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Why Bad Boys: Ride Or Die Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office

Against all odds, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" — the fourth installment in the nearly 30-year-old action cop series — has ridden its way to one of the biggest box office openings of the year so far. Though it did little to slow the 2024 financial slump highlighted by the historic Memorial Day bomb of "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" ("Ride or Die" led the lowest-grossing June weekend in over 20 years), the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence picture soared past its most recent $40 million projections for a domestic opening of $56 million — raking in worldwide total of over $104 million in the first weekend alone. It has the fifth best domestic opening of 2024 so far, behind "Kung Fu Panda 4," "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes," "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire," and "Dune: Part Two."

Much of the conversation will likely surround its quality (in Looper's review of the film, we found that Smith and Lawrence still got it) and Smith's triumphant return to the Hollywood spotlight after he slapped comedian Chris Rock minutes before taking home the trophy for best actor at the 2022 Academy Awards. But there are several other factors at play in the success of "Ride or Die" that are arguably far more interesting to consider. From rare representation to the redemption of two prodigal filmmakers, the success of the "Bad Boys" series could serve as a force for positive change in the film industry at large. Here's why it ruled the weekend and why it blew those $40 million projections out of the water.

What did Bad Boys: Ride or Die make at the box office?

As of writing, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" has grossed $62.7 million domestically. In its opening weekend alone, it has already passed the total domestic grosses of Matthew Vaughn's "Argylle," Marvel and Sony's superhero bomb "Madame Web," and George Miller's muted "Mad Max" spin-off "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga." Perhaps even more significantly, it finds itself poised to imminently overtake some other surprise (and admittedly less expensive) hits from this year, including the romantic comedy "Anyone But You" and A24's political action-thriller "Civil War."

Globally, "Ride or Die" has taken home about $114 million. It's a decent figure for sure, especially for a such a sleepy time at the box office, but one that still places the "Bad Boys" behind "Furiosa," "IF," "The Fall Guy," and even Luca Guadagino's sexy tennis drama "Challengers." What industry pros will surely be watching now are "Ride or Die's" numbers over the next several weeks, hoping that the film proves to be a continuous box office draw that wraps up with several hundred dollars in gross revenue. "Bad Boys for Life" ultimately reached this goal, but only after opening to stronger numbers than "Ride or Die."

Ride or Die had weak competition

This simplest and most obvious explanation for the success of "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" is that, as the summer box office season was getting into full swing, there just wasn't any competition for a film like this over the weekend. Excluding smaller releases like the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led surreal drama "Tuesday" and Rachel Sennott's "I Used to Be Funny" (both of which began screening in 2023) and the re-release of the first two "Lord of the Rings" films, the only new release "Ride or Die" had to compete with was "The Watchers." As we noted in our review of Ishana Night Shyamalan's directorial debut, it's a film with such poor writing (also by Shyamalan) that only nepotism could have gotten it made. (Quality aside, it's also worth noting that "The Watchers" and "Ride or Die" are offering two very different experiences to audiences.)

With no new challengers to hinder its breakout box office run, "Ride or Die" merely had to breeze past recent holdovers. Chris Pratt's inexplicable "The Garfield Movie" and John Krasinki's ambitious but critically underwhelming fantasy film "If" both target a significantly younger audience, while "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" and "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" are grand-scale franchise genre films that tend to attract their largest numbers on opening weekend. Both films also might repel casual moviegoers who are newcomers to their respective universes, either uninterested in their unique worlds or in doing the required homework to understand the story.

Bad Boys for Life revived the franchise

While the first two Michael Bay films (formerly considered a closed duology by some) certainly always had their fans, "Bad Boys" was far from considered a huge franchise — much less one clearly meant for a revival in the 2020s. Even as studios seemed keen on reviving or rebooting any IP with a handful of fans and stars young enough to return, it would've been hard to imagine such a simple buddy-cop concept thriving between superhero blockbusters and "John Wick" knockoffs. But shockingly, in the year 2020 — when almost every other film project and franchise was either twisting in the wind or being sent out to flop in empty theaters — "Bad Boys" was revived.

Released in January just a matter of weeks before the world began to shut down, "Bad Boys for Life" proved not only that the series had financial potential, but that it could be made better than it's ever been with a few stylistic revamps. It's almost as though fresh directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (now known professionally as Adil and Bilall) ran parallel to Bay's own growth as a director (reflecting the visual polish and confidence of films like "Ambulance" and "6 Underground) without being afraid of creating something ridiculously grand on the way. The end result injected a powerful shot into the arm of the series — netting the studio a tidy $427 million haul while becoming the series' best reviewed entry on Rotten Tomatoes – and created a new generation of "Bad Boys" ticket buyers for "Bad Boys: Ride or Die."

