The Twilight Saga came to an end in 2012, but fans still revisit the films from time to time, and now that Stephenie Meyer has announced the long-awaited release of Midnight Sun, it’s a good time to look back at the films and see which one stands as the best. In 2005, Stephenie Meyer shared her world of vampires, humans, and werewolves through the novel Twilight, the first in what was to become a series of four novels.
The core of the series was the (often problematic) romance between vampire Edward Cullen and mortal Bella Swan, with werewolf Jacob Black in between. Given their popularity, the Twilight books made the jump to the big screen in 2008, with the final novel, Breaking Dawn, being split into two movies. The Twilight Saga found its protagonists in Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, whose careers were boosted by their roles as Edward, Bella, and Jacob, respectively.
Although all Twilight movies were a box office success, they didn’t do as well with critics and those not that into the story of Edward and Bella. Twilight had a very loyal and extensive fanbase, who defended the books and movies while they were heavily criticized, and that same fanbase helped the movies be a commercial hit. In terms of narrative, however, the Twilight movies weren’t the best, and the performances weren’t exactly memorable (or at least not in a good way), but they ended up making vampires popular again, although a sparkly version of them. Still, most of them have strengths, and as with any other movie saga, there’s one movie that stands as the best. Here’s every Twilight Saga movie, ranked worst to best.
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
The closing chapter of the Twilight Saga is, sadly, its worst. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 begins right after the ending of Breaking Dawn - Part 1, and focuses on Bella’s transformation into a vampire and the Cullens’ struggles to keep their clan safe, as the Volturi are going after them following the news of Reneesme’s birth. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 introduced more vampires, as the Cullens needed as much help as they could get, and so the audience got to see Lee Pace, Rami Malek, Noel Fisher, MyAnna Buring and more in full vampire mode – and yet, the movie fell short.
Breaking Dawn - Part 2 doesn’t feel like part of the Twilight Saga, with a different tone that is not drama nor action or comedy but tries really hard to be all those at the same time. The visual effects and make-up in the Twilight Saga got worse as the movies progressed, with Breaking Dawn - Part 2 having the worst – for example, the wolves got so big they weren’t slightly believable, and proportions kept changing throughout the movie, especially during the battle against the Volturi. Of course, there’s also the infamous CGI baby, which didn’t look believable back then and it surely doesn’t now.
Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is a slow burn, with the first two-thirds focused on Bella adapting to her new life as a vampire, and with the long-awaited battle against the Volturi happening in the final third – except the battle wasn’t real. During the most exciting 10 minutes of the movie, audiences witnessed a big battle between the Cullens, the Quileute wolf packs, their vampire allies, and the Volturi, triggered by Aro killing Carlisle. There are many casualties on both sides, with Bella and Edward eventually killing Aro, and that’s when viewers learn that what they just saw was nothing but a vision, and the Volturi simply leave after that. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 could have fixed the book’s bad ending, but instead, the writers decided to do something worse and pretty much waste their audience’s time with a fake battle, which further hurt an already messy movie.
4. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was all about Bella and Edward’s wedding, and the preparations for her transformation. However, what no one was counting with was Bella getting pregnant (really, not even Edward thought that could be possible) and all the problems that would bring – mainly Jacob being too over-protective and annoying. One of the most criticized elements from Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was Jacob’s attitude throughout the whole story, which was quite toxic (again, something very common and obviously problematic in the Twilight books). The dialogue was never a strength in the Twilight Saga (nor the books, really), which critics found especially cringe-worthy in Breaking Dawn - Part 1.
Still, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 ranks slightly higher than its successor because it covered two details that the previous movies had been building for years: the wedding and Bella’s transformation. The wedding scene was one of the most praised elements of the movie, as it was a visual delight, and it included some funny moments through the speeches (except Jessica’s, which only highlighted how envious she had always been of Bella). Breaking Dawn - Part 1 ends with Bella dying after giving birth and Edward injecting his venom directly to her heart in order to transform her and bring her back. Believing she didn’t survive, Bella is cleaned and dressed, but the venom begins to work in her body, healing every single wound and broken bone, with the movie closing with Bella opening her eyes, now blood-red. Had it not been for Reneesme, whose nature was a mystery even for Carlisle, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 would have been a great ending to the Twilight Saga (much better than the fake battle), with viewers left to imagine what Bella’s vampire life would have been like.
