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Denzel Washington's The Equalizer Movies Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes

When it comes to vigilante action movies, audiences can't go wrong with Denzel Washington's "The Equalizer" franchise. Many might not know that the Antoine Fuqua-directed trilogy is based on a 1985 television series that's, unfortunately, impossible to watch today. However, audiences, continue to eat up Washington's films, as the franchise's three releases have made north of $560 million worldwide. In an era where movie stars seem to have disappeared, the "Training Day" actor remains a major draw who still has a tight hold over the general public.

"The Equalizer" trilogy follows the exploits of Robert McCall. The first pic introduces him as a retired intelligence agent who lives a seemingly average existence as a retail employee worker. Sensing injustice in the world, the character sheds away his humble life and utilizes his special skills to rid the world of evil. It's a relatively simple premise, but one that lends itself well to brilliantly staged action sequences. Each film in the trilogy continues to expand upon the character's psyche and the lengths he goes to protect the world and those he holds dear. 

The series seemingly wrapped up with its third entry and it's unclear at this junction if "The Equalizer 4" will ever happen. But seeing as Fuqua's flicks are major financial winners, it wouldn't be surprising if the director and Washington returned for a fourth flick. While their box office receipts are consistent, their critical ratings aren't. Though "The Equalizer" projects have never been major critical darlings, there's one picture in the series that stands above the rest — at least according to Rotten Tomatoes critics. 

The Equalizer 3 has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score

Released in 2023, "The Equalizer 3" was dubbed by Rotten Tomatoes critics as a solid "dad" movie. It has a decent 76% score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest-rated flick in the trilogy. It also happens to have the highest audience score in the franchise, standing out with a whopping 94%, which is based on over 2,500 ratings. It's not surprising that "The Equalizer 3" has the most critical clout as the film reunited Washington with his "Man on Fire" co-star Dakota Fanning. 

In "The Equalizer 3," which is streaming on Netflix, Robert McCall is trying his best to keep a low-profile and have some well-deserved relaxation. Enjoying his quaint life in Sicily, Italy, his life is (once again) turned upside down when he's forced to confront the city's mafia. While audiences are always loving Washington's performances, critics were particularly impressed with threequel's narrative weight. "Given the simplicity of the basic template, Fuqua and [screenwriter Richard] Wenk cleverly weave together the various strands. The effect provides the movie with more emotional resonance, even if the overarching threat and big crime boss are almost wholly generic," wrote CNN's Brian Lowry in a positive review. 

It's interesting that the third film has the most positive critical receipts considering it's the later films in a franchise that are most typically maligned. In case you've never seen an "Equalizer" entry, you should have no problem jumping straight into the threequalizer. General consensus from critics is that audiences can watch McCall's seemingly final adventure with no knowledge of the series whatsoever. 

The OG Equalizer is the second-best on Rotten Tomatoes

The second highest-rated film in "The Equalizer" trilogy is the one that started it all. With a mixed-to-positive 61% Rotten Tomatoes score, the first "Equalizer" is a great action flick to pop on  when you're in the mood for some vigilante violence. Audiences were a bit kinder to it — it has a decent 77% audience score on the platform. Critics were mixed on its narrative but, as always, were impressed with Denzel Washington's angry performance. 

In "The Equalizer," which is also streaming on Netflix, McCall is seen working at Home Depot, enjoying a simple life. After meeting Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who is in servitude to devious Russian gangsters, he decides to use his skills to save her. Viewers immediately knew that Washington's revenge ride would be a bonafide hit, with many critics predicting that the release would launch a successful franchise. "If audiences and star are so inclined, it's easy to see this premise and this character – a tough, taciturn gent burdened with regret and a very special skill set – going into Roman numerals," wrote Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Indeed, Washington's action pic became a hit. 

Released in 2014, "The Equalizer" was a surprisingly strong performer. The film debuted in late September to average box office receipts, opening with $32 million domestically. It continued to shine with decent legs, weathering competition from "Annabelle" and "Gone Girl." Ultimately, it went on to gross $192 million, emerging as the star's fourth highest-grosser of all time — not bad for an actor who was 60 at the time. 

The Equalizer 2 is the lowest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes

"The Equalizer 2" is a perfect example of a sophomore slump. On Rotten Tomatoes, the sequel has a rotten 52% critics score. While it's not the lowest-rated Denzel Washington film on the platform (that honor goes to the 1990 comedy "Heart Condition"), it's still a mediocre performance from the actor and frequent collaborator Antoine Fuqua. In fact, it's their lowest-rated collab to date. Fans also gave the film the cold shoulder — it has a 61% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest-rated flick in the series. 

In the sequel, McCall tries his best to keep a low-profile, but soon must avenge his friend Susan (Melissa Leo) after the latter is murdered. With revenge on his mind, he goes out on a deadly quest to find justice. The sequel is available on Hulu. While critics were pleased with Washington's rousing, brutal performance, most couldn't ignore how "The Equalizer 2" was more of the same without much innovation. Matthew Lickona of the San Diego Reader was particularly dismissive over the picture, writing, "It's not much of a movie – more a parade of rah-rah triumphs obscuring a batch of logical oddities – which makes Washington's committed performance stand out like the heavenly host in the night sky over Bethlehem." 

Ultimately, "The Equalizer 2" is a classic case of filmmakers and creatives not knowing how to improve upon its predecessor. Released in 2018, the sequel was still a major hit for Sony Pictures, grossing just over $190 million on a budget of $77 million.