The Austin Powers movie trilogy was a pop culture phenomenon in the late 1990s/early 2000s but which of the outrageous spy comedies is the grooviest of all? Created by and starring Mike Myers, who plays multiple roles in the saga, including Austin Powers and his arch-nemesis Dr. Evil, all three Austin Powers movies were directed by Jay Roach and lovingly parody Myers’ comic influences, including the 1960s James Bond films, the comedies of Peter Sellers, Benny Hill, and Dudley Moore, The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, and 1960s Swinging London.
Every Austin Powers movie centers on the titular and shamelessly promiscuous super-spy, who is transplanted from 1967 to 1997 when his enemy, Dr. Evil, cryogenically freezes himself to threaten the world of the future. With Myers playing both roles, the physical similarities between Austin and Dr. Evil paid off later on as the saga focused on their mutual origin. The Austin Powers films constantly utilize time travel as part of their gimmick (which the audience is urged not to think too hard about), and they also include an ever-growing cast of ancillary characters; appearing in every film are Mindy Kaling, Robert Wagner, and Seth Green as Dr. Evil’s confidantes Frau Farbissima, Number Two, and Scott Evil, while Michael York plays Basil Exposition, Austin’s supervisor at the British Ministry of Defense, in each film. Myers also followed the James Bond formula by casting a new love interest for Austin in every movie, just as each 007 film features a new Bond Girl.
The original film, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, premiered in 1997 and was a modest box office success, grossing $67-million worldwide. But the unusual comedy found a larger audience on home video that clamored for a sequel. 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me became the highest-grossing film of the franchise, and Verne Troyer’s diminutive Dr. Evil clone, Mini-Me, became part of the pop culture zeitgeist along with Austin’s various catchphrases like, “Groovy, baby!”, “Do I make you horny?”, and “Oh behave!” The final film, 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember, earned $213-million, making it the highest-grossing film of the saga in the United States, but it slightly underperformed globally, accumulating less than The Spy Who Shagged Me overall. While fans (and Mike Myers) still dream of an Austin Powers 4, here is our ranking of all three Austin Powers movies, each of which is shagadelic in its own right.
3. Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002)
Austin Powers in Goldmember concludes the trilogy with the most star-studded film in the saga. Michael Caine joins the cast as Austin’s super-spy father Nigel Powers, who reveals Austin and Dr. Evil are really twin brothers. In addition, Mike Myers does quadruple-duty, playing Austin, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, and the titular villain Goldmember, a grotesque parody of the James Bond villain Goldfinger. Beyonce Knowles plays Austin’s newest female counterpart, Foxxy Cleopatra, and she exhibits genuine screen presence, though it’s noticeable that the film doesn’t portray them as romantically involved the way Austin was with Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley) and Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham). Goldmember sends Austin back to 1975 (this time in a souped-up pimpmobile), but Goldmember also spends the least amount of time in the past. Most of the action happens in the present day, with Austin trying to foil Dr. Evil’s plan to force an asteroid to collide with the Earth.
By the third Austin Powers movie, the spy franchise has become a major Hollywood icon and it flaunts its status with numerous A-List cameos, including Steven Spielberg, who directs an in-universe biopic about Austin’s life titled Austinpussy, starring Tom Cruise as Powers, Gwyneth Paltrow as Dixie Normous, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny DeVito as Mini-Me, and John Travolta as Goldmember, with music by Quincy Jones and appearances (just because) by Britney Spears, Ozzy Osbourne, and Ozzy’s family. Along with the twist that Dr. Evil is Austin’s twin brother Dougie (which requires a hilariously absurd explanation), Mini-Me also turns on Dr. Evil and becomes Austin’s diminutive doppelganger, while Scott Evil embraces his evil destiny as a supervillain. Austin Powers in Goldmember has plenty of laughs but it’s also indicative of home success can kill a good parody.
2. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a comic gem when it was released in 1997. The original film introduces Austin as the world’s most desirable super spy and a dedicated swinger, who is cryogenically frozen in 1967 and revived in 1997 to stop his similarly time-tossed arch-nemesis Dr. Evil. A fish out of water in the then-present day, Austin fitfully acclimates to the 1990s with help from his love interest, Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley), who frowns on Powers’ shameless promiscuity (and also his terrible teeth). Meanwhile, Dr. Evil is brought back from deep freeze by his loyal henchmen, including Frau Farbissina and Number Two, and he learns that he now has an adult son named Scott, who hates Dr. Evil but secretly longs for his father’s approval.
