November is nearing its end, Thanksgiving’s about to double our body weight, and the snow’s piling up in many places around the states. It’s that special time of the year when going outside means brutal cold and climate sadness, so the best thing to do is cuddle up with Netflix, any and all streaming services, or maybe even an archaic DVD, and have a movie marathon. But in the bitter darkness of winter, only one type of film lightens the spirit and heats the blood correctly, and that’s the action film.
In recent years, action cinema has become synonymous with idiotic heroes screaming their way through raucous, poorly directed fare, with the loud monotony frequently being punctuated by explosions that probably cost as much as entire indie pictures. In light of this, we should remind ourselves of the sublimely dumb, awesome action flicks that paved the way for current Hollywood idiocy, and certain newer films that stand out among the dribble.
Here is a warming cocktail of ten classic and new films that will satiate your action film lust.
Nothing is quite as epic as Sigourney Weaver in a mech suit taking on the mother of all aliens. Not quite as scary as the original movie, but far more thrilling, due in part to a whole lot more xenomorphs and one very alarming little face-hugger scene.
No one will ever be as good a wingman as Goose, ever. Also, it’s the last time any of us took Val Kilmer seriously. Few films are as iconic as this fighter jet-, motorcycle- and sunset-filled masterpiece.
James Cameron outdoes himself with the best of the franchise, not only because of Arnold’s one-handed shotgun antics, but also because no robot will ever be quite as badass as a villainous assassin composed of liquid (death) metal.
Arguably the best action flick ever made, this epic shootout between a shoeless Bruce Willis and perfect Alan Rickman never gets boring. It’s an action flick with a big heart, and the reason “Yippee-ki-yay motherf***er” exists in this world.
This film is revolutionary, because without John Woo, we may not have certain action tropes involving shooting everything. Also, Chow Yun-fat is singularly badass in every single iconic action sequence as a cop named, brilliantly, Tequila. Enough said.
This is more a dystopian science fiction than anything else, but director Bong Joon-ho is able to pack a lot of inventive action into a set the size of a train car. There’s an all out brawl with axes, some brutal slow motion, and one of the most intimate and stylistic fight scenes filmed in the past few years. Snowpiercer is a beautiful mix of the surreal and some brutal action.
When this film came out, everyone was obsessed because it had the same choreographer, Yuen Wo Ping, as The Matrix, meaning perfect and beautiful fight scenes. More than that, though, it’s brilliantly shot, the story is simple and elegant, and one of the main characters is actually a sword. The Green Destiny is the best movie weapon ever.
Kinda similar to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, this martial arts epic, directed by Zhang Yimou, is grander in scale than the previous film. Featuring a badass performance by Jet Li, it’s a gorgeously designed tale of honor and warrior-ship, with insane fight scenes between masters who can control wind, swat away thousands of arrows like they’re nothing, and make lethal look elegant.
If the other two martial arts movies on this list aren’t enough, this ridiculous adventure should be more than enough. Really, any Tony Jaa flick should have you on the edge of your seat, wondering what insane martial arts madness he’ll pull off next. You’ll never see such an incredible flurry of elbows and knees from any action star in film today.
To me, this (potentially infinite) list wouldn’t work without the best of the Star Wars films. In the fifth part of the saga, we get Imperial Walkers, the Millennium Falcon chase, and the most epic of all the lightsaber battles. I know that a certain other Harrison Ford film should appear here as well, but I trust you’ll binge that series right after finishing this list anyhow.
Enjoy your cold months, fans of martial arts, lasers, time travel death robots, and maybe even a boulder trap or two.