To carry on our marathon list of action gold, 10 more awesome action gems have been gathered for this piece. Some better known movies have made this particular selection, but there are still many people out there who have not seen these. Along with those choices are a few more of my own personal favorites, some really wonderful action movies that deserve to be on every movie lover’s Blu-ray/DVD shelf. So here goes…
80 – ‘Con Air’ (1997) / Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack. Director: Simon West.
Perhaps the best known of this selection of 10 movies, I still had to include ‘Con Air’ as it’s one of the greatest action movies of all time, which some people still admit to never having seen. How dare they! Starring Nicolas Cage, straight from the Jerry Bruckheimer produced ‘The Rock’ of 1996 (Which launched Nic’s amazing action movie career), ‘Con Air’ features Cameron Poe, a war hero who was jailed for manslaughter. After receiving parole, Poe hitches a flight home upon a high security prisoner transport plane, which is carrying some of America’s most dangerous criminals, who are being relocated. When the prisoners, led by Cyrus The Virus (Played brilliantly by John Malkovich) seize control of the flight, it’s up to Poe to save the day and stop the psychotic prisoners from escaping across the USA, with the help of Vince Larkin (John Cusack), an smart ass D.E.A. agent. ‘Con Air’ is just wonderful, absolutely wonderful. From a knockout all-star cast to the joyous action scenes, this movie has it all. A killer score from Mark Mancina and Trevor Rabin adds untold amounts of awesomeness to ‘Con Air’, while the beautiful Dianne Warren-penned ‘How Do I Live’ sang by Trisha Yearwood gives us a beautiful final scene. Well, kind of the final scene. Easily one of the best action movies any of us will ever see. If you have yet to see it, you really don’t know what you’re missing. “Why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box?!”.
79 – ‘Cobra’ (1986) / Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Brian Thompson. Director: George P. Cosmatos.
We could have a 100 action movies list and not include a few of Sly Stallone’s treasures through his career. Naturally the aim is to avoid the likes of ‘Rambo’ and ‘Rocky’, and focus on the greats that a lot of people might be so well aware of. Sly’s first entry must be the fantastic 1980’s action thriller ‘Cobra’. Stallone plays a touch cop who takes on a dangerous cult of killers who prey on random victims around the streets of L.A, when a witness to one of their murders escapes their clutches (Brigitte Nielsen). It’s up to Cobretti AKA Cobra to use his lethal cop skills to keep the woman alive and bring down the evil cult. ‘Cobra’ is classic action fare, filled with fantastic chases and shootouts, a terrific soundtrack and one of cinema’s biggest action movie stars, Sly. Although overlooked through the years, this is one of the Italian Stallion’s best movies.
78 – ‘Black Dog’ (1998) / Stars: Patrick Swayze, Meat Loaf, Randy Travis. Director: Kevin Hooks.
Everyone has their own favorite movie of the late great Patrick Swayze. Whether it’s the wonderful ‘Ghost’, the legendary chick flick ‘Dirty Dancing’, or his iconic action movies ‘Road House’ and ‘Point Break’, we all love at least one movie from the great man. ‘Black Dog’ is my personal favorite. Patrick Swayze plays a trucker who is released from prison for a tragic accident which claimed two lives. When he agrees to drive a truck for his employer from Atlanta to New Jersey, despite having no license, he thinks he’s in for a $10,000 pay day. But when he discovers the haul he’s carrying is $3 million worth of guns, his family his taken hostage and he is blackmailed into taking the shipment the rest of the way, with both the FBI and a ruthless hijacker (Meat Loaf) hot on his trail, to save their lives. ‘Black Dog’ may be fairly generic in plot, and maybe even performances, but it’s the trucking action that shines here. Several highly-charged massive road chases make ‘Black Dog’ a serious contender for best truck movie, with death-defying stunts and a lunatic performance from the legendary rock star Meat Loaf. And with a director like Kevin Hooks ( the man behind the Wesley Snipes thriller ‘Passenger 57’, the horribly overlooked ‘Fled’ – Both will feature in later parts of this rundown – and episodes of TV’s ’24’ and ‘Prison Break’), directing ‘Black Dog’, you know you’re in for some heavy duty thrills.
77 – ‘The One’ (2001) / Stars: Jet Li, Jason Statham, Delroy Lindo, Carla Gugino. / Director: James Wong.
