The Best and Worst of Joel Schumacher

Phone booth

Colin Farrell having a bad day in Phone Booth

The Best and Worst of Joel Schumacher

Despite having struck gold with contemporary favourites in a decade long stretch starting in the mid ‘80’s, Joel Schumacher has rarely been heralded as a director in complete control of his craft. This may be because for every incendiary thriller or social statement, there is a nutzoid Nicolas Cage performance or Batman & Robin to bust his reputation down a couple of notches.

Wishing to view his assorted catalogue with a measured (though mostly appreciatory) eye, below are the five best and worst films of a man who made Michael Douglas in a short sleeve shirt & tie cool.

The Five Best:

1. Tigerland (2000)

Tigerland Colin Farrell

Tigerland is a gripping tale of the effect of war back home

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 76%

Tigerland is quite simply one of the most underappreciated war films there is. A quasi mix of Southern Comfort and the first, unrelenting half of Full Metal Jacket, it depicts the immense strain the pressures of Vietnam had on Americans back home and presented human, conflicted characters each struggling with their own inner conflict while awaiting one far more dangerous. Colin Farrell’s Roland Bozz is a natural born leader resisting the authority of his superiors and fate, and the then-early in his career actor delivered what remains arguably his finest performance.

2. Falling Down (1993)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 73%

There are few anti-establishment films that capture the frustrations of thinly veiled contemporary society as precisely and satisfyingly as Falling Down, with Michael Douglas’ corporate lackey D-Fens screaming in the face of self-serving middle America as a bad commute to work turns into a very bad day for anyone silly enough to confront him.

3. A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill remains vastly underrated

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 67%

A Time to Kill isn’t the highest rated John Grisham adaptation, but it’s the one I watched countless times on VHS and TV as a kid so it scores points in the fond-memories stakes. With a stellar cast, including Mathew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Donald & Kiefer Sutherland, Ashely Judd and Samuel L. Jackson (proving that when given substantial material, he can truly act well), and a sombre tone befitting of its material, this is a high quality legal thriller in the league of Mississippi Burning.

4. Phone Booth (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 71%

Re-teaming with Colin Farrell for a vastly different experience than the earlier Tigerland, Phone Booth defied all expectations to emerge from the B-movie misconceptions a tout, surprising and utterly tense boiling pot ready to explode.

5. The Lost Boys (1987)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 73%

The Lost Boys is a seminal vampire classic, released at a time when vampires were the ‘80’s kind of cool and genre films bopped along to an energetic rhythm where character and story were equally outrageous. Schumacher directed Sutherland in his most iconic performance, and contributed a defining entry in an era of influential hits.

The Five Worst:

1. Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin

No caption necessary

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 10%

Yes, we all have fond memories of Poison Ivy (or is that just me?), but movies like Batman & Robin typify the lunacy of comic-book adaptations in the worst way possible. I suppose that in a way Schumacher assisted with the rebirth of the Marvel/DC generation by setting the bar so unbelievably low here, but its hard to appreciate that effort whenever you have flashbacks of Mr Freeze interacting with Robin.

2. Bad Company (2002)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 10%

As likable as Chris Rock was during this period, whenever he tackled material that wasn’t suited to his comic style it wasn’t always easy to watch. This is one of the most unfortunate examples in the run of comedy/action capers.

3. Trespass (2011)

Trespass Joel Schumacher

Oh dear…

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 10%

Schumacher had worked with Nic Cage previously to helming the ill-fated Trespass, and though the premise of seeing one of the most volatile actors of all time teamed up with Australia’s golden child in a home-invasion thriller is always tempting, if you’re being honest with yourself, this is a bad as you should expect.

4. The Phantom of the Opera (2005)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 32%

If its any consolation, a more revered director made a far worse version of the classic musical not too long before Schumacher, with Dario Argento’s bizarre, rat-infused effort making this more classic take seem quite acceptable.

5. Blood Creek (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 43%

Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender get a little lost on their way to superstardom. Schumacher gets lost in guilty pleasure, direct to home-video territory.

Films that could feature in either category:

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Flatliners (1990), The Number 23 (2007 – Eddie wouldn’t allow this to be in the Worst section), Twelve (2010)

Flatliners 1990

The cool crew of Flatliners

What are your thoughts on the career of Joel Schumacher? Let us know in the comments below!

15 responses to “The Best and Worst of Joel Schumacher

  1. Great post. I loved Falling Down. I think I have lost count of the number of times that I have actually seen that film. It was such a great role by Michael Douglas 😀

  2. I’m not sure I would have realised all these movies had the same director, without some pondering/imdb’ing. He really does veer widely, doesn’t he? o_O

  3. Where does Batman Forever fit into this list? Or is it just that bland? I think it walks that line of “insanely stupid” and “stupidly entertaining” tighter than Chris O’Donnell’s tights, but what do you think?

  4. Pingback: 10 Directors That Need a Hit | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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