A massive fire consumes a colossal skyscraper during its opening party, threatening to kill everyone inside and the firefighters trying to stop it.
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Directed by John Guillermin
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden,
Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, Robert Vaughn, O.J. Simpson
Based on the novels The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and
The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson
Oscar Wins - Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing,
Best Original Song (We May Never Love Like This Again)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(Fred Astaire), Best Art Direction, Best Sound,
Best Original Score (John Williams)
Disaster films usually stick to a pretty predictable formula. In the 70's, they were all the rage. The success of The Poseidon Adventure brought with it a tirade of similarly themed movies like Airport, Earthquake, and of course The Towering Inferno. But something about The Towering Inferno was different. The threat was very real and relatable, and the characters were so well-written that you cared about every soul who didn't make it out alive. In short, it was the best of them, and it has stood the test of time thanks to insanely great practical effects and one of the most intense screenplays I've ever seen.
The building in question is brand new. It's supposed to be the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco, and on the night of its opening party, a massive electrical fire breaks out due to faulty wiring, which we later learn is due to cutting corners. The architect, Doug Roberts (Newman), warns the building's owner Jim Duncan (Holden) that the fire is going to consume the whole building, but Duncan refuses to evacuate the party in the penthouse. Pretty soon, the whole place is up in flames and the fire chief, O'Halloran (McQueen) struggles to lead efforts to contain it. People die, in heartbreaking ways, while we watch these people try to make it out alive. The film is nearly three hours, but it never drags. It moves like a knife through butter and will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
The Towering Inferno's biggest strength is its incredible cast. Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Robert Wagner, and I could go on. All of them are fantastic. There's no pointless subplots or weak characters. You like pretty much everyone. The visual effects are stunning, and it's no wonder this holds one of the Best Picture nomination slots in one of the most hard-to-choose years in film history. It deserves to be there.