The original Austin Powers movie runs the gamut from sophisticated to outright potty humor, lovingly spoofing Sean Connery’s James Bond movies, especially Dr. No, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever. Dr. Evil’s master plan is to steal a nuclear weapon and detonate it in the Earth’s core in exchange for a ransom of “one million dollars!” (adjusted to one hundred billion dollars due to inflation). Meanwhile, Austin finds his free-love 1960s swinger mentality no longer flies in 1997 as he falls in love with Vanessa, in turn, who grows jealous of Austin’s fling with Number Two’s Italian secretary Allota Fagina (Fabiana Udenio). Overall, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is an irrepressibly cheerful romp showcasing Mike Myers’ comedic range and it’s the most unapologetically idiosyncratic of the Austin Powers films. The franchise would get much broader and achieve greater success, but the original film is the tidiest and remains eternally charming.
1. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me perfectly tweaked the Mike Myers movie formula, transforming the bizarre comic creation for maximum mass appeal; the result was a crowd-pleasing blockbuster which is the highest-grossing Austin Powers movie, earning $312-million worldwide. This time, Austin and Dr. Evil go back in time to Powers’ 1969 heyday. After Dr. Evil steals the cryogenically-frozen Austin’s mojo, taking away the spy’s confidence with women, the supervillain plots to fire a laser from his moon base and destroy Washington, DC. After Vanessa, who married Austin, is revealed as a fembot and killed off, Powers gets a sexy new love interest: Heather Graham, who was hot from her lauded performance in Boogie Nights, plays Agent Felicity Shagwell. Meanwhile, Dr. Evil falls in love with his clone 1/8 his size, and Mini-Me becomes the rival of his son Scott. Myers also plays a third character in the Austin Powers sequel, the grotesque villain named Fat Bastard, while Rob Lowe plays the younger Number Two in 1969.
The Spy Who Shagged Me essentially remade the original Austin Powers film but reversed the setting and Austin’s disposition; stripped of his mojo, it’s Powers who becomes jealous when Felicity sleeps with Fat Bastard in the line of duty. Austin’s infectiously groovy schtick is otherwise the same as in the original movie, but the sequel’s naughty jokes are even broader. Myers’ masterstroke was recognizing the comic potential of fusing Dr. Evil with modern-day pop culture and going for the gusto; Dr. Evil appears on The Jerry Springer Show and performs hilarious covers of pop songs like Will Smith‘s “Just The Two of Us” and Joan Osborne’s “What If God Was One Of Us” while Mini-Me became the film’s breakout character. The climactic time travel shenanigans in Dr. Evil’s moon base also parodies the Roger Moore James Bond movie Moonraker. Overall, The Spy Who Shagged Me enhanced everything that worked in International Man of Mystery and successfully turned Austin Powers into a genuine pop culture phenomenon.
Will There Ever Be Another Austin Powers Movie?
While the Austin Powers movies ended with Goldmember almost two decades ago, interest continues in a potential fourth film. Mike Myers would love to make Austin Powers 4 — the comedian mentioned continuing the Austin Powers franchise way back in 2005, and then in 2018 confirmed that a script exists for a sequel. The timing seems right for the series to continue; with No Time To Die having ended Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, and with the renewed interest in the spy genre — seen with movies like The King’s Man and even Red Notice — it seems audiences may be ready for the next generation of Austin Powers parody.
Despite Myers’ interest in Austin Powers 4 and the rumors that have circulated for years, there still isn’t any official word on the movie being in production. It’s unclear why production was stalled; if indeed there was a script written sometime after 2005, there must have been serious interest in continuing the franchise at some point. This makes sense — Goldmember was a hit, earning just shy of $300 million in the box office. Likely, the disappointing critical reception of the third Austin Powers movie discouraged studio interest in continuing the franchise, and the script for Austin Powers 4 failed to impress. Mike Myers reprises his role of Dr. Evil in a Super Bowl LVI commercial though, so maybe there’s hope for another Austin Powers movie in the near future.
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