Tall and quirky, actor Jeff Goldblum has now entered his fifth decade of entertaining people with his unique verbal delivery and bizarre tics. Since I’m tall and somewhat quirky myself, I’ve always been a big fan of Jeff Goldblum movies. That’s why I’ve dedicated this article to exploring some of his more overlooked roles. I say overlooked because almost everyone is familiar with The Fly, Independence Day, and Jurassic Park (if you’re not, you’ve got a lot of cinematic catching-up to do). But Goldblum has been in plenty of other motion pictures, playing everything from a skinny rapist to the Devil himself.
The next time you head to your local video store or consult an online rental service such as Netflix or GreenCine, be sure to give a few of these selections a try:
- Freak #1 from Death Wish (1974) – Goldblum makes his feature film debut in this legendary Charles Bronson vigilante flick about an architect who’s pushed past his limit by all the crime around him. Freak #1 is an incredibly skinny rapist who predictably meets his match when faced with Bronson’s steely gaze and invincible moustache.
- Allistair Hennessey from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – Wes Anderson directs this entertaining piece of weirdness about an oceanographer (Bill Murray) on a revenge-filled quest to slay the shark that killed his partner. Along the way, he and his eccentric crew wind up rescuing his nemesis (Goldblum), a slick documentarian and oceanographer who also happens to be “part gay.”
- Mickey Holliday from Mad Dog Time (1996) – A real mess of a film, this Larry Bishop project is still worth a look to see Goldblum play a badass hitman who specializes in killing men during quick-draw competitions while seated behind a desk (yes, that’s part of the rules). He’s also romancing Ellen Barkin and Diane Lane at the same time, so he gets bonus points for that in my book. You’ll laugh way more than you’re supposed to, and I still have to wonder how this film attracted stars such as Richard Dreyfuss, Gabriel Byrne, Burt Reynolds, Kyle MacLachlan, Rob Reiner, and Gregory Hines.
- Mr. Frost from Mister Frost (1990) – It’s not available on DVD, but you can catch this vastly underrated supernatural thriller on the instant view option from Netflix. Goldblum stars as Mr. Frost, a mysterious individual who readily admits to killing 24 people and burying them in his garden. Placed in an asylum, he spends the next two years without talking, but then he speaks and tells a disbelieving doctor (Kathy Baker) that he’s Satan. In order to prove that he’s more powerful that the modern notions of science, he intends to drive her to kill him. Thus begins a cat and mouse game that allows Goldblum to demonstrate the most sinister acting of his long career. Perhaps my favorite of all Jeff Golblum movies on this list.
- Dexter King from The Tall Guy (1989) – Golblum gets to show off his romantic side in this unconventional rom-com about an American actor living and working in London. After falling for a nurse (Emma Thompson) who helps treat him for hay fever, he finds himself out of work and forced to take the lead in a musical parody of The Elephant Man that includes such numbers as “He’s Packing His Trunk.” Those who’ve ever lusted after Goldblum or Thompson will also enjoy the surprisingly steamy sex scenes.
- Jack Bellicec from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – In this remake of the 1956 sci-fi classic, Goldblum plays a struggling writer who’s pals with the main character (Donald Sutherland). When he finds a strange human form in his mud bath, he phones his friend and gets involved in a global conspiracy to replace mankind with alien duplicates. As you might imagine, there’s no happy ending in store for this supporting character (but at least he doesn’t have Donald Sutherland pointing and screaming at him like Veronica Cartwright). Also starring Leonard Nimoy, Brooke Adams, and Kevin McCarthy (the lead from the original version).
- Tricycle Man from Nashville (1975) – Robert Altman’s masterful black comedy takes a look at both country music and politics, bolstered by a cast that includes Ned Beatty, Keith Carradine, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Shelley Duvall, and Geraldine Chaplin. Goldblum shows up in an early movie role, riding a tricycle everywhere and serving as a linking device between various scenes. He has no lines in the film, but fans of the actor will get a kick out of watching him pay his dues in the industry.
- “Slick” Calvin Stanhope from Silverado (1985) – After the last gambling expert at the Midnight Star saloon gets gunned down by the town’s unethical sheriff (Brian Dennehy), Jeff Goldblum enters the picture. He claims that his name is Calvin, but his momma always called him Slick. Before long, he’s running the gambling inside the saloon and taking care of the local whores. Of course, this puts him at odds with the good guys, including Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, and Danny Glover. Guess who wins? Goldblum is suitably oily in this entertaining Western from director Lawrence Kasdan.
- New Jersey from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) – Peter Weller stars as Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, a multi-talented neurosurgeon who also moonlights as a physicist and a rock musician. Along with his band, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, he must try to save the Earth from the diabolical Red Lectoids from Planet 10. Dressed in a cowboy hat and wearing chaps, Goldblum plays one of the aforementioned Cavaliers, Banzai’s physicist colleague from Columbia who knows how to sing and dance a little (he also plays a mean keyboard). A genre-bending adventure that’s weird enough to make Goldblum seem normal. Well, almost. Co-starring Clancy Brown, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, and Lewis Smith.
- Mitchell Kane from The Great White Hype (1996) – While this movie about black heavyweights beating up on unskilled white challengers fails to be as entertaining as hoped, Goldblum does deliver an entertaining performance as a crusading journalist who digs up enough dirt to bury unethical fight promoter Rev. Fred Sultan (Samuel L. Jackson is an obvious parody of Don King). But Sultan’s lavish lifestyle proves too much for Kane, and he’s soon scheming to get paid like everyone else. Peter Berg is entertaining as the white challenger plucked out of obscurity, as is Damon Wayans as the surly champ who likes to watch Dolemite prior to his bouts.
If you’re a fan of quirky performances, be sure to give one or more of these Jeff Goldblum movies a try. And if that doesn’t satisfy your craving for Odd Films, you can also check out the following:
If you’re sick of mainstream cinema, you should consider trying out the experimental movies discussed in this article. Often filled with dreamlike imagery or no dialogue, experimental or avant-garde movies will leave you reexamining the art of film and arguing the merit of each work with your friends. These motion pictures are not for everyone, however, so anyone who thought films like Memento or Oldboy were “weird” should avoid these at all costs.
- 11’09”01: September 11 (2002) – Eleven filmmakers from different counties demonstrate their take on the events of 9/11, with each project lasting 11 minutes, 9 seconds, and one frame. Participating countries include the United States, Iran, France, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom, Mexico, Israel, Japan, and India.
- Anatomy of Hell (2004) – Amira Casar stars as “the woman,” who’s discovered trying to commit suicide in the bathroom of a gay bar by “the man” (porn star Rocco Siffredi). She then pays him to watch her over the next four days, during which time she expresses her opinions on sexuality. A highly controversial and hardcore look at sexual fears courtesy of Catherine Breillat (adapted from her own novel).
- The Howl (1970) – An Italian film from director Tinto Brass, The Howl combines surreal imagery with anti-war protests. A far cry from some of Brass’s more sexually-charged works.
- Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) – Agnes Varda’s film follows French singer Cleo (Corinne Marchand) as she cruises the streets of Paris for two hours while dreading the results of a medical test.
- Able Edwards (2004) – Set in a future where a global catastrophe has forced the residents of Earth to relocate to a space station, a company that’s a lot like Disney decides to create a clone of their founder to boost profits. It works, but the cloned entertainment mogul soon begins to long for a life of his own.
