Recently we have been lucky enough to see some great action films hit our screens. Be it John Wick, which takes a simple idea and does it well, or Mad Max: Fury Road which redefines the entire idea of what an action film can be. With that in mind, I decided to write a list of action films that I think are worth watching. I’m not saying these are the best films, just the ones that are special to me, in some way. Some genres have been a little neglected, I’m not an expert on Westerns, or Martial Arts films so I’ve only included a couple from each, most likely ignoring their best. I’ve also slightly excluded war and sci-fi films as they sort of deserve their own lists. But at the same time I’ve included films from all of those genres, I just don’t want someone thinking that I’m not aware of some of the great films that exist outside of this list.
Rumble in the Bronx – This was a film that introduced a lot of us to Jackie Chan. The film is just insane – the plot takes a back seat to Chan’s signature humour and insane stunts. Chan is an under-rated comedic actor, a huge fan of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin he uses some of their classic techniques to give a far more entertaining performance.
Escape from New York – Honestly if you haven’t seen this film you probably shouldn’t even begin reading this list. It’s on Netflix – watch it and come back.
From Paris With Love – This film was such a surprise. When I saw trailers I was entirely uninterested in it, but that was wrong. John Travolta is on fire – manic and believably dangerous. I don’t want to say that this film is under-rated, it’s just under-appreciated. Worthy of mention is the fact that it was written by Luc Besson who has helmed some of the better action films of the 2 decades – Taken, Lucy, The Transporter and so on.
Aliens – This film is just a lot of fun. You take a monster from a sci-fi horror film and let it loose with space marines. I have no doubt that this was a huge influence on Predator – another great action film. What a great concept. Another film you probably should have already watched.
The Rock – This film is stupid, but in the best possible way. It’s one of those rare films where style-over-substance pays off. The highly stylised dialogue just sings from Sean Connery and Nic Cage – what might have been terrible from any other actor sounds like poetry when spoken by the right person.
Kiss of the Dragon – I really like this film, it’s another Luc Besson masterpiece. Some great fight scenes and villains you don’t mind seeing get beat up. There’s also just an underlying bit of heart that Bridget Fonda brings to the table.
The Boondock Saints – This is a film that has always been a little divisive, but whatever – I love it. It’s silly, it’s self-aware and it’s just plain old good fun.
The Long Kiss Goodnight – Holy shit, I swear if this isn’t on of the best films of the ’90s I don’t know what is. Shane Black is one of the best action writers around, giving us Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the Last Boyscout. I think this is his greatest work though. There are so many reasons this film is great, but seeing Gena Davis kick every single bit of ass is my favourite.
Sukiyaki Western Django – This film is weird, a sort of reboot, prequel cultural cross-over mindfuck. It’s a bunch of fun and worth watching, watch out for Quentin Tarantino further weirding up the film.
Unleashed – What’s that? Another martial arts film? Another Luc Besson film? Whatever, this film fucking rocks.
Die Hard – This is one of my favourite films of all time. Bruce Willis before he became Bruce Willis and a, then-unknown, Alan Rickman. This movie showed us that action stars didn’t need to be muscle-bound monsters to kick ass, and we’re all the better for it.
There are so many films I could have included, Kung-Fu Hustle for it’s slapstick weirdness, Ong-Bak for it’s balls-to-the-wall fights and stunts, The Terminator for being the greatest film ever fucking made. But I think the fun is in finding out for yourself, watch some movies and decide who your favourite director or actor is, then watch something else they did. You could watch the classics – Bullit, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, Bridge over the River Kwai or The Great Escape – the later is set in the POW camp that my grandfather spent many years in, taking part in the escape itself.
Whatever you decide to watch, just remember to enjoy yourself. That’s what it’s all about.