animated Feature nomination. Puss is every bit the troublemaking Latin lover he’s always been, but now crude pop culture jokes can’t distract from his potential.

Puss in Boots was once an orphan living in the fictional Spanish town San Ricardo. His mama Imelda loved him and an act of bravery earned him his signature pair of boots. Until a terrible betrayal made him a legendary feline outlaw. Puss in Boots pretty much uses any remaining fairy tales not used in the Shrek films. Puss tries to clear his name with magic beans that lead to the Beanstalk containing a goose that lays golden eggs. The beans are in the possession of a villainous married Jack & Jill voiced by Billy Bob Thornton & Amy Sedaris. They don’t have much character outside of Jack wanting a baby. Puss’ bean job is thwarted by his female boot wearing black cat counterpart Kitty Softpaws. A role that could only be filled by Salma Hayek. It’s a Desperado reunion afterall.

The final piece of the puzzle is Humpty Dumpty himself. A bad egg voiced by Zach Galifianakis who has a history with Puss. Humpty is an eggy Da Vinci who was also an orphan obsessed with finding magic beans. Kitty is working for Humpty and they make a deal to retrieve the golden eggs with Puss. Except Humpty is really in it for revenge. With the Giant pre-defeated, their only obstacle is the baby goose’s giant mother. An elderly Jack tells Puss the whole story. In the end, Puss saves the town, redeems Humpty, and romances Kitty. With the influence of Guillermo del Toro, Puss in Boots was way better than it needed to be. The computer animation is still heavily detailed like Shrek, but it makes the presentation that much better. Puss in Boots is a bad kitty in a good movie.

21. Puss in Boots

Puss duels

Spin-Off of: Shrek 2

It’s a Fairy Tale Life

Shrek Forever After is stronger than Shrek the Third, but not by much. There’s still no competition between Shrek and Shrek 2. Even with the intention of making it The Final Chapter. DreamWorks Animation had changed so much since 2001 that their style barely matched the original movie anymore. DreamWorks finally found their own voice separate from Disney & Pixar and were no longer making movies out of spite. So a fourth and final Shrek movie wasn’t exactly special in 2010. Unlike Toy Story 3 released the same year, Shrek Forever After almost completely lost its adult appeal. Gone was the innuendo and occasional profanity of their glory days. Shrek is a family ogre with his wife Fiona and babies Fergus, Fargel, and Felicia. His swamp is a tourist attraction, Donkey, Dragon, and Puss in Boots drop by for playdates, and no one fears Shrek like they used to.

Shrek Forever After was the last major film role for Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy was stuck making kids movies, and Cameron Diaz was nearing the end of her career. Antonio Banderas was frankly the only actor getting something out of the final installment. With all other villains used up, Rumpelstiltskin became the primary antagonist. Just not the ordinary looking one from Shrek the Third. This Rumpel is cartoony with an annoying voice, a giant goose, several mood wigs, and a penchant for making sleazy deals. When Shrek’s goofy life pushes him too far, he makes a deal with Rumpel to have a day as a real ogre. Things come full circle with an It’s a Wonderful Life twist. As Shrek unknowingly gave up the day of his birth, he finds himself with one day to set things right. Since King Harold and Queen Lillian once made a deal with Rumpel, he inherited their kingdom. In this alternate reality, witches run rampant, Donkey is a cart mule, Puss is a fat cat without boots, and Fiona rescued herself from the tower. Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf are also dealing with the dystopian fairy tale kingdom.

Shrek tries to convince Donkey they’re friends, but most importantly, he tries to make Fiona fall in love with him. Easier said than done, since Fiona is now a cynical ogre warrior leading a resistance of ogres. The only time we see ogres other than Shrek or Fiona. Most of them are voiced by a celebrity cast that has their moments, but don’t make much of an impact. Things take a turn when Rumpel hires the Pied Piper to capture the ogres. Fiona starts to come around, but she doesn’t love Shrek just yet. Not until he helps her fight Dragon and take down Rumpel. I was sad to see Shrek go, but of course they live happily ever after. Ending with a party in the swamp set to “I’m a Believer,” followed by a montage of past movies. I saw every Shrek movie in theaters from age 5 to age 14. The far advanced computer animation was the main reason for it seeming out of place. Aside from a Christmas & Halloween special, stage musical, and several minor appearances, Shrek Forever After was the last we’d seen of the lovable ogre. Shrek Forever After did its best to go out on a high note.

18. Shrek Forever After

Shrek makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin

Preceded by: Shrek the Third

Ogre Babies

Shrek the Third is the royally designated third installment in the ever growing Shrek franchise. I continued to enjoy all DreamWorks Animation movies regardless of quality, but even at 11 I couldn’t pretend to enjoy Shrek the Third. It wasn’t half the classic that Shrek or Shrek 2 were. Similar to the closely released Spider-Man trilogy, the first movie is great, the second movie is better, and the third movie is a complete disappointment. Shrek the Third has its moments, but their mistake was forgetting what made Shrek so good in the first place. There’s an overreliance on childish humor, pop culture references are more cringy, and the soundtrack isn’t that memorable. My brother and I were still on board and Shrek the Third was actually the last movie our dad took us to see as a chaperone. Even though we were starting to see movies by ourselves at that point, my dad still wanted to see what came next for Shrek. I’m not sure if it’s the director change, but Shrek the Third barely feels like the same franchise. Even with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas returning, none of them are as funny as usual.