- Heart of Glass (1976) – Filmed by mad genius Werner Herzog and a cast of hypnotized actors, the movie tells of an 18th century Bavarian village that slowly falls into decay following the death of a master glass blower. Meanwhile, a seer from the hills (based on Bavarian prophet Muhlhiasl) comes down to speak of the future.
- Man with a Movie Camera (1929) – A silent Russian documentary that features an intimate look at life in various Soviet cities (with an emphasis on Odessa). The film’s most notable contribution comes in the way of camera techniques, many of which director Dziga Vertov invented during shooting.
- Baraka (1993) – Filmed in 24 countries and 152 different locations, Baraka dispenses with dialogue in favor of imagery involving people and places from around the globe. A fascinating celebration of all that is great and terrible about Earth. Directed by Ron Fricke.
- Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971) – A pseudo-documentary in which the filmmakers journey back to the days when slavery was still commonplace in the United States. Drawing from published material, this Italian/Spanish film is filled with graphic torture, rape, and murder.
- Fruit of Paradise (1970) – A Czech film that retells the story of Adam and Eve in a new and distinctly darker fashion. Directed by Vera Chytilova, a promising filmmaker whose career was greatly stunted by a Soviet ban on her work.
- La Jetee (1962) – Made up almost entirely of still photos, this 28-minute French experimental film would later be used as the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Following World War III, a prisoner is sent through time in an effort to repair society. But he’s haunted throughout by a vision from his childhood, one that will prove eerily prophetic.
- Fando y Lis (1967) – A Mexican adaptation of the Fernando Arrabal play, Fando y Lis follows a young man and his paraplegic girlfriend as they wander through a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of the mythical city of Tar. The feature film debut of director Alejandro Jodorowsky.
- The Mirror (1975) – A stream of consciousness film from Russia courtesy of director Andrei Tarkovsky. Blending poems from his father, newsreel footage, and scenes of both his childhood and adult life, Tarkovsky uses cinema to deftly peer into his own soul.
- The Blood of a Poet (1930) – One of the earlier experimental movies, Blood of a Poet was directed by avant-garde icon Jean Cocteau. Divided into four sections, it takes a surreal look at mouths spawned from artistic endeavors and why children shouldn’t throw snowballs at one another.
- Alice (1988) – A Czech film that retells the story of Alice in Wonderland with a combination of live and stop motion animation. A dreamlike masterpiece that will have you looking at your household items in a whole new way.
- Ecstasy of the Angels (1972) – Koji Wakamatsu’s tale of revolutionary groups fighting for possession of stolen U.S. explosives. It also happens to be a Japanese pink film, meaning it’s filled with softcore pornography.
- I Am Cuba (1964) – With long sequences shot without dialogue and supporting the need for revolution, I Am Cuba takes a dim view of Batista’s reign. Over 40 years later, I wonder if the filmmakers would consider Castro to be an improvement? Still, it’s a fascinating document about political power and the longing for freedom.
- Jubilee (1977) – Heavily influenced by the British punk movement and featuring icons such as Adam Ant and Wayne Country, this experimental cult film features Jenny Runacre as Queen Elizabeth I. Transported through time, she finds herself wandering the nihilistic landscape of a 1970’s Britain.
- Mondo Cane (1966) – The film that first brought about the sub-genre known as the “mondo film,” Mondo Cane is comprised of vignettes intended to shock Western audiences with its depiction of sexual practices and other odd beliefs from around the globe. Immensely popular despite the controversy surrounding it, the film actually brought about a heart attack in one of its subjects while being screened in Cannes.
- L’Age d’Or (1930) – Also known as The Golden Age, this surrealist film was co-written by Salvador Dali and takes numerous shots at the Catholic Church, mainly in the form of vignettes centering around a couple unsuccessfully trying to consummate their love for one another. Banned, attacked, and otherwise defamed, the film caused a firestorm of controversy in its time.
If you’re of a mind to explore some experimental movies, this list provides a great starting point. Fans of Michael Bay and the Transformers franchise will probably experience severe headaches and anal bleeding, so consider yourself warned.
If I were making a film, one of the first actors I would go after would be Lance Henriksen. He’s just that good, especially when it comes to playing guys who are a little off-kilter or just downright villainous. But not all Lance Henriksen movies cast him as the heavy. In fact, his best-known film role was as the gentle android Bishop in James Cameron’s Aliens. Other major appearances have included The Terminator, Powder, Dog Day Afternoon, The Right Stuff, and the role of Frank Black in TV‘s Millennium. All total, Lance Henriksen has appeared or done voice work in over 120 feature films and made-for-TV movies. Not bad for a guy who didn’t learn to read until age 30.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite Lance Henriksen roles. You may be familiar with a few, while others have probably passed under your radar over the years. Whatever the case, I recommend you watch these motion pictures as soon as possible, basking in the grizzled brilliance of Lance Henriksen along the way.
- Ring Shelton from Appaloosa (2008) – When murderous rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) is sentenced to hang for killing a lawman in cold blood, he hires the notorious Shelton brothers to bust him out. They do just that, but their actions lead them to an inevitable showdown with the films heroes, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris, who also directed) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen). Henriksen is a grizzled god as the elder Shelton brother, a man who backs up every claim with lethal doses of violence. But he’s also not immune to the charms of a lady, especially when their impromptu hostage (Renee Zellweger) is feeling frisky.
- Buck from Color of Night (1994) – While this Bruce Willis erotic thriller kind of sucked (it won the Razzie for Worst Picture), I did enjoy Lance Henriksen’s portrayal of Buck, a crazed ex-cop driven to the verge of suicide by the unsolved murder of his own wife and daughter. You’ll also be treated to some world-class nudity courtesy of Jane March and Bruce Willis, although Lance keeps his manhood covered throughout.
- Emil Fouchon from Hard Target (1993) – John Woo’s debut film gets a boost from the presence of Lance Henriksen, who serves as the villain to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s heroic and homeless Cajun. He also plays the piano, uses a pistol with a single shot, and helps rich folks hunt down the destitute for a healthy fee. Hell, Henriksen even gets to stab Wilford Brimley with an arrow, a pleasure enjoyed by few others in Hollywood. One of my all-time favorite Lance Henriksen movies.
- Chains Cooper from Stone Cold (1991) – The feature film debut for former NFL player Brian Bosworth, Stone Cold finds Alabama cop Joe Huff (Bosworth) assigned to go undercover to bring down a gang of white supremacist bikers known as “The Brotherhood.” They’re led by Chains Cooper, and Henriksen gets to wear a chainmail shirt and posture nicely opposite his lieutenant Ice Hensley (William Forsythe). Whether he’s riding a chopper, disguising himself as a priest, or putting a bullet in the head of an unfaithful lover, Chains does it all with style. It’s also one of the rare movies where the bad guys manage to rack up a pretty respectable body count against the forces of law and order.
- Long John Silver from Pirates of Treasure Island (2006) – Okay, it’s an Asylum film, which means it’s automatically going to be cheesy. But watching Henriksen chew the scenery as the one-legged pirate Long John Silver is one of life’s rare pleasures. If only Cutthroat Island had included Lance Henriksen, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bomb.
- Jesse Hooker from Near Dark (1987) – When an Oklahoma cowboy (Adrian Pasdar) gets bitten by a sexy stranger (Jenny Wright), he comes to realize that he’s being transformed into a vampire. Things get even more complicated when he meets her undead “family,” including the psychopathic Severen (Bill Paxton) and leader Jesse Hooker (Henriksen). Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this combination of the horror, Western, and biker genres has generated a sizable cult following over the years, and Henriksen’s charismatic performance is part of the reason why. With a predator/prey outlook on life, he’s especially strong when sharing screen time with his companion, the vampiric Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein, who also co-starred with Lance in Aliens). To demonstrate his commitment to the character, Henriksen developed an entire backstory for his character, placing Hooker’s origin as that of a dying Civil War soldier descended upon by bat-like creatures and transformed into a vampire.
