John McTiernan

Focusing mainly on action flicks, John McTiernan had a fairly successful run of average to above-average movies that were generally well-received by fans and critics. It’s been ten years since he’s directed, and while I don’t know all the details, I imagine an ongoing trial related to lying to the FBI limited his ability to work in this capacity. He began serving his one-year sentence in April of this year.

It’s hard to say McTiernan gets the most of his actors, as pretty much everyone below I’ve seen do better elsewhere (with the possible exception of Alan Rickman). But he’s obviously skilled at directing stunts and special effects and it’s rare to be bored while watching one of his films.

Predator: Great sets, special effects and camerawork, along with the occasional good one-liner, help this action movie that really lacks in the acting department. The cinematic shining moment for my state’s former governor, for whatever that’s worth.

Grade: C

Die Hard: With A Vengeance: I saw this when it came out in 1995 having not seen any other in the movie in the series. I was underwhelmed. I felt the action scenes didn’t slow down long enough for me to enjoy them. I’d be willing to give it a second shot now that I’ve seen the first two.

Grade: C

The Hunt For Red October: The first of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, The Hunt for Red October is a fairly gripping Cold War submarine story. Shortly, Sean Connery is a Soviet submarine captain who is heading directly for America, but to attack or defect? Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is desperately trying to find out in time. Rough around the edges, but well-acted and suspenseful.

Grade: B

Die Hard: An evil group of baddies led by Alan Rickman take hostages in a skyscraper, including Bruce Willis’s wife. Willis spends the whole movie trying to save everyone and himself. The action is good, and unlike the third movie, there is room to breathe. Obviously some implausible moments, and the chief of police (among others in authority) is pointlessly obnoxious to make Willis and his sidekick look good, but it’s all made better by Alan Rickman, who plays a deliciously evil antagonist. One of my favorite action flicks. Yippy-ky-yay!

Grade: B+

Other John McTiernan Movies You May Have Seen

Medicine Man (I fell asleep halfway through and had no desire to finish it)
Last Action Hero
The 13th Warrior
The Thomas Crown Affair


14 thoughts on “John McTiernan”

  1. Die Hard is by far my favorite action movie (unless The Seven Samurai counts, I guess). Very rarely does that whole genre even attempt to create meaningful relationships, but this one has several. The lowlight is, yes, the use of annoying dicks as foils to create drama that wouldn’t otherwise exist, but those dicks are capable in their performances, so I can live with it. Easy A from me on that one.

    I can’t really disagree with anything else, and I actually haven’t seen any of the “Other Movies” on your list. Huh. First time that’s happened.

      1. My top 100 are probably all A movies at this point, though I have seen several thousand movies. I’m tough on grades as well, though Die Hard is still an easy A. It tends to be a favorite of screenwriters, because jamming that much real emotion into a tough guy action film is really hard to do. I’ve literally never read a screenwriting book that doesn’t reference it at least four or five times.

        In case anyone cares for some reason, other scripts that are always mentioned include Back to the Future, The Princess Bride and Network.

        1. I would like to say that I’m still not a tough a grader as Leonard Maltin, who think there’s only been one four-star movie released in the past thirty years (Little Women). Of course, that’s like saying I’m a better singer than Stephen Hawking.

          1. MALTIN! Man, what an utter joke that guy is. And Little Women! Unbelievable.

            AMC or someone did a list of top 100 comedies a decade or so ago, and by and large, the sentiment was that many of the films were forgotten, and many didn’t hold up today, making the list fairly useless for a modern viewing public. Then Maltin says “There wasn’t enough of a focus on old movies.” The list was full of old movies. It’s like he just says things because he thinks he should and doesn’t actually watch the movies or view the lists in question. He is the absolute worst.

          2. AFI’s list of Top 100 Comedies had like five movies after 1980, and most of them star Robin Williams. I realize comedy is going to be somewhat subjective, but I think one of the signs of a truly great comedy is that it doesn’t easily date itself. I’ve seen a 1930’s comedy that is still hilarious, and some from the mid 90’s are already dated. Heck, some of Shakespeare’s stuff is still hilarious. Good writing is good writing.

          3. You’re arguing against something I didn’t say, and you say “good writing is good writing” as if that isn’t my thought on the matter. My point is that the list was criticized for specifically having films with pacing issues that made modern audiences unaware that they were even comedies. Yes, people are idiots. I’m not going to say people were right – I just think it’s hilarious that the list was criticized roundly for underrating recent film history by everyone besides one person who thought the exact opposite was true, and he could be proven wrong simply by using a calendar.

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