Ten Deep 2.27.14: Top 10 Movies Written by Harold Ramis
Posted by Mike Gorman on 02.27.2014
From Ghostbusters and Analyze This to Stripes, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 films written by the recently-departed Harold Ramis!
"Top Ten Movies Written by Harold Ramis"
I was all set to do a usual Oscars' Week themed Ten Deep for today and then I heard that Harold Ramis passed away. I learned of his death through social media, as most of do when it comes to celebrity tragedy of late, and I was quite amazed to see the number of people who either did not know who he was or only new him as "that Ghostbuster." I decided then that this week's column had to be about highlighting Ramis' work and more than just his acting appearances. You see Ramis did a lot more than act; he was a prolific director and writer as well. This week I chose ten of the films he wrote himself or was involved with writing to highlight for you. You might be surprised that he was a part of some of these films. For the Ramis fans out there who will recognize his unique talent at play in these films, I offer up this list as just one small memorable of a great talent that is no longer with us.
As we get into this list you will see that most of these films never garnered an Oscar nod nor really basked in critical acclaim. They were however full of moments of laughter and joy that speak to the talent Ramis possessed. What he lacked in statues he made up for in the laughs of his films' fans.
10. Armed and Dangerous
Armed and Dangerous is a "buddy cop" film that features John Candy and Eugene Levy in the leads. Upon viewing it becomes obvious that these two are not necessarily cut out to be the leads in such in a film, but it does have its moments of well scripted hilarity. The film is filled with dated humor as you can see in the clip below but certainly worth it to see John Candy running in heels.
Bedazzled is a revamped take on the age old story of a man selling his soul to the devil except this time the devil is no devious old man or creepy monster, instead the embodiment of true evil takes the form of a red leather clad Elizabeth Hurley. She certainly adds a new wrinkle to this straight forward be careful what you wish for tale.
8. Analyze This
It is truly great writing that makes this seemingly impossible to pull off comedy come to life. The idea of Billy Crystal and Robert Deniro in a buddy comedy does not seem to have truly hilarious potential but in Analyze This we see how wrong that assessment is. Two strong leads with some artfully crafted jokes make this a comedic success.
As this list goes on it will become apparent that combination of Harold Ramis, in any role, and Bill Murray acting leads to some true comedy gold. The first instance of this on the countdown is the 1981 military comedy, Stripes. Here Ramis and his fellow writers prove that they excel at bringing loveable losers to the screen regardless of the situation. This is something that will continue as we progress. Don't skip Stripes if you haven't seen it, the jokes and situations still hold up to viewing today.
1979's Meatballs is a personal favorite on the list and features Bill Murray's first turn as a lead actor. Ramis and his fellow writers, with the directing skill of a younger Ivan Reitman, bring to life this summer camp send up that features Murray as the leader of a bad of misfits who will prove their mettle come the end of their summer season.
5. Groundhog Day
While much of the US might want to strangle the actual groundhog who predicted this continued deep freeze we face day in and day out, most of us will agree that there is a lot to laugh at in Groundhog Day. The film was based on a story by Danny Rubin who wrote the screen play with Harold Ramis. And again, Bill Murray steps seamlessly into the lead of another Ramis' tale. This is the movie that changed the way we all look at the song, "I Got You Babe."
4. Back to School
Ok, finally we hit a film that doesn't feature Murray but does star another comic who has flourished under Ramis writing before, Rodney Dangerfield. Here, Ramis, along with several other writers, revisits territory he is familiar with, the college environment, but with a new spin from his early forays (See #2!). Here Dangerfield's goes, well, back to school, after already finding success as the king of the big and tall clothing world. The film's opening brought us a life lesson that bears repeating more than twenty years later, "If you want to look thin, you hang out with fat people." So true.
It's funny, the first few times I saw Caddyshack I honestly did not get the appeal. I of course hid this feeling knowing that the avid fans around me in my life would probably end up using my nose as a golf tee if I had come clean. Years later, revisiting the film, I was able to find the individual comedic moments that I knew drew its fans in deeper with each viewing. The film's fantastic performances were supported by the scripts tight jokes and well-paced humor. This is the film that defined Bill Murray as a comedic actor many years to come. I should probably mention that Ramis did direct this one too. (But that could be a whole ‘nother list!)
2. Animal House
In an interview GQ a few years ago Ramis waxed poetic on the impact he felt that Animal House was to have on the cinematic landscape. He and his fellow writers saw the film as bringing in a new generation of comedy to Hollywood, one that cut its teeth on Saturday Night Live and saw humor in a new light. He was correct and Animal House still stands as one of the funniest films ever made. It clearly captured an energy and a feel that many sought to copy in the years that followed, but none really succeeded at. One could say though, in that way it opened the doors to more sarcastic, well written yet still over the top films that came in the next decades after its release.
Ok, as much as I lamented the internet denizens who only knew Ramis for his role as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters I cannot help but give the spotlight to this work he crafted with Dan Akroyd. Together they created a comedic monster movie that had all the elements of a horror film but managed to use humor to bring light to the entire experience. It was this fusion of laughs and thrills that cemented the success of Ghostbusters in my opinion and stills leaves fans wanting more to this day. Sadly, I think we can all be sure that the oft rumored Ghostbusters 3 will no longer see the light of day… or if it does it will be missing a huge piece of its heart.
There is no way I could capture all of Ramis' amazing work in one column, so I'd like to encourage you to share your favorite selections from his vast resume, be it writing, directing, or acting here. I am pretty sure all film fans do have their favorite Ramis moment.
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