It’s Robert Zemeckis‘s birthday! To mark the occasion, here are five films from his filmography that are worth checking out (if you haven’t already).
Used Cars (1980)
Kurt Russell stars as a charismatic used car salesman who aspires to become an elected politician. I absolutely love the sleazy connection Zemeckis and his writing partner Bob Gale made between these two occupations. And that’s just the start of the sort of sly humor that is found in Used Cars. Sure, the plot and hijnks may be bananas and would never last more than a day in reality, but this is the reel world where anything goes. There’s also bit parts by some future Back to the Future stars if you keep your eyes peeled on the Driver’s Ed. students. It’s definitely worth trading in a rewatch of an old classic for a viewing of Used Cars.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
The first time I saw Romancing the Stone was brief. We were on a school trip and someone put in a DVD for us to watch on the fold down screens on the bus. Well, as soon as the fictitious heroine pulled up her dress (image provided for reference) and pulled a knife from below her ass cheek the film was stopped and I think we watched Up instead. I didn’t return to the film for close to a decade after that memory, and I don’t think I even knew that it was the same film until it had started. It wasn’t exactly the type of film I was expecting it to be (I assumed it was going to be more in line with Indiana Jones), but I was still entertained. The sequel isn’t nearly as good, but Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are such good on-screen partners that I would have gladly watched the unproduced third film in the series. Oh, and this film got Back to the Future made, so there’s that.
Cast Away (2000)
Forrest Gump might have brought Zemeckis all the accolades, but I think Cast Away cemented him as being a director that could tackle both comedy and drama. Tom Hanks deserved that Oscar as a man stranded on a deserted island, presumed dead, with nothing except various FedEx packages and Wilson the Volleyball to keep him alive. It’s a gripping story of survival and the inner will to keep on fighting. Cast Away would also have one of the most gut wrenching endings of all time if it chose to stop with Hanks’s character’s rescue. Instead, the film ends with optimism and a subtle Tom Hanks smile. And really, what more could you ask for in a film?
The Polar Express (2004)
This film gets all the hate, and deserves none of it. Yes, the animation is ugly and has aged poorly. But the story is where the heart is at. I saw this in theaters in 3D and I was reaching out trying to catch the snowflakes as they fell down in front of my face. As we have seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump, Zemeckis is a director that is always trying to do something new with film. Whether that is seamlessly mixing animation with live-action or splicing a fictional character into real-life scenes, the man is constantly trying out new techniques. The Polar Express may be a nightmare of CGI motion capture now, but in 2004 it was revolutionary and breathtaking. It’s also way better than his A Christmas Carol adaptation which uses the same technology. If you cannot see the wonder of The Polar Express then you probably cannot hear the bell ring either.
Doc Brown Saves the World (2015)
I’m cheating a bit because this is technically a short film, but whatever! You thought I wasn’t going to talk about Back to the Future? Well, think again! The short was created to commemorate the franchise’s 30th anniversary back in 2015. Basically, it explains why our 2015 didn’t have food hydrators, self lacing shoes, hoverboards (the real ones), or Mr. Fusion home energy reactors. It all gets chalked up to Griff Tannen accidentally starting a nuclear holocaust. It may not be as exciting as a Back to the Future Part IV would be (note: I do not want a fourth film), but seeing Christopher Lloyd step back into Doc Brown is a worthy consolation prize. Hunt this short down and enjoy seeing the Back to the Future team (Zemeckis, Gale, Lloyd) back together for one last time travel mission.
What are some of your favorite films directed by birthday boy Robert Zemeckis? Drop them in the comments below!