Last year I wrote a post about some of my favorite action movies of the 80’s. (In case you missed that one, you can still find it right here). It was a fun one to write, and I had a blast collecting some of my favorites and trying to fit them in one post. Of course I failed miserably and had to skip a few in order to not end up making a feature that would cause all of you to end up getting a sore arm from all that scrolling. For me nothing will ever beat the 80’s as I still think that some of the best action films I have ever seen were made in that era. But that’s not to say that after the 80’s the action genre became stale. Far from it even. So I thought it would be fun to do a follow up to that post and this time focus on the 90’s. It was a timeperiod where I was trying to survive my schooldays, and actually did not go to the theatres much to watch movies. Instead I saw a lot of them on rental. Just like in the original post, I am focussing on non-science fiction action movies (So in case you are wondering why Terminator 2 is missing, that’s why). So lets go: full speed ahead…erm, yeah I guess that’s pun intended.
Popquiz hotshot! Speed was the movie that pretty much propelled the careers of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock into overdrive. A mad man put a bomb on a bus, and if the speed of the vehicle would ever drop below 80 kilometers per hour, it would detonate. The movie featured a great performance by the late Dennis Hopper, and the chemistry between Reeves and Bullock made it a very enjoyable watch. The action sequences were incredible with one of the highlights being a scene where the bus would have to make a big jump in order to continue driving. Of course there was the inevitable sequel, sadly without Reeves, but that one was hardly worth the effort. The original though is a terrific film and one that is always worth another rewatch.
This was a very different action movie from Stallone then the ones we were used too, and for me it worked. It was also a tour de force for the actor as he put himself on some very high ledges and mountains despite his enormous fear of heights. Stallone plays the role of an experienced mountain climber that tries to come to terms with an event from his past that has left him a broken man. When he gets a call to rescue some stranded climbers he gets more than he bargained for, when it turns out the people he needs to save are a bunch of ruthless criminals. John Lithgow’s performance as the lead villain is one of those truly fun roles you can’t help but enjoy. The film contains a few truly nailbiting scenes and to date it is one of my favorite Stallone movies.
Under Siege (1992)
Steven Seagal’s career lately has gone so far downhill that you would almost forget that he did make some real good films as well, back at the start of his career. This one, Under Siege, has been his most succesful one. Seagal plays Casey Ryback a cook who is aboard the USS Missouri when it gets overtaken by a bunch of mercenaries who plan to use the ship to wreak havoc. It’s pretty much Die Hard on a ship, but it’s still a lot of fun. Seagal demonstrates his martial arts prowess, and there is a very cool knife fight near the end between him and the leader played by Tommy Lee Jones. Seagal would reprise his role one more time in the sequel to this one: Dark Territory where the action takes place aboard a train. Quite honestly I liked that one a lot as well, and thought it was one of the better action sequels.
Why do I not eloborate further on this movie? Because I have a review coming up for this film, and I don’t want to spoil anything yet. So I will just leave it at: Pacino, DeNiro, cops/robbers, best shoot out ever, and this being my number two favorite movie of all time. Enough said.
Executive Decision (1996)
This film takes the action to the skies where a group of terrorists have hijacked a passenger plane and put a bomb on board. It’s up to an unlikely group of heroes to save the day. What I liked the most about this one, is the fact that Kurt Russel’s lead character, dr David Grant isn’t a testostorone fueled action hero. He is an average day man, who gets put into an impossible situtation and depends more on his brain than his brawn. That was really refreshing to see. It also featured a great role by a young Halle Berry who plays a heroic stewardess that must try to keep her wits about her. One of the memorable scenes of this movie was the docking of a stealth bomber to the passenger plane. This is a smart and very tense action thriller and an absolute must watch movie.
The Rock (1996)
Yes, it’s a Michael Bay movie. Yes it features his trademark action and yes it is at times completely over the top. But it is also one of the best action films made in the 90’s. Nicolas Cage (in his often completely insane acting mode) and Sean (Bond, James Bond) Connery star in this action fest where they have to stop a bunch of former US soldiers that have taken over Alcatraz and threaten to launch rockets filled with a deadly nerve agent on American soil. Despite this being an action oriented film (very much so) it also has a pretty deep underlying storyline about the way American soldiers are being treated by the US government. In the end though it’s all about the action, and this one delivers that in scores.
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
People who might have thought that both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were really getting to old for this sh*t probably changed their minds after seeing this rollercoaster. With the addition of Hong Kong action superstar Jet Li starring as the villain, this fourth installment of the popular Lethal Weapon franchise was just a great watch from start to finish. This time the two cops have to take an Asian crime syndicate and it contains some of the best action sequences out of all four films. Jet Li certainly shows his stuff, and proves why he is one of the best martial artists ever. With some wonderful comedy and the terrific chemistry between Gibson and Glover this is one of those rare sequels that is still almost as good as the original movie. Having already reviewed parts one and two you can expect a review for the final two films somewhere in the future.
Of course I have to add at least one Schwarzenegger film to this list, else it would not be complete. In Eraser Arnold plays a US Marshall for the Witness Security Protection Program. He specialises in giving people a new identity and he has to pull out all the stops to save a woman who has important information about an illegal arms deal for a new high tech type of weapon. While certainly not one of the best movies he has ever made, the story, classic one-liners and some very inventive action sequences still make this a very enjoyable film to watch. It’s also not every day that you see someone fighting bear handed against a crocodile….
Legendary Hong Kong action director John Woo set his sights on Hollywood, and with Face/Off he delivered an incredibly well made action extravaganza. Nicolas Cage plays the psychotic murderer Castor Troy and John Travolta is the FBI agent Sean Archer who is hellbent on stopping him. Eventually Troy is knocked into a coma, but they then learn that there is a bomb set to go off in a few days and Castor is the only one who knows the location. Using a revolutionary faceplant technique, Archer takes on Troy’s face, in order to contact some of the psychopath’s former associates that might help him find where the bomb is located. But of course Troy wakes up and then takes on Archer’s face. It’s a really cool movie, where Cage and Travolta switch roles perfectly and very convincingly as well. Woo is a director who knows his stuff, and the film is full of shootouts, highspeed chases and those kind of things, while at the same time never losing track of the story itself.
Mission Impossible (1996)
I don’t care what everyboy says about Tom Cruise (and yes no worries I still respect your opinions) I just think he is a terrific and very hardworking actor. To not include this film in the list would be missing out on a very fun movie and one that has so far spawned a total of 5 highly succesful sequels. Based on the televison series of the 60’s , Cruise plays agent Ethan Hunt who gets framed for the murder of his team mates of the Impossible Mission Force. It’s a movie that is full of fun gadgets (especially the face masks), over the top and totally unbelievable stunts (but hey this is a movie after all), and Cruise just excells in this role. It’s hard to believe that this film is now over 20 years old, and Cruise almost looks exactly the same now as he did back then.
So…is this list complete? Duh…of course it isn’t. I had to leave out a lot of films, because this post is already way too long and you know what they say: Too much of a good thing is well…too much. Just like the 80’s post though it was fun to put this list together, and it makes me want to revisit a lot of these films. But times are wasting, and with August being a very busy month for me (you will soon find out why), I’m going to spend my time with watching some new stuff instead of being stuck in the past (as much fun as that is).
What did you think of this list? Are any of your favorite movies included? Which are some of your favorite 90’s action films? Let me know in the comments section below. Thank you all for reading this very lengthy post: I hope you enjoyed the read!