- Torquemada from The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) – During the period of the Spanish Inquisition, no figure was more feared than Inquisitor General Tomas de Torquemada. He killed thousands in a holy crusade to cleanse Spain of heretics and witches, so just imagine what kind of material Lance Henriksen has to sink his teeth into. And it doesn’t hurt that the overall story is cobbled together from the works of Edgar Allan Poe and directed by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame. I especially enjoyed Torquemada’s inner conflict after having his loins set on fire by the naked body of the lovely Maria (Rona De Ricci).
- Ace Hanlon from The Quick and the Dead (1995) – Once a year, John Herod (Gene Hackman) holds a quick-draw tournament that allows him to face his enemies in the street instead of getting shot in the back. As this Sam Raimi Western begins, “The Lady” (Sharon Stone) is riding into town with the intention of entering the tournament and killing Herod for one of his many past sins. But she’s not the only contestant. Henriksen plays Ace Hanlon, a trick shot artist with a “bladder full of hot air,“ who loves to boast about his exploits in the Old West. He claims to put an ace in his deck of playing cards every time he kills a man, and he’s a big hit with the ladies thanks to his long hair, leather attire, and smooth-talking ways. But Mr. Herod isn’t the least bit impressed, especially about Hanlon’s claim to have gunned down the Terrance brothers single-handedly. An entertaining and thoroughly seedy performance from Lance.
- Cole Wilson from Dead Man (1995) – Lance Henriksen adds to his resume of Western movies by co-starring in this black-and-white offering from director Jim Jarmusch. Johnny Depp stars as William Blake, a city slicker who walks into the rough-and-tumble town of Machine expecting a job as an accountant. But he winds up accused of a double murder instead, and the town’s most powerful man (Robert Mitchum) wants his head on a platter (one of the corpses was his son). To accomplish this, he calls in a trio of bounty hunters, one of them being Cole Wilson. A notorious bastard of few words, Wilson is rumored to have had sex with both his parents before killing and eating them. The incest angle is never explored, but his love for human flesh is witnessed in finger-lickin’ detail. And never curse at him…he really hates that.
- Ed Harley from Pumpkinhead (1988) – Lance Henriksen stars in this cult classic horror movie as a grief-stricken father who approaches a witch about getting revenge on the teens who accidentally killed his young son. The witch complies, summoning up a nightmarish creature known only as Pumpkinhead (guess what its cranium resembles) who promptly begins to slaughter the youths. But with every death, Ed Harley must witness the carnage through the eyes of the monster. Quickly coming to regret his decision, he must find a way to halt the body count and save the remaining teens. Henriksen gets to portray a range of emotions rarely found in horror movies, especially when he transitions from grieving to vengeful to heroic. He would later reprise the role in Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes and Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud.
The next time you want to see a fine character actor at work, do yourself a favor and check out some Lance Henriksen movies. With his haggard face and distinctive voice, he’s been entertaining audiences with his talents since debuting back in the early ‘70s. And even though he’s reached his twilight years, there’s no slowing down; in 2010 alone, he was listed as appearing in 11 different movie roles.
Ever since he came onto the scene in the ‘80s, Mickey Rourke has been one of my favorite entertainers. Back then, he was poised to be one of the great performers of his generation, combining soulful acting ability with movie star good looks. But personal problems, addictions, and a stab at a boxing career left his career in the gutter, one that he’s been climbing out of ever since.
These days, his voice is filled with gravel and his good looks are gone (thanks to a botched plastic surgery), but Mickey Rourke movies are just as entertaining as ever. In fact, they may be even more powerful than before, because Rourke has the age and experience to pull off characters who’ve been to hell and back.
While movies such as The Wrestler, Diner, and Angel Heart remain must-see Mickey Rourke movies, I also wanted to highlight a few roles that might otherwise be passed over by the casual viewer. Most of the films listed feature Rourke in a standout performance, while others are notable for their sheer weirdness. In either case, fans of Mickey Rourke movies should get a real kick out of them.
On an interesting side note, here are few roles that Mickey Rourke turned down over the years:
- Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) from 48 Hrs.
- Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) from Beverly Hills Cop
- Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) from Pulp Fiction
- Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) from Rain Man
- Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner) from The Untouchables
- Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) from Tombstone
While all of the above would’ve made for some interesting Mickey Rourke movies, it’s hard to imagine anyone but the listed actors playing the parts. Still, I imagine Rourke has been kicking himself for years for turning them down.
- John Sedley from Johnny Handsome (1989) – In sort of a reversal of real life, Rourke plays a career criminal who goes from strange-looking to handsome thanks to a doctor played by Forest Whitaker. Once he’s supposedly reformed and released from prison, John wastes no time in plotting his revenge against the man who put him inside in the first place. Lance Henriksen plays the heavy, while Morgan Freeman and Ellen Barkin co-star. Rourke gets to show off his intense side as a man looking for payback, but his scenes as a deformed crook are also filled with the expected levels of pathos.
- Captain Stanley White from Year of the Dragon (1985) – Despite having to play a character 15 years older than his actual age, Rourke delivers a riveting performance as a dedicated and casually racist cop obsessed with bringing down the Chinese underworld in New York City. His relationships with the women in his life are especially interesting, including a middle-aged wife (Caroline Kava) and a Chinese-American mistress (Ariane Koizumi). But there’s also plenty of action to be had, including a climactic shootout that’s especially thrilling.
- Armand “The Blackbird” Degas from Killshot (2009) – The film itself is nothing to write home about, but Rourke does deliver an interesting performance in this big-screen adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel about a married couple (Thomas Jane and Diane Lane) on the run from a pair of mob hitmen (Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Rourke excels as the part-Indian assassin saddled with a psychotic partner, and his scenes with Lane and Rosario Dawson (playing his sometime-girlfriend) are especially strong. Too bad the film is such a mess, but that’s what three years of post-production will get you.
- Jan the Actress from Animal Factory (2000) – Directed by Steve Buscemi and based on the novel by Edward Bunker (Mr. Blue from Reservoir Dogs), Animal Factory revolves around a young man (Edward Furlong) who’s sent to San Quentin and winds up being mentored by a fellow inmate (Willem Dafoe). While his role is only a supporting one, Rourke turns heads as a well-muscled drag queen who loves the arts. Without a doubt, one of the more unusual and well-received roles for the actor.
- The Cook from Spun (2002) – When he’s not arguing with his girlfriend (Brittany Murphy), going down to the porn shop to “buy some fuck flicks,” or hanging out with a bizarre-looking Eric Roberts, The Cook is making another batch of his famous meth. Rourke talks with a slight speech impediment, wears cowboy boots with his jeans tucked inside, and rants about the value of pornography. But the role isn’t strictly comedic, as a soul-baring scene with star Jason Schwartzman will leave more sensitive viewers fighting back tears.
- Henry Chinaski from Barfly (1987) – Years before his life fell apart for real, Rourke starred in this gin-soaked tale from writer Charles Bukowski. As a skid-row poet and author, Henry Chinaski spends most of his time drinking his life away or banging barflies such as Wanda Wilcox (Faye Dunaway) or Tully Sorenson (Alice Krige). There’s a catfight between the ladies, not to mention several showdowns between Henry and his local bartender (Frank Stallone). Rourke does an admirable job of playing a man who’s lost himself in booze and self-pity, and he navigates the tricky emotional waters with rare ability. It’s one long bender from start to finish, so recovering alcoholics should avoid the film entirely.
