The Running Man is a 1987 sci-fi action film directed by Paul Michael Glaser (yes, that one), which is set in a dystopian future. It is a loose adaptation of the book of the same name.When the cop Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) refuses to fire at innocent civilians, he is captured and sent to prison. He escapes, but is captured again, and ends up as a contestant in the nation's number one television show: The Running Man. In the show, Ben and his fellow "contestants" must fight their way through the Stalkers, killers set to stop their advance, to win their freedom.Not to be confused with the South Korean variety show either.
The film provides examples of:
'80s Hair: The Running Man's "It's Showtime!" dancers' big hair.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Ben Richards in the book is "scrawny" and "pre-tubercular". Schwarzenegger... isn't. Stephen King even jokes about this, saying that Ben's "About as far as you can get" from Schwarzenegger.
(strangles Subzero with barbed wire) "He was a pain in the neck."
(hurls road-flare at Fireball) "What a hothead."
(stabs a man in the back after signing a contract he was resting on the man's back) "Don't forget to send me a copy".
(sends Killian flying on a sled into a soda billboard) "Well, that hit the spot."
Brick Joke: Killian's bodyguard Sven and steroids.
The Butcher: Ben Richards, "The Butcher of Bakersfield". Played with, in that Richards himself is innocent of the crime, framed by his corrupt superiors when he objected to massacring hordes of innocent people.
The Cast Showoff: When Dynamo (Erland van Lidth) sings the aria from Act III of The Marriage of Figaro, he's actually singing in that scene. Presumably after he got cast, someone found out he could sing opera and decided they had to throw that in somewhere.
Charles Atlas Superpower: A given with Arnie, Richards is able to perform such feats of strength as ripping Amber's weights bench out of the floor and carrying a girder unaided.
Cheaters Never Prosper: Sort of applies to Killian. When it becomes likely that Richards and Amber may actually survive, he airs fake footage to make the viewers believe they've been killed so they won't be viewed as heroes. Naturally, he does not prosper.
Even Evil Has Standards: Captain Freedom as a Stalker believes in the Gladiator Code and chooses to walk off the show when Killian has him suit up in armor so that he can take on Ben Richards.
Exact Words: As one of the more legal-minded executives at the studio points out when one of his colleagues tells Damon he can't have Richards on the show because their contract doesn't permit them to host political prisoners, "Who's a political prisoner? He's still at large." Later, Damon mentions that he "pulled a few strings" to get Richards brought to him instead of back to prison; evidently he exploited this loophole to the fullest.
Explosive Leash: Richards and his fellow prisoners wear them in the military prison.
Future Imperfect: A TV equivalent; it's implied that a lot of TV shows have been forgotten thanks to the totalitarian government's control of the entertainment networks, and on two occasions an older character makes a reference to an old TV show (Gilligan's Island and Star Trek) that falls flat.
Gaia's Lament: Earth's resources are severely drained in this world.
Groin Attack: Multiple examples. The most notorious being how Richards disposes of Buzzsaw with his own chainsaw.
Heel-Face Turn: Captain Freedom genuinely believes in the Warrior's Code, considers himself a modern gladiator, and when he sees the psychopathic Killian ignore all rules once again, he eventually snaps and angrily walks away from it all. Sven, Killian's bodyguard, switches sides, too, although in his case it may be simply a Bodyguard Betrayal for all the abuse that Killian had presumably given him.
Idiot Ball: Even though Richards was already throughly discredited as "The Butcher of Bakersfield", the Government still insists on making up murders at the airport in order to blame them on him. This is what convinces Amber that he was framed and ultimately causes her to discover the truth. Keeping the unedited footage around was pretty dumb too.
In Name Only: All that's left is the name of the hero, the last name of the main villain, the name of the show involved and a couple of plot elements - the totalitarian dystopic society and Richards kidnapping a woman and taking her to an airport.
Instant Soprano: Ben Richards shoves the blade of Buzzsaw's titular weapon into his groin area, causing him to emit a scream that went higher in pitch.
Before he sets Fireball on fire, "How 'bout a light?"
Also, before killing Buzzsaw with his own chainsaw, "That is OK, keep it!".
Public Execution: Criminals are executed by being hunted to their deaths on TV, with a promise of freedom if they survive.
Quirky Mini Boss Squad: The Stalkers certainly qualify. They aren't developed beyond their special attacks and gimmicks and have very hammy moments, but presumably have been competent enough to never have died until Ben Richards shows up.
Played with when Richards tries to flee to Hawaii, instead of trying to escape the country entirely.
Hawaii may be a different country in this setting. It may be a Shout-Out to Heinlein's If This Goes On... where someone PRETENDS to by trying to escape to Hawaii (which is a separate country) as part of a plan to make his pursuers think he's dead.
The Scapegoat: Richards is blamed for the government-ordered massacre he tried to prevent.
The Stinger: The show's announcer does a voice over at the end of the credits, listing the game's sponsors and inviting people to participate by sending in their name and address, "then go out and do something really despicable!".
Sven, Killian's bodyguard, exemplifies the following tropes:
Villain Ball: Killian backstabs Richards and puts his fellow escapees on the show even after promising Richards that he would not. This is ultimately his undoing. Without the two rebels, Richards never would have found the hideout and escaped the arena. Without Richards, the rebels would have been immediately massacred by the stalkers.
We Can Rule Together: Not quite, but same idea. When Killian must accept that it is actually possible that Richards might win, he offers him a job as a Stalker. Richards refuses. (Well, more like tells him where he can stick it, but it's still a refusal.)
We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: The government uses edited footage to frame Richards. Later, the producers edit footage of Richards being killed in an attempt to salvage his victory over the Stalkers. This winds up backfiring in the latter because they make Richards and Amber look weak compared to their actual selves in the game. When the rebellion manage to play the true tape of the massacre and Killian denies it being true. The crowd, particularly an old lady who rooted for Richards, turn against him cause they've seen Richards in action and know what he's like by now.
Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Ben Richards. This actually gets him in a heap of trouble when he refused to follow orders to mow down hungry protesters.
Your Head A Splode: If Chico had just waited 20 more seconds at the beginning of the movie...
Zeerust: All over the place, particularly in the hairstyles and fashions (mullets and shoulder pads, for example, will apparently never go out of style). Lesser examples exist, such as the horribly dated graphics seen on all the in-universe computer screens and the pseudo-computeresque font used in the "KILLIAN IS LYING TO YOU" clip.
Technology Marches On: Most notable with the "tapes". They're actually 3.5" floppy disks. Video compression in the future must be real good for entire recordings to fit in 1.44 Megabytes...