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Michael Bay
Bay in 2006
Michael Benjamin Bay

(1965-02-17) February 17, 1965 (age 56)
Alma materWesleyan University
Art Center College of Design
OccupationFilm director, producer
Years active1986–present
Notable work
RelativesSusan Bay (cousin)

Michael Benjamin Bay (born February 17, 1965)[1] is an American film director and producer. He is best known for making big-budget, high-concept action films characterized by fast cutting, stylistic cinematography and visuals, and extensive use of special effects, including frequent depictions of explosions.[2][3] The films he has produced and directed, which include Armageddon (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001) and the Transformers film series (2007–present), have grossed over US$7.8 billion worldwide, making him one of the most commercially successful directors in history.[4][5]

He is co-founder of commercial production house The Institute, a.k.a. The Institute for the Development of Enhanced Perceptual Awareness.[6] He co-owns Platinum Dunes, a production house which has remade horror films, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Hitcher (2007), Friday the 13th (2009) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010).[7]

Despite his commercial success at the box office, Bay's work is generally held in low esteem by film critics. While The Rock (1996), Transformers (2007), and 13 Hours (2016) received moderately positive reviews, most of his other films, particularly the four Transformers sequels, have been received negatively by critics.

Early life

Michael Bay was born in Los Angeles. He was raised by his adoptive parents Harriet, a bookstore owner/child psychiatrist, and Jim, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).[8] Bay was raised Jewish.[9][10][11] His grandfather was from Russia.[12] His cousin, Susan Bay, is the widow of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy (whom he eventually cast as the voice actor for Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon).[13] He attended the exclusive Crossroads School, in Santa Monica, California.[14]

Bay often traces his interest in action films back to an incident during his childhood. As a boy, he attached some firecrackers to a toy train and filmed the ensuing fiery disaster with his mother's 8 millimeter camera. The fire department was called and he was grounded.[15]


Bay got his start in the film industry interning with George Lucas when he was 15, filing the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he thought was going to be terrible. His opinion changed after seeing it in the theater and he was so impressed by the experience that he decided to become a film director.[16] He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1986, majoring in both English and Film.[17][18] He was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity and a favorite student of film historian Jeanine Basinger.[19] For his graduate work, he attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he also studied film.[20]

Michael Bay began working at Propaganda Films, directing commercials and music videos, two weeks after finishing his post-graduate degree.[20] His 90-second World War II-inspired Coca-Cola advertisement was picked up by Capitol Records. His first national commercial was for the Red Cross, which won a Clio Award in 1992.[21][22] He directed Goodby, Silverstein & Partners "Got Milk?" advertisement campaign for the California Milk Processors Board in 1993, which also won a Grand Prix Clio Award for Commercial of the Year.[23][24]

Bay's success in music videos gained the attention of producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, who selected him to direct his first feature-length film, Bad Boys. The film was shot in Miami in 1994 and starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The action film proved to be a break-out role for Smith, who was segueing from television to films at that time. Shooting in Miami was a good experience for Bay, who would later own a home in the city and spend a great deal of time there.[25] The film was completed for $19 million and grossed a remarkable $141 million at the box office in the summer of 1995.[26] Bay's success led to a strong partnership and friendship with Jerry Bruckheimer.[27]

His follow-up film, The Rock (1996), was an action movie set on Alcatraz Island, and in the San Francisco Bay area. It starred Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. It was also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the latter of whom died five months before the film's release. The film is dedicated to him.[28] Connery and Cage won 'Best On-Screen Duo' at the MTV Movie Awards in 1997 and the film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Achievement in Sound category for the work of Greg P. Russell, Kevin O'Connell, and Keith A. Wester.[29][30] After the success of The Rock, Bay established his production company Bay Films, with a two-picture deal with Disney.

Bay (left) and Jerry Bruckheimer during the filming of 1998's Armageddon
Bay (left) and Jerry Bruckheimer during the filming of 1998's Armageddon

In 1998, Bay collaborated with Jerry Bruckheimer again, this time as a co-producer, as well as directing the action-adventure film Armageddon.[31][32] The film, about a group of tough oil drillers who are sent by NASA to deflect an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth, starred Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler. It was nominated for 4 Oscars at the 71st Academy Awards including Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song.[33] The film earned 9.6 million dollars on its opening day and a total of 36.5 million through the first weekend.[34] The production budget, $140 million, was one of the highest of the summer of 1998. Armageddon went on to gross over $553 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of that year.[35]

In 2001, Bay directed Pearl Harbor. It starred Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film was released on Memorial Day weekend in 2001. Again, Bay produced the film with Jerry Bruckheimer. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing and Best Song. Again, Kevin O'Connell received another nomination for Best Sound, but he did not win. Pearl Harbor won in the category for Sound Editing, making it Bay's first (and, to date, only) film to win an Oscar.[36] Michael Bay also directed the music video for nominated track "There You'll Be" by vocal artist Faith Hill.[20]

Bay reteamed with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for Bad Boys II, a sequel which also marked Bay's fifth collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer. The film grossed $138 million domestically, enough to cover the production budget, and $273 million worldwide, almost twice as much as the first movie. In 2005, Bay directed The Island, a science fiction film starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. It was the first film Bay made without Jerry Bruckheimer as a producer. The Island cost $126 million to produce and earned $36 million domestically and $127 million overseas making a worldwide total of $163 million. Bay stated that he was not comfortable with the domestic marketing campaign, as it confused the audience to the true subject of the film.[37]

Bay on the set of Transformers, New Mexico, May 2006
Bay on the set of Transformers, New Mexico, May 2006

In 2007, he directed and teamed up with Steven Spielberg to produce Transformers, a live action film based on the Transformers franchise. The film was released in the U.S. and Canada on July 3, 2007, with 8 p.m. preview screenings on July 2. The previews earned $8.8 million, and in its first day of general release it grossed $27.8 million, a record for Tuesday box office attendance.[citation needed] It broke the record held by Spider-Man 2 for the biggest July 4 gross, making $29 million. On its opening weekend, Transformers grossed $70.5 million, amounting to a $155.4 million opening week, giving it the record for the biggest opening week for a non-sequel.[citation needed] As of November 2007, the film has made over $319 million domestically and over $709 million worldwide.[38]

Bay returned as director and executive producer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was released on June 24, 2009 and went on to gross over $832 million worldwide. Although it received mostly negative reviews by critics,[39] including aggressively critical reviews by American film critics such as Roger Ebert,[40] Michael Phillips[41] and David Denby (who referred to Bay as "stunningly, almost viciously, untalented"),[42] the film was well received by its intended audience and was one of the highest-grossing films of 2009.[43][44] In 2010, it earned seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations and winning three: Worst Picture, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay.[45] It was also one of the best selling DVD and Blu-ray Discs of 2009, second only to Twilight in DVD format and the number one of all time in Blu-ray format until it was surpassed by Blu-ray sales of James Cameron's Avatar in April 2010.[46][47][48]

Bay directed Transformers: Dark of the Moon, released on June 29, 2011.[49] which went on to gross $1.123 billion globally.[50] His next film was a comparatively small film he had been developing for years, called Pain & Gain.[51] The true crime story, based on events described in a Miami New Times article[52] written by Pete Collins, concerns a group of bumbling bodybuilders working together to commit a robbery.[53] It starred Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub and Ed Harris.

Bay filming Transformers: Age of Extinction; actresses Abigail Klein, Melanie Specht and Victoria Summer are walking in a corridor.
Bay filming Transformers: Age of Extinction; actresses Abigail Klein, Melanie Specht and Victoria Summer are walking in a corridor.

