Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in Wall Street (1987), deluxe lobby card image courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
Michael Kirk Douglas was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on September 25, 1944. His first movie appearance came in father Kirk Douglas’ Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), in which he played an uncredited jeep driver. In 1969, Douglas made his official film debut in Hail, Hero!, appearing in the role of Carl Dixon.
Here are ten movies that no Michael Douglas fan should ever miss. Movies never sleep, pal…
Wall Street (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1987)
Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a ruthless corporate raider who plunders his way to the top of the financial world. Douglas gives a tour de force performance as the amoral Gekko, using young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) as his conduit for insider trading deals. Douglas’ Gekko, decked out in his trademark suspenders, tosses out a number of memorable one-liners, including this gem describing the business acumen of a colleague: “Jesus, if this guy owned a funeral parlor nobody would die.” Wall Street is Michael Douglas at his best, the bright, brash, savvy financial buccaneer sporting $1,000 designer suits and an over inflated ego that eventually leads to his downfall.
- Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (won)
- Great Douglas line (delivered at a stockholders meeting for Teldar Paper): “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”
- Director: Oliver Stone
- On DVD: Wall Street 20th Anniversary Edition (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2007).
Basic Instinct (TriStar, 1992)
Michael Douglas stars as Nick Curran, a damaged San Francisco police detective with past alcohol and drug problems. Curran’s latest case is the brutal ice pick slaying of an ex-rock star, which leads him to the beautiful, seductive crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). The vulnerable Douglas’ interaction with the erotic, dangerous Stone makes the movie, as the two slowly circle each other, eventually becoming lovers. The film features the legendary interrogation scene, with a heated Douglas and his fellow cops looking on as Sharon Stone coolly answers their pointed questions while smoking a cigarette and sporting a short white dress with no panties.
- Great Douglas line (to George Dzundza’s Gus, after they find drugs at the murder scene of civic-minded ex-rocker Johnny Boz)): “It looks like some civic-minded, very respectable cocaine to me, Gus.”
- Director: Paul Verhoeven
- On DVD: Basic Instinct Director’s Cut Ultimate Edition (Lions Gate, 2006)
The American President (Columbia, 1995)
Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepherd, a widower who begins a romance with lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). Douglas cuts a dashing presidential figure, squiring the lovely Bening while doing political battle with right-wing moralist Senator Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss). Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox add to the movie’s delight, with Douglas and Bening absolutely charming in the lead roles.
- Great Douglas line (to Martin Sheen’s A.J. MacInerney on winning his girlfriend back): “I’m going over to her house. I’m going to stand outside her door until she lets me in, and I’m not leaving ’til I get her back.”
- Director: Rob Reiner
- On DVD: The American President (Warner, 1999)
The American President 1995 advance one sheet poster image courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
The Game (Polygram, 1997)
Michael Douglas portrays Nicholas Van Orton, an investment banker whose brother Conrad (Sean Penn) gifts him with a live-action fantasy game from Consumer Recreation Services. It proves to be a wild birthday present for the skeptical Douglas, who bravely weathers one harrowing plot twist after the other as the game eventually winds its way down to its glass-shattering conclusion. Deborah Kara Unger delivers a nice performance as Christine, a paid company player whose interaction with client Douglas makes for a fantastic picture. Oh, yeah, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, she isn’t fond of wearing panties either.
- Great Douglas line: “I don’t care about the money. I’m pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard.”
- Director: David Fincher
- On DVD: The Game (Universal, 2002)
Fatal Attraction (Paramount, 1987)
Michael Douglas plays Dan Gallagher, a New York City lawyer who embarks on an extramarital affair with book editor Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). Douglas’ weekend romp goes horribly awry, as Close turns out to be a mental case, stalking her latest catch and threatening to tell his wife about their affair. Douglas carries off the cheating husband role to near perfection, confessing to a colleague in one scene, “She keeps calling the apartment. Every time Beth answers the phone, she hangs up. I’m scared, Jimmy, and I don’t want to lose my family.”
- Great Douglas line: “You’re so sad. You know that, Alex? Lonely and very sad.”
