Perhaps the most obscure movie on this list, The Driver is director Walter Hill’s (The Warriors, 48 Hours, Streets of Fire) look at the life of a getaway driver whose feud with a detective and messy personal relationships clash with his desire to be a professional in a business that needs more true professionals. Yes, this movie was indeed a major influence on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive as well as the works of Michael Mann and others.
In many ways, The Driver feels like the missing link in the evolution of the action/crime genres. It’s a thrilling action movie that cleverly deploys characters as archetypes while still finding time to examine them. As someone who feels that Hill is one of our most underappreciated directors, it’s particularly disheartening that arguably his best film is so unnecessarily difficult to actually watch today. At least a recently released 4K edition of this movie makes it slightly easier (and cheaper) to check out the previously rare physical version.
The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Like Rebecca and Straw Dogs, The Heartbreak Kid also eventually received a vastly inferior remake. Unlike those other two movies, though, I’d argue that 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid never really got the chance to forge a lasting identity before its dreadful remake dominated even modern search results for its title.
However, this Elaine May-directed and Neil Simon-penned movie remains one of the greatest romantic comedies ever. As the story of a young man who gets married too soon and quickly finds his interests starting to sway while on a honeymoon, The Heartbreak Kid is significantly darker than what you may think of when you think of romantic comedies. In that darkness, though, this movie finds a surprisingly poignant and often genuinely hilarious message about the challenges of making the sacrifices a healthy relationship requires while understanding and honoring who we are and what we want.
To Live and Die in L.A.
When director William Friedkin passed away last year, many rightfully began to reexamine the career of one of our best and most outspoken directors. While movies like The Exorcist and The French Connection got their earned dues once more, some of Friedkin’s “other” movies like Cruising, Bug, and the once historically maligned Sorcerer enjoyed overdue reevaluations. Unfortunately, To Live and Die in L.A. was excluded from too many of those conversations, and it;s probably because it’s pretty much impossible to find digitally.
To Live and Die in L.A. follows two cops who are willing to risk everything to take down an enigmatic money forger brilliantly played by Willem Dafoe. One of the most unabashedly “‘80s” movies ever in terms of its sheer style, To Live and Die in L.A. feels like it was at least co-directed by cocaine. Its soundtrack is an all-time banger, it looks fantastic, and it features one of the greatest car chases ever put on film. In a world filled with morally ambiguous law enforcement characters, this movie also does not shy away from showing just how dangerous and slippery that path can be.