Total Recall

Total Recall: Mel Gibson's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Edge of Darkness star.

by | January 28, 2010 | Comments

Mel Gibson

Eight years is an eternity in Hollywood. Why, in 2002, Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond, Nia Vardalos was a budding film mogul, and Ryan Reynolds was still just that guy from National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. It was also the year Mel Gibson starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, an eventual $400 million hit — and the beginning of an unexpectedly long absence for one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Aside from an appearance in The Singing Detective the following year, Gibson has been uncharacteristically camera-shy for almost a decade now, but all that ends this week, with his starring turn in Martin Campbell’s Edge of Darkness. Seeing Mel return to his action roots has us in a celebratory mood — and what better way to celebrate than a look back at his best-reviewed films? Yes, folks, it’s Total Recall time!


10. Braveheart

Okay, so maybe there’s still grumbling in the critical community about it taking the Best Picure Oscar. And it may very well have deserved its high ranking in the London Times’ list of the most historically inaccurate movies of all time. Whatever its flaws, though, it takes a special kind of historical epic to hold an audience in thrall for nearly three hours, and that’s exactly what Braveheart did — to the tune of a $210 million worldwide gross and five Academy Awards against a rather incredible 10 nominations. Making his directorial follow-up to 1993’s The Man Without a Face, Gibson initially resisted casting himself as Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, but once he took the role, he made it his own, infusing what might have been a fusty period piece with plenty of timeless, vein-bulging action. Forgive Braveheart its arguably bloated length, as well as the many smirking cries of “Freedom!” it triggered; applaud it instead, because, in the words of Film Scouts’ Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, “At the heart of Mel Gibson’s tumultuously entertaining epic is the almost-quaint notion that movie heroics should mean something more than a play for the much-coveted 18-25 box office demographic.”


9. The Bounty

The oft-told tale of Captain Bligh and his unwieldy crew got the revisionist treatment in this watery Roger Donaldson-directed epic, which gave a young Gibson (as the mutinous Fletcher Christian) the chance to lock big-screen horns with Anthony Hopkins (as the tyrannical, or perhaps merely beleaguered, Bligh) for the fate of the HMS Bounty. Of course, we all know how things turned out for Bligh and his men — so it’s to Gibson and Hopkins’ immense credit, as well as a testament to a stellar supporting cast that included Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson, that The Bounty was such a critical success. Though some critics took issue with the script’s historical errors, as well as an overall absence of the type of fireworks one might expect from a cast of this caliber, the majority had kind words for the film — including Roger Ebert, who wrote, “this Bounty is not only a wonderful movie, high-spirited and intelligent, but something of a production triumph as well.”


8. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

The first two films in the trilogy are widely acknowledged action classics, leaving 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome the runt of the litter. Of course, an 81 percent Tomatometer rating is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when we’re talking about the third installment in a series, but Thunderdome is easily the most hotly contested of the franchise, with fans and critics either hating it (“Definitely the worst movie in the Mad Max series,” wrote James O’Ehley of the Sci-Fi Movie Page) or preferring it to its predecessors (Roger Ebert called it “more visionary and more entertaining than the first two”). No matter how you feel about Thunderdome, though, one thing’s for sure: Between George Miller halfway bailing on the project after the death of his friend Byron Kennedy, and the stunt casting of Tina Turner as the power-hungry Aunty Entity, things probably should have turned out a lot worse than they did. In fact, Thunderdome has some of the most memorable moments and quotable lines in the series — and boasts, according to Time Out’s Derek Adams, “Enough imagination, wit and ingenuity to put recent Spielberg to shame.”


7. Lethal Weapon 2

After the immense success of 1987’s Lethal Weapon, and the enduring popularity of the buddy cop genre it helped define, it came as no surprise to anyone when a sequel surfaced two years later. What was shocking, however, was just how much fun Lethal Weapon 2 turned out to be. Boasting further opportunities for Gibson to test the limits of action-hero funny business as nutty LAPD sergeant Martin Riggs, some of the nastiest bad guys in any late ’80s action thriller, and rapid-fire comic relief in the form of Joe Pesci, the second Weapon flew in the face of conventional wisdom by scoring with filmgoers and critics alike. In fact, some preferred it to the original — including scribes like Brian Orndorf, who called it “One of the finest examples of the genre, and, in my humble estimation, one of the greatest sequels put to film. Perhaps deranged hyperbole, but rarely does a follow-up outgun the original film as swiftly as Lethal 2 does.”


