Last Action Hero

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Last Action Hero
Last action hero ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by
  • John McTiernan
  • Steve Roth
Screenplay by
Story by
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by
Distributed by Columbia Pictures[1]
Release date
  • June 18, 1993 (1993-06-18)
Running time
131 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $85 million
Box office $137.3 million

Last Action Hero is a 1993 American fantasy action-comedy film directed and produced by John McTiernan.[2] It is a satire of the action genre and associated clichés, containing several parodies of action films in the form of films within the film.[3] The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a Los Angeles police detective within the Jack Slater action film franchise. Austin O'Brien co-stars as a boy magically transported into the Slater universe. Schwarzenegger also served as the film's executive producer and plays himself as the actor portraying Jack Slater, and Charles Dance plays an assassin who escapes from the Slater world into the real world.

Though the film was a box-office disappointment during its initial theatrical release, it became a cult film among fans and critics.[4] The film also features Art Carney's last appearance in a motion picture.


Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) is a teenaged boy living in a crime-ridden area of New York City with his widowed mother Irene (Mercedes Ruehl). Following the death of his father, Danny takes comfort in watching action movies, especially those featuring the indestructible Los Angeles cop Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), at his local movie theatre owned by Nick (Robert Prosky), who also acts as the projectionist. Nick gives Danny a golden ticket once owned by Harry Houdini, to see an early preview of the latest Jack Slater film before its official release.

During the film, the ticket stub magically transports Danny inside the fictional world of the film, interrupting Slater in the middle of a car chase. After escaping their pursuers, Slater takes Danny to the LAPD headquarters, where Danny points out the fictional nature of the world, such as the presence of a cartoon cat detective named Whiskers (Danny DeVito), and that Slater's friend Jack Practice (F. Murray Abraham) is played by the same actor who was the antagonist that killed Mozart from Amadeus and shouldn't be trusted; Slater takes these as part of Danny's wild imagination. Slater's supervisor Dekker (Frank McRae) assigns Danny as his new partner, and instructs them to investigate criminal activities related to mobster Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn).

Danny guides Slater to Vivaldi's mansion, having recognized its location from the start of the film. There, they meet Vivaldi and his henchman, Mr. Benedict (Charles Dance). Danny explains the criminal deeds that the two had carried out from the film, but Slater has no evidence and they are forced to leave; however, Benedict is curious as to how Danny knew of what transpired, and he and several hired guns follow Slater and Danny back to Slater's home. There, Slater, his daughter Whitney (Bridgette Wilson), and Danny thwart the attack, though Benedict ends up getting the ticket stub. He discovers its ability to transport him out of the film.

Slater learns of Vivaldi's plan to murder his rival mob by releasing a lethal gas during a funeral atop a skyscraper. He and Danny head to stop it, but are waylayed by Practice, who reveals Danny was right as he was working for Vivaldi. Whiskers arrives to save Slater and Danny's lives, and the two are able to prevent any deaths by the gas release. Learning that Vivaldi's plan failed, Benedict kills him and uses the stub to escape into the real world, pursued by Slater and Danny.

Slater becomes despondent on learning the truth, as well as his mortality in the real world, but cheers up after spending some time with Irene. Meanwhile, Benedict devises a plan to kill Arnold Schwarznegger, the actor that plays Slater, at the premiere of the film, from which he then can bring other villains from other films into the real world and take over. To help, Benedict brings the Ripper (Tom Noonan) to assassinate Schwarzenegger. Danny and Slater learn of this, and race to the premiere. Slater saves Schwarzenegger, electrocutes the Ripper, and after a bloody fight, then kills Benedict by shooting his explosive glass eye; however, this also causes the stub to be destroyed. With Slater losing blood, Danny knows the only way to save him is to return him to the fictional world, since he is indestructible there. The figure of Death from the film The Seventh Seal (Ian McKellen), who had previously escaped his film, appears to Danny and suggest he search for the other stub of the ticket. Danny finds the stub and is able to take Slater back into the film, his wounds instantly healing. Danny returns to the real world before the portal closes. A recovered Slater then enthusiastically embraces the true nature of his reality when he talks to Dekker about his new plan, appreciating the differences between it and the "real" world.


  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater / himself[5]
  • Austin O'Brien as Danny Madigan[6]
  • Charles Dance as Benedict, Vivaldi's right-hand man, is a supporting antagonist of Jack Slater IV, but becomes the true antagonist of the main film.
  • Robert Prosky as Nick the projectionist
  • Tom Noonan as the Ripper / himself, the main antagonist of Jack Slater III
  • Frank McRae as Lieutenant Dekker, Slater's immediate supervisor, who is always screaming at him
  • Anthony Quinn as Tony Vivaldi, the main antagonist of Jack Slater IV until Danny's interference changes events
  • Bridgette Wilson as Whitney Slater (Jack's daughter) and Meredith Caprice, the actress who plays her in the Slater films
  • F. Murray Abraham as John Practice, is Jack's friend, revealed to be a traitor. Danny says not to trust him, saying he killed Mozart, referring to Abraham's Oscar-winning role in Amadeus.
  • Mercedes Ruehl as Irene Madigan, Danny's mom
  • Art Carney, as Frank Slater, in his last film role
  • Professor Toru Tanaka as Tough Asian Man.
  • Ryan Todd as Andrew Slater, Jack's son who is killed in "Jack Slater III" by the Ripper
Cameo appearances

