He’s one of his generation’s most successful producers, both on television and on the big screen, and helped discover some of the most entertaining stories of the past 35 years. This weekend Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest production, “12 Strong” hits theaters so I decided to take a look at some of this legendary film producers more celebrated works in anticipation for the new film. These are my picks for the Top 10 Jerry Bruckheimer Film Productions.
For this list I looked at any film where Bruckheimer was a lead producer rather than filling in an alternate role such as executive producer. Obviously, I won’t be looking at his television properties and I’m focusing on his big screen productions that did well either critically, financially or both that left an impact on viewers and today can be considered classics in Bruckheimer’s filmography.
When I originally conceived this list I wanted to stick to just the best rated films of Bruckheimer on Rotten Tomatoes, but considering how many relatively iconic films he produced that might have been critical failures I loosened my qualifications to include any film that left an impact as the overall quality of a film can be more attributed to directing than producing. Here I wanted to focus on Bruckheimer’s eye for a story that would draw audiences to the theater so the more iconic and successful a film was the more likely it was to make this list with special consideration given to films that were considerably more memorable, financially success or critically successful. Films that were all of the above obviously made it higher on this list with those that became pop culture staples also receiving special consideration. Also, seeing as Bruckheimer helped with a few franchises, only one film per franchise was considered to add more variety to this countdown.
These are the most iconic and successful films this famed producer helped discover and bring to the big screen. Obviously some of your favorites may have not made the cut, so let me know your favorite Jerry Bruckheimer production in the comments below and be sure to look for my review of “12 Strong” this weekend.
Starting this list off is a film that might not be the most critically praised movie of Bruckheimer’s career, but it’s one of the most profitable. With an estimated box office draw of $553.7 million, “Armageddon” was 1998’s most profitable film in terms of ticket revenue with its popularity spurred through the tremendous star power of its cast and the obsession viewers had with the end of the world at that time. Bruckheimer helped lead the writing of the script, which eventually was drenched in controversy when accusations circled about plagiarism that lead to its rivalry with a similar 1998 release, “Deep Impact”. Bruckheimer’s name was heavily attached to the film and it was one of several productions he was involved in with director Michael Bay at the helm. While the movie is a bit dated, it’s still a legendary science fiction offering and one of Bruckheimer’s most iconic contributions to the 90s.
9. “Con Air”
So you’ll notice from this list that the 90s were big for Bruckheimer and he tends to have an affinity for certain directors and stars in the film’s he chooses to support. “Con Air” was a part of the producer’s massive success in the 90s on the big screen and was one of several films led by actor Nicolas Cage that he helped lead. Bruckheimer was the sole producer for this project about a group of hardened and dangerous criminals that hijack a criminal transport plane and the result was an action flick that earned $224 million at the box office and earned a 56% approval from Rotten Tomatoes in the process. While today it is sometimes overlooked in favor of some other notable action offerings Bruckheimer helped produce, some of which you’ll see later on this list, “Con Air” remains a guilty pleasure for many who see it as a great source of pure shameless escapism.
8. “Bad Boys”
Seeing a theme here? Another Bruckheimer film, another 90s classic with Michael Bay at the helm and big stars front and center. While not as commercially or critically successful as “Con Air” or “Armageddon” respectively, “Bad Boys” earns its spot here due to its legacy more than anything else. It was one of several films in the 90s to help launch Will Smith as a credible leading man on the big screen and today it’s among the most popular action films of its era, spawning a franchise that fans still want to see continue to this day. As with many of Bruckheimer’s movies, this is a perfect example of cinematic escapism that has stood the test of time and has spawned many imitators, but few that could capture its charm. A quintessential buddy cop film, it’s only too bad that Michael Bay chose to forgo a focus on the story Bruckheimer helped discover in favor of set pieces and explosions. Otherwise it might have been even more iconic.
7. “Black Hawk Down”
This is an example of a film that made this list more for its quality than its financial success. “Black Hawk Down” didn’t make a whole lot more than its budget, but garnered great reviews from critics even if actual soldiers disowned it. Directed by Ridley Scott and based on a non-fiction book about the 1993 raid in Mogadishu “Black Hawk Down” has been considered in some circles as one of the best modern war movies to hit the big screen and it arrived only a few months after the events of 9/11. Fun fact, Bruckheimer actually bought the rights to the film version of this story at the suggestion of its original planned director Simon West. West went on to direct the 2001 “Tomb Raider” film instead with Ridley Scott coming on as the new director and it seems the film was better off for it. All of this is part of Bruckheimer’s job to help handle the staffing and personel decisions for such projects, and it seems Bruckheimer made a wise choice and even allowed Scott some creative control sharing the producer credit with the director when all was said and done.
