If you’re looking for high-octane thrills, intense action, and dazzling visuals, then the John Wick movies are some of the best modern films out there. The four released installments – John Wick (2014), John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum (2019), and John Wick 4 (2023) as well as the upcoming John Wick 5 — have thrilled audiences with their unique blend of gripping storylines and captivating characters.
When it comes to choosing the best John Wick movie, there’s quite a debate among fans. Both the original John Wick and John Wick: Parabellum possesses unique qualities that leave a lasting impression on audiences.
John Wick (2014)
The original John Wick movie has a straightforward, revenge-driven plot that delivers some of the most impressive and innovative action sequences ever seen on the big screen. It showcases Keanu Reeves‘ stoic performance as a retired hitman who goes on a killing spree to avenge the loss of his beloved dog. The film’s stylish direction, intense fight choreography, and seamlessly choreographed gunfights established the franchise’s trademark style and laid the foundation for the sequels.
Critics, such as Richard Corliss of Time, applauded director Chad Stahelski’s fresh take on the tired assassin trope, bringing his own sleek and chic style to the film’s six or seven major action sequences. Reeves, who saw a rejuvenation in his career from the success of the film, was also highly regarded for his role as Wick. In the eyes of reviewers, he was in his element as a natural fit for hard-hitting action thrillers. Even with little dialogue, Reeves conveyed the mournful yet fierce spirit of a man on a mission.
Despite its lack of initial box office success, John Wick movies caught fire on DVDs and streaming as viewers praised the exciting and innovative action scenes. Audiences and critics alike have come to appreciate John Wick as a unique and thrilling entry in the action movie genre.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Following the unexpected success of the first John Wick movie, it was only a matter of time before a sequel was released. In 2017, John Wick: Chapter 2 hit theaters, picking up where the first film left off. The film sees Keanu Reeves’ character drawn back into the world of assassins after being hunted by Italian gangsters and navigating the secret society of The Continental.
This chapter featured a larger budget, allowing for even more action scenes and well-known actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Common, Ruby Rose, and John Leguizamo to join the cast.
Despite the challenge of living up to the original, Chapter 2 was highly praised by critics, who welcomed the return of Wick and his intricate world of ancient codes, blood oaths, and secret societies.
Adam Graham of the Detroit News applauded the film, explaining that “in the hands of another filmmaker, this concept could have been tedious, but John Wick 2 is a highly entertaining action movie.”
Meanwhile, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times attributed the success of the sequel to Reeves’ performance, insinuating that “who would have thought that Keanu Reeves, as the stoic, black-clad assassin, could become one of the iconic action heroes of the 21st century?”
The audience responded positively to the movie, doubling the box office earnings of the original, demonstrating their eagerness for a third installment in the series.
John Wick 3 Parabellum
Fans of the John Wick franchise didn’t have to wait long for the third installment, as only two years after Chapter 2, Chapter 3 – Parabellum was released in the summer of 2019. The movie continued to expand the mythos of John Wick and The Continental, introducing new characters played by big names like Halle Berry and Angelica Huston. With the introduction of The High Table, the film laid the foundation for future spin-offs like Ballerina, which would star Ana de Armas.
To the surprise of critics, Chapter 3 received as many rave reviews as its predecessor. NPR’s Chris Klimek compared the franchise to another beloved action series, stating that “the set pieces are imaginative, and there’s a musicality and intelligence to the action that only Mission: Impossible can match.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips even declared Parabellum to be “the best of the three” so far. Similarly, Matthew Thrift of Little White Lies praised the film as an “astonishing spectacle of action and staging.”
Once again, audiences couldn’t get enough of John Wick movies, making Parabellum the highest-grossing film in the franchise so far, with an impressive $328 million at the box office. The success of the third film proved that the John Wick franchise has been consistently delivering high-octane action, exciting storytelling, and a unique, complex world that audiences continue to be invested in.
John Wick 4
While fourth installments in film franchises are often met with lukewarm reviews, John Wick: Chapter 4 defies expectations and stands as the most highly praised movie in the franchise to date. The film boasts a lengthy 169-minute runtime, stunning action scenes that rival Mad Max: Fury Road, and an expanded cast that includes martial arts master Donnie Yen, actor Bill Skarsgård, and pop singer Rina Sawayama.
Chapter 4 not only stands as the best-reviewed John Wick film but also counts among the best movies of 2023.
The critics’ consensus is reflected in MovieFreak.com’s review where critic Sarah Michelle Fetters describes the franchise as “one of the few in the action genre that maintains its quality and originality over four installments without becoming stale.”
While Digital Trends’ own review of John Wick: Chapter 4 was only moderately positive, the movie received near-unanimous praise from other critics.
Overall, the fourth film in the franchise represents an exciting continuation of the action-packed, visually stunning world of John Wick that continues to captivate audiences and critics alike.
The John Wick movies are an exhilarating action-packed adventure full of inventive fight scenes, captivating storytelling, and unforgettable performances by its all-star cast. With each installment, the series has pushed the boundaries of what an action film can be, delivering stunning visuals and truly unique set pieces that have delighted audiences time and time again.
From its groundbreaking first film to the highly anticipated Chapter 4, the franchise has solidified its place as one of the most exciting action franchises of our time. Whether it’s Chapter 5 or a different entry to the world of John Wick, fans will continue to expect only the highest quality filmmaking from this beloved series.
One thing is for certain: if there ever is a John Wick: Chapter 5, it will have some big shoes to fill after the success of Chapter 4. However, if any franchise can continue to exceed expectations, it’s John Wick, with its consistently high-quality filmmaking and dedication to pushing the limits of the action genre.