Ranking All the Movies of the Twilight Saga

Twilight has been a part of the cultural consciousness for almost fifteen years. Here's how all the movies stack up.

A Phenomenon

Girl reading the Twilight book
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When the first Twilight book arrived on shelves in 2005, it quickly became a favorite for many readers, and it didn't take long for a movie deal to come together.

Three years later, in 2008, the first film arrived in theaters and broke box office records. The film's debut – and the phenomenon it inspired – made Twilight inescapable for the next four years. The film series was everywhere as a new entry in the saga arrived each year and continued to break box office records through to the end.

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Backlash

Image of the cast of the Twilight Saga
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Of course, there was a significant backlash during this time and after. The “still a better love story than Twilight” meme reigned on the internet, and the fandom was the target of much ridicule.

Luckily, in recent years Twilight has bounced back in a significant way. The “Twilight Renaissance” has been going strong since 2018, the first film's tenth anniversary year that saw it re-released in theaters (which your humble writer excitedly attended). And in the summer of 2021, the top five movies on Netflix were all the Twilight Saga films.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Twilight Renaissance

Twilight stars at the movie premier
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It's unclear what brought the franchise back to such glorious life. Still, it seems that the renaissance isn't ending anytime soon. This time Twilight may just be cool now and forever. So in the spirit of engaging with one of the most loyal fandoms and offering some new fodder for discussion, I'll dive into the saga and rank every film from worst to best.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

5. Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Image of the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

After the Harry Potter franchise split the final book into two films, to great financial successThe Twilight Saga followed suit. Sadly, the novel, Breaking Dawn, doesn't lend itself to splitting very well. The first half adaptation suffers significantly from the break as it mostly feels like set dressing for the more successful second half.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Significant High Points

Image of the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 follows the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) and their subsequent honeymoon, where they finally have sex. Sex leads immediately to Bella's pregnancy and, ultimately, her needing to be turned into a vampire to save her from the otherwise fatal situation.

The movie isn't necessarily bad and, in fact, has some significant high points across all the films. The wedding is beautifully realized and emotionally potent for any series fan.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Horror Territory

Image of the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Bella's pregnancy is the farthest the series ever pushes into horror territory, with her half-vampire fetus feeding on her blood and growing faster than a human fetus. The pregnancy culminates in a cesarean-section sequence that's genuinely disturbing and easily the most frightening thing in the entire series.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Struggling for Time

Image of the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

The reason that Breaking Dawn – Part 1 lands last in this ranking is simply because not much else happens. Most of the honeymoon period is dull, especially in the wake of the gorgeous wedding. In addition, the pregnancy plotline takes some time to come to a head, leaving the film often feeling like it's struggling for time and serving as filler.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

4. Eclipse

Eclipse movie poster
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Eclipse brought in director David Slade, who wasn't (and sadly still isn't) a household name. However, he had two films under his belt, making him an excellent choice for the Twilight franchise. Before coming onto Eclipse, Slade helmed the Elliot Page starring sexual predator revenge movie Hard Candy and the vampire action-horror 30 Days of Night.

These movies showed that Slade could handle delicate topics, mainly concerning teenage girls, and create striking action sequences centered on vampires.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Action-packed

Image from the movie Eclipse
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Sadly though, Eclipse focuses more on the action than the drama. Instead, the film centers on the vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre), as she seeks revenge on Bella, Edward, and the entire Cullen family for their murder of her mate James (Cam Gigandet) in the first film. She sets up a base in Seattle and begins turning more and more humans into vampires so that she can lead an attack on the Cullens.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Best in Series

Image from the movie Eclipse
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Slade creates a distinct look and sound design for the vampire violence unique to Eclipse. In addition, he allows for some stretching of the PG-13 rating regarding dismembering bodies. Perhaps making the action in the film the best in the entire series.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Strange Detour

Image from the movie Eclipse
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Still, the story of Victoria's revenge feels unnecessary. It draws focus away from the drama of Bella, Edward, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), which seems like a step back for the saga after the introduction of the Volturi in New Moon.

Eclipse is a solid standalone vampire action film. Still, it's a bit disappointing as a film in the ongoing Twilight Saga. It's a strange detour from the teen drama storyline and the developing threat of the Volturi.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

3. Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Image of the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Breaking Dawn – Part 2 suffers from the same issue as Part 1: it feels like half a story padded out to an overlong runtime. Unfortunately, that padding overwhelmingly comes in the film's first quarter, where we see the immediate fallout of Bella's becoming a vampire and Jacob's imprinting on baby Renesmee.

