Pickling The Beast: Sandlot Characters Ranked


I have had several (few) people come up to me recently and say “hey, Rankster, you claim to love sports so much, but none of your posts have been about sports.” Well fear not, hypothetical critics, for this list is all about sports (well, kinda).

Everyone remembers where they were the first time they saw Sandlot. I was in 4th grade and every Friday we could trade in tickets we had earned over the week to go to different rooms with different activities set up. I chose movies every Friday for the first semester and the very first week the movie playing was none other than Sandlot. I was immediately invested from the jump. The characters were so relatable and engaging, the soundtrack was weirdly nostalgic for having a bunch of songs on it that came out 30 years before I was born, and it was about baseball (did I mention I love sports)! By the time the credits rolled, I had a new favorite sports movie.

Anytime Sandlot comes on TV, I have to cancel plans so I can catch it in its entirety (never mind the fact that I own it on DVD). Its a beautiful coming of age story that deals with campouts, crushes, and getting into trouble, stuff we all can relate to. The characters make the movie though, and after watching Sandlot for what seems like the 100th time I decided it was finally time to comb through the lineup and put numbers to faces.


It’s been a while since we’ve done a ranker so in case you’re a little rusty, the rules are as follows: 5 criterion are assigned to the cast of the movie, each ranked 1-10 with a composite score given to each character. Below are the five categories:

Likability: How likable was this character? Would you have hung out with him when you were 12?

Plot-centric: How important is this character to the plot? If they disappeared would it affect the movie?

Humor: How funny was this character every time he appeared on screen? Any great one liners?

Memorability: Even years after seeing the movie, how well do you remember this character? This is sort of an amalgamation of the first three categories.

Baseball Skill: How good was this character at their position? Hitting? Fielding?

I’m as anxious as you are to get started so let’s not waste anymore time. We’ll offer up the opening pitch with an obvious one…


9. Tommy “Repeat” Timmons: 27/50 (54%)


Likability – 5.5/10: We all had that one tagalong in our group growing up that was typically a lot younger and usually a sibling of one of our friends. That pest in the Sandlot clan just happened to be Timmy Timmons’ little brother, Tommy, better known as Repeat. Repeat earned his namesake for offering nothing original to the discourse. He would just echo whatever his older brother would say. It had its moments throughout the movie, but the gag just grew tiresome after a while. To say that Repeat was the least likable character in the movie would be arguable, as he doesn’t score the absolute lowest score in this category, beating out only one other teammate on the list. He is, however, quite insufferable throughout the run time of the movie, so you can only imagine what he would be like if you had to play with him everyday of the summer.

Plot – 5/10: Again, what exactly did Repeat contribute to this movie, plot-wise? He just stands around and plagiarizes everything his older, slightly cooler sibling says. He’s the worst baseball player of the bunch by virtue of being the youngest (more on that later), and he does nothing in the third act of the movie to help retrieve the Babe Ruth Ball. Yeah Yeah is the one on the pulley system and Smalls offers up his Erector Set prowess, but Repeat sits back and does jack in terms of getting back what may have been the most important piece of sports memorabilia of the mid-20th century.

Humor – 6/10: Similar to his brother, Repeat has his moments. Some of the things he repeats from Timmy and the subsequent reaction he gets from his piers offers some solid laughs, but as I mentioned, the humor starts to lose its punch in the second half of the movie. The shocked covering of the eyes during Squints’ bold move on Wendy Peffercorn adds a nice bit of visual humor, but its subtle at best.

Memorability – 5.5/10: If it seems like this ranker has turned into “Comedy Central’s Roast of Repeat,” its because Tommy Timmons has next to zero redeeming qualities to his name (harsh criticism for a fictional child, yes). He only outranks his brother in this category because he almost always gets the last word in, but he has very few memorable lines in the movie, with his exacerbated “The Colossus of Clout” easily being his best quote. Be honest, you didn’t leave the theater/living room/classroom with any overt fondness towards Repeat, right?

Baseball Skills – 5/10: Repeat was the youngest of the Sandlot crew, so naturally he was the weakest link on an otherwise unbeatable machine. A contact hitter who could use his speed to get down the line quickly, the smaller Timmons was a bit of a one trick pony at the plate and the fact that he was still several years from puberty meant he was a bit of a liability in the infield, both from an arm strength and range perspective. If I was managing that team, Repeat would be my 9 hitter eight days a week and twice on Sunday.


8. Bertram Grover Weeks: 29/50 (58%)


Likability – 5/10: Was there anyone more insufferable in this movie than Bertram? The answer, of course, is no. Look, I know I just spent the last five paragraphs flaming Repeat, but Bertram didn’t have the excuse of being the “tagalong younger brother” at his disposal. On top of that, he had more lines than Repeat and all of them seemed to just grate at me the longer the movie went on. He wasn’t charming like Benny, nor was he funny like Ham or Squints. He was just Bertram, and that meant he was generally kind of a know-it-all and a bit of a jerk, all things considered.

Plot-centric – 6/10: Bertram benefits extremely from one scene in the entire movie: the infamous carnival scene. Other than offering chewing tobacco to the crew (and making them deathly ill in the process), Bertram does nothing to help advance the plot. He’s just an above average baseball player who offers nothing along the lines of furthering the film along. If Bertram were taken out of the movie and replaced with another lanky 2nd baseman, we would be deprived of one of the great 90’s gross out scenes in cinema history, but other than that he’s rather useless.

Humor – 5/10: Quick, name one line Bertram offered up that you legitimately laughed at! Thats what I thought. Bertram didn’t have a single funny line in this movie… Okay he had one: right after Squints pretends to drown but before he kisses Wendy, Bertram exclaims “he looks like shit!” Its deadpan and the timing is brilliant, but aside from that, Bertram lacks the funny bone so many others on that team possessed.

Memorability – 5/10: As I mentioned in the Plot category, Bertram is memorable if only for the Big Chief scene at the carnival. He doesn’t have any memorable scenes or quotable lines throughout the entire movie. I really don’t have much else to say about Bertram in this particular instance only that he seems to be one of the better players on the team, if only for his size. Speaking of which…

Baseball Skills – 8/10: What Bertram lacks in, well, everything, he makes up for in his skill on the diamond. A great defensive infielder, Bertram had length and a great arm at second base. He was able to get around with ease in the infield and his long legs gave him sneaky speed getting down the line, much like a Christian Yelich. At the plate, Bertram had a solid bat and could hit for average as well as power, and the aforementioned long legs made him a danger on the base paths.


7. Timmy Timmons: 29.5/50 (59%)


Likability – 6/10: To be fair, there was nothing really unlikable about the elder Timmons, but he didn’t exactly give off the “need to have around” vibe either. Timmy was just your run of the mill friend who never said or did anything too out of the ordinary. He was a bit smarmy at times and him bringing his brother everywhere are both things that bring this score down, but he wasn’t an awful human being nor did he direct any personal ridicule at Smalls during the infancy of his baseball career.

Plot-Centric – 5/10: Much like his younger brother, Timmy doesn’t bring too much to the table here in terms of importance to the plot. Yes, he does come up with the pulley system to help retrieve the ball from Hercules, but that proves to be ultimately futile and a moot point at best. Timmy has been relegated to a secondary/borderline tertiary character in terms of prominence in the film. He should be happy he’s on the team, otherwise he’d be completely irrelevant to the movie.

Humor – 6/10: Timmy’s entire score in this category gets saved by one line. In the ever-popular drowning scene, right as Squints goes in for the kill on Wendy, Timmy utters the immortal words, “Oh man, he’s in deep shit!” Hearing that come out of a kid’s mouth as he watches his best bud try to stick his tongue down an older girl’s throat is just poetic, as we could easily hear ourselves saying the same thing. The timing is great and the delivery is timeless. Other than that, Timmy doesn’t exactly light the scoreboard up, in terms of humor.

Memorability – 5/10: To reiterate, other than the pool scene, Timmy lacks the memorability and big lines we’ve come to love from other characters in this film. Like most of the other players occupying the top half of this list, Timmy doesn’t have the sheer quantity of lines that we as viewers can pick from. This leaves him as one of the least memorable characters in this great movie (but he still doesn’t have the lowest score in this category).

Baseball Skill – 7.5/10: Everything Repeat does well, Timmy does better. Being the older brother, Timmy has speed like Repeat but possesses much more pop in his bat, as made evident by his AB against the snobby travel team. He’s also a much better infielder, making him one of the better players on the team; certainly above “league average.”


6. Kenny DeNunez: 30.5/50 (61%)


Likability – 7/10:  Kenny DeNunez was one of the quieter Sandlot kids, which typically meant he wasn’t saying anything mean or nice.  In this instance, it makes him one of the more well liked members of the team.  There’s not a whole lot to say about Sandlot’s ace righty other than he kind of just follows the crowd.  This doesn’t do him any favors in some of the other categories, but I also can’t remember him being that much of a jackass either, so kudos, Kenny.

Plot – 5/10:  DeNunez’s claim to fame in the story comes at the very end, where we find out he went on to play Triple-A ball.  That’s great for him, but it does nothing to advance the plot.  KD is important to the success of the Sandlot team on the diamond but off it, he doesn’t contribute much, if anything.  Five is as high as I can go here, for obvious reasons.

Humor – 5/10:  Not a lot of speaking lines were granted to Kenny DeNunez, so his score is justly low.  An exchange with Ham right before he hits a homer is the only really memorably funny moment DeNunez has in this film.  His speaking lines are noticeably absent during some of the seminal scenes in the movie, namely the pool scene and any of the ball retrieval trials.

Memorability – 4.5/10:  Other than the back and forth with Ham at the plate, is there really anything DeNunez does in this movie that is memorable?  Sure, he completely shuts down the snotty travel team with his no-hit stuff on the mound, but everyone else contributed to the slaughter as well.  Sorry to say it, but “The Heater” might be the least memorable character of the bunch, and that’s saying a lot when you share a team with Tommy Timmons.

Baseball Skills – 9/10:  Ah, KD’s saving grace!  While DeNunez lacks any sort of charisma needed to be a memorable character, he is second only to “god-in-human-form” Benny in terms of baseball skill.  It was mentioned before that DeNunez goes on to play Triple-A ball, a feat not many kids playing backyard baseball will eventually claim.  His heater is legendary, and his bat is quite live.  Kenny DeNunez is the best player not named Benny, and that alone is rather impressive.


5.  Alan “Yeah Yeah” McClennan: 35.5/50 (71%)


Likability – 6.5/10:  Yeah Yeah is a tad snarky and a bit of a scoffer, initially leading the train on making fun of Smalls in the beginning of the film, but towards the end he actually becomes one of the more likable members of the crew.  Consider this a tale of two halves for our hyper-active short stop; he really starts to grow on you by the end of the story.  His constant ribbing of his teammates, typically Squints and his affection for Wendy Peffercorn, may seem grating but its actually rather endearing.

Plot – 6/10:  Though not a complete throw away like the brothers Timmons or Bertram, Yeah Yeah doesn’t exactly bring it in this department either.  He is an integral piece to the retrieval plans of the Babe Ruth baseball but when those efforts prove to be less than fruitful, Yeah Yeah (and basically everyone else but Benny, by extension) becomes expendable.  This isn’t to say McClennan is a throw away, he just isn’t essential to the plot of the film.

Humor – 8.5/10:  Let’s face it: Yeah Yeah is hysterical.  He may seem like a bit of a one trick pony in the laughs department, but his schticks of being borderline ADHD and starting his sentences with “yeah, yeah” are actually quite humorous.  His best scene is a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” shot of him after confronting the Beast, where he is screaming and intermittently babbling his lips like an insane person. Ah, comedy gold!

Memorability – 7/10:  Because Yeah Yeah is so funny, he becomes one of the more memorable characters.  Sure, his contributions to the plot are dubious at best, but he endears himself to us as an audience enough that he emerges as one of the more recognizable faces on the team.  As far as secondary characters go, Yeah Yeah is one of the best and most memorable.

Baseball Skills – 7.5/10:  A versatile fielder at shortstop, McClennan is talented in the hole, with both range and arm strength in his favor.  He has quick foot speed which allows him to get to balls easily and I’d imagine he’s pretty good at getting those 6-4-3 double plays going.  At the dish, Yeah Yeah doesn’t have plus power, but he is good at hitting for contact and his aforementioned foot speed makes him a danger to get on base as well as steal.  All told, Yeah Yeah ranks in the upper half of players on an already stacked team.


4.  Scott “Scotty” Smalls: 39.5/50 (79%)


Likability – 7/10:  NERD!  Just kidding (mostly).  Smalls can come off as kind of whiny from time to time and he’s a bit of a geek, but come on he’s the main character!  We HAVE to like him.  The movie does a good job of using Smalls’ faults as ways to make him a more endearing character.  He sucks at baseball early on because his dad died and his step-dad is too busy for him and he’s shy and doesn’t have a lot of friends as a result of this.  It makes him a very sympathetic character, so we just can’t help but like him… For the most part.

Plot – 10/10:  I’ll keep this short and sweet: without Scotty Smalls, there is no narrator.  Without a narrator, there is no Sandlot.  Yes, the Sandlot kids still play ball with each other every summer (albeit down a man), but we as an audience never get to hear the tales of that summer.  We never hear the legend of the Beast, or of Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.  Anything less than a 10 in this category would be highway robbery.

Humor – 7.5/10:  In every great comedy since man discovered fire and invented the wheel, there must be a straight man; a character who is the set up man and sometimes even the butt of the jokes.  Smalls does this with masterful aplomb (whether he likes to or not remains to be seen).  The Babe Ruth ball, The Great Bambino gaff, hell, even the most quoted line in the movie (“you’re killing me, Smalls”) all come at the expense of poor Scotty.  I’ve never been very appreciative towards the comedic straight man, but in this instance I’ll make an exception.

Memorability – 8/10:  Again, with this being an amalgamation of the first three scores, Smalls ranks relatively high in this category as well.  He has many memorable lines and contributes to the plot immensely.  He is also humorous in a straight man sort of way, as well as being rather likable in the lovable loser sense.  His character arc is also super underrated, as he goes from shy introvert who is awful at baseball to adept outfielder with tons of new friends, all within a single summer.

