CB Top 5: Action Movies

By Josh Tyler 2007-06-27 14:09:23discussion comments
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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

JOSH TYLER: Here’s a depressing thought: Depending on whether or not you count Terminator 3, True Lies was the last great, Schwarzenegger action movie. That’s right, Arnie hasn’t kicked serious ass since 1994. Luckily, he kicked a lot of it while he had the chance. True Lies is a criminally underrated action film. It’s so good that Tom Arnold doesn’t suck as Arnie’s witty sidekick, and even if the action hadn’t worked the film would be worth watching just to see Bill Paxton in one of his most memorable, whiny little bitch roles.

Here is my invitation.
But the action does work. The action rocks as Arnold takes on terrorists and rocket-powered bad guys. The script is fantastic, and James Cameron brought his A-game to make True Lies one of the last, great, pure action movies. It was the end of an era. What a great way to go out: Blowing shit up.

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.

4. Aliens

RAFE TELSCH: I have utmost respect for Alien. After all, without that film we’d never have face-huggers, homicidal androids, or terrifying aliens who bleed acid. Leave it to James Cameron, though, to blow the original out of the water with this spectacular sequel. Now we don’t just have one alien, we have a colony. Now we don’t have salvagers struggling against those aliens, we have marines. Add in some of the key players who made Cameron’s other films so successful (Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn) and you’ve got grade “A” bang-bang with a catchphrase: “Get away from her you bitch!”

They’re animals!
LEXI FEINBERG: James Cameron may have the world’s biggest ego, but it’s hard to hold it against him: He did, after all, write and direct Aliens, easily one of the best sequels ever made. For more than two hours, this 1986 sci-fi action thrill ride takes everything we love about Alien--Ripley’s bad-ass self, menacing aliens, rising body counts--and makes it all bigger and better. Who could possibly forget the Alien Queen or the high-intensity scene where Ripley battles her in a yellow loader? Now that’s what I call girl-on-girl action at its finest.

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

DANIEL SOLOMON: When Neo exits the Matrix for the first time, after being told about the man-on-machine nuclear war and the human-batteries stuff, he drops to his knees and vomits white stuff all over the floor. That is exactly what I felt like doing, out of joy, in response to this awesome mind-fuck of a movie. Its plot played out like a series of lucid dreams, each more elaborate and dark-shades cool than the last. The story was so smart and high-concept, it blended every impossibly badass fight or stunt sequence right into its reality. The perfect action film for a new techo-happy age, and one that'll make you suspect your own toaster oven.

What is 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

DANIEL SOLOMON: After this one came out, I couldn't have given less of a crap about the original. It was obvious that Arnold's purpose was as a protector, not a villain. The T-1000 was much scarier, and the liquid-metal much more wicked than anything else I feared as a child. I use the knife-through-the-milk-carton thing as evidence. So many action scenes became infamous in their brilliance, specifically the semi chase and the fight at the steel mill. Two robots, both back from the future, shooting it out over an imminent Judgement Day. Nothing could be better. The part where Arnold lowers himself into the molten steel was the last time I felt truly sad.

Come with me if you want to live.
JASON MORGAN: Director James Cameron trump his original film in story, action and importance. Aside from the Abyss, T2 was one of the first films to put computer-generated effects to good use (for better or worse, in the case of future action movies). Yet, perhaps the most impressive move was the thematic exploration of the terminator's human qualities. There's not a dry eye in the house when the terminator gives the thumbs up while being lowered into the molten steal by the Connors. Like wise, there's not a dry seat in the house after the exciting action -- the terminator uses a fucking chain gun on a helicopter and small army of police. And don't tell me the way he reloads his shotgun on the motorcycle isn't bad ass.

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

MACK RAWDEN: Die Hard did for action films what Alfred Kinsey's "Sexual Response In The Human Male" did for flaccid bedrooms: it crushed outdated standards and pushed the fibers of acceptability into new and exciting positions. John McClane was a revelation, a smartass with a gun and flaws larger than his estranged wife's breasts. Over the years, countless films have attempted to reconstruct and encapsulate the badass ferocity of Die Hard, but none have even come close to matching the beautiful, chaotic frenzy of Bruce Willis screaming, "That was Gary Cooper, asshole."

Yippee-ki-yay, mother… just watch the trailer:
STUART WOOD: Die Hard was one of a rare breed of true action movies. I say true action movies because it pulled off that rare coup of being smart, funny and kicking seven shades of ass without ever asking you to suspend your disbelief too much. And unlike most of the action genre it’s main character wasn’t some conveniently muscle-bound He-man or Kung-fu king, which is part of what lent it that air of believability and the ability to relate. John McClane was the guy every guy who grew up in the 80s wishes he was and believes it’s remotely possible he could be; The everyman who, if it came down to it, could man-up and take down an entire tower block of terrorists, instead of hiding in the toilet blocks like a girl.

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

Which of our top 5 action movies is your favorite?

Read CB's Top 5 Action Flicks

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