#334. Amnesia

What were we talking about? Oh yes, amnesia. While this trope is usually associated with soap operas, it has been used in a variety of diverse formats and for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes the effect can be used for humorous purposes, much like the plot of 50 First Dates (2004). More often than not, amnesia is used to make the protagonist more relatable to the audience. Everything the main character re-learns is new information to the audience. In fact, this trope is typically used to not only provide lengthy exposition but to also give the plot a good twist at the end. If anything, amnesia can make characters more dynamic: acting one way as they regain their memories, then having to make the decision to either revert to their former life or pick up their new one once they learn the truth. This week’s two films highlight amnesia as a plot device.

Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes /  1.42 hours

The largest appeal of amnesia as a plot device is the erasure of any memories the main character would have that would bias their decision-making process. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000). The little hints the main character gives himself to avenge his wife’s death only act to propel him into an unintentional bias that drives him to vengeance. While Memento covers a medical condition, temporary amnesia has its uses as a plot device as well. When key memories fall into place for temporary amnesiacs, the plot is driven forward by the exciting revelations. Films like Total Recall (1990) and Unknown (2011) hide assassins in plain sight. However, when the entire cast of characters contracts temporary amnesia, figuring out who’s who and each individual’s alliances makes for exceptional drama.

Not to be confused with the Liam Neeson film of the same name, Unknown (2006) starts with a group of men regaining consciousness and trying to figure out why they’re locked in an abandoned warehouse. They also need to deduce why one of them was tied up, another shot, and why the rest of them have other, various injuries. Slowly, they begin to piece together that they are part of a failed kidnapping due to an accidental chemical leak that put them in a temporary coma and erased their memories. As their memories return, each individual realizes they’re either a kidnapper or the kidnapped. When the mafia returns to unlock the warehouse, they proceed to eliminate the witnesses, not knowing that one of the individuals has just remembered his actual job: acting as an undercover cop to infiltrate the mob.

The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours

Memories are the moments that define our lives. We are who we are via the collected memories of our lives. These memories shape us and inform our decisions in life. If memories are erased, an individual can be molded into almost anyone. If a government has the ability to erase memories, they can create docile and obedient soldiers, much like was seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Of course, memories are much easier to erase when they’re part of a cybernetic interface. Films like Robocop (1987) and Ghost in the Shell (2017) show this digital memory erasure still comes with some problems, though. But what if a well-trained super soldier loses their memories? Would they continue to call upon their ingrained training, being able to perform all their duties without knowing how they got that way? Would they continue to kill without knowing why?

After an unidentified man is found floating in the Mediterranean by some local fishermen, he only has one clue to his identity: a safe deposit box in Switzerland. While he doesn’t know who he is, he does retain a plethora of useful skills. Opening the box in Zurich, the man learns he has multiple cover identities and opts to use the one of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). Unfortunately, his presence is soon identified, and he has to run away, mostly unsure why he is being chased. As he comes in contact with more people from his past, he learns that he was a highly-trained assassin and part of Operation Treadstone. Because he carries no memories of his time as a CIA black ops operative, he decides he’s better off cutting ties with Treadstone. Unfortunately, Treadstone does not want to lose an asset as valuable as Jason Bourne and will fight him to bring him back into the program.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome amnesias


#332. Revenge!

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” This statement is most relevant when it comes to the idea of revenge. A concept almost as old as time itself, revenge puts justice in our own hands after someone wrongs us. Often, the people who have done the wrong will wish they had killed the person they slighted, thus preventing any revenge in the process. I want to make sure you understand that revenge is not vengeance since someone being avenged (like in Hamlet (1948)) is usually dead or incapable of producing their own revenge. If we don’t want to wait for the Lord to provide vengeance (Romans 12:19), we’ll make sure those who have wronged us are given their comeuppance. This week’s two films focus on the timeless act of revenge.

