It’s been a few weeks now since the fourth John Wick movie was released in theatres, and the reviews are unanimous – the movie is a contemporary action masterpiece. Rare are the times when a fourth movie in a franchise can be ranked as the best (Live Free or Die Hard or even Rocky IV can come to mind as exceptions), but many fans are saying as such. Although I agree that Chapter 4 is a marvelous action movie that proved that this franchise was not out of fuel, my ranking of the movies might differ from the general opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, all four movies are fantastic and there’s hardly a miss in terms of production quality, but now that this series is almost 10 years old, a few cracks are starting to show here and there. So there it is my personal ranking of the John Wick movies, including the most recent opus.
4) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Although John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum is far from being a ‘bad’ movie, this sequel was somewhat a little disappointing and started to show the flaws of this overall cinematic universe, and about the character of John himself. Out of the four movies, it is definitely the one where John shines the least. Sure, the action set pieces and choreographies are spectacular (especially that knife fight in downtown Manhattan in the movie’s opening and the hand-to-hand combat scenes with the action stars from The Raid), but the narrative was a little underwhelming. This movie brings us to the Moroccan desert where, it seems, the High Table was born, while the stakes feel incredibly low. Keanu Reeves has a total of 295 lines during the 2 hours and 19 minutes runtime, making his friends and adversaries a lot more interesting than he is. Also, the final sequence was a little ridiculous, and it painted John as a funny action hero who uses quips after receiving multiple bullet wounds. Again, still a great action movie, but the lesser John Wick opus. Hands down, Halle Berry and her attack dogs are the best part of this film and stole the scenes from Reeves.
3) John Wick (2014)
The original John Wick defied expectations and is now the ultimate ‘surprise hit’ for the ages. Although not as action-heavy as its sequels, it introduces the classic ‘gun-fu’ action choreographies formula in great fashion, making this movie an instant classic. The villain of the first movie, Viggo Tarasov (the late Michael Nyqvist) was also great and perhaps amongst the best until John Wick: Chapter 4. Unlike Chapter 3, this is the film where John shines the most as a character, building up his sensitive side as a grieving husband who just lost his wife from cancer, and also a caring dog owner. We both feel for him and find him incredibly cool with his dark suits and fighting skills. Overall, even though the second half of the movie loses some steam compared to the action-heavy first half, John Wick remains an action masterpiece of the last 20 years and brought back Keanu Reeves’ career as his best work since The Matrix.
2) John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)
I must say, I’m surprised that I’m able to rank John Wick Chapter 4 so high…but damn, this movie surprised me. As its strongest elements, without any doubt, this film had the best cinematography of the whole franchise and presented a new collection of characters that are fascinating. This movie is 2 hours and 49 minutes and does not lose any time transporting John from setting to setting. From beautiful neon-coloured Osaka, passing through a high-octane underground Berlin, until he finally reaches the luxurious Paris, this movie is charged and so beautiful to look at. Also, John faces his most interesting and compelling duelist to date: Cain (Donnie Yen), a blind martial arts expert who must face Wick against his will, on behalf of the High Table’s executives. The main antagonist, the Marquis De Grandmont (Bill Skarsgård) is also incredible and so fleshed out, similar to a rich Bond villain.
Although John’s character is still pretty bland and is by far the less interesting assassin in the whole bunch, the movie took additional liberties to surround him with a strong supporting cast and new methods of shooting fight scenes to add a layer of novelty. Of course, the ending being what it is, it opens up a world of possibilities for new series and movies centered around the Continental Hotels and its occupants.
1) John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
This is purely subjective, but I stand by my opinion: Chapter 2 is the ultimate John Wick adventure! This is the movie that officially made Reeves an action A-lister again and transformed his character into a cultural phenomenon. What is great about Chapter 2 is that there is a bit of everything that makes the universe of Wick great. It dug deeper into the assassins’ universe under the High Table, showing us the network of secretaries sending out job orders and bounties, as well as other Continental Hotels across the world. As a strong and compelling hitman, Common is a worthy foe against John during awesome dues sequences across Rome and the New York subway. Also, in terms of pure action, this movie doesn’t stop, it just keeps on giving. Although the set design in action sequences was fantastic in Chapter 4, I think this movie is still better paces and better crafted. Also, final thought, John is still a minor personality to speak of in this one, before he feels completely erased in later installments.