6. Gallipoli

A number of films have tried to send a message about the futility and waste of war, but few have done it with the plain and heartbreaking precision of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, which recounts the terrible saga of the Australian soldiers who perished in a poorly planned attempt to break a stalemate on the Turkish peninsula during World War I. By focusing less on the action-heavy aspect of the war and more on the doomed friendship of two soldiers named Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Gibson), Gallipoli underlined the human cost of the campaign, culminating in a harrowing final sequence that painfully illustrates the human cost of battle. “Weir’s work has a delicacy, gentleness, even wispiness that would seem not well suited to the subject,” observed Janet Maslin of the New York Times, “and yet his film has an uncommon beauty, warmth, and immediacy, and a touch of the mysterious, too.”


5. The Year of Living Dangerously

Later in his career, Gibson acquired a rep for gravitating toward films that depicted grievous bodily harm, but anyone who’d been paying attention knew his taste for cinematic pain wasn’t a recent development. Take, for instance, 1983’s The Year of Living Dangerously, in which Gibson plays a journalist whose hunger for a big story leads him into the heart of an Indonesian coup — and earns him a busted eye in the process. Gibson’s second film with director Peter Weir, Dangerously benefited from its star’s heightened post-Mad Max profile, although it was his co-star, Linda Hunt, who walked away with an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (and for good reason: She played a half-Chinese dwarf named Billy Kwan). “The Year of Living Dangerously is a flawed film,” wrote Dan Jardine of the Apollo Guide, “but it is richly textured and imbued with enough emotional and intellectual subtlety to make it a rewarding experience.”


4. Lethal Weapon

Movies had been making cash out of the male buddy dynamic for decades before Lethal Weapon came along, so it would be a mistake to call it groundbreaking, but it was still one of the more influential (and successful) action flicks of the late ’80s. Of course, that influence was partially felt through turkeys like Tango & Cash — not to mention Weapon‘s three uneven sequels — but let us focus here on the positive: Gibson and Glover have the easy chemistry of two old friends, Richard Donner’s direction is at its sleekest, Shane Black’s script combines laughs and thrills in equal measure, and Gibson’s mullet was never more exquisite. The role of mentally unstable cop Martin Riggs wasn’t really anything new for Gibson (Time’s Richard Schickel cracked that the movie was “Mad Max meets The Cosby Show“), but it put him squarely in his wheelhouse, and introduced filmgoers to one of the more interesting and complex characters in the genre. “From a distance, Lethal Weapon might appear generic,” wrote James Berardinelli of ReelViews, “but a closer look reveals something special.”


3. Mad Max

Pop quiz: Before Paranormal Activity came along last year, what was the biggest cost-to-profit success in movie history? That’s right, it was 1979’s Mad Max, George Miller’s dystopian shoot-’em-up about an emotionally frayed cop (Gibson) driven over the edge after a gang of lunatics murders his wife and daughter. Gibson’s unthrottled performance as Max Rockatansky channeled the unfocused anger that led the fledgling actor into bar fights, launching a hugely successful film career in the process — and Miller’s brilliant way with an adrenalized set piece helped change global perceptions of the Australian film industry. Not bad for a movie with a shoestring budget, peppered with accents and slang its American distributors insisted on overdubbing, and little more on its mind than 95 minutes of very gruesome violence. The next time you’re caught in the grip of a filmmaker’s nightmarish vision of the future, thank Mad Max — the movie that, in the words of eFilmCritic’s Brian McKay, “launched not only [Mel Gibson’s] career, but the whole post-apocalyptic genre of the ’80s and beyond.”


2. Chicken Run

Disagreements during its production ultimately led to a parting of the ways for Aardman Animations and DreamWorks Animation, but as far as critics and filmgoers were concerned, Chicken Run was nothing but a winner. The stop-motion animated adventure, which finds Gibson lending his voice to a suave rooster named Rocky, offered American audiences their first opportunity to get an extended look at the distinctive style of Nick Park and his cohorts — and it gave Gibson the chance to add another kid-friendly entry to a rather dark filmography. (Gibson’s previous foray into animation, 1995’s Pocahontas, left critics lukewarm at 55 percent on the Tomatometer.) Whatever led to the Aardman/DreamWorks divorce didn’t show up on screen; Chicken Run‘s feathery blend of comedy and adventure produced nearly $225 million in worldwide grosses and applause from critics like Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle, who called it “the most consistently entertaining animated film in years.”


