Ah, the Eighties. Never before and never again will there be a decade so defined by the irrepressible genre that is the action movie. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Ford and, er… Busey? OK, so it was a decade that wasn’t always incredible, but it certainly gave us the best action movies ever known to mankind.
The Nineties gave it a shot, racking up sequels for a wider audience, but couldn’t match the awesome levels of violence and atrocious special effects that made Eighties movies so magical. Indeed, It wasn’t until the not-so-modest directors of the Noughties had their day that the big guns of our childhood were given a run for their money in the action stakes, with big budget productions and rapidly improving CGI helping to churn out countless new action movies.
Here we hopeless nostalgics would like to illustrate why the Noughties journeymen failed to knock our favorites off of the top spot, why the action blockbusters of the 1980s are still king of the ring, and why no one will ever be as tough as the ripped badasses of the greatest decade of all time. Round 1: Fight!
10. Predator Vs Mission: Impossible II and III
When we’re grandparents, our scornful warnings to little grandchildren who refuse to eat their greens won’t be of the wicked wolf, or monsters under the bed; they will be of Tom Cruise. The once golden man-child of mainstream movies may be something of a laughing stock nowadays â€” a tiny, little, oh-so-punchable laughing stock â€” but his weird cartel of Scientology nuts and desperately overpaid lawyers has sent movers and shakers around Hollywood running to the hills in order to avoid a casual suing. This is all well and good, but we’d love to see him try and take the Predator â€” the most badass trophy hunting alien in the galaxy â€” to court.
His wimpy portrayal of Ethan Hunt in the two sequels to the â€” fairly acceptable â€” 1996 movie Mission: Impossible would be torn a new anus if ever it encountered the Predator in a bad mood (or Arnie for that matter), and no amount of cool sunglasses-wearing, shiny toothed smugness will ever change that (nor challenge the way Arnie smeared himself with mud to overcome his dentally-challenged opponent). We say get him into the jungle and let’s run some bets!
9. Die Hard Vs Live Free or Die Hard
Aging sucks. Sure, that might be a tad discriminatory, but we’re pretty sure even your grandparents would agree. Stuff starts sagging, memory fades, limbs become untrustworthy, chronic moaning sets in; it’s not a good look for anyone. So why are we innocent children of the 20th century constantly being forced to watch the retirement home sequel to all our Eighties faves nowadays? 1988’s Die Hard was undeniably awesome, an epoch defining film that spawned at least one more unforgettably good action movie and prompted hours of recess time spent using fingers as guns and screaming catchphrases (“Yippee ki-yay, motherf****er!”) as you PWNED your school chums, pretending to be Bruce Willis and ridding the under-siege tower of your terrorist friends.
Die Hard 4.0? It was a farfetched, patronizing reminder that Bruce Willis’ character will soon be able to ride the bus for free. Timothy Olyphant was a less satisfying white collar crook than even Philip Seymour Hoffman in MI:3 and the less said about the teen sidekick (played by Justin Long) the better. And no one but no one struts their stuff on a moving fighter jet; not even John McClane.
8. Terminator Vs Casino Royale
For anyone growing up in the 1980s, Arnie was boss. It was his decade; he may as well have had the copyright. His finest moment for many was of course his first foray into the robot-based action flick genre, playing the Terminator in the eponymous 1984 movie classic. Arnie portrayed a leather jacket-clad badass from the future, pursuing the protagonists through the streets of LA with an array of different weapons and a total disregard for human suffering.
Scroll forward 22 years and said human suffering is the only thing ‘action’ hero Daniel Craig has in common with Arnie, making us all suffer through his pudgy, smirking, pudding-faced reboot of Bond in what might have otherwise held the potential to be a good movie. Killing off this particular 007 cannot come soon enough. Even Timothy Dalton would look better in a fight.
7. Aliens Vs Avatar
James Cameron waited 15 years until he turned his original script for Avatar into an Oscar-winning movie (following the George Lucas excuse of allowing CGI techniques the time to improve sufficiently), so it’s a real shame it blew. Sure, Avatar was arguably one of the most overwhelmingly colorful movies ever made â€” with the use of modern 3D techniques only furthering its stunning visual clout â€” but it also had the most contrived storyline since Smug Cop 4: Smugger Bastard. The storyline was a sort of fermenting temaki roll of Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves and An Inconvenient Truth all crammed together, and what’s more, the aliens in it sucked.
Pit those freaks against the HR Giger conceived extra-terrestrials of our childhood favorite Aliens and there’d be a blue bloodbath with facehuggers and chestbursters scampering gleefully all over the place. Plus, Sigourney Weaver, as seen in Aliens, is buff â€” especially with a pulse rifle in her hands. As blue CGI in Dances with Smurfs? Not so much.
6. Beverly Hills Cop Vs xXx: State of the Union
Back in 2002, anthropomorphic sack of melons ‘Vin’ Diesel delivered a performance in the firstxXx movie that was so fetid it was akin to a war crime. It was a surprise to everybody, therefore, that a sequel starring rapper Ice Cube was ever even allowed to crawl from the dank, festering imagination of the scriptwriters, let alone paid for and completed. xXx: State of the Union managed to take an already unbearable turd of a storyline and replace it with one that was so poor (some nonsense about a thwarted military attempt to smoke the President) that even the legendary Samuel L Jackson and Willem Dafoe couldn’t lend it any class.
