Kung Fu Panda

Ranking the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Trilogy

In anticipation of this weeks ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ release, we rank the franchise!

With Kung Fu Panda 4 set to release at the end of this week, the franchise will see its first entry in eight long years, the last being Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016. Arguably Dreamworks’ premiere series of films, the series has been long known for eccentric, specifically stylistic entries that can appeal to every member of any given family. Many assumed Po was retired after the trilogy was capped, but with a new entry on the rise, along with a promise for a whole new beginning, fans are flocking back to the Valley of Peace once more in anticipation of the new release.

To celebrate, we figured we’d take a look back at the films thus far and rank them from worst to best. Of course, even the lowest of these is a great time; the Kung Fu Panda trilogy has helped set the standard for storytelling in mainstream animation. They’re all good, but as with everything, there is a best among them.

Kung Fu Panda
Image Credit: DreamWorks

Kung Fu Panda 2

What better way to start than to plug the people’s champion in last place? Commonly, and rightfully, praised for delving into Po’s backstory and giving Tigress a compelling arc, Kung Fu Panda 2 is widely regarded as one of the best animated sequels ever made. In truth, it very well may be; the film being last place on this list is only a testament to how good the trilogy is as a whole.

Gary Oldman’s Shen is a gloriously menacing villain. He lacks the imposing physical presence of Tai Lung and Kai, but makes up for it with an outward mentality that strikes the same brand of fear in his victims. The pace prods a bit, especially during the middle portion, but all is forgotten in what is quite possibly the best battle the franchise has seen in the climax. Regardless of placement, Kung Fu Panda 2 is an essential watch for all parties, and an entry that more than earns its stake in the trilogy.

Kung Fu Panda
Image Credit: DreamWorks

Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3 has become the ugly duckling of the trilogy, in a way. Despite being received very well, as usual, it seems to be a consensus that it just isn’t quite up to snuff with the first two films. Of course, we disagree.

This third entry is an equal parts natural and necessary continuation of the story up to that point. We learned about Po’s past in the second film; the third simply takes that thread and expounds on it. We’re introduced to Po’s real father, Li Shan (played to a tee by Bryan Cranston), creating a fun yet legitimately challenging dynamic with Ping, Po’s adoptive dad.

Add to that J.K. Simmons’ Kai and an all-timer opening battle in the spirit realm, and you’ve got a near perfect package. Kung Fu Panda 3 would be the best film in just about any other animated trilogy, save for the absolute classics. Yet, it can’t take the top spot here

Kung Fu Panda
Image Credit: DreamWorks

Kung Fu Panda

First place is reserved for the best of the best, the first film, Kung Fu Panda. With a timeless premise and the first ever introduction of the characters that have carried this franchise through nearly two decades of relevancy, this one remains a no-brainer.

Tai Lung still remains the best villain the franchise has seen, too. He’s arguably the strongest villain in any animated movie ever. His steep, layered backstory in tandem with an imposing look that was legendary from first glance makes him hard to deny.

The Furious Five, Shifu, and Oogway are all at their best, and Po’s beginning journey remains ever-applicable to audiences today. It’s a perfect effort all around, and the best film under the Kung Fu Panda name. 

Tell us Your Thoughts!

Of course, this is just our ranking. The Kung Fu Panda films have superseded any list or box they’ve been put in, so feel free to leave a comment down below, or hit us over on socials, with a list of your own! Skadoosh.

Kung Fu Panda 4 will be in cinemas March 8 in the US and March 28 in the UK.

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