Background and production[edit]

Last Action Hero was an original screenplay by Zak Penn and Adam Leff, meant to parody typical action-film screenplays of writers such as Shane Black. Penn noted himself that the studio ironically then had Black rewrite the script.[7] The original screenplay differs heavily from the finished film and is widely available to read online. Although it was still a parody of Hollywood action films, it was set almost entirely in the film world and focused largely on the futile cycle of violence displayed by the hero and the effect it had on people around him. Due to the radical changes, Penn and Leff were eventually credited with the story of the film, but not the screenplay, which is unusual for a film based on an original screenplay.

Schwarzenegger received a salary of $15 million for his role in the film.[8]

Years after its release, the film was the subject of a scathing chapter called "How They Built The Bomb", in the Nancy Griffin book Hit and Run which detailed misadventures at Sony Pictures in the early to mid-1990s. Among the details presented in this chapter were:

  • Universal moved Jurassic Park to June 11, 1993 well after Sony had decided on a June 18 release date for Last Action Hero.
  • The movie was rumored to be the first advertisement placed on a space-going rocket.[9]
  • The film was capsized by a wave of negative publicity after a rough cut of it was shown to a preview audience on May Day. Sony then destroyed the test cards and the word-of-mouth proved to be catastrophic for the film.
  • The shooting and editing schedule were so demanding and so close to the June 18 release date that after the movie's disaster, a source close to the film said that they "shouldn't have had Siskel and Ebert telling us the movie is 10 minutes too long".
  • Sony was even more humiliated the weekend after the film opened, when the movie lost 47% of its opening-weekend audience and had TriStar's Sleepless In Seattle open as the number-two movie at the box office.
  • The final declared financial loss for the film was $26 million.
  • Last Action Hero was the first film to be released using Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, but only a few theaters were set up for the new format, and many of those experienced technical problems with the new system. Insiders at Paramount reportedly referred to it as "Still Doesn't Do Shit".[10]


Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released June 8, 1993 (1993-06-08)
Genre Heavy metal, alternative metal, grunge, alternative rock, hard rock
Length 54:19
Label Columbia Records
Singles from Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture
  1. "Angry Again"
    Released: June 8, 1993
  2. "What the Hell Have I"
    Released: June 8, 1993
  3. "Big Gun"
    Released: June 25, 1993
  4. "Two Steps Behind"
    Released: August 10, 1993
  5. "Real World"
    Released: 1993
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link

The film was scored by composer Michael Kamen, and peaked at No. 7 on The Billboard 200 chart.[11] The album, which was positively received by active rock radio outlets, was certified platinum on August 24, 1993. [12]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Performed by Length
1. "Big Gun" AC/DC 4:24
2. "What the Hell Have I" Alice in Chains 3:58
3. "Angry Again" Megadeth 3:47
4. "Real World" Queensrÿche and Michael Kamen 4:21
5. "Two Steps Behind" Def Leppard 4:19
6. "Poison My Eyes" Anthrax 7:04
7. "Dream On" (Live) Aerosmith 5:42
8. "A Little Bitter" Alice in Chains 3:53
9. "Cock the Hammer" Cypress Hill 4:11
10. "Swim" Fishbone 4:13
11. "Last Action Hero" Tesla 5:44
12. "Jack and the Ripper" Buckethead, Los Angeles Rock and Roll Ensemble, and Michael Kamen 3:43
Total length: 54:19


At the time of its release, the film was billed as "the next great summer action movie" and many movie insiders predicted it would be a huge blockbuster, especially following the success of Schwarzenegger's previous film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.[13] It was released the same day the 20th Century Fox film Once Upon a Forest was released.

Box office[edit]

The film opened at number two at the weekend box-office behind Jurassic Park and grossed US$15,338,241 on its opening weekend, for an average of $6,651 from 2,306 theaters, and ended its run with $50,016,394 in the United States, and an additional $87,202,095 overseas, for a total of $137,298,489 worldwide.[14] In an A&E biography of Schwarzenegger, the actor (who was also the film's executive producer) says that the film could have done better if not for bad timing, since it came out a week after Jurassic Park which went on to break box-office records as one of the top-grossing films of all time.

