Richard Donner (1930-2021): My Top Five Films from the Director

Richard Donner was one of the great action directors, a man who could tackle almost any movie and add his own distinct flavor to it. Although mostly a film titan in the eighties, Donner continued a long and illustrious career directing genre films well in to his eighties and left behind a humongous legacy of iconic films, hit films, and films that will live on for many, many years in the hearts of movie buffs everywhere.

In remembrance of the cinematic titan, I thought I’d list my five favorite films from his humongous oeuvre.

What are your favorite Richard Donner films? Let us know in the comments!

Maverick (1994)
I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the original series, but the cinematic adaptation teams Donner with Mel Gibson again for a wry, entertaining and unique Western comedy. Gibson is on full display playing the charismatic Bret Maverick, and stars alongside Jodie Foster, Alfred Molina, James Coburn and Geoffrey Lewis, among just a few. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention James Garner who returns to the series one more time, playing beautifully off of Gibson.

Scrooged (1988)
Donner’s twisted take on the Dickens novel is a comedy classic that’s also a childhood favorite. It was on constant repeat on HBO back in to the old days of cable television and I must have seen this movie thirty times. Filled with a brilliant ensemble cast, and a show stopping performance from Bill Murray, “Scrooged” is a celebrated classic that has yet to be paralleled by any other new take on the classic Christmas story.

The Omen (1976)
Initially written off as a knock off attempting to cash in on the success of “The Exorcist,” Donner’s “The Omen” is a masterful horror thriller that’s managed to stand on its own legs since its release. The tale of a seemingly innocent young boy named Damien who wields immense power is a compelling mystery that involves jackals, hideous murders, the iconic 666 reveal, and great performances by Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and David Warner respectively.

Lethal Weapon (1987)
Arguably the most iconic and celebrated action movie of the eighties, Richard Donner brought to us a charismatic, exciting and dynamite buddy cop movie that would be imitated for years. Pairing young break out star Mel Gibson with veteran Danny Glover is a masterstroke as they must learn to depend on one another while facing off against a vicious group of rogue mercenaries that threaten their families. It’s maintained so much of its luster since its release, and is infinitely rewatchable.

Superman: The Movie (1978)
Probably my favorite comic book movie and superhero movie of all time, “Superman: The Movie” made us believe a man could fly. As a hardcore Superman geek, it’s no surprise that Donner’s collaboration with Mario Puzo, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and Christopher Reeve, respectively, was a masterwork. The film brought us one of the most widely accepted new takes on Superman’s origin, embracing the inherent light hearted nature of the character, while also depicting him as a complex being with a  heavy burden on his shoulders. This is a wonderful film and my favorite from Donner.