Kurt Russell’s Best Movie Was A Critical And Box Office Disaster

Kurt Russell's best film is The Thing, but the movie was a box office diasaster when it was released.

By James Brizuela | Published

Sometimes certain movies come out that are way ahead of their time. Even though they aren’t appreciated when first released, they often achieve cult status and become far more popular. That is the case for the best Kurt Russell film. That film is the 1982 horror classic, The Thing. The Thing would go on to become Russell’s best film and helped to solidify John Carpenter as the king of suspense. However, though it’s a film that inspired many others, it was a complete box office disaster. The film had a budget of $15 million, it would only go on to secure $19.6 million at the North American box office. Even though $19 million is a lot of money in 1982, the movie flopped completely.

The Thing was released in 1982 right around the same time as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Blade Runner. Many analysts wondered why the film wasn’t accepted for how groundbreaking it was, but it could have been because of the time that it was released. The country was going through a recession, and the themes of mistrust, paranoia, and nihilism just didn’t sit well with most audiences. However, years after its release, many filmmakers spoke about its influence on their own filmmaking. Big names directors like Edgar Wright, Guillermo Del Toro, and Quentin Tarantino all how important the movie was. In fact, Tarantino used The Thing as his inspiration for making The Hateful Eight, which also saw a group of strangers trapped with one another while dealing with deep fits of paranoia and mistrust. Coincidentally, Kurt Russell also had a starring role in The Hateful Eight.

the thing reboot feature

The Thing follows a group of researchers at a station in Antarctica. They are frazzled when a strange man is following a dog while attempting to shoot it. The man is yelling at the dog in Norwegian while trying to kill it. The strange man is then shot dead by the research facility station manager, Gary. The station takes the dog in and places it with their sled dogs. The pilot for the research station, R.J. MacReady, takes Dr. Cooper and heads for the station where the Norwegian man came from. They discover the station is empty but find the remains of a deformed humanoid. They take this humanoid back to their station, and an autopsy is done, leaving the discovery that this humanoid has normal human organs. The dog that the man was attempting to shoot then comes alive and consumes the other sled dogs in the cage it is with. It is then determined that the being that consumed the dogs can also consume any animal or human being and assimilate itself as that animal or human. Blair then runs a test that determines that the being would assimilate all of Earth in a matter of years. Without ruining the rest of the film, everyone should go watch it at least once in their life.

The Thing became a culturally impactful movie simply based on the paranoia that is created by John Carpenter’s vision. The idea that everyone could be the monster without knowing it just added that suspense that made Carpenter a household name in the horror genre. The cast for the film was nothing to scoff at as well. Leading the way is Kurt Russell. He is joined by A. Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, Keith David, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, and many more.

The fallout when The Thing was initially released was massive. The movie had been called “boring” and critics were all in on speaking about how awful the gory special effects were. The poor performance at the box office led to John Carpenter being replaced to direct Firestarter. He had also a multi-movie deal with Universal, but they chose to buy him out instead. Sadly, those critics and Universal had to be kicking themselves, considering how successful The Thing became and Carpenter. Even Kurt Russell achieved superstardom after the film was released.

The Thing may have been a conundrum when it was first released, but the movie is now regarded as one of the best horror, sci-fi, and thriller movies ever made. Many have called the movie inspiration and there are plenty of people who turn out to theaters when it gets re-released. It may not have been the most profitable Kurt Russell film, but it is certainly his best. The Thing is streaming right now on Peacock.