10 Best Joel Schumacher Movies, Ranked

10 Best Joel Schumacher Movies, Ranked


No matter the decade or genre, the late Joel Schumacher has a thrilling story for anyone. Born and raised in New York in 1939, this criminally underrated storyteller started as a costume and fashion designer before eventually breaking into film with his directorial debut with 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Thirty years and over twenty-three films later, he’s become recognized in cinematic history for creating some of the most wildly entertaining and iconic cult classics of all time.


Sadly, with his passing in 2020, the world lost this talented and prolific director, producer, and screenwriter, but his skills and legacy behind the camera will never be forgotten. Throughout his career, Schumacher has amassed an incredible filmography with some of the most critically and financially successful films of the last several decades. Whether it’s goofy comic book adaptations, compelling crime thrillers, or even charming vampire tales, Schumacher certainly knows how to tell an entertaining story. Here are the ten best movies by this wonderfully brilliant filmmaker that represent the pinnacle heights of his career.


10 Batman Forever (1995)

Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Chris O’Donnell

While it’s certainly not the best superhero movie, there is still much to love and appreciate about Joel Schumacher’s hilariously over-the-top blockbuster Batman Forever. Released in 1995, this charming homage to the Silver Age of Comics proved to be a monster hit at the box office, grossing over $336.5 million against a $100 million budget. Starring ’90s Superstar Val Kilmer at the height of his powers, it sees him dawning the role of the iconic Caped Crusader on an action-packed adventure to save Gotham City from the terrible clutches of the sinister Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the conniving trickster The Riddler (Jim Carrey).

Following the negative backlash for the much darker, violent tone of Tim Burton‘s Batman Returns, Warner Bros. decided to give Schumacher the reins for the later sequels, hoping to make them more light-hearted and child-friendly. What resulted in Schumacher’s reluctant attempts at a safer Batman film was a campier, over-the-top popcorn flick reminiscent to the Adam West TV show of the 1960s. While many fans and critics continue to bash the film’s more colorful tone and goofy acting, Batman Forever certainly isn’t terrible. It sometimes can be quite enjoyable at times, especially whenever Jim Carrey and his off-screen rival Tommy Lee Jones share the screen together. While there are plenty of superior Batman films out there, this one is at least remembered for being a fun, inoffensive, and wildly amusing superhero movie.

Batman Forever

Release Date
June 16, 1995

Runtime
121 minutes

Writers
Bob Kane , Lee Batchler , Janet Scott Batchler , Akiva Goldsman

Studio
Warner Bros.

Tagline
Courage now, truth always….

Watch on Max

9 Flatliners (1990)

Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon.

Characters in Flatliners performing one of their tests
Image via Columbia Pictures

Coming from a triumphant decade for horror movies, Schumacher’s often overlooked 1990 psychological thriller Flatliners offers an eerie and thought-provoking approach to the age-old question of what happens to life after death. Starring his frequent collaborator, Keifer Sutherland, it follows five ambitious medical students who subject their bodies to suffer near-death experiences to unlock the secrets of the afterlife.

Perfectly blending science fiction with religious elements, Flatliners gives a unique twist on death. It shows its main characters playing god and learning too late of the shocking mysteries that await people on the other side. Despite mixed reactions at the time, the film has since become regarded as an underrated horror cult classic, generating a solid fanbase over the years and even a lackluster 2017 remake directed by Niels Arden Oplev.

Watch on Hulu

8 St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, and Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy, Mare Winningham, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore and Emilio Estevez wearing their caps and gowns in 'St. Elmo's Fire.'
Image via Columbia/Tri-Star

“The Brat Pack” defined the youth culture of 1980s cinema. The Outsiders, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club are all some of the greatest coming-of-age films ever created, thanks to this wildly talented troop of rising young stars. Thankfully, Schumacher collaborated with a few to create 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, a thoughtful, romantic drama about seven young friends struggling to move past their glory days after graduating from college.


Taking a slightly darker spin on the genre, St. Elmo’s Fire explores the tragic decline of friendships and growing apart as it follows these friends struggling to find their ambitions. It’s all backed by powerful performances, especially from Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, who contribute to some of the most heartbreaking scenes of the entire film. Though it can be quite melodramatic at times, with some critics even panning the film’s lackluster and unlikable characters, there is still much to get invested in this emotional, heartfelt tale about what it takes to be an adult.