Bay produced DreamWorks' I Am Number Four, based on a series of novels by Pittacus Lore published by HarperCollins Children's Books. D. J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) directed.[54][55]

A fourth Bay-directed Transformers movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, was released in June 2014.[56] Starring Mark Wahlberg, the film earned $1.1 billion at the global box office.[57] On January 12, 2016, Paramount Pictures released 13 Hours, which Bay produced and directed, based on the 2012 Benghazi attack. While being the lowest-grossing film at the box office of Bay's career, it went on to massive DVD sales upon its digital release in May 2016, earning over $40 million in home video revenue.[58]

On May 23, 2017, Bay was honored with his own Hand and Footprint Ceremony at The TCL Chinese Theatre. His English Mastiff, Rebel, also put her paw in the cement with Bay.[59]

In 2018, it was announced that Bay would direct the Netflix action thriller film 6 Underground, starring Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Corey Hawkins, Ben Hardy and Dave Franco.[60] The film was released on December 13, 2019.[61]

Bay served as a producer in the pandemic-themed thriller entitled Songbird featuring Demi Moore, Craig Robinson, Paul Walter Hauser and Peter Stormare in the cast.[62] He is set to direct the dystopian thriller named Little America which is scheduled to film in California sometime in 2020.[63]

In 2021, it was reported that Bay requested financial compensation from film studio Paramount Pictures for indirectly limiting his income as a result of Paramount cutting the theatrical-only run of A Quiet Place Part II from 90 days to 45 days due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bay and other producers as well as actors for the film, as is typically the case, receive payment in part based on box-office performance, and a reduction in the theatrical run's exclusivity would affect the pay they receive.[64]

Production and effects companies

Platinum Dunes

Bay founded production house Platinum Dunes with fellow producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form in 2001.[65]

Digital Domain

Bay and Wyndcrest Holdings, a Florida-based investment firm, acquired the digital effects company Digital Domain from James Cameron and Stan Winston in 2006, infusing the struggling business with a $50 million investment. Digital Domain considered an initial public offering in 2009 but ultimately withdrew the offer, because of the lack of interest. The company was sold to Galloping Horse in 2012.

The Institute

After leaving Propaganda Films, Bay and producer Scott Gardenhour, also formerly at Propaganda, formed The Institute for the Development of Enhanced Perceptual Awareness (now known as The Institute), to produce commercials and other projects. Through The Institute, Bay has directed and produced spots for Victoria's Secret, Lexus, Budweiser, Reebok, Mercedes-Benz, and Nike. One of his Victoria Secret ads was for the 2009 "A Thousand Fantasies" holiday campaign.[66]

451 Media Group

Bay co-founded 451 Media Group with Doug Nunes (who serves as CEO), and with John and Anthony Gentile, who previously marketed brands such as Micronauts, Visionaries, Sky Dancers and the Power Glove. In 2015, the company announced an interactive publishing division to offer "augmented reality" content from printed graphic novels with digital video. The graphic novels employ Touchcode technology from T+ink (previously used in the Power Glove), in which ink used in the printing process unlocks access to exclusive content that is housed on the Machinima Network, which is transferred to users' touch-screen-enabled mobile devices when the printed books are touched to those devices. The company's premiere slate of graphic novels was unveiled at the October 2015 New York Comic-Con. The creators involved included Scott Rosenberg, Skip Woods, George Pelecanos, Mark Mallouk, Clay McLeod Chapman and Peter and Paul Williams.[67][68][69][70]

Rogue Initiative

In June 2016, Bay joined The Rogue Initiative,[71] a production studio and technology company, as a strategic advisor and stakeholder. The studio merges Hollywood production with interactive talent to generate story-driven content for games, mobile, virtual reality, mixed reality, television and feature film. As part of the partnership, Bay will develop and direct a multiplatform action-adventure game and cinematic VR experiences, based on an original IP conceived by him.

