The Running Man (1987)

Don’t trust the TV. Especially that crap on MTV.

Set in the future, one of the most popular TV shows is called The Running Man, and it features supposed crooks running away from these over-the-top manufactured villains, as well as escaping these torturous boobie-traps. These bad guys are there to kill the supposed crooks, and eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself ends up in the “game”.

Believe it or not, it was none other than Paul Michael Glaser who directed this little 80’s gem from back in the day. Whoever thought that Starsky had it in him to make a movie like this and even though it may not be the most loved and adored out of Arnie’s 80’s to 90’s collection, it still hits a bit of a soft-spot with me for some odd reasons.

The main reason why this movie works so well, still in the year 2012, is because this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, there’s a lot of corny one-liners, plenty of outlandish wardrobes that look like they were made for a drag-queen runway show, and a lot of over-the-top performances that may have you laughing your ass off by how dumb they sound in this movie, but the fact that this film is still able to have fun with itself makes it a more enjoyable ride than I expected. Even back when I saw this one in 8th grade, I just kept remembering how corny everything is and now, my opinion still hasn’t changed but I’m able to get by certain elements like that with a movie like this because it totally takes advantage of it’s kick-ass premise.

And yes, for all you little teenie-boppers reading this out there, this premise is very similar to The Hunger Games‘ one but this came out before that one, so if you got a problem, take it up with Arnie and see what he has to say. Aww man, good old, cheese-ball Arnie quotes. Those were the prank-call-using-soundboard days.

The problem I did have with this film, is that the film’s message is a little too in-your-face, almost to the point of where they are actually just telling you, “hey, don’t believe everything you see on the television”. Is this a very true statement that seems very relevant in today’s world? Yes, but do we really need to see this done so obviously and blatantly? No, and even if some of the material did have me laughing, it just felt like it was trying too hard to go for that satire idea and somehow failed at doing so. Maybe when you see films like these, the points that they’re trying to get across doesn’t really matter, but when it’s done in an hitting-over-the-head way like this, it can get pretty annoying, pretty quick. That’s why I just depended on Arnie to say dumb shit like this. Hahahahahah god! I just cannot get enough of that stuff!

But all joking aside, Arnie has never been the best actor, he knows it, we know it, Sylvester Stallone knows it, and even Maria Shriver knows it (hey yo!). However, that’s why we as a movie-loving audience, don’t really watch him to give grand-stand, Oscar-winning performances, we watch him so he can go around, kick the baddies’ asses, chew out some terrible one-liners, and at the end of it all, come out on-top with the girl on his arm. That’s all we need with Arnie in any role that he has ever done and that’s why I’m really glad to see him coming back on the big-screen because the guy still has that star-appeal to him, regardless of how much of that ravishing physique he’s lost over the years. Yikes!

Probably the reason why this film is so entertaining to watch, even when it seems like it’s starting to get boring and a little slow, is all because of Richard Dawson as The Running Man’s dick-headed host that seems all nice and lovely to everybody in front of the screen, but behind-the-scenes, is an evil and nasty guy that would do anything, and I mean, anything, just to get ahead in the ratings. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to cast the kissy-face host from The Family Feud (aka one of the most family-oriented game shows of all-time) as the evil game-show host here, but it was one of the smartest pieces of casting and it’s even better because Dawson doesn’t even seem like he’s doing anything new for himself. He’s pretty much just playing what he’s always played for the past decade or so, except this time, he’s a little more evil than you might have seen him get. So if Arnie’s one-liners are pissing you off to the high-heavens (and I really don’t know why they would), then just depend on Dawson to keep your mind alive and awake during this one.

Consensus: Though it is definitely an over-the-top, corny, and silly piece of 80’s action, The Running Man still has a certain type of entertainment to it with some funny-ass one-liners, exciting action that can get pretty gory at times, and a solid supporting performance from Richard Dawson as the diabolical game-show host.



  1. I came here for a review of Marathon Man. Whoops – I get those two confused. Oh well, The Running Man is pretty good. I hadn’t seen it until a few years ago. Arnie will never win an Oscar but he has (or had?) charisma to spare.

    Nice review!

    • He’s always had charisma and it will always be there, but an Oscar is just never going to be an acceptable goal for him and who needs that really. Thanks!

  2. I love this film. Like you said, it’s totally over the top and in your face, but that’s why I love it. For one thing, I think it communicated the whole watching people get killed for fun thing a whole lot better than The Hunger Games did. It presented the brutal reality of reality TV so much better.

    It’s of its time, but it’s still a gem. Great review, Dan!

    • It’s an 80’s action flick, and you usually have to take those types of films with a grain of salt but it’s still a fun watch. Mainly because of the lovable Arnie and easily detestable Richard Dawson. Thanks Jaina!

  3. Hello, just wanted to let you know that i have passed on a Liebster award. As i mentioned to the others, you may have already received one and so i will understand if you cannot complete it. However if you do, thank you, much appreciated, and i look forward to your answers at your convenience. i hope my questions are not too difficult.

    • Thanks Martin! I’ve gotten this so much that it’s almost to the point of where I’m gonna go crazy. I’ll do it eventually and hopefully you’ll see.

  4. Took my nephew to a screening of this at the Alamo Drafthouse last night, they have live pyrotechnics. I had a blast showing him my favorite Auhnold flick.

    Also, before the movie they showed some of Auhnold’s Japanese blipverts and clips from Richard Dawson’s days on Family Feud, good times.

  5. Thanks for mentioning Dawson. Some folks nowadays who aren’t old enough to have ever seen him on The Family Feud bitch about how bad the casting was for picking him. It was fantastic casting, with him being able to do almost a parody of his day job. It was ahead of its time in the concept of people playing themselves (i.e Seinfeld) as worse than they really were.

    • Very innovative piece of casting that sometimes gets over-shadowed since it’s Richard Dawson saying “fuck you” to his persona on Family Feud. Still, never be able to watch those re-runs ever again.

  6. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after going through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

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