St. Elmo’s Fire

Release Date
June 28, 1985

Runtime
108 Minutes

Main Genre
Drama

Distributor(s)
Columbia Pictures

Watch on Prime

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7 Veronica Guerin (2003)

Starring Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, and Ciarán Hinds.

Veronica Guerin
Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

The early 2000s saw Schumacher dipping his hands into much darker territory. Combining forces with two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchet, the two delivered Veronica Guerin, a 2003 biographical crime drama detailing the heroic actions of a brave Irish journalist who gave her life to bring Dublin’s crime and drug syndicates to a grinding halt.


Trading in his usual style of bright colors, visual spectacles, and over-the-top performances for grounded realism and nuanced characters, Veronica Guerin is one of Schumacher’s more subtle and mature films, filled to the brim with compelling drama and expertly acted performances by the main cast. Blanchet incredibly steps into the role of his determined woman from her time reporting on the streets till her eventual slaying at the hands of the crime lords she swore to expose. Though it’s not as enjoyable or entertaining as some of Schumacher’s other works, not to mention having a shockingly low RT score of 53%, this underrated biopic deserves a look at for anyone curious about this incredible journalist’s life.

Watch on Prime

6 Phone Booth (2002)

Starring Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, and Katie Holmes

Colin Farrell as Stu Shpeard inside a booth holding a phone to his ear and looking scared in Phone Booth
Image via 20th Century Studios

Originally pitched to the “Master of Suspense” himself, Alfred Hitchcock, in the 1960s, screenwriter Larry Cohen‘s thrilling concept about a man trapped in a telephone booth eventually became the basis for Schumacher’s tense 2002 nail biter Phone Booth. Told in real-time, it follows the story of small-time publicist Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) in a fleeting game for survival after becoming confined in a cramped phone booth by a mysterious rifle-wielding assassin (Sutherland).


While a story of a man trapped in a tiny, single location for the entire runtime might not seem compelling, Phone Booth excels in its execution, delivering a tightly written and brilliantly tense story that has audiences holding their breaths till the very end. Colin Farrell without a doubt gives one of the most outstanding performances of his career as Stu Shepard, playing a sleazy, dishonest publicist who’s forced to confront all his wrongdoings. His emotional confession at the film’s climax was reportedly all in done in one take, ending with Farrell receiving tremendous applause from all those around him.

Phone Booth

Release Date
September 9, 2002

Runtime
81

Main Genre
Mystery

Writers
Larry Cohen

Tagline
Your life is on the line

Watch on Prime

5 Tigerland (2000)

Starring Colin Farrell, Matthew Davis, Clifton Collins, Tom Guiry, and Shea Whigham

Tigerland
Credit: 20th Century Fox

In this intense anti-war drama, 2000’s Tigerland sees the many conflicting mindsets of American Soldiers before being sent off to fight in the bloody Vietnam War. Starring Colin Farrell once again in a commanding lead performance, it follows a unit of reluctant young recruits in their brutal final weeks of training before deployment. As their training reaches closer to the end, one rebellious soldier defies his superiors in an attempt to prevent himself and some of his compatriots from dying overseas.


Shown entirely through the recruits’ perspective, Tigerland tells a heartbreaking anti-war-themed story without any actual war shown in it. Instead of explosive battles and chaotic firefights, the film primarily explores the damaging toll authority has on the minds of young boys sent off to fight in a war most of them don’t want to. It’s a unique approach to how these men felt during this time, and thankfully, Schumacher delivers this idea with maturity and restraint without making the film feel emotionally manipulating. Though a box office flop, grossing a low $148,700 at the box office, Tigerland truly is a compelling war film that no war movie buff should overlook.

Tigerland

Release Date
October 6, 2000

Runtime
101 Minutes

Main Genre
Drama

Watch on Hulu

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4 A Time to Kill (1996)

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey

Matthew McConaughey addressing a court room in A Time to Kill (1996)
Image via Warner Bros.

Considered one of the greatest 90s courtroom dramas ever made, 1996’s A Time to Kill was a star-studded, heartbreaking, and captivating masterpiece about one man’s determination to persue justice. Based on John Grisham‘s 1989 best-selling novel of the same name, the story follows a hot-shot young attorney named Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) as he’s on the case of a lifetime defending a vengeful father (Samuel L. Jackson) on trial for murdering the two despicable men responsible for committing an unspeakable act against his daughter.

