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20 Best Action Movies from the ’80s, Ranked

The ’80s were known for being a visual spectacle, and that bled perfectly into the decade’s action films. The New Hollywood films of the ’70s were brushed aside for more action-oriented fare that benefited from VHS and a desire for style over substance. The best action movies of the ’80s all shared certain qualities that made them stand out, like big explosions, quip-filled one-liners, and over-the-top violence as the action hero reigned supreme.

Action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated the box office with their adrenaline-fueled flicks. Of course, they weren’t the only ones at the top of their action game in the ’80s. The decade was so dominated by action films both good and bad. In fact, the so-bad-it’s-good action flick won over just as many fans as the top critical productions. The crown for best ’80s action movie is certainly a Battle Royale with plenty of contenders. Some films just barely missed the cut while others drifted too far into other genres to be considered at the top. The battle was brutal, but these ’80s action movies stand out from the rest.
Related: The 10 Most Influential Action Movies of All Time
Updated on July 31st, 2023 by Sean Shuman: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.

20 License to Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in License to Kill (1989)


License to Kill, the last Bond film of the 1980s, is also one of the franchise’s darkest. Played by Timothy Dalton, this iteration of Bond finds himself acting independently of MI6 on a mission for revenge, all while infiltrating the ranks of a notorious drug lord.
Taking notes from contemporary action flicks, License to Kill is still held in high regard by Bond enthusiasts for the bold risks it took with the character. The film introduced a freshness that the series was desperate for at the time.

19 The Running Man (1987)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man Tri-Star Pictures

Despite being based on the Stephen King story of the same name, The Running Man has little to do with it. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as police officer Ben Richards, The Running Man is an incredibly over-the-top action flick that takes place during a worldwide economic collapse.
Convicted criminals are sentenced to death in a tense manhunt styled after a prime-time game show. When Richards is framed and convicted after defying a cruel order, he finds himself working with an underground resistance group to escape the deadly game show with his life and freedom.

18 Midnight Run (1988)

Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run (1988) Universal Pictures

Midnight Run has a lot of different ingredients that, surprisingly, mesh together into a compelling action flick. An action-road-trip-buddy-comedy starring both Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, Midnight Run follows a bounty hunter and a bail bondsman on a cross-country journey.
Instead of finding friendship, they’re on the hunt for fifteen million dollars in embezzled funds. With plenty of laughs in between the action, Midnight Run is easily one of the better action comedy films that came out in the late ’80s.

17 Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China 20th Century Fox

Big Trouble in Little China is as odd as it is entertaining. Starring Kurt Russell and Dennis Dun, this fantastical action adventure film places a trucker in a not-so-typical “fish out of water” story.
Caught in the crosshairs of the supernatural sorcerer Lo Pan, an inept trucker and his quick-witted friend are tasked with rescuing his fiancée from outlandish thugs in San Francisco’s Chinatown district. While it bombed at the box office, Big Trouble in Little China has since become a cult classic in John Carpenter’s filmography.

16 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Scene from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior Warner Bros

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior was easily the best in the Mad Max franchise prior to the release of Fury Road. Featuring a returning Mel Gibson, the titular Australian loner continues his unending search for gasoline before making himself known to the masked madman Lord Humungus.
A film whose influence can be felt in just about every post-apocalypse story since its release, Mad Max 2 is a direct improvement over its predecessor in every way. The sequel upped the action, the ante, and the absurdity to new highs.
Related: The 10 Best One-Take Action Movie Sequences, Ranked

15 Police Story (1985)

Jackie Chan in Police Story (1985) Golden Way Films Limited

Widely regarded as one of Jackie Chan’s best movies, Police Story sees the acrobatic action star attempting to clear his own name after a drug lord’s arrest sparks a high-profile murder.
With more than half a dozen elaborate stunts featured throughout, including one that nearly killed Jackie Chan outright, Police Story was a film designed around action first and foremost. On top of the action, there are also plenty of chuckles to be had in between all the punches and kicks.

14 Escape from New York (1981)

Kurt Russell Escape from New York 1981 AVCO AVCO Embassy Pictures

Kurt Russell is always a reliable action film star. In John Carpenter’s 1981 masterpiece Escape from New York, Russell stars as Snake, our eyepatch-wearing protagonist at the center of the story, which is set in an alternate-reality 1997. The U.S. has been completely decimated by crime.
Manhattan Island has since been converted into a maximum security prison, and trouble arises when Air Force One makes a crash-landing into the area. Russell’s scene-stealing hero is given 24 hours to help the President escape the city, and if he succeeds, he’ll earn a pardon for his troubles. The film was such a hit that Carpenter and Russell teamed up for a worthy sequel, Escape from L.A.

