Twenty years ago, a movie came out that changed the lives of children everywhere. Shrek is the absolute foundation of what anyone born after 1995 finds funny. The franchise has had many spin-offs and short films, as well as several tie-in video games. They made four Shrek movies and raked in box office earnings of nearly $3 billion. But out of the main four Shrek films, which one is the best?
4. Shrek Forever After
The worst film of the four, Shrek Forever After took the alternate reality route for its plot, giving us a glimpse of what the Shrek world would have looked like without Shrek. Ogres were hunted with Fiona leading a rebellion against the forces of Rumpelstilskin. This movie wasn’t great. It relied on a knowledge of the other Shrek movies, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but having almost every joke in the film just be a riff on what came before became a bit tiring.
3. Shrek the Third
Shrek the Third was a film about Shrek coming to terms with the fact that he was going to become a father. It had substance, which is the best thing you can hope for when watching a movie with a talking donkey. The plot centers on the death of King Harold, who has tasked Shrek with finding his heir, Artie. The movie features a particularly great scene where Fiona and the other princesses fight Prince Charming’s guards, as well as one of the funniest and saddest scenes of the franchise where King Harold, a frog, died and Sir Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die is performed by some other frogs.
This is surprising, polarizing perhaps, that Shrek, the original movie, takes the second spot on this list. The songs are iconic, All-Star and I’m A Believer by Smash Mouth, Bad Reputation by Joan Jett, and maybe the best use of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in modern cinema. The quotes are also iconic, from Shrek comparing ogres to onions to “That’ll do Donkey, that’ll do,” and, “I’m making waffles!”
The movie is pretty perfect: fairytale creatures encroach on Shrek’s swamp so he and a donkey named Donkey go on a quest to rescue a princess from a castle for a short lord. Shrek and Princess Fiona are more alike than he thinks and after their adventure, they fall in love and get married. Sounds like a basic plot, but filled with both written and visual jokes, the film is hilarious, but still checks in as just the second-best Shrek film.
1. Shrek 2
This was a difficult decision to make, but Shrek 2 takes the top spot on this list. Perhaps not quite as iconic as the first film, but Shrek 2 is funnier. The plot revolves around Princess Fiona, in ogre form, introducing her new husband Shrek to her human parents. This film has great moments, from Shrek and Donkey inspecting the Fairy Godmother’s factory as union representatives to the parody of cops where Puss in Boots accuses the police of planting catnip on him. The film does not lack in the music department either, “Livin La Vida Loca,” “Funkytown,” and “Holding Out For A Hero” were all used brilliantly.
The film was also the franchise’s highest grossing installment at the box office, making almost a billion dollars on its own. The new characters introduced in Shrek 2 were great: the Fairy Godmother, Puss in Boots, and Prince Charming were all hilarious. Donkey gets transformed into a stallion and Shrek looks weird as a human, as the film’s message mirrors the first — accept yourself for who you are. Touching, funny, and just a brilliant movie all around, Shrek 2 is the best Shrek film.