The Psych Movies Ranked

In high school, PSYCH popularity reigned supreme among many of my peers. At that time, I had seen maybe an episode or two of the USA Network comedy-drama detective show, which ran for eight seasons from 2006 to 2014. Its central premise of faux-psychic detective Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez) aiding the Santa Barbara Police Department with his real hyper-observational skills and the assistance of his best friend Gus (Dulé Hill) was compelling enough that I finally watched the show in its entirety last year. And while I think the hype of many of PSYCH’s most dedicated superfans was a bit overblown, the show is a thoroughly entertaining and extremely “watchable” comfort program. But this piece isn’t about the show itself: it concerns the ranking of the three “TV movies” (one released on traditional cable, two on Universal’s Peacock streaming service) that have come out since 2017, following the show’s conclusion. Creator Steve Franks has expressed his desire to follow PSYCH with at least five films continuing the story of Shawn, Gus, and their colleagues and friends. And I’m just fine with PSYCH following a COLUMBO (1968–2003) thing, where a big 90-ish minute movie or special comes out just about every year or so. So far, the PSYCH movies have satisfied the appeal of the show’s format while adding in some character development that happened relatively sporadically in the grand scope of the series’ 120 episodes.

All movies directed by Steve Franks.

#3 — PSYCH 2: LASSIE COME HOME (2020)

The subtitle of PSYCH 2: LASSIE COME HOME refers to Timothy Omundson’s character Carlton Lassiter, often jokingly called Lassie by the ever-wisecracking Shawn. Omundson’s police detective is perennially annoyed by Spencer’s antics, and he is once again to some extent in PSYCH 2. But he’s also mostly bedridden, as writers Franks, Rodriguez, and Andy Berman incorporate Omundson’s real-life health difficulties (he suffered a stroke in 2017) into the story. In PSYCH 2, Lassiter’s stroke and subsequent health problems are caused by complications on the operating table after he is shot. Regardless of the story considerations, it’s admirable that Omundson wasn’t just abandoned or written out of the movie. That could have definitely happened, but the fact that PSYCH 2 addresses that difficulty contributes to the feeling that the characters of PSYCH are a family. This sentiment goes a long way in appropriately making PSYCH 2 feel special, as the other movies have done so far as well. It doesn’t entirely just feel like an extended episode of the show because the character’s lives are progressed (which often didn’t happen in the mostly episodic series). But to PSYCH 2’s credit, it still offers the mystery-solving fun the show always offered, set in Santa Barbara again following the setting of San Francisco in the first movie. If PSYCH 2 slips behind its predecessor and successor, however, it’s simply because its jokes are the weakest. I laughed the least during PSYCH 2, and while it’s not bad by any means, more of it is forgettable than the others in the movie series.

#2 — PSYCH 3: THIS IS GUS (2021)

The latest PSYCH movie (at the time of this writing) focuses a lot on Gus, which is appropriate since it’s called PSYCH 3: THIS IS GUS. In PSYCH 2, he made a new girlfriend, and in PSYCH 3, she’s pregnant with his child and they’re about to get married. Some mysteries arise around her real identity, and so Shawn and Gus investigate. Of all three movies, the investigation of 3 is the weakest, with the story elements that defined the best episodes of the show never really congealing. But PSYCH 3 is superior to 2 in its character progression and, more importantly, its jokes. Both are stronger in the movie’s first half, as I laughed loudly and every character has their own kind of emotional moment, some more saccharine than others. Again, the embrace of Omundson in a difficult time is touching, as Lassiter has returned to duty as chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department and faces some challenges in recovery from his stroke. It’s good to see Omundson himself improving, and his character’s struggle, while not without its awkward moments, is compelling. The set up for a potential sequel that PSYCH 3 presents, tied as it is to a new character I didn’t like very much, and its kind of annoying final moments, drag THIS IS GUS down a bit, but there’s no denying it’s another satisfying return to very familiar characters and structure.

#1 — PSYCH: THE MOVIE (2017)

But when it comes to which of the PSYCH returns have felt most like a “movie,” the once again appropriately named PSYCH: THE MOVIE takes the pineapple cake. Since it’s set in San Francisco (a move that was set up in the series finale three years earlier), PSYCH: THE MOVIE instantly distinguishes itself as “special,” and its opening moments and general structure expand the scope of any normal episode of the show. That being said, that structure still satisfies the mystery progression of, well, any normal episode of the show, but tied to the characters themselves. The PSYCH movies so far have done that well: bringing the style of the show out from episodic, “everyday” investigations to ones that feel bigger thanks to their connection to the central characters. Besides that, PSYCH: THE MOVIE has its usual blend of good and cringey jokes. I’ve never felt that PSYCH is an unmitigated success as either a comedy or a detective show, because there are moments in both aspects that drag or don’t quite hit the right way. Nevertheless, the series was always a pleasant time, and the movies that have followed it are no exception. PSYCH: THE MOVIE ends up the most remarkable of the three, with moments that illustrate the appeal of the show’s characters and bring them into a unique situation the most effectively.

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Tristan Ettleman

Tristan Ettleman

I write about movies, music, video games, and more.

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