Baseball Skills – 7/10:  Speaking of which, if we ranked Smalls at the start of Sandlot, this score would undoubtedly be a fat 0.  Thanks to a little practice and some coaching from Benny, however, Smalls turns into a rather capable baseball player on both sides of the ball.  Defensively, he is an adequate outfielder with loads of upside, particularly in the arm strength department as made evident by his game of catch with Dennis Leary.  At the plate, Smalls not only hits for contact but has hidden power, crushing the Babe Ruth ball to dead center, typically the deepest part of the field.


3.  Michael “Squints” Palledorous: 41.5/50 (83%)


Likability – 7.5/10:  For all the retorts and quips he hurls at his teammates, Squints is a really likable character.  You can tell behind the pseudo-napoleon complex that he genuinely cares for the well-being of his friends.  Squints may come off as kind of arrogant, but gosh darn it we just can’t help but like him!

Plot – 8/10:  Squints is one of the most important characters in the film.  Look at it this way, without Squints we would have no Wendy Peffercorn subplot, no Beast stories at the treehouse.  Basically, a movie about baseball and nothing more.  Remember, Squints is the one who dissuaded Smalls from just walking over to Mr. Mertle’s door and asking for the ball back.  Without that seed of doubt being planted, the entire third act of the movie and the legend of Benny pickling the Beast both cease to exist.  Squints is almost essential to Sandlot being the movie that it is, and we thank him.

Humor – 10/10:  It can be argued that Squints is the single funniest character in the movie.  He is tied with someone else on this list, but suffice to say, Squints has us laughing from beginning to end.  There are so many quotes to choose from: “L7 weenie,” “For-ever,” “Been plannin’ it for years,” the list goes on and on.  The crowning achievement and proverbial feather in the funny cap of Squints has to be his putting the moves on the lifeguard routine.  It was surprising the first time we saw it and hasn’t stopped being funny for almost 25 years (feel old yet?).

Memorability – 9/10:  Who could forget a character like Squints?  With those Coke bottle glasses and that toothy grin, he’s physically memorable.  However, he may be even more memorable for his back and forth with teenage fantasy Wendy Peffercorn, culminating in him tricking her into giving him mouth to mouth.  Judging by her appearance alone, Peffercorn was easily 5 years older than our favorite bespectacled baseball player.  The fact that he was not only able to kiss her but win her affection makes him easily the bravest character as well.  Jumping a fence to win a ball back from a man eating beast? Please!  Try even TALKING to an older woman.  Way to go, Squints!  You’re my hero.

Baseball Skills – 7/10:  Squints is the steady Eddie of the Sandlot crew.  He doesn’t have the power of Ham or Benny, nor does he have the speed or fielding acumen of Yeah Yeah, but Squints can more than hold his own on both sides.  Offensively, he’s a contact hitter with adequate speed and in the field he can track down most balls with said horsepower.  He’s a better player off the field, but he’s no slouch on it either.


2.  Hamilton “Ham” “The Great Hambino” Porter: 43.5/50 (87%)


Likability – 8/10:  It could be the pudgy build.  It could be the freckles.  It could be the fact that he’s a walking comedian.  Whatever it is, Ham is an extremely likable guy.  He has the same thing going for him as Squints: kind of a condescending a-hole at times, but still lovable.  He might be even more likable than Squints, however, because of his “friendly” disposition behind the plate at catcher.  Regardless of what makes Ham such a fun guy, there is almost no one we would rather spend our summers with as a kid.

Plot – 7.5/10:  Ham isn’t quite as important as a Smalls or a Squints, but he has his moments.  He’s mostly here for comedic relief but he does help in getting back the ball and he’s really key in some expositional moments.  For example, his home run introduces Scotty Smalls to the Beast that lives on the other side of the fence.  He even tangentially introduces Smalls to the legend of Babe Ruth, aka the Great Bambino.  The movie could march on without him, but much like the hypothetical absence of Squints, we would be worse off without him.

Humor – 10/10:  Take. Your. Pick.  Ham is a comedy gold mine from start to finish.  Who could forget the pool scene, where he introduces himself to a bunch of the “ladies” right before cannonballing and ruining their tanning spot?  Or the scene where he goes toe to toe with the captain of the snobby travel team, culminating in the classic put-down of “you play ball like a girl” (a scene that would likely trigger even the average liberal arts student nowadays, which makes it even funnier).  Ham even gives us one of the funniest and most quoted lines of the 90’s not from an episode of Seinfeld, “you’re killing me, Smalls.”  Those four words have been such a part of the American vernacular that even people who haven’t seen the movie say them.

Memorability – 9.5/10:  Ham has it all: the distinct look, the perfectly timed one-liners, and the quotes that entire generations have been regurgitating since ’93.  He is easily the most memorable part of Sandlot, even more so than Benny.  If you think that’s hyperbole, I’ll prove it.  Think back to the last time you heard someone say that famous line of Ham’s.  Great!  Now try to remember anything Benny said.  I rest my case.

Baseball Skills – 8.5/10:  With Benny going on to play for the L.A. Dodgers and DeNunez making it as far as Triple-A, the metaphorical doorstep of the Major’s, it stands to reason that Ham is the third best baseball player on the team.  His power, aside from Benny, knows no equal and he even homered off of the aforementioned DeNunez, meaning he got one over on someone who almost made it to the big leagues (quick side note: my cousin Jay once struck out Prince Fielder in a high school game.  Pretty sweet, right?!  Anyway, I digress).  What may go under appreciated about Ham, however, is his defense at the catcher position.  He was a force behind the plate on offense, but on defense, his constant chatter and perfect framing made it impossible for opposing hitters to get anything going.


1.  Benjamin Franklin “The Jet” Rodriguez: 44.5/50 (89%)


Likability – 9/10:  Was there ever any doubt?  Of course not!  Benny is not only by far the most likable guy because of how freaking cool he was, he was also insanely humble too.  He was better than everyone he played against, and he knew it, but he was a team guy and a supportive friend.  When Smalls showed up and had no idea what the hell he was doing, Benny didn’t give up on him.  He took him under his wing and saw to it that Smalls would become the baseball player he knew he could be.  There is something to be said for a grown man who puts others before himself, and it’s even more impressive that Benny had barely hit puberty.  Wise beyond his years, they say.

Plot – 10/10:  Again, much like Smalls, without Benny there is no Sandlot.  Benny put the team together and was the last one to move away.  He built the Sandlot team from nothing.  Without The Jet, there is no story to tell.  Smalls never has the courage to talk to the Sandlot kids, and the legend of pickling the Beast never happens.  So many key events take place because of Benny; no Benny, no Sandlot.  No heroes getting remembered, and no legends never dying.

Humor – 6/10:  Every man has a weakness.  This is a theory I have postulated many times when jealousy rears its ugly head over a potential competitor for the affections of a woman I fancy.  Benny is no exception (not that we ever competed over the same woman, but the rules still apply).  Sure he’s good looking and an exceptional athlete, but he doesn’t have the funny bones guys like Squints and Ham have.  That must be why Wendy chose the former over the future MLB’er.  Yeah, sure, that’s it…

Memorability – 9.5/10:  Benny lacks the funny lines and physical comedy of Hamilton Porter, but he has the charm and charisma as well as the accolades to more than make up for this.  Who could forget Benny pickling the Beast, showing no fear as he jumped that fence in his fresh pair of P.F. Flyers?  Or how about when he knocked the stuffing out of that baseball, something “like only two or three guys in history” had done since?  I still argue that Ham was the more memorable character, but as an ideology of bravery and courage, no one was better than Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.

Baseball Skills – 10/10:  The dude played for the Dodgers.  What more of an explanation do you want?  Benny could play every position on the field as good or better than the people who actually held those positions on a daily basis.  He was such a good hitter he could literally pick his spot to within inches, as he showed when he hit a popup right to the outstretched glove of Smalls in center field.  He was even faster than a full grown dog.  For crying out loud, Benny outran a dog!  He may be the greatest fictional baseball player of all time, and if you disagree, be sure to let me know so I can ignore your terrible opinion (kidding).








Album of the Week: Def Leppard’s Hysteria


Here at Original Rankster, we try to provide you with the quality rankings you seek as often as possible (as a full time college student [at the time of writing] searching for employment, patience is appreciated).  However, all numbers and no fun makes Rankster a dull boy, so to change it up I give you: Album of the Week

Each week, I’ll provide you wonderful readers with an album I’m particularly fond of and delve into what I believe made this record so good.  This week on the dissecting tray is Def Leppard’s 1987 mega-hit, Hysteria.



In the years preceding Hysteria’s release, Def Leppard were already a huge commercial draw.  They had three albums under their belt, with their 1983 release, Pyromania, going platinum several times over.  With producer Robert “Mutt” Lange at the helm (responsible for AC/DC’s Back in Black), Def Leppard set out to destroy the boundaries previously broken by Pyromania.  This would prove to be a more daunting task than originally anticipated by both the band and Mutt.


Initial recording sessions for Animal Instinct (Hysteria’s original title) were slow and plagued with multiple delays including singer Joe Elliot getting the mumps and producer Mutt Lange being involved in a minor car accident.  Nothing, however, could prepare the band for what was about to happen

On December 31, 1984, drummer Rick Allen went for a joyride in his Corvette convertible on a country rode in Sheffield, England when he swerved to avoid an oncoming motorist.  Allen lost control of his vehicle and flipped several times into a nearby field.  The car rolled on top of the young rocker, severing his left arm and leaving him for dead.  Allen survived, but his limb was not able to be reattached.

The other members of Def Leppard were left with a choice: carry on without their brother Rick Allen, or call it quits right at the apex of their career trajectory.  Allen picked option C, and decided he was going to be a member of Def Leppard, no matter how many arms he had.  He reconstructed his electronic drum kit, using foot pedals as a substitute for what he would’ve used his second arm for and completely re-taught himself the drums.


This would prove to invigorate and inspire the band, as Def Leppard roared back into the studio with a vengeance.  The album now known as Hysteria took nearly four years total to complete, but when it was finished the band knew they had created magic.

Hype for Hysteria was, ironically enough, slow initially.  Part of this had to do with the band deciding to release two separate lead singles for the album in America and their native U.K.  The first single released in the U.S. was “Women,” a relatively straightforward rocker that didn’t exactly show any growth from the band in the last four years; American buyers were skeptical.  That is, until Def Leppard released their second single, a little number by the name of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”  At the risk of sounding like a cliche douche, the rest is history.

Hysteria went on to be Def Leppard’s magnum opus, selling a staggering 25 million units worldwide (12 million in the States, alone).  The record produced 7 singles, 6 of which found their way into the Billboard Hot 100 and the album went number 1 in three different countries.  1987 saw a bevy of big sellers in the rock industry, but Hysteria remains the heavyweight champion of them all, and in the next several paragraphs you’ll find out why everyone and their dog owned a copy of this bad boy by the end of the 80’s.




Def Leppard was known throughout the 80’s and early 90’s as the band chicks and dudes could both like and not be ostracized by members of their respective communities.  Nothing perpetuates this theory more than Hysteria.  The entire album is smattered with songs ranging from over-the-top ballads (“Hysteria,” “Love Bites”), to upbeat hard rockers (“Run Riot,” “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”).  What really sets this album apart from its predecessors, though, is the production quality.  Mutt Lange was with Def Leppard since their 1981 sophomore effort High ‘n Dry, which if listened to with a blindfold on sounds like a slightly more melodic AC/DC record.  The leaps in production quality from High ‘n Dry to Pyromania and then to Hysteria were nothing short of stunning; each record sounded miles ahead of the previous one.

The use of guitar as the primary instrument takes a back seat on this album, and upon initial inspection it can turn a lot of “metal heads” off to this record.  I routinely hear people say that everything Def Leppard released after Pyromania was “soft, cookie cutter crap,” but all that hostility can really be equated to fans feeling alienated towards a glossier approach to producing songs.  Each song on Hysteria is painstakingly crafted from the bottom up.  The attention to detail and layering seen on the album can be credited partially to Mutt’s near obsessiveness in the recording booth and also to the band’s principal songwriters maturing at just the right time.  Every single note pops right out of your speaker and feels purposeful.


The advent of synths and dubbing instruments multiple times over were principle reasons why this album took so long to produce, but boy was it well worth the wait!  This is Def Leppard’s “hookiest” record on call, as the whole album has more hooks than a commercial fishing boat.  Each song catches you almost instantaneously and never lets go, and the tracks get stuck in your head for days.  Speaking of catchy tunes…




Hysteria plays like a kind of “Greatest Hits Compilation,” as the whole album is stacked with Top 10 chart toppers and beloved deep cuts alike.  Take even the first four tracks off the record and they represent somewhat of a microcosm of the musical spectrum presented by Hysteria.  “Women” took the classic hard rock approach Def Leppard had been known for at the time and “studiofied” it.  “Rocket” is the over the top, glossy, production laden track with all sorts of recording booth tricks that were state of the art at the time.  “Animal” is the slowed down, sultry slow rocker with a soft touch.  Finally, “Love Bites” is the seminal ballad of the album, showing Def Leppard could transition into the era of the “power ballad” better than any band out there.

While the entire album is awesome from top to bottom, and the first four tracks sum up the feel of the record as a whole, it is the middle four tracks of Hysteria that are worth the sticker price alone.  “Armageddon It,” “Gods of War,” “Don’t Shoot Shotgun,” and “Run Riot” are four of my favorite Def Leppard songs ever released, and they all come in a neat little back to back package in the middle of their most grandiose album.  “Gods of War,” in particular is a nearly 7 minute hard rock composition that has nifty hooks and harmonies galore and could quite possibly be the entire group at their collective height, musically and creatively.


A super deep cut that often gets overlooked in the shadows of its more popular brethren is the oh-so-groovy “Excitable.”  Located at the tail end of Hysteria, this track has both danceability and a hard rock edge that makes it a perfect fit for the late part of the album; a pick me up, if you will, sandwiched between two of the softer, slower songs on Hysteria.


Speaking of softer, slower songs, Hysteria is a nearly perfect record on almost every account.  It does, however, falter a bit towards the end of the second side (relatively speaking, anyway).  The title track is a ballad that by all accounts gets overshadowed by the earlier “Love Bites,” both in production quality and feel.  It just doesn’t have the same gut punch that “Love Bites” has the first time you hear it.  “Love Bites” makes you feel emotionally drained after hearing it, “Hysteria” just sounds soft.


While on the subject of inferior clones, “Love and Affection” is nearly identical to “Animal,” but much like “Hysteria” is the lesser version of “Love Bites,” “Love and Affection” is the lesser version “Animal.”  Don’t skip it, because its still a fine song in its own right, just kind of a wimpy way to close out this masterpiece.



After Hysteria dropped, Def Leppard went from a mere rock band to a group of musical Demi-gods.  Hysteria was the culmination of the band enduring many hardships and working them to their advantage.  The members of Def Leppard became full on rock stars after 1987, in every sense of the word.  Particularly, guitarist “Steamin'” Steve Clark and his alcoholism took on an entirely new dynamic.  While the rest of the band was starting to settle down, Clark went completely berserk, sometimes downing an entire bottle of Jack Daniels just to maintain stasis.


The band had visions of grandeur for their next album, Adrenalize, and were famously quoted as saying “the next one won’t take us four years.”  Unfortunately, Clark being a part of the band’s future wasn’t in the cards.  On January 8, 1991, Clark succumbed to alcohol poisoning.  The bright yet tormented guitarist who was just entering his prime was dead at the age of 30.

The band soldiered on and released Adrenalize in March of 1992 (ironically, five years after Hysteria).  The album was a smash hit and spawned a few top 40 bangers, but Def Leppard could never live up to the hype they created with Hysteria and subsequent albums all sold progressively less and less units.


Hysteria marked a band reaching its artistic peak right as the music industry was in the mood for gloss and polish.  The album represented an already great pairing of band and producer catching lightning in a bottle and releasing one of the greatest efforts of the 1980’s.

Def Leppard still tours today, with Whitesnake/Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell taking the place of Steve Clark as the band’s second guitarist opposite Phil Collen and although they have released new material, their set lists are still littered with cuts off of Hysteria.  Turn on the radio today anywhere from adult contemporary to classic rock stations and you can still hear “Love Bites” or “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”  The impact this record made on rock in the 80’s is still being felt today.  Def Leppard will always say they are just a band from Sheffield, but after Hysteria, they couldn’t escape the fame any longer.  And we should all be thankful for that…




Hopefully you enjoyed Album of the Week! Next week on the docket: Building the Perfect Beast by Don Henley.




Dancin’ With Mr. Rankster: Appetite For Destruction Songs Ranked


In the pantheon of debut albums in rock history, there are a select few that stand out above the rest.  These albums feature bands just starting out in the world of recorded music already at their creative and artistic peaks.  Are You Experienced, Led Zeppelin I, and Van Halen I are all perfect examples of this, but one record rises to the top of the list.

First, some backstory.  The year is 1987 and the rock scene is almost entirely dominated by the now cookie cutter mentality of “let’s dress a bunch of dudes up in spandex and makeup and tailor their music to radio audiences.”  Not that a lot of people had a problem with this.  Hell, some of my favorite bands and guitar players saw their heyday in the mid to late 1980’s, but by the tail end of the second Reagan term, the trend had become bloated and stale.

In struts Guns N’ Roses: five street-wise tough guys from the L.A. club scene that had spawned so many of the hair metal acts audiences had grown accustomed to seeing over the years.  Make no mistake, though, GNR was not a hair band.  Everything about the quintet oozed danger, something most of the pop-metal acts of the day seemed to lack.  Sure, bands like Ratt and Motley Crue had their customary drug problems, but Guns N’ Roses were the real deal.


When Axl and the boys released Appetite for Destruction in the summer of 1987, it completely changed the landscape of what a rock band looked and sounded like.  To give some context, within the same three month radius of Appetite’s debut, Whitesnake and Def Leppard had launched their albums Whitesnake and Hysteria, respectively.  Both records had a glossy production sheen to them, and each song had been painstakingly crafted from the bottom up in pure “studio magic” fashion.  Listen to just the first three songs on Appetite and you will find this is the complete opposite in the case of Guns N’ Roses.  It sounds like the band got all strung out on their drug of choice, grabbed their instruments, and the producer hit play.  And you know what, IT WORKED!

Not only is this album one of my favorite debuts in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, it is one of my favorite records to grace the presence of humankind.  Granted, it was a hard fall from grace for Guns after this album, at least in my eyes.  Some fans champion the band’s next full studio effort, the double album Use Your Illusion’s I and II, as the high water mark of the band.  I, however, see this as the band cannibalizing itself and giving into the same overly glossy studio tricks the bands they railed against used just a few short years prior.  For my money, Guns N’ Roses produced one nearly flawless album before slowly burning out and ultimately collapsing upon themselves in true super nova fashion.

But I’m no astro-physicist and you didn’t come here to listen to me rant about red giants and the lot so lets get to the nitty gritty.  This is a personal ranker, meaning no criteria goes into these rankings.  They are purely subjective and I’ll give a reason why each song is ranked where they’re ranked; there are no scores to add up.  Without any further adieu, I give you Appetite for Destruction songs ranked worst to first, starting with this pile of dog feces on an otherwise musical masterpiece…

12. Sweet Child O’ Mine


Jesus Christ on a cracker! If I hear this song one more time, I may go full Michael Douglas in Falling Down (look it up)!  The main riff is insufferable, the lyrics are lame, and the whole theme and feel of the song is so out of place on an album where nearly every other track is a fighter jet ride through Hedonism-ville.  I get that this song is one of the main reasons this album sold so many copies in the late 80’s, but when I hear people singing along to this and then saying they heard it on Glee, I get a little turned off.

Sweet Child may also be the biggest criminal in what my friend and I like to call the “Urban Outfitters Band” phenomenon.  Girls with next to no knowledge of a band other than their most popular single (Sweet Child, Stairway to Heaven, Back in Black, etc.) buy a $30 T-shirt from Urban Outfitters of said band and wear it to Starbucks or wherever the kids hang out now-a-days.  Guns N’ Roses t-shirts are worn by thousands of people who only know of them because of Sweet Child and if they had actually listened to Appetite for Destruction in it’s entirety they would be shocked at some of the content.  I know this seems like a shallow reason to hate a song, but if we get down to brass tacks, Sweet Child just isn’t that great of a cut.  It has become a cliche and has been played ad nauseam but unlike other songs on this album that receive radio play, Sweet Child lacks a much needed punch.  Also, screw Glee.


11.  My Michelle


If it weren’t for Sweet Child, My Michelle would be the low point of this entire album (but you can count, so I’ll go a bit more into detail).  The song is a fine hard rock tune but it doesn’t do anything special.  The lyrics are sinister and the guitar riff is heavy, but in terms of being dynamic, musically speaking, this track doesn’t deviate far from the norm.

My Michelle’s solo is probably the best part of the song.  Slash delivers on the growls and double-stops we’ve become so accustomed to by track 7 of this album, but this part of the record hits a bit of a rut, tempo wise.  My Michelle is a decent GNR song, however, in the context of the album, it remains one of the more forgettable tracks on an otherwise dynamite debut.


10. Anything Goes


A song about sex, and blatantly so, Anything Goes is a groovy riffer that you can really shake your hips and headbang to, which is a theme on most of these tracks.  The chorus is a bit bland but is made up for by the main verse and solo, which sees Slash bust out the Vox-Box and do his best “Peter Frampton on heroin” impression.

The groove of this tune, as mentioned above, is infectious and really gets the job done in terms of bringing the sleaze Appetite for Destruction is notorious for.  It may not be a particularly memorable track and is a short one, especially considering it shows up on the back side of the album, where songs routinely clock in at 4 and a half to 5 plus minutes, but Anything Goes is a fun song that encapsulates what GNR was all about in their prime.


9. Think About You


Guns N’ Roses could have left Sweet Child completely off this record, because this track is as close as Appetite for Destruction should have come to ever containing a “ballad.”  Think About You is an upbeat song with a major-minor switch in the verse-chorus and quite heartfelt lyrics but they are masked by a fun riff and a break neck tempo.

What sets this song apart from the others is the soft layering of acoustic arpeggiated chords throughout the chorus.  If you haven’t heard Think About You, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen.  It is a departure from the hedonistic, testosterone pumping anthems found elsewhere in the grooves of this disc, but in a way that still maintains the overall tone of the album.  A ballad done the right way, if you will.


8. Welcome To The Jungle


Sure, you hear this tune each time your favorite football team is warming up on the sideline… And it still gets you pumped every time!  Welcome to the Jungle is a perfect opening number to Appetite because it introduces the listener to everything they will experience on the next 11 tracks: gritty guitars, screeching vocals, and groovy rhythms.

Jungle is a bit overplayed, so it falls to the middle of the pack in terms of rankings, but it differs from Sweet Child in that is still has the grime and sleaze to make you want to come back for more.  Both solos in the song are fun and musically engaging, and Axl is at his snarling best to open this rollercoaster ride.  “You know where you are?” Yes, Axl.  Right where I want to be.


7. It’s So Easy


We’re nearing the top half of this list, so every song from here on out is a personal favorite of mine.  It will be harder to differentiate between certain songs in terms of their rankings but I’ll do my best.  As soon as the bass line hits in the opening of this song, you know you’re in for a wild ride.  It’s So Easy is a classic Guns song and was the opening number on many of their set lists back in their heyday.

The lyrics are especially dark when sung in Axl’s low registry but what really boosts this song is the bridge (repeated again before the outro) where things slow down.  Axl and bassist Duff McKeagan harmonize their vocals and the guitars play some clean, arpeggiated chords.  This is all a wonderful set up, juxtaposing the hardcore breakdown just before the solo.  This track is a fast one and does a great job of linking the commercial banger of Welcome to the Jungle to the grittier tracks of the (in my opinion, superior) front side of the album.  It’s So Easy is vintage Guns N’ Roses from start to finish, so be sure to give it a listen.


6. Paradise City


I’m sure a lot of you thought this song would be number one.  Well, surprise!  Paradise City is a phenomenal song that ticks a lot of boxes in my musical eye: vocal harmonies, key changes, fast solos, layered synths, and a perfect blend of pop and sleaze.  Clocking in at just under 7 minutes, this is Guns N’ Roses’ magnum opus (at least for this album… *cough* November Rain).

Paradise City falters a bit and finds itself towards the middle of these rankings partially because of how often it receives air play.  The song also drags a bit before the first solo and is a bit repetitive for how long it is, but it picks back up after the bridge and delivers the climax everyone is looking for.  This track delivers on multiple accounts and does a fine job of closing out the A side of Appetite for Destruction.


5. You’re Crazy


If you ever needed a a shot of testosterone directly after listening to Sweet Child O’ Mine, is this the song for you!  As the track that immediately follows Sweet Child on Appetite for Destruction, You’re Crazy is saddled with the daunting task of reintroducing the listener to the frenetic pace and bad boy culture of the album.  And does it ever!

This particular cut is one of the fastest songs on Appetite.  The riff is infectious and Steven Addler is drumming his absolute heart out on this one as we can still feel the impact from his snare to this day.  Axl screams and seethes his way through You’re Crazy as he turns in one of his best vocal performances on the record.  A hidden gem on an album chalk full of them, this song is guaranteed to get the blood flowing again as you near the end of the road on the vinyl.


4. Rocket Queen


Appetite for Destruction is one of the few albums I know of that finish with as much of a bang as it started with.  Rocket Queen is a two-parter, with the first half of the song being a raunchy romp through groves of groovy guitars, and the second half being a heartfelt wrap up to a nearly perfect record.  This is one of my favorite GNR songs and it does a great job of presenting the band’s creative ebbs and flows; it shows they can flip the switch from being rock n’ roll badasses to savvy songwriters and back again all within 6 minutes.

Where this song dips a bit is the breakdown in the middle.  Slash does a fine job on slide guitars but Axl decided to sneak in audio of himself in, ahem, mid-coitus to lay over the top of the music.  Legend has it that the woman in question is none other than Steven Adler’s girlfriend at the time, Adriana Smith.  It’s an unnecessary addition to an otherwise perfect Guns song, and every time I hear it I can’t help but feel sorry for Adler. Poor, cuckolded bastard.


3. Mr. Brownstone


I had a particularly brutal time deciding whether to place this song at the number 2 spot or the song I actually placed there, which goes to show how little separation there is to me between the top 3.  Make no mistake about it, Mr. Brownstone is the Real McCoy; this is the song that inspired Axl’s signature snake dance.  And with a riff as groovy as the opening bars to this little ditty, who could blame him.

The guitars in this song are as dance worthy as ever while still maintaining their crunch and requisite “heaviness,” as the lyrics discuss the band’s battle with their drug of choice, heroin.  The blues rock overtones of this track are a perfect fit on Appetite, and Axl’s dirty delivery of the words accentuate the feel of the overarching theme of the song.  Mr. Brownstone keeps knocking and he won’t leave you alone.  And you know what, I’m okay with that.


2. Out Ta Get Me


The band really shines as a whole on this one.  Slash and Izzy take turns really digging their fingers into the fret boards on their guitars, Duff and Adler provide one of the better rhythm tracks on the album, but the one who really makes this song pop throughout is Axl freaking Rose.  His lyrics are defiant and his vocals are wicked as he takes us through a short journey of “hiding out and laying low” from the law.

The overall feel of Out Ta Get Me is fantastic.  You can sense the band really getting into it on this one.  Axl drips with swagger and the boys backing him up do a fantastic service of being the vessel upon which Mr. Rose delivers his sermon.  Out Ta Get Me finds itself as the Oreo cream filling in what is possibly the greatest three track cookie sandwich in hard rock album history.  Mr. Brownstone is one of the sides to this menage a trois, meaning number 1 can only be…


1. Nightrain 


If an alien were to touch down on Earth and only had time to hear one Guns N’ Roses song before he left, I’d sit him down and throw on Nightrain.  It doesn’t get much more quintessential GNR than this song right here.  Nightrain has everything you could ask for as a fan of hard rock:  dueling guitars, mean and nasty lyrics, sweet accentuating bass riffs, and even a damn cowbell intro!

Nightrain swaggers about for over 4 minutes and we wish it would go on twice as long.  The outro solo on this track is worth the price of admission alone and it is even radio friendly, being played on a lot of classic rock stations to this day, in no small part due to the fact that it is one of the few Appetite tracks that doesn’t contain an F-bomb.  This is Guns N Roses at their musical peak and, in my humble opinion, they never recreated the magic quite like they did in 1987.





Dragon Blog Z: Ranking The Sagas

Your inner nerd is showing, Rankster…

Dragon Ball Z.  To a kid who came of age in the 90’s and early 2000’s, this show might as well have been a surrogate parent.  Had a bad day at school?  DBZ was all ears.  Miss that game winning shot in recess basketball?  Goku was there to let you know its okay to fail, as long as you picked yourself back up and tried even harder the next time.

Disclaimer: I’m far from an anime geek.  Dragon Ball Z, however, offered the widest possible net to boys growing up in the decade of Bill Clinton and The Spice Girls.  You didn’t have to be a nerd to like the show.  Hell, I know juiced up frat guys who will unabashedly exclaim DBZ is still, to this day their favorite TV show.  Dragon Ball Z was for EVERYONE.


It almost seems like sacrilege trying to rank the 4 major sagas from the original show, but I’m gonna give it the old college try (and after the Star Wars ranker, this one feels like a cake walk).

You’re used to the scoring system by now: 5 categories ranked 1 to 10 with an aggregate score added up at the end.  Those categories are as follows:

Plot: Is the plot unique and engaging?  Does it introduce us to new and exciting twists?

Fight Scenes:  How fun are the fight scenes?  Do they overstay their welcome or does each fight feel fresh and innovative?

Entertainment:  Is the saga as a whole entertaining?  Not just the fight scenes, but all scenes?

Characters:  Are there any new characters introduced and if so, are they interesting (both heroes and villains)?  Are the established characters expanded upon at all?

Miscellaneous:  This refers heavily to the soundtrack but also other details like art style and atmosphere of the saga (for the purposes of this list we will be using the Funimation Dub and the Bruce Faulconer scored soundtrack).

Take it from me, this wasn’t easy.  And just because I ranked a saga at the bottom doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I am a huge Dragon Ball Z fan, and there can only be one “best saga.”  With that in mind, take off your weighted training gear, power up your scouters, and power up as we pick apart an all time classic.  Starting with…


4. The Saiyan Saga: 37/50 (74%)


Plot: 8/10 – As with most TV shows, the plot to the first season is relatively the worst.  Dragon Ball Z is no exception.  The Saiyan saga does well in that it introduces the (then) bombshell of Goku belonging to an outer space warrior race called the Saiyans.  The subsequent invasion of Earth by Saiyans Radditz (Goku’s evil brother), Nappa, and Vegeta for the Dragon Balls is played nicely, with suspense and intrigue building as each episode passes before the latter two land on Earth.  Back story is given to most of the major characters (chiefly Goku and son Gohan) and we are even given glimpses into how much of a tyrant Vegeta can be.  It is a fun intro to the series, but the plots get better as the show goes on.

Fight Scenes: 8/10 – The Saiyan Saga is the weak link when it comes to fight sequences in the series but there are a few high points.  Goku and ex-rival Piccolo teaming up against Radditz is an excellent battle that sets the tone for the entire series within the first few episodes and the entire Z-squad sans Goku trying to take on Vegeta’s lackey Nappa creates a sense of bewilderment at just how much stronger these aliens are than our heroes at the time.  But the battle that really boosts this section’s score is Goku vs Vegeta, and specifically their beam struggle early in the fight.  The Saiyan Saga was the prototype to just how wild these fight scenes could get and does a good job of getting us hooked early in the show.


Entertainment: 7.5/10 – “Filler” is a word you will often find attached to Dragon Ball Z, much like an unwanted parasite.  While the quantity of filler may not match, say, the Cell Saga, it feels much more unnecessary here than it does there.  There is an entire episode devoted to Gohan getting lost in the woods during his training with Piccolo and the infamous Snake Way sees Goku literally running to his training destination in the after life for what seems like an eternity.  The Z-fighters getting trained by Kami (Earth’s guardian) added some depth to the saga, but this season seems to falter a ever so slightly in this category.  All that said, this is still a fun saga on the whole.

Characters: 7/10 – The characters in this saga (unless you watched Dragon Ball) are brand new.  The show does a good job of fleshing them out for the most part but unless read or saw Dragon Ball prior to Dragon Ball Z, you were left with some questions about these characters.  Piccolo is often referred to as Goku’s rival, but here he is training Goku’s son, Gohan, after he dies.  Aside from slight confusion at times, these characters are fun and each has their own personalities we learn to love as the show progresses: Goku is protective and kind, Piccolo is cunning and hard nosed but has a kind soul deep down, Krillin is loyal and brave, and Gohan is young but ultimately houses a hidden power that is yet untapped.


Misc: 6.5/10 – This category falls a bit flat for a number of reasons.  For starters and perhaps most superficially on my part, composer Bruce Faulconer had not been introduced to the series yet so the songs take a significant hit.  The atmosphere of this saga tries to project doom and gloom mixed with suspense but when stacked up against those that follow, the Saiyan Saga doesn’t have as much bite to it.  The art style is adequate but not quite as rich as the following sagas, which can be attributed to how early in the show this saga appears.


3. Buu Saga: 41/50 (82%)


Plot: 7.5/10 – While the Saiyan saga was the first saga in the series and took a minimalist approach to plot points, the Buu Saga (the final chapter in Dragon Ball Z) is often cited as a slight jumping of the shark.  There are many twists, turns, and sub-plots to follow throughout, including a grown up Gohan attending high school and fighting crime as the Great Saiyaman (groan).  The plot is centered around a dead Goku (yes, again) getting to come back to Earth for 24 hours to fight in the World’s Martial Arts Tournament.  This piques an evil wizard named Babidi’s interest as he is trying to resurrect an ancient beast named Majin Buu.  This score gets a slight boost thanks to the sub-plot of Goku and Vegeta rekindling their rivalry and ultimately becoming friends as the series comes to a close.

Fight Scenes: 9.5/10 – Oh boy! The Buu Saga’s plot may have been a bit loose, but the fight sequences in this story arc are some of the best the series has to offer.  A personal favorite of mine goes to Vegeta and Goku’s grudge match, as both warriors are evenly matched and going blow for blow, all to settle an age old score while the fate of the universe hangs in the balance.  Goku and Vegeta teaming up and fusing into Vegito to take on Buu offers another great fight scene as well.  Overall, the Buu Saga delivers on all accounts action.


Entertainment: 8.5/10 – This particular arc gives us a lot of fun scenes leading up to the day of the World’s Martial Arts Tournament (and subsequent fight with Majin Buu).  We get to see Gohan training for the tournament with rival-turned-love-interest, Videl, as well as with his younger brother, Goten, whom Goku’s wife ChiChi gave birth to shortly after our heroes death in the Cell saga.  The setup to the main villain reveal is quite entertaining and there’s a certain level of suspense added throughout the second half of the saga.  The interactions between characters are fun, albeit a bit shallow.  They are mainly there to remind us these guys are all good friends as they wax nostalgically about past adventures.  It hits home and does a good job of keeping us into it while there is no fighting happening.

Characters: 8/10 – The Buu saga does a really good job of not only introducing new characters but also making us care about them.  Goku’s kid Goten is fun and lighthearted, reminding us of his father when he was a youngster in Dragon Ball.  We also get introduced to this timeline’s Trunks (more on that in the Cell Saga), who is Vegeta’s son.  Both of these two make for interesting characters and have major roles in the plot.  Even Videl is important and multi-dimensional, as she goes from Gohan’s rival to love interest.  Where the character section takes a hit is in the villain category.  Majin Buu is nothing more than a beast without a conscious; he destroys for the sake of destruction.  Unlike the other villains in the series who posses their own motives and characteristics, Buu is essentially a child who views destroying the universe as a big game.


Misc: 7.5/10 – One thing no one will ever accuse the Buu saga of is a bad art style.  The colors in this saga are as rich as ever and everything pops visually.  While Bruce Faulconer’s music is good here (and even great in some parts) it fails to capture the magic of the two sagas preceding it.  As far as atmosphere is concerned, the stakes are so high that we as viewers feel like we should be more concerned but we aren’t.  It goes back to the whole jumping the shark thing the saga has going for it.  By the end of the saga, Buu can destroy entire solar systems by raising a finger.  This removes that personal feeling and ruins the atmosphere as the saga comes to a close.


2. Frieza Saga: 45/50 (90%)


Plot: 9/10 – Anyone who’s a fan of DBZ knows the series started when Radditz landed on Earth in episode 1.  But we all know the series really hit its stride when Krillin and Gohan boarded a spaceship bound for Namek in search of new Dragon Balls at the start of the Frieza saga.  As far as I’m concerned, the plot to the Frieza saga is nearly perfect.  The Z warriors (at least the ones who survived the battle with Nappa and Vegeta) travel to Namek (Piccolo’s home planet) in search of Dragon Balls to replace Earth’s after Kami died, rendering the balls inert.  Vegeta and Frieza follow them to Namek separately and a three way hunt for the balls commences.  The Frieza saga does a great job of pacing here and the way everyone’s story starts to become intertwined is brilliant.  The teasing of the legendary Super Saiyan kept our intrigue as youngsters and when Goku is finally the one to achieve it, we all felt like we were right there with him.  Bringing space travel into the fray seemed to be the next logical step, so the writers took it.  And we thank them for it.

Fight Scenes: 8.5/10 – Some of the best fight sequences take place smack dab in the middle of the saga when Frieza calls in his special forces, The Ginyu Squad, to take care of Gohan, Krillin, and a newly (and begrudgingly) added Vegeta.  Once Goku arrives to help, we see him easily and entertainingly dispatch of the Ginyus in some of the most unique and fun fight scenes in the saga.  The battle between Frieza and Goku is insanely long and holds the distinction of being the longest battle in the series, taking a staggering 18 episodes in total to complete.  It starts to drag before Goku turns Super Saiyan, so that knocks the score down slightly here.

Entertainment: 9/10 – The entire Frieza saga offers genuine intrigue and is engaging throughout its entirety.  The best part about this particular arc is how the stakes progressively raise as the saga inches forward: our heroes start out trying to outfox Vegeta, then team up with him after Frieza and the Ginyu Force emerges until finally Goku is the only one left to try and stop the tyrant from ruling the galaxy.  The fun rarely stops in this saga and its just as suspenseful the 10th time watching as it was the 1st.


Characters: 9/10 – Two characters absolutely make this saga what it is: Frieza and Vegeta. Frieza is by far the best villain the series has to offer (tied with a certain lab experiment we will get to shortly) and has all the depth and character to play a tyrannical galactic overlord you could want.  We hate Frieza from the minute he steals his first dragon ball to his last dying breath on Namek.  Vegeta’s character takes a different approach.  After the Saiyan saga, Vegeta has been defeated by Goku and seeks revenge.  But as the Frieza saga continues on, we see Vegeta forced to put his differences with the Z fighters aside, first out of necessity and then out of sheer ambivalence.  Vegeta slowly goes from antagonist to anti-hero and a favorite anti-hero at that.  These two alone absolutely carry the saga.

Misc: 9.5/10 – Because of contract disputes and such with Ocean, Funimation took over the dubbing of Dragon Ball Z halfway through this saga.  And thank GOD they did because it meant two things: Sean Schemmel voiced Goku and inadvertently became the voice of an entire generation’s childhood and perhaps even more importantly, Bruce Faulconer started doing the scores for the soundtrack.  Faulconer’s tracks add such a layer to the atmosphere of the saga that I couldn’t imagine this arc with any other music. Seriously, stop reading this right now, go to YouTube and type in “Bruce Faulconer Ginyu Force Theme.”  Even if you’ve never seen the show before, does that track not make you feel like you could run through a brick wall?  That’s the first song we ever hear of Faulconer’s in this saga, and he tops it repeatedly throughout the series.  Hats off to you, Bruce.  My childhood wouldn’t have been the same without you.


1. Cell Saga: 47/50 (94%)


Plot: 10/10 – Bait and switch where we think Frieza is the main villain of this saga only to be destroyed within the first 4 episodes? Check.  Mysterious warrior from the future aiding the Z warriors and warning of larger threats looming? Check.  Villain arriving in a stolen time machine created for revenge on Goku? Big check.  Yep, the Cell saga has it all. This story arc introduced time travel and the split timeline principle almost seamlessly, even to me as a nine year old at the time.  Having Trunks (Vegeta’s son yet to be born) come from the future where all hope is lost and warn the current timeline’s fighters about their fate was a wonderful plot twist and introducing us to the androids as the big bad of the saga only to have Cell come seemingly out of nowhere made for a perfect maze of plots that got complex but never too bloated.

Fight Scenes: 9/10 – Piccolo’s initial fight with Imperfect Cell is an entertaining one, but his subsequent fight with Android 17 as Cell closes in on them is perfection in terms of action.  Goku’s fight with Perfect Cell during the Cell Games to decide the fate of the world is one of the best fights the series has to offer and Gohan’s final beam struggle with Cell after Goku fails is as tense as it gets.  The series peaked during the Cell saga in multiple ways, and fighting was certainly one of them.


Entertainment: 9/10 – Because of all the plot twists happening (Trunks being from the future, Cell being the real villain, Vegeta allowing Cell to absorb the androids to become complete) the Cell saga is entertaining in that it keeps us constantly guessing.  Even when there isn’t a battle happening, the story is engaging enough that we don’t need the constant visual stimulation of well animated fight scenes.  Goku and Gohan bond while training, we discover more about Vegeta and why he doesn’t accept Future Trunks as his son, and we even see Cell evolve from a power hungry villain in pursuit of perfection to the cold and calculating yet arrogant final form we see in the above picture (far right).  The writers hit all the spots and keep us wanting more after every episode.

Characters: 9/10 – The villains in this saga are brilliant.  Dr. Gero is the creator of the androids and Cell, and he only does so because he holds a grudge against Goku from way back in the original Dragon Ball.  The Androids only destroy because they are bored, and Cell only absorbs them because he is programmed to do so in order to achieve his final form.  But beyond that, Cell’s motives are that of a Saiyan in that he starts the Cell games not only to destroy but to test his might against worthy opponents.  Its a nice twist to the “villain motive motif.”  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Future Trunks here, who adds a nice element of hubris to contrast his father Vegeta’s cocky disposition.  They compliment each other nicely and really add to the character development in this saga.

Misc: 10/10 – The art style is fantastic in the Cell saga but what makes this score a 10 is Faulconer.  He is at his absolute best in this story arc.  Every song he composes guides our feelings accordingly: Cell’s theme is slow and brooding, the training theme used in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber is pensive and thought provoking, and the song that plays as each Z fighter remembers their favorite thing about Goku after he sacrifices himself to save the Earth is moving but not in a somber way.  All of Faulconer’s tracks give a huge boost to the atmosphere of the saga and every time I watch this particular arc, I’m moved in all sorts of ways, from nostalgia to excitement.  A perfect arc for a “perfect” villain.


