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Let's Talk About... the Best Action Movies of the 1990s!

I'm an artist, a writer, a director, a film critic and occasionally I cook. Here I will be mainly focusing on film critiquing.

After skimming through, please let me know what your favorite '90s action flick is!

After skimming through, please let me know what your favorite '90s action flick is!

Nostalgia of the 1990s

Earlier this year there was another sequel made to one of my favorite action movies to come out of the 1990s, Bad Boys For Life; which I found to be an absolute joy ride. Shortly after my review of the third Bad Boys movie was finalized, I began recalling all the other action flicks of the ‘90s that I grew up with, but which sadly don’t see as much attention given towards as they rightfully deserve. Seemingly in our modern culture, many individuals are either fixated on the current trend of comic book blockbusters or classics from the 1980s, both of which I truly love and admire myself. However, it would be nice to take a look back at what the ‘90s also brought to the action genre as well. So I figured, what the hell? Why not compose my own little list of what I find to be the best action spectacles that the 1990s had to offer. Some might be obvious, others not so much. Without further ado, here is my love letter to the best action pictures of the 1990s!

*Disclaimer*

Inevitably there will be certain readers who will disagree with my claims on what does and does not make the list. Please keep in mind that this is all subjective, as all art is subjective, so what I find to be a masterpiece someone else may call a dud. Then there are selections that most of the world would likely put on this list while I might not. If a reader comes across this list of mine and disagrees, I will be the first to apologize… Even though I’m right and you’re wrong… I mean, I’m sorry that we don’t see eye to eye and I would be more than ecstatic to delve deeper on the subject at hand in the comments below!

Something Unexpected...

Before continuing on with the article, I'd like to mention that something strange happened as I began forming this article. What started out as a love letter to '90s action picture surprisingly also became an odd love letter to my family, as many of the selections on my list hit very close to home in my personal life and certainly from my childhood. So beware, I do discuss just how close some of these movies are to my heart and how close they were to others of my family who sadly aren't around anymore. I hope you enjoy my list and my family.

10) GoldenEye (1995)

lets-talk-about-the-best-action-movies-of-the-1990s

The Plot:

007 is back and this time has to stop a Russian crime syndicate from using a stolen satellite weapon known as “GoldenEye”, which could kill countless people. Now it’s up to James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to team up with a young scientist (Izabella Scorupco) in order to put an end to this terrifying destruction before it is too late.

My Thoughts:

Let’s be honest, it was practically mandatory to include this ‘James Bond’ action spectacle as one of the best action flicks the 1990s had to offer. Not only is GoldenEye known to be one of the best ‘James Bond’ movies ever made, but also the epic introduction to Pierce Brosnan as Bond himself. And what a hell of an introduction this is, I mean, my God! With Brosnan harkening back to the days of Sean Connery where this leading man is a true star and a half, to say the least. Charisma oozing out of every frame whenever Pierce is on screen, he simply is the definition of cool. Throwing out the perfect delivery for every one-liner his character has to offer, it’s easy to figure out as to why Pierce Brosnan is regarded as one of the best Bonds in the franchise.

Pierce is the man who will look cool as he shoots you in the head.

Pierce is the man who will look cool as he shoots you in the head.

Getting to the actual action, this contains some beautifully insane set pieces that no one could ever forget after witnessing once. Truth be told, the first fifteen minutes alone is worth the price of admission and then some as it packs one hell of a fantastic punch. However it doesn’t let up there because the opening was simply the appetizer, the main course even more fulfilling in every way imaginable; incorporating fast cars, runaway trains, crashing airplanes, fist fights on top of giant satellites, a little twist or turn in the story every now and again, and of course a tank! It’s sheer exhilaration with 95% of the effects being absolutely stunning. The other 5% I question, but I forgive it because it’s GoldenEye; it’s earned one or two missteps.

The element that pushes this movie over the edge of being spectacular, in my opinion, is the villains. Well, one in particular captures my heart; that being the villainous Bond girl Xenia Onatopp, played by Famke Janssen. Janssen is pure delight as she obviously relishes sinking her teeth deep in this absurd role of a Russian assassin who uses sex as her literal weapon and crushes the air out of men using her legs to wrap around their body. What makes it even better is the fact that she seems to be experiencing an orgasm every time she is squeezing a man to death. Now that is one perfect woman right there. Seriously though, Onatopp is one of my favorite antagonists in the entire ‘Bond’ series with her absolute crazy performance and her name is also just amazing. Onatopp, whichever writer thought of that name deserves a raise. Sexy, absurd, devilish… Marry me.

GoldenEye is a classic ‘Bond’ movie for a reason, and it’s actually the one and only PG-13 rated action film on my list here. If you haven’t already seen this spy epic, then you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s on Netflix right now. Go check it out before missing the opportunity of a lifetime! Please remember, the name is Eye… GoldenEye. I’m sorry, I’m an idiot. Please see the movie though, it’s great.

9) Bad Boys (1995)

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The Plot:

Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, played respectively by Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, are assigned to protect the witness to a murder while they also must investigate a case of stolen heroin from the evidence storage room of the police precinct. While protecting this feisty witness (Tea Leoni), there’s been a little bit of mistaken identity between the two detectives as they have to maintain the lie in order to continue earning her trust and finding the men responsible for murdering their friend.

