70. The Man From Nowhere
The Man From Nowhere is another example of why Korean cinema is some of the best in the world right now. It’s not that the story is anything special, and it’s not that the film does anything unique to make itself stand out from the rest of its peers. In fact, the story is one we’ve all seen countless times before and The Man From Nowhere pulls from a number of its predecessors as we see influences from both Western and Asian cinema, throughout.
Despite all this, The Man From Nowhere is still an excellent action film, one that should be applauded for both its stylish action, fantastic performances and visceral thrills. Yes, Lee Jeong-beom’s film is a great genre flick. The violence is slick and well shot, the fight scenes are perfectly choreographed and riveting to watch and the action is high intensity. It all makes for a compelling film.
Admittedly, The Man From Nowhere is weighed down by a little melodrama and runs about 15 minutes too long, but it’s still a very exciting action flick and rivals most of what Hollywood produces these days. Oh, and it also features one of the best knife fights, ever.
An American remake is already in the works too, it should be interesting to see how that turns out.
69. Shoot Em’ Up
Half action, half dark comedy, Shoot ‘Em Up takes action movies to a new level of extreme, by blending “In your face” kill scenes with unexpected methods. It has everything you would ever want in a movie: Clive Owen, copious amounts of gun fire, a carrot subtheme, and Paul Giamatti as a villain.
The film begins with Clive Owen’s character waiting at a bus stop, when a pregnant woman heavily in labor crosses his path, followed shortly by a hit man. Like the hero in all of us, he decides to help her out, but soon finds himself fighting a gang of armed thugs. The action only escalates from there as Clive finds himself on the run with a newborn, having no knowledge of why people want it dead.
It could be described as a bit more subdued version of God Bless America (2011), focusing more on intense gun fights than political intrigue. But importantly, Shoot ‘Em Up is straight up fun and excitement, never letting up for even a second and giving us one of the most enjoyable action films in years.
Cobra is one of those big, dumb action films, with an emphasis on big and dumb. It’s very much a product of its time but when it comes to the action genre, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan that doesn’t count the film as a standout. This is a lean, straight-to-the-point, no messing around action flick that proves once again why Stallone helped shape the genre into what most know it as today. Simply put, for many people, Cobra is the quintessential action film of the 80s.
Cobra is a movie that is drenched in excess and its insanity literally knows no bounds. The violence here, even for this day and age, is over-the-top and quite nasty but that doesn’t stop it from being wildly entertaining.
We’ll be the first to admit that Cobra is a huge mess. Full of every cliche imaginable, unintentionally funny, brimming with cheesy one-liners and atrociously acted, the film often borders on parody, but there’s no denying its importance in the genre. Dripping with testosterone and ultra-macho to the max, this is a film for fans of true, hardcore action, with absolutely no filler and no regard for anything else.
Despite earning horrid reviews and a number of Razzie award nominations, Cobra is still loved by fans of both Stallone and the genre and has developed quite a cult following in recent years. It may not necessarily be a good film, but it’s 80’s action at its finest.
“You’re a disease – and I’m the cure,” is the line that this film is most well known for, and I think that pretty much sums up why Cobra is so great.
67. The Guns of Navarone
A masterful WWII action thriller, The Guns of Navarone lies in the vein of the classic “men on a mission” films such as The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare. Packed with veteran thesps from across the globe – Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quale to name a few – they portray a squad of British soldiers tasked with bringing down a massive German gun emplacement holding down a strategic channel in occupied Greece.
The Guns of Navarone has a rare classy flair that is missing from most modern films about war (not to mention countless scenes dripping with tension), examinations of the nature of betrayal and loyalty, delivers on the action and as would be expected, superb acting. Most importantly, despite its age standing at over 50, it holds up immensely well and should easily be able to find fans among a younger audience looking for a thrilling period adventure.
66. Lethal Weapon 2
The duo that makes up every criminal’s worst nightmare were back again in the same phenomenal form as the first film. Except this time they’ve brought back more explosions, more car chases, and a much more dangerous foreign foe.
Riggs had finally pushed his suicidal thoughts far from the front of his mind, and the result was a film even more hilarious and no less action-packed than the original. The scene where Murtaugh is trapped on a toilet is as suspenseful as bathroom scenes come. Plus, every 80s film would’ve been better off with Patsy Kensit as the main love interest.
Really though, Lethal Weapon II is a knockout when it comes to action films. It perfected the buddy cop elements that Lethal Weapon defined and gave us more of what we loved from its predecessor. Not only that, but its one of the few sequels out there that is actually better than the original.
Both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover have stated that its their favorite film in the franchise, that has to count for something, right?
