Icons of Action

February 13, 2015
 

The Best Action Heroes of All Time: 30-21

30-21

Today we’re counting down from 30-21; contributors include Dean Meadows,Milos Misic, Lee Golden, Don Burnell and myself.

Tomorrow we enter the final top 20 action heroes of all time.

To see the rest of the list so far, you can click on the following: 70-61, 60-51, 50-41 and 40-31.

Once again thank you everyone for your contributions.

 

 

 

The-Matrix-Reloaded-03

30. Thomas A. Anderson AKA Neo

Movie: The Matrix Trilogy

Actor: Keanu Reeves

Neo is arguably Keanu Reeves’ most iconic character; not just because he says “woah” either. The training that Keanu had to go through in this movie was insane; he had to have really strong core muscles in order to perform the bullet dodging scenes and practice jabs and crosses in order to be faster.

He worked using small weights, boxing techniques and trained to have as much lower body strength as possible. This apparently also helped him for scenes involving jumping over roofs.

He was never over-muscular in The Matrix movies but this kept him lean and fast.

Keanu spent several months learning the art of kung fu and being trained by legend Yuen Woo Ping which will certainly have helped too.

When asked about working with the martial arts legend Keanu replied “Woo Ping’s very cognizant of what looks good and what looks bad and being able to teach that. His fight choreography is so inventive, and it’s fun. But it’s not silly, it looks like fights. He really wants an authenticity to his choreography.”

The Matrix wasn’t just about kung fu though; it was philosophical and asked important questions about who we are as humans. Neo isn’t just a killing machine either, but a sensitive and very human protagonist. His relationship with Trinity is believable and when Monica Belluci said “something so beautiful isn’t meant to last”, you just know that tragedy is waiting around the corner.

The sequels weren’t very popular and didn’t live up to the first Matrix but I still enjoy elements of all three and there’s no denying how innovative they were.

There’s a reason the series made millions at the box office; it’s that rare beast of action movie with brains and heart as well as kung fu and shoot-outs.

 

Author: Eoin Friel

The-Crow-3-1

29. Eric Draven

Movie: The Crow

Actor: Brandon Lee

The Crow has become one of the most iconic action movies of all-time and to this day remains one of the best comic book adaptations too.

It was meant to be the movie that would make Brandon Lee a household name; it did, but for all the wrong reasons. Sadly, Brandon Lee died on the set after a gun prop misfired and hit him with a defective blank.

The movie is associated with the tragedy but putting that aside, it’s still an excellent tale which is moving, dark and filled with stunning gothic visuals.

Draven is a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his murder and death of his fiancée by a mysterious crow.

Lee embodies Eric Draven so completely that his death in real life only makes the movie even more moving and poignant.

The film had to be completed using digital effects and was widely praised by critics and fans.

They have been trying to remake the movie for several years and it’s also had several inferior sequels, but no matter what happens with The Crow next, Brandon Lee’s film will always be the best.

 

Author: Eoin Friel

chambersboyka

28. Yuri Boyka

Movie: Undisputed 2 & 3

Actor: Scott Adkins

His name might not be as recognizable as John Rambo or John McClane but there is no doubt that Yuri Boyka should be mentioned in the same sentence.

For the 3 of you who have never heard of him, he is a character in Undisputed 2 & 3 and he is the most complete fighter in the world. Played to perfection by Scott Adkins, Boyka starts off as the villain of Undisputed 2.

The story involves George “Iceman” Chambers (Michael Jai White) visiting the Russian Federation for a series of boxing matches; he is subsequently framed for possession of cocaine and sent to prison. There, he discovers a series of illegal full-contact Mixed Martial Arts matches dominated by inmate Yuri Boyka.

Although essentially the villain, Boyka does have a code of honour and he doesn’t condone cheating in any way. If he wins a fight it has to be because of his skill, not for money. When Chambers meets Boyka in the ring for the first time, it appears that Chambers has the upper hand. We then discover that his water has been drugged and he starts to lose focus. He then gets defeated by Boyka and begins to heal. When Chambers confronts Boyka about it, he is genuinely shocked. Boyka asks his cronies if they drugged Chambers and when they tell him that they did, he chokes one of them to death. Boyka has been dishonoured and agrees to a rematch with Chambers, this time without any drugs. He is badly defeated by Chambers and is left a broken and humiliated man.