To be fair, this does lead to one of the most wonderfully quotable lines in all the movies: “you nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness monster?!” But overall, it takes longer than it should in a film with much more interesting narrative ground.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Strictly Forbidden

Image from the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

After the first quarter (almost third) of the movie, the Cullens learn that the Volturi believe that Bella and Edward turned a child into a vampire, which is strictly forbidden.

The Volturi then set out to attack our heroes, prompting the Cullens to gather vampire “witnesses” from across the globe to testify that Renesmee is, in fact, a hybrid vampire/human child.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Teamwork

Image from the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

These scenes are a lot of fun and bring to mind “getting a team together” sequences from heist films as we're introduced to several new and exciting characters allied with the Cullens.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Join Forces

Image from the movie Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

When these characters join forces with the Cullens and Jacob's werewolf pack, it results in the most significant action scene in the film's finale. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 hits a high point that stands as one of the best in the series. However, it still can't escape feeling like half of a story, and a movie significantly padded out with unnecessary material.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

2. New Moon

Image from the movie New Moon
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Despite the significant critical dismissalNew Moon broke multiple box office records upon release and remains the second-best of the movies. New Moon lands high on this ranking for the same reason that Eclipse lands low; the focus on teenage drama.

New Moon centers on Bella's sadness over her break-up with Edward early in the movie. Then, we watch as she begins to recover through her friendship with Jacob, with a quick lore introduction of the Volturi at the end.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Teenage Drama

Image from the movie The Twilight Saga New Moon
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

The story is quite similar to Twilight‘s as Bella becomes aware of and a part of a new supernatural community. But this time, instead of Edward's world of vampires, she finds herself in Jacob's world of werewolves.

This focus on teenage drama and how New Moon retreads the beats of the first and (spoiler alert) still best movie in the saga makes it stand as one of the best movies in the series. New Moon functions a bit like a coming-of-age story for Jacob as he learns to accept and control his new abilities as a werewolf.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Casual Chemistry

Image from the movie New Moon
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

The time we spent with Bella and Jacob was lovely. Stewart and Lautner have casual chemistry that invites the audience to feel like they've known these characters as long as they've known each other. And the support that they lend one another through their struggles in the film feels authentic to teenage relationships and friendships.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Hang-out Movie

Image from the movie New Moon
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Oddly, this movie about vampires and werewolves often feels like a hang-out movie, which is a good thing as the draw of The Twilight Saga has always been the characters.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

1. Twilight

Image from the movie Twilight
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

This list wouldn't exist without Twilight taking the top spot. There wouldn't be five or even two movies in the saga if Twilight weren't the colossal success it was.

First, of course, there was the built-in fan base from the books. Still, not every hugely successful book series becomes a hugely successful film series, as we've learned from The Golden Compass and Eragon adaptations. Quick (maybe not so) fun fact: New Moon director Chris Weitz had previously directed The Golden Compass.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Moody Atmosphere

Image from the movie Twilight
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Twilight‘s deserved success is a sign of director Catherine Hardwicke's vision for the film, which bears a striking visual style and moody atmosphere. It's also a result of the talents of Stewart and Pattinson as leading actors.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Twilight could easily have felt empty, like a weak cash grab attempting to capitalize on the success of the books. Instead, the film is a distinct piece of media that builds on Stephanie Meyer's narrative and has a real sense of personality.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Iconic Performances

Image from the movie Twilight
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

That personality is, of course, helped by the iconic performances from Stewart and Pattinson. Unfortunately, the film doesn't offer their best performances (though it may offer Pattinson's most prominent). Still, their charisma and chemistry make Edward and Bella exciting to watch.

Like New MoonTwilight is first and foremost a teen drama, a subgenre that succeeds or fails on the strength of its teen leads, and the pair is fantastic here.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Flawed

Image from the movie Twilight
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

The first movie isn't without its flaws, though. First, there's Edward's gaslighting and his possessive and extremely sex-negative behavior. Still, these behaviors exist and evolve in later films, so those flaws aren't only in this movie in the series.

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Cullen Clan

Image from the movie Twilight
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

More specific to Twilight, there's the abrupt tonal shift from a fun teenage melodrama to an action/horror movie in the film's finale as James hunts Bella. She is then saved by Edward and the rest of the Cullen clan.

Twilight has been inviting viewers to a melodramatic, romantic, and slightly scary adventure in Forks for almost fifteen years as its performances and feel continue to overshadow its flaws.

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Kyle Logan studied philosophy and now constantly overthinks music and movies.

He’s a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Cultured Vultures, Chicago Film Scene, Castle of Chills, and Filmotomy. Kyle has covered virtual film festivals including the inaugural Nightstream festival in 2020 and the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival. Kyle is interested in horror films, animation, Star Wars, and Adventure Time, as well as older genre films written and directed by queer people and women, particularly those from the 1970s and 80s. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.