That story should involve action heroes going up against seemingly impossible odds. There’s more to a good movie villains than bad men commanding evil forces and organizations. These men have to represent the fears and frustrations people face in the world around them. The villainous antagonist should represent a real evil alive in the world today.
Great movie villains of the past include terrorists (or fake terrorists), drug cartels, Eastern European slave traders, crime syndicates, corrupt cops, and even more corrupt politicians. The hero in these films represents our frustrations at what we see around us. Inevitably, the story arc should set up these obstacles, then let the champion unleash his anger (and ours), winning ultimate victory and setting the world right again.
Good action movie protagonists should also represent us. Besides our problems, heroes should have the kind of human quirks and foibles people in the audience have. These men and women should also have charm, no matter how brutal and violent they might be.
Ultimately, the film hero does what we wish we could do: cut through the endless troubles and tribulations of life, destroying the evil, crime, and corruption that stood in their way. Below is a list of good action films where that happen.
- Diehard – What happens when a smart ass New York cop and estranged husband fights a group of would-be terrorists at a corporate Christmas party…in a skyscraper? “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.”
- Lethal Weapon – “There are no more heroes in this world, son.” Two Vietnam veterans against an evil conspiracy of Vietnam vets bringing drugs into the country.
- Seven Samurai – This story winds out over 3 hours-plus, a story about seven samurai who hire on to save a village from marauders in the early 17th century. This was the inspiration for everything from The Magnificent Seven to Battle Beyond The Stars to the Samurai 7 anime.
- Taken – Ex-CIA versus a white slavery ring. All you need to know: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
- Ip Man – 2008 semi-biographical Hong Kong film about “Ip Man”, the eventual mentor to Bruce Lee. The movie takes place in Foshan, China, during the Japanese occupation of China in World War II. You have to see this one scene where the martial arts master cuts loose after a series of slights and tragedies at the hands of the Japanese authorities.
- Roadhouse – Southern-fried action story about a pair of honky-tonk coolers (Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliot) and their war against a small town’s local ruler, David Wesley. Full of memorable quotes and even one scene with evil villainy perpetrated by a monster truck.
- Any Steven Seagal Movie until “Out for Justice” – The late-80’s movies are where it’s at for Seagal movies, including Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice. This is when Steven Seagal was thin, he broke wrists and legs, and challenged whole bar rooms to “take my badge”. A little light on the great stories and good villains, but you get lots of testosterone, while viewing the oddball villain, Screwface: “Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to dead.” (Not a typo)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Stunningly beautiful scenes, great story, and even better fight scenes. Directed by Ang Lee and starring Chow Yun-Fat, you have to see this classic. The action scenes were inspired by the Matrix. Speaking of which.
- The Matrix – The movie which introduced the world to stop motion filming, The Matrix looks great visually. While certain plot elements are pretentious and the sequels were a mess, the original Matrix film was one of the few good mind-trip movies about the Internet ever made.