In Undisputed 3: Redemption we revisit Yuri Boyka after his battle with Chambers and he is now mopping floors, with long dirty hair and no confidence. His leg is in a brace after his fight with Chambers and he hasn’t fought since. He meets a new inmate called Turbo who he reluctantly befriends and he starts to fight again. Boyka regains his confidence and now wants to reclaim his dignity; we are now 100% on his side. He wins various fights and he and Turbo eventually escape. Obviously there is a lot more to the story here but what am I? The narrator? Go watch the films!

Anyway, Yuri Boyka is such a well-defined character with a brilliant story arc. Starting off as a tough as nails villain to broken down loser to champion and good guy at the end. It’s hard to imagine any other actor aside from Adkins portraying this role as effectively. He makes Boyka utterly believable where you fear him when you’re meant to and like him at the same time. That is why Boyka is and always will be an icon of action.

Now everybody say it with me: BOYKA! BOYKA! BOYKA! BOYKA!

 

Author: Eoin Friel

mcqueen-bullitt-blazer-635

27. Frank Bullitt

Movie: Bullitt

Actor: Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen was officially one of the coolest actors of all time and this role from 1968’s Bullitt only cemented his repuation.

Whenever people say what movie has the greatest car chase in cinema history? Everyone says Bullitt. Why? Because McQueen did the majority of the driving himself and there has rarely been a car chase to match it.

Frank Bullitt is the strong silent type but interestingly enough is based on San Francisco Inspector Dave Toschi, with whom McQueen worked prior to filming. McQueen apparently also copied Toschi’s unique “fast draw” shoulder holster which became part of Bullitt’s iconic look.

The movie’s main focus was on realism; it was all real locations and attention to detail rather than being filmed on sets.

Lalo Schifrin’s jazzy score is now just as famous as the car chase and has been used in commercials and tributes since.

What makes Bullitt stand out from other movie cops is that he is genuinely good at his job; he doesn’t get shouted out by a police chief and takes his time to investigate rather than shooting first and asking questions later.

There was talk of a remake (of course) a few years ago featuring Brad Pitt but thankfully that never happened.

 

Author: Eoin Friel

braddock-missing-in-action-iii

 26. Colonel James Braddock

Movie: Missing in Action Trilogy

Actor: Chuck Norris

Colonel James Braddock, (now retired,) was an all American hero, who served his country in the Army’s Special Forces during the Vietnam War.  In 1972, after their helicopter was shot down, Braddock along with his team were captured by the evil and sadistic Colonel Yin.  ‘Missing in Action’ for several years Braddock and his soldiers were subjected to all forms of physical and mental torture.  Whilst some of them perished and others were executed, Braddock, (forced to confess to war crimes he didn’t commit in an attempt to save his friends,) stayed focused and strong until the time was right to mount an escape.  Using his unrivaled martial arts skills and cunning jungle warfare capabilities, Braddock was able to destroy the prisoner of war camp, leading his men to freedom before going back into the compound to take revenge on the power crazed Yin.

Several years after the war had ended, but still haunted by nightmares of the violence from his past, Braddock was asked to return to Vietnam on a mission to prove that American MIA’s were still being held there.  Disregarding the politics surrounding the mission, Braddock left his escort and government officials behind, purchased weaponry from the black market, killed every enemy in his path and went back into the jungle determined to find and bring his countrymen home.  As the Vietnamese council began to declare Colonel Braddock a war criminal and denied any existence of American prisoners still remaining in their camps, Braddock burst through the office guards and delivered the POW’s, once again completing a successful mission for his country.

Colonel Braddock is one of the greatest action heroes of all time, appearing in the films, ‘Missing In Action’, ‘Missing In Action 2 – The Beginning’ and ‘Braddock – Missing In Action 3’. Seemingly invincible, armed with not only his hands and feet but also some classic one-liners, “I don’t step on toes… I step on necks,” Braddock defines everything that was great about 80’s action movies and is arguably the character that catapulted Chuck Norris from martial arts champion and genre actor to household name.

