2016 might be nearing its end, but one man that certainly isn’t finished with it just yet is Mel Gibson. Turning the big six-oh this year, the silver-screen legend has been hard at work on both sides of the camera lens; directing WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield, and putting drug dealers in the dirt as an overly protective dad in Blood Father.
Sure, he may have seemingly sealed his fate a few years back following a string of racist, sexist outbursts, but this certainly looks like a comeback fans have been waiting for. If you needed reminding just what we’ve been missing out on for so long, here’s some of the must-see Mel movies to show you just how talented he is.
1. Mad Max (1979)
The world may have witnessed a revitalization of the post-apocalyptic world of utter carnage thanks to Tom Hardy, but there was a time when George Miller’s world of fire and blood was seen through the eyes of a young Gibson in the original Ozploitation gem.
Appearing as the dishy MVP of the MFP in a desolate wasteland, Gibson shines as the one good cop that goes over the edge in search of vengeance. Truth be told, there were a few filmic efforts before Mel took the wheel of the Interceptor, but George Miller’s Western at the end of the world was where his star really shone, and would continue to do so when he caught the rest of the world’s attention as the Road Warrior.
2. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
If Mad Max got the engine revving for Gibson’s career, then Road Warrior was where the wheels really started turning. Now no longer a copper out for justice, Max is a loner who draws a line in the nuclear-scorched sand between some settlers and a gang of guzzolene-obsessed marauders.
Almost having the show stolen by The Feral Kid with a lethal boomerang, at this point Gibson is well settled in his breakout character. With Max offering even fewer words than before, the film runs off Gibson's charisma, which he carries in every frame as well as the batshit world coming from Miller’s mind. Facing off against foes like The Humungus and an absurd amount of bondage-clad baddies one would imagine in the Australian Outback, Mel’s Road Warrior still stands the test of time, even now that Hardy’s taken over.
3. Lethal Weapon (1987)
If you have to think of the best buddy cop film of all time, for many it really is an open-and-shut case. Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon has all the winning ingredients for an action gem, with a large part of it due to Gibson firing with the safety off.
Picking from the eclectic and ludicrously brilliant pages of Shane Black, Gibson masters another character he'll be eternally tied to. Riggs is a stick of dynamite itching to blow up whenever he can, with Danny Glover's Murtaugh making sure he doesn’t burn the fuse out too far. Snarling at the bad guys and taking a squabble on the front lawn to extreme lengths, Riggs is the iconic lawman with nothing to lose that every bad guy fears. How can you not love him?
4. Braveheart (1995)
Making it perfectly acceptable to shout "freedom" in public for the past 21 years, Gibson’s second directorial effort still stands as one of the best epics this side of Spartacus.
Historically inaccurate as it may be, you still can’t help being drawn into Gibson’s wonderfully crafted tale of Scotsman William Wallace and his war for independence against the English. Crammed with an array of great talent and a battle sequence that wouldn’t be topped until Spielberg stormed the beaches of Normandy three years later, Braveheart absolutely kilt it come awards season, and deservedly so. Ah screw it, here’s that speech again.
5. Chicken Run (2000)
Nick Park and Peter Lord’s Great Eggscape movie about chickens trying to fly the coop is easily one of Gibson’s most overlooked works, yet it's oddly the most accessible to any audience.
A clay-covered gem from the minds behind Wallace and Gromit, the film sees a bunch of hens who are headed for the oven find a hero in a cocky rooster by the name of Rocky (Gibson). So begins a truly wonderful family film that’s made to Parkian perfection. Ripe with laughs and a wonderful voice cast, the film still stands as the highest-grossing stop motion animated film to date. Give it a look and make your day all the better for it.
6. Apocalypto (2006)
Whilst its release may have been marred by Gibson’s personal decline, Apocalypto is still a stunning example of his skill as an actor-turned-director. A chase movie that sprints through a forgotten era, Apocalypto sees a young Mayan warrior tribesman narrowly escape human sacrifice and battle his way back to his pregnant wife and child.
Providing an insight into an extinct culture, Apocalypto at times clashes the beautiful with the brutal in a single frame, thanks to hard-hitting fight scenes and some nasty surgical sequences — no surprise from the man who gave us Braveheart. Like the civilization the film focuses on, there really hasn’t been anything like it since, and won’t be for some time.
7. We Were Soldiers (2002)
Another historical action piece starring Gibson, this drama chronicles the story of the first major battle in Vietnam fought by US troops. What feels like Gibson’s answer to Saving Private Ryan might not be as epic, but it’s still an entertaining watch. Jumping from a handful of heroes scattered across the battlefield, Gibson leads the charge in a tale that is equal parts harrowing and heroic. Everything you’d want from a war film — including Sam Elliott.
8. Ransom (1996)
Director Ron Howard gives Gibson the runaround in a film bursting with potential TV talent. Our man plays the head of an airline who, when his son gets snatched, is forced to meet the demand of his kidnappers — until he snaps.
From here, the tables are turned and Gibson is in full rage mode as he frantically tries to outthink his enemy at every turn. Dated in places, sure, but with the supporting stars of Rene Russo, Gary Sinise and a newbie Liev Schreiber lending a hand, Ransom is still worth your full attention.
9. Payback (1999)
Vengeance, thy name is Mel. Marking the cinematic directorial debut of Brian Helgeland, Payback follows no-good antihero Porter (Gibson), who ends up out of pocket and with a bullet in him after after being betrayed by his wife and best bud.
Naturally, as the title would suggest, Porter goes on his own mission to get his cut back and put those that wronged him in the ground. More badass than he's ever been as the cigarette-toting king of cool out for his $70,000 ("is that all?"), Payback is another of Gibson's credits that deserves more than it got.
10. Blood Father (2016)
With Gibson embracing his age in the best way possible, Blood Father sees the actor as a lonely ex-con battling his own personal demons and those resting at the bottom of a bottle. The real war comes, though, when his estranged daughter appears with a band of gangsters on her tail. From here an unplanned family trip ensues as Link (Gibson) goes on the run to keep his daughter safe.
An amalgamation of Gibson's best, Blood Father sees him fight like Riggs and drive like Max. The emotion slowly boiling over in a lion that's long in the tooth? That's all Mel, and it really is great to see.
How’s that for a list, then? Any in the pile that you haven’t seen? Or is there one from Mel Gibson’s résumé that should not have gone amiss? Sound off in the comments below.