5 Reasons Bad Boys: Ride Or Die Conquered The Box Office

When the summer was in need of saving, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett came to the rescue. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reunited on screen over the weekend in "Bad Boys: Ride or Die," the fourth installment of the long-running franchise, serving as a sequel to 2020's "Bad Boys for Life." Much has happened in the four years since that movie came out but one important thing hasn't changed: people really love these characters. As such, the new movie easily topped the box office with an impressive global debut.

"Ride or Die" opened to $56.5 million domestically, which was above weekend estimates. It was a little below the $62.5 million that "Bad Boys for Life" opened to in 2020 but that movie also opened in January when there is generally far less competition. Not to mention the pandemic that forever changed moviegoing habits of the general public. So the fact that the sequel opened very close to its predecessor is good news here. Overseas, the film pulled in $48.6 million, giving it a $105.1 million worldwide start. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have done it again, it seems.

So, what went right with this one? How is it that the fourth "Bad Boys" movie finds itself as a bright spot amidst an otherwise rough year at the box office thus far? While there is certainly much to be said, especially in the weeks ahead, we're going to look at the five biggest reasons that "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" found itself on the right side of things in the early going. Let's get into it.

The summer competition is pretty weak

Not to beat the same drum that I have been beating for much of the year, but the summer movie season has not been what the industry hoped it would be. Even taking the weak slate caused by last year's SAG and WGA strikes into account, movies like "Furiosa" and "The Fall Guy" bombing as hard as they bombed has hurt the bottom line badly. That having been said, the weak slate of blockbuster competition only served to help "Bad Boys: Ride or Die," as there was nothing standing in its way for the most part.

"Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" was entering its fifth weekend in theaters while "Furiosa" was entering its third, losing 880 screens in the process. John Krasinski's "IF" and "The Garfield Movie" were out there for the family-friendly crowd, while Warner Bros.' new horror movie "The Watchers" was aimed squarely at the genre lovers of the world. So there was more than enough room for a big summer blockbuster and audiences didn't have to choose between anything else, really. The road was clear and that undoubtedly helped matters.

Bad Boys for Life was really good

What cannot be underestimated in this equation is the reception to 2020's "Bad Boys for Life." 17 years after Michael Bay's "Bad Boy II" hit theaters, Smith and Lawrence reunited for what was a surprisingly enriching cinematic experience. More than just some legacy sequel or a cash grab nobody asked for, the third installment in the franchise ended up being a genuinely great blockbuster that stood on its own two feet. It's also important to point out that it was the highest-grossing American movie of 2020, even if it was sort of by default. So quite a few people saw the previous installment, presumably enjoyed it, and therefore had a lot of investment in what came next.

Not to be lost as well is the fact that Arbi and Fallah directed another crowd-pleaser for "Ride or Die." The film boasts an A CinemaScore and a 97% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While critics were slightly more mixed on it overall, the reception was still generally positive on that front as well. So, not only did the previous installment deliver the goods and leave audiences wanting more, but the follow-up also delivered and has led to good word of mouth. It's hard to reasonably ask for anything more.

It was very clear what was being sold

Another element at play here was the marketing. "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" was sold very explicitly as precisely what it is; another "Bad Boys" adventure, plain and simple. Sony didn't overcomplicate matters by trying to craft some legacy sequel by hyping up the return of characters people might not even care about, or lean on new characters that might potentially be able to carry the franchise for years to come. Instead, they made it crystal clear that viewers were in for another round of crazy action/comedy with Mike and Marcus. That is evidently what fans wanted to see.

This probably shouldn't even be something worth highlighting but in the era of true franchise obsession, it matters. It's either a movie is marketed as a part of a larger whole, like the trend of "part 1" paving the way for an eventual "part 2." Or marketing playing up the whole thing like a big secret, with "Blade Runner 2049" serving as a fine example of that going very poorly. In this case, we didn't get half a movie and there was no big secret underneath it all. It was just a sequel to a movie people liked that was, more or less, another helping of the same.

Sony wisely didn't go crazy with the budget

As I talk about often (perhaps too often), it's all relative at the box office. That's the secret sauce that makes the movie business run. A movie like "Tarot" can be considered a hit with $45 million worldwide because it carries an $8.5 million budget and a thrifty marketing campaign. "The Fall Guy" was such a crushing disappointment because it cost around $130 million to make. In this case, Sony played the relativity game well as "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" has a $100 million budget, which is perfectly reasonable for a big summer action movie. But the big thing here is that the studio didn't go crazy with an increased budget compared to the previous installment, which is where things can sometimes go wrong.

Blockbuster budgets have ballooned in recent years and it's a big problem. In 2020, it was refreshing that Sony made "Bad Boys for Life" for $90 million. In 2024, it feels like a minor miracle that the sequel didn't see its budget inflated to $150 million or more. Keeping it to $100 million will allow the film to reach profitability without having to break box office records. That's the way it should be, in my humble opinion.

Will Smith is (still) a big movie star

There is no denying that a huge part of the conversation surrounding the release of this movie had to do with Will Smith and his now-infamous slapping of Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022. There is much to be said about that and I'm not here to pick apart the finer points of the ongoing conversation surrounding that incident. What we can say definitively is that the court of public opinion has ruled in favor of Smith in this case. "Bad Boys: Ride or Die" proves that Smith is still a big, A-list movie star capable of selling a lot of tickets. Time has healed the damage that slap did in the eyes of the movie-going public, it seems.

Smith remains one of the world's most recognizable movie stars. Granted, it's been a while since he was able to turn a non-franchise film into a hit, but that maybe has more to do with the state of Hollywood than it does the actor in question. He helped make "Suicide Squad" a much bigger than expected success. He helped make the "Aladdin" remake into a $1 billion behemoth. Now he's made "Bad Boys" a franchise that has endured for nearly three decades. Will Smith is a hugely valuable movie star. Period.

"Bad Boys: Ride or Die" is in theaters now.