The 1980s were a great time for action movie lovers. Some of the biggest stars of the day-as seen in the recent film “The Expendables”-were action stars. Their flicks were filled with massive muscles, huge fights, explosions, and a truckload of one-liners. Here are some of the top examples from this golden age for the genre.
“Die Hard” (1988)
Bruce Willis plays the part of John McClane, a NYPD police officer caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. McClane travels to an office Christmas party in order to try and patch things up with his wife, Holly. While he changes his clothes, an archetypal terrorist, Hans Gruber (brilliantly played by Alan Rickman), and his group occupy the building and hold everyone hostage. Plenty of action ensues, with broken glass flying and plenty of gore.
“Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985)
Without a doubt, this is one of the most influential action movies. Based on the 1972 novel “First Blood” by David Morrell, the story follows John Rambo, a Vietnam War veteran who finds himself in trouble after the war is over. It was highly successful at the box office and has influenced a slew of films. Even though it is an action classic, it endures because it eloquently examines the Vietnam War’s after-effects on its veterans and looks at their problematic return to society.
One of science fiction’s most recognizable films, this movie is not short of action scenes. With a cast including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers, the audience would not have accepted anything less. The plot follows an elite Special Forces team deep into a Guatemalan jungle on a hostage rescue mission. They are led by a character known as “Dutch” (Schwarzenegger) as they come across numerous slain soldiers who have apparently been skinned alive. The group is at first completely unaware that they are being pursued by a technologically superior alien hunter and the chase is on.
“Road House” (1989)
The late Patrick Swayze was an ’80s movie icon: versatile and able to play a leading man (“North and South”), yet able to carry off the tough action hero role. “Road House” is one of the most exciting of his action films. His character, Dalton, is someone who most viewers can understand and appreciate. In typical action style, the women want him, and the guys want to be in his place. He’s got a sarcastic mouth and delivers some memorable one-liners along with his roundhouse kicks.
Detroit has slipped into bankruptcy in the near future and is rife with crime. An answer to the city’s problems comes in the form of a police force contract with super corporation Omni Consumer Products. Their solution is a cyborg law enforcement officer, dubbed RoboCop, who was once a police officer named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller). Murphy was horrifically murdered, but his remains were used in the cyborg’s creation. RoboCop has plenty of car chases, explosions, and intense action sequences, but its lasting success stems from its intelligent and thought-provoking themes.
“The Terminator” (1987)
Before “Titanic” or “Avatar,” director and screenwriter James Cameron put his all into this film, which was a surprise hit. This science fiction action tale focuses on a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from 2029 that has been sent back to 1984 in order to assassinate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). This is because Sarah will become the mother of John Connor, a key resistance leader in the future who will lead humanity to victory over the cyborgs.
“Lethal Weapon” (1987)
Directed by Richard Donner, this buddy cop flick stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Gibson plays Martin Riggs, an unorthodox and somewhat disturbed clown of a cop. Glover as Homicide Sergeant Roger Murtaugh is pretty much the exact opposite, but despite this, they are partnered together. It’s a hilarious mismatch at first, but soon the pair forms a believable bond. After celebrating his fiftieth birthday, Murtaugh considers retirement from the LAPD, but a complex case pulls him and his partner into a dangerous game. Gary Bussey makes an excellent antagonist as Mr. Joshua, coming off as cold and calculating, almost reptilian in his demeanor.