The Running Man (1987)
The Running Man (1987) poster
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser
Produced by George Linder
Tim Zinnemann
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Richard Dawson
María Conchita Alonso
Yaphet Kotto
Music by Harold Faltermeyer
Cinematography Thomas Del Ruth
Editing by John Wright
Mark Roy Warner
Edward A. Warschilka
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release November 13, 1987
Running time 101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $27 million
Gross revenue $38,122,105

The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction-action film loosely based on 1982 novel of the same name, written by Stephen King. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brown, and Richard Dawson. Director Andrew Davis was fired one week into filming and replaced by Glaser. Schwarzenegger has stated this was a "terrible decision" as Glaser "shot the movie like it was a television show, losing all the deeper themes." Schwarzenegger believes this hurt the movie. Paula Abdul is credited with the choreography of the Running Man dance troupe.

The film, set in a dystopian America between 2017 and 2019, is about a television show called The Running Man, where convicted criminal "runners" must escape death at the hands of professional killers.


By 2017, the global economy has collapsed and American society has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. The government pacifies the populace by broadcasting a number of game shows in which convicted criminals fight for their lives, including the gladiator-style The Running Man, hosted by the ruthless Damon Killian, where "runners" attempt to evade "stalkers" and certain death for a chance to be pardoned and set free.

In 2019 Ben Richards, a police pilot who was convicted of a massacre (in the process of suppressing a food riot in Bakersfield, California) in which he actually refused to participate, escapes from a labor camp with other inmates and flees to a shanty town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Declining an offer to join a resistance movement, Richards instead seeks shelter at his brother's apartment. He finds it is now occupied by Amber Mendez, a composer for ICS, the network that broadcasts The Running Man. Richards attempts to flee to Hawaii with Amber as a hostage, but she alerts airport security and Richards is captured and taken to the ICS studios. Killian coerces him to compete in The Running Man with the threat that if he declines, his two weaker escapee friends—Laughlin and Weiss—will be put on the show instead. Richards complies, but as the show begins, Killian reveals that Laughlin and Weiss have been enrolled as runners anyway. Richards and his friends are attacked by the first stalker, "Subzero", but Richards kills him using barbed wire as a garrotte. This shocks the audience, as this is the first stalker to ever die on the show.

Laughlin and Weiss, both members of the resistance movement, seek to exploit their situation by searching for the network's uplink facilities, which they realize are in the game zone. Meanwhile, Amber begins to question the media's veracity after watching a falsified news report on Richards' capture. Amber discovers the truth about the massacre, but she is captured and sent into the game zone, with Richards and the others. The runners split up, each pair pursued by a different stalker. Laughlin is wounded by the stalker "Buzzsaw", whom Richards kills with his own chainsaw. Weiss and Amber locate the uplink and learn the access codes, but Weiss is electrocuted by the stalker "Dynamo". Amber's screams lead Richards to her, and as the two evade the stalker, Dynamo's buggy flips, trapping him inside. Richards then stuns the audience by leaving Dynamo alive, pinned in his vehicle, proclaiming that he will not kill a helpless man.

Amber and Richards return to Laughlin, who, before dying, reveals that the resistance has a hideout within the game zone. Back at the ICS studio, Killian sees Richards' popularity growing, with viewers betting on Richards to win instead of the stalkers. Off-camera, Killian offers Richards a job as a stalker, which Richards declines. Meanwhile, the next stalker, "Fireball", pursues Amber and Richards into an abandoned factory, where Amber finds the charred bodies of the previous season's "winners." Fireball tries to kill Amber, but Richards rescues her and kills Fireball with his own weaponry. Running out of options, a frustrated Killian uses computer-generated imagery to fake the deaths of Richards and Amber in the final match of the episode, a faked battle against retired stalker "Captain Freedom", who has refused to go into battle against Richards.

In the game zone, Richards and Amber are captured by the resistance and taken to their hideout, where they learn of their "deaths" on the show. Using the access codes provided by Amber, the resistance takes over the ICS satellite. Richards leads the rebels to the ICS studios where they seize the control room, allowing the resistance to broadcast unedited footage of Richards' part in the Bakersfield massacre, as well as footage revealing that past alleged "victors" of The Running Man were in fact killed anyway. Richards then heads to the main studio floor, shocking the audience and home viewers who had watched him supposedly die. Amber encounters Dynamo, but she kills him when an errant gunshot sets off the sprinkler system, killing him when the water hits his electrical suit. Richards confronts Killian, who desperately attempts to defend himself by explaining that he created the show to appease America's love of television and violence. Ignoring the excuse, Richards sends Killian to the game zone aboard a rocket sled, which impacts a billboard and explodes, much to the delight of the television audience. The film ends with Richards and Amber sharing a kiss as they walk out of the studio.


