I came up with this idea when decided to review the Lethal Weapon series, along with the nostalgia wave that has followed the release of Live Free or Die Hard (which I have not seen, and am not that interested in). People seem to be longing for the 80s-style action movie of explosions, quips, and less CGI. I’m not a huge action movie fan myself, but I did watch them back in the day, and figured I’d come up with a list (since coming up with lists is what I do).
To be clear, this is a list of 80s-style action movies, not just movies that featured action that were released in the 80s. So a great movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t qualify, since its not a typical, good guys vs bad guys blow-em-up 80s action flick (it’s more of an action-adventure). These are the movies you think of when you think of 80s action flicks.
5. Beverly Hills Cop – The standard buddy cop flick, with more focus on the humour than the action. The 80s were littered with these comedian-led cop flicks, with movies like this, 48 Hours (also starring Eddie Murphy), and Running Scared. This one was the best of the all, with all the hallmarks of the genre, including a charming lead and a recognisable theme song. My friends and I all tried to do Axel Foley’s laugh, even when we were too young to have seen the movie.
4. Lethal Weapon 2 – One of the better sequels out there, this one stripped away some of the darker elements of the original and increased the fun. In many ways, this is the prototypical 80s buddy cop flick, with all the attendant jokes, shootouts, explosions, and gratuitous nudity. I think the nudity and swearing are integral parts of an 80s action flick, which is why a PG-13 Die Hard flick can’t get the formula right.
3. Lethal Weapon – I saw the sequel before the original, so it holds a more special place in my heart, but the original is the better movie. Less contrived, less formulaic, with a darker hero and more defined purpose. Riggs is much more interesting character in this one, before becoming a buffoon in the sequels.
2. The Terminator – This almost didn’t qualify for the list, as its more sci-fi than typical 80s action flick. But, it’s a defining movie of the era, and other than some cheesy effects, it’s a pretty standard 80s action flick, complete with the requisite catchphrase.
1. Die Hard – The one they shall all be judged by, and probably the best action movie of all-time. Die Hard has it all, a great hero, disposable villains, big explosions, a wonderful concept, the best catchphrase, even some useless nudity. If you can’t appreciate the excellence of this movie, then the terrorists have won.