Last Saturday morning I was sitting down in my PJs about to eat breakfast and have a bit of a lazy morning, when I realised Saturday Kitchen was off for the summer holidays. Without my weekly fix of Masterchef and Two Fat Ladies I was feeling lost, until I saw that Sky Movies was showing The Breakfast Club. DOG readers will know I am slightly obsessed with that movie so I parked myself down and watched it. What followed, however, was another 80s gem that I hadn’t seen in years, Teen Wolf. After it finished I was left thinking about the great films Michel J. Fox had been in and I came up with this…
Back To The Future (1985)
Fox’s first big screen role and one that would go down in Hollywood history. A crazy professor + time travelling car = hilarity as Fox’s Marty McFly is transported back to the 1950s where he meets up with his teenage mother and father. With his entire existence on the line he must ensure that they end up together while trying to find a way back home. With fabulous support from Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, this movie showed an entire generation how funny and cool sci-fi is, and spawned no less than two sequels.
Teen Wolf (1985)
I literally had forgotten until last weekend how fantastic this movie is. Fox plays Scott Howard, an average high school student who spends his days playing basketball and pining after the high school hottie, Pamela. Scott soon finds out he is far from average when he discovers that he has the ability to turn into a werewolf. This film is great fun, from Scott’s shock to finding out his true nature to becoming the most popular guy in school. It is a great feel-good movie that brings out the laughs. There is also a Hollywood feel-good ending that proves being you is far better than being somebody else. Fox stayed away from the sequel Teen Wolf Too but check it out if you want to see a young Jason Bateman wolf out in his place.
The Secret of My Succe$s (1987)
Fresh out of university Fox’s Brantley Foster is due to start his first job in New York City. Before he has a chance to start the company goes bust. With no other options he starts working the mailroom at his uncle’s offices. When realising what a bad job his uncle is doing, Brantley decides to lead a double life as mailroom worker and executive ‘Carlton Whitfield’. In between, he almost has an affair with his aunt and falls for Supergirl’s Helen Slater. Enjoyable enough, it is the anti-Wall Street of big business in the 80s.
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Moving onto a more adult role, Fox plays Jamie Conway, a fact checker for a major New York magazine. His life is slowly falling apart as his mother has died, his model wife has just left him and he spends his evenings drinking and taking drugs with his best friend Tad (Kiefer Sutherland). With everything in freefall there is nowhere to hit but rock bottom. A good example of life on the New York nightlife scene in the 80s, Fox plays his character with conviction, and even though he has made all the wrong decisions you are rooting for him to get through it all.
Casualties Of War (1989)
A role that, on paper, was arguably a stretch too far for Fox, although as it turned out, there’s some argument for it being his finest performance. Holding his own in an almighty cast, Fox is the soldier who goes against the rest of his squad when they attack, rape and kill a young girl. And while Brian De Palma’s movie has its problems, it’s well played, powerful viewing.
Back To The Future Part II (1989)
Hands up who wanted a hoverboard after watching this movie? Don’t give up hope, though, as it’s not 2015 yet which is where Marty, Doc and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer travel to save Marty and Jennifer’s son from taking part in a robbery. Unfortunately, Marty brings back a book of sports results which lead to Biff becoming one of the most powerful men in the future. To stop this from happening, Marty must travel back to the 50s, intercept old Biff giving young Biff the book and put all future timelines back in place. Six months after its release it was followed up by…
Back To The Future Part III (1990)
In the third and final part of the Back To The Future series, Marty travels back to 1885 to save Doc Brown from being murdered by Mad Dog Tannen. Taking on the guise of ‘Clint Eastwood’ he ends up saving Doc, who in return falls in love with local schoolteacher Clara. Back in 1985, Marty and Jennifer are reunited and knowing what the future holds he decides against taking part in a drag race. Before the end, though, Doc turns up on a locomotive with Clara (now his wife) and their two sons. He leaves a photograph of them both as a memento and imparts the knowledge that the future is what you make of it. Although not as strong as the first movie, Parts II and III come full circle to the consequences of changing the past and the future, and that by making choices it’s you who is deciding your own fate and happiness, not the circumstances that surround you.
The Hard Way (1991)
It’s criminal that this excellent buddy action comedy never got more success. Fox is the vain actor researching his latest big role. The marvellous James Woods is the real life cop he’s shadowing, and he’s not in the slightest bit pleased about it. An excellent script, two perfectly cast leads and director John Badham at his peak makes The Hard Way, more than any other film on this list, ripe for discovery.
Doc Hollywood (1991)
Fox plays Ben Stone, a young hotshot doctor who is fed up with life in the ER and accepts a job in Beverly Hills. On his drive there he crashes his car into the fence of a local judge in the small town of Grady, South Carolina. The stern judge gives him community service for his crimes and insists he works at the local hospital to serve out his sentence. Butting heads with everybody around him, Ben finds life in Grady slow but soon finds romance with ambulance driver Lou. When his stint is over he finds out big city life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and, well, you can guess the end.
The Concierge (US Title For Love Or Money) (1993)
Fox stars as Doug Ireland, a concierge at a five star New York hotel. Needing $3,000,000 to develop his own hotel, his only option is to take care of a friend’s girlfriend that he happens to be in love with, leaving him with the choice to go with either love or money. The film is usual run of the mill nonsense that doesn’t really do Fox any favours.
I’ll admit this film is a total guilty pleasure for me. When a family wants to get its hands on their wealthy father’s (Kirk Douglas in a wonderful role) millions and worry when he starts paying a lot more attention to his attractive nurse, they turn to the black sheep of the family, Fox’s Danny McTeague, for whom their father has always had a soft spot. Complete farcical comedy at its best, the movie shows just how far greed makes people go.
The American President (1995)
A precursor to his TV show Spin City, and also a dry run for writer Aaron Sorkin pre-West Wing, Fox picks up a tidy, witty supporting role as Lewis, in a sorely underrated romantic comedy. He fights for space with the likes of David Paymer, Martin Sheen, Michael Douglas and Richard Dreyfuss, but it’s the kind of role that he was born to play.
The Frighteners (1996)
Here’s a film that’s totally underrated and a mostly forgotten gem directed by Lord Of The Ring‘s Peter Jackson. Fox plays Frank Bannister, a man who has all but given up on life after the death of his wife in a car accident, an accident which now allows him to see ghosts. After befriending three of them they set out on a ghost busting business to exorcise houses for a fee. However, Bannister soon discovers that an entity resembling the grim reaper is out to kill people and he needs to stop him. A smashing horror comedy.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Part of the ensemble cast for Tim Burton’s B-movie love letter, Fox plays GNN reporter Jason who is dating fellow reporter Natalie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a short but sweet role in a fantastically funny movie.
Not SeenMidnight Madness, Class Of 1984, Light Of Day, Life With Mikey, Where The Rivers Flow North, Blue In The Face, Cold Blooded, Interstate 60
Voiceover WorkHomeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco, Stuart Little, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Stuart Little 2, Stuart Little 3: Call Of The Wild (about the best of these is the second Stuart Little film).