Every Men In Black Movie, Ranked

 Will Smith in Men in Black.
Will Smith in Men in Black.

If there was ever a series that I could say, “You really had to be there,” for it, it would have to be the Men in Black movies.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the Men in Black series. The movies are really fun, and I think a lot of young audiences would still dig them if they watched them today. In fact, my brother in Criterion, Mike Reyes, once made a great list for any newbies that wanted to get into the series.

Back in the late ‘90s, and early 2000s, MIB was HUGE! Unfortunately, I just don’t think the series has the same impact anymore, which was exhibited back in 2019 when Men in Black: International came out to dismal results. That said, was that the worst MIB movie? And, if it is, then what’s the best one? Well, you’re about to find out.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black II
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black II

4. Men In Black II (2002)

To answer the question in the intro, no, Men in Black: International is not the worst in the franchise. That would have to go to the series’ first sequel, Men in Black II. The thing is, though, it isn’t a bad movie. In fact, none of them are bad (in my incredibly humble opinion).

That said, each other one felt like it brought something new to the table, whereas this really just felt like a rehash of the original, which we said as such in our review at the time.

Once again starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith from the original, but also adding in Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, and even Michael Jackson for a brief, non-terrifying (unlike the scarring Moonwalker) cameo appearance, Men in Black II now sees Agent J (Smith) in charge, as Agent K (Jones) was neuralyzed in the previous movie. So, in that way, a lot of the humor involves Agent K re-learning how to be an agent, which…well, isn’t all that funny.

The rest of the plot is as zany as the plot should be, with the crux of the story involving a shapeshifting seductress named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle). I’d be lying if I didn’t say the movie wasn’t enjoyable (I especially like the worm scene in the subway).

But, the film just has a, been there/seen that quality to it that’s a bit too hard to swallow. Hell, even its lead single, “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)” isn’t anywhere near as catchy as the first movie’s single, “Men in Black.” So, yeah. A decent, albeit, much lesser sequel.

Tessa Thompson in Men in Black: International
Tessa Thompson in Men in Black: International

3. Men In Black: International (2019)

Directed by F. Gary Gray (the first three were all directed by Barry Sonnenfeld), and starring Thor: Ragnarok’s Chris Hemsworth, and er, Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson, I feel like Men in Black: International (which we gave a pretty abysmal review) is better than a lot of people give it credit for.

Granted, I didn’t say it’s a great movie since some of the jokes don’t land, and it looks kind of cheap at times. But, as a standalone sequel that also acts as a reboot to the property, I think it does a pretty decent job.

This story centers around a new rookie agent (Thompson) who had been tracking the MIB for years after agents neuralyzed her parents. She gets paired up with another agent (Hemsworth) and travels all around the world to stop an alien race called the Hive that can mimic humans. But, the real problem may be lurking within the agency itself.

Men in Black: International kind of reminds me of a better version of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Stay with me for a moment. You see, one of the worst things about Ghostbusters: Afterlife – for me, anyway – was that it didn’t tonally feel like the other Ghostbusters movies, in that it was somber, whereas the previous films were definitively comedies.

International doesn’t have that problem though, as it tonally feels like the previous movies, but different because it has new characters. It’s not a great film, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s a worthy sequel, and I applaud them for even giving it a shot. It’s a decent (though, it could have been better) flick for a rainy afternoon.

will smith men in black 3 trailer screenshot
will smith men in black 3 trailer screenshot

2. Men In Black 3 (2012)

MIB II was a bit of a disappointment since it didn’t try anything new, but Men in Black 3 definitely rectified that problem by being wholly original. And, it did so with a trope that is really either hit or miss for me – time travel.

In this one, which stars Smith, Jones, and Josh Brolin as a pitch perfect young version of Agent K, we get Agent J going back in time to prevent K from being killed by a cool new alien called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement)...but just call him Boris. He hates it when you call him “The Animal.”

Brolin’s performance elevates this movie from being what could have been stale, and it's great seeing the story take place in the past, since it feels like a stranger in a strange world kind of scenario for J.

I also love the action in this movie, probably more so than in any other Men in Black film, because it’s so propulsive and engaging. The humor feels earned this time around, and the whole cast seems like they're having a lot of fun.

For a time, I thought this was a fitting end to the series, and if you don’t like Men in Black: International (which, as I mentioned in the last entry, I don’t mind), then the story here wraps up in a satisfying way and acts as a great capper to the trilogy. All in all, it’s a great movie, but still not the best in the series. That would still have to be…

A screaming Will Smith in Men in Black
A screaming Will Smith in Men in Black

1. Men In Black (1997)

Now this is what I’m talking about, baby. The original Men in Black is still the best movie in the series, even after all these years (DECADES!) later. Acting as an origin story for the whole franchise, it still works on so, so many levels.

First off, if Smith wasn’t already a star by 1997 when this movie came out, then it certainly would have made him one, as his charisma and charm were undeniable. Plus,  Jones made the perfect, deadpan partner for him.

Half of all the jokes in this film involved Agent J saying something (often exposition, but it was so well-written that you didn’t realize it), and Agent K just staring at him, unamused. Plus, this film just made the MIB feel so cool. The gadgets, the weapons, the cars. Everything! Just so awesome.

The story in this one involves an alien terrorist who is on the hunt for two intergalactic ambassadors, and it just all moves so quickly that it’s over before you even realize it. Honestly, it's so creative and bold, that it kind of makes me angry in a way.

Nowadays, I honestly don’t think Hollywood would launch a new tentpole movie like this in fear of it not being a sequel or a recognizable brand (Like Furiosa, or Garfield, and look at how those two movies did at the box office).

People are always complaining that nothing creative comes out of Hollywood these days. And, while I don’t completely agree with that assessment, I will say that we definitely don’t get movies like the original MIB anymore, that’s for sure, which is a shame.

Tangent over. What’s your favorite MIB movie?