Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run was one of the standout films from the 1990s, and the cult classic has lived long in the memory of film aficionados who love original and unique cinematic techniques. Even the trailer was one of a kind. The lightning-paced German thriller is one of the most successful foreign language films of all times, and has been highly influential since its release in 1998. Here we examine what made it so successful, take a look back at some of the most iconic scenes, and discuss what the film from Prokino Filmverleih went on to inspire.
Mainstream success in English-speaking markets
Run Lola Run is still one of the most successful foreign films of all time in English-speaking markets. From a production budget of only $1.7 million, it made $22 million worldwide. Over $15 million of that total came from the international box office, which is highly impressive for a small, independently produced picture. While these figures can’t really compare to major blockbusters, the film went on to achieve cult status thanks to its exceptionally strong critical response.
The German movue has a score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and received excellent reviews from esteemed film critics. Chris Gore of Film Threat said it was “one of the best foreign films, heck, one of the best films I have ever seen.” It earned a number of accolades as well. In addition to being nominated for countless awards, Run Lola Run won the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. It also won Best Film at the Seattle International Film Festival, and picked up seven separate awards at the German Film Awards. The thriller which starred Franka Potente as the athletic heroine has stood the test of time, and is still a much-used piece of discussion for movie buffs and film students to this day.
Most memorable scenes
Run Lola Run was a fast-paced film which crammed three different scenarios into its short 80 minute running time. The late Roger Ebert described it as “not a second too short” – high praise from one of cinema’s best respected critics. Most famously, the film had a strong focus on the butterfly effect (a theory about small causes that have large effects). When Lola had interactions with other characters on her journey, time would flash forward and the film would show what happened to that person after the encounter. In each storyline, the outcome was different, showing how the smallest change can have a dramatic impact later on down the line.
There were also some hugely memorable scenes throughout the movie. For instance, nobody can forget the moment when Lola enters the casino and starts betting on roulette. With a highly interesting technique that would probably get her thrown out of most casinos, she manages to bet on the correct number twice in a row. According to Betway Casino, casinos have been ever-present in films and popular culture over the years. In movies like Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001) and The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009), the gambling houses are portrayed as dazzling and crazy places. In Run Lola Run, the protagonist enters a fairly low key casino. However, this does fit with the raw feeling of the 1998 film and German culture.
Another great moment was in Lola’s second run when she decided to rob her father’s bank. She does it by stealing a security guard’s gun and taking her father hostage. As the place is surrounded by armed police, the heroine manages to slip out on the pretence that she is an innocent bystander fleeing the scene. Bank robberies are another common theme in films, and have been used to great effect on numerous occasions over the years. In fact, the heist movie is a genre of its own, and there have been some classics over the years. For instance, Michael Mann’s 1995 epic Heat, which still holds an 8.2 rating on IMDB, had some of the best bank robberies ever shown on screen. Other iconic movies like Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) and Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996) show elaborate thefts which provide audiences with non-stop entertainment. It’s a tried and tested theme, and the fact that Run Lola Run included a bank job boosted its appeal.
What else has Run Lola Run influenced?
Run Lola Run had a major effect on mainstream culture and influenced a number of other films and television shows. At the time of release, even The Simpsons did a parody of the picture, showing how the independent film had reached mass audiences in the United States. Shaun of the Dead’s (2004) director, Edgar Wright, said that watching Run Lola Run made him want to direct another film more than ever, and also said that he wished he had been the mastermind behind the picture. Some notable films to have taken themes and inspiration from Tykwer’s film include the Bourne Identity (pictured above) in 2002 and Go in 1999, both directed by Doug Liman.
Tykwer went on to get involved with television and most recently has collaborated with the Wachowskis on the Netflix science fiction series Sense 8. The Run Lola Run man directed a number of episodes of the popular show and brought some of his unique ideas to its production. The director will likely be sought out by other production companies in the future.
The 1990s was a great period for experimental directors trying out new techniques, and Run Lola Run was perhaps one of the finest examples of originality from the period. The film is likely to live long in the memory of movie buffs and directors for many years to come.