Connect with us
Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987
Image: Orion Pictures


Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 

Robocop, 35 Years Later

A lot of people probably remember 1987’s RoboCop as a movie with pro-law and order politics. A movie, that is, about a city with an out-of-control crime wave in which it took a cyborg to get the dastardly criminals in line. There were probably a nontrivial number of people in 1987 who secretly wished Robocop were real and could do something about out-of-control crime – and some probably wish for that to this day. 

But of course, the film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, isn’t that at all. It’s a razor-sharp satire that is really a brief against fascism. Its ultimate villains aren’t street criminals, but rather an evil corporation, seeking to exploit skyrocketing crime for profit, even if requires either deploying killing machines on the street, or even engineering a police strike. 

Made from a script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, RoboCop’s satire remains sharp even today. Aside from some period-specific filmmaking choices, the film hasn’t aged a day. 

Image: Orion Pictures

Peter Weller plays Alex Murphy, a Detroit cop murdered by a criminal gang who is eventually revived as the titular cyborg, an unstoppable super-cop who frequently stops crimes in progress and can never get hurt. (One scene, in which RoboCop confronts and shoots a pair of rapists, inspired one of the greatest pop culture parodies of all time.)

It’s a period of awful violence even by Detroit standards, and there’s even a scene in which a former city councilman holds the mayor and another councilman hostage, which recalls the Milk/Moscone murders in San Francisco. 

Robocop is the brainchild of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), an evil corporate entity that has been granted control of the Detroit Police Department. Their first idea was the ED-209, a full-on killing robot. But after that robot gruesomely kills a company executive in a board meeting, they go with the idea of a junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), which is more like the RoboCop that ultimately arrives. 

Morton is a fantastic character, an era-specific soulless yuppie whose pick-me ambition always comes first. It’s a movie with many villains, including the corporate bosses ( Daniel O’Herlihy and Ronny Cox), as well as the criminal gang in which several members— Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, and Paul McCrane — happen to be played by first-rate character actors. 

A lot of movies utilize fake newscasts, but RoboCop did a better job with that than any other. The newscasts depict a dystopian hell in which, for instance, two former presidents of the United States perishing in a wildfire isn’t even the top story. They also come complete with commercials, which are also one of the best parts of the movie. 

RoboCop quickly emerges as a folk hero, but a current emerges that he’s figuring out his lost humanity, while also being manipulated by the evil corporate overlords. The film ends with a moment of triumph. 

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop
Image: Orion Pictures

While Flesh+Blood was technically Verhoeven’s first Hollywood film (Orion Pictures funded it, but it was shot overseas), RoboCop kicked off the run that was followed by Total Recall and Basic Instinct, which led to the more controversial Showgirls and Starship Troopers. RoboCop was the first of his movies to be wildly misunderstood, but it was hardly the last. 

As for the RoboCop franchise, there were two sequels, multiple TV series, and a 2014 remake, none of which had Verhoeven’s involvement. But the first movie was the one that counts and was one of the most incisive films of the 1980s. 

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means


Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five


Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases


Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age


Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues


Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 


Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”


Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 


Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World


All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022


Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 


Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride


Incredible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Fan Film Takes The Franchise Into R-Rated Territory


The Gray Man movie review The Gray Man movie review

Netflix’s The Gray Man is its Most Expensive and Emptiest Star Vehicle


Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap


High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence