5 Reasons Why Commando Is The Greatest Action Movie Of All Time
Remember when I said John Wick was the best action movie?...I lied.
You know what? You can take your John Wick, your John Rambo, and your John McClane, because there’s only one John for me when it comes to top-tier action heroes, and that’s John Matrix.
Yes, you heard me. For those of you who don’t know (and if you don’t know, what kind of action fan are you?) John Matrix is the name of the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the greatest action movie of all time, Commando.
I know when people talk about the greatest action movies of all time, they usually talk about films like Aliens, or Die Hard (by the way, I thought Die Hard was the best Christmas movie of all time. You can’t have it both ways, people!) But for me, the best action movie ever is Commando, and here’s why.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Greatest Action Hero Of All Time, Is At His Absolute Finest Here
Okay, I know what some of you are going to say. You’re going to say that Commando isn’t even the best Arnold action movie of all time, and guess what. I’m ready for this statement. Yes, I know many of you will point to all of the Predator movies, citing the first one as the his best action movie of all time. Or, more likely, you’ll point to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (though, I like Arnold better as a villain and prefer The Terminator over Terminator 2), but no. Just think about what you’re saying for a second here.
Predator is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of what makes that movie so cool is the Predator himself. Arnold is almost like a supporting character in his own movie, so I don’t consider that the actor's best action film. Same with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sure, he is awesome in that movie, and plays a much bigger role in that one than he plays in Predator, but the T-1000 is also such a major force in that film, that he definitely competes as the character most people have in their head when they think about it.
But, Commando is the quintessential Arnold movie. He’s the sun in this film, and all the other characters are the planets that circle around him. From the very beginning, where we see him carrying a giant tree log over his shoulder, we know that this is the baddest man on the planet. There is never a moment here where Arnold seems like he’s ever in danger, and nor should he be.
This is freaking Arnold Schwarzenegger in the ‘80s. Nobody should be touching this dude. In fact, it’s almost comical that anybody would even want to go to war with John Matrix, which brings me to my next point.
The One-Liners In This Movie Are A Thing Of Beauty
“Get to da choppa!” “Who is your daddy, and what does he do?” “I’ll be back.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are all great, and whenever anybody wants to do an Arnold impression, they’ll always go back to that well, but the best one-liners in his entire career come from Commando, and it’s because they’re all completely situational.
For example, there’s a great part early on where the villains take John Matrix’s daughter, played by Alyssa Milano, and a man tells Matrix that he has to cooperate with them, right? And you know what he says? “Wrong,” and shoots the man dead in his seat. I mean, come on now. He said only one word of dialogue, but it makes me crack up, every time.
Or what about when Matrix cracks one of his enemy’s necks on a plane, and when the stewardess comes by, he says, “Don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.” Or, how about my favorite part of the whole movie, when he holds a character named Sully by the ankle over a huge drop, and asks him if he remembers when he said he would kill him last. When Sully agrees, saying, “That’s right, Matrix, you did!” he replies, “I LIED,” and then drops him to his death.
I mean, if that one-liner isn’t a thing of beauty, then I don’t know what is.
The Plot Is So Simple And Pure, That It Almost Feels Like A Video Game (In A Good Way!)
We sometimes talk about video game movie and TV adaptations, and one common complaint that action movies used to get quite frequently is that they “felt like a video game.” As if that’s a bad thing! Well, with some people calling The Last of Us TV show “a masterpiece," maybe people will stop ragging on movies for being like video games. But, that’s a topic for another day.
Back to Commando. The plot is so simple, it’s poetry. A retired soldier lives an idyllic life with his daughter, but then she’s kidnapped and he has to kill everybody in his path to get her back. Beautiful!
Honestly, this story sounds like it could be swapped with the game Bad Dudes, and nobody would tell the difference. The whole purpose of the plot is to give Arnold a reason to kill hapless foes, and spit one-liners, which for me, are the perfect ingredients for an action movie. Some people like action films that have depth, for example something like Skyfall, or Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and yeah, those movies are great, too, for what they are. Hell, my favorite Arnold movie of all time is Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, which is based off of a Philip K. Dick story.
But, when it comes to raw, stupid, "get some popcorn, and shut your brain off, dummy," action, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than Commando when it comes to big, dumb (and fun!) action movies. It's simply the king.
Bennett Is Both The Least Likely Main Villain Ever, And Also The Best
The story is set into motion by a South American dictator named Arius (Dan Hedaya), but the true big bad is a former member of Matrix’s team named Captain Bennett (Vernon Wells) who legit wears chainmail, and can intimidate with only a whisper.
What I love most about Bennett is that he looks like some average dude, and yet, he compares himself to Matrix as if they’re equals. What’s great about this is his bravado. You look at this dude, and you’re like, "yeah, okay." In fact, you may even laugh like I did. But, here’s the thing. HE takes himself seriously, and not only that, but the other characters take him seriously, too.
This is fantastic since it sets up a villain who you would never believe could beat Matrix, given everything we’ve seen in the movie, but the fact that HE believes it, kind of makes the viewer believe it, too. While Bennett doesn’t seem tough or strong, he does seem absolutely insane. So, when he tells Matrix that he isn’t going to shoot him between the eyes…he’s going to shoot him between the balls(!), you believe him. Matrix does, too. And that’s why he’s awesome.
The Action Still Holds Up Extremely Well, Even Today
Lastly, what’s a great action movie without some excellent action? Well, I’m happy to say that Commando is ‘80s as hell, and it’s a period of time where you didn’t feel bad for Arnold mowing down waves upon waves of bad guys outside of a mansion. Hell, you don’t need to sympathize or feel bad about any of these guys, whom he so ruthlessly blows up with a FREAKING ROCKET LAUNCHER. These guys are cannon fodder. Arnold is supposed to blow them up.
What’s also so great about the action is that it’s almost verging on parody. It’s like that scene in Hot Shots! Part Deux where there’s a kill count and it becomes the “bloodiest movie ever.” Obviously, Commando takes itself more seriously than that (well, slightly more), but the action is so ridiculous that you can’t help having a goofy smile on your face all the way through. It’s just so damn good.
But, those are just my thoughts. What’s your favorite action movie of all time? For more news on all things action, make sure to swing by here often.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.