Naturally the next choice of villain has to be Rupert Everett returning as Prince Charming. He’s on a quest for revenge against Shrek for killing his Fairy Godmother mother and taking his kingdom from him. So Charming devises a plan with other fairy tale villains at the Poison Apple to seize the throne. Villains include Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, enchanted trees, dwarfs (for some reason), and other ugly stepsister Mabel voiced by other talk show personality Regis Philbin. Another problem with Shrek the Third is their over reliance of celebrity voices outside of the main cast. Meanwhile in Far Far Away, Shrek is forced to do kingly responsibilities with his wife Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots’ help. Donkey’s dronkey babies are featured characters now too. Since Shrek is still just an ogre, he’d much prefer someone else be king. After Frog King Harold’s seriously drawn out death, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set out to find the remaining heir. King Arthur of course. Things just get complicated when Shrek and Fiona’s marriage makes the next obvious progression. As Shrek deals with the nightmare of being an ogre father, Fiona is having her own ladies only party. The most on the nose Disney jab by far is the somewhat unflattering use of various Princesses.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, and Cheri Oteri join the cast as Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. In a group that also includes Queen Lillian, Doris, and already familiar fairy tale creatures Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf. Their material is especially lame, but the badass scene with the Princesses is pretty fun. Rapunzel is unsurprisingly working with Charming since she wasn’t a Disney Princess at the time. All the while Shrek, Donkey, and Puss visit Worcestershire Academy where we’re treated to a whole bunch of Arthurian high school jokes. There’s teenage Gwen and Lancelot, but Shrek is only here for Artie. Justin Timberlake does his thing, but he was really more singer than actor at the time. Artie’s main purpose is helping Shrek explore parenthood. They get help from a cooky Merlin voiced by Eric Idle who accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch places. It doesn’t add much. The climax is Charming attempting to assassinate Shrek live on stage. Artie uses diplomacy to turn the villains to good and Dragon finishes off Charming. Ending with Shrek and Fiona having ogre triplets back at the swamp. The only moderately memorable song is Puss and Donkey singing “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” during the credits. The computer animation has an old fashioned charm, but most of it was wasted on a lackluster story. Shrek the Third should be kept far far away from the franchise.

10. Shrek the Third

Shrek and Fiona get dolled up

Preceded by: Shrek 2 & Followed by: Shrek Forever After

Far Far Away

Shrek 2 is the first of many DreamWorks Animation sequels. After a minor slump of poorly performing traditionally animated movies, Shrek 2 became the highest grossing animated movie at the time. With a nearly billion dollar box-office gross. Ensuring the studios exclusive focus on computer animation for years to come. If Shrek is the Toy Story of DreamWorks, then Shrek 2 is their Toy Story 2. Even after 3 years, Shrek 2 managed to be a rare sequel that matched or even surpassed the original. Ogre mania was in full effect once again in 2004. The only major Shrek media at the time was the Universal attraction Shrek 4-D.

Which took place immediately after the first movie with the ghost of Lord Farquaad haunting the cast. With that plot thread out of the way, Shrek 2 made an effort to do something different. While at the same time polishing its computer animation. So they did a fairy tale take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sensing a hit, the three main stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy all requested a raise. Shrek 2 doubled the Disney parodies, pop culture references, and songs on its contemporary soundtrack. While remaining sincere enough to earn another Best Animated Feature nomination. They lost to Pixar again, but that doesn’t make Shrek 2 any less of an accomplishment…

4. Shrek 2

Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona travel to Far Far Away

Shrek 2 was every bit the childhood favorite Shrek was. It was just a prominent edition in my DVD collection instead of VHS collection. Since 3 years passed, I was 8 years old when my dad took my brother and I to see Shrek 2 in theaters. I remember the experience a lot better since there was a couple of chatty old ladies in the audience. That didn’t take away from the absolutely hilarious sequel. It helped that I was older and able to pick up on pop culture references a lot better. This time there’s way more than just friendly jabs at Disney. Once upon a time, Princess Fiona was cursed by a witch to become an ogre every night. What we don’t know is that her parents made a deal with a Fairy Godmother to have Prince Charming rescue her. Right off the bat I recognized Rupert Everett’s devilishly charming voice as Prince Charming. Like Fiona, Charming is another direct critique of Disney Princes. Since Charming is a pompous airhead who only cares about his looks. He’s a little late in saving Fiona when he discovers the Big Bad Wolf in her place.

Shrek and Fiona are already well into their honeymoon at the Witch’s gingerbread house. Shrek farts his way back into our hearts with a romantically gross honeymoon with appearances from Little Red Riding Hood, the Little Mermaid, fairies, dwarfs, and parodies of The Lord of Rings and Spider-Man. It’s a delightfully cynical sequence set to the catchy tune of Best Original Song nominee “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Unlike most fairy tales, Shrek 2 takes place after happily ever after. Shrek and Fiona are happily married, but face relationship problems when they receive a royal invitation from the King and Queen of Far Far Away. Of course Donkey is still around to talk everyone’s ear off. Shrek reluctantly takes the far far away trip in their onion carriage to see the In-laws. It’s just as awkward as you’d expect. Adding to the already perfect cast are the respectable John Cleese and Julie Andrews as King Harold and Queen Lillian.