My Thoughts:

Bad Boys is the movie that inspired this list to begin with, so it only makes sense that it would wind up as one of my favorite action flicks out of the ‘90s! Back in the day when Michael Bay was a genuine master of action pictures and not shunned for his several failed attempts to make giant robot fights coherent. Not sure how someone fumbles that, but that’s a conversation for another time. Now is the time for Bad Boys! One of the most fun, funniest, awesome, gritty yet sleek, buddy-cop action films ever produced. There is not a single second of this film that I don’t love with all my heart; the action/effects/stunts are filled with high-octane awesomeness, the dialog is wickedly quick and hits hard with the humor without a misfire in sight, the cinematography can be described as heavily influenced by the vision of Tony Scott only on cocaine, and the urban-inspired musical score is easily one of my favorites out of the entire decade.

The key element that shines brightest in the entire movie, as well as its follow-ups, has to be from the lightning in a bottle chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Talk about the perfect on screen duo. Lawrence and Smith work wonders off each other in every one of their scenes shared, including both sequels released decades later. Personally, I’d argue that there is not a better set of actors who could have done a better job than these two hilarious power houses right here. Every time they are either bickering and arguing with one another or simply having normal chat in their daily lives, I am busting a gut and am laughing so hard that tears are rolling down my face. Because these two are so damn entertaining to watch, time and time again. Even though it would be easy to say their success resides in the spot-on comedy, the fact is that the two actors inject such immense levels of heart with the strong friendship between them that it is near impossible to not be instantly charmed by their comradery. They’re phenomenal together, plain and simple.

Both Bad Boys and Bad Boys II were movies that my family and I enjoyed probably hundreds of times together, specifically my father could not get enough of the side-splitting banters between Smith and Lawrence as he would quote their lines constantly on an endless loop. If I were to guess, I’d say that the first two Bad Boys movies were amongst his favorite action movies of all time as he loved hell out of both features. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how he would most likely have loved seeing the third installment from earlier this year. Quite honestly, it breaks my heart that my dad never will see Bad Boys For Life since I know for a fact he would have yet another two full hours of quotes to include in his repertoire.

Anyways, Bad Boys (and Bad Boys II) are available on Netflix so there’s no excuse not to join in on the fun. Seriously, don’t make your life less magical by skipping out on the Bad Boys experience. It is well worth the watch!

8) The Last Boy Scout (1991)

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The Plot:

Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is a smartass, hard-edged, alcoholic, down on his luck, private detective hired on to protect an exotic dancer. When things go south with the dancer being murdered, Hallenbeck and the dancer’s boyfriend Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) begin investigating the crime. Leading this duo into a whole mess including a corrupt politician and a crooked football team owner who will stop at nothing until they get what they want and eliminate every witness, including our heroes.

My Thoughts:

Speaking of Tony Scott just in the last selection, as here Scott teams up with Shane Black (both of which are some of the greatest action writers/directors to ever step foot in Hollywood) to give us a terrific combination of a solid crime mystery along with terrific action and a great sense of humor within the characters. To me, Tony Scott and Shane Black can pretty much do no wrong; between Scott giving us gems like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Hunger, and Man on Fire while Black has Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Last Action Hero, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys under his belt. It only makes sense for these two artists coming together to provide one of the best buddy-cop flicks the subgenre has to offer. I could watch both of these men’s filmography on a daily basis and be totally satisfied.

The Last Boy Scout combines both the writer and director’s specialties; vibrant lead characters with pitch perfect dialog, dark humor sprinkled within the hard R violence and vulgarity, explosively stylish action, and a legitimate crime mystery for us to follow. At the center of it all is another pair of misfits that need to partner up, Damon Wayans and Bruce Willis; which quite frankly is the strangest combination of actors that one could possibly come up with in order to lead one’s action picture. On paper, big time action star Bruce Willis teaming up with Damon Wayans who was fresh off of In Living Color, this already sounds like the worst possible idea of all time. Yet somehow, these two actors are beyond on point in their chemistry together and it is freaking remarkable. Whoever thought Wills and Wayans were truly meant to play off each other in a movie is apparently a God damn genius.

How is this duo that should not work somehow amazing together?!

How is this duo that should not work somehow amazing together?!

At first glance, one may jump to the conclusion that this is a fairly typical Bruce Willis performance as it heavily resembles his iconic character, John McClane from the Die Hard series. To an extent, I can see why one might think that as both are smartasses with always the perfect snarky comeback to bout out. Although I’d disagree that McClane and Hallenbeck are even remotely the same character. Willis truly comes to life in this film as this completely broken shell of a man. What an oxymoron of a sentence, right? This is a guy who has basically given up on life, on being a husband, and even being a father to a certain degree. Hallenbeck is a mess of epic proportions as he is in a living rut, constantly drinking and smoking to get through every day while taking chump cases for a few measly bucks.

I’d also argue that the sense of humor of the John McClane character is utilized and executed differently than in Joe Hallenbeck. The humor seen with McClane comes across more as a defense mechanism in order help get himself through these high tension situations, while Hallenbeck uses jokes in order to catch his opponents off guard and then go in for the attack. So anyone discarding this as “just another Willis role”, look again as the subtleties making for a differently compelling character that Bruce executes beautifully. Plus I truly do love the inclusion of Hallenbeck’s family being pretty much the polar opposite of a picture perfect home as most of the time Joe can be seen in a screaming match with his wife and daughter. It’s actually rather original to see this ‘less than appealing’ depiction of a hero’s home since on most occasions in film, when we see the protagonist’s family they’re far more ‘nice’ than what is depicted in Last Boy Scout.

Dammit, Willis. How are you so f*cking cool?!

Dammit, Willis. How are you so f*cking cool?!

This ain’t no game, Flash. Real action, real laughs… It’s dangerous. And there’s nothing not to love. I don’t know where you have to search to see this underrated treasure, but scour the earth until you find it or else risk never being whole in your life forever.

P.S.

The Last Boy Scout was also extremely John Sr. approved.