As with most 90s children, I grew up watching films that were rated far above my actual age, with content and themes probably inappropriate for me. That said, I freaking loved them, hence the discussion around the must-watch 80s and 90s action films… Whilst nowadays the children will be growing up on superhero films left, right, and center, the dominant genre at the box office for us back then was definitely the action film.
Over the 80s and 90s we were treated to thousands of action films, most absolutely terrible, some absolutely fantastic that have stood the test of time, and then some that were so bad, they were actually kind of good.
Here are the must-watch 80s and 90s action films…
A time cop who needs to hunt down a serial killer from his past in a now crime and swearing-free society? Sign me up! Starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, Demolition Man is everything you remember the 80s and 90s action films for, guns, explosions, and terrible dialogue.
Need I say more? All the muscles from the gym running around a jungle hunted by an invisible alien… Endlessly quotable and still massive in pop culture even today, the film started off a middling franchise that hit its highest with Prey since the original.
An action film that’s also a Christmas film? Guns, jumping out of buildings, one-liners galore and a man who just wants his wife back make this an easy suggestion for the must-watch 80s and 90s action films. Kick-starting Bruce Willis’ film career and proving he wasn’t just another romantic TV lead, Die Hard spawned a franchise that declined pretty quickly. Nothing can be taken from the first though…
Related: ‘A True Blue Action Star’: Bruce Willis Returns to Nakatomi Plaza To Celebrate 34 Years of Die Hard Despite Diagnosed With Aphasia
Both the first and second films are must-watch 80’s and 90’s action films, but for different reasons. They both also star Arnie with very different acting capabilities… the sequel could be regarded as one of the best sci-fi films of all time, let alone one of the best of the 80s and 90s.
Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise but in a really fast jet. Spawned an equally good sequel some three decades later. Always willing to go the extra mile, Cruise spent a considerable amount of time actually in jets getting real-world experience so it’d translate onto the screen. Safe to say that’s a trait he’s taken to multiple films throughout the years.
Related: ‘It was a spectacle’: Quentin Tarantino Claims Top Gun: Maverick Was a Cinematic Experience That He Never Expected To See Again
Future marines fighting off a horde of unstoppable, acid-blood-having aliens? Why not? The sequel to one of the scariest horror films at the time, Aliens takes everything from the first film and built upon it many times over. More action than the first, more aliens, more blood, and more of Sigourney Weaver’s badassery.
Again, Arnie arrives to wipe out an entire battalion of mercenaries on his own, but this time also showcasing his log-carrying abilities. More muscles on one man than most films have cumulatively, this is another easy suggestion for the must-watch 80s and 90s action films.
A disgruntled Vietnam war veteran in Stallone has to deal with being the one hunted on his return from the war. Fresh from a few stints as his other most recognizable character Rocky, this time Stallone spends his time righting what he believes are wrongs against him, in traditionally bloody and impressive ways.
The film that arguably saved Marvel and allowed what we have today with the deluge of superhero films, watching Wesley Snipes growl and slice his way through vampires never gets old. Many don’t like the sequel, and pretty much everyone hates the third for good reason, but this will not be the go-to for a vampire film with bite.
Mourning the loss of his wife, Mel Gibson ends up paired with a soon-to-be-retired Danny Glover, who attempts to stop the zany, suicidal antics of his new partner before it gets them both killed. Troubling personal life aside, Mel Gibson smashes it in this and the next three sequels, albeit with diminishing returns each time, but the first is and always will be a favorite of many.
That’s my must-watch 80s and 90s action film, but what did I miss?
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