My Rankings:

Sagas –

4. Buu

3. Saiyan

2. Frieza

1. Cell


Characters –

5. Gohan

4. Piccolo

3. Cell

2. Vegeta

1. Goku






Every Star Wars Film Ranked

Trigger Warning: I’m ranking Star Wars films.


When I started this blog not too long ago, I never thought of myself as a sucker for pain.  After this undertaking, I’m sure I suffer from some sort of sadomasochism.  What other explanation is there for actually WANTING to rank every film in a series that owns some of the most obnoxiously opinionated fans in the business?  But I digress…

When ranking Star Wars movies, it’s important to remember there is no consensus.  Not everyone will agree The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in the series, nor will it be universally agreed upon that Attack of the Clones is the worst.  I’m fully prepared for everything you guys have to offer me.  After James Bond and Van Halen, the discussions have been tame.  I’m looking forward to this one getting a bit testy.


As with the other blog posts, the same rules apply: 5 categories for each film ranked from 1 to 10.  An aggregate score will be tallied up at the end and each film will be ranked accordingly.  The categories are as follows:

Plot: How engaging is the plot of the film? Is it easy to follow?

Characters: Are the characters interesting? Does the film develop them well? Are you attached to them by the end of the film?

Action: How satisfying are the action scenes? This accounts for both lightsaber battles and battles taking place in the air/in space.

Legacy: Is the film well received? Do both fans and critics enjoy this film?

Entertainment: Does the film entertain? Does it dip at all in certain points?

I can’t stress this enough, I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible, so don’t shoot the messenger.  With that being said let’s jump right into it, with a film in dead last most of you should have seen coming…


8. Attack of the Clones (2002): 25.5/50 (51%)


Plot: 5/10 – This movie is generally regarded as the low water mark of the series, and one of the reasons for this is the lackluster plot (among other things).  The political overtones of the series continue to be found here (something the prequels routinely get pounded for) and do a poor job in terms of pacing the movie along.  There are some generic twists thrown in involving Count Dooku and Jengo Fett that anyone could have seen coming.  But the elephant in the room we have yet to address is the love story developing between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amedala.  The romance is forced and the dialogue is groan-worthy, leaving many feeling like they paid good money for a ticket to The Notebook In Space.

Characters: 5/10 – Attack of the Clones’ character development piggybacks off of its predecessor, The Phantom Menace, in that most of its characters are returning from the first movie.  Most of the characters in AOTC , however, seem to have regressed from Phantom Menace to now.  Anakin goes from an annoying kid to a whiny teenager, and Padme goes from a strong woman in a position of power to playing hard to get with the aforementioned Skywalker.  Obi Wan Kenobi is one of the only characters who really has any depth in this movie and even then his character isn’t developed upon while he’s being sent on a wild goose chase halfway through the episode.  Oh and Jar Jar Binks returns, which can only drag this score down even more.


Action: 7/10 – What AOTC lacks in plot and character development, it seems to make up for in action.  Don’t get me wrong, this is run of the mill Star Wars fare, but in this movie it is a welcome change from Obi Wan’s espionage and the not-so-edge-of-your-seat “will they, won’t they” subplot of Padme and Anakin.  The lightsaber fights are fun, albeit a bit over-choreographed, and the battle of the clone soldiers against the droids is a highlight of an otherwise dull film.

Legacy: 4/10 – There’s no getting around this one.  Even at the time of its release, AOTC was universally panned and time has done this movie no favors.  The film finds itself smack dab in the middle of an “un-rennaisance” of Star Wars films, where the prequels squashed most fans’ excitement about the direction of the series.  The movie feels bloated and silly and even if you remove the now infamous 2nd act of Anakin trying desperately to lose his Jedi virginity, the movie is just a bland space adventure with decent action and bad writing.

Entertainment: 4.5/10 – Aside from the action sequences mentioned above, AOTC doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing when it comes to the entertainment factor.  I saw this movie in theaters when I was 9 years old and the memory is still as fresh in my mind as it ever was.  The line Anakin delivers with tears in his eyes, “are you suffering as much as I am,” actually drew laughter from a few in my theater.  Skip this movie unless you are a diehard Star Wars fan looking to make a run through the series.


7.  Revenge of the Sith (2005): 29.5/50 (59%)


Plot: 6/10 – A plot that only ever so slightly improves upon Episode II, Revenge of the Sith shows us Anakin Skywalker’s final heel turn to the Dark Side of the Force.  It is interesting, in theory, but Episode III’s story fumbles about quite a bit throughout the movie’s run time.  Anakin’s shift in allegiance is supposed to feel like a slow set up but in less than 10 minutes he goes from questioning whether he should turn in Emperor Palpetine (the bad guy) and mowing down a school of Jedi children.  It would be jarring if it weren’t so laughably inconsistent.  The other plots involving the Jedi council and Anakin are mildly interesting and engaging, but once again we are presented with a twist that most viewers should have seen coming.

Characters: 5/10 – Again, ROTS takes characters from a previous film and messes around with them for 2 hours.  Anakin’s walk toward the Dark Side doesn’t make him a tragic character that we feel sympathy towards, he just comes off as kind of a douche.  Padme furthers her change from a woman in power to an ultimately forgettable character only good for birthing the main protagonists of the next three films.  The characters in this film don’t have any stand out moments and if this wasn’t a Star Wars movie they’d be forgotten by most.

Action: 7/10 – Much like AOTC, Episode III’s bread and butter is action.  The plot is hard to follow at times and the characters are mostly average, but the action is fun and holds up nicely, with particular praise going out to the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin.  There are space battles involved that give this section a little color and some needed boost, but its mostly run of the mill dogfighting.  Aside from that, this is your typical, generic sci-fi/action movie.


Legacy: 6/10 – So it doesn’t hold the dubious distinction of being the series’ worst like AOTC, but its no Citizen Kane either.  Most fans will generally agree this is their favorite Star Wars prequel, but that’s a lot like saying ROTS is the skinniest kid at fat camp (do they still do fat camp?).  While the movie was generally well received upon its release, time has done the film few favors, as fans have found more and more holes in the plot and dialogue.  Ultimately, not the most memorable of Star Wars adventures

Entertainment: 5.5/10 – ROTS has some entertaining moments about it and is a bit of a step in the right direction from AOTC, with the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi Wan (see above) being the pinnacle of excitement in the film.  Other than that and a few space dogfight scenes, Episode III delivers minimally in terms of entertainment.  If you’re looking to pop in a movie and be taken for an exciting ride, find another installment in the series.


6. The Phantom Menace (1999): 30.5/50 (61%)


Plot: 5/10 – Perhaps it is the fact that this is the first of the prequels, but a lot of what Star Wars did in this film still felt fresh at the time of its release.  That being said, this movie’s plot is confusing and ultimately hard to sit through.  The politics we see being thrown at us throughout the movie are tropes seen throughout the prequels and really bog the movie down.  There is just too much being stuffed in this movie to make the plot accessible to the viewers.  Between midochlorians, Sith Lords, and political jargon our heads are all spinning within the first hour of this movie.

Characters: 6/10 – Of all the prequels to try their hands at character development, this one came the closest to getting it right.  The Phantom Menace still falls well short in this category when being compared to the franchise as a whole, though.  The main villain in the movie has next to no speaking lines and not much backstory is given on him (I’m assuming to add to his mystique, but it just doesn’t work here).  The one character given the most developmental effort is young Anakin and by the end of the movie we can’t stand him.  Qui Gon and Obi Wan are interesting characters that give this section a much needed boost, but this is also the movie guilty of introducing Jar Jar Binks to the unsuspecting public. Thanks!


Action: 7.5/10 – An otherwise boring film gets a massive boost from a single scene: the climactic lightsaber duel between the Jedi and Darth Maul.  Seriously, I saw this movie when I was 7 years old and immediately HAD to have a lightsaber.  I nearly crapped my pants watching the choreography set to John Williams’ “Duel of Fates.”  Other than that, don’t expect much else.  Even the space battles seem to drag a bit in this film.  Save your enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of this movie, you’ll need it.

Legacy: 6/10 – This movie benefits quite a bit from being the first Star Wars film of the prequels in that people were still doe-eyed and ready for anything.  So after the film was less than stellar, the public was less than pleased.  After the next installment came out, however, I think fans started to embrace this film as the anti-Episode II.  Time has done this movie a bit of good, so Phantom Menace gets a mercifully favorable score in this section.

Entertainment: 6/10 – The Podracing scenes are fun, and the “Duel of Fates” lightsaber battle will keep you enthralled, but aside from a few instances, this is one of the more snooze worthy Star Wars adventures.  Politics aside, you’ll find yourself being engaged from time to time, however the film is more hit than miss.  The score gets only a slight boost thanks to the action scenes.


5. Rogue One (2016): 35/50 (70%)


Plot: 8/10 – Brownie points for an original plot, as Rogue One trots out a story few outside of the fanbase of the extended universe were truly aware of.  The tale of how the Death Star plans were stolen was a talking point for many years before this movie came out (and was a talking point after the fact, as many EU fans complained about the authenticity of the story).  It was quite refreshing to see a plot that wasn’t the typical Star Wars story, as Rogue One focused on the doomed squadron that stole the Death Star plans from the Empire.

Characters: 6/10 – Rogue One had the potential to make their mark in this category, but ultimately the characters feel a bit flat, and one dimensional.  The characters are engaging but don’t get very much development.  It doesn’t help its cause in the fact that (spoiler alert) all the characters we become attached to die in the end.  The one shining beacon in this section goes to K2-SO, the mouthy droid that stole our hearts… and then died at the end.


Action: 9/10 – This film nails the action aspect.  There is espionage if you’re into that, blaster battles if you’re into that, and even dog-fighting.  For everything this movie lacks in getting you to fall in love with the characters, it more than makes up for in the non-stop action.  Rogue One is a thrill ride that rarely stops, so action is something this installment has in spades.

Legacy: 5/10 – I said in my James Bond ranker that Daniel Craig scores poorly in the legacy category mainly because of how wet behind the ears he is in playing the part.  The same principle applies here, as Rogue One has been around for the better part of four months as of this ranker being written.  This film has legions of fans (and detractors) that it has accumulated in its short shelf life and has a positive score amongst critics, but being around for less time than an average Hollywood marriage lasts bumps the legacy score down a bit for “A Star Wars Story.”

Entertainment: 7/10 – Rogue is entertaining in the sense that the story is unique and engaging and the action is “popcorn flick” worthy.  Theres nothing outlandish that makes this score any higher or lower; ultimately this movie was more forgettable than its 2010’s counterpart, The Force Awakens.  Don’t clear your schedule for Rogue One, but if its on TV, give it a hard look.


4. The Force Awakens (2015): 39/50 (78%)


Plot: 7.5/10 – Ah, The Force Awakens:  an exciting tale about a vagabond from a desert planet with strange connections to the Force tasked by destiny to stop the forces of evil while being aided by a cute, miniature droid.  It was an engaging plot and a fun story, but stop me if you’ve heard that before.  Yes, TFA is an excellent movie and a return to form for the franchise.  But perhaps it was a bit too much of a return.  I hear a lot of people complain about TFA ripping its plot completely from A New Hope.  I have no qualms with this because the movie was great, but for the purposes of scoring, “plagiarism” is going to knock this one down from the “great” to “very good” category.

Characters: 7.5/10 – See above… Kidding of course, but a similar ruling may apply here.  TFA borrows heavily from the New Hope formula, but the main characters are different enough that it doesn’t feel disingenuous.  Rey is different from Luke in that she’s a lot less whiny than our original hero was in Episode IV, and having Finn be a defector from the First Order was a nice and different touch.  However, the other characters are a bit too “New Hope” for this score to be any higher than it is.

Action: 9/10 – The lightsaber fights are crisp without the burden of being over choreographed like the prequels and the space battles really take advantage of having the CGI technology to finally make them believable enough.  But honestly, the gravy of this movie and what jumps this score way up is one scene: Rey stalling the Millennium Falcon so Finn can shoot the Tie Fighter!  Seriously, who didn’t get white knuckles watching that scene?  I’m getting goosebumps just typing about it.


Legacy: 6/10 – Much like Rogue One, TFA gets the short end of the stick for being the new kid on the block.  It is slightly more well received than Rogue One, if only for being an above average film in the series after the mess that was the prequels, so it gets a bit higher of a score in the legacy department.  Not much else to say here other than this number would probably be astronomical if I was writing this 15 years from now.

Entertainment: 9/10 – TFA was a supremely entertaining movie that had everything going for it: exciting action, a fun plot, and solid characters that we as an audience can get behind from the get-go.  I saw this movie twice in theaters and loved it even better the second time.  It’s worth the price of admission and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (it’s so choice).


3. A New Hope (1977): 40.5/50 (81%)


Plot: 8/10 – The movie that started a cultural phenomenon, A New Hope is where all of this hysteria can be traced back to.  The plot at the time was unique, and the only reason this score isn’t a 10 is because (be it fair or not) the story template has been recreated many times over the years.  When compared to its followers in the series, it is a bit bland, but pop A New Hope in and it will be like you’re watching it for the first time.  It never gets old.

Characters: 7.5/10 – The ensemble in A New Hope is the original Star Wars group; this is who we all think of when someone utters those two words.  It seems a bit harsh to give this section a 7.5 seeing as how this film is essentially the guinea pig, but look closely:  Luke is a complete brat, whiny and impulsive, throughout the entire movie, Leia is similarly annoying in her constant backseat driving throughout the entirety of the film, and even Darth Vader is given minimal screen time, albeit to establish himself more for the later installments.  The characters are good, but they get better in the years to follow, so I feel 7.5 is an adequate score.


Action: 7/10 – I often criticize this film for having a single bland lightsaber fight and very “samey” space battle scenes, but it was 1977 after all.  That being said, the action sequences feel like a vehicle to further the plot, and they aren’t particularly memorable save for the final Death Star explosion scene.  Long story short, watch this one for the entertaining plot and story, not the sexy lightsaber duels.

