(Welcome to Where to Watch, which provides a clear and simple answer to the question, “Hey, where can I watch this thing?” In this edition: The best movies directed by filmmaker Richard Donner.)
Over the weekend, legendary director Richard Donner sadly passed away at age 91. Donner helped pioneer the modern blockbuster with Superman: The Movie, took us on the ultimate treasure hunt in The Goonies, defined the buddy cop action genre with the Lethal Weapon franchise, and gave us the endlessly rewatchable holiday classic Scrooged. If you’re looking to celebrate this iconic filmmaker by watching some of the finest films that he directed, here’s where to find the best Richard Donner movies streaming or available to rent right now.
Where to rent: Redbox ($2.99) or Apple, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube ($3.99)
After his family experiences a miscarriage, US diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) adopts a newborn child named Damien without consulting his wife (Lee Remick). As death suddenly surrounds the American ambassador, the couple slowly starts to realize the unbelievable truth that their child is actually the son of the devil. The Omen is one of the ultimate horror movies about a deeply unsettling kid, and Donner pulled an incredible performance out of a young Harvey Stephens, which included using a little trick to get the perfect evil smile from him for the film’s menacing closing shot.
Superman: The Movie
Where to stream: HBO Max
What can be said about Superman: The Movie that you haven’t heard before? As the first major blockbuster superhero movie, Superman set the stage for the onslaught that would come in the decades ahead. With the help of the convincingly heroic Christopher Reeve, Richard Donner made studios and audiences realize that comic books and superheroes weren’t just for kids. These stories and characters made for great adventure and entertainment on the big screen. Not only did Superman pave the way for more capes and tights, but it helped pioneer the modern blockbuster that we know today, and it’s a must-watch if you’re looking to truly celebrate Richard Donner’s legacy.
Where to stream: HBO Max
There’s been plenty of debate about how much of The Goonies was actually directed by Richard Donner when producer Steven Spielberg was said to be very hands-on during the film’s production. Though the film does have plenty of Spielberg’s filmmaking trademarks, Donner’s name is the one listed as director, so he gets the credit for the beloved 1985 treasure adventure starring a young ensemble that included Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, Ke Huy Quan, Martha Plympton, and Kerri Green. For many kids of the 1980s, this is a defining film of their childhood, and the danger and excitement it delivered set the stage for many more kid-based adventures to come.
Where to stream: All four of the Lethal Weapon movies are on HBO Max
You can’t talk about buddy cop movies without bringing up the Lethal Weapon franchise, and Richard Donner was at the helm of every single one of them, starting with the original back in 1987. The dynamic between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as Riggs and Murtaugh is one of the best examples of perfect chemistry between two leads who are playfully at each other’s throats at every turn while they deal with some deadly criminals, ranging from Gary Busey to Jet Li. Though they start to get sillier with each installment, especially after Joe Pesci‘s hyped, fast-talking Leo enters the equation, there’s something to appreciate about every single chapter of this franchise.
Where to stream: Paramount+
It may not be Christmas, but July is the best month to pretend it is, so why not kick back and revel in this darkly comedic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a modern take on Ebenezer Scrooge who is a television producer putting on a tacky, extravagant live television production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, making the staff work throughout the holiday. With Murray in the lead, A Christmas Carol has never been so funny, and Donner does a masterful job of balancing Murray’s acerbic comedic style with the emotional core of this classic story.
Where to stream: HBO Max
Though Mel Gibson has given us plenty of reason to distance ourselves from him in recent years, he puts in an outstanding performance in this tragically underrated thriller from Richard Donner. Though the film was a box office success, it received mixed reviews from critics, but this story of an eccentric taxi driver who gets caught up in the real danger of conspiracy theories he’s been touting for years deserves to be named among Donner’s best films. With a stellar villainous turn by Patrick Stewart and charming not-quite-romance between Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, this is the kind of the movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore, and it deserves your attention.
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