Joel Schumacher’s directorial career is perhaps best remembered for putting nipples on the Bat suit in his campy mid-90s silver-screen adaptations of the famous comic book character, Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), but throughout the years he has also been responsible for a number of well known thrillers like Phone Booth (2002) and Falling Down (1993) as well as his fair share of era-shaping outings at the helm of the likes of Flatliners (1990) and St. Elmo’s Fire (1985). In this list, I’ve been tasked with selecting just 10 of Schumacher’s 23 feature length releases for this, the Top 10 Joel Schumacher Movies.
Fear not, there shall be no Bat-nipples here…
10. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
If ever there was a stage production that was perfect for a director as visually focused as Joel Schumacher, it was the vibrantly coloured melodramatic musical “The Phantom of the Opera”, which he adapted for Warner Bros. in 2004.
Starring Gerard Butler as The Phantom and Emmy Rossum (‘Shameless’), this stage adaptation was widely accepted as a good big screen musical, though it didn’t seem to blow many people’s socks off. Like much of Schumacher’s catalogue, The Phantom of the Opera seems very much a film of its time despite its setting, and as such it probably isn’t going to be as enjoyable for first-time viewers in the current day (nearly 15 years later) as it will be for those who managed to catch the film at the time.
9. Flatliners (1990)
Arguably as iconic of a late-80s/early-90s movie as there is, this star-studded movie about some college students attempting to discover what awaits on the other side of death is the sort of thinly veiled anti-drugs lesson that most people actually enjoy.
Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon headline this thriller that has gone down as somewhat of a cult classic; a movie that may only be number 9 in terms of quality but is certifiably one of this director’s top 3 most famous releases.
8. Veronica Guerin (2003)
This true-to-life story of an Irish crime reporter established a move away from the hyper-visual tendencies of this somewhat iconic director into a much less varnished production that felt considerably less Hollywood than Schumacher’s other work.
Starring Cate Blanchett in the lead role as supported by a cast including Colin Farrell, this movie wasn’t particularly well received in the UK due to its political leanings and perception of its protagonist, but it certainly remains a moving, gritty venture that must be considered among Schumacher’s very best.
7. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
When thinking about the famous Brat Pack of 80s teen cinema, St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) is right up there with The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) as one of the most iconic of the films they starred in.
Representing the 80s like only the Brat Pack can, this who’s who of the era’s most archetypal teen stars deliver a moving drama through Schumacher’s lens that remains a memorable and enjoyable experience over 3 decades later, even to those who never experienced the 80s the first time around.
6. Phone Booth (2002)
Phone Booth is one of Schumacher’s more divisive films (Batman movies not included), with thoughts on it ranging from “intense and thrilling” to “stupid and nonsensical”, but in locking Colin Farrell in a small box for 90 minutes, there is no denying that Schumacher at least attempted something original and more art-house than most of the rest of his work, introducing the mainstream to a concept more like theatre than cinema, and featuring excellent performances from Colin Farrell and scary hostage taker Kiefer Sutherland.
Much like Schumacher’s 1993 release Falling Down, this tale of a day spiralling out of control and teaching the protagonist many valuable lessons under the blanket of consumer capitalism critique is a thrilling ride worthy of a watch if you’ve never seen it before. At least then you can make up your own mind regarding the ongoing debate of whether it’s good or not…