After a short delay (You know how life gets!), it’s time to get back to the 100 Action Movies You Must See rundown! In this selection of ten explosive action movie gems, once again there may be one or two well known to some, but perhaps not to as many as they should be, along with some of my personal favorites. So without any further delay…
70 – ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ (2014) / Stars: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul. Director: James DeMonaco.
Having wanted to see both of ‘The Purge’ movies for a long time, I finally got around to buying them on Blu-ray a while back. I had high hopes for them both, and those hopes were more than met. But while I absolutely loved ‘The Purge’ (2013), it was ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ that really blew me away. I knew these were considered action horror movies, but I doubted the level of action until I saw this sequel. A constant stream of bullets and blood filled the screen, as it’s pretty simple but fantastic story rumbled on. ‘The Purge’ is an annual night of mayhem across the USA. A night when all crime has been made legal, for no more than 12 hours. With some weapon and victim exceptions, any crime, including murder, can be committed without any punishment against the perpetrator. With the first movie of the franchise, the story is centered on a family who have barricaded themselves into their home to survive the night. But with the sequel, the focus is now on the streets of America, as yet another small group of people are faced with death, until a mysterious and heavily armed man takes them into his care and fights to guide them to safety, all the while on a personal mission of purging all his own. While the first movie features some terrific action and violence in the last quarter, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ is pushed to breaking point, as the movie’s brilliant lead hero (Played by Frank Grillo) takes on hoard after hoard of nasty killers determined to kill his companions. Grillo is so cool, so believable and so heavy duty that he carries the entire movie on his shoulders, while the co-stars rely heavily on being saved by the anonymous savior. The action sequences are seriously intense and gruesome, with plenty of wonderful special effects and countless shootouts. I had prepared this 100 list some time ago, but recently have been updating it to include titles I had ether forgotten or only just seen. ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ is the latter, and I recommend it to any fan of action or horror cinema, it’s an absolutely fantastic thrill ride. I loved every bit of it.
69 – ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle’ (2003) / Stars: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Lu, Demi Moore. Director: McG.
There are many movies based on classic TV shows. Possibly more than there should be. But few rival ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle’. As a fan of the original show, I was disappointed by the first ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movie from 2000, due to dropping the original characters, the silly innuendo-laden script and very little on the action front. With time, I have grown fond of it. But where that movie still fails me is the lack of the drive in the action department, that would have made it so much better. But the follow-up movie changed all that. While keeping those characters and the silly gags, both the action and story are propelled far above that first movie. When the Angels, working for the mysterious Charlie Townsend, are tasked with finding two rings that hold the entire list of witnesses held in protection by the FBI. But when they come face to face with a past member of Charlie’s team, a vengeful and (extremely) beautiful former Angel (Played by Demi Moore) intent on bringing an end to Charlie and his new team of crime fighters, they are thrown into an insane battle, taking on their greatest challenge ever. Although still a very silly movie, ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle’ is wonderful on so many levels. There’s more action scenes than most movies that have come before in this list, the three lead stars are on top form, and the legendary Demi Moore is the queen of them all, she looks incredible and has so much fun playing a villain for the first time. McG is a hit and miss director, judging from the first Angels movie and ‘Terminator: Salvation’ (Although I have come to love much of what that movie has on offer). But here he’s a total genius, his directing of the countless wild and crazy action scenes is something to be admired greatly. Anyone wanting to see a spectacular female-led ‘Expendables’ type action movie, ‘Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle’ surely must fit the bill.
68 – ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ (2013) / Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Basset, Rick Yune. Director: Antoine Fuqua.
