100 Movie Challenge: #97 Blade Runner

B+

Blade Runner 1982
Blade Runner 1982

I know this might ruffle some feathers. Members of the Blade Runner cult are sharpening their pitchforks at the fact that it is not our first A+, and perhaps with good reason.  After all, the 1982 dystopian sci-fi holds a special and influential position in the film history hierarchy.  The concept is phenomenally inventive, the characters are extremely compelling and oddly relatable, the visuals are stunning and progressive, and the theme is one that leaves you questioning your worldview as you exit the theater.  Blade Runner is one of the first films to reach beyond the suffocating tropes of the science fiction genre and use it as a viable and effective means for telling a poignant story.  At this point, I have almost convinced myself that I rated it too low.

The story follows Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired police officer who is forced to accept a mission to eliminate several illegal “replicants” (bioengineered humanoids).  The journey that follows combines thrilling action with a very compelling question: what does it really mean to be alive?

However, while all of the elements seem apparent, there is just a whiff of something missing for me.  It was the second time I’ve watched Blade Runner and, for whatever reason, I find the conversations that occur after watching to be far more enjoyable than the actual viewing experience.  I know I may be claiming my own private island here, but it can be slow at times

Daryl Hanna as replicant Pris
Daryl Hanna as replicant: Pris

and failed to keep me fixed to the edge of my seat. And it seems I’m not alone!  Blade Runner is one of a few members of the AFI List that struck out entirely at the Academy Awards, winning 0 Oscars out of only two nominations.  Now, this is not a perfect indicator of the film’s quality, especially since 1982 was simply a great year for movies (#91 Sophie’s Choice, #69 Tootsieand #24 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial from our list were all released that same year); but it seems as though much of the appreciation for Blade Runner has come in retrospect.

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard and Sean Young as Rachel
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard and Sean Young as Rachel

Still, it’s one of those movies you just have to see.  No film junkie’s vernacular is complete without the occasional reference or parallel to Blade Runner, and its impact on the future of film is extremely apparent.  For that, Blade Runner earns a solid B+and a Liberty Rating of 7 for its commentary on the ways in which outside forces influence individual freedoms.  I won’t question it’s inclusion on the list, I just can’t say I’m as blown away as some of my peers.  Maybe I’m missing something.

Alrighty.  Are you keeping up?  Next is #96, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

Okay, bring it on.  How do you feel about Blade Runner?  Can you help me see the light? Or are you equally underwhelmed by the hype?  Let us know!

To see the rest of the list click here.

Richard Mattox

Richard Mattox is the head editor of Smash Cut Culture and a 2013 alumnus of the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop and Internship program. Currently pursuing a Masters in Professional Writing (screenwriting emphasis) from USC, Mattox is an avid film-junkie, a singer-songwriter, and a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan.

  • Matt Edwards

    When I first watched this, I would have agreed with a B+. But after having seen it over 20 times since, this is a solid A. It simply has gotten better with age. It may come off as a bit dated with the Vangelis soundtrack, but that’s the extent of my gripes. So much foresight in a film 30 years old and a story even older. I agree the discussions it sparks can be even more gratifying than the film. One word – unicorns.

  • Edith

    This. This is one of the formative movies of my life. Why? No idea. Because of the atmosphere, the music (Vangelis is still OK in my books), and Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young, and Harrison Ford… The first time I saw it I didn’t understand much of it but absolutely loved what I saw. Each time I see it it improves, and it sits right up there with Alien. In our household we quote Rutger Hauer’s Tannhauser Gate line with tears in our eyes.

    • Richard Mattox

      Edith – such a compelling moment in the film. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Lord Kevin Changaris

    It’s one of the few films I can think of that legitimately gets better every time I’ve watched it. Not just better in the sense of nostalgia, mind you. The film is so thematically/symbolically dense and nuanced that there new things to pick out each time I watch it – a rareity even among film classics which can often be unraveled in one or two viewings. I think this density, along with the films slow methodic pacing, is also what makes it difficult to necessarily enjoy on the level of Hollywood entertainment. It’s sci-fi thriller trappings are deceptive. At its core the film functions as a brilliant, post modern piece of art cinema, skillfully weaving commentaries on a myriad of contemporary societal issues with the larger, age old questions of ‘who are we?’and ‘why are we here?’

    • Matt Edwards

      Right on man! And as we move closer and closer to Singularity in our time will we discover those answers? I think we’ll live to find out.

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