The Hunger Games is by far the most popular film in which characters fight to the death, but it's far from the only one (or the best). While Katniss Everdeen and co. helped to popularize this typically brutal subgenre of film, there are last-man-standing films going back for decades.
Last-man-standing movies typically involve a government (or other entity) forcing a group of people to fight to the bitter end. Only one person can win, and they're promised a life of riches and fame should they make it out. Normally these films are set in a dystopian future in which the state uses these games to alleviate the aggression of the bloodthirsty masses. And as those very masses, it is your job to vote on which of these movies make for the most diabolically enjoyable entertainment.
- Photo: TriStar Pictures
The 1987 sci-fi blockbuster The Running Man gives audiences a dystopian look into the future of the United States. In the world of the film, the US has become a totalitarian police state in which criminals are forced to fight for their lives in a TV game show. The premise of the show is simple: The crooks compete as "runners" and must evade the government-sanctioned stalkers. If a runner can make it out of the game alive, they are granted their freedom and pardoned for their offenses. If they lose... well, that's simple, too. They die.
The film may not be high art, but it is a lot of fun. Arnold Schwarzenegger is fully in his element as an action hero, and the premise was still novel when it came out (25 years before The Hunger Games graced cinema screens). As The Washington Post put it, Schwarzenegger is "as funny as he is ferocious." The main star isn't the only one bringing their A-game, though, as the film is chock full of inventive bad guys who elevate this blockbuster to the next level. One of the stalkers attacks his marks with exploding hockey pucks, and another calls himself Fireball and wears a jetpack into battle. Seriously, it's a lot of fun.Worth a look?
- Photo: TriStar Pictures
Westerns typically have high body counts, but it's rare that those body counts are racked up because of a formal tournament. Regardless, in The Quick and the Dead, a gunslinger known only as the Lady finds herself in the town of Redemption, where a quick-draw tournament is being held. The tournament rules state that every single day, participants have to engage in one quick-draw showdown, and they must accept any challenge proposed to them. The only person left alive at the end of the tournament wins.
Sam Raimi, the director of The Evil Dead and the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man trilogy, understands campy fun better than anyone. He's the perfect person to have behind the wheel of a film this absurd. In front of the camera, there's a fun performance from a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and the film is worth checking out for that alone.Worth a look?
- Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
In Ready or Not, a woman named Grace is set to marry into a family with an extremely strange tradition. The family is incredibly rich thanks to a deal with a devil-like figure who promised them wealth as long as they continue to play a game on the day of any marriage in the family. To decide the game, they draw a card from a box. The game could be as simple as checkers or as dangerous as their twisted version of hide-and-seek. And, of course, Grace pulls the hide-and-seek card.
The rules to the family hide-and-seek aren't complicated. Everyone in the family must work together to eliminate the newcomer (in this case, Grace) before morning. If the family fails, they all perish by sunrise. The film's premise is charming in its absurdity, and its lead actress, Samara Weaving, has a real star turn as Grace. As the Chicago Reader put it, "Weaving comes alive as a hilarious and deeply macabre play on the 'final girl' archetype, and it's nothing short of cathartic to cheer her on and echo the rage that quickly consumes and empowers her."Worth a look?
- Photo: New World Pictures
Death Race 2000 falls into the always-fun genre of films featuring totalitarian governments instituting a silly death game to pacify their bloodthirsty constituents. The game involved in this case is the titular cross-country race. Five participants are selected for the race each year, and as part of the tradition, the racers adhere to various themes. In the race that Death Race 2000 depicts, some of the standout characters are an old-school Chicago gangster, a Roman gladiator, and a cowgirl.
Death Race 2000 is zany, fun schlock. Readers intrigued by this synopsis should immediately seek the film out.Worth a look?