Hell Bent for Leather: Ranking the Underworld Series

The Underworld franchise shares a lot of parallels with The Resident Evil series. Both series are CGI-heavy action-horror hybrids headlined by strong female protagonists. Each franchise kicked off in the early 2000’s. Both series would eventually spawn late final entries. With five movies and just north of $250 million in total box office, Underworld, however,is one of the top performing horror franchises of all time. Loathed by critics, Underworld was the vampire-werewolves antithesis to Twiight. Now where does your favourite Underworld movie rank?

5 – Underworld: Blood Wars

Like Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Blood Wars is a belated final entry that can’t escape feeling unnecessary. At this point in the franchise, Kate Beckinsale is all that’s left of the original cast. Not even Scott Speedman would come back. There’s nothing inherently bad about this sequel. You’ve got more CGI bullets, blood, and lycans to go along with your leather-clad vampires. It’s just that the movie lacks any sense of urgency or fun. Simply put, Blood Wars is a sequel for diehard fans only

4 – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Rather than immediately exploring the open door left by Underworld: Evolution, the series opted to go back to the beginning. On one hand, the prequel route meant series’ standouts Viktor (Bill Nighy) and Lucian (Michael Sheen) were back. Unfortunately, it also meant series star Kate Beckinsale had to sit things out. Keep in mind, Rise of the Lycans isn’t a bad movie by any standard. Series fans will find lots to like as the prequel delivers more of what you want and expect. Nonetheless, there’s very little about this entry that stands out. And while Rhona Mitra is a great actress, Kate Beckinsale is sorely missed.

3 – Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Unless your name is Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, franchise fatigue typically settles in around the fourth movie of a series. Underworld’s story had come full circle with Rise of the Lycans. Yet somehow defying logic, a battery of screenwriters invested the series with a new direction. Specifically, Awakening’s time jump and new angle of humans hunting vampires and lycans added just enough of a new wrinkle to make this sequel interesting. Though the 3D effects didn’t add much, the franchise’s CGI bullets and blood is in full effect. New characters played by Stephen Rea, Charles Dance, and India Eisley (Look Away) also bring enough to the table to put this entry above the series prequel.

2 – Underworld Evolution (2006)

In light of Underworld’s box office success, a sequel was all but guaranteed. With Lee Wiseman back in the director’s chair, Evolution picks up right from the first movie’s conclusion. By and large, the sequel benefits from the creative continuity and ability to kick things into high gear. Yet more action doesn’t necessarily mean better. True, you’ll never be bored. And the vampire design for new addition, Marcus, remains impressive. Notwithstanding its taut pacing, Evolution misses Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen. Moreover, an expanded mythology needlessly weighs the sequel’s story down.

1 – Underworld (2003)

Simply put, you can’t top the first movie. Though its sequels were free of the need to establish the series’ mythology, half the fun of Underworld is its elaborate world-building. At its core, Lee Wiseman’s Underworld is a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story fused with a mishmash of styles. Specifically, Wiseman mixes Gothic horror with Matrix-infused action. As stoic ‘Death Dealer’ Selene, Kate Beckinsale is surrounded by a surprisingly strong cast. And there’s just enough intrigue and twists to keep things interesting in between the bullets and mayhem. Even after 16 years, Underworld’s special effects hold up well. Critics probably weren’t wrong to take issue with it, but Underworld is the right kind of dumb fun.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

3 thoughts on “Hell Bent for Leather: Ranking the Underworld Series

  1. Yep, the first Underworld movie is still the best, its brilliant! Vampires Vs Werewolves, OTT characters and action, grim gothic tone, what’s not to love! Always enjoy watching this movie 🙂

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