On Action

Working within the framework of the lengthy Baggpod (I have to admit, I haven’t yet attentively listened to the entire thing) and the posting of the lists, I’d like to offer a few comments / observations.

Can you reasonably extricate sci-fi from action?

I would say it’s not possible (or more pertinent to our discussion, you wouldn’t want to). For JimmyTV to exclude the Matrix or T2 from a list of best action movies is absolutely unreasonable. Sci-fi has deep deep roots in the action genre and it’s not fun to try to separate them.

Does an action movie have to be a blockbuster?

The Top 5 lists of the ITB contribs is dominated by movies that would be classified by most people as a “blockbuster”.1 The only outlier I’d say is Desperado, which appears on only one list and had a budget of only $7 million (it would be interesting to add budgets to my spreadsheet). There have been plenty of terrible and unsuccessful (and both) action movies, but they’re still action movies and they’re still blockbusters. Certainly through necessity, most action movies are expensive to make, will therefore be expected to earn the most money, and would therefore be presented as blockbusters. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Do these exceptions generally make more interesting, entertaining, or “important” action movies?

Are “thriller” and “adventure” sub-genres of action?

Most of the time they are. But to make a more authentic list of the best “action” movies, what if you excluded movies that had these elements?  And if you wanted to get really masochistic, yes, you could include “sci-fi”. But I just talked about how much your list is going to suck if you exclude them. More important than taxonomy is taste. Thriller and adventure offer easy shorthand to know if an action movie is going to suit you. I prefer thriller-action and adventure-action to straight action.

Can an action movie be a family and/or animated movie?

It’s not explicitly discussed by the ITB crew, but I’m guessing they would say that no, family movies and animated movies are not action movies. Action in family movies tends to rollicking slapstick and therefore would maybe not be deemed “serious” enough for  action movie consideration. And animated movies by-and-large ARE family movies. But I, personally, would not be true to myself if I wrote this article without mentioning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. To me this (and perhaps a certain sequel with a certain white rapper) IS an action movie. Maybe not worthy of a Top 5 list, but still an action movie. There are others (jk with that one). As for animation, I’m going to bust one all over your pretty little faces in my list. Let’s just get to it then.. in no particular order:

Princess Mononoke (1997)


Watch that trailer. Now watch it again IN YOUR MIND as live-action. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Days of Thunder (1990)


Perhaps this has more 80s action DNA in it than 90s, but I WILL WATCH IT if given the chance. How about the racing sub-genre of action? Is it the most removed from typical action genres because there’s no hand-to-hand (or gun-to-face) combat?

Cliffhanger (1993)

Remember up there when I said I liked thriller and adventure movies? How about a thrilling adventure with Sly Stallone, The Rook (oh shit, that’s two in a ROW!), and Leon?

Army of Darkness (1992)


Not a blockbuster… a fantasy comedy! But undeniably an action movie.

Michael Bay

To me, this man defined raw, unadulterated 90s action. Everything that was good and everything that was bad.

  1. “one that is notably expensive, effective, successful, large, or extravagant” according to Websters

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11 years ago

first of all Princess Mononoke is obviously a fantasy movie, in the same vein but of superior quality with the likes of The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story. Second, chrst why is Frank smiling like that in Cliffhanger? As to your point about Terminator 2 and The Matrix, I don’t really consider The Matrix to be a “90’s action” movie, kind of like what you were saying about how Days of Thunder is more 80s. And Terminator 2 is too good of a movie to be on the same list of things I was going for.

11 years ago
Reply to  JimmyTV_ITB

so can fantasy movies not be action movies? and if a movie is as good as T2 it transcends the action genre?… this is WAY too complicated @JimmyTV_ITB 

11 years ago

So is fantasy by definition not an action movie? And was the article suppose to a list of “90s Action Movies”.. or “Action movies that came out in the 90s”?
Frank is clearly a psychopath

11 years ago

So is fantasy by definition not an action movie? And was the article suppose to a list of “90s Action Movies”.. or “Action movies that came out in the 90s”?
Frank is clearly a psychopath