Saturday, 20 August 2016

Top Five Michael J. Fox Films

He may have sadly been absent from our screens for a good few years now due to the tragically-early onset of Parkinson's Disease, but the name of Michael J. Fox is still one resonates strongly with most film fans, especially ones who were around in the 80's. This, of course, is mainly due to the Back to the Future films, but he has starred in a surprising number of other films too. Here I've taken a look at what in my view are the best of them. Don't agree? Let's hear what your favourites are!

5. The Frighteners (1996)

This early Peter Jackson movie was sadly Michael's last big on-screen role, but was it one to remember? To be honest I think more people remember it due to Jackson's pre-LOTR involvement than MJF's these days but it's not a bad film and he is pretty good in it. He stars as Frank Bannister who is somehow able to see and communicate with ghosts. So of course, he tells them to haunt people, then sells his services as an exorcist! This is all well and good, but when the ghost of a serial killer starts offing locals, both living and dead, Frank must use his abilities to investigate and stop the evildoer. It was a film perhaps more notable for its special effects than anything else in its day but it definitely has more than just that going for it. As well as Mr. Fox, Star Trek alumni Jeffrey Combs is a standout as an eccentric FBI agent, as is Jake Busey, and we even get a cameo from R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket's hardcore drill sergeant). It has perhaps aged a bit now but it's still a fun romp and there are some interesting ideas here.

4. Doc Hollywood (1991)

One of the less well remembered of MJF's films, maybe, but it's a good one. He plays Dr. Benjamin Stone, a skilled surgeon who's moving to Beverly Hills from DC when he crashes his vintage Porsche and subsequently finds himself doing community service at the hospital of the small, rural town he crashed outside. Obviously he resents this and wants to get out of town as soon as possible, but it isn't long before the quaint little hamlet and all the (mostly) friendly people that reside therein have worked their wizardry on him, notably local hottie Lou (Julie Warner), an ambulance driver who's oddly bereft of clothes the first time we meet her. Rounding off a mighty appealing cast are Woody Harrelson, Bridget Fonda, and George Hamilton whose collective charm make Grady, South Carolina a hard place to leave. It's not the best 'city high-flyer taken in by small town charm' film that I've seen (and there are quite a few), but Fox portrays the 'transition' well and it's still a really enjoyable little film that many probably haven't even watched.

3. Casualties of War (1989)

I have never been that big on war films to be honest, but this is one I happened to catch on TV many years ago and it has always stuck with me. The featured war is that ill-advised one in Vietnam with Fox starring as Private First Class Max Eriksson alongside Sean Penn as Sergeant Tony Meserve. There is some fairly standard US vs Viet Cong action along the way but the main story focuses on Meserve's kidnapping of a local girl for his squad to use as a sex slave. Eriksson strongly objects to this but, since he is the only one to do so, he is ostracised by the others who even threaten to kill him if he talks. Can he keep his moral objections to himself? It's quite an unusual take on the genre (although it's actually based on a real incident) but it's even more unusual to see Fox in a serious role like this, and he's bloody good. You could consider the film a metaphor for the war in general, but however you look at it both leads are superb, as is Thuy Thu Le as Oanh, the captive girl, and the trio help make this a highly compelling film.

2. The Secret of my Success (1987)

For one crazy moment I did almost consider this for the top spot. It is awesome though, and has long been one of my favourite films. It features MJF as an enthusiastic new college graduate, arriving in NYC to start his new job, only to find the company has gone kaput. His only alternative is to work for his uncle's huge megacorp, but he's forced to start at the bottom, and in the mailroom, no less. His solution is to do what any of us would surely do in his place - create a fake executive and lead a double life! Naturally he possesses an ungodly talent for the business world and when his (obviously) incompetent uncle and the company he runs badly is targeted by a rival for takeover, who is there to save the day? Yes, that's right - our gifted young saviour is already in plain sight, but certain people don't want his insight. It's all very silly but MJF is very likeable as always, his uncle plays a great bad guy, and Helen Slater is passable on girlfriend duties. Corny perhaps, but also funny and one of the best feel-good films around.

1. Back to the Future (1985)

Okay, pretty obvious, but what did you really think #1 would be?! As usual with these lists I only chose one film from the series and I'm sure everyone will agree that the first instalment is easily the best. It was also easily one of my very favourite films in my youth. Lord knows how many times I watched our trusty VHS copy (and it wasn't just because of my crush on Lea Thompson!), and who could blame me? Even now it's still a fantastically entertaining film full of great dialogue, memorable scenes, and special effects that still impress, but back then? Jeez, it was the greatest thing ever! As we now know MJF, struggled with a crippling schedule, filming both this and Family Ties simultaneously, but it doesn't show - both he and Christopher Lloyd are wonderful here, and their chaotic time-travelling exploits remain as much fun as ever. Still one of my favourite films and surely the best one to feature the much-missed talents of Mr. Fox...

Other notable films: Teen Wolf, Light of Day, The American President, The Hard Way, For Love or Money, and of course Back to the Future Parts II & III


  1. The Frighteners is a film I love even more than Back to the Future...

    Looking at this list though, I'm suddenly aware the only films I've seen featuring Mr. Fox are the BTTF trilogy, Frighteners and his small role in Mars Attacks... He's been hiding from me!

  2. Glad to see some Frighteners love....It's a totally under-rated movie that I hardly ever see anyone talking about! Really liked Teen Wolf as well, which although totally cheesy, was perfectly good entertainment for 8 year-old, werewolf-loving me!

  3. The thing I remember most about The Frighteners is that it was the last ever film I bought on VHS :P Haha, I do enjoy it now and then though, but if you haven't seen Casualties or War or The Secret of My Success, I strongly urge you to give them a try. I was never very keen on Teen Wolf or the BTTF sequels for some reason...