15 Smart Moments in 'Dumb' Action Movies
“Movies are meant to be seen in a theater.” -David Lynch, in his sleep, probably. That screen is huge, them speakers is big, and you really feel it when the swords start clinking in Ring of Steel, you know? Action movies are so great in a theater, we barely care what's actually on screen. We'll eat up any half-baked casserole Hollywood'll slop down our throats, as long as it promises to have no nutritional value. Right? Wrong. Even the greasiest double-bacon steakburger with extra spicy slop sauce has a sprig of parsley as its garnish. Here are 15 surprisingly smart moments in dumb action movies:
Road House: “Be Nice"
Flickr: Brandon Powell Smith
Dalton's “be nice” speech is not only good advice for bouncers, it's good advice for life. There's something powerful about knowing you're able to physically dominate someone who is threatening you but instead resolving the conflict with peace. Maybe they'll figure out how to work Gandhi into the reboot, because he could kick all kinds of ass and was like ‘nah.’
Point Break: Bodie Can't Resist Poetry
Shutterstock: Stefano Chiacchiarini '74
There's a lot that's smart about a movie where a cop gives up the badge to be a surfer, but we particularly love Bodie's “us against the system” speech. “To those dead souls inching along the freeway in their metal coffins, we show them the human spirit is still alive," might sound like the bogus ramblings of a directionless young idealist, but our unwillingness to give up Work From Home after COVID lockdowns proves the bank-robbing surfer with a death wish had a point.
Rambo: First Blood and The Lingering Effects Of War
Before he was a ripped-up stereotype of an 80s action hero, John Rambo was a cautionary tale about a society that treats its combat veterans poorly. The “nothing is over” speech is a picture of a man fighting an endless battle against a corrupt system that sent him to a bogus war where his brain was warped forever. In Rambo II, he goes back and wins Vietnam. In real life, PTSD treatment is both necessary and difficult to come by for too many veterans.
Air Force One: “Get Off My Plane.”
“Get off my plane” is a line spoken by President Harrison Ford while he punches a terrorist off the plane. Occupying federal government territory without permission is a bad thing to do. Gotta be honest, we thought this was common knowledge, but January 6th, 2021 proved that “get off my plane” was esoteric knowledge, unreachable to only but the most learned scholars and keepers of wisdom.
The Fast and The Furious: Dom's Monologue About His Dad
Shutterstock: FUN FUN PHOTO
This monologue boils down to “tomorrow is never guaranteed, live your life to the fullest,” but it's so much more than that. The love Dom has for his dad, the specificity of his memories, the visceral way Vin Diesel feels the scene—it's quality stuff. It “show don't tell"-s the live life to the fullest message and lays the groundwork for his whole “salud mi famillia” attitude throughout the franchise.
John Wick's Elliptical World-Building
Wikimedia Commons: Dmitry Pechenkov
John Wick is the definition of a simple shoot-em-up action movie, but it's so much more than that, you guys. Besides the awesome fight choreography and beautiful set design and adrenaline-pumping premise, the fact that the secret assassin world is revealed so slowly to the audience is a genuine treat. When Viggo explains to an incredulous Theon Greyjoy who John Wick is, you get the sense that this underground world is so vast even its own players are still learning things. A lesser movie would have exposition every other line. John Wick just dumps us into the Continental without so much as a Kevlar vest.
Immortan Joe's Shredding Intimidation
Wikimedia Commons: RyC - Behind the Lens
Music has been used throughout history to motivate troops marching off to war. The British Empire had their silly snare drum rudiments, Japanese warriors had Taiko drums, the US military has Barney. It might seem silly for Immortan Joe to spend precious resources keeping the Doof Warrior on payroll, but that strategy is firmly rooted in military history.
Kingdom of Heaven: Drink Water For What It Is
After Saladin routs the Crusading troops, he offers Guy de Lusignan a proto-snow cone. Guy doesn't drink it, but hands it to Raynald of Châtillon, who says “I drink water for what it is.” Bummer for Raynald: this gets him executed. BUT! We here at Cracked definitely recommend drinking water when in the desert. We do not recommend crusading, though.
Quantum of Solace Predicts Water Crisis
Wikimedia Commons: www.GlynLowe.com
It is not the best James Bond movie, we know. But it was right about water being the next resource billionaires will try to hoard, which is a threat we should take seriously. There are Dominic Greenes among us, right now.
Speed Lets Its B Characters Shine
Apparently, the bus passengers in Speed thought they were going to be in wayyyy more of the movie. Even if the final film is more of a straightforward action flick focused on its beautiful two future Lake House-starring leads, the extra care and backstory on the B character shines through the final film.
Demolition Man Is Right About Everything
Flickr: Jon Divens
Cracked has covered how we're inching towards a Demolition Man future and what the film has already predicted before. If Denis Leary and his crew had been eating crickets instead of rats, we'd maybe have to have conversations about how this movie needs to be officially canonized as a prophecy.
The Mummy At Least Tries With Its Languages
Contrary to what the internet might tell you, The Mummy is not a perfect film. We know, the re-watch where we realized that stuff broke our hearts, too. But something we think deserves credit is how Imhotep did not rise from the sarcophagus speaking like Laurence Olivier. There are various historical accuracies and inaccuracies, but we're glad The Mummy at least gives a nod to the fact that Ancient Egyptians made different sounds with their face-holes than Grand Moff Tarkin.
Han is Enlightened About Money In The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift
Riffing slightly on Bodie's speech from Point Break, Han says knowing a person's character is more important than money or cars. We'll learn in Fast Five that Han pulled the score of a lifetime before going to Tokyo, so he's talking from the privileged perspective of already having money. That said, money hasn't changed his fundamental moral principles—the same cannot be said for every human being who scores a life-changing amount of cash by breaking into a Brazilian police station and driving a safe through the streets of Rio.
2 Fast 2 Furious: “We Ain't Hungry”
Okay, okay, probably two too many F&F movies to include, but we can't resist having #2 being 2 Fast 2 Furious. After that “perspective about money” crap from the last entry, we should say money is still important. Roman steals stacks of cash from some cops and tells Brian “we ain't hungry no more.” In the later movies, the Toretto family are rich enough to blow up whatever cars they want. Early on, though, these were movies about people on the fringes of society who didn't necessarily know where their next meal was coming from. It's a cliche that these movies end with cookouts, but that's because cookouts are maybe the best thing to spend money on.
Last Action Hero Was Ahead Of Its Time
Despite being a critical and commercial flop, Last Action Hero is an excellent movie that basically predicted the internet and sites like, well, the very one you are on right now. The video store scene, where Danny deconstructs the set around him to prove they are in movie—everybody has a 555 number, there are no average-looking women, Arnold's been replaced by Stallone in Terminator 2—is a genius distillation of not just 80s action cliches, but movie cliches. You deserved to come out in 2013, not 1993, Last Action Hero.