Movie Reviews

Every Shrek Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Summary

  • Shrek
    movies are among the most popular animated franchises, but their quality varies greatly from project to project.
  • Despite challenges,
    Shrek
    reshaped the world of animated movies, ensuring DreamWorks’ competition with Disney/Pixar.
  • The success of films like
    Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
    gives hope for a possible revival of the beloved Shrek franchise.



With the 2001 original being a near-instant smash financial and critical success, the Shrek movies ranked among the most popular animated franchises of all time. The franchise has spawned the Shrek film series up to Shrek 4, two Puss In Boots spin-offs, and a Shrek Broadway musical. Given the success over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were still more adventures with Shrek (Mike Myers) and his pals, including the long-awaited Shrek 5. However, the quality of these projects varies greatly.

Despite the long and difficult production of the first movie, including losing Shrek’s original voice actor Chris Farley, the movie was a smash hit that allowed DreamWorks animation to compete alongside Disney and Pixar. Following the success of Shrek, the creators were given more and more freedom with their jokes and plot lines, with mixed results. The success of the Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish revitalized the franchise and changed how all the Shrek movies ranked.


Release Date

Movie Title

Director

May 18, 2001

Shrek

Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson

May 19, 2004

Shrek 2

Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, & Conrad Vernon

May 18, 2007

Shrek The Third

Chris Miller & Raman Hui

May 21, 2010

Shrek Forever After

Mike Mitchell

October 28, 2011

Puss In Boots

Chris Miller

October 15, 2013 (DVD Release)

Shrek The Musical

Jason Moore

December 21, 2022

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

Joel Crawford & Januel P. Mercado

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7 Shrek Forever After (2010)

Rumpelstiltskin Changes Shrek’s Reality

Shrek, holding a suspended chain, embraces Fiona in Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After

Director
Mike Mitchell

Release Date
May 21, 2010

Writers
Josh Klausner , Darren Lemke

When it was released in 2010, Shrek Forever After was supposed to be the fourth and final movie in the Shrek film series. Although Shrek the Third wrapped up the storylines of all major characters, Shrek Forever After decided to explore more stories in the universe and finds Shrek struggling to adjust to his new life as a family man. He signs a contract with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) and creates an alternate reality where he never rescued Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the tower.


Shrek Forever After
might give viewers more insight into Shrek as a character, but it adds little to the overall story

Shrek Forever After might give viewers more insight into Shrek as a character, but it adds little to the overall story. Rumpelstiltskin is a fun Shrek villain, but the rest of the beloved characters feel dull in comparison to their earlier appearances. While the other Shrek movies have fun exploring the unconventional fairy tale setting, Shrek Forever After relies far too heavily on pre-established conventions of the genre, and all the time spent in the alternate world eliminates much of what makes the rest of the franchise so enjoyable.


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6 Shrek The Third (2007)

Shrek & Fiona Expect A Baby As The Kingdom Is In Turmoil

Shrek and Fiona dressed up in Shrek the Third

Shrek the Third

Director
Chris Miller , Raman Hui

Release Date
May 18, 2007


The third Shrek movie ranked the worst on Rotten Tomatoes, but some things make it better than Shrek Forever After. Shrek the Third had the challenging task of following the funny Shrek 2 and, despite its flaws, recaptures some of that charm. Following on from the previous movie, Shrek finds he isn’t cut out to rule Far Far Away and travels to find the only other heir to the throne: Fiona’s cousin, a young King Arthur (Justin Timberlake).

Shrek the Third
doesn’t live up to the first two movies in terms of humor


Prince Charming — the jaded villain of Shrek 2 — rounds up a motley crew of villains to storm the castle and claim their own happily ever afters. Shrek the Third doesn’t live up to the first two movies in terms of humor and most of the laughs are found in the high school where Arthur is found and during Prince Charming’s terrible attempts at dinner theater. Shrek the Third does wrap up the plot from the original Shrek movies, ending with Shrek, Fiona, and their children living happily in the swamp.

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5 Puss In Boots (2011)

Puss In Boots Teams With Humpty Dumpty & Kitty Softpaws

Puss In Boots Kitty Softpaws Humpty Dumpty


Puss in Boots

Director
Chris Miller

Release Date
October 28, 2011

Writers
Tom Wheeler

Cast
Antonio Banderas , Salma Hayek Pinault , Zach Galifinakis , Billy Bob Thornton , Amy Sedaris , Constance Marie

This 2011 spinoff to the Shrek movies ranked well among critics and gives the backstory of the breakout side character from Shrek 2, voiced by Antonio Banderas. Puss in Boots gives a Western-themed backstory that follows Puss as he teams up with his estranged brother, Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), and a skilled cat burglar, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), as they go on a quest to steal magic beans from gangsters Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris).