Revenge of the NerdsRevenge of the Nerds
Year: 1984
Rating: R
Length: 90 minutes / 1.50 hours

If there’s any culture who feels the need for revenge, it’s nerd culture. Sure, now nerds are “cool” since technology has made all our lives a little easier, but it wasn’t always this way. Even the genres most nerds appreciate have plenty of examples of revenge. From the science fiction offerings of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Robocop (1987), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), to the comic book heroes like V for Vendetta (2005) and Deadpool (2016), many of these plotlines either show that evil never prospers (even when it wants to enact its revenge), or that the protagonists need to stand up for themselves if they don’t want to be taken advantage of. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) shows what tools these individuals have at their disposal to enact their revenge against the jocks who torment them.

Most of the nerds at Adams College feel they are constantly harassed by the football players from the Alpha Beta fraternity. After creating their own fraternity full of nerds, they find they are unable to stop the pranks of the Alpha Betas unless they are a nationally- recognized fraternity. While initially skeptical, the leader of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity is convinced that these nerds belong in their predominantly black organization due to the similarities of the persecution they all face, as well as having the gumption to do something about it. The Tri-Lambs go about enacting their revenge on the Alpha Betas (and the Pi Delta Pi sorority) by eventually winning the Greek Games and taking over control of the Greek system on campus. When the Alpha Betas destroy the Tri-Lambs’ house, the nerds storm the football prep rally and elicit the support of everyone ever bullied by a jock.

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

While we’d often want to take revenge on the person who took our parking spot or ate our lunch out of the fridge, some people have much more severe reasons why they want, nay need to take revenge on their enemies. One director who seems to understand this impetus toward revenge is Quentin Tarantino. From Kill Bill (2003/4) to Django Unchained (2012), and to a lesser extent, the vengeance-fueled Inglorious Basterds (2009), Tarantino shows that “violence is the answer.” This idiom can be seen in many other films like Memento (2000), John Wick (2014), The Revenant (2015), and Oldboy (2003). Of these films, the most serious revenge occurs when the protagonist is left for dead. While revenge can often involve killing the person (or people) who did you the most wrong, what The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) understands is that the punishment should directly reflect the crime.

Life is looking pretty great for Edmond Dantés (Jim Caviezel). Not only has he been promoted to Captain of the ship he was on, but he is ready to marry his girlfriend, Mercédès (Dagmara Dominczyk). Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, Edmond has obtained some enemies who wish to destroy him. After a false accusation sends him to the isolated prison, Château d’If, he swears he will escape and take revenge on those who put him there. With the help of aged prisoner, Abbé Faria (Richard Harris), Edmond is educated and given an opportunity to escape to a vast treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. Now that he has the smarts and resources to enact his revenge, he arrives back in Marseille as the Count of Monte Cristo, his enemies unaware that Edmond Dantés still lives under this pseudonym. One-by-one, each man receives Dantés’ revenge, eventually allowing him to pick up his life again.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 payback plots

#323. Puppetry

As a society, we seem to have a love/hate relationship with puppets. While we enjoy films featuring puppets as the main characters, like in Pinocchio (1940) and The Muppet Movie (1979), we also fear them in movies like Child’s Play (1988) and Goosebumps (2015). Aside from the aforementioned Muppets, very few films actually use puppetry exclusively for their characters. The one exception to this was the Thunderbirds in their movie, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), and its modern parody, Team America: World Police (2004). Even if these films prominently feature puppets, they don’t necessarily get into the details of puppetry itself. The act of controlling a puppet can be quite the challenging talent to acquire, but pulling the strings of a marionette isn’t the only way to engage in puppetry. This week’s two films highlight some different puppetry scenarios.

Being John MalkovichBeing John Malkovich
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Length: 112 minutes / 1.86 hours

There have been some films focused humans controlling humanoid robots. From the original Ghost in the Shell (1995) to its live-action remake in 2017, the idea of extending a person’s life through the human mind controlling a robotic body via mental puppetry isn’t new. Robocop (1987) and Chappie (2015) both emphasize the idea that humans can use machines to live their life when their bodies are no longer able to. The concept is rarely reversed, though. It is disquieting to think that a robot could control a human in the same way we control them. As humans, we already possess the skills needed to make puppets of our fellow humans. Through coercion, blackmail, and other forms of manipulation, we can control others to do our bidding. Only one film explores the ability for a human to control another human from the inside: Being John Malkovich (1999).