It's part of a nostalgic series

All this being said about "Bad Boys for Life" deservedly creating more fans, we obviously can't forget the longtime fans of the series who have been following Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett all the way since 1995. Though it was no critical darling, the original "Bad Boys" was an enjoyable popcorn flick to many and went on to become a massive financial success; off a budget of just around $20 million, "Bad Boys" raked in $141 million worldwide. For any studio executive looking to print some money, greenlighting a sequel was a no-brainer, even in spite of the uneven foundation laid by the first film.

Unfortunately, and perhaps for that very reason, "Bad Boys II" is to "Bad Boys" what "2 Fast 2 Furious" is to "The Fast and The Furious" — an arguably unnecessary sequel that spins its wheels through a script with more explosions and guns but way less story than the first. Perhaps if Michael Bay had pitched sending Lowery and Burnett on a Tokyo vacation, they would have made a third film sooner.

Like later films in the "Fast" franchise that were made after its own soft reinvention, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" fearlessly mines its own mythology for plot possibilities. This was clear from the first trailer alone, which revealed that Joe Pantoliano's Captain Howard would be returning once more (albeit from the grave). As happy as new fans will be, "Ride or Die" is appropriately a treat for the series' ride-or-die fans as well.

Will Smith is still a box office draw

A popular debate among film fans today is whether or not franchise blockbusters killed the concept of "movie stars" — those increasingly rare actors that sell a movie on their name and face alone. If you look at the top 100 highest-grossing lead actors right now, you'll see most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet even among these familiar but far from ubiquitous names, you'll find a few exceptions — Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Will Smith.

As of writing, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" is only Smith's 22nd-highest grossing movie, just below the original "Bad Boys." If this opening weekend surge doesn't turn out to be a fluke, it will likely climb significantly higher — though perhaps not as high as "Bad Boys for Life," which had an even stronger opening weekend at $62.5 million. In the years since, however, Smith's star has been in flux maybe more than any actor working in the 2020s. His infamous Oscars slap turned him into both a viral meme and outright villain overnight. Amy Schumer, one of the year's hosts, described the moment as "sickening" and "disturbing" in a Tweet, and Smith was banned from the Academy for 10 years as a result.

All this to say, "Ride or Die" was an important moment for Smith's career — one that would mark his return to Hollywood and set the temperature for his future as one of America's last movie stars. The level of interest generated by this unique circumstance shouldn't be overlooked, nor should its potential impact on the film's financial performance.

A few good reviews didn't hurt

As much as filmmakers like Martin Scorsese bemoan the average moviegoer transforming into an unadventurous consumer thanks to the advent of sites like Rotten Tomatoes, the fact is that there's too much film and television out there for people to waste their time on things they think they won't enjoy — especially if those movies are asking you to leave your home and spend $20 or more. Fortunately for "Bad Boys: Ride or Die," reviews were mostly working in its favor.

As of writing, the film has an overall critics score of 64% and a 97% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 54/100 on Metacritic (with a 7.5/10 score from the audience, because that's just how Metacritic works). Though this feedback won't create the positive buzz necessary to get "Ride or Die" in contention for best picture, it will likely generate just enough to sway those on the fence in an otherwise quiet time for theaters. Many critics praised Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's charisma and comedic chemistry, as well as its inherent value as a fun, noisy summer blockbuster. As film critic Bilge Ebiri put it in a positive review for Vulture, "'Bad Boys: Ride or Die' serves as passable entertainment."

"Ride or Die" also received a grade of A- from CinemaScore. Even though all previous "Bad Boys" films received A grades, older conventional wisdom in Hollywood maintains that any A score is a positive indicator of box office success.

It captured the attention of a wider audience

As most modern blockbusters essentially continue to bring in the same audience demographics that have made them successful in the past, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" was able to attract the attention of a wider audience.

According to demographic tracking reported on by various entertainment outlets, "Ride or Die" was in part successful because Black audiences showed up in full force to support it. A massive 44% of everyone that saw "Ride or Die" during its opening weekend identified as Black or African American, a figure heads and shoulders above other high-profile movies released this year. This is especially true for the film's current theatrical competitors.