They’re admittedly shocked to see Fiona married to an ogre, but the Queen isn’t dismissive like the King. Their royal feast is a hilarious comedy of errors made better by Donkey’s presence. Unfortunately, it’s not what Fiona was hoping for. So she unintentionally contacts her Fairy Godmother with a tear. The Fairy Godmother is quite the character. She’s showy with a demanding attitude and treats her job like a business. I’m not too familiar with Jennifer Saunders, but she was perfectly cast as the normally good fairy with an ulterior motive. Turns out the Fairy Godmother is Prince Charming’s mom who made a deal with the King in exchange for his own happily ever after. The King reluctantly honors their deal by hiring a sleazy hitman to wack Shrek. He enters the Poison Apple full of fairy tale villains like Captain Hook, enchanted trees, the Headless Horseman, and one of the ugly stepsisters. Doris is made funnier by her masculine appearance and Larry King voice.

The King hires a shadowy figure with a Spanish accent and has Shrek meet him in the forest. Shrek tries to make an effort with Fiona’s parents after reading her diary full of “Mrs. Fiona Charming” passages. Shrek and Donkey instead come face to face with the biggest scene stealer in Shrek 2. Puss in Boots is an existing fairy tale character who actually faced an ogre in his story. Antonio Banderas turned him into an adorable orange swashbuckling latin lover cat with a feathered hat, sword, and cute little boots. Puss is by far the best new character since the original trio. He humorously attacks Shrek, but melts his heart with his signature cat eyes. Donkey is understandably threatened by another talking animal companion. Fortunately Puss was just what their duo needed. Shrek is willing to do anything for Fiona, so he uses Donkey’s tear to contact the Fairy Godmother.

They travel to her potion factory with hopes of making Shrek the man of Fiona’s dreams, but the Fairy Godmother is definitely the villain of the story. Instead they break into her potion stash and Puss obtains “Happily Ever After” potion. A potion that’ll make you and your true love beautiful. Shrek and Donkey take the potion with gassy results. “Better out than in I always say.” I’ll never forget my shock when they both wake up the next day. Shrek is turned into a handsome human and Donkey is turned into a majestic stallion for the remainder of the movie. Fairy tale lasses faun over Shrek and he’s finally accepted by villagers. The spell was also an opportunity to get Fiona back to human form. Unfortunately, Prince Charming got to her before Shrek did. Fairy Godmother manipulates Shrek into leaving and wallowing in the Poison Apple. However, things change when they discover Godmother’s plan to force Fiona to fall in love with Charming using a love potion.

The royal ball is a star studded affair hosted by Joan Rivers herself with the likes of Hansel & Gretel, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and Sleeping Beauty as guests. Meanwhile, Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, and Three Blind Mice are all at the swamp watching the show on the Magic Mirror. They turn to a hilarious parody of Cops called Knights where Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are maced by a pepper grater and sent to the dungeon. One Mission: Impossible parody later, the fairy tale posse frees the trio with the help of Pinocchio’s lady’s underwear. The next plan is to use Gingy’s relation to the Muffin Man to bake a giant gingerbread man named Mongo. The action packed climax is full of great jokes like the Starbucks gag and Mongo’s Godzilla roar, but it’s made better by the best rendition of “I Need a Hero” ever recorded. Every fairy tale creature uses their skills to get the Fairy Godmother’s wand. It seems like it’s too late when Charming kisses Fiona, but luckily the King made the right decision. He sacrifices himself to deflect Fairy Godmother’s magic onto her and he’s revealed to have been the Frog Prince all along.

The Queen still accepts him for who he is and so does Fiona. Shrek and Fiona turn back into ogres, but Donkey doesn’t have much of a choice. It’s still a fiesta though, so Puss and Donkey team up to deliver another infectious final party number of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” And they once again lived happily ever after. Until a mid-credit scene cameo for Dragon that reveals why she was absent. Turns out Donkey and Dragon somehow managed to have mutant dragon-donkey babies. The weirdness doesn’t stop there. The DVD also came with a bizarre American Idol parody short called Far Far Away Idol. Where Simon Cowell himself has you vote on performance’s done by the movie’s fairy tale contestants. Shrek 2 can’t touch the original, but it is a major improvement. The computer animation is so much better with a much larger cast of humans. Existing characters like human Fiona are polished a bit with a more refined appearance. Hair, clothing, and Puss in Boots’ fur were given the most attention to detail. Far Far Away is a great new location that sets up an even more epic conclusion. Shrek 2 accidentally became the most successful computer animated DreamWorks movie ever made.

5. Shrek 2

Shrek travels with Donkey and Puss in Boots

Preceded by: Shrek & Followed by: Shrek the Third

What are You Doing in My Swamp?!

