It’s Gary Busey’s birthday today (70 years old) and in honor of the man, we should take a look back at his prime work and determine what is the best and what should be avoided at all costs.
Before everyone believed him to be a crazy man, which I think is half act and half real, Gary Busey was actually an in-demand actor in Hollywood. He showed a wide range of acting chops, from the silly guest role, to the sharp, scary antagonist, and even a few leading parts.
I’m basically putting this list together without the aid of scientific evaluation or a guide because I think it would be a disservice to the man and his career. So all I ranked on was grit, heart, and my gut feelings on the movies. I personally think he’s been in some of the best movies of 80s and early 90s, the kinda flicks that I’ll watch whenever they are on.
With that though, there are a lot that I haven’t seen or I don’t feel are truly “Gary Busey movies.” Movies like Thunderbolt And Lightfoot or A Star Is Born, where he might only be a supporting member, but they’re somewhat cool enough to mention.
Others I just haven’t gotten to see like The Gumball Rally, Lost Highway, The Buddy Holly Story, and the YouTube famous Bulletproof. I’m not a machine, dammit. Then are the ones I never want to see, like Pirahna 3DD, which takes all the fun of the first Pirahna and guts it, or Valley Of The Wolves Iraq.
There’s also a few that didn’t make it, but are awesome anyway like Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Drop Zone. I will fight any man that says Drop Zone isn’t one of Wesley Snipes better movies.
10) Big Wednesday – This is probably Busey’s best quality movie. A lot of folks cite The Buddy Holly Story as his shining moment (I think he does too), but I am partial to John Milius’ coming of age tale. I’d rather watch it than Stand By Me for the millionth time, plus it’s got a lot of surfing. I’m partial to surfing, which is something that will come into play a bit later.
9) D.C. Cab – An all-star cast of miscreants in a feel good movie about a D.C. cab company trying to make it on the mean streets. What’s not to love? I think this is the one movie where Gary Busey doesn’t actually make the movie, but instead it’s Charlie Barnett as Tyrone that steals the show.
That said, I feel that this is Busey in his element. Loud, obnoxious, sorta racist at times, and completely inappropriate. He’s the perfect compliment to a cast of oddballs that includes Bill Maher and Mr. T pre-Wrestlemania. You might not think it is worthy of this list, but I’d say go watch it and try not to like it.
8) Silver Bullet – If D.C. Cab is Busey in his element, this one takes it a step further into basically capturing the Busey of D.C. Cab in his downtime. Here he plays Uncle Red to Corey Haim’s wheelchair bound Marty and he doesn’t nothing but try to make life a little more awesome for the little feeb. Not only does he turbo charge his wheelchair for him and buy him dangerous fireworks, he’s one of the only ones in the movie to believe the werewolf tales and help out.
Of course Busey believes in werewolves. If he didn’t, I don’t think he’d be doing his myth any justice.
7) Rookie Of The Year – I thought this to be a controversial choice when I first started putting this together. It’s for kids. There’s very little violence. It just seems out of place.
But then I thought about it and he’s honestly the main reason to see the movie. Once you’re past the kid with the special arm talent and the jokes, there’s only run down, grizzled Busey to carry you through. And he’s great. If Chet Steadman were a real baseball player, he’d be the kind of guy I’d probably own a jersey or shirt with his name on it. He looks like the kinda guy who could go out and throw nine innings, down a case of beer, and still feel good enough to pitch again the next day.
6) Under Siege – Hard to beat going toe to toe with Steven Seagal. Even harder? Taking over an entire battleship with the help of a crazed former CIA dog of war. Nearly impossible? Doing it in drag. Busey does it all and he does it with gusto.
The only real drawback I have here is that Busey kind of dies like a b*tch. He doesn’t get the glorious death in battle that Tommy Lee Jones achieves, instead losing his spot in the picture indirectly. He’s always much better when he can physically be dispatched in person.
5) Black Sheep – Why is Black Sheep this high? Why is it even on this list? Because it is the best Chris Farley movie. Keep Tommy Boy and I’ll gladly take Black Sheep. It’s got all the laughs of Tommy Boy plus Gary Busey. Throw in political intrigue and it’s basically like I’m watching the bad ass version of The West Wing.
Drake Sabitch is a great American who lives in a bus and has booby trapped the hell out of his property. He enters the movie getting hit by a car and then threatening to f*ck David Spade’s mother into oblivion. How do you top that? How about trying to hoist a very large Chris Farley up for a victory hug? It’s all here in front of you people, you just have to look.
4) Surviving The Game – This is the movie that broke my rule because Busey is not a main attraction in this film. He doesn’t even make it to the halfway point. But he gives an incredible speech and comes at Ice-T with everything he’s got while he’s on screen that he just makes the movie worth watching. Without him, I’m not even sure I’d give it the time of day. But once he starts throwing firecrackers at “the prince” and growling like a mad man, I’m sold.
Also, if you told me that Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer were hunting homeless people in the woods for real, I’d believe you. You wouldn’t even need to explain it, I’d just believe it.
3) Predator 2 – Much like Drop Zone, I will stand firm in support of Predator 2 as a great movie. It isn’t as good as the original Predator, but it’s got a lot of fantastic things going on. There’s using cocaine to heal wounds, voodoo curses, beheadings galore, a pretty bad ass Danny Glover and an even more bad ass Gary Busey.
Busey goes toe to toe with the Predator for a total of five minutes and manages to put up a better fight than everyone that isn’t named Danny Glover in this movie. He gets a bigger tussle than Jesse “The Body” Ventura did in the original.
2) Lethal Weapon – Busey is legitimately scary in this movie. He’s played bad guys before, but few top Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon in terms of general ruthlessness and unpredictability. It isn’t until the very end of the movie when he attacks the Murtaugh house that we ever manage to catch up with what he is going to do next.
I personally feel that when he assassinates Tom Atkins from the helicopter, that’s the moment when his character can make anything happen in the movie. It’s not too long after that when he blast Riggs with a shotgun, proving me right. The lighter scene is no slouch either though, so I include it.
1) Point Break – I think Point Break is hard to beat as a quality movie from top to bottom. There’s a simple story with drama, interesting characters, Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze calling in the performances of a lifetime, and then Gary Busey.
Angelo Pappas is Uncle Red from Silver Bullet on steroids and he’s giving guidance left and right in the form of meatball subs. He’s out for justice and he’s one of the only people who truly knows the motivation behind The Ex-Presidents robberies.
The only thing that puts this movie about Lethal Weapon in terms of the ultimate Busey role is that I think it’d be great without him. The movie can stand on it’s own without him and his supporting role as Pappas merely adds to something that is already completely awesome. If Road House didn’t exist, it’d be the Patrick Swayze movie they show on TV every weekend.