Jackass Is One Of The Most Satisfying Movie Trilogies Of All Time

As odd as it may be to think about when there are flashier franchises out there that have driven Hollywood forward since the turn of the millennium, there are few movies and/or TV shows that can say they've had the influence that "Jackass" has had on popular culture. An entire era of YouTubers can arguably trace their roots right back to that original MTV series and the legendary words, "Hello, I'm Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass." It was old-school stuntman shock-and-awe disguised as lowbrow humor for the masses. More than 20 years later, something about this deceptively simple formula still works like gangbusters, particularly in the trilogy of "Jackass" movies produced between 2002 and 2010. That's why moviegoers around the country are gearing up to see "Jackass Forever," the fourth cinematic entry from Knoxville, Steve-O, and the gang.

It seems like, especially in the modern era, there is a great deal of discussion regarding the greatest movie trilogies of all time, which makes sense when you consider Hollywood's ongoing obsession with franchise fare these days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gifted us the "Captain America" trilogy, as well as the new "Spider-Man" trilogy, both of which are quite good. We of course have "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit," as well as horror trilogies such as "The Conjuring" and "Fear Street." There is a reason this discussion persists. I am here to humbly argue that "Jackass" unironically deserves its place in the conversation. Not atop the heap, mind you, but certainly in the conversation somewhere.

Misunderstanding The Nature of Jackass

The primary argument against something like "Jackass: The Movie," "Jackass: Number Two" or "Jackass 3D" is likely that they are almost completely centered around lowbrow toilet humor and, well, jackassery. On the surface, that is most certainly true. One needs to look no further than the following bit to find evidence of that.

As objectively hilarious as that is, it's not exactly the kind of thing that good students of cinema might look at and say, "Yes. Good. Art," whilst nodding their head. But there is far more to it than just the little pranks that the cast members consistently pull on one another throughout each of the original three movies. At times, it is almost like a punk rock riff on the likes of Buster Keaton or other Hollywood legends of old who would put themselves in genuine peril for the sake of entertainment. Take this clip, for example, another wildly different moment from "Jackass: Number Two" that sees Johnny Knoxville, Ryan Dunn, and Bam Margera facing down the wrath of some actual riot control equipment, with brutal results.

One might find this grotesque or unnecessary, but it is also undeniably compelling in its own way. The same could be said for any genre of cinema, as not everything is for everyone. Horror movies might offend one's sensibilities, but that doesn't take away from the brilliance of "The Exorcist." The same could be said of the "Jackass" films which offer some real, at times harrowing, often hilarious, and perhaps wholly unique thing during the last 20 some odd years. Just because someone might write these movies off over their surface-level appeal — or because watching grown men get in an enclosure with an actual, angry bull might not be something they're interested in seeing — doesn't take anything away from what is being accomplished. These are real people doing genuinely insane things for the sake of entertainment. It's far more real than most mass-consumed entertainment to come out of an era defined by reality TV and franchise obsession. To me, there is a grave misunderstanding of what makes these films so compelling under the surface.

Delivering On Expectations

Another, slightly less complex point to make about the "Jackass" movies is one that often results in a whole lot of arguments and complaining online. Something that virtually all movies have to contend with in the modern era is the burden of expectations, particularly as it relates to franchise fare or big blockbusters with A-list stars. Just look at the whole "Justice League" debacle or what happened with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Delivering on expectations can be a near-impossible task to navigate around at times. And, in many cases, the fear of upsetting the natural order of things can result in a watered-down, up-the-middle product. I'll refrain from any examples on that one as I don't want to divert from the point too much here and get people worked up about the wrong thing.

"Jackass: The Movie," on the other hand, managed to deliver handily on the expectations placed upon it by its audience. This was essentially the same MTV show with a bigger budget and a larger platform, which allowed the nature of what it is to blossom. Director Jeff Tremaine and the cast no longer had to be concerned about what they could get away with on TV. They had an R-rating and several million dollars to do as they pleased. As promised, it was the bigger, better version of what ravenous fans came to enjoy on the small screen. It flat-out delivered and, as a result, managed to make a boatload of cash.

Similarly, both "Jackass: Number Two" and "Jackass 3D" were able to also deliver on those same expectations by sticking to the same formula, while offering new bits for audiences to enjoy. It would be different if they just did "Night Pandas" and "Golf Course Airhorn" again but they gave us such gems as "The High Five" and "Terror Taxi" along the way.

One simple way to put it might be to say that the sequels were the same but different, much like a good AC/DC album. You kind of know what you're getting, yet you're pleasantly surprised nonetheless.

What Is Greatness Anyway?

I don't know that even I, one of the most ardent defenders of these movies, would say that they achieve greatness in the traditional sense of the word as it relates to cinema. Though I will go to my grave believing that those first three movies, as they exist, make for one of the most satisfying trilogies in history, and that is not to be discounted out of hand. It's not easy thing to maintain for a three-movie stretch, as even many of the all-time great trilogies have one entry that clearly isn't up to the same level as the other two, but the average of it all makes the collective experience great. There is arguably no lull in the "Jackass" trilogy. Viewers may have their personal favorites (I myself am a "Jackass: Number Two man) but each film delivers the goods. Plain and simple.

Again, while understanding that these movies are not for everyone, does the entire picture of what these guys have created not speak to some level of greatness? More than two decades of endurance in the pop-culture consciousness; a massive sphere of influence; hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office; true satisfaction for the audience; and, perhaps most importantly, leaving the audience wanting more. What is all of this if not greatness in its own way? Ponder that next time you see a bull and think to yourself, "I don't want to mess with that beast but it sure might be entertaining if someone else did."

"Jackass Forever" hits theaters on February 4, 2022.