Personal life

Bay lives in Miami with his three English mastiffs, named for characters in his films. As a boy, he donated his Bar Mitzvah money to an animal shelter and often includes his dogs in his films. Bonecrusher appeared as Mikaela's dog "Bones" in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Mason, his first English mastiff, was named for John Patrick Mason, played by Sean Connery in The Rock.[72] Mason appeared as Marcus' dog in Bad Boys II and as Miles' dog in Transformers. He died during production of the latter film in March 2007.[73][74]

Bay is not married and has no children.[75] He previously dated sportscaster Lisa Dergan.[72]

In 2016 Bay owned a $50 million Gulfstream G550 jet, as well as a Bentley, a Range Rover, an Escalade, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and two Camaros from the Transformers franchise.[76]


Year Title Distributor
1995 Bad Boys Columbia Pictures
1996 The Rock Buena Vista Pictures
1998 Armageddon
2001 Pearl Harbor
2003 Bad Boys II Columbia Pictures
2005 The Island DreamWorks Pictures
Warner Bros.
2007 Transformers Paramount Pictures
DreamWorks Pictures
2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Paramount Pictures
2013 Pain & Gain
2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction
2016 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
2017 Transformers: The Last Knight
2019 6 Underground[60][77] Netflix
2022 Ambulance[78] Universal Pictures
TBA Robopocalypse[60] 20th Century Studios

Critical reception

Despite his box office success, Bay's work has been poorly received by film critics, and his name is often used pejoratively in art-house circles.[79] Bay has responded to his critics, saying "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime."[80] Besides accusing him of making films that pander to a young demographic, critics and audiences have been critical of elements of Bay's filmmaking style such as the overuse of Dutch angles, rapid cutting, and cliché camerawork. Other elements include extreme patriotism, juvenile humor, excessive product placement,[81] oversaturated orange and teal color grading,[82] reusing footage from his previous films,[83] his refusal to make thought-provoking films, and his preference of action and spectacle over story and characters.[84][85][86] Another point of contention with Bay's films is his portrayal and use of offensive racial stereotypes as comedic relief; a notable alleged example being the characters Skids and Mudflap in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.[87]

Bay has also been accused of heavily objectifying women in his films, with critics describing Bay's manner of filming actresses as "lascivious" and "pornographic". He has faced criticism for routinely making sexist remarks and showing female characters in a stereotypical light.[88] He came under scrutiny for firing Megan Fox in retaliation[89] after she made comments about him mistreating her on the set of the Transformers films and compared him to Hitler and Napoleon.[85][90][91] Bay reportedly enlisted the crew of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to publish an open letter in his defense that referred to Fox as, among other things, "Ms. Sourpants", "porn star", "unfriendly bitch", and "dumb-as-a-rock".[89]

In 2009, it was reported that Fox, at the age of 15, was made to wash Bay's car while auditioning for Transformers.[92][93] In 2020, Fox revisited the incident and denied that she was underaged (for Transformers) or "made to 'wash' or work on someone's cars in a way that was extraneous from the materials in the actual script."[94] However, Fox was 15 when she first appeared as a bikini-clad extra in the Bay film Bad Boys II.[89]

Actress Kate Beckinsale also spoke out publicly by reporting that she was body-shamed and regularly criticized for her appearance by Bay during the making of Pearl Harbor.[90][91]

Six of Bay's films have been nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight), with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen winning the "award".

Rotten Tomatoes ratings
Year Film Rating
1995 Bad Boys 43%[95]
1996 The Rock 66%[96]
1998 Armageddon 38%[97]
2001 Pearl Harbor 24%[98]
2003 Bad Boys II 23%[99]
2005 The Island 40%[100]
2007 Transformers 58%[101]
2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 20%[102]
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon 35%[103]
2013 Pain & Gain 51%[104]
2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction 18%[105]
2016 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi 51%[106]
2017 Transformers: The Last Knight 15%[107]
2019 6 Underground 36%[108]
Average 37%



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