- Director: Adrian Lyne
- On DVD: Fatal Attraction Special Collector’s Edition (Paramount, 2002)
Romancing the Stone (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1984)
Michael Douglas plays Jack T. Colton, an American adventurer who rescues romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) in Colombia. Using a found map the two embark on a treasure hunt, eventually discovering a fabulous emerald known as El Corazon. Both Douglas and Turner have a field day in this romantic comedy travelogue, trading jabs as they traverse the harrowing South American landscape trying to elude pursuers Danny DeVito and Manuel Ojeda.
- Great Douglas line: “Now I ain’t cheap, but I can be had.”
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- On DVD: Romancing the Stone Special Edition (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006)
Traffic (USA Films, 2000)
Michael Douglas plays Robert Wakefield, an Ohio State Supreme Court justice who is appointed by the President to head the war on drugs. The movie is a fascinating look at the drug culture, exploring three different stories, one of which involves Douglas who learns that his straight ‘A’ 16-year-old daughter is heavily into narcotics. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Douglas’ real-life wife) and Amy Irving also appear in this gripping, offbeat drama that unfolds like a sobering documentary.
- Great Douglas line: “If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don’t know how you wage war on your own family.”
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- On DVD: Traffic (Universal, 2002)
Disclosure (Warner Bros., 1994)
Michael Douglas plays Tom Sanders, an executive at a Seattle high-tech firm who is sexually harassed by former girlfriend Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore). The hyper-aggressive Moore, who is now Douglas’ boss, arranges for an after-hours office meeting where she tries to seduce the now-married Douglas with disastrous results. Angered by the rejection, Moore files a sexual harassment suit against Douglas, with Douglas later countersuing. Complicating matters is an impending merger with another company where everyone stands to make a great deal of money.
- Great Douglas line: “Sexual harassment is about power. When did I have the power? When?”
- Director: Barry Levinson
- On DVD: Disclosure (Warner, 1997)
A Perfect Murder (Warner Bros., 1998)
Michael Douglas stars as Steven Taylor, a New York City hedge fund manager whose investments have taken a turn for the worse. Douglas’ Taylor subsequently hatches a plan to kill his wealthy wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) for her inherited money, paying her secret lover (Viggo Mortensen) $500,000 for the job. Things go badly, however, when Mortensen sub-contracts the job to another man who botches the murder and ends up dead at Douglas’ residence. Douglas is superb as the cool, calculating husband who in one scene corners the fleeing Mortensen in a train compartment, shoving a knife into his stomach and asking the dying man, ”How was that for wet work?”
- Great Douglas line (to Paltrow’s Emily): “You’re not leaving me, the only way you leave me is dead!”
- Director: Andrew Davis
- On DVD: A Perfect Murder Keepcase (Warner, 2009)
Falling Down (Warner Bros., 1993)
Michael Douglas plays William “De-Fens” Foster, a frustrated, unemployed engineer in the defense industry who abandons his car one day on the L.A. freeway and goes on a tear. This is a sleeper in the Michael Douglas filmography, with the actor sporting a crew cut and broken glasses as he confronts the indignities of society. That includes a violent run-in with the neo-Nazi owner of a war surplus store and a confrontation at Whammy Burger where he tries to order breakfast. Robert Duvall plays a retiring cop who is on the trail of the rampaging Douglas.
- Great Douglas line: “I helped build missiles. I helped protect this country. You should be rewarded for that. But instead they give it to the plastic surgeons, you know they lied to me.”
- Director: Joel Schumacher
- On DVD: Falling Down Deluxe Edition (Warner, 2009)
Michael Douglas in Falling Down (1993), image courtesy Warner Bros.
Ten Other Michael Douglas Movie Gems
- Adam at Six A.M. (1970)
- Coma (1978)
- The China Syndrome (1979)
- Running (1979)
- The Star Chamber (1983)
- The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
- Black Rain (1989)
- The War of the Roses (1989)
- Wonder Boys (2000)
- King of California (2007)
Michael Douglas’ latest film is Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, slated for an April 23, 2010 release.