During its opening weekend, only 8% of the already small audience attracted by George Miller's "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" identified as Black. "IF" performed slightly better during its own opening weekend by this metric, with Black moviegoers making up 10% of its total audience. "Ride or Die" also surpassed the opening weekend proportional turnout of Black audience members for "Dune: Part Two" and "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire" at 13% and 18% respectively (though this could be explained by both films surpassing "Ride or Die's" total opening gross). Another demographic that showed up for "Ride or Die" was 18-34 year olds, who made up 44% of the total opening weekend audience.

Fast and Furious needs a successor

Last year, fans of overly convoluted action movies full of explosions and muscle-bound shootouts had "Fast X" to look forward to, which was — at least at the time — meant to be the beginning of a glorious multi-part final chapter for the "Fast and Furious" franchise. Now, times are very different.

For starters, the absence of a movie of this kind creates a programming gap that "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" was stylistically and dramatically ready to fill. But there's also arguably a question these days of whether or not we'll get another "Fast and Furious" movie at all. Star Vin Diesel once claimed that "Fast X" would be a trilogy, only for director Louis Leterrier to douse water on the idea when it made just $704 million worldwide after its budget ballooned to over $340 million — making the beginning of the "finale" only the eigth highest grossing movie in the series. Then there's the fact that a former assistant of Diesel's is currently suing him over disturbing allegations of sexual battery (Diesel has denied these allegations, and seems optimistic about the future of the franchise).

Audiences are almost certainly picking up on this uncertainty and may be looking for other films and/or franchises to get emotionally invested in. In terms of tone, origin, style, and audience expectations, "Bad Boys" comes closest to "Fast and Furious" — more specifically (and importantly, for longtime fans of the latter) the franchise's critical peak from "Fast and Furious 6" to "Furious 7."

Batgirl defenders show up for Adil and Bilall

Though "Bad Boys for Life" fans probably associate directing team Adil and Bilall with their past two entries in the franchise, most others probably know them as the directors of HBO's scrapped "Batgirl" film. The buzzy project starred "In the Heights" breakout Leslie Grace as the titular character, opposite J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and Michael Keaton (as Batman), before it was unceremoniously hurled into the annals of lost media by the leadership at Warner Bros. Discovery in favor of a tax write-off.

If that decision weren't controversial enough, the insistance from higher-ups that the film wasn't good enough to be released drew skepticism and ire from both long-neglected DC fans and those who were simply looking forward to the movie. After the disappointing releases of "The Flash," "Black Adam," and "Shazam: Fury of the Gods" — all three of which were praised by CEO David Zaslav specifically in a quarterly earnings call immediately after "Batgirl" was scrapped — it began to seem less likely among fans that "Batgirl" could have been so much worse to genuinely deserve cultural deletion.

However, with all this came a significant amount of goodwill for Adil and Bilall, both of whom reacted to the situation with class and moved forward. Even Kevin Feige (with whom they worked on "Ms. Marvel"), Edgar Wright, and then-forthcoming DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn personally reached out to them. Now on X (formerly Twitter), you'll find many accounts posting from their theater seats in support of Adil and Bilall and decrying WB's decision to ax "Batgirl."

The first trailer perfectly marketed the film

Of course, no discussion of a film's box office success would be complete without considering its marketing. "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" had a modest but impressive roll-out, which began in earnest with the debut of its first trailer, which perfectly conveyed everything the final product was aiming to deliver to audiences.

Like the film, the initial trailer for "Ride or Die" operated on two levels, the first being the non-stop action it promised potential audience members. Again, there's a brilliant combination of Michael Bay's modern action sensibilities (particularly the sort of high-speed drone shots he's been enjoying as of late) and Adil and Bilall's clearly choreographed and shot combat. From the first time a gun is fired in the trailer, audiences know the franchise has once again been left in safe, skilled hands. Then there's the comedy, of which there's a surprisingly large amount throughout both "Ride or Die" and its trailer.

At the time of the trailer's release, it seemed to some that the studio had made a choice to feature Martin Lawrence (who usually adopts a more slap-stick role as Detective Marcus Burnett) more prominently due to Will Smith's controversial cultural status. But in the final film, Lawrence actually does get a rather outsized amount of comedic material to work with, arguably to the film's benefit. If all movie trailers were as clear, stylish, and arresting as the first trailer for "Ride or Die," maybe their corresponding box office numbers would look just as nice.