Cliffhanger (1993)

cliffhanger poster 1993 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking action film

Some bad acting and generic plot

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Cliffhanger

Studio:  Carolco Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 28, 1993

MPAA Rating:  R


Ma’am, this isn’t actually a cliff we’re hanging from…it’s a rope!

Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) questions if he can return to mountain climbing after the death of the girlfriend (Michelle Joyner) of his best friend and coworker Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker).  When a plane heist goes wrong, international criminal named Eric Qualen (John Lithgow) and his inside man Richard Travers (Rex Linn) are forced to call upon the rescue crew to help them find their lost cases of stolen money.  Hal is taken hostage, and Gabe and his girlfriend Jessie (Janine Turner) find themselves on the run to reach the money before Qualen since it is their only chance to rescue Hal.

Directed by Renny Harlin, Cliffhanger was a huge success.  The movie was a box-office blockbuster and relatively well received by critics.  Despite this, the movie was nominated for Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor (John Lithgow), Worst Supporting Actress (Janine Turner), and Worst Screenplay.  The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects (which Cliffhanger lost to Jurassic Park).


The electricity between these two could maybe light a 40 watt lightbulb

I have to say, I enjoy Cliffhanger.  I can see why people would nominate it for some Razzies, but Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay don’t come to mind.  The movie is fun and rather coherent…something I find many action movies miss.  That isn’t to say that Cliffhanger is an A level film, but it also doesn’t fall as far as Razzie level.

Cliffhanger’s plot isn’t anything mindblowing.  Essentially, it is a chase movie with the characters in a race for the money.  The movie is quite violent (and had to dodge an NC-17 rating).  The movie has the characters climbing mountains, swinging to safety, and battling criminals…unrealistic, yes…but not any less realistic than half of the action movies out there.

Yes, the acting is quite bad.  You know it is not a good sign when you can argue that Sylvester Stallone’s acting was the best acting in the film.  I loved Janine Turner in Northern Exposure but there is no chemistry here with Stallone and inserting “Maggie” into the Cliffhanger plotline doesn’t really work.  Michael Rooker’s best friend-enemy is good with Stallone (though pretty one-dimensional like most of the characters).  Lithgow is a problem…he is one of those super-villains that it so off-the-wall that it doesn’t matter that he’s terrible.  His accent jumps all over and his henchmen are horrible stereotypes of villains.


I’ll kill you Stallone! How can you be the better actor?!?!

The sound and visuals hold up pretty decently.  The music by Trevor Jones is very similar to his music for Last of the Mohicans.  I could tell it was the same composer just from hearing it and for me that was kind of distracting.  There was criticism of the mountain climbing as unrealistic (the type of climbing gun used wouldn’t be used/possible for the type of climbing), but like many action films, I don’t think they were really going for authenticity.  Fortunately animals benefited in the script, a scene with a rabbit being shot was redone to “save the rabbit” at a big cost.

Cliffhanger is by no means a perfect movie, and maybe not the best but worth seeking out for a fun ride.  Logic sometimes is left behind in the film, but I also think the filmmakers realize this as opposed to some films that think they are above logic and the audience won’t catch on.  Cliffhanger goes for fun and succeeds in being a good thrill ride.

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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