- Stavros from Double Team (1997) – Rourke plays the bad guy, an international terrorist who vows revenge after Jean-Claude Van Damme’s secret agent accidentally kills his kid. Rourke is muscled up beyond belief, and his interaction with co-star Dennis Rodman is worth the price of admission alone. And let’s not forget the climactic fight sequence that includes Rourke, Van Damme, Rodman; a tiger; a minefield; and a baby.
- Marv from Sin City (2005) – Rourke is perfectly cast in this Robert Rodriguez adaptation of Frank Miller’s hard-boiled graphic novel. Playing a massive ex-con named Marv, Rourke shrugs off bullets and fists in his quest to punish whoever killed Goldie (Jaime King), a prostitute he shared a one-night stand with. As he tears the city apart (not to mention cops, gangsters, and religious leaders), Marv demonstrates that even the most hardened man isn’t immune to a little compassion. And you’ll absolutely love his interaction with his lesbian parole officer (Carla Gugino) and a creepy-quiet serial killer (Elijah Wood) with a thing for eating women. Mickey Rourke at his grizzled best.
- The Motorcycle Boy from Rumble Fish (1983) – Rourke gets to brood a lot in this Francis Ford Coppola film based on the novel by S.E. Hinton. As a legendary former gang leader, Motorcycle Boy tries to steer his younger brother (Matt Dillon) down a more peaceful path, all while contending with his reputation as a badass and a contentious relationship with his alcoholic father (Dennis Hopper). Besides, any self-respecting fan of Mickey Rourke movies will be drawn to a role where he’s partially deaf, colorblind, and somewhat off-kilter.
- Graff from The Last Outlaw (1994) – During the filming of this TV movie, Rourke displayed strange behavior to rival that of Marlon Brando. Playing a former Confederate officer who becomes an outlaw after the conclusion of the war, Rourke wears a Fu-Manchu moustache and reportedly turned to kabuki theatre for inspiration. As the manipulative Graff, he winds up switching sides and hunting down his own men. But despite his odd behavior, the TV project has gained a passionate following among Western movie fans. Co-starring Dermot Mulroney, Ted Levine, Steve Buscemi, John C. McGinley, and Keith David.
That concludes my list of Mickey Rourke movies you might not be aware of. From the well-acted to the downright bizarre, each and every one of the roles above showcase Rourke’s abilities in a different way. If you’ve only recently discovered this talented performer, dive right in and have yourself a ball.
Peter Jackson movies are a mixed bag. On one hand, there are his post-2000 films, including Oscar winners and touching literary adaptations. And then there are his early works: movies filled with dark humor, over-the-top gore, and puppets making snuff films. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that the same man directed all these motion pictures, but Jackson’s diversity is one of his major strengths as a filmmaker.
In the following list, I’ve detailed all of the Peter Jackson movies currently available. Each is unique in its own way, and lovers of Odd Films will immediately recognize a kindred spirit stationed behind the camera.
- Bad Taste (1987) – Shot on weekends over a four year period, this early Peter Jackson feature is a cinematic barf bag about space aliens who take over a fictional town in New Zealand and prepare to cook up the locals for intergalactic fast food. This doesn’t sit well with the Astro Investigation and Defense Service (AIDS), so the paramilitary strike team takes the fight to the aliens with chainsaws, rocket launchers, and…uh…more chainsaws. Featuring absolutely no female cast members, Bad Taste is packed with wall-to-wall gore and juvenile humor–which is exactly what I’m looking for in a film.
- Meet the Feebles (1989) – The strangest of all Peter Jackson movies, Meet the Feebles uses grotesque puppets to depict acts of murder, rape, and drug use…and it’s a comedy! You’ll never look at the works of Jim Henson the same after viewing this delightfully deranged piece of filmmaking.
- Braindead (1992) – Considered one of the goriest films ever made, Braindead (released as Dead Alive in the United States) details what happens when a Sumatran Rat-Monkey nibbles on a ball-busting mother in 1957 Wellington, New Zealand. As she slowly turns into a flesh-eating zombie, her son Lionel (Timothy Balme) dutifully tries to hide her condition, as well the corpses produced by her rampage. But nothing stays hidden forever, and the climax of the film finds Lionel and friends taking on hundreds of zombies, animated intestines, and his now giant-sized mother. The graphic mixture of comedy and gore resulted in the creation of the “splatstick” horror sub-genre, one known for combining physical comedy with plenty of severed heads, strewn intestines, and writhing spinal cords.
- Heavenly Creatures (1994) – Based on a real New Zealand crime from 1954, Heavenly Creatures tells the story of Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet in her film debut), a pair of girls whose friendship seems to border on the homosexual. When their parents intend to separate them for good (since being gay was considered a mental illness at the time), the girls lash out in a desperate attempt to remain together. A major departure from his previous works, the film would bring Jackson to the attention of Hollywood and also launch the impressive career of Winslet.
- Forgotten Silver (1995) – Jackson and Costa Botes shared directorial duties for this mockumentary about Colin McKenzie, a fictional New Zealand filmmaker who supposedly discovered such cinematic innovations as the tracking shot, the close-up, color film, and sound. A number of recognizable faces are included to speak about McKenzie’s supposed brilliance, including Peter Jackson, Sam Neill, Harvey Weinstein, and film critic Leonard Maltin. Originally airing on New Zealand television, unsuspecting audience members were led to believe that it was a legitimate documentary.
- The Frighteners (1996) – Michael J. Fox stars in his last leading role, this time portraying architect Frank Bannister, a widower with the ability to see and communicate with the dead. But instead of using his powers to help people, the cynical Frank fleeces locals by plying his trade as a ghost exorcist (with the help of three spirits, including John Astin and Chi McBride). Then serial killer Johnny Charles Bartlett (Jake Busey) returns from Hell to increase his death toll, and Frank is forced to become involved in the case. There are some great visuals throughout–especially the ghastly Reaper–and the mixture of comedy and drama allows Fox to show off his range as an actor. Co-starring Trini Alvarado, Jeffrey Combs, and Dee Wallace-Stone.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – The first film in the blockbuster series that adapted the beloved works of J.R.R. Tolkien to the big screen. As the Dark Lord Sauron begins to stir and seek dominion over Middle Earth, a young hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods) volunteers to carry a magical ring to Mount Doom and cast it into the volcano within. Accompanied by a gruff dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), a future king (Viggo Mortensen), an elf with uncanny aim (Orlando Bloom), a wise wizard (Ian McKellen), and several others, Frodo must brave all manner of ancient and exotic evils in order to reach his destination. A masterpiece of fantasy filmmaking, The Fellowship of the Ring is jam-packed with breathtaking visuals, extraordinary fight scenes, and well-rounded characters.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – The adventures continues in this second film of the trilogy. Frodo and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey to Mount Doom, and they encounter the twisted Gollum (Andy Serkis) along the way. Gollum, by the way, happens to be the former owner of the One Ring, and he’ll do anything to have it in his possession again. Meanwhile, Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) team up with some massive tree creatures to take on corrupt wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), and the trio of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas find their way to Rohan and later engage in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – The impressive conclusion of the trilogy finds Frodo coming closer to his goal, but the strain of being the ring bearer is beginning to weigh him down. Meanwhile, Gollum continues to plot how to steal back his “precious,” and the minions of Sauron seem to be around every corner. Aragorn, Gandalf, and the other heroes join forces for a massive battle at the city of Minas Tirith, and the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance. Grossing nearly $1 billion at the international box office, this satisfying conclusion to the series became the first fantasy film to win a Best Picture Oscar, and it also captured all 11 awards it was nominated for (including a Best Director trophy for Peter Jackson).
