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Sylvester Stallone's Best Films of the 9O's
Sylvester Stallone was considered as the box office champ for most of the 8o's due mostly to the Rambo and Rocky franchise going strong, despite the fact that he had few standalone hits (Nighthawks (1981) and Cobra (1986) being the only two that made a significant profit). Other films were often box-office failures, especially in the latter part of the decade, with films like Over the Top (1987), Tango & Cash (1989) and Lock-Up (1989) struggling to reach an audience. Enter 1990 and Stallone was in need of a hit. Naturally, he went back to one of his successful franchises and Rocky V (1990) was released. The film was slammed by critics and was surprisingly depressing. Audiences considered it the worst of the series and it even failed to gain back its production budget in the US (eventually it turned a profit worldwide). The Rocky franchise was over (until 2006) while Rambo's last adventure, Rambo III (1988) had also performed below expectations. Stallone needed to reinvent himself badly and he did. The 9o's became a crucial decade full of hits and misses. Here are my favorites !
Honorable mention : Cop Land (1997). While the film was hailed as a return to serious acting by Stallone and he is great in it, I don't find it to be terribly enjoyable and that is why i don't include it in this list. However, the film is worth checking out if you are die-hard Stallone fan.
5. Oscar (1991)
While Stallone sticked to action movies through the late 8o's, his rival Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to make the move to comedy. something quite risky to do for an actor then known only for his mucles and one-liners. Schwarzenegger's comedies, Twins (1988) and Kindergarten Cop (1990) were both huge box office hits. Stallone took note and starred in John Landis' Oscar (1991), in which he plays a mob boss trying to go straight. The film is a screwball comedy and has an impressive cast, ranging from Kirk Douglas to Tim Curry. Stallone is genuinely funny here and his performance doesn't seem forced. The film is shot beautifully and has a lot of style as it is set in the 30's and was made like an old Hollywood comedy of that period. Oscar was sadly not a success at the box office, grossing 23 500 000$ out of a 35 000 000$ budget. Stallone nonetheless made another comedy in 1992, the infamously horrible Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992), a film that forever shattered his reputation as a comedic actor. That's a shame, because Oscar proved he had what it takes...
4. Assassins (1995)
This film is known as the one the Wachowskis wrote and hated so much they tried to get their names removed from the poster. Is it that bad ? No way. The film is a stylish action film with the then-red-hot Antonio Banderas as Stallone's opponent. They have great chemistry together and the same could be said between him and Julianne Moore, who is great in any role she plays. Despite what the Wachowskis might think, the plot is incredibly engaging if sometimes a bit confusing and Stallone offers a nuanced performance as a paid assassin who wants to retire after one last contract. I can't believe he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor (along with Judge Dredd) as I thought he was really good here. The film was a moderate success, grossing 83 500 000$ out of a 50 000 000$ budget, continuing the string of hits Stallone has had since 1993.
3. The Specialist (1994)
While extremely cheesy and predictable, it remains one of Stallone's most enjoyable flicks. Sharon Stone is possibly the best leading lady he ever worked with, as she was in her Basic Instinct prime (both in her looks and star power). The story is about a woman named May Munro (Stone) who witnessed the murder of her parents by the mafia and wants revenge with the help of bomb expert Ray Quick (Stallone). Simple ! Well, the plot has some surprises but nothing really shocking happens. Nonetheless, the chemistry of its leads is great and they have a great cast around then (James Woods, Eric Roberts and Rod Steiger all give excellent performances). Worth mentioning is John Barry's sensual soundtrack. It stands very well on its own and is probably the sound he would have given to the James Bond franchise had he continued to score those films in the early 9O's. The mix of Barry's score and songs by Miami Club Machine & Co. gives The Specialist a special touch of class. At the time of its release, most of the publicity was revolving around a sex scene between Stallone and Stone in the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, which remains the most explicit scene of its kind in Stallone's filmography. What can I say about it ? It is sexy if choreographed and we see too much of Stallone to my taste... The film was another big commercial hit, grossing 170 363 582$ out of a 45 000 000$ budget and earning a spot as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made by the The Official Razzie Movie Guide.
2. Cliffhanger (1993)
While the 3 previous films on this list are sometimes considered as so-bad-they-are-good flicks, Cliffhanger is recognized as a genuinely great movie. At the time of its release in 1993, the film became the hit Stallone badly needed and revived his career, grossing 255 000 000$ out of a 70 000 000$ budget and garnering some of the best reviews he had in years. Directed by Die Hard 2's Renny Harlin, the movie is filled with thrilling action scenes and fascinating characters ; John Lithgow especially is giving an excellent performance as the villain. The plot is revolving around the quest to find a huge sum of money lost in the Rocky Mountains after a failed hijacking. Stallone's character has to reluctantly help the villains find the money, while attempting to outsmart them. This must have been one of Stallone's most physically demanding roles and he is giving a great performance here. The special effects still hold up well today and most of the climbing scenes will have you on the edge of your seat (especially the opening sequence, which was parodied numerous times). In my mind, Cliffhanger, along with Schwarzenegger's True Lies (1994), stands as the best action movie of the decade, if not ever. Rumor has it that a remake is in the work as I write these lines. Let's hope it will never happen. The original is perfect and a must-see if you consider yourself an action-film fan.
1. Demolition Man (1993)
This is my all-time favorite Stallone film. Why ? It's great on so many different levels. The movie is not an action movie nor is it a comedy. Demolition Man is a unique film that features a witty commentary on what the society of the future might look like and an engrossing action film too. I believe Stallone is giving his funniest performance ever here as John Spartan (what a cool name that is), a LAPD police officer cryogenically frozen in the 9O's and thawed in 2032 to help catch fellow prisoner Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). Along the way, he is helped by Sgt Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock). Snipes is as funny as Stallone here and the movie remains a highlight in his filmography. He is a perfect opponent for Stallone, matching him physically and with his wits. This is I believe Bullock's first starring role of her career. She is a comedic highlight of the film and her romance with Stallone was surprisingly believable. The soundtrack to the film is as unique as the film it accompanies. Elliot Goldenthal is one of Hollywood's best and most underrated composers ; most of his work is a joy to listen to and always full of surprises. The score to Demolition Man is no exception. Goldenthal must have been proud of his work here ; he reused numerous cues for his scores to Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). Sting performs the theme of the film, a rocking version of The Police song Demolition Man. The film was a deserved commercial success, grossing 159 000 000$ worldwide and is still considered a classic in Stallone's filmography. Don't miss it !