It all started with a Friday email chain that ramped up with such ferocity that a challenge was proffered to name your Top 5 90s Action Movies. After lengthy debates JKrengel, AlainP, JimmyTV, and Baggs have come up with their lists. So come celebrate the days of yore when Bruce Willis still had hair, Keanu Reeves was the shit and then wasn’t and then was again, and Nicolas Cage pwned Hollywood.
Baggs Top 5
5) Independence Day (1996) – Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman
Look, even after our discussion on what was and wasn’t an action movie I just can’t leave ID4 off the list. It’s action at its core and the fact that it features a young and cocky Will Smith alongside Dr. Jeff Goldblum (look SOMEONE needs to just give him an honorary doctorate already) lands it at #5. It would have been higher if not for the sci-fi elements.
4) The Matrix (1999) – Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving
Yet another sci-fi action movie. My distinction is this, if almost all the action happens on a present day Earth using mostly present day technology it should be considered an action movie. Aside from a lot of explaining and talking at you damn near no action happens in the future, again though because of the sci-finess it gets bumped down a tad.
3) Con-Air (1997) – Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Here we go, into the “real” action movies. Cage with a flowing mane, a young and wide-eyed John Cusack, and Dave Chappelle SON!
As a side note is 1997 perhaps the best year for action-y movies ever? Con-Air, Volcano, Air Force One, The Jackal, Face/Off, Starship Troopers, Fifth Element, and Tomorrow Never Dies.
2) Speed (1994) [Otherwise known as “The Bus that Couldn’t Slow Down”] – Keanu Reeves, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper
Nothing quite says 90s action movie better than Speed. It is almost the quintessential 90s action movie, that also propelled Sandra Bullock to stardom. Besides there’s lots of bad touch on the dude’s head.
1) The Rock (1996) – Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery
Michael Bay’s second foray into blockbuster making was probably his best. Putting Cage with Connery is genius.
JimmyTV’s Top 5
A quick note, if you haven’t listened to the pod, stop reading now. Go listen to it. Otherwise a quick note, a lot of my favorite action movies in the 90s were also sci-fi movies. Here are movies that would have been in contention for spots if I hadn’t considered them to out there. The Matrix, Terminator 2, The Fifth Element, Stargate, special shout out to Ghost in the Shell (probably the only anime movie on this list, was a great inspiration in the making of The Matrix)
5) Executive Decision (1996) – Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, Steven Seagal(?)
Why was this movie brilliant? It killed off Steven Seagal in the first 30minutes of the movie!!! After that all bets were off. They had to find a sleeper, they had to disarm a bomb, AND they had to hit on the hot stewardess. This seemed a lot more plausible to me then Air Force One or Con Air. Why? I have no idea, but Halle Berry probably didn’t hurt. The crew that ended up on the plane of Russell, Oliver Platt, BD Wong, Joe Morton, and John Leguizamo was a delight in every way. Scene that sold the movie:
4) Demolition Man (1993) – Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Honestly, I could do a Krengs and AP Marvel thing with Cliffhanger(Stallone), Drop Zone(Snipes), and Speed(Bullock). In fact if I owned a movie theater that would happen every Saturday from 2-10pm. This gets the nod of those 4 for being uproariously funny, intentionally, and unintentionally. Bullock butchering colloquialisms, rat burgers, no cussing, Taco Bell, Schwarzenegger as President, no trading bodily fluids (high-fiving even), those god awful commercials. The list of “futuristic” gags goes on. Not to mention scene stealing from a snarky Rob Schneider and Denis Leary. Not to be overlooked are the parallels of this movie and Stallone making the Expendables to get action movies back to its roots, you could write a dissertation on that. Scene of the movie, a quick Leary monologue sums it up:
3) Starship Troopers (1997) – Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer
Why don’t I consider this a Sci-Fi movie? Great question. I honestly have no idea. The book is definitely Sci-Fi, but the movie really puts action front in center, so even though they are shooting the hell out of arachnids and stuffing drills in Brain Bugs, this is my third favorite action movie of the 90s. One that that ALWAYS “BUGS” me, is why does Van Dien have no spanish accent or look remotely Argentinian? Can we get Maradona or Messi out there instead? This was right when Richards was really starting to come into her own (attractiveness wise), which, in an action movie, more then makes up for horrific acting. Also had great supporting roles in Jake Busey and Michael Ironside. And of course, we have NPH as the scientific prodigy of his time. This set up the movie nicely.
