Escape From New York (1981)

Rating: ***
Director: John Carpenter
Special Effects: James Cameron
Cast: Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence, Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton

Its over-the-top campiness really turned me off the first time I saw this (much like "The Fifth Element" did), but it improved greatly on multiple viewings. It's the future (1997 to be exact), and the president of the United States crash lands on Manhattan Island, which has been turned into a giant penal colony. Convicted criminal Snake Plissken (rugged Kurt Russell) is blackmailed into rescuing the president in exchange for a full pardon of his crimes, but he only has 24 hours to pull it off. But New York is a pretty tough place, and the locals want to use the president as a negotiating chip for their freedom. Snake finally comes through, but all of his friends and comrades die along the way. A young Kurt Russell shed his Disney pretty boy image with his rough and rugged portrayal of Snake Plissken, and he is totally cool and bad to the bone. With the exception of Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie (every sci-fi action film has to have some idiot like this guy), the film is very fun to watch and full of exciting and well realized low budget visuals. Good stuff.