The Running Man (1987 film)

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This article is about the 1987 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. For the 1963 film of the same name starring Laurence Harvey, see The Running Man (1963 film). For other films, see Running Man.
The Running Man
The Running Man (1987) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser
Produced by George Linder
Tim Zinnemann
Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza
Based on The Running Man
1982 novel
by Richard Bachman (pseudonym for Stephen King)
Music by Harold Faltermeyer
Cinematography Thomas Del Ruth
Edited by
Braveworld Productions
Taft Entertainment
HBO Pictures
Distributed by TriStar Pictures (North America)
Republic Pictures (Europe)
Release date
  • November 13, 1987 (1987-11-13)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $27 million
Box office $38,122,105 (US)

The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction Technicolor action film in Panavision directed by Paul Michael Glaser and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown and Richard Dawson. It is very loosely based on the 1982 novel The Running Man, written by Stephen King and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The story, set in a dystopian United States between 2017 and 2019, is about a television show called "The Running Man", where convicted criminal "runners" must escape death at the hands of professional killers.

Original director Andrew Davis was fired one week into filming and replaced by Glaser. Schwarzenegger has stated this was a "terrible decision" as Glaser "shot the movie like it was a television show, losing all the deeper themes". Schwarzenegger believes this hurt the movie.[1] Paula Abdul is credited with the choreography of the Running Man dance troupe.[2]


In 2017, after a worldwide economic collapse, American society has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. The U.S. government pacifies the populace by broadcasting game shows where convicted criminals fight for their lives, including the gladiator-style The Running Man, hosted by the ruthless Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), where "runners" attempt to evade "stalkers", armed mercenaries, around a large arena, and near-certain death for a chance to be pardoned by the state.

Two years later, Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a police helicopter pilot wrongly convicted of a massacre during a food riot in Bakersfield, California, escapes from a labor camp and seeks shelter at his brother's apartment. He finds it is now occupied by Amber Mendez (María Conchita Alonso), a composer for ICS, the network that broadcasts The Running Man. Richards asks Mendez about the whereabouts of his brother, and she says that he was taken for "re-education", possibly hinting at his fate.

Taking Amber hostage, Richards attempts to flee to Hawaii, which is now a separate state, but she alerts airport security and Richards is captured and taken to ICS. There, Killian tries to convince him to participate in The Running Man, saying that if he refuses, William Laughlin and Harold Weiss, members of a resistance movement that Richards had met, will be forced to participate instead. Reluctantly, Richards agrees, but learns that Killian had enrolled Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) as runners anyway.

As the game begins, Richards and his friends are attacked by the first stalker, "Subzero" (Charles Kalani, Jr.), but they fight back, with Richards killing Subzero – the first time a stalker has ever died on the show. Laughlin and Weiss search for the network's uplink facilities, which they realize are in the game zone. Amber sees a falsified news report on Richards' capture and, suspicious of the media's veracity, does some investigating. She learns the truth about the massacre of which Richards was convicted, but she is captured by her own ICS colleagues and then sent into the game zone.

The runners split up, each pair pursued by a different stalker. "Buzzsaw" (Gus Rethwisch) critically wounds Laughlin and is killed by Richards. Weiss and Amber locate the uplink and learn the access codes, but "Dynamo" (Erland Van Lidth De Jeude) finds them and electrocutes Weiss. Amber's screams lead Richards to her, and as the two evade Dynamo, the stalker's buggy flips, trapping him inside. Refusing to kill a helpless opponent, Richards leaves Dynamo alive as the studio and home audiences watch. He and Amber return to Laughlin who, before dying, says that the resistance has a hideout within the game zone.

Back at ICS, Killian sees Richards' popularity growing, with viewers betting on him to win instead of the stalkers. Off-camera, Killian tries to offer Richards a job as a stalker, but when Richards refuses, Killian sends the next stalker, "Fireball" (Jim Brown), after him and Amber. Fireball chases them into an abandoned factory, where Amber discovers the decomposing corpses of the previous seasons' "winners" – realizing that they were killed by Fireball and their victory was faked. Fireball goes after Amber, but Richards rescues her and kills him.

Frustrated and running out of options, Killian seeks "Captain Freedom" (Jesse Ventura), a retired stalker, to kill them. However, when Freedom refuses, the network creates digital body doubles of Freedom, Richards and Amber, which are then used to fake their deaths on the live screen. In the game zone, Richards and Amber are captured and taken to the resistance's hideout, where they learn of their "deaths". Using the access codes, the rebels get into ICS' control room, broadcasting footage that exonerates Richards and reveals the truth about the game's previous "winners". As Richards heads to the main studio floor, shocking the audience who had watched him supposedly die, Amber fights and kills Dynamo, the last remaining stalker.

Richards confronts Killian, who has by now lost credibility. Sven (Sven-Ole Thorsen), his senior bodyguard, deserts him, having grown tired of Killian's antics. Killian begs for his life, saying he created the show to appease the U.S. love of reality television and televised violence. In response, Richards decides to give the audience what they want – by sending Killian to the game zone in a rocket sled. The sled hits a billboard that features Killian himself and explodes, killing Killian to the delight of the audience. Richards and Amber share a kiss as they walk out of the studio.


  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, the main protagonist
  • María Conchita Alonso as Amber Mendez
  • Richard Dawson as Damon Killian, the main antagonist
  • Yaphet Kotto as William Laughlin, a resistance member who allies himself with Richards
  • Marvin J. McIntyre as Harold Weiss, a resistance member who also joins Richards
  • Mick Fleetwood as Mic, the secret leader of the resistance
  • Professor Toru Tanaka as Professor Subzero, a stalker who uses a hockey-stick capable of cutting steel, exploding pucks, and a hockey rink zone specially fitted for him
  • Gus Rethwisch as Eddie "Buzzsaw" Bitowski, a stalker who uses a specially reinforced chainsaw and a motorcycle
  • Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom, a ten-time former Running Man stalker champion
  • Jim Brown as Fireball, a stalker who is armed with a flamethrower and jetpack
  • Erland Van Lidth De Jeude as Dynamo, an opera-singing stalker who drives a buggy and wears a suit that allows him to arc electricity; this was his final role before his death
  • Dweezil Zappa as Stevie, one of Mic's men
  • Kurt Fuller as Tony, a talent agent for The Running Man
  • Rodger Bumpass as Phil, the studio announcer for The Running Man
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as Sven, Killian's head of security


Although most critics praised Richard Dawson's performance as Killian, overall critical reaction to the film was mixed. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 61% based on reviews from 33 critics, with an average score of 5.5/10.[3]

In The Running Man's opening weekend, it was released in 1,692 theaters and grossed $8,117,465.[4] The film's total domestic gross was $38,122,105.[5]

In 2017, The Running Man was cited by a BBC journalist as having made accurate predictions about life in 2017, including an economic collapse, and offering an enduring critique of "American television culture".[6]


The film's soundtrack was composed by Harold Faltermeyer and includes music by Richard Wagner, Jackie Jackson and John Parr who performed the main theme of the film called "Restless Heart", written and produced by Faltermeyer and played during the final scene and end-credits.[7]

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film was released for the MSX,[8] ZX Spectrum,[9] Commodore 64,[10] Amstrad CPC, Amiga, and Atari ST.[11] The game was developed by Emerald Software Ltd and published by Grandslam Entertainment. The 1990 video game Smash TV was inspired by The Running Man.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Petre; Arnold Schwarzenegger (2012). Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1451662432. 
  2. ^ Hanson, Mary Ellen (1995). Go! Fight! Win! Cheerleading in American Culture. Popular Press. p. 58. ISBN 0879726806. 
  3. ^ "The Running Man (1987)". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 14, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  5. ^ "The Running Man". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 14, 2009. 
  6. ^ Swain, Frank (5 January 2017). "Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man". BBC News. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Harold Faltermeyer – The Running Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved 2016-10-24. 
  8. ^ "". generation msx. 
  9. ^ "Running Man, The". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  10. ^ "Lemon – Commodore 64, C64 Games, Reviews & Music!". Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  11. ^ "Legends never die!". Atari Legend. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 

External links[edit]