Shrek is the greatest subversion of fairy tales I’ve ever seen. Although it’s technically their fifth production and second computer animated film, Shrek will always be the poster ogre for DreamWorks Animation. Since Shrek was the first animated movie to win the much needed Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making them genuine competition for Disney and Pixar. I may have grown up loving all things Disney, but DreamWorks was never far behind. Despite the obvious heated rivalry between the studios. Shrek! was originally a crudely drawn children’s book by William Steig.

Steven Spielberg himself bought the rights with the intention of making it a traditionally animated movie. Former disgruntled Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg promptly acquired the rights to Shrek and intended to make a computer animated movie with Chris Farley as the ogre. When Farly passed away, the role was recast instead. So fellow SNL star Mike Myers took over and the rest is history. The humorous spin on fairy tales may take several jabs at Disney, but Shrek works because they never forget to tell a sincere story with a genuinely lovable unlikely hero. We have Shrek to thank for popularizing innuendos in kids movies, pop culture references, and upbeat pop music soundtracks for animation…

2. Shrek

Shrek explains layers to Donkey

Shrek was a very prominent edition in my VHS collection growing up. The tape included a fun karaoke short film. I was 5 when Shrek came out in 2001, but I remember every detail of seeing it. My dad took my brother and I to see it in theaters and we’ve been watching it non-stop ever since. We bought Shrek toys, merchandise, and I frequently quoted the movie around the school yard. Shrek is practically the animated movie of my generation. Since its inspired countless memes and a large internet presence. DreamWorks really knew what they were doing when they created Shrek. Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess trapped in a castle guarded by a dragon awaiting true love’s kiss. At least that’s how it would start if Shrek wasn’t the one reading the fairy tale.

With a flush of a toilet we’re given one of the greatest animated character entrances of all time. As Shrek goes about his gross morning routine to the tune of “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Shrek is the most iconic ogre of all time. He’s a fantasy creature that hasn’t gotten much attention in the past. Shrek is large with distinctly green skin, trademark horn ears, a snazzy fairy tale outfit, and is far less hideous than his book counterpart. Although Chris Farley gave it his all, Mike Myers will always be Shrek. Using his signature Scottish accent was a stroke of genius that made Shrek an even bigger icon worthy of imitating. Like most ogres, Shrek spreads fear and just wants to be left alone in his swamp home. Until fairy tale creatures end up on his doorstep.

All well known fairy tale creatures are outlawed by the kingdom. There’s the Seven Dwarfs, Tinkerbell, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, and even Gepetto giving away a lying Pinocchio. I love Disney, but I can’t resist a good joke at their expense. The most out of place creature is a certain talking jackass named Donkey. Eddie Murphy is no stranger to voicing animated comic relief, but his comedy stylings are perfectly suited for the adult edge of DreamWorks. When Shrek and Donkey literally run into each other, it starts one of the funniest buddy duos in animation history. Their initial meeting is so quotable that Shrek was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. A rare Oscar acknowledgment for animation. Shrek sees Donkey as just another annoyance at first, but they’re forced to be together when his swamp fills up with even more fairy tale creatures. Including the Three Blind Mice, the Big Bad Wolf, the Good Fairies, and so much more.

They’re all thrown out of the kingdom by the villainous Lord Farquaad. A not so subtle jab at current Disney chairman Michael Eisner. Farquaad is a diminutive little creep who hates fairy tale creatures and wants to be king. John Lithgow makes him all the more hilarious with his torture of poor Gingerbread Man Gingy. Their “Muffin Man” exchange is comedy gold. Farquaad uses the Magic Mirror to find a princess à la The Dating Game. His choices are Cinderella, Snow White, and the original Princess Fiona. His scene stealing minion Thelonious helps him make the obvious choice. Farquaad’s kingdom is a further jab at Disneyland complete with mascot and an annoyingly catchy “It’s a Small World” parody. Shrek starts to win over the crowd when he and Donkey beat a bunch of Farquaad’s knights pro wrestling style.

Although his only intention was getting his swamp back, Shrek is instead sent on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Shrek and Donkey eventually make it to the dark and spooky castle. The Dragon seems like a major threat, but all that changes when Donkey discovers she’s a girl dragon. Starting one of the weirdest interspecies relationships in movie history. Shrek makes it to the tallest tower, but an ogre wasn’t exactly what Fiona was expecting. Of course the most Disney jokes come from Princess Fiona. Whether she’s exploding a bird with her singing or awaiting true love’s kiss. However, Fiona is a tough sassy princess with a red braid and signature green dress. Cameron Diaz rounds out the early 2000’s cast with some of her best work yet. Fiona judges Shrek for being an ogre until she overhears him talking to Donkey at night. Shrek has layers just like an onion and only wants to be accepted.

So Shrek and Fiona start to bond over their shared grossness. Gross out gags work really well when the lead character is an ogre. Fiona shows another side of her when a French Robin Hood tries to sweep her off her feet, then sings his impromptu theme song. One Matrix parody later, Fiona shows off her unexpected fighting skills. They may be an ogre and a human, but Shrek and Fiona’s unconventional budding romance is genuinely sweet. Until sundown ruins it for the both of them. Since it turns out Fiona secretly becomes an ogre every night. A misunderstanding keeps them apart, but Donkey talks some sense into Shrek, and Dragon helps them stop the wedding. Farquaad is finally defeated when Dragon eats him and the spell is broken with true love’s kiss.

