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Creator / Michael Bay

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Michael Benjamin Bay (born February 17, 1965) is an American film director and producer known for his incredibly energetic — and highly divisive — directing style.

While his detractors (and most critics, for that matter) claim his films are juvenile or impossible to follow, and his name has grown quite pejorative in art-house circles, a lot of filmgoers don't seem to mind, and his films are routinely box-office successes. If you look over his interviews, especially for Transformers (2007), you'll see that he is more than aware of this reputation, and even makes fun of the fact. On one occasion, he stated, "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime."

Bay got interested in action films when he set firecrackers on a train set, filmed it with his mom's camera, and got grounded — an approach which seems to have continued into many of his higher-budget movies even today. As a teenager in the early '80s, he was a clerk for Lucasfilm and worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He thought it would suck, but ate his words when he saw the final product, and that got him interested in directing.

He started out directing commercialsnote  and music videosnote  before Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer hired him to direct Bad Boys (1995). The film was a modest hit and kicked off Bay's film career, after which The Rock (one of his more well-liked movies) came out and solidified him as someone capable of making energetic, entertaining and profitable action films. It was around the time Armageddon (1998) came out that the polarized responses that would continue to follow Bay's films began rolling around.

He's well-known for being a tough general on set, as he shoots and moves at a very fast pace. The movies he makes would also probably cost 30% more and take another year to film in the hands of another director (which, when you consider the amount of stuff that's demolished, smashed and blown up in his movies, is a damn impressive thing). Despite a belief that everyone in Hollywood hates him, his ability to work within a budget and demand a strong work ethic from his crew and actors has earned him a great deal of supporters just for turning filmmaking into an actual work experience. He is ranked among the most elite directors in Hollywood today, having strong relationships with friends James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.

However, his aggressive directing style and occasional jerkish behavior has earned him some enemies. People like Bruce Willis, Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Megan Fox (who compared him to Hitler and Napoleon in an interview), Kate Beckinsale (who claimed that Bay made her feel "ugly" on the set of Pearl Harbor), and Ben Affleck have spoken out against Bay and refuse to work with him again.

In 2008, possibly to hype Postal, Uwe Boll called out Bay (among others) for his supposed lack of talent (at least from Boll's point-of-view) while insisting he's "the only real genius in the whole fucking business." Bay's response is pretty awesome.

While he may be hated by many critics and film buffs, you should always remember one thing: You mess with Michael Bay and you mess with America!

Compare Roland Emmerich. If they collaborated, Hollywood would explode.

Films he's directed:

Projects he's produced (via his production company Platinum Dunes):

Tropes about him or his works:

  • Adam Westing: When he plays himself, he will play a satire.
  • America Saves the Day:
    • He uses this a lot—as noted below, he likes the U.S. Military, and they like him because they always look good in his movies. The United States Army even lent their tanks and helicopters to Bay for the first Transformers movie.
    • One exception is The Rock which was a major aversion—Sean Connery Saves The Day instead.
    • This is also downplayed in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. While it's primarily the efforts of the American GRS that resulted in the safe evacuation of any survivors rather than a complete slaughter, it's also made clear that a friendly Libyan militia "17 Feb" do provide some assistance. Also, the arrival of Libyan army reinforcements confirms they are in the clear and can make it to safety.
  • Artistic License: A few of Bay's films take certain liberties with things like history or astronomy in the name of telling a story. Famously, NASA managers are, as part of the training, required to view Armageddon (1998) and record any inaccuracies they find; to date, 168 have been caught.
  • Associated Composer: Steve Jablonsky is his, having scored all but three of Bay's directorial efforts since The Island (which were instead scored by Lorne Balfe) and several other films produced by Bay. Balfe has since replaced Jablonsky as his preferred composer.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Bay's friends and family describe his behavior when growing up as a kid with ADHD, and that sometimes when they talk to him even now he seems to mentally wander off.
  • Author Appeal: Bay likes to make the US Military look good, but he's less charitable toward the faceless bureaucracies that give them marching orders. A great deal of his films have heroic military members screwed over by the government, and it sets off the whole plots of both The Rock and Ambulance.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: He has a direct line to Film Correspondent at the Pentagon. "The military likes me because they look good in my movies." and "I am a world class ass-kisser."
  • Chase Scene: From Bad Boys (1995) to The Rock.
    • At least in three movies, always involved a truck/semi, usually with stuff flying off. Simply dodging traffic at high speeds just isn't enough.
    • He did Transformers partially because he felt that he had done plenty of chase scenes, but none that had giant robots transforming at 80 mph.
    • Ambulance is about 80% one long chase scene. And it rocks.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • Apparently they're so thick his assistants have to translate for the special effects people.
    • For the movies themselves, both Bad Boys films.
  • Concept Video: His video for "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)", by Meat Loaf, features Loaf and Dana Patrick as a motorcycle-riding Beauty and the Beast.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • He admitted that Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen deserved some of the hate it got. Consequently he put more work in trying to avoid what had been criticized in it in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
    • Subverted with Armageddon. In an interview with Miami Herald, he said "I will apologize for Armageddon", and explained how being forced to film the whole in 16 weeks caused the crew's performance to suffer, but later added on his website's forum that his words had been taken out of context and he actually was proud of the movie, despite the work he didn't get to finish.
    • Reportedly he had many troubles producing Pearl Harbor owing to the Executive Meddling involved, and was not a fan of the love triangle arc for which it was harshly lambasted. He even threatened to leave the production more than once as creative differences between himself and the crew continued to mount.
  • Creator Cameo: He's a NASA scientist in Armageddon, has his car nearly Flashed Badge Hijacked in Bad Boys II, is the poor bastard flicked by Megatron in Tranformers and is in the airplane carrying Optimus Prime in Revenge of the Fallen. Additionally, a really strange example of this is also in Transformers: Blackout's tail number is the same as his private jet's (as revealed by him in the Director's Commentary)
  • Creator Thumbprint: Helicopters or planes flying into the sunset are very commonly found.
  • Cue the Sun:
  • Death by Cameo:
    • That random bystander who Megatron flicked like an insect with his finger in Transformers (2007)? Yep, that was Mr. Bay himself.
    • In Mystery Men, he plays the leader of The Frat Boys (his line: "Dude, can we bring the brewskis?"), who are all killed by the movie's Big Bad at the climax, For the Evulz.
  • Doing It for the Art: More of Doing It for the Fun: Michael Bay has stated his films are more to just be enjoyed instead of being analyzed. Whether or not this is a good choice or not, it's a YMMV.
    • Say what you will about how much Bay loves explosions and chase scenes, but he makes them look good — he likes to do such stunts with authentic vehicles and props because it wouldn't look as good if he used CGI or miniature models, and he doesn't like greenscreen work. Even in instances where it would be easier and cheaper to use CGI, miniatures, or greenscreen, if Bay feels its worth it to do it for real, he'll do it for real. In the first Transformers film, he accidentally launched a car into the third story of a building while filming Bumblebee's return to the battle in the tow truck, and he actually got a bus driving on the highway (well, towed at highway speeds, anyway) and blew it in two for the scene of Bonecrusher skating through it. When it came to making Transformers 3, a 3-D film, he refused to work with anyone besides the best. In other words, the same team from Avatar. He also makes use of Enforced Method Acting (see that entry below) and puts his actors right in the middle of the action.
    • He initially didn't want to do the Transformers film, because he didn't want to just make a two-hour toy commercial. It wasn't until Spielberg talked him into the A Boy And His Car angle and he familiarized himself with the franchise's history and mythology that he agreed to do the movie.
    • Pain & Gain was Bay's pet project that he'd been trying to get off the ground for years because he loved the story behind it.
