Super Bowl Sunday demolished the box office this past weekend, but Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle held on to the top spot. Unfortunately, Argylle is also seriously underperforming compared to Vaughn’s previous films, which may impact his future options. Regardless, Vaughn has spent two decades in Hollywood, and he’s directed some truly memorable films.
But no director is perfect every time out, and even Vaughn has had some disappointing efforts along the way. That’s why we’re taking a look back at all seven of Matthew Vaughn’s previous movies and ranking them from worst to first.
Vaughn went to the well with Kingsman one too many times in the joyless prequel, The King’s Man. Perhaps Kingsman movies just don’t work without the charms of Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. In this clunky origin story, the Kingsman organization is founded by Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), who recruits his servants, Polly Wilkins (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou), to be his first agents.
Orlando’s son, Conrad Oxford (Harris Dickinson), is forbidden from fighting in World War I, but he disregards his father’s wishes and does it anyway. But the Oxfords and their former servants will soon have to join forces against The Shepherd (Matthew Goode), the man who is orchestrating the entire war.
The second Kingsman movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, is a bit full of itself with its heavy-handed and silly drug plot. It’s just not as enjoyable as the first film. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its charms, as Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) is reunited with Harry Hart (Colin Firth) following the apparent deaths of almost all of the other Kingsman agents.
Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) is the drug lord behind the destruction of Kingsman because she wanted a clear path so she could blackmail the world over the fate of everyone who is addicted to her drugs. How over-the-top is this film? Elton John portrays himself as one of Poppy’s hostages before he eventually plays a role in the action sequences near the end of the movie.
The best part of Kick-Ass is not the main character, as played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Instead, it’s Chloë Grace Moretz’s hilariously profane Hit-Girl, an eleven-year-old costumed vigilante who is under the tutelage of her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). As for Kick-Ass himself, he’s Dave Lizewski, a wannabe superhero in a world where there aren’t any superpowers.
Kick-Ass may be an inept hero, but Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are putting some serious pressure on crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). That’s why Frank’s son, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), comes up with a plan to befriend Kick-Ass by pretending to be another would-be hero, Red Mist, so he can set a trap for Dave’s crime-fighting allies. If Chris’ plan works, it may cost Big Daddy and Hit-Girl’s lives, and Kick-Ass won’t let that happen without a fight.
The original Kingsman movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, outshines the others because it wears its James Bond influences on its sleeve, and it’s simply more fun to watch. This is the real origin story of the franchise, as Harry Hart takes Eggsy under his wing and trains him to become an agent of Kingsman.
Despite failing his final test to get into the organization, Eggsy is among the last Kingsman agents standing when Harry is seemingly killed after a demonstration of tech that can force almost anyone to become homicidally violent. It’s all part of a plan by Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) to purge most of the world’s population. But Eggsy’s not going to let that happen on his watch.
Layer Cake was Vaughn’s first movie, and it’s often been cited as his best as well. Before he was cast as James Bond, Daniel Craig headlined this film as an unnamed cocaine dealer who wants to get out of the business and enter more legitimate enterprises.
This turns out to be easier said than done, as mob boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) asks Craig’s character to pull off two difficult tasks. First, he has to find Charlie (Nathalie Lunghi), a drug-addicted girl who has been kidnapped. Then, he has to secure a large shipment of ecstasy from The Duke (Jamie Foreman). But in this criminal underworld, it’s not a question about whether you’ll be double-crossed. The only question is when.
Stardust tends to be overlooked among Vaughn’s films, but this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s romantic fantasy really holds up well. It’s also an exceptionally well-cast movie with leading roles for Daredevil‘s Charlie Cox, Homeland‘s Claire Danes, as well as screen icons Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.
Cox stars as Tristan Thorn, a young man who is smitten with Victoria Forester (Sienna Miller), a woman who isn’t convinced that he’s the one for her. To prove his love, Tristan vows to enter the magical kingdom of Stormhold and recover a fallen star. But what Tristan soon discovers is that the star has taken the form of a young woman, Yvaine (Danes). And as sparks fly between Tristan and Yvaine, their lives are endangered by the witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) and her sisters, all of whom want to eat Yvaine’s heart so they can restore their youth and immortality.
You may be wondering why the crowning achievement of Matthew Vaughn’s cinematic career is a superhero film. But X-Men: First Class isn’t some mediocre comic book flick like the ones we had in 2023. This isn’t just a great superhero movie; it’s a great movie, period. Vaughn’s eye for talent helped him land Jennifer Lawrence in a leading role before The Hunger Games came out in theaters. But the heart and soul of this film belong to James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s star-making turn as Erik Lehnsherr, the man who is destined to become Magneto.
Erik is essentially a Nazi hunter with superpowers during the early part of the film, as he attempts to track down Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the man who murdered his mother during World War II. When Shaw proves to be too powerful for Erik alone, his new friend Charles convinces him to work together as they co-found the first team of X-Men with Mystique (Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), and more against the backdrop of the increasingly tumultuous ’60s. The only real knock against this film is that January Jones’ White Queen falls flat on the screen. The rest of the movie is unforgettable.
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