Blue Thunder (1983)

blue thunder poster 1983 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun helicopter battles over LA

Some weird story choices

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Blue Thunder

Studio:   Columbia Pictures/Rastar Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  February 5, 1983 (West Germany)/May 13, 1983 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

blue thunder roy scheider malcolm mcdowell warren oates

I can tell you are evil because you have an accent and bleach blonde hair…you’re a monster

Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is a police helicopter pilot in Los Angeles suffering from Vietnam PTSD and breaking in a new recruit named Officer Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern).  When rival and former Vietnam pilot Colonel F. E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell) is brought in to demonstrate a new high-tech helicopter called Blue Thunder, Frank and Richard uncover a government plot under the codename T.H.O.R., Frank and Richard discover they have uncovered a corruption that goes straight to the government.

Directed by John Badham, Blue Thunder is an action thriller.  The film was released to mostly positive reviews and led to a short lived spin-off series which aired from January 6, 1984 to April 16, 1984 on ABC.

Blue Thunder was one of those films that aired a lot on cable and gained adoration…but I didn’t have cable.  As a result, I never saw Blue Thunder and have no nostalgia for it.  Despite this, I can watch Blue Thunder now and enjoy it for its pulpy action clichés.

blue thunder helicopter

Don’t pick on my girlfriend

The movie feels like a mix of something like The Parallax View meets First Blood.  Like First Blood, Frank is a bit of unbalanced (like every Vietnam vet presented in films from this period) and when he is pushed, he’s going to bring the system down.  Unlike First Blood, he’s fighting against more than his mental state and public perception…there is an actual conspiracy.  The plot is kind of secondary to the action, but it is decent enough to keep you viewing.

Roy Schneider is good as the lead though he feels a bit old for the role (he used the movie to get out of Jaws 3-D), and as always, Malcolm McDowell plays a perfect jerk character…that you can’t wait to see go down.  Daniel Stern always plays second fiddle and you can kind of see his destiny written on the wall in this movie.  Joe Santos (of The Rockford Files) plays one of the other officers while Candy Clark plays Schneider’s love interest.  The film also features one of the last roles of Warren Oates (the film was released posthumously).

blue thunder helicopter battle ending

Finally…some helicopter madness!!!!

The real draw of Blue Thunder is the helicopter itself.  While movies like Top Gun and others came after it strong, Blue Thunder has some decent flight fights for the time.  It is combined with Los Angeles which something like Top Gun is missing.  It feels like they are in the city…it isn’t as technologically advanced and the helicopter has some unrealistic technology, but it is fun.

Blue Thunder is an enjoyable, but flawed action film.  The movie makes some strange narrative choices, and the action takes a bit too long to kick in, but the promise of fighting helicopters is something that can keep your attention…and it does pay off.  With Top Gun:  Maverick reigniting the jetfighter movie, maybe a Blue Thunder movie could fly again.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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