Very much like Stallone, there’s no action movie list ever going to happen without some Jet Li. Although better known for his Asian action movies, it’s his American movies I enjoy far more. And I love none of his movies more than ‘The One’. Except for ‘The Expendables’, of course. In ‘The One’, Jet Li stars as multiple versions of himself, across many universes, with one version travelling across every universe and killing each copy to take their strength for himself, and the other a loyal tough cop who remains the last of these versions to live. With both universal copies in heavy battle, the cop fights to protect his beloved wife (Carla Gugino) and is forced to flee from the cops, as both he and his attempted killer are now sharing the same universe on Earth, and the cops have no idea which ‘One’ is which. ‘The One’ is super silly, and super cheesy, but every second of it is the purest of fun. With incredible fights scenes, featuring two Jet Li’s fighting each other (Done with CGI trickery) and some spectacular special effects, along with the stunning Carla Gugino to look at for 90 minutes, I recommend ‘The One’ to anyone who wants to see Jet Li at his most energetic and most fun. And yet again, as with all the really great action movies, the soundtrack here is stunning, featuring many fantastic rock songs and a thumping awesome score by Trevor Rabin.
76 – ‘Riot’ (1996) / Stars: Gary Daniels, Sugar Ray Leonard. Director: Joseph Merhi.
Joseph Merhi needs to be loved more. For so many reasons. For being a kick-ass action movie director and producer, for those two awesome 1990’s sexy Anna Nicole Smith movies ‘To The Limit’ and ‘Skyscraper’ (Anna was wonderful, I miss her) and above all else, for giving action movie fans Gary Daniels at his best. For now, we’ll focus on ‘Riot’. Starring spectacular martial arts star Gary Daniels and boxing icon and champion Sugar Ray Leonard, ‘Riot’ sees the two fighting titans team up to rescue the daughter of a British Ambassador who is kidnapped by the I.R.A. during a violent riot in L.A. ‘Riot’ is magnificent. Stupid plot, terrible acting (and even worse attempts at an Irish accent!), but featuring some of the most exciting fights and chases ever put to film, with Gary and Sugar Ray smashing the bad guys into the ground, one fight after the next, Such a wonderful movie, and brilliantly directed by Merhi. Merhi’s awesomeness has no limits. He’s the greatest low-budget action movie director/ producer in the world. ‘Riot’ is the proof.
75 – ‘Payback’ (1999) / Stars: Mel Gibson, Maria Bello, Gregg Henry, Kris Kristofferson. /Director: Brian Helgeland.
Mel Gibson will always be best known for the ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Mad Max’ franchises. But of his other action movies, here’s one of his most terrific, ‘Payback’. Mel Gibson plays Porter, a criminal who is betrayed by his wife and partner in crime, and left for dead after a robbery. But determined to have his piece of the stolen loot, $70,000, Porter is not ready to check out just yet. Back from almost certain death, he sets out on a blood-soaked path of vengeance, hunting down his betrayers and killing anyone who stands in the way of his $70,000. ‘Payback’ is Gibson doing what he does best, playing an ultimate suicidal bad ass. With top notch performances, brilliant directing and a terrific story (Based on the novel, ‘The Hunter’, which served as inspiration to a much earlier movie, ‘Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin.), this is 100% quality film making.
74 – ‘Rumble In The Bronx’ (1995) / Stars: Jackie Chan, Marc Akerstream. Director: Stanley Tong.
Possibly the most fun Jackie Chan movie ever made, ‘Rumble In The Bronx’ was the first Jackie Chan movie I saw as a child. The next was ‘First Strike’ (I’ll feature that in the next 10 of this list). Both of those movies showed me how amazing Jackie is, both as a movie star and as an extreme martial arts expert. Breaking all of his bones during his career, it’s never hard to see why, thanks to the effort he pours into his movies. ‘Rumble In The Bronx’ has our beloved Jackie in New York (Although actually filmed in Canada!), joining forces with small-time gangsters to survive a much bigger group of diamond-stealing gangsters. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, so it’s fair to say that I remember very little about the story. Which can be said of most martial arts movies. The star here is Jackie, and the selling point is the hardcore stunts and zany chase sequences that always come with his movies. That’s why we love him, he just delivers what everyone wants of him. And ‘Rumble In The Bronx’ shows him at his very best. The hovercraft scene is a particular highlight for me.
73 – ‘Red Heat’ (1988) / Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi. Director: Walter Hill.
As with ‘Raw Deal’ in 1986, ‘Red Heat’ also came along at the height of Schwarzenegger’s career, with ‘The Terminator’, ‘Conan The Barbarian’, ‘Commando’, ‘Twins’ and ‘Predator’ all released in the 1980’s. Sadly, ‘Red Heat’ has also often been overlooked in Arnie’s career. But for me, it’s one of his most hardcore action packed thrillers. Arnie plays Ivan Danko, a Russian cop who travels to Chicago to track down Viktor (Ed O’Ross), a violent drug lord. But Danko’s mission is personal, as Viktor is responsible for the death of his cop partner back in Russia. Danko is forced to team up with the hilarious Detective Art Ridzik, who has a worse attitude than Danko. With the two cops smashing through the streets of Chicago on the trail of Viktor, they slowly form an unusual friendship, as they take on the drug lord. ‘Red Heat’ is ’80’s action at its best. Arnie just relishes the whole script and the spectacular action scenes, while Belushi gets some much needed comedy into the mix, as the violence ramps up, thanks to legendary action director Walter Hill. Not thought of very often among casual Arnie fans, but us true Arnie lovers know how amazing this movie really is. And that finale, wow, an action masterclass.
72 – ‘Jack Reacher’ (2012) / Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney. Director: Christopher McQuarrie.
Based on the series of Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, the first in what should become a major movie franchise (I hope!) sees movie icon Tom Cruise take on the title role of Jack Reacher, a military investigator requested by a solider who is accused of several brutal murders. The soldier in question is a highly rated target sniper, and with the deaths also being professionally handled, it’s up to Reacher to find the evidence and clear the soldier’s name. But with danger around every corner, it’s going to take a lot more than just investigating for Reacher to complete his mission. ‘Jack Reacher’ is solid gold. As pure an action movie as anyone could ask for. With Tom Cruise as the lead and a number one best-selling thriller novel to serve as its story, it could only be perfection. Loaded with intense action, including one of cinema’s greatest car chases, and with plenty of dark humor, along with that beautiful 1970’s style of film making courtesy of Christopher McQurrie (Who has worked with Tom a handful of times, including the glorious ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’), ‘Jack Reacher’ is one of Tom Cruise’s most wonderful movies. And with ‘Jack Reacher: Never Look Back’ on the horizon, it looks like we’ll be seeing plenty more fantastic action cinema from the hardest working movie star in Hollywood.
71 – ‘Darkman’ (1990) / Stars: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake. Director: Sam Raimi.
Comic book heroes and superheroes are ruling the movie world right now, with both Marvel and DC battling it out to deliver the best movies in the genre. But here is a movie from 1990 that could easily beat most of those movies being made today. Sam Raimi’s cult action-packed horror ‘Darkman’. With Raimi fast becoming a huge name in cinema, Hollywood came knocking, with a big budget and offers of total control. With Raimi unable to make a Batman movie like he truly wanted, Universal Pictures gave him over $15 million to create a movie based on one of his own short horror stories and characters. ‘Darkman’ tells the story of Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), a genius scientist who is close to creating a perfect new synthetic skin for use on patients in need of skin transplants. But when his girfriend, Julie (Frances McDormand) discovers a corruption operation, a vicious gangster squad are sent to keep her from talking. However, it is Westlake who becomes the victim of the deadly goons. Having suffered severe burns to his face and hands, Westlake sets out on a mission of vengeance, as he uses his new synthetic skin creation to both hide his horrific disfigurement, and to help him exact his revenge against the evil-doers. ‘Darkman’ is a spectacular movie, delivering both an emotional and brutal story, along with some insane action scenes, including a helicopter battle that still stands as one of the best action movie scenes ever. Although this was Raimi’s first attempt at a superhero movie and first major Hollywood movie, it would eventually lead him to creating his wonderful ‘Spider-man’ trilogy, which has made him a name to be respected in the comic book movie genre, and leading to the new crop of superhero comic book movies we’re getting now. Also gaining a lot from the movie, Liam Neeson had been on the rise thanks to some early hits, but ‘Darkman’ would become his first true leading-star role, and show us the awesome Irish man had serious chops for action movies long before he took on ‘Taken’. He starred in ‘Schindler’s List’ three years later, which made him a household name. Although there were a couple of straight-to-video sequels, Neeson actually only appeared in the first, with ‘The Mummy’ star Arnold Vosloo taking over for the sequels. ‘Darkman’ is a must-see for lovers of the genre, and for those who just love a violent nasty action thriller. A real classic.
Come back soon for the next 10 choices in this mega countdown of the 100 action movies you must see!
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