Except the twist is Fiona remaining an ogre and both of them accepting each other for who they are. A big fairy tale party breaks out as Shrek and Fiona are married to the infectious tune of “I’m a Believer” and they lived happily ever after. Shrek has a strong story, hilarious jokes, and an awesome soundtrack, but none of it would’ve mattered without equally amazing animation. The computer animation has aged surprisingly well since 2001. The Pacific Data Images animation used by DreamWorks was pretty much on par with Pixar. The difference was how realistic they tried to make hair, fur, clothing, and skin. Although humans can be a bit rough at times, they make up for it with several well rendered fairy tale backgrounds and locations. Shrek is a pop culture phenomenon that put DreamWorks on the map.

3. Shrek

Shrek bonds with Princess Fiona

Followed by: Shrek 2

Battle of Your Dreams

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 finally put a steak through this endless vampire romance. Satisfying Twihards and giving general audiences a collective sigh of relief. Bill Condon is the only director to do more than one Twilight movie and Stephanie Meyer even received a producer credit for the finale. A finale that I knew I needed to see in theaters. I just knew it would be the main topic of conversation in high school. The Twilight Saga may have been loved by teenage girls everywhere, but Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner had to live with the consequences. Although Twilight was always a favorite at the MTV Movie Awards, it was also a Razzie darling. It wasn’t until Breaking Dawn – Part 2 that they finally won Worst Picture. Kind of like how Return of the King won the top spot for its franchise. At this point it was just fun to laugh at how ridiculous everything became. Part 2 picks up immediately after Bella becomes a vampire. The obvious point to divide the films. Her transformation is just as over-the-top as I expected with Stewart continuing to give her worst performance. Bella’s vampire power is shielding herself from other vampire powers. The reason Edward was never able to read her mind.

Since baby Renesmee is a fully aware half-vampire they had to use CGI. The most horrifically awkward CGI imaginable. Although they try really hard to justify him as a loving protector, Jacob imprinting on Renesmee is the thing that ends the forced love triangle. Still somehow creepier than a hundred year old vampire falling in love with a teenage girl. Although Bella being a vampire does mean they can be as intimate as they want. Jacob just makes it more difficult when he reveals his werewolf form to Charlie. Even more difficult when they have to hide Renesmee’s unusually rapid aging. But Charlie still has his daughter, granddaughter, and a happy ending with Harry Clearwater’s widow Sue. Mackenzie Foy plays the child version of Renesmee. She’s young, but just as poorly acted as her parents. It all seems perfect, but bitter vampire Irina brings Renesmee to the Volturi’s attention. Mistaking the half-vampire for an immortal child. In order to fight the accusation, the Cullens have to assemble an army of vampire witnesses from across the world. Narration really speeds through characters that are likely more complex in the book. There are so many mostly forgettable vampires from the already established Denali coven to places as far as Egypt, Ireland, England, and the Amazon. With powers ranging from electricity to mental projection. Future Oscar winner Rami Malek actually has the power to control the elements.

Jacob trains his own wolf pack, but still receives help from Sam’s pack. Rosalie cares for Renesmee and Emmett protects the family, but Alice and Jasper mysteriously leave in the middle of recruitment. Leaving clues that block out the mental intrusion of the Volturi. Bella secretly receives passports from J. Jenks in order to ensure Renesmee’s future. Aro, Jane, and the rest of the Volturi are met with a large assortment of vampires and werewolves as they arrive at a snowy field. Michael Sheen really hams it up with big bad Aro having a hilariously out of nowhere laugh. Renesmee uses her power to show Aro her memories of growing as a half-vampire. Irina is burned as punishment, but Alice and Jasper return before further bloodshed. Alice’s visions aren’t enough to prevent a full scale battle that had the entire theater erupting with shock. Since a physical battle was never in the book. SPOILER ALERT! Aro actually decapitates Carlisle, Alice is forced to watch Jasper die, Seth is killed as a wolf, and Leah dies saving Esme. It’s traumatizing, but at least Jane, Alec, and the rest of the Volturi are killed in the most satisfying way possible. Ending with Bella and Edward killing Aro before the unexpected twist that it was just Alice’s vision. I should be mad that none of it mattered, but I have to applaud the clever deception. A Native American half-vampire convinces the Volturi that there’s no threat. Ending with an optimistic future for Jacob, Renesmee, Edward, and Bella. “A Thousand Years” caps off the saga with a unique credits sequence that includes every actor in the series. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will forever remain a guilty pleasure.

5. Breaking Dawn Part 2

Bella, Edward, and Jacob protect Renesmee

Preceded by: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Bloody Birth

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 kept the vampire romance going a bit longer. By exploiting the 2 part separation of a final book thing that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows just popularized. Although to be fair, Stephanie Meyer herself said Breaking Dawn was too dense to be one movie. The title Breaking Dawn refers to a time of day that is the most dramatic for Bella’s new beginning. The chess book cover is crucial for her transformation in the story. The problem with adapting Breaking Dawn was the very mature tone. So many sexual and/or blood soaked scenes had to be shot in a way that avoided an R rating. The new Dreamgirls director Bill Condon had to keep it PG-13 for the teenage girls that made it a success. By the time I got to the 2 part finale, I knew I couldn’t avoid finally seeing a Twilight movie in theaters. Hearing women scream over Edward and Jacob, gasp at key moments, and applaud made Breaking Dawn – Part 1 all the more entertaining. Part 1 first covers the long awaited wedding between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Jacob takes his shirt off mere minutes into the opening. He understandably doesn’t attend the wedding until the end. Once again forcing the love triangle that has a pretty clear winner by now.