Author: Dean Meadows

 Road_house_2

25.Dalton

Movie: Road House

Actor: Patrick Swayze

He is the best bouncer in the business. His nights are filled with fast action, hot music and beautiful women. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

His name…. is Dalton, starring in ROAD HOUSE!

Now although Road House was not a big box office smash, Dalton played by the iconic Patrick Swayze is an easy going but intense character that had a way of drawing you into the action and who could forget some of the classic lines.

Steve: Being called a cocksucker isn’t personal?

Dalton: No. Its two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.

Steve: What if somebody calls my mama a whore?

Dalton: Is she?


 

Dalton All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.


 

Dalton: Take the biggest guy in the world, shatter his knee and he’ll drop like a stone.


 

Dalton: So, you play pretty good for a blind white boy.

Cody, Band Singer at Double Deuce: Yeah, and I thought you’d be bigger.


 

Now I have to admit, being an Ex Bouncer some of the things he says hold very true, I have in training the newbie’s used the “be nice” line. Anyway back to ROAD HOUSE!

Dalton even got the girl in a steamy barn scene with actress Kelly Lynch (Kinda makes you wanna go out and become a bouncer).

All in all good action and hot women….. What else could you ask for?

Oh and Peter Griffin spoofing Dalton on Family Guy.

In my book a classic, I gave it a 3 out of 5 Stomp Kick rating.

 

Just a little added extra:

True Story, the real Life Dalton

In the early and mid 80’s, in Dayton, Ohio, there was a bar called the First Stop. It was the scene of literally hundreds of bar room fights. The main ‘bouncer’ at the bar was a young man named Tony Carmichael. Tony was everything James Dalton portrayed in Roadhouse. He was firm and fair. He was unbeatable in a fight and he was a true ‘lover’ of women. If he liked you and called you his friend, you had a great ally. If like Dalton, he disliked who and what you stood for, you had a formidable foe. So, when Jeff Healy refers to that bar in Dayton, many have suggested that he was referring to the First Stop, 1155 Brown Street, Dayton, Ohio. Tony and Dalton were the same! They both carried reputations among the ‘bar scene’ that were almost mythical. Both were bigger than life! In Dayton, Ohio if someone mentions the movie ‘Roadhouse’, everyone re-calls the First Stop and Tony Carmichael. (IMDb)

 

Author: Don “The Iron Sensei” Burnell

 

 

commando1 

24. John Matrix

Movie: Commando

Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Widely regarded as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films, Commando has one-liners galore and a bodycount that is off the scale.

Matrix is an ex-green beret who is also a devoted and loving father to his daughter Jenny. When his former colleague Bennett kidnaps Jenny and attempts to force Matrix to assassinate a South American dictator named Arius, things don’t go to plan. Matrix fights backs and begins a race against time to save his daughter and kill as many bad guys as possible.

One of the reasons Matrix remains popular to this day is that audiences love an indestructible hero. Sure, he’s human and has no superpowers but you know that he will kill the villains and save the day like a true action hero should.

This is essentially Arnold’s version of Rambo and it’s a shame we never got a sequel as John Matrix is a true icon of action.

One of my favourite scenes is his interrogation of the slimy weasel Sully; he has him hanging over a cliff using his “weak arm” and says:

John Matrix: Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?

Sully: That’s right, Matrix! You did!

John Matrix: I lied.

He then drops Sully to his death below.

The action in this movie is outstanding with Matrix becoming an unstoppable one man army and his climactic fight with Bennett has one of his best ever one-liners: “Let off some steam, Bennett!”

 

Author: Eoin Friel

 

Blade

23. Blade

Movie: The Blade Trilogy

Actor: Wesley Snipes

In 1973, creators Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan gave life to a new breed of superhero in the form of a half-human, half vampire in a version that wouldn’t have likely serviced moviegoers 25 years later. By all means, it could probably work now much more than in 1998 when action cinema was taking on a new age, a new look and a new tone with a certain touch to music and costume design, and a cinematic flair that favored more toward contemporary storytelling as we entered the new millennium. But, as it stands, 1998 was the year we got our modernized approach in director Stephen Norrington’s Marvel Comics adaptation, Blade with actor Wesley Snipes, and you know what? You’re welcome.

