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There are some directors whose names alone are synonymous with adventure, thrills, and all other emotions we seek at the movies and I firmly believe that the late Richard Donner is such a filmmaker. The man who helped bring Superman to the big screen in one of the most cherished DC movies of all time, helmed all four action-packed installments of the Lethal Weapon movies, and directed many other undisputed classics passed away on Monday, July 5, 2021, at the age of 91. In honor of his lasting legacy, and we have compiled what we believe are the best Richard Donner movies with info on where they are streaming or available to rent online, starting with the movie that made the world believe a man could fly.
Superman (HBO Max)
The infantile surviving member of a doomed alien race crash lands on Earth where he is raised by a couple of Kansas farmers and grows up to live a double life as a journalist and a vigilante with extraordinary abilities.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: With all due respect to the DCEU’s Henry Cavill, the late Christopher Reeve is still the definitive Man of Steel in the eyes of many for his winning performance as the title character of Richard Donner’s highly imaginative 1978 comic book adaptation Superman, which won a Special Achievement Academy Award for its groundbreaking visual effects.
The Lethal Weapon Movies (HBO Max)
After being thrown together as partners, aging detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and unpredictable loose cannon cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) evolve into close friends as they take on vicious drug smugglers, ruthless South African diplomats, illegal weapons traders, and Chinese crime lords in Los Angeles.
Why they are some of Richard Donner’s best movies: You would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees that 1987’s Lethal Weapon is the definitive buddy cop movie and that its sequels (Lethal Weapon 2 from 1989, 1992’s Lethal Weapon 3, and Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998) - all directed by Richard Donner - make up one of the most beloved action movie franchises in history for their masterful blend of grounded thrills with relatable wit.
The Omen (Amazon Rental)
As a series of terrifying events begins to happen to the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain (Gregory Peck) and his wife (Lee Remick), he begins to suspect that his son (whom he adopted in secret after his own real child was stillborn) is to blame and may even be the living embodiment of evil.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: Not only is the original 1976 version of The Omen one of the finest films in Richard Donner’s directorial career, but it is one of best horror movies of all time for its indelible moments of bloodshed and little Harvey Stephens’ breathtaking performance as the Antichrist.
The Goonies (HBO Max)
A close knit group of youths (including future The Lord of the Rings cast member Sean Astin and Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, a.k.a the Marvel movies’ Thanos) embark on a death-defying quest involving booby traps and a family of escaped criminals in search of a long lost treasure to save their financially strapped neighborhood.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: The next time that Richard Donner worked with kids in 1985, the thrills came much lighter (but still a bit dark) in The Goonies - a timeless family classic from executive producer Steven Spielberg that feels like what a child imagines their backyard adventures could be like.
Radio Flyer (Amazon Rental)
A father (Tom Hanks) reminisces about a time when he and his younger brother tried to escape from their mother’s (Lorraine Bracco) abusive husband (Adam Baldwin) by building a plane out of a toy wagon.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: The next time that Richard Donner worked with kids after The Goonies, the story also became a bit dark (but still quite adventurous and brimming with imagination) in Radio Flyer, which also stars a future Lord of the Rings alum (Elijah Wood) and the Jurassic Park cast’s Joseph Mazzello.
Maverick (Amazon Rental)
A charming, clever con artist (Mel Gibson) teams up with a feisty, attractive thief with a talent for faking accents (Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster) to compete in a poker game that promises a large prize of loot for the winner in the Old West.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: The next time that Richard Donner worked with Mel Gibson after the first three Lethal Weapon movies, he cast the Australian actor in the title role of a different kind of action adventure story, 1994’s Maverick - the acclaimed, often funny period piece based on the classic 1960s western TV show starring The Notebook’s James Garner, who also stars in the film.
Ladyhawke (Amazon Rental)
A bumbling thief (Matthew Broderick) teams up with a rugged, troubled warrior (Rutger Hauer) to help take down a corrupt bishop (John Wood) who has hunted the knight since he went on the run with a mysterious beauty (Michelle Pfieffer).
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: Years before Richard Donner worked on Maverick, he directed a pre-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Matthew Broderick in the role of an unlikely kind of action hero in 1985’s Ladyhawke - an underrated, thoroughly funny, and romantic period piece with some fun, unexpected elements of fantasy.
Conspiracy Theory (HBO Max)
A New York City cab driver (Mel Gibson) with a compulsive habit for coming up with hidden truths in everyday situations is forced to go on the run with the government attorney he is in love with (Julia Roberts) when one of his seemingly hair-brained theories turns out to be true.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: The next time that Richard Donner worked with Mel Gibson after Maverick and before Lethal Weapon 4, he cast him as an unlikely kind of action hero in 1997’s Conspiracy Theory - a crime thriller that makes for a fun, intriguing time if you try not to take its approach to truth in speculation too seriously.
Scrooged (Hulu, Paramount+)
A curmudgeonly TV executive (Bill Murray) is shown the error of his ways when he visited by a trio of spirits who remind him of his past, help him reflect on his present, and warn him about his future on Christmas Eve.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: The first and last time that Richard Donner worked with Bill Murray was on the set of 1988’s Scrooged - a hilarious and heartfelt holiday comedy which, despite its rocky behind-the scenes history, is often cited by many as their favorite interpretation of the iconic Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol to watch every season.
Timeline (Hulu, Paramount+)
An ambitious archeologist and his team must risk their lives to save his father when they discover that he is trapped in 14th Century France.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: If you are not invested by the way time travel in Timeline works, you may be entertained by the medieval action that our modern-day heroes (including a young Paul Walker and a pre-300 Gerard Butler) must endure in this 2003 sci-fi flick based on the novel by the late Michael Crichton that is also one of Richard Donner’s last movies.
16 Blocks (Amazon Rental)
A boozy, washed up police detective must risk his life to protect a young man while escorting him to testify in a trial when he discovers that some corrupt cops have conspired to prevent him from making it to the courthouse alive.
Why it is one of Richard Donner’s best movies: In Richard Donner’s last movie, 2006’s 16 Blocks, Bruce Willis plays the kind of man Die Hard’s John McClane might have become if he turned to alcohol to cope with his misfortune and rapper Mos Def arguably gives the strongest performance of his acting career thus far in this tense, subtle action thriller.
As you can see from the binge-ready list of movies above, Richard Donner may be gone, but he has left behind a legacy that will forever live on in the hearts of people of all ages who love to go to the movies.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.