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Movies of 1987 Bracket Game: Lethal Weapon Vs. The Untouchables

lethal-weapon-vs-the-untouchables

As we move into a new year, it’s a Le Blog tradition to spend the month of January looking back at the movies of the past.  Yep, the bracket games are back.  For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be pairing up movies from thirty years ago to pick the reader’s favorite flick from 1987.  I think you will all agree when you see the line-up that it was a pretty solid year with enduring entries in many different genres.

Before we get to today’s match, I will address some notable movies that didn’t make the cut.  Believe it or not, the highest grossing movie of the year was Three Men and a Baby.  Ordinarily, I tend to give the biggest movie of the year a pass to the brackets, but I felt there were other movies that were more deserving.  Three Men and a Baby was a surprisingly big hit, but I don’t think many would argue it has stood the test of time.  This is also why I did not include other box office hits like Beverly Hills Cop II, The Secret of My Success, Stakeout and The Witches of Eastwick.  Believe it or not, Stakeout actually outgrossed Lethal Weapon.  Box office performance is only a piece of the puzzle.

By the same token, I also omitted Best Picture winner The Last Emperor.  Bernardo Bertolucci won Best Director for his epic biopic, but The Last Emperor isn’t a movie readers are likely to have a strong emotional attachment to.  When you look back at your favorite movies of the era, I don’t think Emperor comes to mind for most of us.  For me, the toughest cut of all was probably Broadcast News.  I’m a big fan of James L. Brooks’ workplace romcom, but for whatever reason Broadcast News has been forgotten by many.

I also considered Evil Dead 2, The Living Daylights, Adventures in Babysitting and Near Dark.  1987 had a deep roster of good movies to choose from and unfortunately there just wasn’t enough room for everything.  If one of your favorites didn’t make the cut, I apologize in advance.  With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the 16 movies I chose to represent the year:

1987

I will be the first to admit, some of these pairings are not a natural fit.  Some of them just got mashed together out of necessity.  I was tempted to pair Lost Boys with Near Dark for a vampire bracket, but it would have meant dropping something like Dirty Dancing.  Overall, I tried to include a mix of genres which sometimes meant sacrificing pairs.

We’re starting things off with a couple of action movies.  Lethal Weapon didn’t invent the buddy cop movie.  But it launched a movie franchise that came to define it.  Shane Black’s original script was darker than the sequels that followed.  Over the course of three more movies, director Richard Donner guided the series into more comedic territory.  In the first installment, Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs is legitimately suicidal.  Having nothing to lose makes him a loose cannon.  In the sequels, he transforms into a goofball.

Lethal Weapon wasn’t Mel Gibson’s first American movie.  But it was the one that made him a star.  That’s even more true of Kevin Costner and The Untouchables.  Costner had been in Hollywood for most of the decade.  His character was famously cut from The Big Chill.  Lawrence Kasdan tried to make it up to him with a meaty role in Silverado, but most audiences had never heard of Kevin Costner when he played Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s gangster drama.

The Untouchables finally won Sean Connery an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Since leaving the James Bond series, Connery’s career had floundered.  His Oscar-winning performance kicked off one of the most impressive comebacks in movie history.  The impressive cast also included Robert De Niro as Al Capone and a then-unknown Andy García.

While both Lethal Weapon and The Untouchables are arguably action flicks, they are dramatically different.  De Palma’s movie was a biopic which was nominated for four Academy Awards.  Lethal Weapon was a violent rush of adrenaline that raised the stakes for action movies to follow.  Both movies were well-liked by critics and audiences.  Thirty years later, which movie do you prefer?

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Posted on January 2, 2017, in bracket game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Yay! A bracket game! 😁 Now that’s a good way to start the new year. I voted for Lethal Weapon, it’s definitely an all time favourite of mine.
    I remember watching Adventures in babysitting once a loooong time ago with my dad, it was good fun. That was Elizabeth Shue in one of her earliest roles if I remember correctly, right?
    Anyway, I’m really excited about this new game, there are some very worthy titles on the list. I’m hoping for The Princess Bride for the win!

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    • I would not be at all surprised to see Lethal Weapon or Princess Bride in the finals.

      Yes, Adventures starred a young Elizabeth Shue. It wasn’t exactly one of her earliest roles. She was in The Karate Kid in 1984. But it was early in her career.

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  2. Wow. There are only two movies in this bracket that I like better than Broadcast News (The Princess Bride and Raising Arizona). I would have gladly given up almost anything else here to get that movie into the competition, but maybe it wouldn’t have done very well once it was in. Who can say?

