While there’s a strong chance that you’ve seen all the films listed below, younger readers might discover a whole new world of explosions and gunfights opening up for them. And even if you’ve already watched them all, they’re still good enough to warrant repeat viewings.
Enter the Dragon (1973) – Combining elements of the action, thriller, and martial arts genres, Enter the Dragon tells the story of Lee (Bruce Lee), a Shaolin monk who’s invited to participate in a martial arts tournament on the island of crime lord Han (Shih Kien). Lee has no interest at first, but he changes his mind after being approached by British Intelligence and later informed that one of Han’s goons had a hand in the death of Lee’s sister. Heading to the island, he also encounters an American playboy named Roper (John Saxon) and a black activist named Williams (Jim Kelly). From there, the tournament begins in earnest, with a number of the competitors winding up dead. In the middle of the fighting, Lee must find proof of Han’s wrongdoing so the forces of law and order can bring him to justice. Bruce Lee wasn’t the greatest actor, but his martial arts abilities were second to none. Check out this action masterpiece to see what I’m talking about.
Lethal Weapon (1987) – Days away from retirement, veteran L.A. cop Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is saddled with new partner Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), who everyone believes to be suicidal. As the mismatched pair bicker and bond, they must also work together to bring down a drug cartel run by former Vietnam commandos. The classic buddy cop movie, Lethal Weapon would spawn three successful sequels. It’s fun to watch Mel Gibson in action back before everyone thought he was crazy in real life.
Speed (1994) – LAPD bomb expert Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) finds himself trapped on a bus that’s wired to blow if the speed drops below 50 miles per hour. While he tries to save the passengers and bring a mad bomber (Dennis Hopper) to justice, he also finds plenty of time to flirt with the vehicle’s sassy and lead-footed driver (Sandra Bullock in the role that shot her to stardom).
Die Hard (1988) – In my humble opinion, Die Hard is the greatest action film ever made. It’s got an underdog hero (Bruce Willis) that you can really root for, a villain who’s just as cool as the hero (Alan Rickman in his movie debut), and plenty of explosions, shootouts, and fistfights. The lines are memorable, the supporting cast is great, and the Christmas-in-L.A. setting only adds to the allure. A number of sequels would follow, but none of them came close to this original tale of a NYPD cop trapped in an L.A. skyscraper during an attack by European criminals.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Before he broke the box-office records with Titanic and Avatar, director James Cameron followed up his groundbreaking sci-fi hit The Terminator with this summer blockbuster sequel starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie plays a killer robot from the future who’s sent back in time to protect young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the man destined to one day save humanity. Our muscular hero is opposed by an all-new, all-improved model from the future known as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), and the two artificial beings waste no time in destroying large chunks of Los Angeles. The sound on the film is amazing, and I’ve known more than one person who’s used this DVD to show off their new home entertainment system. The stunts are great, the shootouts thrilling, and Linda Hamilton got all kinds of buzz for her buff body. Although it’s almost 20 years old, it still remains a classic of both the action and sci-fi genres.