Way back when cinema was invented, the first director called out “lights, camera, action” – and lo, the action movie was born! Okay, there might have been a little more to it than that, but from the very beginning audiences have been drawn to the movies by feats of derring-do the likes of which we tend not to see in everyday life. Few things make for a more satisfying cinema experience than a hero we can applaud, a villain we can boo, and a whole lot of punch-ups, shoot-outs and car chases along the way.
Cowboys, swashbuckling adventurers and cops had been standard big screen action heroes from the beginning, but they developed a considerably harder edge along the way. The troubles experienced by America in the 60s and 70s made the realities of violence more prevalent in popular culture, hence movies like Dirty Harry, Death Wish and multi-Oscar winner The French Connection presented harsher visions with undertones of social conscience.
However, come the 80s filmmakers had largely lost interest in directly reflecting reality, and instead sought to present macho escapism on a larger scale than ever before. Big muscles, big explosions and even bigger body counts were the order of the day, and a new generation of larger-than-life men of action stepped up to deliver crowd-pleasing spectacles aplenty, usually accompanied by more than a few snappy one-liners.
The action movies of the 80s certainly weren’t that subtle, but they gave the audience what they wanted, setting a standard which some would say hasn’t been met again in the years since. Take a look at the list of thrilling action flicks below: vote up your favourites, and add any you think we’ve missed at the bottom of the screen.