Growing up in my generation meant having my impressionable years shaped by the heyday of the mega action flick. The 1980s made the greatest and worst action movies, a run that spilled over into the 90s, but fizzled as that decade went on – with no small thanks to the profitability of the PG-13 rating and death of the mega action movie star. Since I got to experience that pinnacle of cinema, I am not too bitter that the genre is now crippled.
With the release of Expendables II, a throwback to the glory years (which incidentally stars most of its prized crop), I got a hankering for some good ole guns with endless bullets, preposterous plots, one-liners, meathead acting, and gratuitous boobies. Hence, I decided to throw up a post honoring the art of mindless action, or KABOOM! But why go the easy route and write about the best? Any dolt can tell you that the very best action movie of all time is Die Hard, unless you open up the contest to sci-fi, then you have a coin toss between that and Terminator 2 (with calls for Aliens completely justified – but ultimately wrong). I mean, they teach this shit in preschool. (If not, then I really wonder where our tax dollars are going.)
What I came here to do is chew bubble gum, kick ass, and ponder that in which I enjoy more than the great action flick: The hilariously bad action flick. Below, you shall enter a realm of cheese, explosions, failed one-liners, continuity gaffes, and poor direction, all of which is trumped by even more dismal acting. To be clear, this is a list of not just bad, rather funny-bad boom-bang movies. That little distinction is enormous. It is the difference between hating your movie-going experience and crying because you are laughing so hard. If you want to tag along and watch any of these gems, a stiff drink and comical friends are highly recommended – but not required.
1. To keep the list dynamic, one rule I established right away was that an actor can only be the lead in one movie on the list. This made a couple decisions very difficult (Sorry, Big Trouble in Little China)… one of which proved too difficult, so I broke it (BTiLC, “Fuck you, Judas!”), but I can TOTALLY justify it (and I will when I get to it, I swear, BTiLC). Oddly enough, Kurt Russell was the star I had the most difficulty with.
2. I kept out movies that I thought were gunning for being intentionally funny over a straight up action flick, i.e. Death Race 2000. I also excluded those that were more bizarre than humorous, i.e. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (even the title is puzzling). Once again, I may have broken this rule.
3. I stayed in my wheelhouse, meaning that I excluded Charlie Bronson (Death Wish III) and Chuck Norris (Invasion USA). They were already well past their prime by the time I got into the genre… and it was much easier to whittle down the list without them.
You might be surprised how difficult it is to limit a list absolutely no one will care about to only ten. Ergo, the following are films I thought needed recognition for their hard work and hilarity. I gladly recommend any of these for a drunken viewing.
300 The most testosterone-fueled flick since… um, is this the most testosterone-fueled flick ever? It just does not hold up very well to multiple viewings and is a bit too serious.
Any Jean Claude van Damme Movie This list could be made entirely out of JCvD flicks and it would be rock solid. In fact, his entire catalog is made of nothing but bad action movies. Being my and my cousin’s favorite action hero growing up, means that his flicks are perfect for prepubescent boys, i.e. perfect stupid action.
Battlefield Earth This one is a victim of its own terribleness. Sure, there are many laughs in this Scientology epic turd, but there is too much pain to make it a completely enjoyable experience.
Big Trouble in Little China Oh BTiLC, how I love thee. I actually do really enjoy this movie. It makes as much sense as if David Lynch would have directed it, but what keeps it going is its pace combined with Kurt Russell’s John Wayne impression and constant confusion throughout the flick. Its like he is watching the movie right along with us.
Double Team Premier Bad action movie genuis, Jean Claude van Damme, teams up with bad boy basketball star, Dennis Rodman, to deliver a movie that is exactly that. Two stars were signed up, then a script was written around it. An exploding Colosseum filled with Coke machines makes for one of the less subtle product placement campaigns in the history of man.
Escape From LA John Carpenter is so hard to figure out. He has made some ground-breaking films (Halloween, The Thing), some truly awful movies (In the Mouth of Madness, Memoirs of an Invisible Man), and then some where you think he is in on the joke (They Live, BTiLC). Escape From LA falls into one of the last two categories. It surely is garbage, but is Carpenter screwing with us? Whatever. Give Carpenter Kurt Russell and the man cannot lose.
Point Break Premise: An ex college football stud (Keanu Reeves) turned FBI agent goes undercover to track a bad-ass surfer gang who rob banks in ex US presidents masks. Result: Gold. Patrick Swayze plays Bodhi, head of the bandits and yes, he is an expert in surfing, fighting, sky diving, and robbing banks.
Predator The true tragedy on this list. My reasoning for keeping it out was that it was less ridiculous/funny than its rival Arnold movie that was inducted. Still, the powerhouse line-up of Arnold, Jesse Ventura, Carl “Action Jackson” Weathers, the great bad action movie role player Billy Duke, and Sonny Landham (AKA the Indian dude) is among the finest action casts assembled for a movie.
Robocop I simply never got into the Robocop movies and I apologize. From what I gather, one should be in this list.
1 – Number of films on the list which is not rated R or NC-17 (honestly, I was surprised that many made it).
80s – 5, 90s – 3, 00 – 2 Going into this, I would not have guessed that the naughts would have bagged two (both do have question marks). 1985, 89, and 91 all have two representatives on the list.
3,256 – Gallons of booze I have drank while watching these movies. (Alright, I admit, I am including the honorable mentions as well.)
4 – Plots that are believable in their basic, stripped down overview (and being very courteous).
0 – Academy Awards won by the movies.
4.1 – Lowest rating by a movie on the list from IMDb.
6.8 – Highest rating.
The first entry on the list shall follow shortly… if you can find it.