Legacy: 9.5/10 – Like I said above, this is the one that got this crazy train rolling.  Everything about this film has been copied and even spoofed in successful sci-fi films (Spaceballs, anyone?).  Words can’t do this film justice when it comes to the footprint it has left in the film industry, but it definitely isn’t the most mythical of the Star Wars films (that comes later).

Entertainment: 8.5/10 – A classic popcorn flick, A New Hope delivers solidly in the entertainment factor.  It loses some points for the relative lack of action, but when you watch A New Hope, you are still engaged pretty much across the board.  There are more entertaining Star Wars installments, but don’t skip this one.  Episode IV has enough thrills to keep you coming back again and again.


2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): 43/50 (86%)


Plot: 9/10 – Ooh, triggered yet? All jokes aside, The Empire Strikes Back takes the classic plot from Episode IV and expands upon it.  New worlds are visited and story lines go deeper.  The twist of Darth Vader being Luke’s father is one of the seminal moments in cinema history, and Lando turning Han Solo in makes for an interesting sub plot of betrayal.  Luke being trained in the arts of the Force by Yoda adds to the story’s depth, and the cliffhangers presented at the end of the film are well done and make us want to come back for more.


Characters: 8/10 – Again, this movie takes Episode IV’s characters and adds some serious depth to all of them.  Luke becomes more of a man and learns there are consequences for his actions, even though he is still flawed in this film.  At the same time, Han shows us he is a cocky pilot but cares deeply for his friends, and even Leia becomes more sympathetic and a bit more of the bad ass we all eventually know her as.  Its A New Hope character development on steroids and its why this is one of the best films in the series.

Action: 7.5/10 – With an increased budget and a few years advancements in technology came a slightly more exciting film than A New Hope.  The battle on planet Hoth is a high point in the film and the lightsaber battle between Luke and Daddy Darth is roughly 6,000 times more exciting than the limp noodle, viagra allegory that was Obi Wan’s fate sealing stand off with Vader. TESB still shows its age a bit in parts, but the action holds up better than its predecessor.

Legacy: 10/10 – This is considered by (almost) everyone to be the best film in series history and one of the greatest films of all time.  Most fans will defend this film to their last breath, and for good reason… Its phenomenal.  Not my personal favorite due to how bleak it is for the second half and the cliff hangers (I like my endings spoon fed to me, thank you very much), but even I can’t argue the impact this film has made on the genre.

Entertainment: 8.5/10 – The fight scenes are passable and the plot is expansive, as TESB takes you through the highs and lows of the fight against the Empire.  Action is plentiful and the story takes Episode IV and amps it up to eleven.  If you are looking to be entertained by a sci-fi flick, look no further than Episode V.  You will have a good time with this one.


1. Return of the Jedi (1983): 44/50 (88%)


Plot: 9.5/10 – The plot in Return of the Jedi is as close as it gets to perfection.  The Rebel Alliance takes revenge on the Empire and all loose ends are tied up by the close of the film.  There are solid twists in here, like Luke finding out Leia is his sister (gross), and Darth Vader even comes to the good side in his final act of heroism, saving his son before dying.  Episode VI has it all and is a nearly perfect wrap up to a nearly perfect series (could’ve done without the Ewoks, but hey, to each his own).

Characters: 9/10 – We had been waiting two whole movies for this: Luke finally becomes a Jedi Master!  Who would’ve thought that whiny nerd from Tattoine would’ve grown up to be such a great hero?  And kudos to Leia, who makes the switch to total badass and eve spearheads a rescue mission to save Han from Jaba The Hut.  The characters are the most developed in this film, but this section just misses on a perfect score for the sole reason that it feels like the leg work of getting these characters to where we like them to be was done by the previous two installments.  Big bonus points awarded here for being the film to give us Admiral Ackbar (“Its a trap!”).


Action: 8/10 – By far the best action sequences exist in this film, as Episode VI has the most exciting lightsaber duel in the original trilogy and the space battle and subsequent demise of the reconstructed Death Star give this section a sweet little boost.  Again, the film is limited by its age, but even if taken at face value, Return of the Jedi delivers on solid, sci-fi action sequences guaranteed to keep you enthralled even years down the line.


Legacy: 9/10 – This is my personal favorite Star Wars film, but I can’t rank this movie higher than TESB.  It is often remembered as the worst of the original three installments, but that is still like being the ugliest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  It is a fondly remembered Star Wars adventure and is still one of the better sci-fi films to ever be gifted to humankind.

Entertainment: 8.5/10 – One of the most entertaining Star Wars films in the franchise, ROTJ has a wide variety of locations and action sequences, as well as well fleshed out and three dimensional characters.  The film lags a bit in the middle, particularly on the forest moon of Endor, where the subplot of C-3PO being mistaken for a God is all but lost on me.  Ewok blunder aside, this film keeps you on the edge of your seat and is my personal favorite when it comes to stand alone Star Wars films to watch.


My Personal Rankings:

8. Episode II

7. Episode I

6. Episode III

5. Rogue One

4. Episode IV

3. Episode V

2. The Force Awakens

1. Episode VI



Van Halen (Roth) Albums Worst to First

My favorite band of all time gets put through the ringer… Well, sorta.


In 1974, David Lee Roth, the golden haired son of a Jewish doctor, used to rent his PA system out to a band called Mammoth.  The members of Mammoth decided it would be cheaper to just make Roth their lead singer than to pay the $10 rental fee for the equipment.  With Roth in tow, the band changed their name to the surname of the lead guitarist and drummer and thus the mighty Van Halen was born.

From 1978 to 1984, Van Halen released 6 iconic albums that revolutionized hard rock as we know it.  Combining the Van Halen brothers’ uncanny musical prowess with Roth’s showmanship and screeching vocals, the band set out on a 6 year tour of debauchery and destruction rivaled by few in the game.


But you didn’t come here for a history lesson; you want numbers, dammit! Below you will find 6 of the greatest albums ever gifted to the world of rock.  Believe me, ranking these albums wasn’t easy.  Imagine trying to rank all 6 of your children whom you love equally and for different reasons.  Or better yet, ranking 5 of your favorite children and then the one child you adopted who never stood a chance (here’s looking at you, Diver Down).

If you’re familiar with the Definitive James Bond Ranking, the same rules apply here: 5 categories each ranked from 1 to 10 with an aggregate score of all 5. Those categories are as follows:

Musicianship: How impressive was each individual member on this album? The band as a whole?

Radio Ready: Was the album radio friendly? Any hit singles?

Legacy: Does this album hold up? Is it still talked about to this day?

Musical Dynamism: is there a wide variety of songs or do they all sound the same?

Play Through: Can you listen to the album all the way through? Does it lag in certain parts?

Now that we got the minutiae out of the way, drumroll please…


6. DIVER DOWN (1982): 35/50 (70%)


Musicianship: 8.5/10 – This album catches a lot of flack, and some of that flack is warranted.  What can’t be denied is the musicianship clearly displayed by the four members (and their special guest).  Eddie shines on guitar both as an innovator (“Cathedral,” “Intruder”) and as a pure shred artist (“The Full Bug”).  Two songs where the band absolutely shines are two of the most diversely contrasted tracks on the album.  “Hang ’em High” shows Eddie and drummer Alex Van Halen in particular going ballistic (listen to the drum fill in the verse directly after the solo).  Juxtapose this against “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now),” where the band plays unplugged along with Eddie and Alex’s late father Jan Van Halen on clarinet, and you see the full range of talent on display from everyone in the group.  And let us not forgot the final track on the album, Happy Trails, has our boys partaking in a four part harmony that is equal parts humorous and impressive.

Radio Ready: 7/10 – This album gets a huge boost in this department from a handful of cover tunes (something Diver Down gets lambasted for on a routine basis).  “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” and “Dancing in the Streets” get routine radio play even to this day but the track that drags this album up from the depths of average in this department is the most famous cover of Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman.”  Without this cut, Diver Down may have slipped into even greater obscurity in the pantheon of its more accomplished brethren.

Legacy: 5/10 – I alluded to it above, but Diver Down seems to be Van Halen’s most divisive and infamous album of the Roth years.  Some praise the uniqueness of songs like “Little Guitars” while others rip the album for its reliance on cover tunes (5 of the 12 songs on the album are covers).  One thing we all can agree on, however, is the band probably should’ve left “Dancing in the Streets” alone.  That track by itself was enough to drag this score down considerably.

Musical Dynamism: 9/10 – As I said a few paragraphs ago, this album goes from hardcore, guitar oriented rock to acoustic jams and back all within a couple of songs.  “Big Bad Bill” shows the bands softer side, and the contrast from “Hang ’em High” to “Cathedral” in just one song is refreshing without being too jarring.  Say what you will about Diver Down, but it is nothing if not dynamic.

Diver Down insert

Play Through: 5.5/10 – Diver Down hurts itself sometimes from being too all over the place.  The album starts off with a bang of a one-two punch in “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” and “Hang ’em High.”  It starts to drag in the middle with a reliance on instrumentals and cover tunes before floating in and out before ultimately fizzling out with “Full Bug” and “Happy Trails.”  An ultimately forgettable album with a few gems, I wouldn’t recommend DD to play through on a long car ride.

Studs: “Hang ’em High,” “Little Guitars.”  Duds: “Dancing in the Streets,” The Full Bug.”


5. VAN HALEN I (1978): 40/50 (80%)


Musicianship: 7.5/10 – Whoa! Put the pitchforks down! I love this album as much as any Van Halen fan, but let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?  Look, this album basically rewrote the book as far as modern rock guitar is concerned, but the other facets of the band are lacking more so on this venture than in any other album.  Van Halen’s maiden voyage features Eddie going absolutely insane on songs like “I’m The One” and “On Fire,” but most everyone else is nowhere to be found from a virtuoso standpoint.  The song writing on this album is crisp and the other members fill their roles dutifully, but Van Halen I falls toward the bottom when comparing the sum of its parts.

Radio Ready: 9.5/10 – It is quite rare to see a band play the role of such precision hit-makers as the California quartet did on their eponymous debut (see Boston’s self titled debut and Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction).  Van Halen I is chalk full of radio friendly hits with a combination of deadly, virtuoso guitar work and sleazy, sun-soaked lyrics about wonton sex and hedonism.  It’s a beautiful time capsule of late 70’s/early 80’s Sun Set Strip living.  “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “Jamie’s Cryin'” in particular see the band navigate through these themes with lethal accuracy.

Legacy: 10/10 – Along with the aforementioned Appetite and Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced, I can’t think of a more iconic debut in the realm of hard rock than Van Halen I.  If the album had contained “Eruption” and nothing else it probably still would’ve left a bigger impression than 90% of other rock albums from the 1970’s.  This album is the old testament of most guitar players and everyone from Dimebag Darrell to Dave Mustaine credit this album in particular to their love of the instrument.


Musical Dynamism: 5/10 – This category is tied tangentially with the musicianship category in that almost of the cuts on this album are tied to Eddie slamming away at his six string.  Most songs on Van Halen I follow a similar (albeit successful) formula: tasty riffs coupled with Roth and bassist Mike Anthony taking turns shrieking in an ungodly register (see: “On Fire”).  I love listening to this album, but if someone were to argue with you that every song sounded similar, your best comeback would be “and?”

Play Through: 8/10 – Van Halen I is a wonderful journey through some of Van Halen’s best and greatest hits.  Some of the songs on here fall flat enough that I feel the need to skip them if I’m listening on CD, but if I drop the needle on the vinyl of this record, I can grin and bare it.  “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ice Cream Man” appear on many Van Halen compilation albums, but for my money those are the only two tracks on this record worth skipping.  Everything else about this album is a rollercoaster ride through the fun side of hard rock.

Studs: “Feel Your Love Tonight,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Jamie’s Cryin.'”  Duds: “Ice Cream Man,” “Runnin’ With the Devil.”


4. WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST (1980): 40.5/50 (81%)


Musicianship: 8/10 – Women and Children First marked a change, both sonically and spiritually for Van Halen.  The compositions got more serious and each member started to show off their chops in one way or another.  As Van Halen marched into a new decade, Women and Children First saw the band incorporate keyboards and slide guitars into a few of their tracks.  “Could This Be Magic?” is a wonderfully soulful take on slide guitar and even used nat sound (rainfall) to make the song feel more homey.  There are plenty of straightforward rockers on this album too; the band shines on cuts like “In a Simple Rhyme” with their harmonizing and Alex Van Halen’s drums have never been better/more complex than they are on “Loss of Control.”

Radio Ready: 8/10 – Its a tale of two halves for Van Halen’s third album.  Side A features two of the band’s most memorable songs, with “Everybody Wants Some” in particular still being played all over FM radio stations to this day.  Side B definitely dips in terms of radio production, but with the advent of satellite radio we hear things like “Take Your Whiskey Home” that would’ve never had air time before.  Classic Rock stations also seem to adore “And The Cradle Will Rock,” so this score may have been a lot lower, say, 10-20 years ago.

Legacy: 7/10 – It doesn’t have the fame of 1984 (or the infamy of Diver Down), but Women and Children First delivers for the hardcore Van Halen fan.  Ask a superficial Van Halen fan about WACF and you’re bound to get one of two responses: 1) “What?” 2) “Oh yeah I love ‘Everybody Wants Some!'”  This album is so much more than its lead single, though.  “Fools” and “Romeo Delight” offer serious guitar seminars and lyrics that will bring a wry smile to even the most cynical Van Halen fan.  Most people even partially aware of Van Halen are privy to this record, but I feel you aren’t a true Van Halen fan unless you give this album a hard look.  “Criminally underrated” is a phrase thrown around often, but it certainly applies here.

Musical Dynamism: 8/10 – This was touched on a bit in the first category, but WACF showcases Van Halen branching out in terms of musical dynamism.  “And The Cradle Will Rock” shows Eddie playing a Wurlitzer piano through a Marshall 100 watt guitar amp in the iconic sonic blitz that opens the album.  There are tracks with back masking and even a slide guitar, as mentioned before.  Compared to their first two musical ventures, WACF is in a stratosphere of its own in terms of how different each track is.  While not exactly a master class on varied writing, it shows a maturity that is continued through their next three efforts.


Play Through: 9.5/10 – With the exception of “In a Simple Rhyme,” this album brings it from beginning to end.  That’s not to say the last track on WACF is bad, it just doesn’t live up to the level of its predecessors on the record.  From start to finish, this album packs a punch and every song delivers on a different front.  You like bluesy hard rock a la ZZ Top? “Fools” and “Take Your Whiskey Home” deserve your attention.  How about Black Sabbath if they had a punk producer? Give “Tora Tora/Loss of Control” a listen.  Seriously, this album is a gem and if you don’t own it in some capacity, drag your ass down to a music store and buy it… NOW!

