Total Recall: Best Jerry Bruckheimer Productions
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides producer.
The world scoffed when word got out that Disney was planning to make a movie inspired by the popular Disneyland ride Pirates of the Caribbean, but then they went and lined up some serious talent, both behind the cameras (producer Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski) and in front (Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley). Over $650 million later, no one was laughing anymore -- and when the surprisingly positive reviews that greeted Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl were followed by five Academy Award nominations, we knew the studio had a bona fide franchise on its hands. "Swashbuckling adventures are few and far between these days," observed James Berardinelli of ReelViews, "so it's a pleasant surprise to see one that is competently made."
No, this isn't a misprint. Hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe returned to the screen -- with added cynicism and extra helpings of grit, grime, and sex -- in this 1975 adaptation of the 1940 Raymond Chandler novel, which was Bruckheimer's first major big-screen production. The film finds Marlowe (played here by Robert Mitchum) embroiled in several intertwining cases, involving everything from a missing moll to a stolen necklace, not to mention an affair with a married seductress (Charlotte Rampling). By the mid- 1970s, Marlowe was a man out of time, but critics appreciated this ever-so-slightly revisionist take on the old gumshoe; as Time Out wrote, "The film's triumph is Mitchum's definitive Marlowe, which captures perfectly the character's down-at-heel integrity and erratic emotional involvement with his cases."
The 1980s were very good to Jerry Bruckheimer, and 1984's Beverly Hills Cop is a prime example: this box office smash, co-produced with Bruckheimer's partner Don Simpson, was the hugely successful middle act between their 1983 hit Flashdance and 1986's Top Gun (which, sadly, doesn't have a high enough Tomatometer to make this list). Functioning as both the coming-out party for Eddie Murphy as a leading man and the prototype for the sort of fast-paced, quip-filled, impeccably soundtracked action thriller that Bruckheimer excels at, Cop earned praise from the likes of UK Critic's Ian Waldron-Mantgani, who called it "One of the great popular entertainments of our time, a film that still has a place on the top 40 list of American box-office champs, and continues to look slick and full of energy almost twenty years after opening."
2. Crimson Tide
Between 1983 and 1996, Bruckheimer and his longtime co-producer Don Simpson helped create a slew of massive hits, including Flashdance, Top Gun, and Bad Boys -- and although most of their films weren't exactly critical favorites, there were a few notable exceptions. Most notable: 1995's Crimson Tide, in which a grizzled submarine captain (Gene Hackman) locks horns with his new lieutenant commander (Denzel Washington) over whether to launch nuclear warheads at a renegade Russian sub. With a pair of superstar leading men and a Tarantino-assisted script bolstering typically stylish work from director Tony Scott, Tide earned over $150 million at the box office -- and praise from critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote, "If ever a picture crackled, Crimson Tide fits the description."
Thief is a film full of firsts -- Michael Mann's directorial debut, the film debut for Jim Belushi, Dennis Farina, and others -- but at its core, it's pretty stock stuff: the thieving protagonist (James Caan) is pressured into pulling off one last heist by a shady crime boss (Robert Prosky) who isn't above a good old-fashioned double-cross. A number of Thief's larger plot points will be familiar to anyone who's seen Mann's 1995 opus Heat, but this is a film that stands on its own; as Christopher Null wrote for Filmcritic, "Good guys and bad guys have never been harder to peg, which is why Thief is so much fun, filled with nuance and subtlety not often found among caper flicks."
In case you were wondering, here are Bruckheimer's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Remember the Titans -- 91%
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl -- 86%
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest -- 86%
4. The Rock -- 85%
5. Black Hawk Down -- 85%
6. Top Gun -- 82%
7. Glory Road -- 82%
8. Bad Boys II -- 80%
9. Gone in 60 Seconds -- 79%
10. Bad Boys -- 79%
Finally, here's a clip of Bruckheimer's star-studded AFI Celebration: