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Every movie in the 'Tremors' franchise, ranked

Six degrees from Kevin Bacon is a cold day in hell.

By Brian Silliman
Tremors (1990)

Here come the Graboids! Worry not, because where there are Graboids, there will always (always) be Michael Gross. The underground worms with the monstrously silly name have been shaking the ground since Tremors debuted in 1990. Since then, they’ve continued to cause trouble in an additional six (count em’ up, six) direct-to-video movies. 

Family Ties star Michael Gross appears in every single one of them. His Burt Gummer is the connective tissue that holds the Tremors-verse together. Even when the franchise did a prequel (Tremors 4: The Legend Begins) and it wouldn't have made sense for Burt Gummer to appear, life (and Michael Gross) found a way. He played Gummer descendant Hiram, thus expanding the mythology of House Gummer. 

Without the presence of Michael Gross, does a movie even deserve to have the name “Tremors” in its title? Here’s hoping we never have to find out. This series of comedy horror riffs isn’t ever going to Cannes, but that’s not the point. They’re fun to watch, and there’s a real possibility that they’ll never stop making them. Michael Gross himself, currently in his 70s, is open to the possibility of more. 

In honor of the Graboids, the Shriekers, Kevin Bacon, and Michael Gross, it’s time to rank the movies of the Tremors Cinematic Universe. For your convenience, all of them are currently streaming on Peacock

7. Tremors: Shrieker Island (2020)

It’s still fun, we’re still laughing, but what more can you do with this concept seven movies later? This is the most recent entry, which features Jon Heder joining the stalwart Michael Gross. If you wanted to see Napoleon Dynamite fight a new kind of “Queen” Graboid, then saddle up. 

There are some odd moments here when the movie recalls bits from the original, such as a scene where Burt remembers a tactic once pulled by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. It’s jarring, because wow are we are a long way away from 1990. 

The worst aspect of this movie is, spoiler alert, the death of Burt. It's respectful, we guess. He gets a memorial and the end credits are completely devoted to the character, but… no. Burt Gummer never says die, so we’ll have none of this, if you please. If they make another one, you can bet your Ass-Blaster that they’ll resurrect him. 

If this is the end of the saga, then we suppose it makes sense. Still, we’d rather cut to the future and see Burt’s great-great grandson, Lockjaw Gummer (played by Michael Gross) fighting skyscraper-sized Graboids with the help of giant robots and megalasers. Yes, all of the robots would wear Burt Gummer hats. 

Maybe they’re saving this for the eighth movie, or they will now be inspired to do so after reading this magnificent article. If that’s the case, you’re welcome everyone! 

6. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)

Ever wonder about how the House of Gummer truly began it’s trip on the shining road of destiny? If so, step up to the only prequel in the series, which sets the Graboid action in 1889. 

The failing town of Rejection becomes Perfection at movie’s end. Burt’s ancestor, Hiram, builds a house right where Burt’s house is. He learns to shoot and enjoys it. That’s the legend. 

We like this one just fine, but if anything they may have played things a little too safe for our taste. There is good usage of pickaxes, but more wacky uses of Wild West weaponry would have been welcome. You do get some of that, but we wanted more. Hiram Gummer lassoing a Graboid while riding on the back of another Graboid and shouting “yeehaw” is something that should exist, right? This was the franchise’s opportunity to give us that. 

We’ll get over it, but it’s hard.

5. Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)

Burt Gummer has his own survival show! That’s (almost) the biggest contribution that this installment makes to the ongoing saga. It also brings in Jamie Kennedy. 

It’s almost by rote now, as there’s ass-blasting left and right, an attempt at romance, and humans making bad money-grubbing decisions with Graboid-related things. The most memorable part of this one is a new kind of Graboid that Burt calls “Queen Bitch.” It has detachable tentacles and offers Burt a whole new nest full of trouble. 

