Cole and I saw The Expendables this summer. This movie is a nostalgic action-fest hearkening back to the 80s and 90s, when American action films were about damsels in distress, explosions, cheesy one-liners and lots and lots of guns.
These are a few films from the action genre that, if you somehow haven’t seen, you need to get to seein’.
(For action movies specifically from the nineties, check out this earlier list)
Universal Soldier is one of my favourite action films ever, and probably my favourite Jean-Claude Van Damme film. What’s even better about this movie is that you don’t just get JCVD, but a double-dosing of manitude with Dolph Lundgren!
The film begins in Vietnam with Sgt. Andrew Scott (Lundgren) going a little off the deep end and his subordinate Pvt. Luc Devereaux (Van Damme) trying to stop him from committing atrocities on anyone that crosses his path. The two die in a blaze of gunfire, but are resurrected in the future – of 1992 - in what is called the Universal Soldier or UniSol program.
Lundgren steals the show in this film with his insane portrayal of Sgt. Andrew Scott, but it’s also a great action piece for Van Damme. He has several great hand-to-hand combat scenes, lots of gun-fighting and explosions, cool “futuristic” technology and some genuinely funny moments.
I know what you’re thinking, “Not Nicolas Cage and Michael Bay!” Well, hell yes, because 1996’s The Rock is an action masterpiece.
This film not only has some big name actors like Nick Cage (whether you like it or not), Ed Harris and the one and only Sean Connery, but it’s also packed with lots of cool lesser-known actors like David Morse, John Spencer, Bokeem Woodbine, John C. McGinley and Vanessa Marcil, as well as cult stars Tony Todd, William Forsythe and – wait for it – Michael Biehn!
Honestly, I think people skip over this movie because of Bay and Cage, but you’re doing yourself an injustice. There is tons of action, car chases, explosions – Bay’s specialty after all – and amazing lines, not to mention some fairly great acting, especially from Ed Harris. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch The Rock. You can feel free to thank me later.
Die Hard is, in a way, the most “homaged” action film of all time. Taking the plot of one man secretly fighting a terrorist organization in a localized area to save hostages, filmmakers all over have made many successful movies like Under Siege (Die Hard on a boat), Under Siege 2 (Die Hard on a train), Air Force One (Die Hard on a plane) and so on and so forth. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Die Hard has to be one of the most flattered films of the last 25 years.
That said there are a lot of reasons to love Die Hard. First off, Bruce Willis. Not only was he your hard ass, bad motherf#&*er of an action star, but he was funny and quick-witted. Also, he was very human. Willis’ character, John McClane, goes through hell and back in this movie. He gets beat up, bloodied, his feet cut to ribbons, but he keeps on going. It was different than other action films in its time, and the appeal continues to last.
I have to admit that the Rambo series passed me by in my youth. I hadn’t even seen First Blood, the first Rambo film, until maybe two years ago. I was shocked to see it was a well-written, capably acted character piece. The only Rambo film I’d seen part of as a kid was Rambo: First Blood Part II, and trust me, it’s a very different movie than its predecessor.
Rambo: First Blood Part II is an archetypical action film. After First Blood (1982) the action genre blew up, and so did Sly Stallone, who plays the film’s title character. As a result, they shifted the tone of the series to balls out action and brought Rambo back in a big way.
They basically wrote away the fact that he became a one man army against an entire village in the first film and have him sprung from jail under the pretense that he has to help the US military out to save some POWs. For some reason they go through the trouble to get him out just to take some pictures, but of course he goes out of his way to save the prisoners, which results in his own capture. Then the movie completely shifts as Rambo hunts down the men who tortured him as well as the man behind the whole operation.
I really only have one other thing to say: Explosive. Tipped. Arrows. Go, watch the movie.
Commando is, by and far, the quintessential action film. A lot of people say that Terminator 2 is the best action movie and I’d say it probably is. That can be debated. It could also be called a sci-fi flick, but I’m not going to get into that argument. As far as action films go there is no other movie that fulfills all of the requirements of an action movie more perfectly than Commando.
The film stars the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is ex-Colonel John Matrix – I know, what a bad ass name! – of the US Army and when members of his team are killed and his daughter kidnapped, terrorists attempt to force Matrix to take down a Marxist dictator in South America.
But John Matrix isn’t playing their game.
Instead of doing as the terrorists want, he manages to kill the men that are intended to take him to South America, escapes a moving plane and then goes after his daughter, killing anyone and everyone in his path.
My friends and I have a drinking game we enjoy while we watch this movie. Drink every time Matrix kills someone. At first it seems a little slow, but at the end scene of the film if you can keep up then you must actually be Arnold Schwarzenegger. The body count is astronomical. He kills everyone with just about anything you can think of. Grenades, machine guns, rocket launchers, saw blades; you name it, he’ll kill you with it.
To spice the game up, we also add a clause that you must drink whenever Matrix makes an amazing one-liner. You are one slobbering mess by the end of this game, because the stuff that comes out of Arnold’s mouth in this film is completely mind-blowing.
Commando is all the things you enjoy about an 80s/90s action film distilled. It has it all and if it’s somehow managed to dodge your radar then you need to go and get it right now. I’m warning you, because if Chuck Norris’ tears can cure cancer, then John Matrix’s tears can kill Chuck Norris and he’ll kill you, too.