    • His advertising work was no less stylistic than his films. The first "Got Milk?" commercial shows all of the crazy camera angles, focus shifts, Vertigo Effects tracking shots and high energy editing that he would become famous for.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Some of his music videos are relatively gentle compared to his filmography. Though there's plenty of broken glass in two of his music videos for Meat Loaf (specifically, "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" and "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through") to prove a good harbinger for his future explosive reputation.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Whenever possible he gets the actors to do the big shots in the middle of all the explosions. For the Scorponok scenes in Transformers where the military runs from the giant crawly as it bursts out of the sand after them, the actors were actually running across the sand as charges behind them exploded, and were told to not stop running no matter what. For the climax where Sam ends up clinging to the side of a building while pursued by Megatron, Shia LaBeouf was actually on the side of a building 30 stories up (albeit strapped into a harness, naturally). He also used this to get Megan Fox to have the proper fury when hacking up Frenzy with a saw, and admits he deliberately antagonized her to achieve that since she was being too timid.
  • Everybody Smokes: Averted. Bay hates smoking and you'll rarely see anyone smoking in his films. Pearl Harbor, set during a time when smoking was much more common, doesn't show anyone smoking. If you do see someone smoking in one of his films, chances are they're a Jerkass, Corrupt Corporate Executive, Obstructive Bureaucrat, or all three.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Despite his reputation of inserting Ms. Fanservice characters, he does seem to draw the line at R-Rated nudity. He reportedly turned down Scarlett Johansson's request to go topless for The Island (mostly to preserve the PG-13 rating), and he walked out of the premiere for Friday the 13th (2009) because he felt the sex scenes were too excessive.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Devastator, the most complex of the Transformers in the films, caused probably the closest as you'll get to this trope in real life. According to some of the crew, Devastator had so many moving parts and was so complex and detailed to animate that his animation model ended up frying one of the animation computers' motherboards!
  • Follow the Leader: Bay admitted that his quick-cutting style was to bring more energy to the relatively low budget Bad Boys (1995), which couldn't afford the same scale of actions sequences his later movies would offer. He also said that since then action movies have become more like his style and sometimes include even more cuts than even he would do.
  • Godwin's Law: Megan Fox compared him to Hitler in an interview, although in the dictator sense more than anything else.
  • Hidden Depths: Bay is most well-known for making mindless action movies, but he's a lot more intelligent and observant than you may think from that reputation.
    • He normally doesn't care much about the critical hatred he gets, but he did once make a poignant observation that movie critics have their own quasi-fandom and thus will often say things that would make them popular controversial, and hating Michael Bay is pretty popular.
    • This is a guy who graduated top of his class in film school, and directors like the aforementioned Steven Spielberg (who pioneered the concept of the special-effects laden blockbuster) and James Cameron (who invented deep sea submersibles, 3D technology, and advanced film animation you see in every major movie today) ask for technical advice. And there are also reports that his crew are fiercely loyal to him, as he never asks them to do something he isn't willing/able to do himself.
    • As described under Doing It for the Art, he prefers practical effects as much as possible, because he feels the results look better when the props and the sets and the vehicles are actually real. For Ambulance, Bay was proud that most of the stunts in the movie were done for real with minimal bluescreen, and while there is some CGI scenes, he wasn't happy with how they turned out.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Initially turned down Transformers due to this, until Hasbro made him a fan.
  • Irony: Bay is a man disliked by critics of films, but is respected by makers of film. Odd thing ain't it?
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: In regarding his use of 3-D in Transformers 3, he stated outright that people may hate his movies, bashing the characters, storyline and plot holes, but you cannot fault the technical side of things. The special effects, camera work and sound design are all "technically precise."
  • It's Always Sunny in Miami: And it is also always sunset. With big clouds of steam (or something else) coming out of the manholes.
  • It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: invoked Their quality aside, the man knows the type of films he wants to make and is well-aware that they are not going to get him awards anytime soon.
  • It Will Never Catch On: While working on storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, he didn't think it would be any good. When he saw the finished product, he not only ate his words, it made him want to direct films himself.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • He has a reputation as an absolutely tyrannical director, but when he's not actually doing anything regarding movies he's reportedly quite nice, and he's shown himself to have quite a sense of humor on a number of occasions.
    • He may just be prickly with actors. The crews who've worked on his films are full of praise for him. Moviebob says that they speak of him like Julius Caesar, a general who would rather fight on the frontline with his men.
  • Jitter Cam: Has used it a few times in his movies, but uses it sparingly when he has the budget to do fights more elaborately.
  • Just for the Heli of It: In an ad within an ad, we see Michael Bay is spoofing his Signature Style, including having seven helicopters. The people to whom he's pitching the ad have no idea why the copters are there.
  • Mad Bomber: Not in any of his films... the man himself. He's a nutcase pyromaniac. When you consider that his films are probably 80% practical effects at minimum, and that most of those explosions are real? So if you see a Decepticon blowing up a car with a missile, the Transformer is CGI, but the explosion from the car is real.
  • Made of Explodium: A big fan of Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Mean Boss: If Bruce Willis is to be believed, he's hard to work for.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: If it's not awesome already, Bay will likely make it so.
