Seven top grossing movies about firefighters

by Shea Gunther

There’s nothing like kicking back in a comfy couch with a big bowl of popcorn and watching a good movie about firefighting. Fire has fascinated us for as long as we’ve been huddling around it at night and there are few jobs that require as much intestinal fortitude as a firefighter, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that crafty filmmakers have used the subjects for inspiration for a large number of films.

Here are seven top grossing movies about firefighters.

7- Firestorm- $8,165,212 in the box office

Firestorm tells the story of Randall Alexander Shaye, a criminal locked up for stealing 37 million dollars, who breaks out of jail with a crew of five other convicts and the help of a smokejumper turned arsonist on the outside. To retrieve the money, which Shaye had hidden in a Wyoming forest, they pose as Canadian firefighters and take Jennifer, a bird watcher, hostage. Howie Long plays Jesse Graves, a smokejumper who heads into the woods to take down the group of convicts and to save Jennifer.

Unfortunately, though Firestorm makes the list of a top grossing movie about firefighters, the movie ended up bringing in $11 million less than it cost them to make the movie.

6- Roxanne- $40,050,884 in the box office

In the classic movie Roxanne, Steve Martin plays C.D. Bales, the fire chief of a small town int he Pacific Northwest. He’s hopelessly in love with Roxanne Kowalski, a beautiful astronomer played by Daryl Hannah. Roxanne is in love with Chris, a handsome, but intellectually stunted firefighter played by Rick Rossovich. This retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac has a large-nosed Bales, eager to express his love for Roxanne, feeding Chris love letters and lines to pass on to her as if they were his own.

Roxanne has been critically acclaimed, won numerous awards, and brought in over 40 million dollars at the box office.

5- Collateral Damage- $40,077,257 in the box office

Firefighting plays a fairly peripheral role in Collateral Damage, an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that has him shooting, stabbing, and blowing up his way through Columbia to take revenge on those who killed his son and wife. Arny plays Gordon Brewer, an Los Angeles firefighter who was injured in a terrorist attack that killed his wife and son. Gordon figures out who the terrorist is and is brought in by the CIA who further brief him on Claudio, “The Wolf” Perrini, played by Cliff Curtis, the man behind the attack.

The release of Collateral Damage was delayed for four months after the 9/11 attacks and a plane hijacking scene was edited out.

4- Always- $43,858,790 in the box office

In Always, Richard Dreyfuss stars as Pete Sandich, an aerial firefighter who dies and turns into a ghost after his water-dropping airplane goes down in a fire while saving a fellow pilot and his best friend, Al Yackey, played by John Goodman. Always was the last film in which Audrey Hepburn appeared; she played Hap, an angel who acts as Pete’s ethereal barber and spirit guide. Pete is given the job of guardian angel and assigned Ted Baker, a lovable but awkward new pilot played by Brad Johnson. Pete has to struggle with his feelings as he watches Ted fall in love with Dorinda, a pilot and dispatcher who Pete had loved while he was alive.

Always was made for a little over $29 million and made over $43 million at the box office.

3- Frequency- $45,010,278 in the box office

Frequency stars Dennis Quaid and James Aviezel as Frank and John Sullivan, a firefighter father and cop son who connect with each other through the magic of time travel. They somehow manage to open up a connection through ham radio that stretches 30 years back and, ignoring the standard rules of time travel (mainly- don’t mess with the timeline), proceed to use John’s future knowledge to change the past. John and Frank work together to stop the death of John’s mother (Frank’s wife) at the hands of the Nightengale Killer, a serial killer and have to deal with all the problems that pop up when you mess with the timeline.

2- Ladder 49- $74,541,707 in the box office

In Ladder 49, John Travolta stars with Joaquin Phoenix as firefighters Deputy Chief Mike Kennedy and Jack Morrison. The movie starts with Jack saving the life of a man before falling multiple stories and breaking his leg. The rest of the time is spent flashing back from Jack and his fellow firefighters trying to save him from the flames and the events that lead up to the day of the accident.

Ladder 49 did very well at the box office, hitting over a hundred million dollars in gross revenue off of a $20 million budget.

1- Backdraft- $77,868,585 in U.S. box office, $74,500,000 overseas

Backdraft just might be the most well known movie about firefighters and stars Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, and Robert De Niro as Chicago firefighters hunting a serial arsonist. Lt. Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Russell) and Brian McCaffrey (Baldwin) are brothers in Engine 17 and have to not only deal with tracking down the arsonist (who turns out to be a firefighter) but also have to work through brotherhood issues and the death of their firefighting father.

Backdraft, directed by Ron Howard, absolutely killed it in the box office, taking in over $150 million dollars in both U.S. and overseas theaters.

Photo: AMagill/Flickr

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