Ferocious 5 sheds light on a whole universe of pop and geek culture connections with bite-size lists. Explore topics, properties, fandoms you never knew existed in this article series on Bunkazilla.
“Hi! I’m Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass!”
Stemming from skateboard culture and journalism that brought together a group of friends who revelled in hurting themselves (and each other) for (literal) shits and giggles for online magazines, Jackass began as an American reality comedy television series, unleashed onto the public after a bidding war for such content was won successfully by MTV.
Created by Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine, directed by Tremaine and produced by Dickhouse Productions, Jackass the TV series aired for three seasons on MTV between October 1st 2000 and February 3rd 2002. The show featured a recurring cast of nine idiots carrying out stunts and pranks on each other or the public. Entertainment Weekly classed Jackass as a significant part of 2000s American popular culture.
A modern-day team equivalent to The Three Stooges (but with participants clearly being paid more than Larry, Curly and Moe ever did), if you like slapstick it is extremely likely you will enjoy Jackass. But do the exploits of these street stuntmen still hold up? I watched the five films available on Netflix to stream, so you don’t have to…
…or do you?
Jackass: The Movie – with stuff you’d never see on T.V. (2002)
“Johnny Knoxville and his band of maniacs perform a variety of stunts and gross-out gags on the big screen for the first time.”
After the show’s cancellation in 2002, due to “creative differences” between the team and MTV’s Standards and Practices, the Jackass franchise grew to include five feature films released by Paramount Pictures. The first film is almost twenty years old at the time of writing, but classic slapstick is still funny, especially as the TV series eroded any naughtiness towards the end of its run – the film ran with it to excess. Never will you see so many men holding onto their undercarriages for dear life, while you relentlessly clench in defense at their exploits, in a mainstream Hollywood film. After being injured, the only response is laughter at their achievements, in painful solidarity.
The graininess and the absurdity of the film adds to the punk vibe with a banging soundtrack. Filthier than the TV series, this film was perceived by the cast to be the finalé of Jackass. Little did the team know the success of the film (as well as the spinoffs MTV hosted after Jackass TV season 3 ended) would fuel footage for many years to come…
Best bits: “Golf Course Air Horn“, “Brawl With Butterbean”
Jackass: The Movie is available to stream on Netflix
Jackass Number Two (2006)
“Chris Pontius, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, and the whole crew return to the screen to raise the stakes higher than ever before.”
Opening with a full studio song and dance number, the stakes for Jackass Number Two were inevitably going to be higher. Did the team succeed with their difficult second album?
At Jackass Number Two (poo joke intentional – note that some viewers who are sensitive about faecal pranks should not be watching any of these films at all!), the resolution of the film is much better. The slo-mo opening where bulls run at the entire cast and smash through the neighbourhood street is as artful as it is funny.
Sadly throughout the film, the soundtrack is much duller than the TV series or film, and the enthusiasm is waning. In between the end of Jackass, spin-off shows had taken their toll on the cast and the worry on the casts’ faces is palpable. The fatigue seems to also come from party drink-and-drugs to fuel the lifestyle, continuing that for the best part of a year will do anyone in, even if you are giving full consent to attaching electrodes to your nether regions for laughs. However, there is visibly nervous shaking, tears and xanax in this documentary which makes for genuinely uncomfortable viewing.
Nevertheless, the team continually make self-destructive content for the viewer which works very well as an immediate film continuation of the series. A version of this film was also released for MySpace, which shows some proper forward-thinking from the distributors, making films available online in the age before streaming.
Best bits: “Beehive Limo”, “The Valentine”
Jackass Number 2 is available to stream on Netflix
Jackass 2.5 (2007)
“The Jackass crew reunite to discuss their experiences with Jackass Number Two and show off some unused content and ideas.”
A continuation of the franchise using prank footage from Jackass Number Two, this documentary goes into the background of some pranks as well as the disastrous ones that never worked. The skits (“bits”) are still funny but the waning enthusiasm is still present, but here at least we understand why – because nobody could rest around the other cast members! Nothing is out of bounds, but it is now to everyone’s detriment.
Despite the diversity of the cast and supporting members, there is a bit more bigotry in terms of language and we are unsure about what to make of the gay-themed ending. Bearing in mind this film was made in the mid-aughts, so, parallel to the pop-punk music scene of the time where some bands perpetuated more misogynistic and derisive attitudes.
Though I did enjoy this film, there were more scenes in it that made us wince and feel ill, than there were that made us laugh. It was fascinating to hear more about what happened behind the scenes though, after seeing nothing but two films’ worth of final stunt footage.
Best bits: “Dizzy Boxing”, “The Butt Bellows”.