- King Kong (2005) – Following the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson was given the opportunity to pick any project he wanted. Since his dream had always been to remake the classic giant ape classic, he dove right in. Armed with impressive CGI effects and a cast that included Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, and Jack Black, Jackson turned out a 188-minute labor of love. The final third of the film is the best, especially when Kong reaches New York City and all hell breaks loose. Not as good as the original, but a damn sight better than the one starring Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges.
- The Lovely Bones (2009) – An adaptation of the best-selling Alice Sebold novel, The Lovely Bones revolves around the horrific murder of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) by her neighbor (Stanley Tucci in an Oscar-nominated role). Now trapped in an afterlife and unable to let go of the past, Susie must learn forgiveness while watching the effect her disappearance has on those she loves. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Michael Imperioli. Critical reviews were mixed, but it remains a recommended viewing for die-hard fans of Jackson or Sebold.
As you may have noticed, Peter Jackson movies range from mainstream hits to bold and bizarre pieces of filth. They’re all worth seeing, however, especially the earlier works that mark him as a total horror geek. To see every film on his career resume, try joining an online rental service such as GreenCine or Netflix.
Campy movies are traditionally defined as motion pictures that are so bad they’re good. That’s not always the case, though, as some films are deliberate examples of camp thanks to daring costumes, bold subject matter, or just damned amusing dialogue. John Waters is a perfect example of a director who intentionally sprinkles his movies with plenty of camp.
The following list is dedicated to 10 great examples of campy movies, from cultural icons like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to little-known gems such as Frankenstein Island. But any way you slice it, camp films will both delight and amuse, leaving you with a greater understanding of why the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000 started their whole shtick in the first place.
- Mommie Dearest (1981) – Based on the shocking autobiography by Christina Crawford, this camp classic tells the bizarre story of her upbringing at the hands of egomaniacal movie star Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway). The ultimate control freak, Crawford rages about wire coat hangers, locks her daughter in a closet, and even endures seven miscarriages in an effort to have a child. Dunaway chews the scenery with reckless abandon in a performance she would later come to despise. Fans of campy movies, however, would grow to love it.
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) – Not all films are unintentionally campy. Take, for example, this Aussie flick about two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transsexual (Terence Stamp) who head across the Australian Outback in a tour bus dubbed “Priscilla” to perform for the residents of a remote town. Filled with outrageous costumes and songs popular in the LGBT community, Priscilla is an endearing piece of camp about love and tolerance. Its massive popularity has also inspired a Broadway musical and a Sydney stage show. Heck, Australia even paid tribute to the film during the Olympic ceremonies.
- Frankenstein Island (1981) – John Carradine stars in this delightful mess about the passengers on a hot air balloon who crash land on an out-of-the-way island. There, they find Dr. Frankenstein (Carradine) carrying on his family’s work, surrounded by hot Amazon women in bikinis, mutants, and zombies in funny-looking caps. Side-splitting camp from director Jerry Warren.
- Polyester (1981) – Just about every John Waters film could be considered a piece of camp, but I decided to limit his inclusion to just one entry. This one stars Divine as an unhappy housewife, and she has every right to feel that way. Her son gets off on stomping women’s feet, her daughter is a slut, her mother is addicted to cocaine, and her husband runs a porno theatre. Meant as a spoof of ‘50s and ‘60s films about dissatisfied suburban wives who find comfort in the arms of younger men, Polyester also introduced Smell-O-Vision to theatrical audiences (mimicking the aroma of everything from glue to feces).
- Valley of the Dolls (1967) – Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Sharon Tate star in this melodramatic film about the dangers of dating the wrong man and getting hooked on downers (the “dolls” of the title). These women are really put through the wringer: breast cancer, stays in a sanitarium, alcoholism, acting in soft-core porn films, and even suicide. If you thought the characters in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream had it rough, wait until you see this film.
- Road House (1989) – One of the greatest redneck movies ever made, Road House stars the late, great Patrick Swayze as Dalton, a “cooler” who’s legendary among club owners and bar patrons. A “cooler,” by the way, is basically the head bouncer, although Dalton would probably disagree. When he accepts a job to help clean up a Missouri nightclub, he gets himself mired down in a power struggle between the town’s cowed citizens and the local rich douchebag, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara). Wrestler Terry Funk gets in a few great lines, Kelly Lynch shows off her tight ass and ‘80s hair, and Sam Elliott threatens to upstage everyone with his performance as Dalton’s crusty mentor, Wade Garrett. And let’s not forget about monster trucks, endless roundhouse kicks, and falling polar bears.
- Duck and Cover (1951) – Shortly after the Russians started testing nuclear testing, the U.S. government commissioned this hilarious civil defense film meant to teach American schoolchildren the best methods for surviving a sneak attack by those dirty communists. Apparently, these tips consist of the mantra “duck and cover,” as well as holding a newspaper over your head or just falling to the ground like a spastic. While it seems silly today, people back in the early ‘50s were scared shitless. To further heighten the unintentional comedy, an animated turtle named Bert walks us through the tips (including the ever-present threat of a monkey dangling dynamite from a string).
- Blood for Dracula (1974) – Andy Warhol was responsible for a lot of cinematic garbage during his day, but his films about Dracula and Frankenstein raised the bar for campy movies to a whole new level. Udo Kier stars as Count Dracula, a starving vampire who must feed on the blood of virgins to survive. Traveling from Transylvania to Italy to find suitable victims, he winds up at the home of a down-on-their-luck noble family and convinces the head of the household that he intends to marry one of his daughters. Dracula is certain that one of them must be a virgin, but not if the Marxist handyman (Joe Dallesandro) can help it. A bizarre tale of class warfare anchored by outrageous performances, bad dialogue, and Kier’s perpetual bug-eyed stare. See this one immediately (keeping an eye out for the cameo by Roman Polanski), then go out and get Flesh for Frankenstein.
- Batman & Robin (1997) – Anyone expecting this entry in the Batman franchise to be an action-packed classic will walk away disappointed (it was nominated for 11 Razzie Awards). Viewed as a piece of campy cinema, however, it more than holds its own. George Clooney wears body armor with nipples, Uma Thurman adopts an accent from another planet, and Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers more bad puns than all of his other films put together. And let’s not forget about the neon lighting courtesy of director Joel Schumacher, which makes the whole production look like it was shot inside a Bangkok whorehouse.
- Showgirls (1995) – The only NC-17 film to ever be given a wide release, Showgirls features wall-to-wall nudity as a small-town gal (Elizabeth Berkley) heads to Vegas to become a star. Director Paul Verhoeven revels in the sex and moral corruption with the same glee that he filmed Sharon Stone’s cooch in Basic Instinct, but the outlandish script from the ultra-macho Joe Eszterhas renders the entire affair an over-the-top exercise in excess. Nominated for 13 Razzie Awards, Showgirls is also notable for including one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines in film history (“It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you.”).
So the next time you’re in the mood to laugh at someone else’s ineptitude (or skills as a satirist), be sure to check out these campy movies. You’ll bust a gut when Patrick Swayze mutters “Pain don’t hurt,” and you’ll fall in love with the cute anthropomorphic turtle who’s bound and determined to save you from a nuclear holocaust.
