Despicable Me Movies, Ranked

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Raymond Zhang

It’s hard to remember when the Despicable Me franchise wasn’t a part of mainstream pop-culture. The majorly successful release of Despicable Me (2010) has resulted in the minions becoming one of the most prolific internet memes ever. The outpour of media attention directed towards the franchise has resulted in it being the most successful animated franchise of all time. Despite major success, each movie has received its fair share of criticism and low ratings, and I, personally, agree with a lot  of it.

Throughout the years, however, my strange fascination with the series has gotten me involved in a variety of spirited debates — debates which have opened my eyes and solidified my views on the series. Arguments about the importance of motifs, specifically family, antagonists, and the minions themselves. Views that I will display through a ranking of the franchise.

1. Minions (2015) 

Out of all the films in the franchise, Minions is the best at what it is designed to do: make kids laugh. While movies like Wall-e, Coraline, and Up have more sophisticated themes that appeal to adults, the Minions’ audience is primarily children (and me, weirdly), and the goal of the movie is to incite laughter. And it does do that, spectacularly.

Following a period of great ennui among the minions, three brave souls decide to venture out and find a new strong leader for the minions to follow. Along the way, they encounter Scarlett Overkill, one of the main detriments to the movie. Bluntly, she is boring. With   no real character traits beyond “strong woman who likes to steal,” she offers little to nothing to the movie and takes away from what could have been a brilliant keystone that moved the film along, especially because the film is so villain-oriented. Although Minions is nothing ground-breaking, I find that almost all children seem to like it for what it is. Sure, a Pixar film will leave you crying, and a Disney film might leave you mystified, but what about a simple movie with silly characters that just makes you laugh because you want to?

2. Despicable Me (2010) 

The beginning of a franchise is always something special. This sentiment is remarkably true for Despicable Me. While watching it, you can’t help but think about the mediocrity of the film, but a heartwarming ending seems to wrap up the story, leaving no loose ends.

The effectiveness of Despicable Me lies in the simplicity: a classic story and a new take on the  message about family, and what an “evil person”  would do to preserve the only people who truly love them. This film follows Gru, a nefarious villain who goes to great lengths to prove his despicableness to the world, all while taking care of three adopted children. There’s not a lot to say about this movie. Unlike most other movies in the franchise, the film is consistent, funny, and has all the essential elements to make a classically good film. With an extremely funny villain and good laughs throughout, Despicable Me is a movie for everyone, which might explain its great success. A classic family flic sprinkled with a little bit of minions—who wouldn’t like it?

3. Minions: Rise of Gru

A surprisingly fitting and effective sequel, Minion’s: Rise of Gru overall works, but not without flaws. Compared to its predecessor (Minions, 2016), this movie is less funny, more emotional, and has an equally boring villain. 

Following the end of the first Minions movie, a young Gru has recruited the minions and now sets to join the supervillain group The Vicious Six. Although in many ways it’s more impactful than the first Minions movie, it  feels slightly sloppy. While having an effective first and second act, the third act and climax are disorganized. Like a worse version of the Despicable Me movie, it seems lost in what it’s trying to do. The highlight of this movie is the relationship between Gru and his mentor, ending on a surprisingly emotional note. Though this ending does (almost) make up for the mediocre minions storyline, it cannot be said that this is a perfect, or even excellent film.

4. Despicable Me 2 (2013) 

Despicable Me 2 should not exist. Its predecessor told a charming story about fatherhood that resolved the need for any sequel, yet Illumination made a sequel. And though it is not a bad movie, the trade-off of a heartwarming story and good characters for box office sales is clearly displayed through the film’s writing and overall execution.  

Gru’s character is shallowly developed in the movie  as a result of unnecessary tinkering. Despicable Me 2 revolves around Gru’s new love interest, Lucy, who is a part of the AVL (Anti-Villain League) and aims to recruit Gru to investigate a missing mutagen that has destructive potential. The standout of this movie is the climax, which centers on Gru’s attempt to fend off the mutated minions and fight the villain who poses a threat to Lucy and the world. Even though the climax is the highlight of the movie, it still disappoints.. It had the potential to be a great moment for Lucy and Gru, developing their relationship and Gru’s character, but it ended up as a two-minute anticlimactic half-baked fight scene that left me feeling empty. At no point did I ever feel thrilled or scared like I was obviously supposed to; instead, I was left bored and uninterested. Although sweet moments exist throughout, it is ultimately bland and empty.

5. Despicable Me 3 (2017) 

Like its predecessor, Despicable Me 3 is another example of clear corporate greed, with little to no regard to the story and the characters. The minions have an even more minor role in this movie, replaced by the worst villain of this franchise. After watching the film, I cannot recall a single moment that contributed to the franchise whatsoever. And while Minions is similarly silly, at least it doesn’t try to create something deep and emotional between characters and then miserably fail.

After being kicked out of the AVL for failing to succeed in re-capturing a stolen gem, Lucy and Gru attempt to reunite with the AVL in an attempt to support their family. They also discover Dru, Gru’s long lost twin who lives in luxury and looks up to Gru and his former nefarious ways. After being put in jail after leaving Gru, Balthazar Bratt takes over as the comedy relief but in an extremely irritating way. Bratt has no personality and adds no value to the film whatsoever. While Scarlett Overkill had some qualities that made her at least a little sympathetic, Bratt is just a vengeful man-child. Again, there was great potential for bonding and character development through Gru’s and Dru’s frustration over their parent’s involvement in their lives, but instead they focused on dance battles and bubble gun barrages. While Minions was a hilarious film, Despicable Me 3 is an absolutely absurd, forgettable, and rushed film; it’s the film that shows why the Despicable Me franchise is the fastest completed animated trilogy ever.

Through highs and lows, Despicable Me proves how important it is to know your audience well. Although my heavy disdain for Despicable Me 3 has made it difficult for me to revisit the movie, I have seen kids and their parents walk out of the movie with smiles reaching the far ends of their ears. And personally, I cannot deny that all of these movies have gotten their fair share of laughs out of me. Although the Despicable Me franchise is easy to make fun of, there is a reason why the franchise has made over 4.5 billion dollars.