1. The Road Warrior

If you’re going to make a sequel, it helps if the first installment leaves you enough room to grow — and a storyline open-ended enough to give the characters something truly interesting to do. George Miller was lucky enough to have both with 1979’s Mad Max, as well as a huge worldwide gross; two years later, he put them all to use for The Road Warrior, which placed Gibson, returning as Mad Max, at the center of a battle for one of the last working oil refineries in the world. But bigger battles and improved special effects weren’t all that The Road Warrior brought to the table — where the first film found Max tearing loose from the bonds of society after losing his family, the sequel gave him a few reminders of his own humanity. “The Road Warrior isn’t Citizen Kane,” wrote James Rocchi of Netflix, “but it has a lot of things — power, speed, brains and energy — in massive quantities and at a high degree of quality that many films can only dream of.”

In case you were wondering, here are Gibson’s top ten movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Braveheart — 93%
2. Lethal Weapon — 93%
3. The Road Warrior — 92%
4. Gallipoli — 92%
5. Lethal Weapon 2 — 88%
6. Mad Max — 86%
7. Maverick — 85%
8. The Year of Living Dangerously — 85%
9. Chicken Run — 83%
10. The Bounty — 81%

Take a look through Gibson’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Edge of Darkness.

Finally, here’s Gibson in the trailer for the forthcoming epic, The Colonel:

Tag Cloud

78th Annual Golden Globe Awards dc universal monsters supernatural Mindy Kaling Countdown rom-coms HBO Max CNN Schedule Paramount TCM best ABC Music dragons Toys sag awards Pop SXSW 2022 hispanic natural history Stephen King Disney Wes Anderson 90s war Oscar spain Geeked Week TCA Summer olympics Sundance DGA reboot Star Wars Celebration worst TBS Binge Guide crime drama Tubi scene in color E3 Valentine's Day Apple TV+ HFPA marvel cinematic universe Drama dark 45 Marvel History serial killer Classic Film genre rotten Baby Yoda fresh Comic Book what to watch book The Witch President revenge GIFs blockbusters festival FX video Marvel Studios See It Skip It superhero transformers Writers Guild of America Fargo Super Bowl YouTube Red fast and furious The Academy Pacific Islander Prime Video series BET 21st Century Fox richard e. Grant Crunchyroll unscripted children's TV Set visit 24 frames zero dark thirty Peacock Calendar Teen heist movie child's play comic books Trivia versus San Diego Comic-Con Funimation romantic comedy travel 72 Emmy Awards canceled joker cats Masterpiece Pirates Opinion ESPN kaiju halloween Nat Geo reviews Pop TV TV One Best Director canceled TV shows venice biopic summer TV obi wan high school psycho TNT Netflix Acorn TV Lifetime Christmas movies talk show summer preview TCA 2017 obituary Sony VICE dramedy Best Picture black Lionsgate new york Vudu period drama RT21 toronto GLAAD Sundance TV Animation IFC Films Apple TV Plus blockbuster Superheroe chucky Travel Channel TLC TruTV South by Southwest Film Festival Film Fantasy doctor who Warner Bros. Legendary Hear Us Out wonder woman mission: impossible comiccon movie superman Focus Features docudrama Adult Swim all-time Watching Series Marathons Logo Trailer Captain marvel hist halloween tv 79th Golden Globes Awards feel good 2019 4/20 Academy Awards sequels sitcom science fiction RT History DC Comics disaster werewolf stoner Hulu gangster 71st Emmy Awards Cosplay The CW football 2020 MSNBC blaxploitation National Geographic strong female leads king arthur Disney Plus cancelled TV shows elevated horror Premiere Dates harry potter action-comedy Television Critics Association Bravo aapi monster movies quibi CBS All Access spider-verse CMT jamie lee curtis Marvel Television free movies satire Crackle Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 1990s Discovery Channel Pixar The Walking Dead witnail movies TIFF aliens james bond rt labs critics edition MCU comic comics The Walt Disney Company streaming SundanceTV adaptation Disney Channel razzies lord of the rings Kids & Family TV Land boxing japan Tarantino nfl based on movie prank 2016 IFC Nominations USA Network cops japanese Fall TV vampires crossover screen actors guild 73rd Emmy Awards Tokyo Olympics book adaptation Apple Interview Anna Paquin robots boxoffice theme song live action Pet Sematary anime award winner Chernobyl First Reviews art house zombie Tomatazos deadpool singing competition X-Men Best and Worst live event WarnerMedia Tags: Comedy cancelled Thanksgiving zombies scene in color film series Spike spanish language interviews Podcast OneApp archives Paramount Plus new star wars movies streaming movies target scene in color Instagram Live Disney streaming service discovery 2017 Exclusive Video streamig spanish die hard E! crime comic book movie Shudder trophy Heroines posters Election NBC marvel comics BBC America YouTube BBC Indigenous justice league political drama AMC Arrowverse Amazon TCA Winter 2020 Ovation cartoon MTV Martial Arts mob popular Paramount Pictures Emmy Nominations composers hidden camera Comics on TV DC streaming service rt archives ghosts BET Awards psychological thriller Spectrum Originals Best Actress Musical Netflix Christmas movies Sci-Fi Fox Searchlight television franchise Year in Review American Society of Cinematographers Infographic Disney+ Disney Plus SDCC Rocketman 93rd Oscars comic book movies Christmas Photos Mary Tyler Moore Fox News FX on Hulu scary Image Comics game of thrones tv talk Avengers Walt Disney Pictures mockumentary festivals Hallmark Christmas movies 2021 godzilla 94th Oscars cancelled TV series royal family FXX WGN Food Network comedies CBS hollywood anthology Paramount Network Universal Video Games Country critic resources Cartoon Network IMDb TV Sneak Peek Winners APB Nickelodeon CW Seed Native PBS Columbia Pictures Trophy Talk films king kong VH1 Comic-Con@Home 2021 ID Freeform dogs social media TV movies slashers OWN Polls and Games scorecard debate Hallmark DC Universe christmas movies game show Best Actor TV renewals First Look kids 007 video on demand vs. medical drama batman binge miniseries laika crime thriller hispanic heritage month Showtime ITV FOX target remakes Song of Ice and Fire A24 emmy awards PaleyFest name the review Syfy Holidays Mary Poppins Returns Certified Fresh Pride Month The Purge latino green book Awards Tour technology Britbox saw Rocky telelvision Amazon Prime cooking italian Winter TV Family Sundance Now NBA teaser YA Star Wars ABC Signature Horror A&E New York Comic Con nature Cannes Universal Pictures Reality Competition Turner Classic Movies ABC Family stand-up comedy GoT Biopics rt labs 2015 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Ellie Kemper 20th Century Fox kong Red Carpet scary movies biography nbcuniversal 99% Rom-Com sports documentaries Television Academy women south america SXSW international directors Spring TV politics TV docuseries TCA Awards Epix Esquire summer TV preview The Arrangement Sony Pictures renewed TV shows Turner worst movies ratings space leaderboard news HBO Go Comedy LGBTQ cults french Amazon Prime Video screenings adventure NYCC PlayStation casting sequel stop motion know your critic Tumblr trailers twilight slasher Black History Month Amazon Studios concert Comedy Central historical drama adenture finale Star Trek Grammys 2018 indiana jones HBO independent australia Oscars BAFTA Awards Reality VOD dreamworks USA a nightmare on elm street Quiz mcc Superheroes spinoff thriller Women's History Month Film Festival diversity romance dceu golden globes Rock police drama LGBT black comedy young adult breaking bad Elton John Lucasfilm cinemax DirecTV critics toy story Starz Alien asian-american cars Dark Horse Comics Musicals Shondaland true crime Black Mirror Holiday sopranos ViacomCBS Mary poppins cancelled television rotten movies we love parents mutant dexter Neflix suspense spy thriller Mudbound Broadway documentary new zealand foreign Emmys jurassic park El Rey AMC Plus indie criterion facebook Brie Larson MGM legend BBC One Creative Arts Emmys Action golden globe awards Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Character Guide Mystery spider-man Western YouTube Premium Extras Lifetime basketball pirates of the caribbean Ghostbusters Box Office broadcast scene in color series animated Endgame classics