The wedding still manages to bring out everyone regardless. It even brings together Bella’s scene stealing parents Charlie and Renée. Alice oversees wedding preparations, Emmet & Jasper take Edward to his bachelor party, and Rosalie starts to warm up to Bella. The only people who think the wedding is strange are Bella’s forgotten human friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Despite all the obvious red flags, I can’t deny how romantic the wedding is. It even sets up Part 2 by having the Cullen’s Denali relatives in attendance. Maggie Grace is Irina, the bitter former lover of Laurent who leaves when she spots a werewolf. Though the only pack members in attendance are Jacob’s father, Seth, and a few others. While they don’t stretch out the wedding too much, the Brazil honeymoon on Isle Esme definitely feels like it’s trying to fill time. Despite the obvious danger, Bella wants to lose her virginity when she’s still human. Leading to a steamy, occasionally ridiculous, love making session. One that literally breaks the bed. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson won their last MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss since they were still together at the time. Their honeymoon consists of Bella trying to seduce Edward and playing a game of chess that references the book cover.

The real conflict finally kicks in when Bella is revealed to be pregnant with a half-vampire baby. The tone shifts to overly serious talk about what to do with the mysterious pregnancy. Carlisle is a doctor, but not an expert of this kind of hybrid. Which for the record, is called a Dhampir. With the baby literally draining the life out of Bella, she finds unexpected comfort from Rosalie. Since she always wanted to be a mother before becoming a vampire. Like the book, a lot of perspective comes from Jacob representing the outside world. Though Taylor Lautner feels more like comic relief at times. He’s less than thrilled about the pregnancy, but more than willing to protect Bella when his pack turns on the Cullens. The telepathic wolf communication is weird to say the least. Seth and Leah are the only wolves to leave Sam in order to help Jacob. Bella resorts to drinking blood in order to survive long enough to come up with the weirdest baby names. The bloody pregnancy is so intense that it’s practically disorientating. Edward turns Bella right after she dies, but Jacob stops short of killing their baby. Since he very creepily imprints on baby Renesmee. Ending with the expected cliffhanger of Bella revealing her blood-red vampire eyes. Followed by a post-credit scene of the Volturi setting up Part 2. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is better when you stop trying to make sense of literally anything.

5. Breaking Dawn Part 1

Bella and Edward get married

Preceded by: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Team Edward or Team Jacob?

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is mostly designed to sell “Team Edward” vs. “Team Jacob” T-shirts. Since Eclipse is easily the most pointless story in the saga. Stephanie Meyer wrote it mainly to focus on the obvious repercussions of becoming a vampire. The torn red ribbon cover represents Bella Swan being torn between worlds. The title Eclipse refers to the light and dark choice between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. Teenage girls were more than encouraged to fight over whether the vampire or werewolf was a better choice. For the record, I was “Team Edward,” but that still didn’t make me see Eclipse in theaters. Although it was the last installment I saw exclusively on DVD. The new 30 Days of Night director David Slade didn’t use any color palette other than maybe white. Eclipse deals with the looming threat of newborn vampires that has no major impact on things to come. Other than tying up loose ends like Victoria. Although Rachelle Lefevre was dedicated to the role after 2 movies, she was suddenly replaced by sequel darling Bryce Dallas Howard. Victoria uses Riley Biers to train an army of deadly newborns in Seattle, but that’s not what people are gonna remember.

They’ll remember the endless, often humorous, bitter love triangle. Robert Pattinson is back stealing hearts, Taylor Lautner is back shedding shirts, and Kristen Stewart is back being the worst person to fight over. Pattinson and Stewart still won the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, but now Lautner gets a nomination too. Since Bella breaks her hand punching Jacob after he forcibly kisses her, then gives him a more romantic pity kiss at the end. But Bella is still adamant about becoming a vampire. Edward just convinces her to experience life first. So Bella graduates with her friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Despite all the talk of losing one’s soul, Edward is surprisingly Christian with his old fashion insistence of marrying Bella and letting her keep her virginity. Charlie’s cluelessness and awkward father-daughter talks are his best yet. Edward even arranges a trip for Bella to see her mother before she’s bitten. It seems affectionate, but really it was to shield her from danger. The threat of the newborns is so bad that a temporary alliance between vampires and werewolves is formed. Carlisle and Esme gain the respect of Sam and his pack. A pack that now includes important younger members Leah and Seth Clearwater.

