I think like so many others that grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was a fan of Rob Reiner long before I was aware of it. He’s been in the business as an actor since 1961, and a director since 1974. He’s been involved with so many classics and I wanted to make this post to highlight the ones I’ve seen so far.
This Is Spinal Tap
As Rob Reiner’s feature film debut, This Is Spinal Tap is a raucous good time, while somewhat painfully poking fun at the trials and tribulations that countless bands have experienced (from what I’ve read Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi particularly didn’t like the movie due to its scathing satirical accuracy).
Starring the witty trio of Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer (they would later star in similar improvisational comedies such as Best in Show and A Mighty Wind), the movie follows the band on its final American tour. Trials and tribulations follow the band, including the hilarious spontaneous combustion of their drummers. There are plenty of quips, on-screen gags, and jokes that takes multiple scenes or even the whole movie for the payoff laugh, and altogether makes this movie one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.
The Princess Bride
Fantasy movies enjoyed their peak in the 1980s, and while many tilted towards a dark outlook there was at least one bright, shining, romantic, and heartfelt exception: The Princess Bride. Adapted from his own novel, William Goldman’s script is filled with memorable characters and dialogue.
From a young farm boy to a renowned pirate, Westley must come to the rescue of his long-time love from marriage to Prince Humperdinck. Along the way are very unique and endearing encounters with Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max, Vizzini and Fezzik, and more.
This isn’t just one of Rob’s best movies, it is one of THE best movies of the 1980s, and if you haven’t seen it you simply must.
When Harry Met Sally…
Written by Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally is a delightful and quite truthful look at both friendships and romantic relationships between men and women, and whether they have to or can overlap or not. Starting when both are in college, Harry and Sally are driving from Chicago to New York. Harry comes off as cocky, opinionated, and even slightly chauvinistic, while Sally seems a bit ditzy, picky, and unsure of what she really wants both in life and in a man. The two part once they arrive in New York, but it won’t be long before they run into each other more than once throughout the movie. Along the way they bounce their thoughts and conclusions off of best friends, in roles well-remembered by Carrie Fischer and Bruno Kirby (“you made her meow?!”). While the film’s conclusion may seem a bit cliche and abrupt now (although the film does its best to show it does skip forward sometimes by months if not years), the film’s dialogue carries it well all the way through to the end. This is one of those movies that may work as well or better as a play, and just for the dialogue and performance of the key actors alone merits watching this movie.
Teaming up again with Princess Bride author William Goldman, this adaptation of the Stephen King novel is outstanding, as “simple” of a story and movie that it is (like When Harry Met Sally, it could easily be turned into a play). While I personally can’t recall much about James Caan’s performance in Misery, we certainly all remember Kathy Bateman’s!
After completing his latest novel at a remote cabin, author Paul Sheldon is returning when his Mustang (is that what he REALLY thought to drive in the snow?) veers off the road, critically injuring him. Luckily he is “saved” by Annie Wilkes, who happens to be a nurse. Awakening in her home, he discovers Annie is a huge fan of his novels. Learning he has written a new story, she begs him to read it, and Paul finally relents. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like what she wanted, and forces him to re-write it. Still injured and helpless, he has no choice, even though as time goes by the situation becomes unbearable and he has to figure out a way to escape.
While I haven’t read the novel yet (you can read the script here), this was a well-done suspense/thriller movie and adaptation, and I certainly wish Rob had directed more movies like this!
Rob has directed many more movies since Misery, and is still active. His track record more than speaks for itself; Rob stands as one of the best directors since the 1970s. Here’s to his continued health and work!