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Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Die Hard Vs. Midnight Run

Okay, so this one might be a teeny bit lopsided.  I fully expect Die Hard to win its way into the final four and I won’t be the least bit surprised if it makes it to the final round.  Heck, it’s probably the odds-on favorite to take the crown.  Pretty much anything I might put up against Die Hard in the first round was going to get steamrolled.  One of the reasons Die Hard was able to redefine action movies is that the genre wasn’t in the best place in the late 80’s.  Take a look at the other action movies of the year and you will see what I mean.  Other than Midnight Run, my best options were They Live, Bloodsport, Above the Law and Action Jackson.  I like some of those movies and I know they all have their fans.  But Midnight Run is better than all of them.  It’s a near-perfect buddy comedy that had the misfortune to come up against John McClane.

Before we start blowing things up in slow motion, let’s review the results of yesterday’s deceit-filled match-up.  This one stayed close through most of the morning, but a clear victor pulled ahead after I commented that a particular outcome might make my job a little easier.  Did that sway afternoon voters?  I don’t know, but if it did I appreciate the sentiment.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ended up beating Dangerous Liaisons with just over 60% of the votes.  That means we will have a con-man comedy showdown in round two when Steve Martin and Michael Caine face off against John Cleese, Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis.

In the thirty years since Die Hard was first released, something has been lost.  The Die Hard formula has been applied to planes, trains and automobiles.  Not to mention buses, cruise ships and hockey games.  There isn’t a location left that hasn’t been made into a “Die Hard on a <fill-in-the-blank>” movie.  On top of that, Bruce Willis has gone from the goofy guy on Moonlighting to full-on action star.  What I am getting at is that when audiences bought their tickets in 1988, Willis was still believable as an everyman hero and no one had any idea how awesome the next two hours were going to be.  Die Hard was like getting in line for It’s a Small World and being loaded onto a massive steel roller coaster instead.

So who wants to guess where Die Hard falls in the top grossing movies of 1988?  It had to be #1, right?  Wrong.  Die Hard wasn’t even in the top 5.  It didn’t even crack $100 million dollars. With a gross just north of $80 million dollars, the original Die Hard was the seventh highest grossing movie of the year more than $25 million dollars behind the 6th place finisher, Crocodile Dundee II.  Crazy, right?

Midnight Run, starring Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin, was a little farther down the list.  With a gross of less than $40 million dollars, it was the 29th highest grossing movie of the year behind a reissue of Disney’s Bambi.  Critics liked Midnight Run more than audiences.  Reviews were overwhelmingly positive.  For the last three decades, I have maintained that the movie is critically under-rated.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

The movie was originally set up at Paramount where director Martin Brest had a hit with his previous movie, Beverly Hills Cop.  Robert DeNiro became interested when he lost the lead role in Big to Tom Hanks.  Both DeNiro and Brest liked Charles Grodin’s audition, but Paramount wanted a bigger star.  At one point, they suggested changing the character’s gender and casting Cher.  Of the possible male costars, the studio liked Robin Williams.  But, Brest stuck to his guns and ended up taking the movie to Universal instead.

As great as Midnight Run is, the mediocre box office meant we were denied a sequel.  But looking at how the Die Hard sequels turned out, maybe that’s for the best.  Did anybody really want to see Midnight 2: Run Harder?

Okay, here we go.  Anyone not voting for Die Hard?

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Posted on January 3, 2018, in Bracket Game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I’m voting for Midnight Run because if you put the two DVDs in front of me right now and told me I needed to watch just one of them I would choose the buddy caper comedy over the action movie that has been remade so many times that it has lost some of its own power. The dad from Family Matters just isn’t a very good actor for one thing.

    I sat down and worked out my bracket for 1998 today, and let me tell you – that thing is going to be a bloodbath about on the same level as what we see here. Tough decisions VERY early on.

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    • I figured you would be voting for MR. Voting has been closer than I expected it to be. I remain undecided. If you put both DVD’s in front of me and asked me to pick, I might flip a coin. If I picked MR (which is admittedly a better movie in terms of craft) it would probably come down to the fact I have seen Die Hard more often.

      I’m glad to hear the 1998 bracket game will be full of tough choices. I spent some time over the holidays going through both of the years we are spotlighting and I felt like I got the better year of the two. But there were lots of good movies in 1998 to choose from. I know you are a fan of Shakespeare in Love, so I expect to see that movie. Saving Private Ryan, The Truman Show, The Big Lebowski and There’s Something About Mary seem like pretty good bets. I will be curious to see if Mulan or A Bug’s Life makes the cut. I would argue for The Wedding Singer and maybe Blade. Pleasantville, Rushmore, Dark City and A Simple Plan are also possibilities. I look forward to seeing what you came up with!

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  2. Die Hard is one of the definitive modern action thrillers and a superior one, and it gets my vote, partly for its genre influence, but Midnight Run is quite good and deserves to be a bit better known.

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    • 100% agree.

      Midnight Run kind of got lost in a crowd of other, lesser buddy comedies. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a better movie in its genre. I’d rather watch Midnight Run than 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon. It’s a shame it never got its due.

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  3. jeffthewildman

    It/s tricky to rock a rhyme (or pick the best choice here). T-t-t-tricky.

    I love Die Hard. It may not be my all-time favorite action movie (T2 and a couple of John Woo’s Hong Kong movies rank ahead of it). But it’s close. But in some ways, like Halloween and Animal House, it became a victim of its own success. Increasingly mediocre sequels and rip=offs have robbed it of some of its luster.

    Midnight Run, on the other hand, has not aged one bit. If more people had seen it, they might not have been surprised to see De Niro do comedy as well as he did in Analyze This and the increasingly ridiculous Focker movies. That’s the interesting thing: of all his attempts at comedy, the best one was the least seen.

    So I ended up picking Die Hard by a very slim margin. But of the two, Midnight Run in some ways holds up better over the years.

    “Well I’ll tell you what. if you don’t cooperate you’re gonna suffer from fistophobia!”

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  4. I hate this match-up. I love both movies. I had to go with DH though. Dog gone it…

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  5. I remember about 10 years or so ago, Entertainment Weekly ran an article where they ranked the 25 best action films of all time. It may come as no big surprise, but they ranked Die Hard at #1, just ahead of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Personally I would switch those but that’s just quibbling, there is no denying that Die Hard is one of the greatest action films of all time. It is a superbly well crafted, tense action film. Matter of fact I would be embarrassed to admit just how many times I have watched Die Hard over the years. Let’s just say it’s a lot.

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    • Hey Craig! Long time no see. I hope all is well on your end.

      If I had to pick a favorite action movie, Die Hard would be it. Raiders is a great movie, but I consider it more of an adventure film. That may be a minor distinction, but Raiders (despite several great set pieces) doesn’t scream “action” to me the same way Die Hard does.

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      • I’ve always thought of RAIDERS as more of an adventure movie as well, and I’ve always considered RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD as the two greatest adventure movies ever made.

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      • Thanks for the warm welcome back Lebeau. I’m well, hope you and your family are the same.

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        • We are well, thanks for asking. One of the things I enjoy about the Jan bracket games is that they usually bring out commenters we haven’t heard from in a while.

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