Booboo Stewart is the young joyful Seth and Julia Jones is the sole female werewolf Leah. Her story brings up the werewolf act of “Imprinting.” An intense love connection with uncomfortable side effects. On the vampire side, Alice and Emmett continue to contribute greatly with their respective visions and strength. Rosalie and Jasper are given entire flashback sequences. Rosalie became a vampire after being assaulted and only resents Bella for throwing her humanity away. Jasper has his biggest role since his newborn status makes him the only vampire who can train everyone for battle. Although Jackson Rathbone’s sudden southern accent is pretty distracting. After Edward and Jacob debate in a hilarious tent scene, the battle commences mostly off screen. The Cullens and wolf pack fight the newborns and Edward fights Riley and Victoria. Bella uses an old wolf’s tale to distract them in time to win the fight. Part of the Volturi arrive to reveal their hand in the conflict. Jane orders every newborn, including Bree Tanner to be killed. Learn more about her in The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. In the end, Bella doesn’t change her opinion of what to become or who to be with. Eclipse at least has its entertaining rivalry to keep fans occupied.

4. Eclipse

Edward and Jacob fight over Bella

Preceded by: The Twilight Saga: New Moon & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Wolf Pack Abs

The Twilight Saga: New Moon set werewolves back in almost the same way. Stephanie Meyer found herself so attached to the story she created, that New Moon was written before Twilight was even published. Her sudden appreciation for Jacob Black caused her to give him way more attention. The title New Moon refers to the darkest time of day and darker theme. The flower petal book cover is mostly meaningless. Twilight was still so popular that every sequel was set for consecutive release. New Moon was just given the pre-title The Twilight Saga for general audiences. The new Golden Compass director Chris Weitz gave New Moon more of a golden color palette. The sequel was even harder to ignore, but I continued to only see it on DVD. While teenage girls continued gushing over Edward Cullen, another attractive monster came along to establish an engrossing love triangle. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart once again win the MTV Movie Award with their passionate kiss, but they’re just as bland as ever. Although Bella and Edward are still obsessively in love, they suddenly break up after a bloody incident on her birthday. Jasper can’t control his thirst, but it doesn’t stop Alice from becoming even better friends with Bella.

Carlisle and Esme are still caring protectors, while Rosalie and Emmett are downplayed a bit. Alice is the only vampire Bella writes to since she completely shuts out her human friends Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Eric. Charlie is still a scene stealer, but he also has to deal with his daughter’s constant night terrors. Bella is easily the worst in New Moon. Since she shuts down after Edward leaves and turns to life threatening situations in order to hallucinate seeing him. Poor human Mike tries to woo Bella with the stupidly titled movie Face Punch, but the only person that makes Bella feel better is Jacob. The biggest draw for female fans was the suddenly ripped Taylor Lautner. Jacob is almost always shirtless since he’s revealed to be a werewolf. The New Moon portrayal of werewolves is “unique” to say the least. Vampires continue to have a strong presence, but it’s really their turn in the moonlight. Bella and Jacob form a genuinely believable bond despite Lautner also being a terrible actor. We learn that all werewolves are from the Native American Quileute tribe. So it’s at least good for giving those actors a chance in a major movie. The most high profile actor being Graham Greene as Charlie’s friend Harry Clearwater.

Unlike their natural enemies, werewolves are warm with enhanced strength and become giant CGI wolves when angry. Just try not to think about the fact that they always rip out of their clothes, yet still end up in shorts. Jacob’s pack leader is Sam Uley. His scarred fiancé Emily shows Bella what her life would be like if she chose Jacob. Though the pack maintains a treaty with the vegetarian Cullens, they don’t hesitate to kill Laurent and hunt a vengeful Victoria. But that’s not all we see of the vampires. Edward believes Bella to be dead, so Alice returns with a vision of Edward killing himself in Italy. It’s there that we learn all about vampire politics. The Volturi maintain a law that prevents vampires from being exposed to the world. Among its primary members are Michael Sheen as their eccentric leader Aro and Dakota Fanning grown into the evil pain inducing Jane. Bella dramatically chooses to die for Edward. Ensuring her transformation into a vampire. Jacob isn’t happy about that, but Edward proposes to Bella anyway. New Moon is just like Romeo & Juliet, but no one should aspire to this love story.

3. New Moon

Bella leads Jacob on

Preceded by: Twilight & Followed by: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

Twilight set vampires back for nearly a decade. Starting the trend of attractive modern vampires with deep romantic feelings. A far cry from the irredeemable monsters they were in the past. Stephanie Meyer got the idea of a vampire falling in love with a human girl from a dream. The book was named Twilight after the partially darkened time of day. With the iconic cover being hands holding an apple that represents the theme of Forbidden Fruit. Twilight is perhaps the most embarrassing phenomenon to occur in the late 2000’s.

It was a YA best seller that so many teenage girls I knew were obsessed with. So a movie was quickly made just as the saga finished in 2008. Meyer was kept as a close consultant with Thirteen director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg maintaining a female presence. Unlike Harry Potter, I was at least old enough to make my own decision about seeing Twilight. Being 13 at the time, I knew I couldn’t ignore the craze forever. So I personally watched it on DVD not long after its release. While I wouldn’t call myself a Twihard fan, Twilight is still genuinely mesmerizing in a good, but mostly bad way…

1. Twilight

Bella realizes Edward is a vampire

Twilight condenses its 500 page story, but manages to stay faithful to the novel. To the point that overly poetic narration from series lead Isabella “Bella” Swan will become a very common plot element. Bella is one of the most unlikable heroines in all of literature. Though she’s meant to be an average 17 year old with insecurities, Bella’s decisions make her seem more selfish and/or obsessive. Kristen Stewart guaranteed Bella would stand out since her unique mannerisms are always on display. Stewart is so awkward with her almost painful line delivery, hair touching, sighing, and vacant expressions. Though I had seen her in at least 3 other movies, Twilight was when I realized how bad her performances can be. Bella moves from her sunny home in Phoenix, Arizona to the constantly overcast Forks, Washington. Leaving her enthusiastic mother to stay with her old fashioned police chief father Charlie. Billy Burke easily gives the most underrated performance with his deadpan fatherly attitude.

Although Bella is fairly attractive, the sudden barrage of boys wanting to ask her out is hard to believe. Poor Mike never stood a chance and neither does Eric or Tyler. Bella’s only girl friends are the chatty Jessica and shy Angela. I knew Christian Serratos from Ned’s Declassified, but most people forget this was Anna Kendrick’s first recognizable role. Long before joining the Bellas, Kendrick was introducing Bella to the Cullen family. The Twilight portrayal of vampires is “unique” to say the least. All vampires are beautiful with mostly gold eyes and pale skin. Although the ghostly blue color palette makes everyone look pale. After his brief but crucial role in Harry Potter, Robert Pattinson earned the affection of millions of screaming fans as the 17 year old looking Edward Cullen. While at the same time being hated by almost every serious vampire enthusiast.

Edward is overwhelmed with thirst for Bella’s blood, but he softens up after their next biology class. It’s not until the pivotal moment when Bella is nearly crushed by a car that he shows his supernatural abilities. Edward is impossibly fast and strong, his skin is pale white and ice cold, but he’s not like other vampires. It’s only after the iconic woods scene that we really find out what that means. These vampires don’t have fangs, can blatantly be seen in mirrors, are only killed through ice-like dismemberment followed by burning, and sparkle in the sunlight. Easily the most ridiculous thing Twilight ever did to vampires. But at least they make up for it by giving vampires superpowers. Apart from super speed and super strength, some vampires possess unique gifts. Edward can read everyone’s mind except Bella’s.

Their mutual infatuation sparks a romance for the ages. Represented by a series of intense stares and Edward creepily sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep. Not to mention the fact that Edward is over 100 years old. The obvious warning signs aren’t enough to keep Bella away though. Not even when her childhood best friend Jacob Black warns her about the Cullens. Jacob is a Quileute Native American living on a Reservation with his wheelchair bound father Billy. Even with long hair I recognized Sharkboy himself Taylor Lautner. Though Jacob’s role is small with only vague mentions of his tribe’s connection to wolves. It’s really all about the Cullen family who live in a cool glass house and consider themselves to be vegetarian. Since they only live on animal blood. Carlisle is the family patriarch and trusted town physician effectively played by Peter Facinelli. Esme is the family matriarch affectionately played by Elizabeth Reaser.

Their “children” are Alice, her mate Jasper, Rosalie, and her mate Emmet. Ashley Greene stands out the most since Alice is infectiously high spirited and possesses the useful power to see into the future. Friend of the director Nikki Reed is more hostile towards Bella as Rosalie. While Kellan Lutz is just right for carefree meathead Emmet. Jackson Rathbone only stands out for Jasper’s difficulty with controlling his human blood thirst. Other than that, the Cullens are a pretty normal family. They just have to move a lot, never go out in the sun, and continually attend high school. Which makes no sense the more you think about it. Edward and Bella only share one passionate MTV Movie Award winning kiss, but Edward risists giving in to his urges for as long as he can. Until a game of vampire baseball (which is impossible to take seriously).

Although they were set up early in the movie, the villains arrive almost at the last minute. Cam Gigandet is James, a highly skilled vampire tracker and leader of his nomad coven. Rachelle Lefevre is his alluring mate Victoria and Edi Gathegi is the more refined Laurent. When James catches Bella’s scent, he does everything in his power to hunt her. Including trick her into thinking he’s holding her mother at her childhood ballet studio. The Cullens do their best to protect Bella, but she still ends up cornered. Edward comes to the rescue just as James bites her. Although Bella could’ve become a vampire right then and there, Edward sucks out the venom with enormous difficulty.

Just in time to attend the prom and receive a cryptic message from Jacob. In the end, Bella is still determined to become a vampire and forever be with the vampire she loves. Obviously, Twilight isn’t a romance to aspire to. Not just because it’s between a vampire and human. So many memes have been made about how literally anything is a better love story than Twilight. I still wouldn’t deny Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s chemistry. Which carried over into real life. The humor also works whether intentional or not. But I think the music probably had the most work put into it. From the piano theme “Bella’s Lullaby” to the Pattinson sung “Let Me Sign.” Plus Edward recreating the book’s apple cover in the cafeteria is fun. Twilight sank its teeth into cinema whether we liked it or not.

2. Twilight

Bella sees Edward sparkle

Followed by: The Twilight Saga: New Moon