I’ve always been a fan of Willem Dafoe movies, largely because there’s no role or circumstance that the talented actor won’t throw himself into for the sake of his craft. He’s gained recognition and critical acclaim for performances in Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Burning, Platoon, and To Live and Die in L.A., although none of these will be found on the following list. Instead, I want to focus on some of the more bizarre or offbeat Willem Dafoe roles, specially those where he gets to chew the scenery, stir up controversy, or act downright demented. After all, the title of this site is Odd Films.
- He from Antichrist (2009) – While Danish director Lars von Trier’s wife wasn’t sure a noted actor like Dafoe would accept a role where he’s getting naked and suffering through genital torture, the veteran performer jumped at the chance to explore the darker side of the human psyche. As a therapist who’s recently lost his young son, He and his wife head to a remote cabin for some psychotherapy. Once there, the proposed treatment goes off the rails thanks to talking foxes, rough sex, and a wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s mad with guilt. While several people fainted during the film’s debut at Cannes, it’s just one in a long string of bizarre Willem Dafoe movies.
- Special Agent Paul Smecker from The Boondock Saints (1999) – When a pair of Irish-American brothers in Boston (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) receive a message from God, they decide to rid the city of its criminal element. This requires guns, a little inside help, and lots and lots of rope. As the body count rises, they’re tracked by FBI Special Agent Paul Smecker, a homosexual genius who can determine the events at a crime scene by simply standing around and listening to music. He also likes to refer to his sexual partners as “fags,” and there’s no telling when he’ll engage in a little Riverdancing. Dafoe gets to chew the scenery in this Troy Duffy production, but it blends perfectly with the film’s over-the-top comic book tone.
- Max Schreck from Shadow of the Vampire (2000) – One of the most well-acted Willem Dafoe movies, Shadow of the Vampire stars our subject as Max Schreck, a supposed actor who agrees to play a vampire named Count Orlok in director F.W. Murnau’s (John Malkovich) latest film. But Schreck seems oddly dedicated to his part, and slowly members of the cast and crew begin to either fall ill or disappear. Dafoe is at his best in this E. Elias Merhige movie, never playing his role for laughs and imbuing Schreck with a darkly sad demeanor that hides a horrific secret. Udo Kier and Cary Elwes co-star, which is notable considering that both appeared in vampire movies prior to this production.
- Klaus Daimler from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – Wes Anderson’s fourth film follows oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) as he heads out onto the high seas to get a little payback on the “Jaguar shark” that ate his partner. Dafoe co-stars as Klaus Daimler, the toboggan-wearing crewman who looks upon Zissou as a surrogate father. Frankly, Klaus is one of the more normal characters in the film, but Wes Anderson still manages to turn out a thoroughly quirky piece of art.
- Bobby Peru from Wild at Heart (1990) – After being released from prison, Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) takes off with true love Lula Pace Fortune (Lara Dern), much to the displeasure of Lula’s controlling and murderous mom, Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd). Marietta convinces her male admirers–a gangster (J.E. Freeman) and a private eye (Harry Dean Stanton)–to find the couple, leading to a bizarre series of encounters worthy of a David Lynch movie. In the town of Big Tuna, Texas, the pair run into Bobby Peru, a dentally challenged scumbag who plans to rob the local feed store. When he’s not referring to Sailor as “Mr. Big-Round-Balls” or attempting to rape Lula, Bobby demonstrates the worst way possible to wield a shotgun or conduct a stick-up. One of the more bizarre Willem Dafoe roles.
- Armando Barillo from Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) – The third film in director Robert Rodriguez’s “Mariachi Trilogy,” Once Upon a Time in Mexico stars Antonio Banderas as a wandering musician looking for revenge somewhere south of Texas. Johnny Depp is a riot as a murderous CIA agent, and other co-stars include Salma Hayek, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, and Cheech Marin. Dafoe plays Armando Barillo, a sadistic drug lord out to kill the President of Mexico and seize control of the country. While it’s a small role, Dafoe gets to show off the sadistic side that he excels at.
- Emit Flesti from Faraway, So Close! (1993) – The sequel to the popular German film Wings of Desire, this movie follows a pair of angels (Otto Sander and Nastassja Kinski) as they observe and interact with mankind. Bruno Ganz reprises his role from the first film (which inspired the Nicolas Cage remake, City of Angels), and Peter Falk, Lou Reed, and Mikhail Gorbachev all turn up to play themselves. For his part, Dafoe plays a mysterious figure named Emit Flesti who loans angels money to open pizza parlors, tempts them into drinking alcohol, and eventually reveals himself to be far more than an ordinary mortal.
- Jesus Christ from The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) – Willem Dafoe plays Jesus Christ in this controversial film from director Martin Scorsese. While he still takes care of his worldly business in a manner befitting the son of God, Jesus is constantly tempted by visions of a happy life in the arms of former prostitute Magdalene (Barbara Hershey). This didn’t sit well with the more small-minded Christian viewers, and bans and protests occurred around the globe. Violence even erupted in some cases, showing that these people missed the whole point of Jesus’s teachings in the first place.
- Norman Osborn from Spider-Man (2002) – When mild-mannered Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) gets bitten by a radioactive spider, he soon finds himself possessing all kinds of cool superpowers. Between romancing the tramp next door (Kirsten Dunst) and fighting “Macho Man” Randy Savage, things are starting to look up for the former geek. But then lovable old Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) gets gunned down, and the father of best pal Harry Osborn (James Franco) becomes a raving supervillain after a lab experiment goes awry. As the Green Goblin, Dafoe gets plenty of opportunities to scowl, and the scenes where he talks to himself in the mirror are among the best.
- Salamo Arouch from Triumph of the Spirit (1989) – Most actors worth their salt will eventually pop up in a movie about the Holocaust, and Willem Dafoe is no exception. He starred in this somewhat true story of Salamo Arouch, a Greek Jew confined to the Auschwitz death camp and forced to box against other prisoners for the entertainment of his Nazi captors. Losing meant the gas chamber, while winners would be given extra food and lighter work. With only one clear way to save the lives of relatives and the woman he loves (all fellow prisoners), Salamo resolves to beat everyone placed in front of him. The first motion picture to be shot on location at Auschwitz.
If you’re a fan of brave performances, be sure to see the above Willem Dafoe movies. For that matter, you can’t wrong with his complete career catalogue, so go ahead and visit an online rental service such as GreenCine or Netflix to watch them all.
Starting in the 1950s, television stations around the nation began airing midnight movies as cheap programming alternatives. These were usually low-budget affairs, and the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 would’ve been thrilled with all the sci-fi and horror flicks being broadcast in these late-night slots.
KABC in Los Angeles was a trendsetter in this area, especially with their decision to hire Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) as a host. Years later, her popularity as a midnight movie hostess would be eclipsed by the buxom Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson). This would lead to other midnight movie programs such as Up All Night, Off Beat Cinema, TCM Underground, and Macabre Theatre (the latter hosted by Butch Patrick of The Munsters).
Two decades after midnight movies began appearing on television, the concept started gaining steam at theaters. New York City was a natural center for this cinematic development, as many theatre owners sought to establish a hardcore cult audience for their late-night showings. Fans would come back week after week to see the same film with their friends, often dressing up as their favorite characters and mimicking the action on the screen.
While the trend has trailed off a bit in recent years (especially on television), midnight movies are still alive and well. On any given night, listen closely enough and you may be able to hear the strains of “Time Warp” drifting out from a city near you.