Screenwriter David S. Goyer helped bring this particularly fascinating character to life in a film that already saw our protagonist well into his years as a methodically-skilled and seasoned vampire hunter, vengeful over the death of his mother with a specific hatred for anyone who preferred the taste of blood more than anything else and couldn’t stand sunlight, silver or garlic, as well as human defectors alike. Blade was the one that gave you goosebumps on your cold, dead skin. He was the cage rattler…the boogeyman… the one man army against all who threatened mankind, with an unrivalled skillset that made him a legend to be feared right down to the explosive, bloody end. And Snipes owned every minute on screen between both films…and maybe the third, but we’ll get to that later.

Deep down though, Blade wasn’t always a hardened killer. He was very careful with his judgement of character, human or otherwise, had a softside for a select few he and knew he could trust, or even love, and there are really only a few incidences where we see this, specifically with two important characters:

Abraham Whistler (played by Kris Kristofferson), his trainer and mentor, now aged with a leg that never fully healed in his own years of fighting, had a no-bullshit touch to his grump, geriatric tough guy exterior that contributed much to the comradery and loyalty he and Blade shared between each other. While Blade will certainly protect mankind where and when possible, Whistler is someone he would give his life for any time of the day. You could even say they were family aside from their “arrangement” as he so puts it to N’Bushe Wright in the first film, you and you could feel the pain and anger behind Blade’s numb, stone-faced as he walks away while Whistler presumably takes his own life. Granted, Blade isn’t exactly the kind of guy who is in touch with his own emotions all the time, but Snipes does a terrific job in achieving so much by doing ever so little, and putting it where it works best, which makes the third act worth every second as Blade tears his way through the House Of Erebus and nullifying Deacon Frost’s squad of noobs before sticking it to La Magra at the very end.

The second occurs in director Guillermo Del Toro’s sequel, Blade 2, when Blade inexplicably finds himself falling for a vampire named Neesa (played by Leonor Varela), upon allying themselves among a ragtag of uneasy vampires volunteering as part of a tactical unit to annihilate a new breed of monster that feasts on vampires and humans alike. As the story plays out, the alliance goes tits up when a traitor emerges and a blood feud is revealed between a father and his own children. To be honest though, I never did fully understand why Blade had those feeling for Neesa as it is never really explained in the film, although I digress seeing as how there really didn’t need to be one. You could argue that it was a stupid thing to add to the story and that Blade probably should have killed her anyway because they stand as opposites. But then again, you could chalk it up to Blade’s judge of character, a compass that leans any way he sees fit in deciding who he allows to get close to him, even enough to know the internalized human side that longs for an emotional connection. Strange bedfellows indeed, but what is left of Blade’s humanity is a man who still feels what he feels with a love that was vaguely boundless, and for all intents and purposes, very much self-explanatory.

The Blade saga has always been much more about watching Snipes perform the dazzling fight spectacle seen in all three films. Of course, the action really was amazing, but I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t acknowledge just how much I loved Blade 2 out of the entire franchise. Del Toro had his hands on everything from the action, set design and costumes, right down to the editing and music, and it’s one truly great example of why it is Del Toro is one of the most beloved directors of our time. To top it off though, it’s Snipes who deserves the brunt of any and all credit for such a winning role that can allow him to execute his caliber of martial arts screenfighting whilst exhibiting different dimensions to his acting. Good writing also plays a role in this, and I accredit all who have given Blade such a memorable place in action movie history.

On that note, you might be wondering why I didn’t include Blade: Trinity in this analysis, which I might be able to in some way or another, but I won’t, and for only one simple fact: I hated that movie. As much as there is to factor in whatever on-set circumstances there were, the bottom line is that Goyer is the director and at the end of the day, it is his movie.

“…But he made up for it in Man Of St-“

No.

“…Well Goyer and Snipes didn’t like each-“

No.

“…Well Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds worked really hard and-“

NO! Nothing should have gotten in the way of making that film a better finale for a trilogy, so I don’t care how many times Goyer blows my mind in the DC realm, he failed with Blade: Trinity, and any responsible director will respect that. So, take with that what you will.

