Some moviegoers may scoff at their explosions, over-the-top acting, and corny dialogue, but action movies offer some of the most immersive cinematic experiences. Because a grueling three-hour writing course can be challenging, and sometimes you just want to see things explode—and there’s absolutely no shame in that. It’s okay to want to capture the odd scrape, bare-knuckle fight or high-speed car chase on the back streets of some crowded European city on the big screen. Action movies are always there for us to escape the routine life of nine to five.
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But reducing them to mere cerebral entertainment changes the entire genre. A brilliantly choreographed, well-written act will make you think, think and feel as much as any drama or thriller, and impeccably orchestrated set pieces will evoke emotions that struggle to match even romance or horror. Some of our 100 Greatest Action Movies offer plenty of subtext; Others have heavy political overtones. But even when they’re silly fun, they do what movies are supposed to do best: entertain and surprise. To compile this list, we polled more than 50 experts, from Die Hard director John McTiernan to machete Danny Trejo.
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Writers. The results reveal a genre that’s resilient and versatile in any way—and, in many cases, a lot of fun. Get ready because we’re about to bring the boom.
Written by Eddie Frankel, Eddie Frankel, Yu An Su, Joshua Rothkopf, Trevor Johnston, Ashley Clark, Grady Hendricks, Tom Huddleston, Keith Uhlich, Dave Calhoun, Bill de Semlian, Dave Calhoun and Matthew Singer
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So here it is. No. 1 place, on top of a skyscraper. A perfect action film. But do it
Does it really fit the bill? Nothing to say about the state of the world. It doesn’t offer much insight into the human condition (the image of Bruce Willis walking on broken glass can be taken as a poignant metaphor for life’s little brutalities). Calling fakes high art is not correct.
All this is correct. If cinema is the perfect escapist medium — and until someone invents a virtual-reality device, it will be — action movies are its purest expression, the best way known to mankind to escape the trappings of worthlessness. Take reality and ether. We don’t want to see ourselves reflected, we don’t want understanding or honesty or intellectual insight. We love speed and intensity, wit and wit, cartoon violence and flourish. We want
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The story is so clever it’s surprising no one thought of it before: a group of terrorists invade a modern skyscraper and take the residents hostage. Their only hope is a man locked up with them, but he’s a lone hero who takes out the bad guys one by one, arcade-game style, until he reaches the Big Boss. Admittedly, there are precedents — the attack on Precinct 13 must have been a set favorite — but no one has ever told this story with such precision before. Coincidentally, clones mushroomed almost overnight in the wake of the film’s success.
Is a textbook case. John McTiernan’s direction pulls no punches, and there are scenes here — the oft-imitated, never-great swing-through-a-window-on-a-firehose moment — that achieve something close to visual poetry. The script is full of humor and invention, and whoever came up with the idea to stage it at Christmas deserves a big medal. But of course the Blue Ribbon winner in all of this has to be Bruce Willis, who bumped out of nowhere (from television).
) on the world stage, thanks to a combination of heroic anti-self-mockery, battered-but-not-bent elegance and a total T-shirt.
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Moms and Ammo He said “screw that screw shit” and the explosions went big, the aliens were big, and he let the guns (and mech robots) do the talking. Where before there was endless deep-space fear and trauma, now there’s full-on big-screen action. Cameron was a relative newcomer at the time, having previously only directed The Terminator, but he eagerly worked with big budgets.
Sigourney Weaver is once again pitted against a deadly multi-toothed foe, this time in an abandoned space colony, but now she’s surrounded by heavily armed marines, kicking ass and taking no names. as in
, centered on a male-dominated corporation’s obsession with developing bioweapons, no matter the human cost. Yes, it’s an allegory of sorts for the evils of big business, and of course, it’s an empowering fable about the power of the female voice in a man’s world. Destroys a giant mech suit and some shockingly phallic alien bastards. That’s great.-
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If you’ve never seen a Kurosawa film and wonder why he’s held in such high regard, this classic is all the proof you need – it inspired Hollywood’s much-loved, but somewhat simplistic, remake, The Magnificent Seven. . At over 200 minutes, it’s a textbook example because we’re completely immersed in the lives of the characters. We truly feel the fear and ravenous hunger of vulnerable farmers who, desperate to protect their new crop, pay hired samurai with their last grain of rice. You also feel the desperation of the incompetent Ron, who is willing to accept the job because it means bed and board, at least for a while.
Kurosawa takes an hour to show what’s at stake, and another hour to show Takashi Shimura, the samurai Toshiro Mifune, and their allies how a wise leader he is. However, when the action erupts, the ebb and flow of strategy is so absorbing, the casualties hit hard, the payoff intense. Filmmaking of this breadth and depth requires courage, discretion and the formal skills to put your ambitions on screen. Kurosawa’s mobile camera puts us in the middle of some hairy stunts and wild fights and the kinetic energy is rarely dated. Every action film owes him a debt for the highly influential way he distills space and movement into the envelope of big cinema.—
Killer scene: One of the crowd sees her foxy ex-boyfriend laughing in the arms of a bunch-cat general – jealousy gets the better of him, and it’s a massacre.
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It’s become customary to talk of Sam Peckinpah’s classics as the graveyard of the Western genre, the moment Hollywood’s already jaded tradition of white-hat heroes sank irretrievably into nihilism, apocalypse, and zero-sum catharsis. Again, no other Western nation has demonstrated enduring modernity, or can speak to younger generations like this. (Nonetheless, The Wild Bunch is comfortably the highest-rated ode on our list.) It might be time for a recap:
In every movie where rivers of blood flow in the name of fraternal ideals, in every action movie that falls for timely political entanglement amid spent ammunition and tossed inscriptions, there is still more with us.
The Vietnam War was raging when the film was made, and Peckinpah captured those metaphorical resonances in hopes of confronting audiences with scenes similar to those seen on the nightly news. Call it a sign of his talent (or innocence) that the film met with a polarized response, some point to it as a masterpiece, while others point to it as a sign of a bankrupt art form. The Wild Bunch is breathtaking in its uncompromising toughness, with the almighty dollar driving good men to their doom and lesser men into mercenaries. It echoes some of the director’s own struggles in Hollywood, but mainly stands as a testament to integrity: go dark, go deep, and true action fans will follow you to the devastating end.—
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To find a star equal to Jackie Chan in Hong Kong prime, you have to go back to the silent comedy era of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. phrase nowadays
Means relatively risk-free challenges, but Chan’s 80’s heyday offers a whole lot of madness. Yes, that’s actually his gung-ho cop walking from a moving double-decker bus to an umbrella.
A slip from a leg-breaking drop, the opening salvo. (Minutes later the stuntmen stumble
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