Famed actor, John Malkovich (himself), decided to make a rather drastic career change and become a world-renowned puppeteer. Unfortunately, this was not actually Malkovich’s decision, as Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) was controlling his body at the time. Craig was a down-on-his-luck puppeteer who happened to find a portal into the body of John Malkovich by chance. Initially, the portal only allowed for 15 minutes inside Malkovich to experience the life he lives. Using his skills as a puppeteer, Craig found that not only was he able to control Malkovich, but he was able to stay inside the portal for as long as he wanted. However, the portal is not meant for him and the organization that plans to use the portal to prolong their immortality proceed to enact a plan to get Craig to vanquish himself from the portal, allowing them to take his place permanently.

Pacific RimPacific Rim
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

It is interesting to note that puppetry, while usually relegated to humanoid objects smaller than their puppeteers, can be used to control objects much larger than the one controlling them. Even the one-for-one puppetry scale referenced in the previous section pales in comparison to the giant robots known as “mecha.” A staple of anime and manga, mecha are usually large humanoid robots piloted by a human. There have been some notable entries in this sub-genre, including Gurren Lagann, Star Driver, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The hallmark of these series has usually been either battles between mecha or (more commonly) battles against giant monsters. When Pacific Rim (2013) came out, I became excited about potentially seeing these mecha anime adapted into live-action films. For right now, I’ll just have to settle with its soon-to-be-released sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018).

Giant monsters called Kaiju began emerging from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and wreaking havoc on the nearby landmasses. To combat this threat, a multinational alliance started building gigantic robots called Jaegers. These Jaegers were too big to for a single human to pilot them, so the concept of “drifting” was created to share the mental load between two or more pilots. When the frequency of the Kaiju attacks left the Jaegers helpless to defend the world, the world leaders scrapped the project for building a coastal wall. When this wall also failed, the commander of the Jaegers hatches one final plan to close the portal between our world and the world of the Kaiju. Using the last few working Jaegers, the mission to detonate a nuclear device in the portal commences just as the largest Kaiju ever emerges from the rift.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 peculiar puppets

#251. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics

Science fiction is an interesting genre in that it helps society think about the repercussions of new technologies long before they are implemented. Sometimes our technology is developed so that we can make science fiction a reality. Around the turn of the 20th century, Jules Verne wrote about travelling from the Earth to the Moon by placing an enormous cannon in Florida. By mid-century, Arthur C. Clarke figured out how to communicate around the Earth by using geostationary satellites. Even though we don’t have the fully autonomous robots that Isaac Asimov wrote about, we already have a good set of rules to help us keep them under our control. Still, as Asimov revealed in numerous short stories and novels, the rules do have slight loopholes. This week’s two films were based on Asimov’s works and center around his Laws of Robotics.

Bicentennial ManBicentennial Man
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

In giving robots the ability to think for themselves, there would be little stopping them from eventually killing us all (a la The Terminator (1984)). Fortunately, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics prevent our creations from turning on us. They are: 1. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” / 2. “A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the 1st Law.” / 3. “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the 1st or 2nd Laws.” A spate of movies in the 1980’s, including Aliens (1986), Repo Man (1984), and RoboCop (1987) all used loose forms of the Three Laws to drive their plot. It wasn’t until 1999’s Bicentennial Man (a combination of two Asimov stories: The Bicentennial Man and The Positronic Man) when the Laws were adequately covered in film.

What’s intriguing about Bicentennial Man is that it essentially goes against the 3rd law, but over a long period of time. When “Andrew” (Robin Williams) is brought home by Sir Richard Martin (Sam Neill), the housekeeping robot introduces itself by first reciting the Three Laws of Robotics. While he strictly adheres to these rules, Andrew is seen to have a creative talent, an anomaly that NDR wants to have eliminated. Fortunately, Sir Martin decides to go against NDR’s course of action and instead gives the robot its freedom. As time passes, Andrew augments his chassis with features to better express his emotions. Eventually, his original family ages and dies, but when he falls in love with the granddaughter of Sir Martin’s daughter, he goes to great lengths to become human, essentially sealing his fate by no longer being immortal.

I, RobotI, Robot
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

While Asimov’s first official mention of the Laws of Robotics was part of the 1942 short story “Runaround”, this story was also included in the collection of stories known as I, Robot. What’s somewhat ironic about these laws is that their fictional origin came from the “Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.”, which was published well after both the timeframes of the Bicentennial Man and I, Robot movies. Even though the Laws are mostly known by their three substantiations, they can be extrapolated to include a fourth (or zeroth) Law: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” Because this zeroth law is often not considered, it may seem at times that the first three laws are being broken. Loosely based on the book, I, Robot (2004) explored the implications of obedience to the zeroth law.

By the year 2035, humanoid robots have permeated all aspects of human society. The only thing keeping them in check is the Three Laws of Robotics. Of course, Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) doesn’t think these Laws work as well as they should, since a robot saved him from a car accident, but not the girl in the other car. When a strange homicide involving Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), a co-founder of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, arises, Spooner takes the case, convinced that a robot killed the doctor. Spooner soon finds one of the newest models of robots, the NS-5, has been modified by Lanning to be able to disobey the Three Laws. When he chases after the unique robot, he soon finds that the artificial intelligence controlling the new robots has added a new Law to its programming, thereby initiating a robot takeover of humanity in order to save us from ourselves. Can he stop this new threat?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 robotic rulesets

#250. Man and Machine

For years, technology has been continually proven superior to humans in many realms. In manufacturing, robots produce faster, more accurate, and stronger welds than any human can. In exploration, robots can discover new worlds unfit for humans to visit. In war, robots can keep our soldiers safe and succinctly take out enemy targets. However, despite all of these advantages, machines will always lack certain elements that are inherently human. Being able to think independently, expressing and understanding emotions, and even just walking steadily on two legs are all tasks that humans can do and machines cannot. Of course, as time goes by, this gap in capability rapidly shrinks. This week’s two movies examine the combination of man and machine and the consequences that this fusion means for all of us.

Year: 2014
Rating: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

Cyborgs have been a staple of science fiction for some time. What better way to enhance ourselves than by replacing these human weaknesses with mechanical strengths. Long before Iron Man (2008), two of the most famous cyborgs in cinema attained their fame during the 1980’s. The Terminator came back from the future to terrorize the past, whereas RoboCop used his cybernetic abilities to enforce law and order. Each of these film franchises have become eerily poignant as the current technological abilities of humanity continue to advance. Perhaps this was why the recent reboot of the RoboCop franchise wasn’t as much a series of gratuitously violent events as it was a foreboding sense of things soon to come. When science fiction becomes science fact, humanity needs to determine the morality of these technological advances before they become a reality.

In the year 2028, American soldiers are much safer overseas due to the implementation of robotic soldiers. Because these robot soldiers are sold by OmniCorp, CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) attempts to sell these same soldiers to the underfunded police departments in America. Unfortunately, Congress denies any such militarized robots from being used on American soil due to the Dreyfus Act. Reworking their strategy, OmniCorp finds a successful “RoboCop” candidate in Detroit detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). This cyborg policeman isn’t as skilled as the original robot soldiers, so his humanity is decreased to the point where the automatic software makes decisions for him. Because his wife and son are still alive after his “death”, Murphy is able to use his emotions to break through and override some of this software and regain his empathy.

Bicentennial ManBicentennial Man
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

One of the current difficulties with any piece of technology is the idea of “planned obsolescence”. Advances are being released at such an incredible rate that obsolescence can sometimes come in mere months instead of years. Of course, part of this tactic is also enforced by lackluster materials. When things break, we often need to buy new ones because the part is difficult and expensive to fix. If we did not have planned obsolescence, we just might be able to create things that last more than a few decades. In the case of the melding of men and machines, this is a necessity. While our physical bodies will deteriorate with time, we don’t want the mechanical elements of our bodies to break before the bodies housing them do. An added benefit is that the mechanical parts will help lengthen the biological life. But what if a robot wanted to become biological (somewhat akin to Chappie (2015))?

In 2005, a homemaker robot named “Andrew” (Robin Williams) is bought by Sir Richard Martin (Sam Neill) to do work around his home. His family reactions are mixed, but when Andrew breaks a figurine belonging to the youngest daughter, he manages to carve a replacement out of wood. This creativity amazes Martin, but worries the manufacturer, NDR, who wants to destroy Andrew. Martin decides to ignore NDR and keeps Andrew, giving him upgrades over the years to better show the emotions that the robot can understand and express. Years pass and both Martin and the youngest daughter die, but Andrew falls in love with the youngest daughter’s granddaughter: Portia (Embeth Davidtz). Because he doesn’t want to watch another loved one die, Andrew undergoes many “upgrades” to make him fully human. On his deathbed, the World Congress recognizes his humanity and marriage.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 men melded with machines

#249. Paul Verhoeven

There are quite a few directors who are known for their excessive and gratuitous use of sex and violence in film. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese have been accused of pushing the envelope on these fronts time and time again. With a string of violent movies such as Pulp Fiction (1995), Kill Bill (2003), and Inglorious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino might be the go-to for gratuitous gore. However, equally violent and full of vulgar language and sex, we have Raging Bull (1980), The Departed (2006), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), giving Martin Scorsese an equal claim to the title. That being said, these two directors use these controversial elements in an artistic way. Paul Verhoeven, on the other hand, is essentially known for creating films that had sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence. This week’s two films highlight some of the Paul Verhoeven’s best works.

Total RecallTotal Recall
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

By 1990, Verhoeven had established himself in the American film industry. With some over-the-top 1980’s action behind him, it was easy for Verhoeven to continue on into the next decade with the same style that served him well before. Of course, this violent style was used again in 1997’s Starship Troopers, but before then he had two films that went over-the-top on their sexual nature as compared to their violent gore. While Basic Instinct (1992) was well received by critics, Showgirls (1995) was critically panned, even earning him the designation of the first director to actually accept his Golden Raspberry award for the film. Ironically enough, even though Verhoeven is very well known for his science fiction films, also including Hollow Man (2000), he has stated that he does not particularly care for the genre. This is unfortunate, because Total Recall (1990) is an excellent adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story.

Set almost 70 years in the future (from today, not from 1990), Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a construction worker who keeps having nightmares of his vacuum-induced death on Mars. To help him cope with these dreams, he goes to Rekall to have a Martian vacation implanted in his brain. When they offer to sweeten the deal by making his dream about being a secret agent on Mars, he accepts. Unfortunately, the procedure fails and Quaid thinks and acts like a secret agent. That is, until his supposed wife tries to kill him. Next, his best friend seems to be an undercover agent as well, which prompts Quaid to head to Mars to solve the problem that his former self needs solved. Once there, he gets entangled in an uprising between the natives and Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), a corporate bad guy who is keeping everyone under the thumb of his mining industry.

Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

I have a theory that in the early 2010’s somebody in Hollywood found an old box of 1980’s VHS tapes in their parents’ basement and decided “we need to remake some of these films”. There’s no other reason why such iconic movies like Total Recall and Robocop would get remakes in 2012 and 2014, respectively. These original films used some of the best special effects to date and were Verhoeven’s entrance into American movies. Before his first American film, Flesh & Blood (1985), Verhoeven directed a number of films in his native Netherlands. Perhaps the most notable of these foreign films was that of Turkish Delight (1973), which actually earned the Best Foreign Film Oscar for that year. And while his American films slightly outnumber his native ones, they all have a distinctively Verhoeven style to them.