13 Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop Paramount Pictures

The ’80s wasn’t just the decade of action movies, it was the decade of Eddie Murphy. He took Saturday Night Live by storm and his success translated to film immediately. His first movie role was another ’80s classic action flick, 48 Hours in 1982.
However, it was his second action film that really placed Murphy atop the list of greatest ’80s action heroes. 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop starred Murphy as Axel Foley, a Detroit cop trying to solve his friend’s murder in Beverly Hills. Murphy’s comedic timing paired with some top-notch action sequences turned Beverly Hills Cop into a blockbuster. Not bad for a film that was originally meant to be a straight-dramatic film starring Sylvester Stallone.

12 Top Gun (1986)

Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise in Top Gun Paramount Pictures

Tony Scott’s Top Gun absolutely oozed coolness upon its release. Tom Cruise, fresh off hit films like Ridley Scott’s Legend and Risky Business, kicked off his long career in the action genre with Top Gun. Cruise played Maverick, a hot-shot Navy pilot that broke the mold when it came to coolness and recklessness.
However, Maverick soon discovered that dogfight battles in the air were a little more dangerous than training exercises. The film had some of the most amazing in-air camera shots in Hollywood at the time. And while it was nominated for its effects and sound, Top Gun sadly only took home an Oscar for Best Original Song for Berlin’s hit tune “Take My Breath Away.” Tom Cruise later returned to the role for the record-breaking Top Gun: Maverick in 2023.

11 Bloodsport (1988)

Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport The Cannon Group

Bloodsport was a fever dream of ’80s action cinema. It relied on the acting talents of martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme, was inspired by a too-unbelievable-to-be-true story, and had a soundtrack so emblematic of the decade that it may as well have been wearing Jordache.
Based on the alleged exploits of Frank Dux, Bloodsport followed Van Damme’s portrayal of Dux as he entered the secret martial arts tournament known as The Kumite. While the movie is incredibly light on plot, the hard-hitting action was enough to place Bloodsport as one of the greatest action movies of the ’80s and propel Van Damme to stardom.
Related: 9 Action Movies from the 80s Being Remade

10 Road House (1989)

Patrick Swayze in 1989's Road House United Artists

Few films ever dared to tell the story of a PhD-educated bouncer with the ability to rip people’s throats out with one hand. It’s likely no one else ever asked for this story to be told, but thankfully, Road House was brave enough to do so. Starring Patrick Swayze, Road House told the story of James Dalton, an overqualified martial arts practicing bouncer tasked with overseeing a bar in Jasper, Missouri.
His talents naturally draw the ire of the local bad guy, Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), and he is thrust into protecting the town from the corrupt businessman. The over-the-top violence and lapse in logic would have proven too much to handle for any other actor, but Swayze’s dedication to the role helped Road House become an instant classic that still holds up today.

9 First Blood (1982)

Sylvester Stallone in 1982's First Blood Carolco Pictures

First Blood paved the way for Stallone to be the action icon of a generation. Despite the excessive violence of future installments, John Rambo’s first outing was actually a relatively grounded study of a disillusioned veteran that suffered from PTSD, who just wanted to go home.
The story was based on a novel by David Morrell. First Bloodwas a sign of things to come for Stallone. It showcased Stallone’s knack for carrying an action movie and created one of the most enduring action hero characters in film history.

8 Robocop (1987)

Peter Weller in 1987's Robocop Orion Pictures

Paul Verhoeven is known for his big action sci-fi films like Total Recall and Starship Troopers, but he kicked them off with one of the best films of his career, Robocop. This gore-filled gem is a perfect blend of the practical effects that both the action and horror genres were known for in the ’80s.
It was a true marriage between a B-action film and a big budget. Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is killed in a brutal shootout with a gang led by bank-robber Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). He’s brought back to life as a robot tasked with cleaning up the corrupt and dangerous streets of Detroit. Robocop won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing and remains one of the most rewatchable films of the genre.

7 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in 1981's Raiders Lost Ark Lucasfilm

Directed by Spielberg from a story created by Lucas, Raiders of the Lost Ark followed the whip-carrying adventurer and professor, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he embarked on an expedition to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
The first entry in the Indiana Jones franchise had everything going for it: a partnership between two of the biggest directors of their time, Ford’s charisma, and John Williams’ legendary score. Spielberg excelled in crafting an action film filled with heart and adventure in an immaculate riff on classic pulp stories. Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and ended up winning five Oscars.

