TOP 10: Pietro's Favorite Action Movies of the 90's
Published: January 31, 2012 - 1:15pm
While the 80's will always be remembered as the heyday of testosterone-fueled action romps, the 90's had more than their fair share. Here's my list of the top ten 90's action flicks I love to watch over and over again. A few things to take note of regarding this list: while most of these titles can also be categorized as thrillers, dramas or crime films, I remember them most for their intense action beats. However, I've purposefully excluded any films with sci-fi or fantasy elements -- i.e. Terminator 2, Demolition Man. Factoring those in would be a bit unfair considering their exaggerated limitations on what is realistic (even though I did include a Michael Bay movie here). Maybe I'll put together that list some other time.
#10 BAD BOYS
Two Miami narco detectives (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) go up against a French drug kingpin who facilitates a multi-million dollar evidence heist in their police precinct. Over the course of this two hour film we're treated to relentless sexual humor, Téa Leoni looking confused and plenty of Michael Bay's world renown explosions for the sake of explosions. Ten years after Bad Boys was released a sequel came our way; and although it had an obviously larger budget and even more ridiculous antics, it fell short of maintaining the oddball charm that makes the original so memorable.
Favorite Scene: After days of shooting at each other, mob boss Tchéky Karyo pits his Shelby Cobra AC 427 against Will Smith's Porsche 911 Turbo in a Bay-tastic drag race with Martin Lawrence incessantly screaming like a little girl.
Favorite Line: "Freeze mother bitches!" - Random store clerk
Bad Boys was directed by Michael Bay and stars Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Téa Leoni, Tchéky Karyo, Theresa Randle and Joe Pantoliano. It was released in 1995.
#9 THE BOONDOCK SAINTS
This critically panned film that slowly built a huge cult following offers plenty of grit, blood and bullet holes. Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus play Connor and Murphy MacManus the craziest, strangest and most badass twins I've ever seen on film. Their relatively peaceful existence in the urban jungle of Boston shatters when they accidentally become hitmen who target mobsters. The film's dynamic cinematography and oddball performances couple with a fantastic score that continuously changes from classical music to hard rock.
Favorite Scene: FBI Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) assaults mob boss Papa Joe's house in drag at the same time the MacManus Brothers storm in to try and save their dim-witted yet lovable pal Rocco from his inevitable execution, and that's all before bat-shit crazy hitman Il Duce, played by Billy Connolly, shows up to reveal he's the Brothers' long lost father.
Favorite Line: [NOTE: This is the only film on my list where I have to include more than one quote. So many of it's lines are equally brilliant and psychotic.]
"I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men." - William Young (Catholic priest)
"You're Checkov, huh? Well, this here's McCoy. We find a Spock, we got us an away team." - Norman Reedus
"Shut your fat ass, Rayvie! I can't buy a pack of smokes without runnin' into nine guys you fucked!" - David Della Rocco
"Just pour the drink, you fairy fuck." - Willem Dafoe
The Boondock Saints was directed and written by Troy Duffy and stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Willem Dafoe and Billy Connolly. It was released in 1999.
#8 POINT BREAK
Before Keanu Reeves wore out his welcome in my ever growing home video collection, he did a great job at playing football player turned FBI agent Johnny Utah who goes undercover as a surfer to try and catch a group of bank robbers. But it's Patrick Swayze's wild turn as adrenaline junkie Bodhi that really makes this a must see film. From skydiving antics to violent heists and random bouts of fisticuffs, Point Break grants your wish for senseless machismo.
Favorite Scene: The final showdown between Bodhi and Utah on an Australian beach right before a massive storm surge hits. After duking it out in the waves, they come to a mutually beneficial understanding that includes suicide-by-surf for Bodhi and self appointed retirement for Johnny.
Favorite Line: "Vaya con Dios" - Keanu Reeves & Patrick Swayze
Point Break was directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who recently won an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker) and stars Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey. It was released in 1991.
#7 RESERVOIR DOGS
Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut is still, in my opinion, his best film by far. If the names Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. White don't ring a bell, your pop culture knowledge is severely lacking. The film follows the build up and eventual fallout of a robbery gone bad. It's a torrid affair betrayal, torture and aggression, even though we're never actually shown the robbery itself.
Favorite Scene: Tim Roth's Mr. Orange (who suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach during the robbery) executes Michael Madsen's Mr. Blonde as he's torturing a captured police officer, revealing that he's the undercover cop the gang has been trying to ferret out after their heist goes sour.
Favorite Line: "Listen kid, I'm not gonna bullshit you. I don't give a good fuck what you know, or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway regardless. Not to get information, because it's amusing to me to torture a cop. You can say anything you want cause I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain't gonna get." - Michael Madsen
Reservoir Dogs was directed and written by Quentin Tarantino and stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney and Michael Madsen; as well as Tarantino himself. It was released in 1992.
After years of playing a plethora of tough guys, mobsters and all around bad asses, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro finally star in a crime thriller together. The acclaimed duo are on opposite ends of the law, playing fictionalized versions of Chicago cop Chuck Adamson (who in the film is L.A.P.D. detective Lt. Vincent Hanna) and real world professional thief Neil McCauley. How insanely accurate did director Michael Mann want this film to be? Aside from using as many non-actors as possible and taking hints about prison life from actual inmates of Folsom prison, the tactics used by McCauley's team of thieves was taught to the actors by retired British Special Air Servicemen. Director Christopher Nolan even used Heat as a basis for the backdrop of Gotham City in the popular 2008 film The Dark Knight. He even used Heat's William Fichtner in the infamous Joker bank heist scene.
Favorite Scene: Even though the armored car robbery at the beginning of the film and the post-heist shoot out on the steps of bank are packed with more action, it's the cold execution of the bank heist perpetrated by Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer itself that will always be remembered as the film's high point. Tactically efficient and chock full of tension, it made such a pop culture impact that it inspired a handful of copycat crimes.
Favorite Line: "We want to hurt no one! We're here for the bank's money, not your money. Your money is insured by the federal government, you're not gonna lose a dime! Think of your families, don't risk your life. Don't try and be a hero!" - Robert De Niro
Heat was directed by Michael Mann and stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Kevin Gage, Ashley Judd, Hank Azaria, Natalie Portman, Jon Voight and Dennis Haysbert. It was released in 1995.
#5 FIGHT CLUB
I'd be hard pressed to find anyone within my circle of friends who hasn't seen this film multiple times. I wouldn't even know how to begin describing it's plot without attempting to act some of it's lucid scenes. In a nutshell, Edward Norton plays a miserable loner and Brad Pitt plays his best (only?) friend, who it turns out is just a violent figment of his schizophrenic imagination. Only halfway through this film, I knew I'd never be able to look at either soap (in a bad way) or Helena Bonham Carter (in a good way) the same again.
Favorite Scene: After offering an abbreviated lecture on the history of soap, Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden pours lye over Edward Norton's hand causing him excruciating pain. As Norton's unnamed character tries to hallucinate his way out of the agony, Durden offers a disturbing monologue of God's hatred towards humanity and our lonesome ability to become masters of our own destiny.
Favorite Line: "Now, a question of etiquette - as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?" - Brad Pitt
Fight Club was directed by David Fincher and stars Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter and Meat Loaf. It was released in 1999.
Pierce Brosnan takes up the mantle of MI6 Agent 007 in a much needed revitalization of the James Bond film franchise. We're also introduced to MI6 Agent 006, played by one of my favorite actors Sean Bean (and, yes, he dies here too). Much like every new actor to take up the popular role, Brosnan got a lot of flak from Bond fans for being director Martin Campbell's choice to relaunch the cinematic brand. As is true for most pre-release bias, the majority of those naysayers were quickly silenced when the film actually came out. And I am obligated to mention the luscious Famke Janssen's portrayal of Russian spy Xenia Onatopp, who squeezes men to death with her glorious thighs. Unfortunately, the later Bond films starring Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day) upped the ante on camp factor, making them borderline cringe-worthy; but I will always remember Goldeneye as one of the best productions of this long running series.
Favorite Scene: Bond is known for being a loner on dangerous missions, with the exception of the occasional, unwilling female companion. Goldeneye breaks the mold by showing 007 and 006 infiltrate and sabotage a Russian facility, which ends in a magnificent firefight where Sean Bean dies (the first of two times in this film).
Favorite Line: "I might as well ask you if all those vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you've killed... or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect." - Sean Bean
Goldeneye was directed by Martin Campbell and stars Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen and Judi Dench. It was released in 1995.
#3 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
Mr. Phelps, the central super spy from the Mission Impossible television series, is back. But this time, he's a backstabbing asshole who sacrifices the young team under his command for treasonous personal gain. Enter his protege Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who is forced to break a slew of spy craft rules to clear is now tarnished name, uncover traitors and get his revenge. It's not a remake or reboot but a continuation of the M:I mythology while giving another generation of fans a new hero.
Favorite Scene: Cruise/Ethan breaks into an almost impenetrable room at CIA headquarters in Langley (see picture above) in an effort to steal encrypted software that he needs to use as leverage to clear his name. Jean Reno plays his thieving counterpart who lowers him into the room on a wire rig. They can't talk, make noise, touch the walls or floor or raise the temperature in the room without setting off alarms. In... wait for it... tense.
Favorite Line: "Can I ask you something, Kittridge? If you're dealing with a man who has crushed, shot, stabbed, and detonated five members of his own IMF team, how devastated do you think you're gonna make him by hauling Mom and Uncle Donald down to the county courthouse?" - Tom Cruise
Mission Impossible was directed by Brian de Palma and stars Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jean Reno, Emilio Estevez, Ving Rhames and Vanessa Redgrave. It was released in 1996.
#2 DIE HARD 2
John McClane had better be on every red-blooded American male's list of top five most manly men ever, somewhere between the Dos Equis Man and Abraham Lincoln. In the second installment of the Die Hard franchise McClane is once again trying to meet up with his wife, who is an unassuming hostage during an airport takeover by a rogue military group. More yippie ki-yay-ing! Bigger explosions! More motherfuckering! It has all the elements an action movie sequel should, and reminds us all what's most important during the holidays (hint: Dennis Franz).
Favorite Scene: Grenade Escape 101 according to John McClane - When trapped in a plane filled with freshly thrown grenades (that have the loooooongest burn timers every imaginable) simply strap yourself into the pilot seat and pull the ridiculously high-pressured egress lever. You will jettison a few hundred feet into the air and safely touch down when your parachute opens. Obviously.
Favorite Line: "Oh, we are just up to our ass in terrorists again, huh John?" - Bruce Willis
Die Hard 2 was directed by Renny Harlin and stars Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Art Evans, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Dennis Franz, Fred Thompson, John Amos and Reginald VelJohnson. It was released in 1990.
#1 TRUE LIES
True Lies is the goulash of 90's action movies. There are so many starkly contrasting elements mixed together here that, if any were combined wrong, it would have turned out like total crap. Thankfully, director James Cameron knew exactly what he was doing when he took the helm of this amazing action-comedy. Let's spell out the list of ingredients: Schwarzenegger channels the action of Commando with the humor of Kindergarten Cop, Jamie Lee Curtis in lingerie, stereotypical Arab terrorists, Tom Arnold at his snarkiest, over the top yet fantastically executed effects by fledgling company Digital Domain, sexy Tia Carrere in revealing evening gowns and Bill Fucking Paxton. I bought True Lies as soon as it was released on DVD in 1999 and spent the summer watching it almost every day. If I wasn't so busy now, I would do the same with the Blu-ray.
Favorite Scene: After being captured by terrorists, Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger) and his wife Helen are left tied up in a warehouse while the trust serum recently administered to Harry takes effect. Helen takes the opportunity to grill him about his life as a spy, which up until this point she was completely oblivious to. Close second: Jamie Lee Curtis' strip tease.
Favorite Line: "I have to lie to women to get laid. Even then I don't score much. I got a little dick, it's pathetic." - Bill Paxton [crying]
True Lies was directed by James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Charlton Heston, Art Malik and Eliza Dushku. It was released in 1994.
[Editor's Note: The opinions found herein are those solely of the author and do not reflect the thoughts, intent or sanction of The Daily BLAM!, it's owners or subsidiarities.]