    I’m guessing I’m in the minority here in saying that I was never a fan of any of the Lethal Weapon movies. I got dragged to at least three of them and either found them to be actively unpleasant or utterly forgettable. It’s not that I’m averse to violence in movies. There are lots of very violent movies that I value highly. It’s not that I don’t like popcorn flicks. Just look at the movies I decided to go see over the last couple of months. Bleak can even really work for me. Somehow Lethal Weapon just failed to appeal to me on any satisfying level,

    The Untouchables has its flaws, but it also has some genuine strengths and I have enjoyed it on multiple occasions. That makes it the clear winner for me.

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    • I like Broadcast News a lot. If I was naming my favorite movies of 1987 and I had a list in front of me, it would be one of my top picks. But if I don’t have that list in front of me, I’m likely to forget about Broadcast News. I may be wrong on this, but I just don’t think it is a movie that comes up very often any more. Like The Last Emperor, Broadcast News is a better movie than many on the list. I like it better than Lethal Weapon or The Untouchables. But those movies have stayed in the public conscious longer which is part of what the bracket game is about.

      Which is a nice segue to today’s match. Both of these movies are solid entertainment. I don’t think many would argue that The Untouchables is the better of the two. But I won’t fault anyone for casting a vote for Lethal Weapon. It is arguably the most iconic and influential movie of the 16 included here. It’s a question of criteria. Are you voting for the best movie, your favorite movie, the most influential movie, the most memorable movie or some combination of factors? That question, to me, is part of what makes these annual games interesting.

      I always try to predict the outcome of these things when I am making up the brackets and I make an effort to avoid lopsided, predictable matches to the best of my ability. Going through the list, I really wasn’t sure how things would pan out. I’m reasonably confident we’ll see The Princess Bride go far. I don’t think Broadcast News would have fared very well, but let me know in the comments if I made a mistake by leaving it off. Beyond that, I’m not sure. I’ll be interested to see what choices the readers make.

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  3. A new bracket game is definitely a good start to the year. Clearly there were some tough choices in making up the bracket. The Living Daylights is one of my favorites from 1987, but it has already been in the Bond bracket game from 2015, and we have had plenty of coverage and discussion of it here. Likewise, while I wouldn’t have minded seeing Adventures in Babysitting in the bracket, we already have a lot of Elisabeth Shue coverage here as well.

    I wouldn’t have minded seeing the underrated Near Dark make it in. Maybe someday we could have something like a vampire movies bracket game.

    For today, I’m going with Lethal Weapon, as the more influential of the two films and the one that, for me, holds up better over time. I recently watched The Untouchables again I’ve always found it a mixed bag, with some very good elements, such as Sean Connery and Andy Garcia’s performances, but others less good. Both Eliot Ness and Al Capone seem underdeveloped as characters.

    Lethal Weapon, as we’ve discussed recently in the birthday articles, was not quite the beginning of the buddy movie, but it is probably the definitive example of that subgenre. As lebeau notes, it’s darker, and more of a straight crime thriller, than the sequels.

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    • I had a hard time choosing between Near Dark and Lost Boys for inclusion here. Near Dark is a better movie. I feel like it holds up really well. I have watched it many more times than I have Lost Boys. But I went with the one I thought readers were more likely to have seen. If there were more room, I’d have definitely paired them up and let the readers decide.

      Adventures in Babysitting is a movie I have some fondness for mostly because of Shue. I would have liked to have squeezed it in somewhere. Same with The Living Daylights. I considered pairing it with Beverly Hills Cop 2 as an action franchise match-up. But the game is already action-heavy as it is. And as you point out, we’ve done a fair amount of 007 coverage here with more to come I’m sure.

      My takeaway from putting this together was that 1987 was a great year to go to the movies. So many solid choices. Last year, I ran the 1996 bracket game and had a hard time coming up with 16 decent choices. This year, I probably could have gone to 24 movies without including any clunkers. I sneaked a peak at 1997 and it’s not a bad year either.

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      • I agree, Near Dark holds up very well today. But Lost Boys definitely reached a much larger audience back in the day so it makes sense to include it in the brackets.

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  4. I read mel gibson turned down untouchables to do lethal weapon. Given the success of the film cant say it was a mistake I could see mel in the costner role.

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  5. That’s tough that “Near Dark” and Broadcast News” didn’t make the cut (maybe in “another best of…” selection for another time?), but as you said, 1987 is loaded, and this, I think, is a great bracket. Speaking of loaded, I went with “Lethal Weapon” in a tough one, because I’m very fond of “The Untouchables” as well, but some more memorable lines (“Where did you get him, Psycho’s R’ Us?”, Murtaugh: “Like I said, thin”. Riggs: “Anorexic”) and the fact that I’ve rewatched “Lethal Weapon” more means it gets my vote by a nose and Gary Busey’s chin.

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