Escape from New York
DIRECTOR: JOHN CARPENTER
Carpenter’s 1981 vision of a dystopian 1997, in which Manhattan has been turned into an anarchic maximum-security prison fenced-off from the rest of the United States and ruled with an iron fist by Isaac Hayes’s diabolical arch-criminal potentate, the Duke. When an Air Force One crash strands the US President (Donald Pleasence, inexplicably British) on the lawless isle of Manahatta, merciless mercenary Snake Plissken (a resplendently eyepatched Russell) is the only man who can get the Chief Executive out alive… never mind that Snake’s a convicted criminal himself. What follows encompasses hang gliding into the World Trade Center, vicious deathmatch gladiatorial combat, and Harry Dean Stanton—which is to say, pure cinema. Arguably, Russell’s most iconic role. His beard stubble here belongs in the Library of Congress.