Why I love a terrible movie: Streets of Fire

How can I love a movie that is so terribly problematic? Can you adore something in spite of it, when it tries so hard and fails, like a toddler climbing a chair?

Streets of Fire is all the camp and neon and musical sequences I love plus all the things I despise in one tidy, pretty package. A package in which the villain is far better at everything than the lead all while lacking motivation and a shirt. If I was in grad school, I’d just write endless papers on this movie. I’d score an A+ on all of them. Not because I am smart. Because it’s so very easy to have opinions and analyze this delightmare.

Once upon a time, a smart lady introduced me to Streets of Fire, a rock and roll fable directed by Walter Hill of the The Warriors fame. I will never be the same. Since her first education, by pointing out things like “Everyone lives under bridges! It’s always raining!” I’ve loved this dumb horrible movie. Last night, due to being stuck at work, I missed an opportunity to do a brief, silly intro to the film at a fundraiser for a theater company I’ve very fond of. My friend Marcus and I were going to shout, tag-team style, all the good/bad reasons why this film FILMS so hard. We had buzzers. It was going to be like a sledgehammer fight for the senses. To borrow a phrase from my original guide, Streets of Fire is WonderAwful. Here are a few things I would have shouted (BUZZ!)

One article described it as a: rock & roll shotgun blast to the senses. BLAST! In your face! (BUZZ!)

The opening title cards read, “Another Time… Another Place”…which I believe means the time is shortly after Biff went back in time to give himself the sports almanac. (BUZZ!)

The movie is like being trapped inside a Bruce Springsteen album from the late-’70s. It’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. Born to Run. And Thunder Road. Or JUNGLELAND! It’s a Bruce Springsteen Fever Dream! (BUZZ!)

It’s a movie in which women can be two things: Objects or Lesbians! (BUZZ!)

If you have ever lyrically danced to the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” you will die when you here the big musical numbers. Hint: same guy wrote the songs. (BUZZ!)

Somehow Streets of Fire magically and gleefully uses every problematic “hero’s quest” movie trope in such a way that it almost manages to be charming.  Almost. I want to believe they are mocking these tropes. But they aren’t.  It’s like if Mad Max Fury Road slipped through the misogynistic looking glass. (BUZZ!)

Rick Moranis! (BUZZ!)(BUZZ!)(BUZZ!)

Ed Begley, Jr. has no reason to be in this movie. But he is. (BUZZ!)


Willem Dafoe. Ugh. So hot. So wrong. Forget what he does and watch for what he wears and doesn’t wear. (BUZZ!)

It’s a movie in which one bullet explodes a motorcycle and one punch knocks people out, especially lady people. (BUZZ!)

Two words: Slap fights! (BUZZ!)

Men wear very high pants. The highest pants. Sometimes without a shirt. (BUZZ!)

Amy Madigan in a role originally written for a man and when she was cast it wasn’t rewritten: She smokes cigars, shoots up bikers, and tells the lead he ain’t her type. She’s basically a non-burlesque Scarlett O’Hairdye. (BUZZ!)

The lead was written for Paul McCartney. Watch it. Imagine Sir Paul. (BUZZ!)

It’s a genre film that has no ideas which genre it is. It’s a sci-fi western noir comic book hero love story. The STYLE of this film is possibly genius. (BUZZ!)

Did I mention the pants? (BUZZ!)



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