2) Desperado (1995) – Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek
This movie makes my head explode in oh so many ways. Banderas being a sexy mariachi? Just grimey enough to make it plausible. A terrific supporting cast in Steve Buschemi, Quentin Tarantino, Cheech Marin, and Danny Trejo. If this movie JUST took place in the Cheech’s bar alone, it would be top 5 on this list. That is, Buschemi coming in and doing his thing, Tarantino coming in and telling his piss story, and then Banderas comes in…. “Not Yet…”. What pushes it into the second slot are Banderas cronies, one with a machine gun in two guitar cases, the other a bazooka, and of course, Salma Hayek. Holy God Salma Hayek. Kinda a cop out, but I’m just going to link to the trailer, BECAUSE, it something that always makes me smile, when the villain lights a match on the back of a dudes neck.
1) Under Siege (1992) – Steven Seagal, Gary Busey, and Tommy Lee Jones
Does anything else even need to be mentioned other then those three names? Seagal and Busey both did the bulk of their awesome work in the early 90s. Tommy Lee Jones as a villain was awesome, and even better as lead singer of Bad Billy and the Bail Jumpers. For the eye candy they got Erika Eleniak right out of Baywatch, right out of Playboy. Them making Seagal a “disgraced” (struck a senior officer for killing people) navy seal who lost his security clearance and as such could only as a cook, is AWESOME. Basically, for an hour and 45 minutes you are treated to Seagal kicking ass, and Busey and Jones being bad shit insane. It needs to be said, Jones is crazier then Busey in this. When has that ever been true in anything? But when it comes down to it, you have Seagal doing this:
JKrengel’s Top 5:
I grew up in the 90s. The first R-rated films I saw were 90s action films. However, per our Baggcast – Podcast, I have qualified my top 5 favorite action films to be those that:
a) are predominantly action (more so than any other genre traits – sci-fi, thriller, etc.)
b) the violence is over the top exhilarating (rather than horrific)
c) play on emotion and pacing (rather than logical/realistic plot points)
The truth of the matter is, the 90s are nostalgic for me. These were the years that I first found Sly, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Kurt Russell, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not a best of list; It’s a top 5 favorite list. For me, an action film is one that’s sensational, yet appeals to my humanity. These vulnerable heroes are the most interesting to me because weaknesses endear me to them. It’s this emotional connection that allows me to forget about the flaws of the film and outrageous plot points that drive the story. Instead, I’m whisked away into a world, rooting for the unlikely hero.
4) The Rock
3) Face / Off
2) Terminator 2: Judgement Day
1) Die Hard: With A Vengeance
Alainp’s Top 5:
Oh how I agonized over this list. In whittling down the choices, I chose movies that exemplified the signature aspects of this decade’s films. These movies made you laugh as they kicked your ass with unapologetically bombastic action and were completely rich with character.
5. Bad Boys (1995)
Two sitcom stars in the (then) height of their careers give hilarious performances as best bud cops who couldn’t be more different in Michael Bay’s first feature film. Bay’s intense angles and glitzy set pieces highlight the action and jokes (instead of drowning you in his f/x as he does now) in this blockbuster that has a well-plotted climax of action and sitcom-style mishap comedy.
4. Goldeneye (1995)
James Bond’s triumphant return and first post-Cold War film went a bit in meta in depicting 007 and MI-6 as a whole a little lost in their mission after the fall of the Soviet Union. Pierce Brosnan won me over with his ever-smirking, unexpectedly vicious portrayal of Bond and Goldeneye can never be forgotten for the milestone N64 shooter it brought to my generation.
3. Speed (1994)
The awesomely simply plot of this iconic movie leads to one of the most non-stop thrilling action movies I’ve ever seen. Keanu Reeves pulls off one of his rare good performances- made even stronger by Dennis Hooper’s villain continuously heckling Jack for being a bit of a moron. This movie is how you do “Die Hard on a ________.” Speaking of:
2. The Rock (1996)
A villain with a sympathetic cause, a double hostage situation on Alcatraz and the city of San Francisco as a whole and one of the best “old pro and new guy” dynamics ever portrayed in action cinema make this my favorite non-Die Hard action film. The Sorkin-punched up script gives Connery and Cage so much material to play off of and again Bay masterfully directs for your eyes AND your brain in his sophomore effort. Never forget:
1. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
Another 1995. What can I say? This movie is everything a sequel to the best action movie ever made should be. The situation is just as unique, but still gives you the paranoid feeling of enclosure of the 1988 film, despite the expanded NYC local. The movie perfect straddles the line of feeling like the source material but being something new. Vengeance even solves the “sequel improbability” problem by its 2nd act when you realize that this shitty day for McClane was personally planned against him.