The Countdown: Top Ten Kurt Russell Movies

| August 8, 2016

I’m excited to start this new weekly segment.

A few months ago, I started a podcast called Quote Unquote Guilty all about guilty pleasures.  Upon getting some of my friends addicted to podcasting, they too started shows of their own and I compiled us all under a shared network: Word Salad Productions.  Recently, I reached out to a few other podcasts about possibly joining the network so we could all promote each other, and was ecstatic to add a new podcast: The Countdown: Movie and TV Reviews to my budding network.

The Countdown is hosted by two great Australian podcasters, Paul and Wayne, who put on a fun show and engage with their audience.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my own opinions about their weekly themed lists and having Paul on my own podcast as a guest.

Then I remembered that I write for Filmmonthly and with my editor’s, Paul’s, and Wayne’s permission, I’ve decided to start doing my own top (or bottom) ten lists to coincide with new episodes of The Countdown.  My plan is to put them out on the same day as their new episodes, allowing me to sometimes listen to the episode first and respond when necessary.

I’m hoping it helps promote their show, as I’ve become a massive fan and have enjoyed going back to listen to their backlog.

This week’s episode is about the guy’s Top Ten Kurt Russell movies.  A very exciting topic, as the man has recently become one of my all-time favorite actors.  So, I spent a day earlier in the week binging on Kurt Russell movies that I’ve never seen or haven’t seen in a long time.  The one notable exception that I purposely did not seek out and watch is John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I have plans to watch with friends in mid-October as part of a horror movie marathon and want that to be my first exposure to a film I’m sure will be worthy of my top ten.  So, even without that, I feel pretty good about this list.

Honorable Mention:  Unlawful Entry (1992)
Dir. Jonathan Kaplan
With having actor Brian Bonsall (Blank Check) on the podcast earlier in the year, we naturally got to reminiscing about our first experiences with screen nudity, and this movie and the sex scene between Russell and Madeline Stowe was the first to really make an impression on me.  I rewatched it recently and the thriller aspects surrounding the love triangle are all really strong.

10. Escape From New York (1981)
Dir. John Carpenter
I’m sure this will be much higher on Paul and Wayne’s lists, and it’s a real testament to Russell’s body of work that this is so strong and I still couldn’t put it over #10.  I dug the cool, dystopian world Carpenter builds here, and Russell as Snake Plissken is phenomenal.  I think I had to knock it down simply because some of his character choices made no sense to me.

09. Breakdown (1997)
Dir. Jonathan Mostow
Another really fun crime thriller with Russell playing a victim forced to adapt to and outsmart the men who have kidnapped his wife, trying desperately to stay one step ahead of them throughout.  I was captivated by this start to finish and every time I thought I had something figured out, the movie pulled the rug out from under me, defying predictability and staying great the whole time.

08. Overboard (1987)
Dir. Garry Marshall
I’m a sucker for Kurt Russell comedies and had I had access to it, I probably would have rewatched Captain Ron and wouldn’t have been surprised if it made it on this list.  His performance here is hilarious and even Goldie Haun is terrific.  The only reason it’s this low is that it has some irresponsible notions concerning consent when Russell’s character takes his fake marriage with his amnesiac “wife” a bit too far.  Hilarious otherwise though.

07. The Art of the Steal (2013)
Dir. Jonathan Sobol
Heist and con artist movies are so insanely difficult to pull off and God bless Kurt Russell for making it look easy in this inanely fun movie about two thief brothers.  I was thoroughly entertained by this, appreciating how everything was cut together and worked in conjunction to pay off at the end.

06. Tombstone (1993)
Dir. George P. Cosmatos and Kevin Jarre
This was so close to being my #1.  I was with it the whole way through.  Russell’s portrayal of Wyatt Earp, complete with awesome mustache, was spellbinding.  All of the supporting cast were at their peak, and the blending of action and drama was perfect.  It just fell apart a bit for me at the end, when we see Val Kilmer on his deathbed for like the 8th time, and Wyatt manages to just let go of his revenge for a girl.  It was a bit too easy for me to buy into and wasn’t earned from what I knew about the characters.

05. Tango & Cash (1989)
Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky and Albert Magnoli
What’s there to say?  This movie is a blast start to finish.  Explosions, gun fights, cherubic villains, wise cracks.  It’s basically Die Hard 1-4 but with two John McClaines the whole way through.  I even don’t mind campy, meta moments like when Stallone’s character refers to Rambo as a pussy.  This movie knows exactly what it is and never backs down from the absurdity.

04. Death Proof (2007)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
My only criticism of Death Prooof has always been that it’s too good to really be considered a grindhouse movie.  It has structure, and character development, and sure, Tarantino reuses shots and edits poorly to create his grindhouse façade, but it never struck me as over the top enough.  Rewatching it, I think it’s spot on, and even has a couple of really boring scenes halfway through to help cement its grindhouse status.  Plus, the structure is insane, like it was directed by a 1960s cocaine addict who’s just trying to get out of the porn industry.

03. Dark Blue (2002)
Dir. David Ayer
Ayer gets a lot of praise for his hit cop drama End of Watch, and mostly it’s well deserved.  The movie is wonderfully acted and gripping if not conceptually flawed (God, I hate found footage).  Dark Blue is far and away the best movie I’ve seen from Ayer yet, and it’s all Russell’s doing.  Playing the dirty cop who’s trying to corrupt his new rookie partner has become a bit cliché in the last couple of decades, but watching these characters develop within that familiar storyline and setting it against a real-world backdrop is fantastic.

02. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Dir. S. Craig Zahler
I can’t believe I used to dismiss all westerns as garbage when it turned out I just didn’t think John Wayne was a very good actor.  Westerns seem to be pretty rare these days, but I tend to go out of my way to see them and have seen a lot of great ones in the last couple of years.  They’re all blown away by Bone Tomahawk though.  The story burns real slow to build tension and hits a climax that is brutal and gruesome but by then it’s too late; you can’t look away if you want to.

01. Executive Decision (1996)
Dir. Stuart Baird
It’s actually a little hard for me to justify why this is #1.  Surely other movies on the list are better constructed, have more original stories, better performances by Kurt Russell, who don’t get me wrong is still great here.  He’s Kurt Russell.  I just enjoyed this film immensely when I saw it for the first time a couple of months ago.  I think maybe it’s that I was completely unaware of it until I saw it.  I knew nothing, so everything was from Steven Segal establishing himself as the hero of the story in the first scene to Segal’s death to Russell’s rise to become the hero was all surprising and exciting to me.  It’s again a lot like Die Hard, except if John McClane were a systems analyst instead of a cop and still managed to kill 15 terrorists and save the day.  This will be one I rewatch often.

 

About the Author:

Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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