THEY are all older and we are all wiser but there was a time when action movies were an endless parade of bulging biceps, thundering guns and the hero walking away over a pile of baddies.
But who was the greatest action hero? Who deserves to walk off into the credits triumphant?
Vote now — and tell us if we’ve left off your favourite from our list.
Arnie was about as lifelike as a wooden plank in his early movies like Commando but a turn as an emotionless cyborg in Terminator seemed to unlock something within him. A string of bigger and bigger hits followed and he was even accused of acting in some of them. It was a simple formula: show off his biceps, pull out a machinegun and take on a horde of baddies who couldn’t hit a barn door with their guns. And it worked. A spell as the “Governator” of California stopped the endless hits, however, with his return in Terminator Genisys and Killing Gunther leaving viewers unimpressed. His next roles are rumoured to be reboots of both Conan and Terminator.
He might be a couch-jumping, Scientology-obsessed nutbag who changes wives about as often as most men change underpants but he’s a bloody fantastic actor. He wasn’t always about action, however, with Top Gun shining out amid a stack of dramas and comedies. Recently, however, he has found his action groove as Jack Reacher, Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible and in sci-fi romps like Edge Of Tomorrow. And there’s more to come.
Arnie’s biggest rival from action’s golden years in the 1980s and 1990s. He’s responsible for two of the greatest action heroes ever in Rocky and Rambo. He’s even found a niche sending up the 1980s in his action series The Expendables. Sure, some of his movies were absolute rubbish and we were never sure if he was speaking lines or simply mumbling gibberish. Still, when he’s flexing those arms while brandishing a machinegun, you have to enjoy them.
He was a wisecracking television series smart-arse until he turned into John McClane, one of the greatest action heroes of all time. He’s been Retired, Extremely Dangerous as well as a sci-fi hero in the likes of Looper and The Fifth Element and is currently working on the reboot of 1970s vengeance classic Death Wish. His movies almost always have a fair chunk of humour but they are certainly all action.
Before he became a bloated joke who hung around with Russian dictator, sorry, President Putin, Seagal was a huge action hero. His stuff in the early 1990s such as Hard To Kill and Marked For Death made a feature of his aikido skills — a martial art much less flashy than karate or kung-fu but spectacularly effective. His high point was the action hit Under Siege. Sadly, it was all downhill after that.
Yes, he’s known for goofy roles. But the drugged-out dude from Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure beefed up in action classics like Point Break and Speed. Then came the Matrix trilogy, which added in even more punch. Unlike most of the others on this list, his action career is actually on the rise with his conflicted hitman character John Wick arguably the best action hero of the last decade, with a third movie out in 2019.
If you want action then Vin Diesel is your man. He’s more of an antihero than a conventional hero, with his best-known characters Riddick, Xander Cage and Dominic Toretto all not exactly on the side of the angels. Still, with bulging biceps, a gruff voice and a shaven head, he’s definitely a modern incarnation of an action hero.
Another brilliant exponent of the art of being able to shoot dozens of terrorists/bad guys/drug dealers while standing in the open and not being hit by a single bullet. In the 1980s he was the man Americans liked to watch because he’d go into strange countries and punch swarthy bad guys in the fez. In movies such as Missing In Action and Delta Force, he gave future Donald Trump supporters plenty to cheer about as he cheerfully rewrote history to win the Vietnam War and solve the Middle East crisis.
Forget the child-focused comedies of the last 10 years. If you go back to the late 1970s, 1980s and even the early 1990s, you see the most insane martial arts action. Films such as Police Story, Legend Of Drunken Master and Dragons Forever showcase absolutely stunning kung-fu action. Anything after Rumble In The Bronx becomes a poor shadow of these early movies. What’s more, he does all his own stunts — and was frequently hurt in them, as well.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Yes, he has had too much plastic surgery and recently appeared in an advertisement for Ultra Tune. But jump back to 1989 and he was the Muscles From Brussels, with a magnificent mullet and a stack of hit movies.
Kickboxer was his career highlight, a mixture of Rocky and the Karate Kid, with all sorts of punching and kicking. Everything else was a slow decline after that but he was still a big draw if you wanted to see someone doing the splits and punching people in slow motion.