3. New Moon
The second installment in the Twilight Saga, New Moon, focused on the break-up between Bella and Edward and everything caused by that. Edward’s decision to end their relationship was so he wouldn’t put her life in danger, following an incident at her birthday party where she got a paper cut and Jasper, overwhelmed by the scent of her blood, couldn’t resist and tried to attack her. The break-up leaves Bella depressed and isolated, but she slowly begins to open up and spends more time with Jacob, whose attraction to her only grows. Bella begins to see Edward every time she goes through an adrenaline rush, prompting her to seek thrill-inducing activities, and it’s through one of those that Alice believes she has killed herself – and Edward, overcome by guilt, decides to end his life as well (in his own way, of course). Alice and Bella travel to Italy to stop him, and the Volturi learn about Edward and Bella’s relationship.
New Moon is the most problematic of all in terms of how much Edward’s manipulative ways show, and how Bella seems unable to break free from her co-dependency. Still, she gets points for trying, which in turn made way for proper development for Jacob and for the movie to establish Bella and Jacob’s connection and relationship. While some like not seeing much of Edward throughout the entire movie, others feel his absence hurt the movie, but that’s subjective. What’s true is that New Moon carried on with the main loose threads from the first movie (what’s going to happen with Edward and Bella and will Victoria return) while also giving time for viewers to get to know Jacob, his feelings, and his dynamic with Bella, after spending a whole movie immersed in a vampires-only story.
The movie that started it all sits in second place. Twilight introduced the audience to Bella, the Cullens, Jacob, and Bella’s new schoolmates, as well as to the mystery of what or who was killing so many people in Forks. Being the first installment in the saga, it’s undeniable that Twilight has a unique spark that made the audience (especially those not into the novels) much more welcoming. Twilight can be easily considered a teen romance, as the core of the movie is Bella and Edward’s first encounters and the evolution of their relationship. Twilight also told the audience the basics of vampires in Meyer’s world, which made it easier for the sequels to carry on with their stories without having to stop and explain what was going on – except in New Moon when the Volturi made their first proper appearance.
Having Catherine Hardwicke as director was one of Twilight’s strengths, as she was able to tell the story through Bella’s eyes without being cheesy, truly giving it a teen romance vibe but with sparkly vampires. In retrospect, Twilight was able to settle a very important detail that the rest of the movies forgot about: this is Bella and Edward’s story told through Bella’s perspective, which is why it has a feeling of newness and excitement.
Where Breaking Dawn - Part 2 failed, Eclipse succeeded at years before. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse followed Bella as she was haunted by Victoria, who was still looking for revenge after the Cullens killed her companion, James, in Twilight. In order for her revenge to be successful, Victoria armed herself with her own group of vampires, all of them newborns and desperately looking for blood. The novel is considered by many to be the best of the series thanks to its exploration of more mature themes and a much more exciting story, which the team behind the movie managed to translate to the big screen (not perfectly, but definitely better than the rest of the movies in the saga).
Eclipse blended drama, romance, action, and comedy but without forcing it to drop jokes every few minutes. The story also gives Bella more to do and think about other than her relationship with Edward, as there’s also her high school graduation, her future, and her and Charlie’s safety now that the newborn army is attacking Forks. Eclipse also gave the audience a proper (and real) battle with a purpose: the Cullens and the wolf pack against Victoria and the newborn army, to stop them from killing Bella, the Cullens, and keep murdering innocent people in Forks and its surroundings.
The Twilight Saga wasn’t consistent in quality and didn’t really bother in learning from the mistakes of the previous movie(s), so it’s understandable that not many remember the movies fondly (or at all), but they continue to be important to those who followed Edward and Bella’s stories from the very first novel to the release of the final movie.