As we’re approaching the halfway point of this list, it’s time to get serious. While I had wanted to save this movie until the final part of this countdown, I just couldn’t wait any longer. As action movie fans, we all have our memories from childhood, of sitting down to a movie that would just blow our minds and stay with us forever. As we grow, we find those movies become less and less likely. We’re living in an age when even a movie with Batman AND Superman (AND Wonder Woman!) can disappoint so many of us. But naturally, we long for those good times again. Like the first time we watched ‘Die Hard’ (‘Die Hard 2’ even more for me as a kid) and ‘Lethal Weapon’. The truly special movies, that just do it for us, the ones we just want to watch over and over. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ is one of those movies. Having been excited even at the idea of two White House action movies coming in the same year (The second of which will feature in a later part of this list), I couldn’t wait to see both at the cinema. But to focus on one for now, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ gave me that same euphoric feeling I got as a kid, as the massive score began, and it swept right along with character intros, gags and that heartbreaking first burst of excitement. All was going brilliantly, but then the movie’s major core sequence began. And holy God! As that plane flew into view, the goosebumps and thrills the likes of which I hadn’t had since ‘Man Of Steel’ and ‘2012’ took me over. The big blockbuster carnage stuff I personally ache for. And from that scene on, I can rarely remember ever having so much fun with a movie in my life. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ stars Scottish action star Gerard Butler (‘300’, ‘Law Abiding Citizen’, ‘Gamer’) as Mike Banning, a former secret service agent who witnesses a brutal and spectacular attack on Washington DC. and the White House. With his friend, President Benjamin Asher, taken hostage inside, Banning takes it upon himself to bring the fight to the massive gang of terrorists intent on destroying the entire country, as he enters the White House and dispatches the many highly-trained killers to save the day. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ rarely gets the kind of praise I constantly heap upon it. Some may just see it as another ‘Die Hard’ wannabe action movie, but I see it as so much more. As an example: How many ‘Die Hard’ type movies can we name where someone actually intervenes to save the day, without almost any personal attachment? ‘Die Hard’ itself had John McClane (Bruce Willis) save his wife, ‘Die Hard 2’ had him save his wife again, he was dragged into ‘Die Hard With A Vengeance’ and ‘Live Free Or Die Hard’ (With him also having to save his daughter that time), he then had to save his son in ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’. Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) was caught up on the ship in ‘Under Siege’ and saving his niece in ‘Under Siege 2’. Even my personal favorite of them all, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ‘Sudden Death’ has the hero trying to save his two children from death in a sports stadium. With ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, Banning actually has very little at stake inside the White House. No family, no knowledge of what the full plan of the terrorists is, and he owes the President very little (Which you’ll know if you’ve seen the movie). And yet he rushes in to rescue everyone, just like a good old-fashioned hero. I don’t see that type of movie much anymore, everyone always has a reason. Even ‘White House Down’s hero has his daughter in danger. But here, the action is so super heroic, so patriotic, so hardcore, so absolutely non-stop, and not a family member to be seen, which just makes it all the bigger and better. And Mike Banning is one of my favorite movie heroes, it’s so refreshing to see someone do the right thing, even if they don’t have to. Gerard Butler can do all the terrible rom-coms he wants, as long as he keeps the action blockbusters coming. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ is everything I love about action movies, the stuff of dreams, it’s the very essence of action cinema. I’m a huge fan. Watch out for the sequel, ‘London Has Fallen’ in a later part, it’s joyful.
67 – ‘Dracula Untold’ (2014) / Stars: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper. Director: Gary Shore.
Another movie I’ve seen very recently, I just had to include it. At this stage, Dracula movies are almost a pain to movie goers, due to the sheer volume of them. But ‘Dracula Untold’ has so much more to offer than your usual vampire flick. This time, we see the early years of the iconic character created by Irishman Bram Stoker. Prince Vlad Tepes AKA Vlad The Impaler has put his life of gruesome war behind him, to settle down with his wife and son. But when he takes on a powerful enemy, he knows in order to win an impending war that he needs to be even more powerful. After discovering a monstrous vampire living in a cave, he seeks its help to overcome his enemy. But as war dawns, Vlad becomes seduced by the temporary power he has been granted, and struggles to fight his new blood lust, as a massive army descends upon his land. ‘Dracula Untold’ is silly stuff, very silly, but what it lacks in scripting, support acting and originality, it absolutely makes up for in both a terrific performance from Luke Evans as the future Dracula, and the incredible action sequences that form most of the movie. The fighting scenes are spectacular, with one that stands above all else, as the vampire Vlad murders an army of 1,000 men, single handed. It’s not Lord Of The Rings level action, but damn, it’s seriously impressive, and makes ‘Dracula Untold’ very memorable, and worthy of a place in this countdown. Irish director Gary Shore also delivers the goods, handling the action and drama brilliantly, never letting the movie slip into boredom, for it’s brief 90-minute run time. Highly recommended.
