Why is it that the 80’s action movies are still considered a gold standard for action movies? Why, when people talk about the action movie genre, do they refer back to the 80’s? The answer may lie in the fact that we feel nostalgic about those days. Remember the opening night of “Rambo: First Blood Part II” with your friends and family? Remember watching “Commando” with your dad? Remember going to see “The Terminator” with your mom on her birthday? Yeah, me too.
Well, you know what happens when you watch a bunch of 80’s action movies back-to-back for the first time in like twenty years? You remember why they were so great and how different they were from today’s action movies. Today, Hollywood has gotten lazy and formulaic in its storytelling. The stakes are not as high anymore and once you have seen one movie of this type, you have pretty much seen them all. There is no denying it: 80’s action movies rule.
Why We Love 80s Action Movies
When compared to today’s action movies, 80s action movies easily win for several reasons. First of all, they are just so much fun to watch! The stories are better and the characters are more memorable; you tend to care about what happens to them even when you know they will survive at the end of the movie. There is something about these movies that makes them more entertaining than today’s lackluster releases. Maybe it is because some of them were inspired by iconic Hollywood filmmakers like John Carpenter (who helped create “Halloween”) and John McTiernan (who helped create “Predator”).
The characters are also more memorable because they all have special skills that make them unique. In the 80s, every character was a superhero in their way. Remember “Commando”? Arnold Schwarzenegger uses his bare hands to kill a bunch of bad guys. Or how about “Die Hard 2: Die Harder”? Bruce Willis survives an explosion that destroys a building! You cannot do that in today’s action movies!
Another reason why we love 80s action movies so much is because of the music. The soundtracks for these movies were just awesome. You knew you were watching an 80s action movie when you heard that music kick in during the opening credits. And speaking of credits, there is one last thing we love about these movies: The end credits! How awesome are the end credits for these movies? They are so cheesy and so badly done, but it is part of what makes them great. That is what separates 80s action movies from today’s formulaic films with their computer-generated explosions and poor storytelling.
The Most Popular Action Movies of the 80’s
“Die Hard” (1988)
Die Hard is the quintessential action movie of the 80’s. It was a great movie that spawned a handful of sequels and became a cultural phenomenon. “Die Hard” is one of those movies that you just have to see before you die. Sure, there were other action movies before it, but they were nothing like this. “Die Hard” redefined what an action movie could be and we are all better off for it.
As with many other 80’s action movies, “Predator” has become a classic because it is such an entertaining movie to watch. It is filled with memorable lines and scenes that are just as quotable today as they were back in 1987 when the movie premiered in theaters. Just ask anyone who has ever watched this movie and they will tell you: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
“48 Hours” (1982)
This may be the most underrated 80s action movies out there because it is still so fresh in our memories from when we used to watch it on HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax back in the day. “48 Hours” has everything: action, comedy, a charismatic cast, and great acting from Eddie Murphy when he was really good. If you have not seen it, stop reading this article and watch it now.
“Revenge of the Nerds” (1984)
The popularity of this movie is great proof that even nerds can be cool if they are just themselves. “Revenge of the Nerds” is a classic 80s film because we all remember playing Dungeons and Dragons, Pac-Man, and watching these movies during our adolescence. It was never about being the best-looking or smartest person in our school; it was all about having fun and being yourself. This movie captures that spirit perfectly.
“Predator 2” (1990)
This is pretty much a remake of “Predator,” but with one major difference: Danny Glover is in it! Glover plays the protagonist Detective Harrigan who must team up with the Predator to stop a gang of drug dealers from killing everyone in Los Angeles. Unexpectedly funny at times, “Predator 2” is one of those rare sequels that have a movie of its own that is not nearly as good as the original.
“Lethal Weapon” (1987)
This movie has been remade twice, but it is still clearly better than both of them. “Lethal Weapon” is one of those movies that define an entire era in action movies. It was a showcase for what action heroes could be like and gave us one of the most iconic action duo characters in movie history: Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. You can see how it influenced other 80s action movies by just looking at their names.
“Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990)
Just like “Die Hard,” “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” has become known as a classic action movie because it was such a great sequel to the original. It helped establish Bruce Willis as an A-list actor, and it also showed us that he was one of the coolest guys onscreen back in his day. “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” has aged a little bit over the years, but it remains an enjoyable watch if you love 80s action movies and love Bruce Willis.
“Lethal Weapon 2” (1989)
“Lethal Weapon 2” is another classic action movie that was so popular that it spawned a franchise. And you cannot blame the studio for wanting to make more because, just like the first film, “Lethal Weapon 2” was an excellent action movie that had everything a great 80s action movie should have: a compelling story, great acting and not to mention plenty of explosions. It also helped put Mel Gibson on the map as an actor and showed us why he would become such a prolific filmmaker later in his career.