What I’m taking away from this, is a memorable application of a classic superhero that remains as one of the best cinematic characters in action movie history. Hats off to Snipes and everyone who made it happen for the first two films, including Goyer, but by all means, forget whatever that travesty was in 2004, and since even Snipes himself wants back into the Blade fray, I’m more than welcome to it. Maybe a new director could accomplish what John Hyams did for Universal Soldier: Regeneration…

Maybe John Hyams can direct it! #KnockOnWood

 

Author: Lee Golden

riggs-and-murtaugh

22. Riggs and Murtaugh

Movie: The Lethal Weapon Series

Actors: Mel Gibson and Danny Glover

I don’t think there is another buddy movie (aside from maybe Tango & Cash) which will ever be as popular as Lethal Weapon. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) were the perfect mismatched cops forced to work together to solve a homicide.

The first movie will always be my favourite because they hadn’t introduced Joe Pesci’s annoying character yet and the tone was just right.

Martin Riggs is arguably my favourite Gibson character because he is so tortured. Haunted by the death of his wife, he no longer cares about his own life and this makes him reckless and unpredictable.

The character’s finest moment is only in the Director’s Cut involving Riggs taking out a sniper. He is the epitome of cool and ruthlessness, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth; he doesn’t flinch as the sniper takes pot shots at him.

Riggs is so broken that he contemplates suicide at regular intervals and the scene where he puts the gun in his mouth while in tears is the most moving moment of the series.

Gibson plays the character to perfection and I don’t think I would ever even consider watching a reboot with a different actor in the role.

Roger Murtaugh is the polar opposite of Riggs; he’s a risk averse family man who likes to play it safe. When he is partnered up with Riggs, his world is turned upside down and he takes action where he wouldn’t normally. He’s not quite as interesting a character as Riggs but that’s the point. He’s the straight man to Riggs’ loose canon.

The characters work so well together because they essentially help each other to change and develop. Murtaugh’s family man helps to keep Riggs sane and Riggs helps Murtaugh to take more risks and be less uptight.

The banter between them is some of the best you’ll ever see, why? The movies are written by Shane Black and no one writes buddy movie banter like Black.

The one-liners are hilarious but he also gets the tone pitch perfect. It has the right amount of emotional engagement and humour so it doesn’t descend into farce, which it pretty much does in a few scenes in the later movies.

Riggs & Murtaugh will always be seen as the template for the buddy genre and without them there would be no Bad Boys, Midnight Run or even Hot Fuzz. After nearly 30 years the movie still stands up, proving that Riggs and Murtaugh will never be too old for this shit.

 

Author: Eoin Friel 

 InspectorTequila

21. Inspector Tequila

Movie: Hard Boiled

Chow Yun-Fat

While Inspector Tequila isn’t as famous as, say Dirty Harry, it still is a force to be reckon with. Played by the legendary Chow Yun Fat in his final team-up with John Woo called Hard Boiled, Tequila is perhaps the least complex of all the character CYF played in his collaborations with John Woo.

In that regard while A Better Tomorrow and The Killer had a lot of (melo) drama, Hard Boiled is a straight up action fest, a swan song for heroic bloodshed Woo is famous for. In Hard Boiled the dramatic part is done by its second lead, an undercover cop Tequila teams up, while CYF handles the action hero part.

The script does Tequila no favors as it portrays him as a pretty straightforward badass cop, but CYF uses a lot of his own charm to make him a likeable protagonist. Had any other actor played him it just wouldn’t be the same.

In the movie Tequila is a force of nature, a renegade to the cops and an unstoppable hunter to the gangsters, and that is what makes it so fun to see him take out an entire warehouse full of gangsters, all by his own, or if that wasn’t enough a mini Die Hard scenario in the last 40 min of the movie where Tequila and his partner liberate the entire hospital and mow down a small army.

Tequila would go on to appear in a video game-only sequel Stranglehold where he has to find his long lost daughter and take out the union between the Triads and the Russians in both Hong Kong and the US. The creators of the game managed to get CYF to reprise his role as well as get John Woo to oversee the project as well as reprise his own role as a jazz barkeep from Hard Boiled.

If you loved Hard Boiled and you are into video games Stranglehold is as close as you’ll get to seeing on of movie’s greatest gunslingers in a new adventure.

 

Author: Milos Misic

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About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone. We also want to help promote new talent whether you're making blockbusters, low-budget Indie movies or fan films; if it's action, it's awesome.



 
 

 
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