Five Essential… Michael Douglas Films

Gary Collinson selects his Five Essential Michael Douglas films…

The son of screen legend Kirk Douglas and actress Diana Hill, actor and producer Michael Douglas shot to fame alongside Karl Malden in the TV police drama The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1976) and received his first Academy Award as producer of Miloš Forman’s classic 1975 drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He struggled to replicate this success over the next few years, making only sporadic appearances before his career was reignited as producer and lead in Robert Zemeckis’ hit action adventure Romancing the Stone (1984), which received a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical / Comedy.

Douglas has since went on to enjoy a long and successful career which has seen him receive a host of accolades including two further Golden Globes, an Academy Award for Best Actor and a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. With his latest films Solitary Man and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps set for release this year, we present our Five Essential Michael Douglas Films…

5. The Game (1997, dir. David Fincher)

The Game Michael DouglasDouglas stars as wealthy banker and workaholic Nicholas Van Orton in this fine psychological thriller from Se7en director David Fincher. Celebrating his 48th birthday, Nicholas is presented with an unusual gift from his brother (Sean Penn), a voucher for a live-action ‘game’ courtesy of a company known as Consumer Recreation Services. Nicholas visits the offices of CRS where he is told that his application has been rejected and, after discovering his bank account has also been cleaned out, he comes to suspect that he is the target of an elaborate scam. With the lines between fantasy and reality blurred, Nicholas sets out to unravel the conspiracy and attempt to regain his life.

4. Wall Street (1987, dir. Oliver Stone)

Wall Street Michael Douglas“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” or so says Gordon Gekko (Douglas), a ruthless corporate raider who has made a fortune manipulating the stock market in Wall Street, director Oliver Stone’s tale of 80s excess. Young stockbroker Bud (Charlie Sheen) wants to make it to the top and sees Gekko as the ideal role model, but as he sinks further into the cutthroat world Bud finds himself at odds with the values of his father (Martin Sheen), an honest, blue-collar worker whose own job becomes threatened by Gekko’s illegal dealings. Douglas turns in a fantastic performance, creating one of the greatest villains ever to grace the screen and picking up a host of honours including an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor for his efforts. He will return to the role later this year alongside Shia LaBeouf in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

3. Basic Instinct (1992, dir. Paul Verhoeven)

Basic Instinct Michael DouglasWritten by “sleaze king” Joe Eszterhas (for a then record $3m) and directed by Paul Verhoeven, Basic Instinct popularised the term ‘erotic thriller’ and made a star of its leading lady Sharon Stone. Douglas stars as Nick Curran, a burnt-out, self-destructive police detective tasked with investigating novelist Catherine Tramell (Stone), the prime suspect in the brutal murder of her rock star boyfriend. Despite a horrendous v-neck jumper Curran soon embarks on a highly charged sexual relationship with the femme fatale, who may or may not be lining him up as her next victim. With its graphic depictions of sex and violence, Basic Instinct was one of the most controversial movies of the decade and also became a global box office phenomenon with world-wide takings in excess of $350m.

2. Wonder Boys (2000, dir. Curtis Hanson)

Wonder Boys Michael DouglasWonder Boys sees a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Douglas as pot-smoking university professor and novelist Grady Tripp, who has spent the past seven years working on ‘the difficult second novel’. Over the space of a single weekend Tripp has to deal with his wife leaving, his married mistress Sara (Frances McDormand) announcing her pregnancy, unwanted attention from his student lodger (Katie Holmes), the arrival of his bi-sexual agent (Robert Downey Jr.), and the bizarre behaviour of his pupil and fellow writer James Leer (Tobey Maguire), who also happens to be responsible for the death of Sara’s dog during the theft of a coat once worn by Marilyn Monroe. An underappreciated gem, Wonder Boys was criminally mishandled by the marketing gurus at Paramount and is one of the best comedies of the past decade.

1. Falling Down (1993, dir. Joel Schumacher)

Falling Down Michael DouglasGrady Tripp may have had a bad weekend but it’s nothing compared to the troubles facing William Foster (a.k.a. D-FENS, a moniker taken from his car’s registration plate). Estranged from his wife and child, unemployed and frustrated with a society that has rendered him obsolete, D-FENS finally snaps and embarks on a violent rampage across Los Angeles en route to his young daughter’s birthday party. Screen legend Robert Duvall is the ‘last day on the job’ detective tasked with putting an end to the carnage brought about by D-FENS, the ultimate anti-hero and archetypal ‘angry white male’, or as the tag-line suggests, “an ordinary man at war with the everyday world”. Nominated for the 1993 Palme d’Or at Cannes, Falling Down is the essential Michael Douglas film.

Honourable Mentions

The China Syndrome (1979, dir. James Bridges)
Fatal Attraction (1987, dir. Adrian Lyne)
Black Rain (1989, dir. Ridley Scott)
Traffic (2000, dir. Steven Soderbergh)
The King of California (2007, dir. Mike Cahill)

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your comments on the list…

Gary Collinson

Essentials Archive

  • Anonymous

    good list <br />is so hard to only choose 5 movies<br />when the omst of the times he chooses great movies to be in <br />well he is my favorite actor<br />he can do any kind of role <br /><br />my top 5<br />1 basic instinct: the best chemestry iv seen in amovie<br />sharon and michael douglas were amazing togather <br />2 fatal attraction: wowwwwww really shocking ending <br />i never tought