66 – ‘Face/Off’ (1997) / Stars: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage. Director: John Woo.
‘Face/Off’ is action movie masterpiece, from one of the greatest filmmakers on earth, John Woo. Although far better known than most of what has featured so far in these pieces, there are so many people yet to see what helped shape 1990’s action cinema. After ‘Hard Target’ and ‘Broken Arrow’, John Woo returned with is next American action thriller, reuniting with John Travolta (The magnificent ‘Broken Arrow’). Travolta this time plays Sean Archer, a tough FBI agent, haunted by the tragic murder of his young son, as the hands of a notorious terrorist, Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). When Troy ends up in a coma after being captured, the FBI discover that he has placed a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles, with only himself and his brother Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) knowing the location. In order to extract the information from Pollux, now in a maximum security prison, Archer undergoes a state-of-the-art face transplant with Castor Troy, to find out the bomb’s location. But when Castor awakens from his coma, he assumes the identity of Archer and kills everyone who knew of the identity swap, leaving Archer in prison, as the killer assumes the life of a respected FBI agent and family man. ‘Face/Off’ at one time seemed like silly science fiction, the kind of stuff we only saw in superhero movies (See Part 3 for Sam Raimi’s ‘Darkman’), but with today’s medical scientists, it has finally become a reality, making this movie actually far more relevant that ever before. With John Woo as director, the star of ‘Face/Off’ is the action. And the action is some of the greatest any of us will ever see. From insane shootouts to the mind blowing finale, Woo never misses a beat, bringing his iconic brand of gun ballet violence into a series of spectacular action scenes. The final action scene alone is still as heart pounding as it was almost twenty years ago, and the ‘Olivia Newton-John Shootout’ is still a masterstroke to this day. With knockout performances from both Travolta and Cage, along with the supporting cast, and Woo’s beautiful style of film making, ‘Face/Off’ is one of the great treasures of the action genre, and has rarely been bettered. Still for me one of the top ten greatest action movies of all time.
65 – ‘Money Train’ (1995) / Stars: Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Lopez. Director: Joseph Ruben.
As we all know, the 1990’s delivered more amazing action movies than any other decade. And ‘Money Train’ is one of those movies. When two foster brother cops, John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) join a team to protect the New York subway and it’s passengers, they both fall in love with the same woman, another cop, Grace Santiago (Jennifer Lopez). But as their love for Santiago starts to come between them, and Charlie’s addiction to gambling becomes life threatening to both him and his brother, the two cops think life can’t get any worse. Until Charlie decides to steal cash from the “Money Train”, a train that carries New York’s taxes through the subway on a daily basis. With the brothers caught up in a deadly chase on board the train, they’ll need to work together, or die. ‘Money Train’ is another rare action movie that has it all. A bunch of Hollywood’s top leading stars (Also including the Oscar-winning Chris Cooper),, a fantastic story, some of the most explosive action ever put on film (The final twenty minutes will literally take your breath away!) and a brilliant soundtrack score (Can’t have a big action movie without a big score). ‘Money Train’ is like the best night out ever, one of my favorite movies. A must see.
64 – ‘Lucy’ (2014) / Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman. Director: Luc Besson.