6. “Enemy of the State”
The third Bruckheimer production from 1998 on this list, and the first on this countdown with director Tony Scott, and the second starring Will Smith, “Enemy of the State” is not only a successful film for the producer on the big screen, but it’s soon to be a television show as well as production on a series started in 2016. The movie focused on an NSA group conspiring to kill a Congressman, but have to engage in a cover up after a tape of the murder surfaces. A critical success that made over $250 million on a $90 million budget, “Enemy of the State” was among the producer’s more original action thrillers and served as a good example of Bruckheimer’s eye for an attractive original story. Bruckheimer was the only producer on this film and although it was overshadowed by bigger budget blockbusters in 1998, a few of which Bruckheimer himself had a hand in, it was actually probably the producer’s most well rounded project of that year in terms of storytelling and overall quality. It remains a hidden gem in Bruckheimer’s extensive filmography to this day that is worth checking out.
5. “Crimson Tide”
One of several Jerry Bruckheimer/Denzel Washington team ups, this 1995 film is also the second joint venture in a row on this countdown between Bruckheimer and Tony Scott. Based on the concept of the Cold War, this submarine-themed movie put the focus on a new officer and a seasoned commander aboard a sub that have to decide how to interpret an order to launch their missiles after a threat is made against the United States. Suspenseful and claustrophobic, this movie is an underappreciated gem from the mid-90s often overshadowed by “The Hunt for Red October” years earlier, but it still managed to turn a decent profit and earn critical acclaim upon its release for its performances and story as well as a few pop-culture script elements added by none other than Quentin Tarantino. Also, interesting fact, to prepare for the film, Bruckheimer was one of many film executives to actually embark on a submarine to research the living conditions and setting they would be using for the film. It’s this kind of dedication to his projects that has made Bruckheimer a respected judge for a good action story and helped make “Crimson Tide” one of the best productions he ever participated in and one of the most respected films he produced to this day.
4. “Top Gun”
The first team up of director Tony Scott and Bruckheimer, and the third consecutive pairing of these two on this list, “Top Gun” is a legendary action drama that is among the most iconic of Bruckheimer’s storied career. Starring Tom Cruise, most are familiar with this film about naval pilots given the chance to be part of the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School with its oh-so-many quotable lines and sex appeal. While today a pop culture staple, the film received mixed reviews upon initial release but the audiences made it one of the most profitable films of 1986, earning it $356.8 million worldwide on a $15 million budget with its worldwide gross, earning it the title of top earning movie of that year both domestically and foreign. The film’s iconic status earned it a call for a sequel even 30 years later with Bruckheimer helping push for the film’s development. The second film, tentatively titled “Top Gun: Maverick”, is expected for 2019 with none other than Bruckheimer himself in the producer’s seat.
3. “The Rock”
Another Michael Bay directed film, Jerry Bruckheimer helped discover this pulse-pounding critical and financial hit about an FBI chemist who is teamed with a talented criminal to break onto the island of Alcatraz in order to disarm nerve gas missiles hijacked by a group of rogue marines. The film made more than four times its budget of $75 million and received surprisingly good scores for a Michael Bay film with a 66% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This 1996 film was also the first collaboration between Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage, which would later help with the successes of “Con Air”, “Gone in 60 Seconds”, and the “National Treasure” franchise. “The Rock” remains a favorite in not only Bruckheimer’s filmography, but also Michael Bays and is a staple of the action genre from the 90s that is still very popular in many circles to this day.
2. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”
In the early 90s a few writers got together to discuss putting a science fiction and paranormal twist on the pirate genre. Years later in 2002 a script was born and Dick Cook was producing, but he brought on board a bigger name, Jerry Bruckheimer, to help lead the project and thus the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was born. In 2003 the first film, “Curse of the Black Pearl”, was released to critical praise and $654 million in box office revenue. It was the fourth highest grossing film of that year behind only “Return of the King”, “Finding Nemo”, and “The Matrix Reloaded” and sparked a whole new era of filmmaking that upped the ante in terms of story, set pieces, and characterizations that still lasts today. Now five films strong, Bruckheimer has been the sole credited producer of every entry in the “Pirates” franchise to date with his name being as synonymous with the series as star Johnny Depp. With a sixth film in development, this is not only Bruckheimer’s longest running franchise, it’s his most financially successful and one that has spawned a legion of fans worldwide and characters now solidified in pop culture forever.
1. “Beverly Hills Cop”
While this wasn’t Bruckheimer’s first production, it was the one that made him a certified staple in Hollywood and, to date, is his most balanced film in terms of critical and commercial success. Starring Eddie Murphy, this film introduced the world to the iconic Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who visits Beverly Hills to solve his friend’s murder. This was the movie that not only sparked Bruckheimer’s greatness, but Murphy’s international stardom as well and made over $234 million in North America during its theatrical run and over $316 million total on a $15 million budget, numbers that were astounding in the 1980s for a comedy. The movie also sparked a beloved franchise which, rumor has it, has been green-lit for a fourth film that Bruckheimer is to produce. It also carries an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the producer’s best scores to date only topped by 1981’s “Thief” and “Crimson Tide” in Bruckheimer’s filmography which each made much less money than “Beverly Hills Cop”. In terms of critical success, this was a trend setter. In terms of financial success, this was a standout even among the most profitable of its time. In terms of iconic status this was the film that sparked a career for both its star and its producer and introduced the world to a now-iconic law enforcement officer in cinema. Put it all together and it’s a very worthy pick for the top spot on a list of Bruckheimer’s best.