The Best and Worst Roland Emmerich Movies

Director Roland EmmerichRoland Emmerich. A God among men. This guy is single-handedly responsible for obliterating the world ten times over, and his magnum opus, the destruction film to end all destruction films, 2012, opens this Friday. In 2012, this creature of the universe hits humanity and the poor earth that he hates so much with just about everything the Lord has to offer, from tidal waves that engulf the Himalayas (that poor, poor monk ringing the bell) to meteor showers (drive, John Cusack, drive!) and earthquakes that open up into the pits of Hell itself.

But does anyone think that 2012 is going to be Roland Emmerich’s best movie? I doubt it. After all, the movie features planes navigating falling skyscrapers (why don’t you fly above the city?), cars bouncing out of crashing 747’s onto ice sheets and, of course, impossibly large tidal waves. It’s going to be ridiculous. It could be fun, but it’s going to be ridiculous.

So, in lieu of 2012‘s Best Picture nomination (ten films are being nominated this year, and there haven’t been that many good movies, people), I thought it was about time to look back at Roland Emmerich’s best and worst movies – in other words, his entire career (ignoring his 1980’s films which most people have, just like me, thankfully not seen). Here we go – the best and worst Roland Emmerich movies, not counting the movies no one’s seen:

The Good

  1. Independence Day
    It’s hard not to like ID4. I mean, you’ve got aliens, you’ve got Will Smith and you have some of the most amazing city-flattening sequences in the history of cinema. To boot, the story’s not half bad, the screenplay more than good enough for this kind of movie. Sure, it has its overly goofy parts (Jeff Goldblum, cable repair guy, is able to program a virus in a matter of hours that wipes out the defenses of a far superior race), but Independence Day is loads of fun. While the special effects are just slightly starting to look dated, they still hold their own – and there’s something breathtaking about those shots of LA, New York and Washington, D.C. getting wiped off the face of the planet (bad combo of words: I’m now on the FBI’s watch list). Despite the utter death and destruction, the movie is ultimately one hell of a feel-good movie – and that’s why it’s my favorite, and the best, Roland Emmerich movie.
  2. Stargate
    Coming in at a close second – and I was almost tempted to list this one above Independence Day – is the James Spader/Kurt Russell sci-fi action film Stargate. I never got into the subsequent TV shows, but the movie has a great, unique premise, one that combines modern military might with ancient Egyptian Gods – who have superior firepower. There’s just something about this picture that works, from the performances to the story to the exciting, “whatta’re you gonna do now, Ra-bitch!” ending.

The Mediocre

  1. The Day After Tomorrow
    Some people love this movies, others hate it. I’m in the middle. It has some great visual effects and a chilling (bad pun alert!) story. It’s one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s first big movies, and it also has Emmy Rossum in it, whom I have a huge crush on. There are some really cool destruction sequences in the film as well, and the shots of a frozen New York are pretty impressive. This is the movie that The Happening should have been. That being said, it lacks the punch of Emmerich’s other, better movies; it isn’t as exciting, and the weather just is never that interesting of a villain.
  2. The Patriot
    It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but that’s because The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson and the late Heath Ledger, never really did it for me. It’s a decent enough movie, full of [rare] Revolutionary War battles and, of course, two of the more entertaining actors of our time. The problem is that war movies need to be of a certain caliber, and Roland Emmerich just doesn’t quite have the knack for injecting the necessary emotion to succeed in the genre. It’s not nearly as painful as John Woo’s Windtalkers, but the fact that I’m comparing them isn’t a good sign. The Patriot is fine, but is it Glory? No. Not at all.
  3. Universal Soldier
    Emmerich’s first big movie, this action thriller starred Jean Claude Van-Damme (JCVD!) as a genetically engineered soldier who goes AWOL. The movie’s pretty mindless, but it still holds up pretty well given it’s silly story and lead actor. For people who scratch their heads and wonder how Van-Damme was ever a leading man, Universal Soldier is the perfect example of one of those late 80’s, early 90’s action movies that were ridiculous and over-the-top, but worked nonetheless for whatever reason.

The Bad (and the Ugly)

  1. 10,000 B.C.
    I actually didn’t hate 10,000 B.C., but I know I should. This movie, which, like Year One, blends Egyptian lore with cavemen antics (and woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers!), has enough action and adventure to satisfy people looking for… well, action and adventure. But its lack of compelling characters and the fact that it feels a lot like Stargate only without the really cool elements hurts it tremendously. Others, who hated it more, will just say that 10,000 B.C. is incredibly stupid.
  2. Godzilla
    Now, for a film truly hated around the globe, we present Godzilla. Yes, remember that big-budget action-destruction film set in New York that starred an obvious choice in Matthew Broderick? Roland Emmerich made that one, and boy did it suck. Sure, it had some decent destruction scenes, but I remember thinking two things: 1) why is Matthew Broderick in this? and 2) why do I feel bad for Godzilla? I blame Emmerich. Damn you, Emmerich, damn you! Why did you make me feel sympathetic toward Godzilla (or: Gojilla)! Damn you! The movie trailers were awesome, but that is where the good stuff ended.

Wow. Roland Emmerich really hasn’t done that many movies. Then again, I’d be exhausted destroying the world that many times (and yes, I realize now that I’ve written this that he’s only focused on death and destruction three times in his career).

What do you think? What are your favorite Roland Emmerich movies?

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Top 10 Movie Lists
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