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
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.
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
Movie: Undisputed 2 & 3
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
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
Alex Murphy AKA RoboCop
Actor: Peter Weller
Robocop – In the far of dystopian year of 2014, in a bankrupt and crime-ridden Detroit, newly transferred police officer Alex Murphy gets cornered, tortured and brutally murdered. For most men, this would be the end – for Murphy though, it marked the beginning of his one man war against crime as the walking, talking war machine known as Robocop.
Turned into the ultimate cyborg crimefigher by Omni Consumer Products, Robocop is covered from head-to-toe in armor making him nigh indestructible, and armed with a fearsome arsenal of weapons from his mighty Auto-9 hand cannon to the Cobra Assault Cannon, Robocop proves more than capable to bring law and order to the streets of Detroit by almost by himself, at least until he runs into the machinations of his cooperate overlords at Omni Consumer Products.
Yet what ultimately sets Robocop apart as an action hero and as a franchise, is that the core of the character his humanity. The Robocop films follow Alex Murphy as he fights for the soul of Detroit, as well as his own, and his greatest victories come not on the battlefield, but as he claims back what little shreds of his humanity he can. Though he faces an onslaught of villains, both man and machine, more often than not, it’s his human ingenuity, or even something as small as the ability to climb stairs, that saves the day. All the armor and weapons aside, Robocop is effective because of the man Alex Murphy is, and watching Murphy remind us all that he’s more than a machine may be Robocop’s greatest victory.
Robocop, the future face of law enforcement, with the body of a machine, the head of a man, and the heart of a hero.
Author: Sean C.W. Korsgaard
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
Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle
Movie: The French Connection
Actor: Gene Hackman
No list would be complete without an entry featuring the legendary Gene Hackman in one of his finest hours.
The French Connection is pretty much a flawless action thriller from director William Friedkin (The Exorcist); it’s expertly tense and Doyle isn’t a cut and dry hero by any means.
He’s actually bit of an asshole and happily breaks the rules in order to get the job done. He’s also a womanizing, racist alcoholic… and that’s him on a good day (sheesh).
As if that isn’t bad enough, Doyle kills an undercover agent towards the end but that still doesn’t distract him from completing his mission. Wait, aren’t these guys meant to be heroes?
The French Connection is based on a true story which only makes it even more interesting; the characters are well developed and you’ve also got THAT car chase which remains one of the all-time greats.
Gene Hackman won an Oscar as Best Actor for his role as Doyle and it was utterly deserved; he would return for a sequel which was inferior to the original but was still entertaining.
Author: Eoin Friel
23. Leroy Green
Movie: The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon was everything that was awesome about the 80’s and Taimak’s portrayal of Leroy Green was one of the best characters of the decade; he had a pure heart and fought for good fighting against the evil but awesome Sho’nuff (Julius Carry).
It’s still a shame that we never got a sequel as I loved the world of The Last Dragon but it was also tragic to lose co-star Vanity so young as she passed away in 2016.
Author: Eoin Friel
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 longer cares about his own life and this makes him reckless and unpredictable.
Arguably 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. Even 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
Movie: Hard Boiled
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 40min 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.