Available to stream on Netflix
Jackass 3D (2010)
“Johnny Knoxville and company return for the third installment of their TV show spin-off, where dangerous stunts and explicit public displays rule.”
The film opens with the most colourful shots courtesy of Phantom high-speed cameras. Recorded at 1,000 frames per second producing hyper-slow motion, the viewer gets to see every wobble and smack in extremely high focus, which makes up for Netflix streamers unable to witness the chaos in cinematic 3D. This works extremely well and sets the (non-electrified limbo-) bar very high for the rest of the film.
Washington Post critic Dan Kois once described the film as “a touching ode to male friendship at its most primal”, which is probably the best way to summarise the camaraderie of all Jackass components. You notice the cast asking each other – more in this film than previous – if the victim is ok after every painful stunt where they don’t arise or laugh immediately,
The vibe is as colourful as the footage. There is more pranking of the public (the public are just onlookers) as the follow-up film Bad Grandpa would be released after Jackass 3.5. The film ends with relentless explosions as objects are thrown at the cast to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – it’s beautiful (*wipes tear away from eye*).
Best bits: “Poo Cocktail Extreme”, “The Blindside”
Jackass 3D is available to stream on Netflix– though not in 3D (boo)
Jackass 3.5 – The Explicit Movie(2011)
“Because too much is never enough! The complete cast and crew of Jackass 3D return with an all-new movie. Loaded with OVER AN HOUR of outrageous bonus footage, get all of the hilarious pranks, stupidity and mayhem you crave with Jackass 3.5.”
A little slower than before, the team travels around Europe with anecdotes accompanying the various stunts, pranks and skits. As always, there is no plot, only pain. The clips are from the offcuts that did not make it into Jackass 3D.
Clips of drone paintball and flights of the Dildo Bazooka sit alongside footage of Knoxville and Spike Jones wearing prosthetics and makeup as their elderly character counterparts, embarrassing the public. Some of the skits are quite telling of human nature in cities, when the elderly characters fall over, only some people help them up. The Enema Long Jump is still probably not as grim a spectacle as the full-on fecal delivery in earlier films.
The ending consists of an elongated sequence, “Incredible Nut Shots”, which is different clips of Knoxville, who throws many basketballs at the cast and crew members squarely in their balls, in more and more fanciful ways, including a light airplane. Simple, funny, to the point.
Best bits: “The Fire Gauntlet” and “Lamborghini Tooth Pull”
Jackass 3.5 is available to stream on Netflix
I didn’t go into much detail about all the stunts because they have to be witnessed for full effect. If you are curious, you can check out the list on Jackass’ Fandom Wiki here.
The biggest criticisms of Jackass are addressed as the series progresses:
- Viewers may worry about the animals, but at the end of the credits there is an American Humane Association mention, confirming care. It is guaranteed that the viewer will see animals as the ones kicking the cast and crew and causing them the pain.
- Viewers will also feel incredibly sorry for Bam Margera’s parents, who are often pranked (or have parts of the house battered) with zero warning and presumably no consent. Throughout the film, the parents were either in on the jokes or respond with good nature. They must of either given up and rolled with the relentlessness of it all, or Paramount had some spare cash for them.
- Another concern was if the crew were perhaps coerced into continually doing stunts they did not want to do. This is especially present halfway through the film franchise, when it has come to light about the amount of drugs being taken due to fear and needing a personal anesthesia. This felt alleviated somewhat when watching Jackass 3D and 3.5, as a funnier vibe was present. Johnny Knoxville’s, the ring leader of the team, accountability for goading people on has been validated after find out he suffered the most concussions and hospital trips out of any member of the team.
I can recommend the first film, the 3D film and 3.5 as the documentary to watch, as it is less cynical. However, I gave the first film and 3D four stars as it is impossible to give these films the full five as there are themes that run within the Jackass films that do not land at every single hit and anthologies are never 100% pleasers.
After watching any of these films, you will know whether or not the upcoming Jackass 4 (due October 2021) will be for you. After Jackass 3.5, a member of the team died (in an unrelated incident), other members of the crew are undertaking recovery and rehabilitation. Many have kicked back on their habits which is a relief… because Jackass 4 is going to be done sober. What we do know is that while in shooting Jackass 4, Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O were hospitalized on day two of filming due to on-set injuries.
Until next time… stomp on monsters of culture, stomp on!
Laura Watton (PinkAppleJam)
Better known as PinkAppleJam, Laura is one of the hosts of LIVE! From The Super Fortress Hardcore Genki! Catch the show live on Bunkazilla’s Twitch Channel or catch up on YouTube.