1980s Action Movies

Where's my shirt? How come I can outrun explosions on foot? Why can't any of these terrorists shoot straight? Oh yeah, I'm an action hero and it's the 1980s!

Just The Facts

  1. The 1980's was an era that celebrated excess- inspiring big hair, big sunglasses and big budget movies
  2. Also, there must have been some kind of cocaine tsunami in Hollywood at the time
  3. Seriously, some of the action movies born in this era aren't so much films as they are an attempt to high-five god...

The 80's equation

Here at Cracked we have a crack team (or a cracked team, I guess) dedicated to the hard science questions that other scientists are too afraid to ask. While other academics stay in the safe paddling pool of quantum physics, our Cracked Uber Science Squad (CUSS!) are treading the deeps of human knowledge, punching the giant sharks of ignorance right in their stupid faces. While the other Cracked columnists retire to their luxury villas in the evenings, the CUSS! are still locked in the basement, eating lit cigarettes and injecting hot coffee into their eyeballs, completely dedicated to their never ending quest to find God and slap him in the face with fact and evidence.

Where indeed? He can't hide forever...

When you ask the CUSS! a question, you'd better be ready to have an answer shoved all the way up your dick hole...

So it was no surprise that, after we slid our note carefully under their door and ran the hell away, the next day there was a neat stack of paper on our desk, with a careful message inked in what looked like vomit.

Our question? What makes 80's action films so much better than in other eras.

The answer at first appeared to be a mindless gibberish of unfathomable equations;

Homo-Eroticism + Right wing politics + steroid abuse > infinite ammo + jean claude van damme + explosion (Factor for Norris effect?) Divide by breakfast club and compensate for pectoral shine to the power of sass mouth...

It carried on like this for three pages. Until, there at the end, speckled with bone marrow, was the perfect, obvious, awe inspiring conclusion;

Black sidekick - Foreign accent and divide by logic = YIPPEE KI YAY MOTHER FUCKER

We sat back in our chairs, awed by the simple beauty of it all and safe in the knowledge that, while life may seem chaotic, science could find a way to make sense of anything.

The Birth and Death of Awesome

Pinpointing the emergence of the 80's action hero is relatively simple- it's just a question of evolution. We already had the tough talking Phillip Marlowes of film noir, the one-man-army shootists of the spaghetti western and the death or glory soldiers of America's take on World War II (The Revenge or the World Wars). Add to this the success of kung-fu cinema and super sass mouth of blaxploitation flicks and all the pieces are there.

Now all we need are the right circumstances. Cue the 80's, where Reaganism values and an added emphasis on financial gain lead to a culture where patriotism was redefined as the indelible right to success in all its forms.

Also a shitload of coke.

Pictured: original script for Die Hard

And there we have it- the birth of the average blue collar joe, who plays by his own rules, defeats improbable odds, gets the girl and incidentally is built like a tank made flesh. The 80's action hero wasn't just the American dream. He was America. High-fiving and shit-talking his way to the to the top of the world, shortly before blowing it up and fading to the credits (cue Journey's Don't stop believing).

So what happened to him? Did he run out of people to shoot? Did the beer and cigars finally catch up to him? Did the Chief actually decide to hold onto his badge and gun for longer than twenty-four hours this time?

No. The 80's action hero was killed off by, of all things, a girl.

Fuck you

It wasn't long before Hollywood cottoned on to the fact that you didn't need to have muscles and a beard to fight foreigners. With the coming infatuation with miniaturization, smaller, sleeker action heroes began to take the stage, using fancy-dancy kung fu that exceeded the tried and tested 'rage and roundhouse kick' combo that had always been good enough for its predecessors.

With girl power coming out in force, and with special effects lending a helping hand, it soon became apparent that the ability to crush a polar bear's neck with your biceps was a redundant quality in a protagonist. By the mid nineties, if you saw a waif thin blonde girl squaring off against 300-pound wrestling god with a chainsaw dick, you'd be more than certain that blondey was going to kick some ass without breaking a sweat.

Invincible, apparently.

The 80's action hero had gone the way of the dinosaur. Changing politics and attitudes had made him redundant and replaced him with younger, sleeker, less intimidating models. The story of the 80's action hero is very much the story of the American car industry, the classics slowly replaced in time by models that, though in countless ways superior, will never be quite as awesome.

Yippee Ki List Mother Lister

You and I both knew it would come to this. Now take off your shirt and get sweaty, 'cos its list making time! The Exploding Top Ten 80's Action Movies List-plosion! In exploding chronological order! Explode!

The Road Warrior (1981)

Directed by: George Miller

These days everybody knows that 'post-apocalyptic' is a code-word for 'awesome' but before Mad Max, it was just a collection of confusing syllables. This punk reinvention of the western hero foots the list because of it's fine honing of the 'fuck you' attitude that would become the back bone of 80's action hero personality.

Death Wish 3 (1985)

Directed by: Michael Winner

In one film Charles Bronson achieves with a mustache and a pistol what a platoon of commandos might achieve in their entire careers. If Charles Bronson was your father, chances are you would be born at the speed of sound into the forehead of a commie.

Commando (1985)

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Arnie flexes his muscles and kills absolutely everything in a film that was clearly scripted by a chimp with tourettes. An angry, exploding chimp.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Part II successfully addresses the flaws in Rambo: First Blood, and removes the sensitivity and dialogue in favor of man sweat and bullet storms. Sly Stallone seems to have glued basketballs to his torso for some reason...

Aliens (1986)

Directed by: James Cameron

Theoretically, Aliens is a sci-fi film, and theoretically Sigourney Weaver is a woman, but that doesn't stop this big-budget sequel epitomizing the 80's action film. Despite her obvious penis disadvantage, Weaver has a believable toughness and grit that make her more than a match for her male counterparts. She is one of the best examples of a female action hero- before the definition of the role required actresses to be gormless walking skeletons coated in rubber and eye-liner.

The Delta Force (1986)

Directed By: Menahem Golan

You know all those Chuck Norris facts everybody used to go on about? Turns out they're all true.

Predator (1987)

Directed by: John McTiernan

This film's sci-fi pretensions take a back seat to the writhing mass of sweaty muscle that is it's cast. From the moment Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger lock hands in an arm flexing, world-shaking greeting, you know you are witnessing something so manly that it's actually kinda gay. There is a girl in this movie, but she only gets any attention when all the men are dead.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Directed by: Richard Donner

Riggs and Murtaugh epitomize the quintessential bickering buddy cops, and do more for race relations than a billion Martin Luthor Kings. "I'm too old for this shit"? No, Mr. Glover, you are not.

Bloodsport (1988)

Directed by: Newt Arnold

American martial arts films in the 80's always seemed to fall embarrassingly short of their Asian counterparts. After all, why use martial arts when you have a gun the size of a dog clutched in your muscle bound fingers? Van Damme, however, created a believable bridge between American action sensibilities and Oriental punchery.

Die Hard (1988)

Directed by: John McTiernan

The last hurrah of the 80's action hero, Die Hard ended the era on a high note. 40 stories high. 40 stories of awesome. John McClane stripped the 80's action hero of all his natural advantages (his steroids, his automatic weapons, his shoes) and showed us what true heroism really was- being a dick to foreigners.