Featuring some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in any crime drama, A Time to Kill is a genuinely touching story that’s not afraid to tackle distressing issues of racism and prejudice in the eyes of the law. Performances are stellar throughout the entire film, especially from McConaughey, who arguably gives one of the best closing statements with his iconic and tearful speech in the finale. Along with its rousing 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, this wonderfully praised legal drama is among the best.

A Time to Kill

Release Date
July 24, 1996

Runtime
149

Main Genre
Crime

Writers
John Grisham , Akiva Goldsman

Tagline
Experience a time you’ll never forget.

Watch on Prime

3 The Client (1994)

Starring Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Renfro, and Mary-Louise Parker.

the-client-susan-sarandon
Image via Warner Bros.

Adapted from another of Grisham’s novels, 1994’s The Client sees Oscar-winners Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones shinning in this compelling legal thriller. Co-starring the late Brad Renfro in his screen debut, it follows his character, 11-year-old Mark Sway, in a fight for his life and freedom after witnessing the death of a notorious Mafia lawyer. Facing the threat of the mob and the pressure of an ambitious district attorney, he turns to a good-natured lawyer to protect him from both sides of the law.


A critical and financial success, The Client owes much of its success to the incredible performances and dialog. Best known for her gripping, dramatic performances, Susan Sarandon easily steals the show as Reggie Love, a determined lawyer with a dark past who eventually redeems herself in her fight to help poor Mark. It’s also backed by her and Renfro’s fantastic chemistry together, creating some of the most heartfelt moments of the entire film.

Watch on Prime

2 Falling Down (1993)

Starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, and Rachel Ticotin

Michael Douglas firing a gun in Falling Down
Image Via Warner Bros.

One of the most underrated films of the ’90s, Schumacher’s 1993 cult classic action crime thriller Falling Down was truly ahead of its time. Starring Michael Douglas in one of his all-time greatest performances, it tells the tragic downward spiral of William “D-Fens” Foster, a struggling family man and working Joe frustrated with his life and society after becoming unemployed and divorced. Now cracking under the pressure of his frustration, he goes on a violent, self-destructive rampage through the streets of Los Angeles, all in an attempt to make it home to his estranged daughter’s birthday party.


A film that’s just as relevant today as it was back in 1993, Falling Down is a heartbreaking tale that explores the haunting themes of societal collapse and the deconstruction of the everyman. Following along with Foster is tragic as he vents his relatable issues with the world in some of the most harmful ways possible. It all culminates in a heartbreaking epic finale that sees him coming to terms with his actions and realizing how much of a villain he’s become. The film’s certainly Schumacher’s most underappreciated and thought-provoking film, and one that surely won’t leave audiences’ minds any time soon.

Falling Down

Release Date
February 26, 1993

Runtime
113

Main Genre
Crime

Writers
Ebbe Roe Smith

Tagline
A Tale Of Urban Reality

Watch on Prime

1 The Lost Boys (1987)

Starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Cory Feldman, Dianne Wiest, and Keifer Sutherland.

the-lost-boys-movie copy
Image Via Warner Bros.

Taking the top spot as Schumacher’s crowning achievement goes to his 1987 dark comedy classic The Lost Boys. Released in an iconic decade with some of the greatest horror comedies ever released, it stands out as one of the best. Featuring a fantastic cast of rising young actors, including Cory Feldman and the late Cory Haim, it tells the story of two brothers as they move to a fun-loving, laid-back beach community secretly home to a ruthless and deadly gang of teenage vampires.


With its iconic costumes and style, this charming piece of 1980s nostalgia continues to be watched and beloved by fans alike even to this day. It showcases Schumacher’s best qualities as a director as he creates a fun, unique atmosphere with truly likable and complex characters to keep the excitement and audiences’ attention going from beginning to end. Along with an impressive 77% critics score on RT, The Lost Boys truly is Schumacher’s most endearing film and has ensured his legacy for years to come.

the lost boys

The Lost Boys

After moving to a new town, two brothers discover that the area is a haven for vampires.

Release Date
July 31, 1987

Runtime
97

Main Genre
Comedy

Writers
Janice Fischer , James Jeremias , Jeffrey Boam

Tagline
Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.

Watch on Prime

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