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YMMV / The Running Man

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The film:

  • Anti-Climax Boss: Killian's bodyguard Sven. He just walks away.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The score by Harold Faltermeyer, in particular the main theme.
    • Dynamo's rendition of Act III from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, especially when you consider that the actor was an accomplished opera singer in real life.
    • "Restless Heart" by John Parr, the song that plays over the end credits.
  • Complete Monster: Damon Killian, host of The Running Man and head of the network in the dystopian future, runs a TV network where shows are aired that feature innocent people climbing ropes for dollars while vicious dogs lurk below; most of them fall. The star attraction, though, is The Running Man, where supposed criminals are released into a labyrinth to be hunted down by the vicious Stalkers and murdered. Blackmailing hero Ben Richards into playing the game, Damon then forces his friends to play despite his promises otherwise, and when a young woman digs into Richards's past, Killian manufactures a criminal history for her and throws her into the game as well. Even winning the game is no guarantee of safety, as the winners are disposed of while Killian lies about their survival. Sociopathic and indifferent to human suffering, Killian defends himself by claiming that people just love television, and as a TV star, he is giving them the violence they crave, no matter how many lives are ruined or ended.
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  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Ben Richards has to endure much but eventually emerges with a personal victory. Killian's ruse has been undone, his name cleared on national TV and he got the girl. However it will take far more than that to solve the economic and social problems still plaguing America. This is lampshaded in the closing moments as the watching masses rejoice at his win but one viewer simply turns to his colleague afterwards and asks "What else is on?"
  • Fanon: To make the Posters Always Lie date of 2019 (when the opening crawl only mentions the year 2017) work, some people believe that 2017 was the year the societal collapse mentioned in the crawl took place, while Richards escaping and being involved in The Running Man happens two years later in 2019, meaning that the Bakersfield Massacre must've happened somewhere in 2018.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The film (and the book it was based on) basically foresaw the coming of reality TV, particularly in the way the genre is criticized for exploiting its subjects, using manipulative editing to coerce audience reaction, and generally provide no artistic merit beyond audience distraction.
    • The opening scene of Richards' refusal as a police officer to fire on unarmed rioters and protestors, and conversely his squad's acceptance of the order, has an uncomfortable similarity to real-world officers firing less-lethal rounds at peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors in the US with brutal results in early 2020.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Killian has a video broadcast of Captain Freedom fighting and killing what appears to the in-universe audience to be Richards and Amber - it's actually stunt doubles with the two characters' faces digitally superimposed over the doubles. A radical notion in a late 1980s film, but common practice by film effects artists today. Even a few years after The Running Man was released, the effects team for Jurassic Park would use the same technique to cover up a stunt double's face.
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    • The wrestling fight between leotard-wearing Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger is much funnier, knowing that they have each since become U.S. Governors.
    • There's one minor character named Sub-Zero. Good luck listening to Arnold say "Here is Sub-Zero... now plain Zero!" without thinking of the ice-manipulating Lin Kuei warrior. While on Sub-Zero, consider this: Arnold and a foe skating on ice. Or making a pun involving ice, for that matter.
    • At one point Arnold, a long time supporter of the Republican Party, jokes "I'm not into politics, I'm into survival." A little less than 20 years later he was Governor of California.
    • The premise of Climbing for Dollars is now a lot less ridiculous thanks to the existence of the ITV2 programme Release the Hounds.
    • Jesse Ventura working for a totalitarian regime (at least at first) is a lot funnier given that these days, Ventura is best known as a Conspiracy Theorist.
    • The movie is set in 2019 and involves a deadly game show running away from the antagonists. In 2019, we now have Million Dollar Mile, which is essentially a real life version of The Running Man.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The government massacred dozens of people and pinned it on a guy who refused to fire on innocent people.
    • Killian was already a bastard-lying about the contestant's past, verbally abusing his employees, sending people of to die in a brutal death battle, but what sent him over the horizon was lying about the supposed winners of the Running Man, claiming that had been given a pardon, when in reality they had been burned alive off camera. His audience turns against him after that.