Schwarzenegger states that he tried to persuade his coproducers to postpone the film's June 18 release in the United States by four weeks, but they turned a deaf ear on the grounds that the movie would have lost millions of dollars in revenue for every weekend of the summer it ended up missing, also fearing that delaying the release would create negative publicity, he told the authors of Hit And Run that while everyone involved with the production had given their best effort, their attempt to appeal to both action and comedy fans resulted in a film that appealed to neither audience and ultimately succumbed to heavy competition.[15][16][17][18]

The film was released in the United Kingdom on July 30, 1993, and opened at number three, behind Jurassic Park and Dennis.[19] The next weekend, the film moved up one place, before falling down to number 10 by August 13, 1993.[20][21]

Critical reception and awards[edit]

The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics.[22][23] As of December 2017, it holds a 35% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[24] The site's critical consensus reads, "Last Action Hero has most of the right ingredients for a big-budget action spoof, but its scattershot tone and uneven structure only add up to a confused, chaotic mess." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[25]

Vincent Canby likened the film to "a two-hour 'Saturday Night Live' sketch" and called it "something of a mess, but a frequently enjoyable one".[26]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing that despite some entertaining moments, Last Action Hero "plays more like a bright idea than like a movie that was thought through. It doesn't evoke the mystery of the barrier between audience and screen the way Woody Allen did in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and a lot of the time it simply seems to be standing around commenting on itself."[27]

About the movie's failure and critical response, John McTiernan said: "Initially, it was a wonderful Cinderella story with a nine-year-old boy. We had a pretty good script by Bill Goldman, charming. And this ludicrous hype machine got hold of it, and it got buried under bullshit. It was so overwhelmed with baggage. And then it was whipped out unedited, practically assembled right out of the camera. It was in the theater five or six weeks after I finished shooting. It was kamikaze, stupid, no good reason for it. And then to open the week after Jurassic Park--God! To get to the depth of bad judgment involved in that you'd need a snorkel."[28]

The film was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Star (Austin O'Brien), and Worst Original Song ("Big Gun"), but it did not win any.

Home video[edit]

On February 3, 2009, Last Action Hero was reissued on DVD by Sony Pictures Entertainment in a double-feature set with the 1986 film Iron Eagle.[29] It was released on the high-definition Blu-ray Disc format on January 12, 2010. The Blu-ray release presented the film in its original widescreen format for the first time in the United States since the LaserDisc release.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (June 22, 1993). "Columbia Ponders The Fate Of 'Hero'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Last Action Hero". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 7, 2016. 
  3. ^ "'Last Action Hero' Can't Deliver As Action Flick, Parody In One". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ Andersen, Kurt (July 5, 1993). "How To Run a Movie Studio". Time. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  5. ^ Fox, David J. (June 21, 1993). "'Hero': When $15 Million Isn't Quite Enough : Movie box office: By Hollywood standards, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle opens poorly. But Columbia is 'very, very, very happy with it.'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  6. ^ Vanderknyff, Rick (June 18, 1993). "Limelight, Cameras, 'Action' for O.C. Boy : Movies: 'Hero' co-star Austin O'Brien is full partner in media blitz." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ Pristin, Terry (May 16, 1993). "SUMMER SNEAKS : Well, They Wanted Action : Brash newcomers Zak Penn and Adam Leff engineered their own industry buzz, landing an agent and a deal for their screenplay. Fame and fortune followed, but with a weird ending". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  8. ^ Marin, Rick (May 9, 1993). "Film; Battle of the Action Heroes". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ Fox, David J. (March 3, 1993). "`Action' Promotion Is Out of This World : Movies: Sources said the stunt, in which the movie's logo will be painted on a NASA rocket, will cost Columbia about $500,000". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010. 
  10. ^ Nancy Griffin; Kim Masters. Hit and run: how Jon Peters and Peter Guber took Sony for a ride in Hollywood. Touchstone. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Pristin, Terry (June 30, 1993). "'Last Action': Too Many Heroes? : Big-Name Star, Director and Writers--So What Happened?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  14. ^ "'Hero' Fails To Conquer Box Office". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ Fox, David J. (June 30, 1993). "Theaters Report 'Hero' Is Running on Short Legs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  16. ^ Fox, David J. (May 16, 1993). "SUMMER SNEAKS : The Seasonal Sweats : 'Jurassic Park' and 'Last Action Hero' are going to take the summer, no problem. But there are a few other movies that are pretty good bets". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  17. ^ Fox, David J. (June 28, 1993). "'Sleepless' Surprises Hollywood : Movies: Romantic comedy opens with a strong $17 million; 'Last Action Hero' falls 50% at box office. 'Jurassic Park' collects another $28 million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  18. ^ Fox, David J. (June 16, 1993). "Schwarzenegger No Dinosaur in Advance Sales". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Weekend box office 30th July 1993 - 1st August 1993". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  20. ^ "Weekend box office 6th August 1993 - 8th August 1993". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  21. ^ "Weekend box office 13th August 1993 - 15th August 1993". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  22. ^ "Last Action Hero". Entertainment Weekly. July 9, 1993. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Last Action Hero". Variety. December 31, 1992. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Last Action Hero". Rotten Tomatoes. December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  25. ^ "CinemaScore". 
  26. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 18, 1993). "Review/Film: Last Action Hero; A Hero Within and Without". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger "Last Action Hero review, 1993. Retrieved October 4, 2013
  28. ^
  29. ^ - Last Action Hero/Iron Eagle DVD

Further reading[edit]

  • Parish, James Robert (2006). Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4. 

External links[edit]