65. The Fugitive
Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man accused of the heinous act of murdering his own wife. While being transferred to prison, Kimble’s bus is hit by a train in one of the most spectacular crash scenes ever filmed, allowing Kimble to set out in search of the man he blames for his wife’s death.
Tommy Lee Jones turns in an award-winning performance here as the marshall attempting to track Kimble down. As amazing as the train crash is, it’s rivaled by the stunning waterfall jump and the epic tunnel chase that precedes it, proving once again that Ford still has it, and probably always will.
64. In The Line Of Fire
Though it would be considered his last true action film, veteran Clint Eastwood nevertheless owns the screen in In the Line of Fire, bringing believable physicality but ultimately vulnerability, elements that serves his character so well.
If that wasn’t a strong enough reason to love this film, we get the Oscar nominated John Malcovich as a savvy, deadly, silver tongued assassin who steals every scene. But despite what is some of his strongest work, it is ultimately the dynamic between him and Eastwood’s Secret Service agent that serve as the film’s lifeblood and serves to strengthen the action and cat and mouse games in which these two become entangled.
In the Line of Fire ratchets up the tension and cleverly ties in the events of the film with real life tragedies. It’s a great early 90’s action thriller that doesn’t forget the characters amidst the mayhem. And for that alone, it deserves a spot on this list.
Platoon is Oliver Stone’s gritty visualisation of the Vietnam War. After his own tour of duty in ‘Nam in 1968, the director interpreted his visceral experiences through the lens of a camera. The result was a sombre, harrowing insight into the self-destructive nature of war and one that set itself apart from the straight, one-dimensional film that didn’t dig deep enough for Stone’s liking.
For Platoon, the filmmaker grounded his story in reality and then stepped on it with a burly boot and grounded it in some more. Charlie Sheen stars as the young college drop-out Chris Taylor, who serves as our window into the harsh and unforgiving Vietnamese environment. The film portrays the physical and psychological impact of war to the nth degree. As a matter of fact, Stone enlisted the central cast into a gruelling boot camp two weeks before the cameras started rolling. That’s right. Military haircuts. Meagre rations of food, and not one shower in sight. It’s no wonder the performances are so damn convincing.
With a cast including William Dafoe, Tom Berenger and a young Johnny Depp, Platoon is as talented as it is mesmerising. Stone’s cinematography lingers in your mind like wisps of smoke from the charred battleground and, with Charlie Sheen providing a monotone voiceover, the film echoes Apocalypse Now in an eerie fashion. It’s a brutal and relentless tour of duty, which is ultimately what makes it so powerful.
62. Ong Bak
Ong-Bak introduced the world to Tony Jaa, a Thai martial artist who has given us some of the most extraordinary fight scenes of all time. The film launched Jaa onto the international stage too, with many calling him the next great martial arts star.
This is a movie known not for its story or characters, as those barely exist, Ong-Bank is a film known for its inventive fight scenes, its showcase of Jaa’s jaw-dropping abilities and for its lack of CGI, stunt doubles and wire-fu, which makes what is seen here all the more impressive. It also feels very raw and real too, which adds a lot to the film.
Some of the work seen here from Jaa will leave you breathless. The man is honestly incredible and if you prefer your action to involve hand to hand combat and daring acrobatics, as opposed to huge explosions and car chases, then you’ll feel right at home with Ong-Bak.
If for no other reason, you owe it to yourself to watch this film for Jaa. He’s truly a sight to see.
61. Man On Fire
In terms of leading men, they don’t come much better than Denzel Washington. The Oscar winning actor is one of the best in the business and collaborated with the late Tony Scott on five cinematic occasions. The creative pairing’s third film was 2004’s Man on Fire, and, arguably, it’s also their best.
The film is actually the second adaption of A.J. Quinnell’s novel of the same name and centres around the underground crime world of Mexico City and its tendency for kidnapping. Washington plays the messianic John Cleasy, a washed-up CIA agent who is hired by an affluent business man to protect his nine-year-old daughter, Pita – played remarkably by Dakota Fanning. As the action genre would have it, though, Pita is kidnapped by the crime syndicate which sends Creasy on a war path in order to find her.
While the film echoes a lot of tropes associated with Scott’s films – car chases, bombastic explosions – it’s the relationship between Creasy and Pita that acts as the film’s sentimental lifeblood. Mixing their mesmerising performances with Paul Cameron’s cinematography results in a film that is as visually arresting as it is emotionally poignant. Though Man on Fire may prove a little sanctimonious for some, Scott’s film is still an exemplary addition to the action genre.
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