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Remembering Ivan Reitman: Favorites from the Legendary Filmmaker

It is with a heavy heart that one of the greats has passed away. Ivan Reitman‘s career, spanning decades has given film loves countless classics, and laid the foundational work for some of the most beloved actors of our time. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy, even Arnold Schwarzenegger were all recurring cast members in a countless films of Reitman’s, and he has a true vision for letting his actors shine in improve driven roles while also telling humorous and interesting stories. Let’s take a close look at some of the best films from Reitman’s extensive and robust filmography. This is purely subjective, as Reitman has provided us with so many great films it is difficult to really pinpoint or limit the true reach and impact of his long and influential career that he will be remembered by.

Jason and Ivan Reitman discuss “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

Full disclosure, there are simply too many films to really list here to be as inclusive as anyone would want to be. We would literally be here all day if we went through his entire filmography. From directing to writing to producing, Reitman left no stone unturned to leave his mark on filmmaking. I will only be highlighting a few personal favorites along with referencing some of his producer work. There are simply too many great films to highlight that any list would be legitimate disservice to his true impact, my list included.


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Ghostbusters

“Ghostbusters,” photo courtesy Universal Pictures archive

You really can’t have an Ivan Reitman best-of list without the original “Ghostbusters.” A film that still to this day resonants and holds up, it also brought its stars to the height of stardom. With his unique blend of smart comedy, likable characters and heart, Reitman launched is directorial vision into the mainstream with “Ghostbusters.” Though it wasn’t the first film he made (far from it) it has nevertheless stood the test of time. So much so he was able to live long enough to watch his son Jason create an ode to his work with “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” There are very few people who can live long enough to watch their children pay homage to their work, and Reitman’s incredible skill and beloved classic allowed him to be able to have this experience before he passed.


Kindergarden Cop

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarden Cop, Universal Pictures.

Who is your daddy and what does he do? Ok, admittedly “Kindergarden Cop” is particularly a great film, and it is far from a classic. And yet, it is classically quoted and remembered for its distinct humorous moments, something on Reitman could really pull off at that time. Imagine looking at Arnold Schwarzenegger, a bonafide action star and thinking the best use of his talents is situational comedy. He started with “Twins,” another incredible addition to Reitman’s career, but it seemed to be the right choice. [Editor’s note: Reitman was also in the process of writing, directing a sequel to “Twins,” reuniting the stars.] Schwarzenegger would go on to repeat this type of situational comedy often, and while I’m sure he was always destined for that kind of role, I can’t help but credit Reitman for discovering that in him and giving us countless comedic works from the beloved superstar. Bold statement: Schwarzenegger owes his comedic success to Ivan Reitman.


Dave

“Dave,” Universal Pictures

An unsung gem, “Dave” is a fantastic satirical look at politics that still manages to be relevant today. It is heartfelt and funny, another perfect pairing from Reitman who made a career from blending those two things together perfectly. It’s probably not as widely known or seen as some of the other films on his list, but it stars absolutely killers with a top of his game Kevin Kline, recurring cast favorites Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Dunn, and countless small appearances from Frank Langella, Ving Rhames, Laura Linney, Charles Grodin, Ben Kingsley, Stephen Root and yes, even Bonnie Hunt. Needless to say, “Dave” is packed with top notch actors before they were big stars, and is truly a wonderful film that more people should see.


Reitman was not only a writer and director, but was also a prolific producer who granted his influence to lobby for a number of beloved films. The list includes “Space Jam,” “Heavy Metal,” “Private Parts,” “Beethoven,” “Killing Me Softly,” “I Love You, Man,” and one of our favorites- “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”

Want more? Oh well, he also allowed for irreverent rant comedies like “Road Trip,” “Old School,” and “Eurotrip,” all films that have similar plots that are still wildly enjoyable and funny. And we didn’t even talk about his earliest work with “Stripes” and “Meatballs,” comedies that literally set the tone for everything that would come after them.

Needless to say, Reitman has given us plenty to remember him by, and seemed set on living a life to make others laugh through film. He will be sorely missed, but we can always keep his memory alive through the wonderful filmography he left behind.

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