- El Topo (1970) – Credited with starting the whole midnight movies phenomenon, El Topo is a Spanish “acid Western” about a gunfighter who seeks enlightenment while having sex with dwarves, taking on four gun masters, and forgetting to make his young son wear clothes. A thoroughly bizarre tale of redemption courtesy of director Alejandro Jodorowsky (who also stars in the title role).
- The Harder They Come (1972) – Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff stars as Ivanhoe Martin, an aspiring singer looking for a hit record in Kingston, Jamaica. But when the music business turns out to be too cutthroat for his liking, Ivanhoe resorts to a life of dealing marijuana to make his fortune. The top-notch soundtrack features Cliff and Desmond Dekker.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – The king of the midnight movies, this ‘70s musical from writer Richard O’Brien stars Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick as a pair of young lovers who stumble across a castle after a flat tire leaves them stranded in a November downpour. Inside, they meet a bizarre cast of characters who all claim to be “Transylvanians.” But none are more bizarre than their leader, a cross-dressing mad scientist by the name of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). Boasting the longest theatrical release in the history of cinema, screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show are routinely filled with audience members in costume who know the words to every song (and aren’t afraid to sing them out loud). If you’re looking for an authentic midnight movie experience, track down a screening of this classic.
- The Evil Dead (1981) – Sam Raimi started his filmmaking career with this tale of big-chinned Bruce Campbell heading up to a cabin in the woods and knocking heads with a host of supernatural horrors. Packed with slapstick and dark comedy, it would be followed six years later by the superior Evil Dead II.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) – The film that kicked off the whole craze for zombie movies, this George A. Romero horror classic is packed with shambling undead, terrified survivors, and more social commentary than you can shake a stick at.
- Harold and Maude (1971) – Oscar winner Ruth Gordon stars as Maude, an elderly woman determined to live life to its fullest. Harold (Bud Cort) is the young man with an obsession for death and a growing love for Maude. A dark rom-com that proves love is truly blind.
- Liquid Sky (1983) – Filled with lethal sex, aliens, rape, and drug-obsessed fashionistas, this New Wave tale from director Slava Tsukerman played for three consecutive years in New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. Any group of viewers will probably be divided right down the middle, but it’s still a must-see for fans of the unusual and avant garde.
- Pink Flamingos (1972) – One of the most notorious films from shockmeister John Waters, Pink Flamingos stars drag queen Divine as “the filthiest person alive.” When rivals dispute her claim to the title, she pulls out every stop to exact her revenge. Filled with chicken-crushing sex, poop eating, and anal lip syncing, Pink Flamingos remains one of the raunchiest and most entertaining films to ever grace a midnight movie showing.
- The Warriors (1979) – Walter Hill directed this action-packed tale of the Warriors, an assembly of Brooklyn toughs who attend a meeting of New York area gangs and wind up framed for the murder of the city’s underworld leader. With a bounty on their heads and the other gangs in pursuit, the Warriors must fight tooth-and-nail to make it back to the safety of Coney Island. Starring Michael Beck, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. “Warriors, come out and play!”
- The Room (2003) – Known as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies,” this Tommy Wiseau film (he wrote, produced, directed, and stars) features a love triangle, bizarre performances, and one of the most messed-up scripts you’ll ever encounter. Check out a few clips on YouTube, and you’ll be hooked by Wiseau’s not-of-this-Earth acting. He slyly claims it’s meant to be a comedy, but members of his cast have disputed this claim. Whatever the case, you won’t be able to stop laughing.
Whether you’re looking for midnight movies with lasting appeal or historical significance, the 10 films listed above should meet your needs. While there’s no substitute for catching them at the local multiplex, rest assured that you can also view them courtesy of online rental services such as Netflix, Blockbuster, and GreenCine.
Roger Corman movies are the perfect remedy for those suffering from a deficiency of low-budget and exploitation films. Known as the “King of the B-Movies,” this prolific producer and director has been credited with an insane number of motion pictures (over 100), and he recently received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his efforts.
Corman has also been responsible for giving a number of well-known Hollywood filmmakers and actors their first break in the business. This impressive list includes Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, Paul Bartel, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, David Carradine, and Robert De Niro.
The following list contains my 10 favorite Roger Corman movies, If you disagree, feel free to voice your own opinion in our comments section.
- Not of This Earth (1957) – Running only 67-minutes in length, this sci-fi film from director/producer Roger Corman is about an agent from the planet of Davanna who comes to Earth to help his plague-ravaged world. But he’s not here to appeal to the U.N. for assistance. Instead, he’s stealing blood from the population, using his vampiric octopus assistant and death beams from his eyes. If you were a moviegoer back in the late ‘50s, you would’ve first caught this one on a double bill with Attack of the Crab Monsters.
- House of Usher (1960) – Screenwriter Richard Matheson used Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” as inspiration for his tale of murder and madness amongst a New England clan. Mark Damon stars as a young man who travels to the desolate Usher estate to take away his fiancée, Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). But the sickly-looking Roderick Usher (Vincent Price) opposes the union, citing his family’s cursed bloodline. This leads to a horrific showdown to determine Madeline’s future. One of the more critically praised Roger Corman movies.
- The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) – Corman directed and produced this cult hit that later inspired an off-Broadway musical, 1986 big screen remake, an animated television series, and a Broadway production. Seymour Krelboin (Jonathan Haze) is a clumsy floral assistant who comes across an intelligent plant that craves human blood. Before long–and thanks to a series of lethal accidents–Seymour is feeding his plant some of the local residents. Mixing dark comedy with plenty of Jewish humor, the film co-stars Dick Miller and a young Jack Nicholson.
- The Raven (1963) – Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff star as a trio of sorcerers who flirt with madness and melancholy while engaging in magical duels. Corman produced and directed, Richard Matheson penned the screenplay, and a young Jack Nicholson appears as Lorre’s on-screen son.
- The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) – Corman helmed this gangster movie about the famous 1929 Chicago massacre instigated by Al Capone (Jason Robards) against rival Bugs Moran (Ralph Meeker). Combining actual fact with out-and-out fiction, this graphic historical retelling co-stars George Segal, John Agar, Bruce Dern, and Jack Nicholson (in an uncredited role).
- Boxcar Bertha (1972) – Everyone has to start somewhere, and the same goes for directorial legend Martin Scorsese. For his second feature, he teamed with producer Corman to make a tale of class struggle and racism in the 1930s. Barbara Hershey and David Carradine are Bertha Thompson and “Big” Bill Shelly, lovers and train robbers on the run through the American South. Fans of Martin Scorsese movies should consider this a must-see in order to watch the visionary director’s style develop. Co-starring Bernie Casey and John Carradine.
- Death Race 2000 (1975) – My personal favorite of all Roger Corman movies, Death Race 2000 is set in a fascist future where the savage populace is entertained by a cross-country road race which allows drivers score extra points for running down pedestrians. Directed by Paul Bartel, the film stars David Carradine as the legendary racer known only as Frankenstein, while primary nemesis “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo is portrayed by a young Sylvester Stallone. Also starring Simone Griffeth, Mary Woronov, and Martin Kove. Filled with dark humor, social commentary, and lots of hit-and-run action, it’s one of the best cult films available.
- Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) – Set in 1980, this Corman-produced film takes place at a high school where the students absolutely love rock ‘n’ roll (especially The Ramones). When the evil principal (Mary Woronov) takes Ramones tickets away from school leader Riff Randall (P.J. Soles), it leads to an all-out riot with an explosive conclusion. The Ramones star as themselves, while Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, Paul Bartel, and Dick Miller co-star. The movie soundtrack is a predictable standout, featuring songs from Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, Devo, The Velvet Underground, and Fleetwood Mac.
- Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) – Produced by Corman and directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, this sci-fi classic is a thinly-veiled copy of The Magnificent Seven (which itself was a thinly-veiled copy of The Seven Samurai). When a space tyrant known as Sador (John Saxon) threatens the peaceful farmers of Akir, they decide to hire mercenaries to protect them. They send the young Shad (Richard Thomas) to do the hiring, and he comes back with everyone from a Valkyrie warrior (Sybil Danning) to a freewheeling rogue known as Space Cowboy (George Peppard). Also starring Robert Vaughn, Darlanne Fluegel, and Sam Jaffe. As a child, I remember being a big fan of Space Cowboy (and later I became a big fan of Sybil Danning, if you know what I mean). Corman got to work with his biggest budget ever, and the production marked the big break for a young James Cameron.
- Death Race (2008) – Roger Corman gets a producer credit for this remake of his 1975 road rage classic. Jason Statham stars as Jensen Ames, a former racecar driver who gets framed for the murder of his wife, sentenced to Terminal Island Penitentiary, and then coerced into participating in the popular-yet-lethal racing event known as “Death Race.” Joan Allen is the corrupt warden, Ian McShane is Ames’ crew chief, and Tyrese Gibson is a rival driver known as Machine Gun Joe. While not as good as the original, it does feature plenty of death and mayhem once the characters stop talking and hit the track. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
Jim Jarmusch movies have a number of recurring elements: prominent roles for musicians, deadpan comedy, frequent use of characters and actors from countries outside the United States, and a style of storytelling that could best be described as introspective. Credited with almost single-handedly launching the new independent movement in American cinema, the white-haired director was once quoted as saying that he’d rather make a film about a guy walking his dog than about the emperor of China.
In addition to the 10 Jim Jarmusch movies featured here, he’s also tried his hand at music videos, documentary filmmaking, shorts, and even a little bit of acting. And let’s not forget about his screenwriting, as Jarmusch has brought his minimalist style to all of his feature projects (not to mention editing, composing, and producing several of them).
If you’re a fan of independent cinema, prepare to be blown away…
- Permanent Vacation (1980) – When Jim Jarmusch grabbed himself a 16mm camera and went to work, the result was a thoroughly original and brooding look at a young man wandering the New York landscape and thinking about the meaning of life. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters who are decidedly unique. While his vision of cinema is not yet fully formed, it’s a perfect opportunity to see a man grow as an artist. If you’ve never experienced any Jim Jarmusch movies, start here and view them in order.
- Stranger Than Paradise (1984) – A major influence on the independent film movement, this minimalist black-and-white sophomore effort from Jarmusch redefined how many looked at the indy scene. Willie (jazz musician John Lurie) is a gambler and all-around cool guy bored out of his mind in New York City. When he’s not cheating at cards or betting on the ponies with his pal Eddie (ex Sonic Youth drummer Richard Edson), he’s putting up Eva (Eszter Balint), his cousin from Budapest who’s in town for 10 days. This leads to a less-than-exciting trek to Cleveland, a mix-up involving a flight to Europe, and plenty of opportunities to reflect on life and their grimy surroundings. Any true fan of independent movies has to put this one on their must-see list.
- Down by Law (1986) – Three men are arrested in New Orleans and thrown in the same cell. Jack (John Lurie) is a pimp, Zach (Tom Waits) is a disc jockey, and Bob (Roberto Benigni) is an Italian tourist. Tempers flare between Jack and Zach, but Bob comes up with a plan for escape. This leads to the trio wandering around lost in the Louisiana swamps, at least until they come upon an isolated home owned by Nicolette (Nicoletta Braschi). Both Lurie and Waits contribute music to the soundtrack, and Ellen Barkin also shows up in a supporting role. If you’re expecting something akin to Escape from Alcatraz or TV’s Prison Break, then check your expectations at the door.
- Mystery Train (1989) – Jarmusch wrote and directed this anthology film set in Memphis, Tennessee and featuring an international cast. The first story, “Far From Yokohama,“ focuses on a teenage couple from Japan who are making a pilgrimage to Memphis. “A Ghost” involves a grieving widow (Nicoletta Braschi) trying to return her husband’s body to Italy. Forced to share a room for the night with a blabber mouthed young woman, the widow receives a special spiritual visitor. The final story, “Lost in Space,” stars Joe Strummer as an unemployed Brit who meanders about a flophouse with his pals (Steve Buscemi and Rick Aviles) after a drunken bout of armed robbery. Shot with bright colors and a slow pace, Mystery Train will take American audiences to an part of the country that they may not recognize as their own.
- Night on Earth (1991) – Since his last film featured three stories, Jarmusch upped the ante to five with this anthology set in taxis around the globe (L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki). The international cast includes Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Giancarlo Esposito, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Rosie Perez, Roberto Benigni, Matti Pellonpaa, and Isaach De Bankole.
- Dead Man (1995) – Jarmusch has referred to the film as an “Acid Western,” but it could just as easily be called a “Weird Western” due to its postmodern take and spiritual elements. Johnny Depp stars as a Cleveland accountant named William Blake who wanders into the frontier town of Machine to start his new job. But the position has already been filled, and soon Blake is being hunted for the shooting death of Charlie (Gabriel Byrne), the no-account son of local industrialist John Dickinson (Robert Mitchum). With a bullet in his chest and accompanied by an Indian named Nobody (who thinks he’s a reincarnation of the poet William Blake), Blake goes on a killing spree. Meanwhile, a cannibalistic bounty hunter (Lance Henriksen) in on our hero’s trail. This bizarre, black-and-white vision quest co-stars Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Michael Wincott, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, and Alfred Molina.
- Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) – Jarmusch tries his hand at an action film, casting Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, a modern-day samurai who acts as a hitman for the Italian Mafia. When his superiors decide he’s become a liability, a tense showdown is all but guaranteed. Meanwhile, Ghost Dog hangs out with his Haitian pal Raymond (Isaach De Bankole) and befriends a young girl named Pearline (Camille Winbush). Drawing themes from Don Quixote, the film co-stars Henry Silva, John Tormey, Tricia Vessey, and RZA (who also provided the soundtrack).
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) – Eleven short stories are brought to the big screen, with only coffee and cigarettes as the linking elements. From a conversation about Tesla Coils to Bill Murray working a day job as a waiter, you’ll be fascinated by the actors and the conversations. Starring Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, Jack White, Meg White, GZA, and RZA.
- Broken Flowers (2005) – When he receives an anonymous letter informing him that he has a son, a notorious womanizer (Bill Murray) hits the road to track down four of his former lovers. Each visit is more disastrous than the last, but it gives Jarmusch plenty of opportunities to include performers such as Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, and Julie Delpy. Murray, as you might expect, is predictably wonderful.
- The Limits of Control (2009) – Filled with an eclectic soundtrack, repeated references to other films, and beautiful locations in Spain and Seville, The Limits of Control follow an assassin as he seeks to complete his latest mission. Starring Isaach De Bankole, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, and John Hurt, the film received some of the least positive reviews of all Jarmusch projects, despite the beautiful cinematography by Christopher Doyle and an ambitious vision of reality.
This concludes our look at all the Jim Jarmusch movies currently available. While 10 feature films in 30 years isn’t a massive amount, he’s more than made up for it by packing each motion picture to the brim with complex themes, interesting performances, and skilled directorial work. Fans of Jim Jarmusch are already awaiting his next project, while those unfamiliar with his work are on the verge of discovering a wide new world of independent filmmaking.