B-Movies of our Youth: The Running Man (1987) Review
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Movie Name: The Running Man
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Producer: George Linder and Tim Zinnemann
Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto and Richard Dawson
Release Date: November 13th, 1987
Budget: $27 million
Box Office: $38.1 million
This is one of those movies that whenever it is playing on a retro movie channel, I watch it, no matter what. It is one of those 1980's cheesy action flicks that I need to watch.
When this movie came out, Schwarzenegger was in the midst of becoming one of the biggest action stars of all time. He had just played in The Terminator, Commando, and Raw Deal.
When this movie came out, I was way too young and it was too violent. I had the joy of watching it later in the mid 1990's. Let us see where this movie fits in the Schwarzenegger legacy.
Plot / Story
Like many action of movies of the era, the story is basic but interesting.
This movie was reality television before reality television was cool. The movie starts in the future back then, 2017. There is an economic collapse and the United States is under totalitarian rule. Everything is regulated and that includes game shows. There is a game show that every one watches which is hosted by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson).
In 2019, we see a helicopter pilot by the name of Ben Richards who is framed for the massacre in Bakersfield, California. Richards escapes prison and runs away. While trying to flee to go to Hawaii, he is captured. He is offered a bargain. He would not be convicted if he would play in The Running Man. He agrees and this is where the game kicks off.
The game show is basically American Gladiators for prison inmates. The inmates are promised freedom if they fight and beat every gladiator in their path. We learn that this is unfortunately not true. This is all propaganda. They tell the public this, but in the end, they still kill the inmates.
The rest of the movie is about Schwarzenegger and his friends, beating everyone and finally meeting Killian in the final scene.
The Running Man - Trailer
Does this movie hold up after all these years? The answer to that is yes and no. Remember this movie came out in the late 80's and reality TV was not something that was very popular. The movie dates the future as being 2017 and reality television is very popular. So you could say that it predicted the future.
I think that the casting was good. Richard Dawson who was known as the host of the Family Feud back in the 1980's, plays as the host Damon Killian to perfection. You hate the guy because of this arrogance and Dawson did a great job portraying him.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He pulls those one liners that we are used to see him pull off. Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the movie.
Damon Killian Running Man Game-Show Host: You bastard! Drop dead!
Ben "Butcher of Bakersfield" Richards: I don't do requests.
Ben "Butcher of Bakersfield" Richards: Killian, here's your Subzero, now plain zero.
Ben "Butcher of Bakersfield" Richards: I hope you leave enough room for my fist, because I'm going to ram it into your stomach & break your god damn spine!
As you can see Schwarzenegger is ready with those one liners that only he can pull off.
The computer graphics (CGI) look very low budget. They tried to make it look futuristic but it just came out flat. Although some would say that is what gives it its charm.
The plot is basic but most action movies do not have any deep plot. I think that if any movie could be remade today, this is one that could easily be done. With a little better budget, it could be so much better.
All things considered, this was not a huge success at the box office. It did make its money back, but barely. It only made $38 million domestically (US) when the budget was only about $27 million. This is not one of the best money makers in history.
However, I think it does its job. It is a cheesy movie with cheesy characters and it works. This movie does not take itself seriously and viewers should just take it for what it is, a so bad that it is good action movie. You owe it to yourself to watch it at least once in your life. It will never rank up there with The Terminator and Terminator 2, but it is one of the types of movies that made Schwarzenegger popular.
What do you think? Do you like this movie? Let us know below.