6 Commando (1985)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1985's Commando Silver Pictures

Before there was John Wick, there was John Matrix in the 1985 film Commando. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in the preeminent example of the one-man-army film. Schwarzenegger brought his A-game to this absolute bullet-fest of a film.
The story was simple enough: Matrix is a former commando on a mission to rescue his daughter from the clutches of a crazed mercenary and a South American dictator. What ensues are 90 minutes of Schwarzenegger simply mowing down henchmen and hurling out one-liners as he carries out his mission. The bullet-riddled final act alone is enough to warrant Commando as one of the greatest action films of the ’80s.
Related: James Cameron’s Best Action Movies, Ranked

5 Predator (1987)

Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987's Predator 20th Century Fox

Shooting down countless henchmen wasn’t enough for Schwarzenegger, so he had to face off against an extraterrestrial threat in Predator. The 1987 classic was directed by action-movie expert John McTiernan and followed a group of commandos being hunted by the titular alien creature.
Predator stood out among a sea of action movies that dominated the box office at the time. It brilliantly displayed what made Schwarzenegger such a giant of the action-movie genre. It also included some of Schwarzenegger’s most iconic lines and a handshake so epic it became an internet meme.

4 Aliens (1986)

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in 1986's Aliens Brandywine Pictures

If Ridley Scott’s Alien was a horror sci-fi film, then James Cameron’s Aliens was certainly an action sci-fi. Everything was bigger and badder in the follow-up to the 1979 film. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) was brought back to the surface of LV-426 to prove to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation what happened in the first film.
This time, she came with a small army. The effects were absolutely stunning in Aliens, including a 14-foot-tall Xenomorph Queen created by effect legend Stan Winston. Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nod for Weaver, and took home two, for Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects.

3 The Terminator (1984)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984's The Terminator Orion Pictures

After dipping his toes into the horror genre with Piranha II: The Spawning, James Cameron released his first massive action film with The Terminator. The Terminator was a perfect blend of action and horror. The sequels may have relied heavily on action sequences, but the very first entry made do with simple set pieces and atmosphere.
The real standout was Schwarzenegger’s turn as The Terminator. The stalking, hulking, T-800 android was easily one of the greatest villains to have ever appeared onscreen at the time. He returned in the sequels as a heroic version of the Terminator, which only further catapulted Schwarzenegger’s career as an action star.

2 Lethal Weapon (1987)

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon (1987) Warner Bros.

When it comes to buddy-cop films, Lethal Weapon remains the template. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover shined as the duo of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, two mismatched LAPD detectives on a mission to topple a gang of drug smugglers. Future buddy-cop films owed plenty to Lethal Weapon.
The pairing of the young detective with nothing to lose and the grizzled veteran has been seen in countless similar films. However, few have been able to perfectly emulate the chemistry between Gibson and Glover. Their performances paired with the direction of the legendary Richard Donner made for a nearly perfect action film. Lethal Weapon was nominated for one Oscar and has since spawned three sequels with a fifth movie in development.

1 Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis as John McClane from DieHard 20th Century Fox

Die Hard essentially changed the approach to action films for decades to come. Rather than make a film about the one-man army with no vulnerabilities, director John McTiernan created a brand-new type of action hero: the every-man who is unexpectedly thrust into action. Bruce Willis wasn’t the prototypical action hero in 1988.
The character of John McClane also wasn’t the typical action character. McClane was an NYPD officer but lacked the physical appearance of someone like Schwarzenegger’s John Matrix. He was just a guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. This became the template for so many action movies in the years following Die Hard’srelease. Countless movies wanted to be the next Die Hard, but none were able to perfect the recipe that made the original such a hit with action movie fans.

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‘I am officially off the market’: When Margot Robbie revealed she made the ‘conscious’ decision of not dating actors

Margot Robbie revealed her decision to not date actors because of the media scrutiny that came with a public relationship of two high-profile actors
Back in 2015, A-lister Margot Robbie made a declaration that she would not be dating any actors. The actress may have alluded to her fiance Tom Ackerley, who she married the following year in 2016. In an exclusive interview with Marie Claire, she revealed that being in a relationship as an actor herself came with its own set of challenges. She believed that dating someone who was popular would add on to the media scrutiny.