Studs: “Fools,” Romeo Delight,” Take Your Whiskey Home,” “Could This Be Magic?”  Duds: “In a Simple Rhyme.”


3. 1984 (1984): 41/50 (82%)


Musicianship: 8.5/10 – By the time 1984 came out, Van Halen as a unit started to fray; Dave and Eddie couldn’t stand each other.  From the ashes of this tragic development, however, came Eddie’s 5150 home studio.  It shows on this album, as Eddie makes a concerted effort to introduce myriad guitar tones and *gasps* keyboards.  Yes that’s right, our guitar hero Eddie Van Halen has not one, but two tracks on this album that show off his skills on the synthetic ivory (“Jump” and “I’ll Wait”).  That being said, the Van Halen brothers show off how skilled they are at their respective instruments, particularly on “Hot for Teacher,” where the intro alone has skyrocketed Eddie and Alex into mythical status on guitar and drums.

Radio Ready: 10/10 – Wow!  Talk about an album that was tailor made for pop radio.  Four songs from this album made the Billboard Hot 100, as 1984 turned Van Halen from a simple rock band into a pop culture phenomenon.  Even the deep cuts of this album (the unsung heroes of this album, as it were) had a radio friendliness to them that many of the other albums just didn’t have.  This may have been the swan song of the Van Roth years, but it is definitely the band’s most well recognized effort.

Legacy: 9/10 – 1984 would probably be the one Van Halen album that even non-Van Halen fans can admit to liking.  This is the album that has Van Halen’s only number 1 hit in the Roth era (“Jump”).  All this being said, 1984 only scores a 9 on legacy because it gets a bit of grief from more serious Van Halen fans (be it fair or unfair).  The last two tracks on this album, “Girl Gone Bad” and “House of Pain,” are some of my favorite Van Halen songs of all time and are very heavy tracks.  But keyboard driven compositions like “Jump” and “I’ll Wait” have done much to alienate some of the heavier fans of Van Halen from this album.


Musical Dynamism: 7/10 – Remove the synthesizers from 1984, and this is a pretty straightforward, Zeppelin-on-steroids-esque rock album.  Not many people would mistake this record for a rock opera, but the keyboard-laden songs bring this score up above average and into the respectable realm.  I don’t really have much else to say about this album from a musical standpoint.  It’s a fun album, but in terms of musical dynamics, Van Halen has done better.

Play Through: 6.5/10 – At the risk of sounding like a bigot towards keyboard oriented tracks, this album dips whenever Eddie busts out the synth.  “Jump” and “I’ll Wait” are very unimaginative when it comes to songs not centered around guitar.  “Top Jimmy” is a fun and different take on Eddie’s guitar tone and “Drop Dead Legs” oozes with sex appeal as Alex does his best John Bonham impression.  Much like Diver Down, however, this one is hard to sit through in its entirety.  But the album shines in several different sections.

Studs: “Girl Gone Bad,” “House of Pain,” “Top Jimmy.”  Duds: “Jump,” “I’ll Wait.”


2. VAN HALEN II (1979): 41/50 (82% by virtue of a tiebreak)


Musicianship: 8/10 – At surface level from a guitar standpoint, II is almost identical to I.  Take a closer look, however, and Eddie reaches deeper into his bag of tricks.  From the tapped harmonics on “Dance The Night Away” to the nylon string shred fest that is “Spanish Fly,” EVH let’s us know he’s just getting started.  Alex shows off his chops on the kit in songs like “Light Up The Sky” and even Mike Anthony gets in on the action in “You’re No Good.”  It feels like the first time we see each individual member of Van Halen showcase their talents, a slight step up from the first album.

Radio Ready: 9/10 – Piggybacking off of the success of the multi-platinum debut and subsequent tour, Van Halen returned to the studio some 10 months after Van Halen I was released.  This is definitely evident in the songwriting on Van Halen II, which can be considered a spiritual successor to their debut album.  The record is filled to the brim with both bright, poppy hits (“Beautiful Girls,” “Dance The Night Away,” “You’re No Good”) and some of their heavier material (“D.O.A.,” “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”).  Van Halen’s sophomore effort is often thought of as a seminal “summer party” album; you can just feel the sea breeze hitting your face every time you drop the needle on this one.

Legacy: 8/10 – Van Halen II is another one of those “criminally underrated” albums found in the “trough” of Van Halen’s wave of popularity.  Look at it this way: Roth’s career with the group is bookended by two albums many consider to be the best this group has to offer.  It feels almost unfair that an album had to follow Van Halen I, but Van Halen II is well equipped to do just that.  It’s just similar enough to its predecessor that it wasn’t a jarring shift in style, but also different enough to attract a wider audience.  It’s Van Halen I’s lighter toned twin (bonus points for the guitar used in the album photo shoot being buried with Dimebag Darrell)!


Musical Dynamism: 6/10 – Where Van Halen I was an album of similar cuts, II started to slightly skirt away from that.  The album is still very “samey” but some tracks stand out as musically different.  “Women in Love” is lighter than anything that appeared on the debut, and “Dance The Night Away” had crossover appeal that both chicks and dudes could latch onto.  As mentioned above, the album had its fair share of bangers (don’t get it confused, this is a guitar player’s record), but II differs from I in that its only ever so slightly more musically dynamic.

Play Through: 9/10 – Personal anecdote time: I have this album on Compact Disc (look it up, children) and listened to it side to side, ad-nauseum for the entirety of Summer 2015. At this point I can air drum every Alex Van Halen fill in my sleep.  Call it a desert island album, call it a must have, call it what you want, just have this record by your side.  Not a single track on the album is skippable, and only “Bottoms Up” and “Women in Love” don’t deliver the testosterone pumping thrills that the other tracks do.  Buy Van Halen II, you won’t be disappointed.

Studs: “Outta Love Again,” “Light Up The Sky,” “D.O.A.”  Duds: “Bottoms Up,” “Women in Love.”


1. FAIR WARNING (1981): 41.75/50 (83.5%)


Musicianship: 10/10 – Often referred to as “the guitar player’s Van Halen album,” Eddie Van Halen unleashes every ferocious technique in the book onto the unsuspecting listeners of this album.  From start to finish, EVH bombards his fretboard with a flurry of fingers that no album had seen before or has seen since.  And that’s just the guitar player!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t address Alex’s jazz chops on this record and Fair Warning can be considered Mike Anthony’s coming out party.  The bassist’s work load really increases on this album, as he is heard playing tapped harmonics on the intro to “Dirty Movies” and a sweet little walking bass lick as the surrogate rhythm in “Push Comes to Shove.”  Musically, this is the Pasadena Party Band’s finest hour.

Radio Ready: 5/10 – Guitar players regularly cite Fair Warning as their favorite album, but when the record first came out it wasn’t well received, critically speaking.  The album is a dark departure from Van Halen’s “frat-party-on-coke” days of the first three albums and although “Unchained” is a rock radio staple, the rest of the album gets lost in the weeds of angry, drop tuned riffs and “heavier” lyrical subject matter (this is notably the only Roth album where the word “fuck” is clearly audible).  The radio may not love Fair Warning, but we fans certainly do.

Photo of VAN HALEN and Michael ANTHONY and Eddie VAN HALEN and David Lee ROTH and Alex VAN HALEN

Legacy: 8/10 – Depending on whom you ask, Fair Warning is either Van Halen’s finest hour or a weird trip down the proverbial rabbit hole of Eddie Van Halen’s deep seated hatred for Roth’s and Ted Templeman’s (producer) direction of the previous albums.  Luckily, the album has aged well, both from a critic’s standpoint and in the eyes of the fan.  It often gets overlooked by many only peripherally associating themselves as Van Halen fans, but the true fans will usually tell you this album is some of the quartet’s finest work.

Musical Dynamism: 9/10 – Fair Warning did right what 1984 does (partially) wrong with the synthesizers.  Where keyboards are present they are layered nicely.  The penultimate and ultimate tracks of Fair Warning, the instrumental “Sunday Afternoon in the Park” and its frantic follow-up “One Foot Out the Door,” use keyboards to create a dark and moody atmosphere perfect for Eddie to shred all over.  The album has jazz/funk (“Push Comes to Shove”), pop (“So This Is Love”), hard rock/metal (“Mean Street,” “Hear About It Later”), and even sleaze (“Dirty Movies”) covered and covered flawlessly.  It’s dynamic without being so just for the sake of itself (if that makes any sense at all).

Play Through: 9.75/10 – This album is nearly flawless from the time the needle drops all the way to the bittersweet “click” of the record ending.  Seriously, Fair Warning has no equal in terms of Van Halen albums and the only non-Van Halen album that even comes within spitting distance is the magnum opus Hysteria by fellow hard rock giants Def Leppard.  The single gripe I have with Fair Warning is “So This Is Love,” not a bad song by any accounts but certainly a bit out of place on an album as dark and brooding as this.  I could listen to this album everyday and find something new I love about it each time.  Brilliant!

Studs: “Dirty Movies,” “Sinner’s Swing,” “Hear About it Later,” Push Comes To Shove.”  Duds: “So This Is Love.”


My Personal Rankings:


6. Diver Down

5. 1984

4. Women and Children

3. Van Halen I

2. Van Halen II

1. Fair Warning





The Definitive (and Subjective) James Bond Rankings

Have you ever wanted to know which Bond is the best? Of course you have! Sure there are other rankings on the web, but this one is definitive (I think).


I’ve been scouring the internet over the past several months looking for rankings of James Bond movies, opening theme songs, and actors from worst to first (yes, I know I don’t have a life, thank you very much). To say that I have been disappointed by the rankings of all three would be an understatement to end all understatements. There have been certain indisputable truths I’ve come across (Die Another Day is objectively one of the worst Bond films in the series and, conversely, Goldfinger is a Top 5 classic), but other entries in the list seem to irk me for how low/high they are placed. Everyone seems to love Daniel Craig as Bond (I don’t), and many lists tend to damn certain favorite films of mine, such as The Living Daylights or Tomorrow Never Dies to the deepest depths of mediocrity. Hell, even License To Kill, my favorite Bond theme song and movie starring my favorite Bond actor, Timothy Dalton, more often than not gets placed outside of most lists’ top tens.


I figured it was time for some revenge, but I decided to at least make this a (somewhat) fair list. Metrics were used to determine the characteristics I thought were most important to a Bond character: Looks, Physicality, Impact, Movies, Miscellaneous. More on those in a minute, but suffice to say this is a relatively subjective list. I tried to keep this a balanced ranking with objective criteria but some of my biases were harder to hide than others. Each category is used to rank the actor on a scale from 1 to 10 and then all five are added to make an aggregate score (out of 50) and percentage:

Looks – How well does this actor portray a dashing 00-agent

Physicality – Separate from looks, how does this actor stack up in the physique aspect and does he have enough physical prowess to play the role? Does he do his own stunts etc.?

Impact – How memorable/iconic was this Bond?

Movies – The movies that these specific Bonds were in, were they any good? Plot? Dialogue? Memorable villains?

Miscellaneous – A hodgepodge of any criteria left out such as Q gadgets, Bond girls, and (most importantly) theme songs.

With that in mind let’s jump right in, starting with (subjectively) the worst Bond…

6. George Lazenby: 32/50 (64%)


Looks: 8.5/10 – Lazenby was an Australian model at the time of being selected to play our favorite 00-agent, so its no surprise he looks the part to portray an international spy tasked with seducing gorgeous women as part of his job description. Lazenby is one of the better looking and more convincing actors to play 007, which helps him big time in this particular ranking criteria but wasn’t enough to save him from being at the bottom of this list.

Physicality: 8.5/10 – George Lazenby stood at 6’2” and was a very broad man with an athletic build (as mentioned above, he was a model). He was also the youngest actor at just 29 years old to play James Bond. It is even rumored that Lazenby requested to do his own stunts but the studio vehemently denied it. Nevertheless, Lazenby ended up breaking a rib on set anyway. The only thing keeping his score from being any higher is the aforementioned lack of stunt work.

Impact: 5/10 – Here lies one of Lazenby’s Achilles heels, as the man starred in only one Bond film before his agent advised against it, due to the changing culture of the 70’s. Apparently after 1969’s On Her Majesties Secret Service, spy movies were on their way out. Its a shame, because OHMSS is considered a hidden gem by most. Personally, I thought the movie was solid but nothing to write home about, which is partially why the Aussie ranks so low in this category. He is often referred to as the “forgotten Bond,” and his Impact ranking reflects this.

Movies: 7/10 – As I just mentioned in the Impact category, Lazenby only starred in one good but not spectacular film. OHMSS was a close adaptation to the Ian Flemming novels, but Lazenby’s lack of acting experience and poor delivery of certain lines knocks him down a notch or two. A seven here seems more than fair.

Misc: 4/10 – OHMSS’ lack of gadgets coupled with Lazenby’s haphazard and ultimately subpar usage of Bond’s signature quips makes this a rough category for Lazenby. Dovetail this with the absence of a seminal “Bond Theme Song” and Lazenby falls flat here

Best Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Best Line: “This never happened to the other guy” On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).


5. Roger Moore: 32.5/50 (65%)


Looks: 8/10 – In terms of looking the part, Moore has this in spades. It can be argued whether Moore’s Bond was a departure from the gritty novels of Flemming, but in terms of a suave secret agent who looks great in a tuxedo, look no further than Roger Moore. His only knock here is his age, as Moore is one of the older actors to play Bond and by his last film, 1985’s A View to a Kill, he was 57 years old.

Physicality: 5/10 – When fans think of James Bond, they may think of two different and diametrically opposed archetypes: Daniel Craig’s barrel chested take on the spy is at one end of the spectrum, and at the other end lies Moore’s relatively scrawny and aging rendition. Moore is, to even the nakedest of eyes, the weakest Bond in terms of brute strength and physical performance. Many of his action and fight scenes seem overly choreographed and his Bond relied heavily on gadgets to outdo his opponents. Bonus points for the skiing scene in The Spy Who Loved Me, which showed off a bit of athletic prowess by 007, but by and large, Moore doesn’t have the physical chops to pull his score any higher above average.


