“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"

Patrick Swayze as Dalton

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

Point Break VHS

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.”

Air Force One

Flickr: sistarbora31

“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

Dominic Toretto waxwork

Shutterstock: FUN FUN PHOTO

Flash poll: is this actually Vin Diesel, a wax sculpture, or leaked images from an unreleased Dominic Toretto Pixar movie? 

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

John Wick

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

Doof Warrior

Wikimedia Commons: RyC - Behind the Lens

The Doof Warrior, seen here smiling on a rare day off

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. 

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

Han admiring snacks

Flickr: tokyolondrina

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”

Paul Walker

Flickr: donnarowland7

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

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