An Iconic ’80s Sci-Fi Classic Is Topping The Streaming Charts

You've got to see this.

By Michileen Martin | Published

eighties action heroes

There were a lot of eighties action flicks that got a bad rap. Critics and audiences endured so many mindless, bullet-riddled features that anything with a high body and bullet count eventually got lumped into the “just another” violent movie pile. That kind of generalization did some real disservice to a number of filmmakers; none more than Paul Verhoeven. The Dutch director made some of the best films of the eighties and nineties, including films that continue to be celebrated as the best sci-fi has to offer. These latter features include the original Total Recall, the 1997 satire Starship Troopers, and the classic that’s been dominating Paramount+’s streaming charts this week–1987’s RoboCop.

Peter Weller in RoboCop (1987)

In a near-future dystopia where corporation is king and nothing else matters, Detroit is on its last leg. Right after news breaks that more Detroit cops have been murdered by the increasingly bold and ruthless crooks in the city, Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) rolls into town. Murphy won’t be the one to change the city though; at least not as is. It isn’t until after some of Detroit’s most merciless gunmen deliver Murphy a slow, brutal, and dismembering execution that Omni Consumer Products (OCP)–who owns the Detroit PD–steps in to turn the legally deceased Murphy into their newest, groundbreaking PR move. Murphy becomes RoboCop; a calculating and utterly quotable cybernetic law enforcement officer who could be Detroit’s best hope, or just another symptom of its corruption.

It certainly delivers on the violence and the gore, but RoboCop is no mindless action vehicle. The world Verhoeven and writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner build in the film is not only darkly hilarious, but watching the film today, decades later, is kind of disturbing. The world RoboCop portrays doesn’t seem like it’s very far away. Anchormen and women deliver horrific news with bright Hollywood smiles. A corporation owns law enforcement, and in the real world–with private prisons and other growing trends toward law enforcement privatization–that doesn’t exactly seem like something relegated to fantasy. Soon after Murphy’s transformation into RoboCop, OCP sends him to a PR visit with school children. Asked if he has a message for kids, the cyborg coldly turns to the camera and says, “Stay out of trouble,” the same way you might expect him to say it to someone who just finished a prison sentence. As The BBC reported last March, there have been instances of police saying much more insane things to even younger children in the real world.

Peter Weller in RoboCop (1987)

Ironically, while RoboCop has since become Peter Weller’s signature role, in a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Weller said he was warned away from the part both by his agent and a legendary producer. Though Weller knew Verhoeven’s work well and told his agent he knew the part would have depth, his agent called it simply “a robot movie” and urged the actor to instead go with a part offered for the mostly forgotten King Kong Lives. In fact, Weller said upon meeting with Dino De Laurentiis, the first thing the Italian producer said to him was, “Peter Weller, Peter Weller. How much money you want not to do this f—ing robot movie?”

Thankfully, Weller not only did the “robot movie,” but he returned for the 1990 sequel RoboCop 2. Instead it was Robert John Burke (Thinner) in the title role of 1993’s RoboCop 3. While that was the final film of that particular series, there would be–and still are—more to come. Joel Kinnaman played the title role in the 2014 reboot, and Abe Forsythe (Little Monsters) is attached to direct another upcoming reboot, RoboCop Returns. In 1993 there was a short-lived live-action series, and with the new millennium came a new live-action miniseries with Page Fletcher (The Hitchhiker) in the lead role. Then there are the animated series, toys, comics, and other media; including an upcoming video game.

If you’ve never seen the original RoboCop, it’s time to remedy that. It’s streaming on Paramount+ where it hit the #3 spot on the Top 10 movies list earlier this week, and is currently at #4. Check it out now!