Impact: 7/10 – If we are talking about sheer number of films being starred in, Moore is tied with Sean Connery for most times playing James Bond (seven). Strip away Connery’s “non-cannon” spin as Bond in Never Say Never Again (for the purposes of this list, we won’t), and Moore even takes the cake in the quantity department. Some of his movies, however, fall flat in the department of being memorable. Some even sit in the infamous category. By virtue of volume, Moore has a high score in the impact section of this list. His score could have benefitted from not having his name tied to so many forgettable clunkers, though (see: Moonraker, Octopussy, A View To A Kill).

Movies: 5.5/10 – Upon initial inspection, this score may seem a bit harsh. Peel the layers back a bit, however, and you will see most of Moore’s Bond movies have not aged well. Yes, Connery’s movies of the 60’s have dated CGI in scenes but they felt somewhat endearing. Moore’s films seemed to try to cash in on the latest trends of the times even more so than their predecessors and followers, and even more to their detriment than the others. Moonraker was a clear grab at the Star Wars phenomenon of the late 70’s and Moore’s first turn as Bond in Live and Let Die was a shameless go at the Blaxploitation movement of the early 70’s. Sure, Moore had fan favorites like The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, but most of his catalog is weighed down by bloated and over the top spy movies that almost seem like parodies of themselves (for Christ’s sake, he dresses up as a clown in Octopussy and its played completely straight).

Misc: 7/10 – The good: Moore’s Bond was a quip machine. The man absolutely knew how to deliver a classic Bond line like few others in the series. The music, while not phenomenally memorable save for Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die, wasn’t awful either. The bad: The gadgets in most of these movies have not stood the test of time and many of the villains in the movie are way too outlandish, even for a Bond film

Best Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Best Line: “I’m now aiming precisely at your groin. So speak now or forever hold your piece.” The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).


4. Daniel Craig: 36/50 (72%)


Looks: 6.5/10 – Listen, I know I’m going to catch some heat for this, but I just don’t understand the appeal of Daniel Craig. He’s a decent enough looking guy, but holy hell does he not fit the mold of James Bond. I get that we have to be open to trying new things, but with something as classic as the James Bond character trope, Craig sticks out like a sore thumb. He doesn’t have the same debonair disposition as those who preceded him, he just looks like a brute in the vein of a Jason Bourne (okay, I’m done ranting now; bias hat is coming off).

Physicality: 10/10 – Where Craig lacks in the suave department he more than makes up for in the physical realm. The scene in Casino Royale where Bond steps out of the beach is etched into everyone’s mind; this is the first time we’ve seen a Bond who looks like he could believably kick the ass of all the oversized henchmen thrown at him without having to use any fancy gadgets. Kudos to you, Craig. You shine in this section like none before you.


Impact: 6.5/10 – Again, not to be a hater, but I feel as though Craig hasn’t had enough time to sit in our brains as 007 for his impact to be any greater than it is at a 6.5. He’s had good movies (Casino Royale routinely sits at the top of most people’s lists, be it fair or not) and bad movies (Quantum of Solace, conversely, ranks near the bottom of every list I’ve read) just like every other Bond (well, almost every other Bond, but we’ll get there). Craig’s score here is bound to rise over time, but many of you reading this list probably weren’t even old enough to legally purchase a ticket to Casino Royale when it was released in theaters barely a decade ago. Give it time.

Movies: 7/10 – So we talked about Craig’s rollercoaster ride in the section above from his first outing to his second, how about the rest? Skyfall was critically acclaimed when it was released in 2012. Then Craig came crashing back down to earth with very mediocre and ultimately ambivalent scores for his 2015 film, Spectre. Subjectively, I felt a 7/10 here was more than fair, as you may be presently aware I am not exactly running the Daniel Craig Fanclub. Quantum of Solace almost put me to sleep on a plane ride to Texas one time and Casino Royale, at times, felt like a franchise that was trying to go in the opposite direction of everything it had built in the past.

Misc: 6/10 – I find myself, once again, gritting my teeth and trying to find more positives than negatives, but here’s where some of my biases come into play. Craig’s quips left much to be desired, the gadgets were few and far between, and the songs were steaming piles of garbage save for Adele’s Skyfall, which felt like a return to form in the arena of Bond Themes (this coming from someone who, musically at least, despises the very ground Adele walks on, but to each their own). By giving this a 6/10 though, I am acknowledging that the positives outweigh the negatives. Just don’t ask me to name them any time soon.

Best Movie: Casino Royale (2006). Best Line: something about scratching his balls during a torture scene in Casino Royale?


3. Pierce Brosnan: 36.25/50 (72.5%)


Looks: 10/10 – This may be a product of my formative years taking place solely in the Brosnan era (1995-2002) but anytime I think of James Bond my mind immediately goes to Pierce Brosnan. The man was born to play Bond. He is so suave and erudite and exudes a charisma about him not seen since the Connery years. Seriously, go back and watch his first two films, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies. Every scene in those movies is a master class on how to be an international lady killer when you step in the room.

Physicality: 6.5/10 – While not the most physical looking Bond, Brosnan more than holds his own. He isn’t the 6%-body-fat-speedo-model that Craig is but he certainly isn’t the wet napkin that is Roger Moore for the majority of his Bond days either. His Bond has a few cool stunts and athletic feats to go along with this theory as well, particularly in Goldeneye. Brosnan starts to show his age physically by his final installment, Die Another Day, but in his first few movies he is passable as an action star/super spy. A middle of the road Bond physique deserves a middle of the road score.

Impact: 6.75/10 – This was virtually a coin flip of a difference between Brosnan and Craig: both starred in 4 up and down films with their first flicks generally being their best outings. Brosnan’s Bond has been around a whole decade longer than Craig’s rendition, though. Also its worth noting Brosnan has something going for him that no other Bond can even come close to: Goldeneye for the N64. Every college dorm room from 1997 to now has probably had their fair share of death matches on this classic FPS. And if they haven’t, shame on them!

Movies: 5.5/10 – Brosnan’s first two movies, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, are personal favorites of mine and seem to be generally well received by the masses. Even The World is Not Enough was a decent movie that only seems to get criticized for its choice of casting outside of the always fantastic Brosnan. What really weighs this score down (and heavily, I might add) is the absolutely god-awful Die Another Day. I won’t go into detail about how much of a crap-fest this movie is, as everyone else on the internet seems to have done that for me. Trust me when I say this movie is one of the few Bond flicks that is worth skipping. Its so bad, in fact, that Daniel Craig’s Bond, dark and brooding, is almost necessary to scrub the minds of Bond fans everywhere, and this is coming from someone who LOVES Brosnan as Bond.

Misc: 7.5/10 – As with just about everything else in the Brosnan section of this list, its a tale of two halves. Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies feature delightful gadgets, villains, theme songs, and even Bond girls. The World is Not Enough is hit or miss on these, with a surprisingly good theme song done by Garbage of all people. Die Another Day torpedoes all of this effort and brings the aggregate score of Brosnan down significantly (Madonna, anyone?).

Best Movie: Goldeneye (1995). Best Line: “What, no small talk? No chit chat? See that’s the problem with the world these days, no one takes the time to do a proper interrogation.” Goldeneye (1995)


2. Sean Connery: 38.5/50 (77%)


Looks: 8/10 – A bit of a heads up, since Connery was the first Bond in the franchise he will be graded on somewhat of a curve for the most part. That being said, vintage Sean Connery is what Bond is supposed to look like, suave and sophisticated with a hint of manly action hero. A reoccurring theme will be present throughout: had Sean Connery stopped after making 1967’s You Only Live Twice, his score might have been higher. After taking a four year hiatus, Connery returned in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever looking like a shell of his former self, gray hair and all. Who knows what could have been if Connery had simply said enough after 5 films.

Physicality: 6.5/10 – Connery suffers from a similar fate as Pierce Brosnan in that his physique started to regress as his career went on. This is understandable; we are humans, we age. Connery seemed to be aging on speed, though. Take his first break from Bond into account. When we see Connery last, he is starring in You Only Live Twice and still looking like a man with plenty left in the tank. Flash forward just 4 short years and Connery looks like a different person altogether. His hair is peppered with white, his skin looks saggy, and he’s rocking a proud beer gut 45 years before some idiot introduced us to the “dad bod” craze. Before this, however, Connery is more than adequate enough physically to play James Bond.


Impact: 10/10 – Who didn’t see this coming. If it wasn’t for Connery, Bond may have gone in a completely different direction. Everything we see in subsequent Bond films owes its very existence to the Connery era. Make no mistake, a perfect score in this category is more than justified. Connery’s Bond is the blueprint for not only every following Bond, but every following spy movie in the 20th century as well.

Movies: 7/10 – Broken record alert: this score would be much higher if Connery had stepped down after You Only Live Twice. Trust me its as tiring for me to type as it is for you to read. While its true Diamonds are Forever is a real cumbersome weight tied to Connery’s ankle, as is the unofficial Never Say Never Again, Connery’s first five films are all hallmarks of the genre. In particular, the middle trifecta of From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball offers some of the best the series has to offer, with the latter playing host to one of my favorite Bond songs ever. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend watching those three films if you’re a Bond fan. You won’t be disappointed.

Misc: 7/10 – 007 is known for having much of the following: sweet gadgets, a cool car, tons of women fawning all over him, and iconic theme songs. For the most part, Connery delivers in all phases of the game here. Again, much of this has to do with Connery being the proverbial guinea pig of the series. Some of the songs fall a little flat (music pun) but Tom Jones’ Thunderball sits comfortably in my Top 3 Bond songs of all time, and the gadgets, cars, and girls are all way up there in terms of their rank in the pantheon of James Bond. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Connery was and always will be the king of Bond quips.

Best Movie: Goldfinger (1964). Best line: “That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.” “You know much about guns, mister Bond?” “No, but I know a little about women.” Thunderball (1965).


Timothy Dalton: 41/50 (82%)


Looks: 8.5/10 – He may not have the quintessential Bond looks of Brosnan, but Timothy Dalton could pull of a steely eyed lady killer with a penchant for expensive suits like few others. Everything about him screams international man of mystery: his cold blue eyes, his chiseled bone structure, and his jet black hair that always seems to be perfectly in place. His look isn’t as iconic as Connery or Brosnan but Dalton brings his own unique aesthetic to James Bond that few would find fault with.


Physicality: 8.5/10 – Dalton had something going for him that no one else in the series prior did: he did a lot of his own stunt work. He certainly wasn’t the most physically imposing of Bonds, as he didn’t have the height of Lazenby or muscular stature of Craig, but Dalton more than made up for this with his stunt work and athletic ability. Skydiving, waterskiing, or hanging out of the back of a plane, he did it all and convincingly too. He falls in the middle of the physique spectrum much like Brosnan did; not a tank like Craig but not a shrimp like Moore.

Impact: 6/10 – If there is one knock anyone can justify in levying against Dalton, it is that he only had two movies to make his mark. Granted, both movies were phenomenal in their own unique ways. This doesn’t make up for the fact, however, that Dalton just didn’t have enough time to endear himself to the masses, leaving only his most hardcore supporters (guilty as charged) to be his flag bearers. If it wasn’t for Lazenby’s woefully average one-and-done as the 00-agent, perhaps Dalton would be labeled “The Forgotten One.”

Movies: 9.5/10 – Okay, so I’m a bit of a fanboy, but I warned you from the start some of these rankings were subjective. With all that being said, at their absolute worst, The Living Daylights and License to Kill were both above average Bond adventures with some of the best Bond girls in the series and action scenes that were both believable and entertaining. Dalton shines in both of these films as a flawed yet professional killer who sometimes lets his emotions get in the way; he’s great at what he does but we still see that he’s human. Juxtapose this with the Bond directly before Dalton, Moore, who seems to always have a smug disposition no matter what situation he’s in, and this is a welcomed change. The next time someone comes at you with “Daniel Craig is gritty and a throwback to the Flemming novels,” just pop in that License to Kill VHS (look it up, kiddos) and let em know Dalton was doing it nearly two decades beforehand.

Misc: 8.5/10 – This is the part of the review where I reveal I am an unapologetic fan of the 80’s. With that in mind, everything about these movies was 80’s culture personified. The Bond girls scream late 1980’s with their hair and fashion, and the plots are classic representations of that decade of decadence we all secretly love. The villains are fun and memorable, particularly Sanchez from License to Kill, played expertly by Robert Davi. The plots are a departure from Moore’s campy run as 007 without straying too far from the classic formula and Dalton picks his moments with those signature Bond quips. The songs give this category a huge boost. The Living Daylights, while a product of the times (1987), was so deliciously late decade excess, it has to be admired, right down to its tinny keyboard interludes. It remains a concert staple of A-ha’s. Saving the best for last, Gladys Knight’s License to Kill is so wonderful. It mixes the big band feel of early Bond with 1980’s studio haze, for lack of a better term, dripping with appeal. The result is my all-time favorite Bond song, and Knight delivers a sultry performance that remains criminally underrated (a recurring motif of Dalton era movies).

Best Movie: License to Kill (1989). Best Line(s): “Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other. Go ahead, tell M what you want. If he fires me I’ll thank him for it. Whoever she was it must’ve scared the living daylights out of her.” The Living Daylights (1987). *Preparing to fire rockets from his Aston Martin* “I’ve had a few optional extras installed.” The Living Daylights (1987).

By The Numbers:

Looks: Highest – Pierce Brosnan (10/10). Lowest – Daniel Craig (6.5/10)
Physicality: Highest – Daniel Craig (10/10). Lowest – Roger Moore (5/10)
Impact: Highest – Sean Connery (10/10). Lowest – George Lazenby (5/10)
Movies: Highest – Timothy Dalton (9.5/10). Lowest – Roger Moore/Pierce Brosnan (5.5/10)
Misc.: Highest – Timothy Dalton (8.5/10). Lowest – George Lazenby (4/10)

My Personal Rankings:
Bonds (metrics aside)
6. Daniel Craig
5. Roger Moore
4. George Lazenby
3. Sean Connery
2. Pierce Brosnan
1. Timothy Dalton

5. Goldfinger (1964)
4. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
3. The Living Daylights (1987)
2. Goldeneye (1995)
1. License to Kill (1989)

Theme Songs
5. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow)
4. The World is Not Enough (Garbage)
3. Thunderball (Tom Jones)
2. The Living Daylights (a-ha)
1. License to Kill (Gladys Knight)