There’s something about action movies from the 80s that just remain burned in our memories. It’s not like they were masterclass theatrical experiences, but just the berserker action, the loud snares, the cheesy soundtracks, and of course – the dialogues. These movies played 3 times a day minimum on our TVs, so let’s revisit some of the best.
1. Die Hard
The most obvious one has to come at the top. Watching this movie on Christmas hits different, and ‘yippie ki yay’ has become the go-to line of anyone about to do anything stupid. Bruce Willis was at his brash, no-fucks-given best in this high-rise action film about a cop fighting a brutal German radical called Hans Gruber (played by the ever-remembered Alan Rickman).
You can’t spell 80s action without Arnie, and he was at his pun-dropping, biceps-popping best in this ’87 movie about a gung-ho team of soldiers trying to rescue hostages from the forests of Central America. Unfortunately, they’re being hunted for play by an alien with dreadlocks. Yup, that’s the plot.
3. Rambo: First Blood
Sylvester Stallone’s seminal role as a soldier still suffering from the horrors of war, unable to acclimatise to everyday society was actually a little different from what people think. Yes, there are explosions, bullets, and punches at every turn, but the movie was also a commentary on the mental effects of war, and what it does to a man.
4. Big Trouble in Little China
One of the zanier movies on this list, it nonetheless stands out in my mind because it was just so fresh and irreverent. A mix of fantasy, martial arts, and self-aware humour brought to charismatic light by Kurt Russell, This movie is about a street-savvy truck driver battling an ancient sorceror, and It.Is. Nuts.
5. Lethal Weapon
The film that made buddy cops a genre that would endure, Lethal Weapon starred Mel Gibson as a brash and reckless police officer often at loggerheads with his partner (played by Danny Glover), who’s consistently ‘gettin’ too old for this shit’. Car chases, drug rings, epic shootouts – this film had the works.
Of course Arnold was going to be on this list multiple times. His accent alone warrants at least 2 mentions, and his post-killing-a-bad-guy puns are legendary in nature. In this film, he’s an ex-elite soldier who’s trying to get his daughter back from some bad guys – basic stuff. ‘But what about the puns?’ you ask. Well, check this out.
7. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
The action-adventure movies that came out during this time had a certain charm about them, and this one’s no different. Yet another tale of bravery in biblical proportions, with Nazis, whips, and your whee bit of archaeology thrown in. Indiana Jones is a professor after all.
8. Tango and Cash
Another buddy-cop film that might not have done too well at the box office, but is still a super fun ride along. Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, both megastars at the time, are cops who are framed for murder and imprisoned. While Kurt is a wildcard, Stallone is the straight faced no-bullshit character, and they play off each other perfectly, escaping prison, punching bad guys, and talking smack the whole time.
Set in a future where Detroit is a dystopian hellscape, this character is one for the age. Near-indestructible, immacaulte aim, and a whole bunch of personal demons are bottled inside the cop who was fatally wounded, and brought back as a cyborg. Apart from being ahead of its time in terms of effects, it also asked some important questions about living, and what extremes one can go to.
10. Top Gun
The glory days of Tom Cruise, before people knew he had an affinity for cushion-jumping. The movie tells the tale of ace pilot Maverick, who loses his brother in arms Iceman, and tries to redeem himself and in turn, becomes an air force legend.
Damn, this brings back some memories!