The other day I was thumbing through the latest Entertainment Weekly and came across the feature article listing the "25 Greatest Actions Films Ever" (you may peruse here). Overall, I thought the choices were pretty good and I especially liked some of the outside-the-box selections such as The Incredibles. I completely agreed with the mag's choice for best action film ever with Die Hard (nicely timed with the upcoming release of Live Free or Die Hard and yet another DVD release of the previous three films), but I did raise my eyebrows not only at what was there, but at what was missing from the list. After all, these things aren't mean to be sacrosanct. They exist to be debated, argued over and challenged. Well, consider the gauntlet thrown. I came up with five films I would have taken off the list and five films I would have added. Here they are:
A lot of the movies I'm replacing are not because they're lesser films, but because I view them as more than just "action" films. Yes, Empire has action. But it is the least action packed film of the franchise. Empire is a much better movie than X2, but the second X-Men film brings it. And if you're going to include Spiderman 2 on the list of "Best Action Films Ever," you best pay respects to the best comic book film of them all.
Even the mag's writers admit Goldfinger hasn't aged incredibly well. It remains one of the best Bond films, it is true. Still, call me a disrespectful young'un because I'd still take James Cameron's what-if-I-turned-Ah-nuld-into-a-James-Bond-type experiment. It's not your fault, Goldfinger, Cameron is just one of the greatest action directors of all time. And don't worry, this film will no doubt will have aged just as poorly in about forty years.
Yes, Spielberg's film is one of the very best war films ever made. But to call it merely an action film is ludicrous. That isn't to say Ridley Scott's film isn't to be taken seriously. It's deadly serious but it also truly embraces the action genre. It's a case of a movie having it both ways. The movie just feels more like an action film. For example, the music is split between lamenting tones and testosterone-fueled action beats in a way that John William's Ryan score isn't. Josh Hartnett isn't your typical action hero, but Eric Bana is an action junkie's golden idol. And all those glorified shots of pan-hot bullet casings dropping onto mounds of ammo shells ... that's Ka-Blamo.
Seven Samurai is one of my favorite films, so this is no diss. I'd take Kikuchiyo's heart over John Rambo's biceps any day on the field of ass-kickery. The battle at the end is one of my favorites ever put on film but Kurosawa's masterpiece has a very long running time and there is comparatively very little action in it. This is a film about the setup, the buildup and the eventual payoff. First Blood on the other hand, is an action classic. And shame on EW for forgetting it.
Come on. I grew up on Errol Flynn's Robin Hood. I own it. I've seen it many, many times. And it's more of a romantic adventure than your standard action flick. I know Flynn is "the" professional swashbuckler but I have another sort of professional in mind. Leon remains a highlight for director Luc Besson, Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. Gary Oldman hams it up big time but he is scary good here. This is one of the best action flicks in the last twenty years.
I dumped a lot of classics. Do you hate me for it? Leave a comment below.
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Dre writes three times a week for Film.com, covering Movies and DVD with his Floridian flare. E-mail him!