  • Necessarily Evil: His reputation as being an overly-controlling director might be an act, according to some of his film crew. After he shouts at some people on the phone, he then hangs up and comments that should get something done.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Has a habit of making sequels with elaborate names filled with stock subtitles. Bad Boys II was an aversion.
  • Old Shame:
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: Multiple screens showing same thing. Best example is when Bruce Willis is talking to his daughter and every screen in NASA shows his face.
  • One for the Money; One for the Art: Once the Transformers movies started taking over his career during the 2010's, he made an effort to film personal projects in between like Pain & Gain and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which were made for less than 1/4th the budget of his bigger movies.
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: Even Ebert acknowledged that Bay's work represents some of the most visually stunning and technically polished cinematography in modern film. Ebert gave, and many critics continue to give, a strange impression of You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: That is, they wouldn't be so bothered by Bay if he actually were a bad director. It's the fact that a talented one willfully chooses to create unapologetic popcorn movies that drives them nuts.
  • Orbital Shot: He has a 360 Steadicam® shot in almost all his films, including when Optimus Prime transforms in the climax of Transformers.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Due to his heavy use of America Saves the Day trope, he takes heavy liberties on throwing in American flags and seals in his works.
  • Pet the Dog: Bay is an animal-lover, owning two mastiffs (who can occasionally be seen in his films), and offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who had information leading to "the arrest and successful prosecution" of a woman tossing puppies into a fast-moving river. He also donated his Bar Mitzvah money to an animal shelter when he was a teenager. There's also story where he read of a dog that had gone unadopted in a shelter for over 6 years. Not only did he create enough buzz virally around the dog it got adopted, he even put it in The Last Knight as the pet of Anthony Hopkins' character.
    • Multiple people have said that he will yell and scream at the crew when things are not going the way he wants them too, often harassing his actors or otherwise practicing Brutal Honesty in order to get things done, but once the day is over he will be the first to thank everyone for their hard work and treat them to dinner.
  • Precision F-Strike: When demonstrating Devastator he got the normally reserved Steven Spielberg to use one. He considered it a high honor.
  • Prima Donna Director: Infamous for his maniacal style of direction, with many stories of actors collapsing from exhaustion and Bay throwing temper tantrums.
  • Rage Quit: A very calm example of this with his CES 2014 speech, which started strongly but was abruptly cut short after Bay started having teleprompter issues, which led to him trying to improvise and ultimately giving up and leaving the stage.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Referenced by...: When Mary in Knights of Buena Vista mentions liking Bay's movies, Dick has a fan hater moment, and Mary shoots it down by stating that the ridiculousness of his movies is what she finds appealing.
  • Rule of Cool: In Bay's universe, this rule is law. This is why helicopters are everywhere, sunsets occur more often than once a day, and explosions look as impressive as possible.
  • Self-Deprecation: He's known to poke fun at himself, and contrary to popular belief, his response to Megan Fox comparing him to Hitler was positive, admitting that it was just part of her quirky charm. (It was producer Steven Spielberg, who's Jewish, who found this an egregious use of Godwin's Law and dismissed her.) He even parodies his tendency to blow things up, like in this ad, and also this one. He used seven helicopters!
  • Shoot the Money: Wherever his movies are filmed, he ensures that they look good. In the Transformers (2007) commentary, he mentions that the "Megatron on ice" set cost the production 1.5 million and he made the effort to film there as much as possible. He mentions stories of other directors who come in on similarly expensive locations and drop half the scenes it was built for.
  • Signature Style: Popcorn movies that involve Stuff Blowing Up, Military porn, slapstick and broad-appeal humor (though he occasionally forsakes this), polished technical cinematography, (heterosexual male) sex appeal, and large scope, high energy action sequences Smash Cut with easy to overlook quiet drama scenes.
  • Signature Shot: He has several. Spinning Steadicam shots, low angle closeups with a zoomed in telephoto lens, layered deep focus shots contrasting foreground and background (see page image), panoramic aerial shots (preferably involving sunsets), and slow motion destruction shots employing the Vertigo Effect are all part of his signature look.
  • Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A deal of coincidences, his cousin Susan Bay is married to the late Leonard Nimoy and it was their influence (due to being frequent donors) that got them to film at the Observatory in the first film. This led to Nimoy being cast as Sentinel Prime in the third movie as well.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Part of his Signature Style is having awesome explosions in awesome scenes.
  • Summer Blockbuster: Most of his filmography (barring Pain and Gain, which was more a quirky comedy), negative reviews be damned.
  • Technology Porn: You can tell he enjoyed working on Transformers (2007) because of all the shots of intricate transformations.
  • This Explains So Much: Many people's reactions to finding out he has ADHD and once filmed firecrackers blowing up a train set.
    • The very odd, over-the-top stylistic choices for Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love" make so much more sense when you learn it was directed by Michael Bay.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: The Transformers series had some of this but Word of God (from Bay and the voice actors) says that Skids and Mudflap were meant to be wannabe gangsters, not this trope.

Awesome STINGER! *BOOM!*


Video Example(s):


Transformers- Car Punch

The Honest Trailer voice guy is dumbfounded that a mook got punched in the face ... with a car.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / CarFu

Media sources: