by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
You could say it’s a sweaty little secret, but in ninety-nine percent of all enduring Hollywood blockbuster smash hits, inevitably some man will break into a sprint to save his life. Consider Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow as a running man, from himself and various Admirals, Captains, Dead Men, and “natives.” Recall the beach scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where he breaks full tilt chased by cannibals, who used to think he was their King.
We’re not going as far back as Master Runner of the Silent Era, Charlie Chaplin, or the speedy hi jinx of The Marx Bros. And no, we’re not talking “The Loneliness of the Long-Distant Runner” (1962) type movies either, that focus solely on the footwork. Which also knocks out “Chariot’s of Fire” (1982) and “Marathon Man” (1976) as running-themed genres.
Neither are we exactly talking men running after women, as in Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman” or Hugh Grant, also after Julia Roberts, in “Notting Hill.” Because those are expected hit-the-pavement moments. We’re talking adrenaline bursts, which is a hallmark of the Man’s Movie. Think of Rocky Balboa, and the all-out man-blast against Apollo Creed in Rocky II. It’s friendly, but someone will have to die, or at least be critically injured later. Sly Stallone runs in nearly every movie, for personal reasons in the first Rocky to professional reasons and then to save his life.
Not to be outdone by Stallone, Harrison Ford kicked ass on foot, not only as a space racer in “Star Wars” — running on the tarmac and into hyperspace. But Ford’s real running glory is as Indian Jones, franchise fronter, who escapes the iconic rolling huge stone ball, among other fleet-of-foot feats of derring-do. Contemporary Michael Douglas did a bit of fancy footwork in “Romancing the Stone,” disqualified on romantic grounds unfortunately, but there’s footage of him in most of his films breaking out in full speed courtesy of his training from the old “Streets of San Francisco” days. (Note: cop movies are instantly disqualified as running after the bad guy is a job requirement.)
Even Daniel Day-Lewis, of the recent alleged retirement from acting, spanked the woods with his super sexy foot work as unshorn cause fighter in “Last of the Mohicans” (1982). Which brings us to Kevin Costner, if he wasn’t running enough in “Field of Dreams,” which is disqualified as a romantic movie on Love of Baseball grounds, he sure as hell ran for his life in “Dances with Wolves,” though a lot of it was on horseback, granted. But Costner comes roaring back as a running coach in “McFarland USA,” where he teaches a bunch of kids to run on the screen as a way to find their way in life — so it’s not really a running movie, so much as a Why Men Run movie.
Old Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks himself, is a showcase of Man Running Moments, a literal narrative thread throughout the chocolate-box themed movie.
The new generation of actors, like the out-of-shape “Superbad” era dudes even did their marginally skilled part in the man’s movement. Think of Jonah Hill running with Russell Brand in “Get Him to The Greek.”
But in 2012, Bradley Cooper reinvented the Men Run for Personal Reasons in Movies trope in “Silver Linings Playbook.” He made running from Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany character all about the testosterone. Since this is not technically a pure love story, because the man is mostly in love with himself, Silver Linings gets a pass even with that heart-crunching romantic big bang BO ending.
So, who do we have so far? Yes, Brad Pitt also runs in his movies, but he’s such a mellow guy, he is almost disqualified on stoner grounds, and relegated to a shelf. But, along comes Pitt’s “War Machine,” and damn skippy if he doesn’t run like a weirdo.
We’re leaving out Brad Pitt doppleganger Robert Redford from the much-hightailing on foot “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” with Paul Newman, also Steve McQueen, Dustin “Marathon Man” Hoffman, and other 70’s icons, as we are really starting with the 80’s.
Why the 80’s?
Because despite all those A-Listers above, it’s an 80’s movie star who holds the top spot for Men Running in Movies.
And the winner is…Tom Cruise.
If you watch nearly every Tom Cruise vehicle: TC always breaks into a sprint. (Caveat: “Born on the Fourth of July,” for obvious reasons.)
Freakish “Minority Report,” is where the stocky A-Lister runs for his life. Not like “Days of Thunder” where he ran into Nicole Kidman, lol, which is disqualified for romantic reasons in the running.
“Vanilla Sky” works and you can view his ankle-jamming sequence on YouTube.
In“Tropic Thunder,” not so much as Cruise has body padding and a bald pate with artificially fat hands even. But “The Last Samurai” is perfect because even his hair is running long in this exhausting horseback and on-foot sword epic.
The First Billion Dollar movie star, true stat, doesn’t even have to break a sweat on foot in “Interview with a Vampire” because he is mostly undead and airborne.
“Far and Away” is sadly DQ’d for romantic reasons, again with Kidman, but there’s some awesome underclass drudge running in that one.
“Rain Man” has him fleet-of-foot again, but not like the awesome white-collar deviant sprinting in “Eyes Wide Shut,” which is not disqualified for romantic reasons because it’s really Stanley Kubrick’s clinical essay on human sexuality in secret societies.
“Jerry Maguire” is almost disqualified for romantic reasons with Renee Zellwegger, but let’s face it, Cameron Crowe was really writing about lead Jerry, so Tom cracking a 100-meter dash now and again in that one is all about Cruise control, a self-love story.
Which leads us to the bell-ringer that pushes Top Gun’s Maverick over the top of the egg here for Most Running Man in the Movies — the Mission Impossible franchise. No, we’re not saying Daniel Craig doesn’t have the Most Kick-Ass Man Running Movie, as James Bond in the “Casino Royale” opener, but TC bests him on quantity.
Every single big-tent-pole Tom Cruise movie, all the MI movies, “Jack Reacher,” “Collateral,” even “Magnolia” show him picking up speed. Especially “War of the Worlds” where he is both apocalyptic and stylish, and running.
Having broken into a full gallop onscreen in nearly every Cruise picture 35 years since “Risky Business” saw him slide across the floor and onto American multiplexes, Tom Cruise is our number one pick for The Men Running in Movies Top Dog. And we’re sure he can handle the truth about what all this running is about. It’s a man thing.
Hey, this is how female critics cover the Industry, ps, that’s why no one ever did a list like this before, in case you’re wondering. Fight or flight, watch your next movie with an eye to which man breaks into a sprint, it’s a fun stat to keep track of, as running will never go out of style in male-driven big-budget Hollywood releases.
Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” which could be considered a cop movie, but he is so debonaire as 007, his opening run in that movie deserves a nod.
See you in the audience soon, and Happy Summer Blockbuster Season.
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