To coincide with the release of Last Vegas, I thought I should turn my top ten attention to a man who, only a few years ago, was on the verge of death. Mr Michael Douglas. From those early days in the hit TV series The Streets Of San Francisco, the son of Kirk has made a huge splash in Hollywood, whether it be in front of the camera or behind as producer (without him, we wouldn’t have One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest). Here are my ten favourite Douglas films. As always, these are a personal opinion. You might have other ideas. If you do, let me know below.
10. Basic Instinct (1992)
You kind of forget that Douglas was the lead in this highly charged, erotic thriller that, while slightly overblown now, shocked the core of Hollywood on its release back in 1992. Douglas played the problematic detective on the case of a brutal murder and has to face his demon when faced with the prime suspect, vixen Sharon Stone. Steamy stuff but compared to what is shown now, it’s surprisingly tame. Douglas declined the sequel. A wise decision.
9. Coma (1978)
Back to 1978 for this cracking medical thriller in which Doulgas took second billing to Genevieve Bujold. Patients going into a hospital for routine surgery are slipping into comas and Bujold feels there is something darker happening. Gripping from start to finish, this adaptation of Robin Cook’s best seller is still as good today. Look out for a cameo from Magnum star, Tom Selleck.
8. Romancing The Stone (1984)
Douglas showed his fun side as adventurer Jack Colton opposite romantic writer Kathleen Turner in this Raiders copy that managed to stand on its own as a terrific piece of escapism. Throw in Danny DeVito and the film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is just a barrel of entertainment crammed with cracking set pieces. The sequel, Jewel Of The Nile, wasn’t as strong but still it was good to see the gang back again.
7. War Of The Roses (1989)
After they put their adventuring side away, the gang from Romancing returned in one of the blackest comedies ever, with DeVito both in front and behind the camera, with Douglas and Turner showing the collapse of a marriage in the darkest way. Filled with hilarious moments and probably the most satisfactory ending to any movie, this refuses to hold its punches.
6. The American President (1995)
A more romantic Douglas, playing the President, a widower, who falls for lobbyist Annette Bening. Written by Aaron (The West Wing) Solkin and directed by Rob Reiner, this is a sharp satire with a real heart, thanks to the skillful cast of top names (Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss) and the delightful pairing of the two leads.
5. The China Syndrome (1979)
A superb thriller set in the world of nuclear power with Jane Fonda as a TV reporter who stumbles on a near nuclear accident that she is determined to expose. Jack Lemmon plays the troubled power station worker and Douglas as the radical cameraman. Still a powerful tale kept all the more interesting by the leads excellent performances.
4. Wonder Boys (2000)
A hugely underrated comedy drama which was the follow-up for Curtis Hanson after L.A. Confidential. Douglas played a professor dealing with all kinds of problems, none more than the book he’s been writing for seven years. With a cracking cast and a script as sharp as a knife, this is often forgotten but should be cherished.
3. Wall Street (1987)
Oliver Stone’s financial drama brought Douglas his Oscar as the “Greed Is Good” Gordon Grecko. A slimy, manipulative banker, his character was a perfect photograph of the time. Douglas returned to the role in 2010 with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps but it wasn’t as poignant as in the original.
2. Falling Down (1993)
A controversial role for Douglas as a man, stuck in a traffic jam during a sizzling hot day, who goes on a rampage against the injustices in society. A powerful social commentary, it shows Douglas is more than a one-trick pony and a role that demanded more attention.
1. Behind The Candelabra (2013)
Last year, Douglas returned to the screen and was on fire as Liberace, in this joyfully camp biopic about his relationship with much younger lover, Scott Thompson. Douglas became the flamboyant showman with superb support from Matt Damon as his lover and Rob Lowe (almost unrecognisable) as a plastic surgeon. Funny and moving, it won Douglas an Emmy for best actor. (Shown in cinemas here, it was a TV in the States after they thought it was “too gay” for the big screen).