  • Erland Van Lidth De Jeude in his final role as Dynamo
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, a wrongfully convicted military pilot who fights for his life in The Running Man show and joins the resistance against Killian.
  • María Conchita Alonso as Amber Mendez, a composer for the ICS who poses as Richards' girlfriend but who later develops real feelings for him after learning of his innocence.
  • Richard Dawson as Damon Killian, the ruthless host of a number of lethal game shows, including The Running Man, though he is loved by the audience for his charisma. He is the main antagonist of the film, though he is shown answering to the US Attorney-General.
  • Yaphet Kotto as William Laughlin, a resistance member who allies himself with Richards in The Running Man and sacrifices himself to save Richards from Buzzsaw.
  • Marvin J. McIntyre as Harold Weiss, a resistance member who joins Richards and Laughlin in The Running Man and decrypts the uplink network codes for the resistance, though he is killed by Dynamo. McIntyre would later co-star with Schwarzenegger in Twins.
  • Mick Fleetwood as Mic, the secret leader of the resistance. He initially distrusts Richards for his supposed role in the Bakersfield massacre, but accepts him as an ally once he discovers the truth. The film alludes to Fleetwood's music career, as he explains that Richards "helped put his bandmates in jail."
  • Charles Kalani, Jr. as Professor Subzero, a stalker who uses a hockey-stick capable of cutting steel, exploding pucks, and a hockey rink zone specially fitted for him. He is killed by Richards who slits his throat with barbed wire. Kalani is credited under his professional wrestling stage name, Professor Toru Tanaka.
  • Gus Rethwisch as Eddie "Buzzsaw" Vatowski, a stalker who uses a specially reinforced chainsaw and a motorcycle, and the previous season champion. He mortally wounds Laughlin, but is then slain by Richards.
  • Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom, a ten-time former Running Man Stalker champion. He becomes increasingly disgusted by repeated one-sided matchups until he is finally selected, but refuses to use Killian's equipment and gimmicks and digital technology is used to put him into a faked battle with Richards. Ventura had previously co-starred with Schwarzenegger in Predator which was released the same year as this film, Ventura would later make a cameo appearance with Schwarzenegger as a prison guard in Batman and Robin.
  • Jim Brown as Fireball, armed with a flamethrower and jetpack. He reveals to Amber about the previous season winners' real fates while Killian falsifies footage of their prize holiday. He is killed when Richards cuts his flamethrower tank and lights a flare that sets off the fumes.
  • Erland Van Lidth De Jeude as Dynamo, an opera-singing Stalker who drives a buggy and wears a suit that allows him to arc electricity. He is initially defeated by Richards, who spares his life, but is later killed when Amber sets off a water sprinkling system on him. This was Van Lidth's final role before his death.
  • Dweezil Zappa as Stevie, one of Mic's men. His name is a reference to Fleetwood's bandmate Stevie Nicks.
  • Kurt Fuller as Tony, talent agent who searches for potential contestants for The Running Man.
  • Rodger Bumpass as Phil, the studio announcer for The Running Man. Bumpass would later gain fame as the voice of Squidward Tentacles on the popular cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as Sven, Killian's head of security. Though mostly silent, he gradually grows to distrust Killian over the course of the film, and ultimately refuses to defend him against a vengeful Richards. His only line in the entire film is "I got to score some steroids". Thorsen, either as a stuntman or an actor, is known to be Schwarzenegger's most frequent collaborator.

External links

Arnold Schwarzenegger films

Hercules in New York (1969)  · The Long Goodbye (1973)  · Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)  · Stay Hungry (1976)  · Pumping Iron (1977)  · The Villain (1979)  · Scavenger Hunt (1979)  · Conan the Barbarian (1982)  · Conan the Destroyer (1984)  · The Terminator (1984)  · Red Sonja (1985)  · Commando (1985)  · Raw Deal (1986)  · Predator (1987)  · The Running Man (1987)  · Red Heat (1988)  · Twins (1988)  · Total Recall (1990)  · Kindergarten Cop (1990  · Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)  · Last Action Hero (1993)  · Dave (1993)  · True Lies (1994)  · Junior (1994)  · Eraser (1996)  · Jingle All the Way (1996)  · Batman & Robin (1997)  · End of Days (1999)  · The 6th Day (2000)  · Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)  · Collateral Damage (2002)  · Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)  · The Rundown (2003)  · Around the World in 80 Days (2004)  · Terminator Salvation (2009)  · The Expendables (2010)  · The Expendables 2 (2012)  · The Last Stand (2013)  · Escape Plan (2013)  · Sabotage (2014)  · The Expendables 3 (2014)  · Maggie (2015)  · Terminator Genisys (2015)  ·

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