I possibly shouldn’t include this movie, seeing as it made close to half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, therefore goes against the entire point of this list. But perhaps there are people out there who still haven’t seen it. I’ll keep this one short… It makes no sense, at all. Not even a little. And the first twenty minutes is extremely irritating, thanks to a pointless inclusion of constant stock footage of various things including animal hunting, animal sex and various shots of outer space. But looking past all of that, we’re left with two things, and those things are magnificent. Scarlett Johansson, and she looks incredible. And the handful of action scenes are dazzling, to put it mildly. The special effects are amazing, the stunts are wonderful and the thumping score that pumps through the whole movie just adds levels of excitement that make ‘Lucy’ so much better. Lucy is a woman who gets caught up in a drug-smuggling ring, when she is forced to transport a new drug, capable of opening up the human brain to enable a use of it’s full 100% capacity. With the drugs carried inside her, she is brutally beaten and the those drugs are then released into her brain, bestowing upon her an unbelievable array of super-human powers. And that’s all the sense I could figure out. From then on, it’s a wonderful show of absolute stupidity and sexiness for an hour. You’ll be so dumbfounded at the finale, you’ll actually go out and vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election, and think that made more sense. ‘Lucy’ is beyond stupid, but at the same time, it’s something really special and fun, thanks mainly to both Johansson and iconic director/ producer Luc Besson.
63 – ‘Death Sentence’ (2007) / Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kelly Preston, Garrett Hedlund. Director: James Wan.
Revenge often forms the best action movies. Especially if you consider something like the classic ‘Death Wish’ (From the same author as ‘Death Sentence’) and its brilliant sequels. All movie fans have their own favorite revenge movies, but ‘Death Sentence’ has long been my own. Starring Kevin Bacon as Nick Hume, a man who witnesses the brutal murder of his eldest son, ‘Death Sentence’ shows the thin line between revenge and justice, as Hume decides against letting the court do their duty, as sets out on a quest of brutal justice all of his own doing. As the stakes climb higher, the body count rises and Hume realizes that not only has he lost his son to the murderous thugs he’s pursuing, but he may also lose everyone else he holds dear. Horrifically violent, very exciting and heartbreaking, ‘Death Sentence’ stands tall in its genre, thanks to its unwavering depiction of revenge, and a stunning performance from Kevin Bacon. And all of this brought to the screen brilliantly by James Wan, the man behind ‘Saw’, ‘Insidious’, ‘The Conjuring’ and modern action classic ‘Furious 7’. Wan is a wonderful filmmaker, and ‘Death Sentence’ for me personally is his finest work.
62 – ‘Maximum Risk’ (1996) / Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge. Director: Ringo Lam.
One of my favorite of Van Damme’s movies, and one of his most overlooked, ‘Maximum Risk’ has the Muscles From Brussels investigating the death of his twin brother, tracing a Russian mob cell from France to New York. The plot is very standard stuff, the usual Russian bad guys, Van Damme playing a duel role, and a stunning woman written in, to please us guys who just want everything in the one movie. And when that woman is Natasha Henstridge of ‘Species’ fame, you’ll never hear us complaining. ‘Maximum Risk’, like most of Van Damme’s movies, is all about the action. And he has rarely been better than he is here. Tough, cool, smooth with the ladies and a total ass kicker, it’s what we expect from him, and he ramps it up several notches here. Fast-paced action, fantastic martial arts fights, and some spectacular stunt work make ‘Maximum Risk’ one of the great overlooked action movies of the 90’s. And one of Van Damme’s last theatrical movies at that point.
61 – ‘The Last Stand’ (2013) / Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker. Director: Kim Jee-woon.
Arnie’s first leading role since 2003’s ‘Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines‘, ‘The Last Stand’ has our favorite action hero playing a sheriff who must take on a violent drug lord, who is heading to his town. With the help of his small police force, the sheriff is ready for war. Very standard stuff is terms of plot, but where ‘The Last Stand’ shines is in the action department. Big guns, fast cars and a ton of gore, Arnie stands tall in his comeback movie, as the bullets fly and the gags keep coming, courtesy of both Arnie and the supporting cast, especially Johnny Knoxville (TV’s iconic ‘Jackass’). While there are problems, such as the main man being often underused, and the story being generic old western threads (‘High Noon’ springs to mind), ‘The Last Stand’ is still a massive action thriller, with plenty of thrills and laughs to offer, and a very worthy re-entry into leading movie star territory for Schwarzenegger. Also far more entertaining than ‘Terminator Genisys’.
Be sure to check back for part 5 in our massive countdown. If you haven’t seen the previous entry, find it here.