Puss in Boots
does a great job of building a Spanish-inspired world.


While Shrek spin-offs felt inevitable, the feline hero is a fun character to follow and a good choice to lead them. Puss in Boots does a great job of building a Spanish-inspired world and though there are a few cheap jokes, the movie recaptures some of the irreverent magic of the early Shrek movies through its humor. Puss in Boots never really justifies itself as a necessary addition to the Shrek series but, despite that, the movie is still more fun than Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After.

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4 Shrek The Musical (2013)

A Musical Re-Telling Of The Original Shrek Movie

Donkey, Shrek, Fiona. and Lord Farquaad in a poster for Shrek the Musical

It might surprise fans that a Shrek Broadway show turned out well, let alone that the filmed version of it is better than some Shrek movies. Originally premiering on Broadway in 2008, Shrek the Musical tells the same story as the original Shrek movie, with 31 new songs written specifically for the show. The musical gives bigger roles to the fairy tale characters surrounding Shrek and much more insight into Princess Fiona’s character following her rescue from the tower.

The biggest drawback to
Shrek the Musical
, other than the loss of star voice actors like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, is the weird ogre costumes.


The biggest drawback to Shrek the Musical, other than the loss of star voice actors like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, is the weird ogre costumes. Regardless, the overwhelming joyfulness of the songs and the incredible technical effects make Shrek the Musical well worth seeking out. It is a fun retelling of the tale with the welcome return of Shrek’s first villain, Lord Farquaad. The performances of Broadway actors Sutton Foster and Brian d’Arcy James elevate it into one of the better Shrek movies.

3 Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

Puss In Boots Faces The Last Of His Nine Lives


More than a decade after the first Puss in Boots movie, this sequel excelled under high pressure. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish gives the titular feline an exciting and surprisingly poignant story that transforms him from a one-note gag into one of the most rounded characters in the Shrek franchise. The movie finds the fearless Puss in Boots down to the last of his nine lives and not as fearless as he once was, so he sets out on a quest to locate the power of a magic wish.

The animation is also different and reinvigorating for the
Shrek
franchise, with a 2.5D style.


Much like the original Puss in Boots movie, the jokes feel constant and even push the boundaries of a kids’ movie with dark characters, violence, and censored profanity, much like the early Shrek movies did. The animation is also different and reinvigorating for the Shrek franchise, with a 2.5D style evoking a more hand-drawn storybook look, reminiscent of the simulation of moving comic book panels in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

The central story of a hero understanding his mortality gives the adventure a strong message, which helped to earn the movie an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. Though it seems unlikely that The Last Wish‘s surprising box office success will ever trump the influence on popular culture that the original Shrek movies had, it’s a step in the right direction for the franchise that lives up to the standards set in its heyday.


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2 Shrek (2001)

Shrek Is Sent To Rescue A Princess To Save His Swamp

Shrek exiting his outhouse in Shrek

Shrek

Director
Vicky Jenson , Andrew Adamson

Release Date
May 18, 2001

Writers
Ted Elliott , Roger S.H. Schulman , Joe Stillman , Terry Rossio


When Shrek was released in 2001, the movie was groundbreaking for 3D computer animation. Although aspects of the movie’s visuals haven’t aged well, the story is packed with jokes that still hold up decades after its release. Shrek does a fantastic job of setting up the world and introducing Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey (Eddie Murphy), as well as a large cast of supporting characters. The movie was widely praised for blending adult humor with age-appropriate jokes for kids.

Shrek
won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Film, as well as competing for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival


Shrek won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Film, as well as competing for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Shrek incorporates the idiosyncracies of fairy tales into its story with ease, poking fun at the genre at every turn with great success. In a movie with voice performances from Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, and Eddie Murphy, the standout is somehow the killer soundtrack, a mixtape of pop and rock music that’s defined by its inclusion of the Smash Mouth hit “All Star.”

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1 Shrek 2 (2004)

Prince Charming Tries To Come Between Shrek & Fiona


Undeniably the best Shrek movie, Shrek 2 is a rare example of a sequel surpassing the original film. After the popularity of Shrek, the DreamWorks team had the freedom to massively expand the universe with a new cast of fairy tale characters and the Hollywood-inspired and reference-filled Far Far Away. Shrek 2 was a stellar addition to the franchise and remains its high point, pushing the boundaries of the Shrek universe to new comedic heights.