Michael Gross kind of adopts Jamie Kennedy at the end? That’s fine, but it means that Kennedy’s character returns for the next movie and the vanquished Queen Bitch does not. We’d prefer it the other way around but we’re not the kings of Tremors

4. Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)

We’re back in Perfection, as the title suggests. Not only do we have Graboids and Shriekers, this entry introduces “Ass-Blasters.” My friends, we have arrived. 

Michael Gross fully takes control of the franchise here, and he remains in control for every movie that comes after this. Some actors from the original make returns, including Jurassic Park actress Ariana Richards. 

What’s our general premise? A new guy has tried to turn Perfection into a tourist destination. This lasts about five seconds before something goes wrong The government then tries to stop our heroes from fighting the Graboids, because they claim they are an endangered species. You guessed it, they want to capture one alive. 

After a lot of ass-blasting mayhem and an attempt at a romantic subplot, we end with Burt Gummer using the “endangered species” element of the Graboids against the government. He’s also made friends with one? That’s right, Gummer and the Graboid known as “El Blanco” (a Graboid with albinism) share some kind of connection. 

The best scene in the movie for us is Burt getting swallowed by a Graboid and then getting cut out of it with a chainsaw. Things like that change a man. 

3. Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018)

We don’t know why we like this particular entry as much as we do. The arctic locale is the only big change, so perhaps that's why? At this point, the franchise firmly knows what it is. It refuses to apologize for itself. It features more Ass-Blasters and an even more over-the-top performance from Michael Gross. 

Officially the last person left in the abandoned town of Perfection, Burt Gummer gets roped back into the action pretty quickly. Though Kevin Bacon isn’t here, the daughter of Val McKee and Rhonda LeBeck is. The Bacon bloodline survives thanks to Dr. Valerie McKee, who gives you some connection the original movie outside of Michael Gross. 

This is the point where the movies stop numbering themselves, and that means it’s full speed ahead to Sillytown. We rent an apartment there, so it works for us. 

2. Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)

Both Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire were set to return for this film, originally intended for movie theaters. But, Bacon bailed to do Apollo 13, McEntire had singing commitments, and producers realized they’d make more money if this was a direct-to-video affair. 

Fred Ward returns as Earl Basset from the first movie, and he is hired to kill Graboids in Mexico. He needs the money, because, and this is not a joke, he has lost all of his money on a failed ostrich ranch. (The ranch itself was a failure; it was not a ranch for ostriches who were themselves failures. If that were the case, this would be ranked #1.) 

Michael Gross is naturally on hand to help him out, as is Helen Shaver as Dr. Kate Reilly. This is Fred Ward’s movie, and Earl and Helen end up together at the end. This movie also introduces the “shriekers” to the franchise, and a lot of the "scientific” talk about them has not aged well at all. 

Still, the presence of Fred Ward ties it to the original classic more than any of the other movies, and it begins the ongoing trope of some idiots wanting the heroes to capture one of the Graboids alive. We’d say that this newly-dawning franchise sequel hasn’t gone full camp yet, but come on — a “failed ostrich farm” is the reason the reluctant hero gets pulled back into the mess. 

1. Tremors (1990)

Though it was a box office disappointment, Tremors was a surprising hit with critics and became an instant cult classic. It spawned six movies after it, which is a testament to how much fun this original installment is. 

It doesn’t take itself all that seriously, but it doesn’t go as deep into the ultra-camp of the latter entries. It stars Kevin Bacon, has a couple moments that make you genuinely uncomfortable, and most important of all, it introduces the world to the greatest doomsday prepper in cinema history: Burt Gummer, played by Michael Gross. Fred Ward is also on hand to deal with the Graboids under the ground, so that’s a big help. 

The real joy of this movie is the result of a last minute attempt by the producers to avoid an R rating. F-bombs abound in the original cut, so to try and make it more commercially viable, producers dubbed over a good amount of the choice words. That’s the reason one of the Graboids is called a “motherhumper” at one point. The dubbing is obvious, the actors seem the be in on the fun, and it’s a classic that was always on television at one point. If you watch any of these movies, this is the one you go with. 

All of the Tremors movies are currently streaming on Peacock