Whatever you think of Hollywood blockbusters you’ve got to admit one thing: They blow stuff up right. Nothing makes a summer better than a great, balls to the wall, ass-kicking action movie. The genre really hit its stride in the 80s, with the rise of big-muscled, face-bashing stars like Schwarzenegger and Stallone but it’s been popular to hit the theater and watch some fisticuffs since the days of Errol Flynn. Rampant theatrical violence never goes out of style.
With a new Die Hard movie exploding in theaters this week, I strapped plastic explosives under the Cinema Blend’s staff’s desks and informed them that unless they came up with a list of the greatest action movies of all time, I was going to push a suspicious looking red button. A few didn’t make it and were eaten by Aliens, but those who survived the ensuing melee came up with this list.
These are the greatest action movies of all time. Agree with us or we’ll be back.
5. True Lies
ALEXANDRA CALAMARI: Truly one of the action greatest films of all time, True Lies successfully spoofs its own genre; poking fun at action movies while still being a shoot-em-up Schwarzenegger flick itself. It’s filled with so many completely unforgettable moments, from Jamie Lee Curtis’s sexy dance scenes, to Tom Arnold's witty banter (yes I did use "Tom Arnold" and "witty" in a sentence together – that's just the magic of True Lies!). Bill Paxton peeing himself is one of those moments that always comes to mind when I need to go to a happy place.
FRANCK TABOURING: Of course everybody who has ever heard of him will first associate Arnold Schwarzenegger to his job in the Terminator films, but I see things quite differently. For me, True Lies is still the best Arnie action flick. The reason? Very simple: He plays a human hero in an explosive action extravaganza that combines the most implausible action with first-rate humor and a fantastically speedy pace. The stunts are top notch and the effects solid for their time, and the movie as a whole is one that despite all its stupidity, gives its audience a damn good time.
SANDRA MAYNARD: What’s great about Aliens is that it takes time (but not so much to be boring) to give us a feel for the characters so we know who we want to root for and boo at before they start dying. Once the Aliens show up however, the action never really stops. It slows sometimes to give us a breather, but only so the Aliens can re-group to renew their onslaught on Ripley. The Aliens remove, one by one, the marines who protect her and the kid they rescue, until finally Ripley realizes no one is left to do the protecting but herself. Aliens melded the best themes and action from war and western movies and made them its own.
3. The Matrix
FRANCK TABOURING: Welcome to the Matrix, THE action spectacle of the 90s and also one of the most inventive and compelling science-fiction stories ever captured on celluloid. With The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers created a movie event that would fascinate action fans all over the world. Not only does The Matrix contain avant-garde special effects and first-class action, but it also comes with extremely engaging characters and a story so subtle, people are still bashing their heads in search for the ultimate explanation. The Matrix is not only boom-bang, but also "think think."
LEXI FEINBERG: Who am I to shun the One? The Matrix was one of about 582 solid movies released in 1999, and it’s still being imitated (and parodied) nearly a decade later. The Wachowski brothers loaded this movie with just the right amount of choreographed fights and snazzy martial arts moves, throwing in the now-famous time-freezing photographic staple and, of course, the larger-than-life helicopter climax. But The Matrix isn’t all about karate kicks and CGI goodness--there’s plenty of philosophical stuff going on to keep your brain racing along with your heart beat. As Neo so eloquently put it: “Whoa.”
2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
RAFE TELSCH: James Cameron blew people away with his assassin from the future story in Terminator. The sequel followed the rule of any good sequel by upping the ante from the original, with a nice little twist. Now the iconic image of the enemy fights to save John Conner, leaving a new Terminator as the baddie, with groundbreaking special effects that not only still hold up, but are superior to some of the drek we see in today’s lower budget flicks. For pure adrenaline action, however, it doesn’t get much better than the chase sequence through the storm drain: motorcycle vs. semi truck.
1. Die Hard
MATT NORRIS: Die Hard manages to capture the holy trinity of action movies: kick ass hero, hated villain, and great action scenes. Where it separates itself from the rest is by blending those staples with a pretty well written script that has two of the greatest action scenes in movie history: the roof explosion where McClain ties the fire hose around his waist and the laughing finale. Who knew that Christmas packing tape could be so memorable? Top it off with great lines like "I guess we'll need some more FBI guys" and you get the best action movie of all time.
Nominated but didn’t make the cut: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Predator, Braveheart, Gladiator, Speed, Spider-Man 2, The Bourne Supremacy, The Incredibles, Drunken Master II, Lord of the Rings: ROTK, Lord of the Rings: TT, The Matrix Reloaded, The Road Warrior, The 5th Element, Seven Samurai, Goldeneye