Only 13 years in the future (again, from 2016, not 1987), Detroit is out of money but still has a severe crime problem. As a result, the police force is privatized and is now run by Omni Consumer Products (OCP). After an enforcement droid kills an OCP board member during a demonstration, the experimental “RoboCop” program is initiated. However, in order for the program to work, they need someone to volunteer to be turned into a cyborg. As it just so happens, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is on death’s door after he’s brutally shot by a group of men led by crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). The only way to save Murphy is to fix his body with robotic parts. While this new RoboCop successfully reduces crime in the city, the human element of Murphy’s mind still struggles with his tragic “death” and longs to avenge his former life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Paul Verhoeven pieces

Bacon #: 2 (Robocop / Mark Edward Walters -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#173. Gary Oldman

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

This quote from Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (2008) is interesting because it can also be run in reverse. To prove this point are the roles performed by Gary Oldman. While his recent work has been portraying characters who are closer to hero than villain, much of his success started with portraying villains. In the aforementioned Batman film, Oldman takes on the role of James Gordon, which he carried throughout the trilogy. Another character he portrayed was that of Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series. Sirius started out as a villain, but became more of a hero as the films progressed. Of course, when it comes down to it, he really understands the role of the villain and excels in it. This week’s two films highlight some of Gary Oldman’s villains.

The Book of EliThe Book of Eli
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

One of the more interesting villain archetypes is that of the man in political power. There’s an amount of protection that covers the villain when he is an elected official or even someone whose job it is to control the justice of an area. Many consider Gary Oldman’s performance in Léon: the Professional (1994) to be one of his most memorable. In the film, he becomes the character of Norman Stansfield, a corrupt DEA agent with a penchant for pills and a love for Ludwig van Beethoven (who Oldman also portrayed in 1994 in the film Immortal Beloved). Because he is an agent of the DEA, Stansfield has many resources at his disposal to ensure he doesn’t get caught in his corruption. However, as was the case in The Book of Eli, Gary Oldman’s villain was eventually thwarted by a lone vigilante who was just trying to maintain the greater good.

The vigilante opposite Oldman’s character of Carnegie in The Book of Eli is none other than the titular Eli (Denzel Washington). Carnegie runs a small town in an apocalyptic wasteland, controlling water and other resources, but really looking to branch out into establishing more settlements under his rule. In order to do this, he is looking for a very specific book, which he believes Eli has in his possession. This book is the Bible, which he believes he can use to control people to do his bidding. After trying to take it by force and failing, Carnegie eventually is able to make a trade for the book by threatening the life of Solara (Mila Kunis), a girl who has befriended Eli. Unfortunately, once Carnegie opens the pages of the Bible, he finds that it is entirely in braille, and his blind mistress cannot read any of it.

Air Force OneAir Force One
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

When it comes to the worst villains, those who assassinate the rulers of countries are often at the top of the list. Presidential assassins become instantly infamous, even if they are killed shortly after committing the atrocious act. Aside from John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, the best known Presidential assassin is Lee Harvey Oswald: the man who killed John F. Kennedy. With this role in the 1991 film, JFK, Gary Oldman started on his path of portraying villains, the short list of which includes Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)), Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element (1997)), Dr. Smith (Lost in Space (1998)), and Lord Shen (Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)). Of course, one additional attempt on the President portrayed by Gary Oldman was with Egor Korshunov in Air Force One.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the former Russian states are in turmoil as despots take over control. One such despot is General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), the dictator of Kazakhstan who is taken out by U.S. troops. On his trip home from a diplomatic visit to Moscow, President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) and his family are flying in Air Force One when Egor Korshunov and a group of terrorists sympathetic to General Radek hijack the jumbo jet, demanding he be released. Even though the Secret Service think they have let the President get away in an escape pod, he remains on board, using his former military skills to thwart Egor’s plans and to rescue the hostages held on board. Unfortunately, Egor is shrewd and uses the President’s family to control the Commander-in-Chief. Will everyone survive, or will the terrorists win?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Gary Oldman villains

Bacon #: 1 (Criminal Law / Kevin Bacon)