I have decided that after being traumatized by the suck of Transformers I will share some of what I consider great action films and why you should see them. Many you've probably seen, or at least heard of, but I think I might have a few surprises for you.
Action films often spread through several different genres of film, so don't be surprised if I list some sci-fi, horror, or animated films. I define an action film via the filmmaker's purpose to use violence and spectacle to give the audience some sort of entertaining, emotion reaction. As such, I'm not going to list any war films, primarily because the violence in these films are used for more dramatic purposes and are rarely meant for entertainment.
These are in no particular order -- Film IDie Hard
(1988) - Directed by John McTiernan, starring Bruce Willis, Allan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, and Reginald VelJohnson.Why You Should See It
-- Because it's the most influential American action film of the last 20 years. It made Bruce Willis into a badass and started the "Die Hard on a ____" series of films. What makes Die Hard
stand out from all of its imitators are the characters. The audience cares for John McClane because it's obvious that he just a regular joe who happens to be a cop (and a damn good cop to boot).
John McClane suffers throughout this film, either emotionally with the separation from his wife or physically by fighting the terrorists. C'mon, who doesn't cringe when McClane has to run across the broken glass in his bare feet? But, the other characters in the film are also great. McClane's wife is smart, strong, and a fully formed female character in a genre that isn't known for them. The villains are gloriously formed and funny as hell. And who can forget Ellis?
Another aspect of Die Hard I really enjoy is McClane's struggle to adjust to the West Coast, no limits 80's lifestyle. McClane feels lost in the excesses and wishes for simpler, quieter times. It's actually a theme that one finds in several action films, where the masculine characters have trouble dealing with changing cultural values and opinions of societies -- and, apparently, the new Die Hard film explores this idea as well.
Best Splosion -- The rooftop explosion, where McClane has to bungee jump with a fire hose to escape from being burnt extra crispy.
One Liner -- "Yippie Kie Yay, motherf@$%r!"
Film IIThe Wild Bunch
(1969)-- Directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan.Why You Should See It
-- Because it's one of the first Westerns to portray violence in realistic, gory detail. The violence in this film goes beyond the glorification normally found in most action movies and actually makes the viewers uneasy while viewing such destruction.
Plus, this is another film that deals with the theme of a group of men facing the changing times. Set during the Mexican Civil War, the group of bank robbers and desperadoes are a band of brothers who are falling apart because the Wild West ain't so Wild anymore. The brotherhood of outlaws is broken, because government officials are forcing a former member to hunt down the gang. And both groups soon find that the outlaw ways they stand for are nothing compared to the grand scale corruption and violence of the "law".
Best Splosion -- The opening and closing gun fights are legendary and bloody.
One Liner -- "If they move, kill 'em."
Film IIIThe Searchers
(1956) -- Directed by John Ford, Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, and Natalie Wood.Why You Should See It
-- For perhaps John Ford's best film (and that's saying something) and John Wayne's best acting. I've used the previous two films to talk about how the past and the future come together for the heroes. It happens here, in a slightly different way. John Wayne's character, Ethan, is a man who lives in and is haunted by the past, particularly past tragic run in with Comanche Indians. Ethan is a complex character -- a man in love with his brother's wife, a racist, and a man hellbent on revenge and on a rescue mission all at the same time. The themes of this movie make it one of the most complex Westerns, and the fact that Ford and Wayne embrace these complexities makes for an incredible film.
-- This isn't a splosion film, although there are some fine action pieces. However, one of the most chilling scenes is when Ethan shoots out the eyes of a dead Comanche.
-- "So we'll find 'em in the end, I promise you. We'll find 'em. Just as sure as the turnin' of the earth."Film IVUnforgiven
(1992) -- Directed by and Starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris.Why You Should See It
-- Because Eastwood masterfully deconstructs the mythology and legend worship of the Wild West to show that hired killers and wild gunmen aren't heroes. And neither are the law men most of the time. Eastwood also continues the gritty, realistic violence found in The Wild Bunch
and the character complexities and past haunted aura found in The Searchers
-- Again, not much on the splosion scale for this one, but there's plenty of violence that both entices and horrifies the audience at the same time. The best example is the final confrontation in the whore house.
-- "All right, I'm coming out. Any man I see out there, I'm gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I'm not only gonna kill him, but I'm gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down. "Film V
The Outlaw Josey Wales
(1976) -- Directed by and Starring Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, and John Vernon.Why You Should See It --
One of the first films directed by Clint Eastwood, he begins using some of the same themes that would evolve into through the years and appear in Unforgiven
. Eastwood plays Josey Wales, a Confederate soldier who lives to hunt down the Union soldiers who killed his family with no provocation.
However, the Civil War has ended, and all of Josey's gang turns themselves in. Josey won't do it though, and that's why he survives the slaughter of the gang. Persued by his former commander, along with the man who ordered Josey's family and gang killed, Josey makes a run for Mexico, picking up travellers along the way. Josey, like serveral of the other heroes I've mentioned here, is trapped in the past, but must learn to adapt to survive. This theme is used again in the Cherokee Indian Chief, Lone Watie (played by Chief Dan George), who has survived government oppresion and the Trail of Tears. Like Josey, Lone Watie must forge new alliances and try to move on from the past.
Best Splosion --
Josey mows down some conniving Union soldiers with a Gatlin Gun.
One Liner -- "
I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender. They have him pulling a wagon up in Kansas I bet."Film VIThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ( Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo)
(1967) -- Directed by Sergio Leone, Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef).Why You Should See It --
Because it actually has splosions. That and Leone makes the most epic Western ever, giving nods to past Westerns while breaking all the conventional rules that had stifled the genre for so long in Hollywood. Many people think of Leone as the man who brought heavy violence to the Western, which is true to a point, but it must be remembered that Leone also almost fetishized the buildup to the violence gunfights found in his Westerns. Leone was all about exploring and deconstructing the rituals found in the violence of the Western genre, and, as he did so, Leone resurrected and profoundly changed these films.Best Splosion --
Well, Eastwood and Wallach's characters, Bondie and Tuco, come upon a Civil War battle with lots of splosions. But, the height of action is the three way duel between Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes.One Liner
-- "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."
Labels: action, guest, movies