  • Narm Charm: The Running Man has an inherent 80's action movie charm, deliberately over-the-top villains in the Stalkers and of course Arnie. The latter also happens to be be armed with an entire arsenal of glorious one-liners. However the film does actually have more depth beyond the surface level thrills.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The movie may have been an escapist action flick starring the Governator, but it (in its own way) taught about the negative aspects of completely turning off your brain in favor of pure, violent escapism, how soul-destroying humanity's bloodlust can be, and the need to question the version of reality that TV presents. It also teaches about the value of tenacity and standing up for yourself. As well as to not believe everything you see on TV.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • The film has one in the form of the 2009 film Gamer.
    • Earlier still was Smash TV.
    • MadWorld counts too, just with less dystopia and more deconstruction on violent reality shows and those who enjoy it.
    • While The Killing Game Show didn't really copy the movie wholesale, the backstory of that game was lifted from this movie (and as if to prove a point, it's rework lifted it's backstory from the novel instead).
    • It can be looked at as a Rated M for Manly version of The Hunger Games. Both of them are a satire on reality tv shows and how they exploit contestants for the sake of entertainment and ratings.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Ben and Amber share little to no romantic chemistry for the duration of the movie, save for Amber developing sympathy for Ben when she realizes he's not the mass-murdering psycho the world has painted him as and a few vague flirty lines. Yet the two managed to produce The Big Damn Kiss during the film's climax.
  • Woolseyism: The Mexican Spanish dub has lots of them:
    • The Mexican Spanish subbed version has the He is Sub-Zero, Now, just plain Zero! line changed. In that translation, that line was changed to Aqui esta Sub-Zero, Ahora es un cero a la izquierda, Being cero a la izquierda a Spanish phrase meaning "worthless".note  The Mexican Spanish dub left the original phrase translated literally from English.
      • In the Italian dub Richards' one-liner is changed into Guarda il tuo Sterminatorenote , adesso vale di certo meno di zero! which translates into "Look at your Stalker, now he certainly is worth less than zero!".
    • Another odd change in the Mexican Spanish sub, and also overlap with Unusual Euphemism despite that subbed version used more profanity than the original English version replace Amber's insult to Dynamo Dickless moron to Eunuco (Spanish for Eunuch) While Eunuch has the same meaning as in English in Spanish, in the Mexican dialect it's also a antiquated synonym for baby, as she's basically calling him an immature asshole in his face.
    • When Richards sends Killian to his death the You Bastard! Drop Dead! line became ¡Hijo de puta! ¡Muerete! (You son of a bitch! Die!). On the other hand, the Mexican Spanish dub translate the phrase more or less literally.
    • While also overlaps with Not Even Bothering with the Accent, Amber in the original English version is played by Maria Conchita Alonso, and she speaks English with a notorious accent. In the dub, she speaks Spanish with a neutral accent. It should be noted that Alonso was very popular in her prime time in Mexico, since she did parts of her singing career there, but it's very likely that Rocío Garcel (Amber's voice actress in the dub) simply dubbed her with a regular accent, rather than trying to imitate her very thick (at the time) accent. Likewise, while Alonso has a very high-pitched voice, Garcel used a deeper tone while dubbing her.
    • The Italian dub changes the show Killian talks about in a phone call scene, Gilligan's Island, with Dallas. Later the "Who's Mr. Spock?" line is changed with Mic leaving the command to Einstein, which the technician doesn't know eithernote .
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: The leader of the underground resistance movement is played by... Mick Fleetwood. Unexpected choice. Presumably they really wanted to add the scene where he complains that his music was banned for being too political...

The book:

  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Shows what will happen if Reality TV shows go that one extra step and actually start hurting people.... but probably directly inspired the British Game Show Wanted and the Japanese Game Run For Money Tousouchuu. Or the 2016 American series The Runner.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The ending has Richards flying a plane straight into the Games Building, which brings up some unfortunate connotations for those reading the book post September 11th, 2001.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Richards' video camera and blank tapes together weigh about six pounds. And fit into a coat pocket without a bulge.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The book makes it clear throughout that the cops in Running Man's world are not exactly very nice people, but what sends them clean over this is when they try to take down both Richards and the innocent civilian woman in the car with him. One who was just begging them not to shoot
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The book mocks reality television show like Hard Copy that demonize people to make the audience hate them. (And keep in mind, this was written nearly 20 years before Survivor and Big Brother spared a boom in just that type of reality game show.)

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