Shrek 2
is inarguably one of the funniest animated movies of all time


Although the film was released only three years after the original, Shrek 2 significantly improved the animation and used that to create one of the best sequences of the franchise: Shrek and his friends storming the castle while the dastardly Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) gives a show-stopping performance of “Holding Out For A Hero.”

Shrek does a great job of establishing the characters and the offbeat world and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish makes that world larger and more diverse — but Shrek 2 is inarguably one of the funniest animated movies of all time. Shrek continues to be one of the most enduring franchises for a reason, and it’s Shrek 2 that proved the big green ogre had the longevity for more than just a single outing.


What The Success Of Puss In Boots 2 Means For Shrek 5

Collage of Shrek and Puss in Puss in Boots The Last Wish

Looking at all the Shrek movies ranked highlights the downward trajectory that the franchise took over the years following the success of Shrek 2. However, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish looks to have changed that negative trend, and hopefully, this is a permanent course correction. More than 20 years after Shrek became the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Puss in Boots 2 earned the franchise another nomination in the category.

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In addition to the critical acclaim the sequel received, Puss in Boots‘ box-office helps Shrek 5 seem more likely than ever. It proves audiences are still interested in these characters and there are still stories to tell. This was further hinted at in the post-credits scene of Puss in Boots as Puss and his friends sail to the kingdom of Far Far Away to “see some old friends.” Puss in Boots: The Last Wish not only makes it possible to return to the Shrek franchise but also shows how to turn the franchise around.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish remembers the fun the franchise can have by playing around with classic fairy tales, including clever takes on Goldilocks and the Three Bears and a villainous Jack Horner. It also avoids getting weighed down by pop culture references, which was a major problem in the later Shrek movies. For Shrek movies to be great again, they have to remember what made them likable while also giving audiences something new, which Puss in Boots: The Last Wish delivered.


What We Know About The Future Of The Shrek Franchise

Shrek Forever After may have been a low-point in the franchise, but it had been the plan to have a series of five Shrek movies from as early as 2004 (via IGN). While this was two decades ago, it does show that plans for the fifth Shrek movie have always been on the cards, with then-DreamWorks executive Jeffrey KatzenberG’S even revealing what the original plan for the plot of Shrek 5 was:

Finally, in the last chapter, we will understand how Shrek came to be in that swamp, when we meet him in the first movie. There is a reason he came to be there.


While an origin story for Shrek and his beloved swamp would certainly be an interesting venture, it’s unclear if this is still the plan for Shrek 5. Katzenberg’s comments came before Shrek 2 debuted in theaters, and the franchise has had a lot of story development since then. Shrek and Fiona have a family, for example, so it might be that the next Shrek movie looks further forward in the timeline to the challenges of parenthood rather than going back to detail the adventures of a younger Shrek without Donky or Fiona.

Given that the trio of Shrek, Fiona, and (especially) Donkey have been so key to the success of the
Shrek
movies, it also doesn’t seem likely that DreamWorks would want to move forward with a story that didn’t feature much of their characters.


This looks incredibly likely, since it was reported in 2023 that Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy (alongside Mike Myers of course) were in negotiations to return). Since Shrek didn’t meet Fiona or Donkey until the events of the first movie, they couldn’t be present in any significant capacity in a prequel. Given that the trio of Shrek, Fiona, and (especially) Donkey have been so key to the success of the Shrek movies, it also doesn’t seem likely that DreamWorks would want to move forward with a story that didn’t feature much of their characters.

However, Shrek 5 isn’t the only future entry in the franchise being discussed. While there’s always of course the option for Puss in Boots 3, another movie that’s being discussed is a spinoff focusing on Donkey. According to Variety in 2023, Illumination CEO and DreamWorks creative partner Chris Meledandri teased that a possible Donkey movie was on the cards. His comments came off of the back of an idea put forward by Shrek star Eddie Murphy, who voiced his keenness for a movie focused on his character (also via Variety):


“If [DreamWorks] ever came with another ‘Shrek,’ I’d do it in two seconds. I love Donkey. They did ‘Puss in Boots’ movies. I was like, ‘They should have done a Donkey movie.’ Donkey is funnier than Puss in Boots. I mean, I love Puss in Boots, but he ain’t funny as the Donkey.”

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