Margot Robbie opened up on why she made a conscious decision to not date actorsTalking to Marie Claire, she claimed, “I am officially off the market.” She then shared the reasoning behind her decision and added, “I made a conscious decision not to date actors.” She continued to explain, “But not because I hate actors. That’s a nasty generalization to make, and that’s not the case. People take such an interest in your love life when you have a profile, it puts a lot of stress on a relationship.”
The Barbie actress continued, “So two people with profiles, I figure it’s just double the amount of scrutiny, and I’d like to avoid that at all costs.” This came after reports of her locking lips with Tarzan co-star Alexander Skarsgard started making rounds. It was reported that she was caught kissing the actor during the Sundance Film Festival.

Margot Robbie revealed she opted for a minimal lifestyle even after becoming an actorIn the interview, Robbie also opened up about how she was adapting to fame. She shared, “I have a normal 24-year-old life. If I were a waitress, I’d probably have the exact same lifestyle. I’d go to the same clubs I go to already, live in the same house with the same housemates, hang out with the same people.”
However, Margot Robbie tied the knot with Tom Ackerley who is an English producer and actor. The duo met on the sets of 2013 movie Suite Francaise where Tom was working as an assistant director. Post marriage, both of them launched their production company LuckyChap Entertainment.

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Monica Bellucci and Tin Burton at lunch in the restaurant in Selci Lama

For All Saints’ Day, the Hollywood star from Tiferno returned to his native Umbria to enjoy a moment of relaxation and then visit his parentsOn the occasion of the All Saints’ Day celebrations, the Hollywood star of Tiferno origin, Monica Bellucci, returned to her native Umbria to enjoy a moment of relaxation and to visit her father Pasquale and her mother Brunella.Flanked by her current partner Tim Burton, she went to lunch, together with about twenty old friends, at the Osteria del Musicista, which has always been her favorite restaurant, in Selci Lama.Menu dedicated to typical dishes of the area, which includes an appetizer with breadsticks lined with coppa, duck in porchetta and grilled pork livers, polenta with wild boar sauce accompanied by the very typical cappelletti in broth.To conclude, a dessert based on fried “ciaccia” with Nutella and roasted chestnuts.
Having paid the bill and greeted the restaurant owner and lifelong friend, Roberto Polchi, Monica brought home cappelletti and broth for a family dinner.

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‘Rocky’ Was Quite Different In His Original Screenplay, Sylvester Stallone Claims

Sylvester Stallone took his friend’s advice on a rewrite of the original screenplay to Rocky. A few tweaks later, he was on his way to major success.
In the new Netflix documentary Sly, Stallone discussed how he initially conceived of the project, which had a much harder edge. In the early version, Rocky was depicted as a “thuggish” character, inspired by Martin Scorsese’s crime drama, Mean Streets.

But Stallone’s perspective changed when a friend read the script and thought the boxer was too cruel for audiences to actually care about him.
Stallone recalled her crying.

“She goes, ‘I hate Rocky. I hate him. He’s cruel. He hits people. He beats them up.’”
Stallone took it to heart, and asked what he could do to soften the character.

“I said, ‘what if you stop short of it?’ Like, maybe he almost did. He could have, that’s his job, but he doesn’t?’ ‘That’d be nice,’” he added. “I said, ‘What if he had a girlfriend or something?’ ‘Yeah, that’s nice.’ So I go back, start writing that: ‘Girlfriend. Nice.’”
$117 million in box office later, a franchise was born.

Stallone also revealed that actor Dolph Lundgren sent him to the hospital during one fight scene in Rocky IV.
“Dolph Lundgren… he pulverized me,” Stallone says in the documentary. “Later that night, my heart started to swell—which happens when the heart hits the chest—and then my blood pressure went up to 260, and they thought I was going to be talking to angels. Next thing I know, I’m in intensive care, where I’m surrounded by nuns, and I thought, ‘OK, that’s curtains.’”
Stallone was in the hospital for nine days following the incident, praying for “one more round.”
“For the first minute of the fight, it is going to be a free-for-all,” Stallone told Lundgren. The Swedish actor joked in a separate interview that all he did was “obey orders,” explaining, “[Stallone] was the boss. I did what he told me.”
Doctors allegedly told Stallone that he received a blow to the ribs that made his heart rattle around in his ribcage, a condition typically seen in head-on collisions. “I did hit a bus, of sorts,” Stallone joked.

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