With The Expendables 2 launching this week and The Bourne Legacy already in cinemas, it seems as if the action movie is back in business. But what are the ten best films in this genre? Here is Joe West’s stab at creating a definitive, if entirely subjective, list.
10) Hard Boiled
Hong Kong action cinema had a major role in determining a style of action that would eventually seep through to Hollywood, and Hard Boiled is this film that best exemplifies the genre. Chow Yun-Fat cuts through legions of bad guys with nary a CGI shot in sight, with John Woo’s inventive directing keeping each encounter fresh.
9) Bad Boys
The movie that turned Will Smith from a sitcom slacker into an unstoppable action star, Bad Boys is the natural successor to Lethal Weapon in terms of the buddy cop formula, with a straight laced Martin Lawrence clashing with Smith’s easygoing lady killer.
8 ) Total Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger is easily the most prestigious muscle-bound action star to ever have compared working out to achieving orgasm. And in Total Recall he is at his square-jawed best, taking on shady corporations in a sci-fi setting with nothing but brute strength and a suspicious lack of acting talent.
7) Con Air
This is an ensemble cast action movie that features everyone from John Malkovich to Dave Chappelle. But it is the long haired, southern drawling charm of Nicolas Cage’s Cameron Poe that steals the show, as well as some electric action set pieces.
6) The Rock
When Sean Connery is not advocating violence against women, he’s busy being an old man. But he still had some action left in him during the 1990s and was particularly excellent in The Rock, which can be considered along with Face/Off and Con Air as what I like to call Cage’s Triumvirate of Awesomeness.
Shane Black’s script helped to set the tone for a slightly deeper, darker type of action movie at the end of the 1980s. The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover also helps to elevate the film’s status as a classic.
4) The Matrix
Technically stunning and still as visually impressive today as it was 13 years ago, The Matrix remains one of the crowning achievements of action cinema. If only the weaknesses in the writing hadn’t been magnified in its drab sequels.
John Woo deserves his second entry in this list, with the all-out action of Face/Off improved only thanks to the preposterous performances from Nic Cage and John Travolta as the role-swapping stars.
By the end of the 1990s audiences had become fatigued by the traditional action movie, with videogames stepping in to provide most 16 to 35 year old males with the violence and vicarious empowerment they so crave.
But while action movies had helped to influence interactive entertainment, in 2006 Crank returned the favour. Ironic, over the top and hilarious, Jason Statham leads this knowingly tasteless film to its gloriously convoluted conclusion.
1) Die Hard
There are few films, in any genre, which are better than Die Hard. Bruce Willis’ John McClane may be a flawed husband and father, but when it comes to dispatching thickly accented European terrorists in a skyscraper while bleeding out of his feet, he’s the best there is.