August 12, 2012

Anatomy of an Action Hero

The “action hero” has been around in film for decades now. Humphrey Bogart’s Samuel Spade, Charlton Heston as George Taylor and Steve McQueen’s portrayal as Bullitt were some of the earlier starts to the action hero. The term “action hero” took a whole new meaning in the 80’s, ushering in a slew of fantastic action stars, such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. This is a list of my top 5 action heroes. Although the majority of the list will be no real surprise, the absence of Indiana Jones and James Bond was difficult. But ultimately, I felt that these five fit the definition of “action hero” best.

5. Martin Riggs – Introduced in the original Lethal Weapon in 1987, Riggs is everything that should constitute a non-hero. He is suicidal, reckless and self-centered. But, due to the brilliant performance by Mel Gibson, we immediately not only sympathize with him, but pull for him. Throughout the series Riggs continues to evolve and by the 4th film he has even become a family man. But when the time ever calls for it, no matter how much a softy he may become, the maniac can always come out. If he could ever be convinced for a return to the franchise, I think Mel Gibson could prove without a shadow of a doubt, that he is still not too old for this shit.

4. Max Rockatansky – One of the “original” 80’s action heroes. Mad Max was released in 1979 and his character continued to grow in popularity over the next 5 years, with the release of The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Max has every reason to hate the world, after losing his wife and child in a brutal gang attack. But instead, he channels it into a fierce hate of the bad and an admirable love for the good. Tom Hardy has officially replaced Mel Gibson as the new Max in the Mad Max: Fury Road. I believe if anyone can follow Mel it is him. But, he definitely has his work cut out for him.

3. The Terminator – The Terminator has the unique distinction of being the only action hero on this list that isn’t even a human. Introduced in 1984 as the T-800 series Terminator, which was a great action film in its own right, it wasn’t until the 1991 sequel that Schwarzenegger truly became the action “hero” terminator that we know and love him for today. When the character made the turn to the hero instead of the villain, it added a whole new level to the Terminator franchise. And let’s face it; it’s so much more fun to pull for Arnold than against him. He is getting up there in age, but it would still be fun to have Arnie return in some capacity at least one more time to the role that has made him most famous.

2. John Rambo – Although Rocky may arguably be Stallone’s most beloved character; Rambo would have to take the throne as his biggest action hero role. John Rambo is one of the best sympathetic bad asses out there. He is by far the most patriotic hero in the history of action. He has every reason to hate his country that turned its back on him long ago, but like an orphaned child, it only makes him long for that loving relationship that much more. The man can take out terrorist with anything from a simple rock, to playing chicken with tank. And he plays a mean game of goat polo too. Sly is still toying with the thought of another installment to the series and I have the feeling if it is ever announced, that it wouldn’t hurt many people’s feelings.

1. John McClane – Some may have a hard time accepting officer John McClane as the #1 action hero. But in my book, he epitomizes everything about an action hero. He is an “everyman”, not a one man army. He smokes, curses and doesn’t always play fair. He is a reluctant hero, but make no mistake about it, if he has to wipe the floor with your ass; he takes great pleasure in doing so. Bruce Willis has proven over the years that he can act if his heart is in it. But, with three successful sequels in the Die Hard franchise so far and a fourth on the way, it’s obvious what movie fans really crave from him.

About the Author

Brian M
Movies have been a big part of my life since the creation of the VCR. They have always been a way for me to escape. The action genre allowed that feeling more than any other, because the heroes in these films were living in an ordinary world, but were doing extraordinary things. Watching action movies encourages my imagination to explore while I am doing even the most mundane thing and make it exciting. Don't be afraid to use your imagination and keep action alive, no matter how old you get.



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