Compare it, if you will, to the lovable comedy genius that is Eddie Murphy in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, and you’ll see why it is yet another 1980s epic win. Ice Cube spends the duration of xXx firing weapons and delivering contrived one-liners; Murphy spends Beverly Hills Cop firing weapons and creasing us up with his hilarious baying-donkey laugh. Indeed, if it’s charmed versus charmless in this round, charmed just got a Kimbo Slice-sized K.O.
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark Vs Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
How many times do we have to stipulate this? We don’t want to see our hallowed movie gods needing help to go to the bathroom. Indy was a revered hunk in Raiders of the Lost Ark; in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull he appeared on the verge of a prolapse. With George Lucas already scratched permanently off the Christmas card list thanks to his atrocious method of ‘re-inventing’ our favorite movies with twice the estrogen (cough, Star Wars), it was the final nail in the coffin when he and Spielberg decided to bring back Indiana Jones for one last caper before he moved to Florida and took up mahjong.
Whereas Raiders of the Lost Ark was an absolute classic, charting Indy’s adventures searching for the Ark of the Covenant before those dastardly Nazis found it first, Crystal Skull was dubious at best, with a ludicrous â€” and now infamous â€” scene involving a nuclear explosion and a refrigerator, capping what was a poorly written and disappointingly tame movie. Alongside Shia ‘The’ Beouf’s woeful appearance as teen sidekick Mutt, let’s not forget that Cate Blanchett drove a jeep into the Ark of the Covenant.
4. The Running Man Vs Transformers
Maybe it’s just rose-tinted hindsight, but looking back at The Running Man â€” as with many Eighties classics â€” it seems like it managed to utilize some of the most cutting-edge movie effects available at the time and still look distinctly cheesy. Did it matter? No! We still love it now as much as we loved it then. The storyline, the Arnie one-liners, the occasional wisecracks, the action â€” it had the full package.
Transformers, on the other hand, is a movie which looks amazing â€” sleek, shiny and overpowering â€” but absolutely, totally sucks. As a wise old sage might once have prophesied, you can spunk millions of dollars on shining a CGI dog-turd, but it still leaves you with a glistening, stinky, plotless dog turd.Transformers is a benchmark for this rule. Even the Eighties cartoon series leaves it floundering in a pool of it’s own blurry, robotic filth, let alone rockin’ movies like The Running Man â€” based, for those who don’t know, around a gladiatorial game show where the contestants have to kill each other in a dystopian future. Transformers embodies the evolution of the action hero â€” from Eighties Schwarzenegger to Noughties LaBeouf. Noughties fail.
3. The Rambo Series Vs Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean has outstayed its welcome. The once hallowed franchise has been peddling the same salty concept for four movies now, and even the unwashed masses are unconvinced. Indeed, the latest installment, On Stranger Tides, received a much deserved critical panning. Not wishing to be entirely critical ourselves, we have to admit that Captain Jack Sparrow â€” played by Johnny Depp â€” had his moments of cinematic brilliance, especially in the first movie (in fact, he might be one of the only worthwhile blockbuster heroes created in the last decade). In this case it’s the fascinatingly grating Orlando Bloom whom we’d really love to see in a tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte of high campery with… John J Rambo of the eponymous film franchise…
Suffice to say, precious Orlando would finish up as a brown streaky mark on the shag carpet before you had the time to say “machine gun.” Rambo, crazed Vietnam vet turned muscle bound action hero, played for two and a half decades by mushy-faced legend Sly Stallone, entertained millions of children with his bare-chested destroying of bad guys (that is, chiefly thousands of goons from developing countries) in a series that has so far fun for three movies… Yeah, that’s right, we don’t talk about Rambo IV. On the other hand, we can’t imagine anyone wanting to discuss an entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Ever.
2. Commando Vs Crank
If this is one generation’s flagship badass versus another, we’d say the poor unfortunate kiddies that are being brought up on the likes of Crank are being drastically sold short by the R-Rated movie. When we were little it was absurdly over-the-top action goodness courtesy of former Governor Schwarzenegger that got our tiny hearts beating, and whilst Crank does utilize a slightly bonkers level of simulated of violence, when it’s delivered by a whiny cockney smart-ass like Jason Statham it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Arnie’s charms came from his one-liners, his expert wielding of rocket launchers and machine weaponry, his poise and his pure monosyllabic class as he rescues his daughter from that Australian bad guy with a ‘tache. Plus, in the case of 1985’s Commando, the levels of gore are so inherently Eighties â€” read: inherently exaggerated â€” it was never going to be knocked from its pedestal by some balding guy from London playing with a handgun or two.
1. RoboCop Vs The Fast and the Furious
1987’s RoboCop was one of those movies that wasn’t necessarily the number one Eighties action flick, but that played an absolutely crucial role in the delicate popular culture continuum of the decade. Imagine, if you will, the Sixties without The Mamas & the Papas, or the Seventies without bad haircuts or the color orange. It would take away a vital part of the times. This is the case with RoboCop. It was a great movie. RoboCop himself was a half-man-half-machine policeman from the future, with a penchant for delivering justice the hard way and taking crap from no one.
Were RoboCop to exist in world of The Fast and The Furious, we dare say the smug grins would be wiped rapidly off the faces of Vin Diesel and his flatulent buddies as they got served some brutal justice for doing 55 in a 40 zone, an activity they seem particularly proficient at in the boring 2001 movie about illegal street racing. Vin Diesel would cry like a toddler. And we would laugh our asses off.