To quote one of the most prolific action stars in Hollywood: “I tend to think of action movies as exuberant morality plays in which good triumphs over evil.”
Bruce Willis. Tom Cruise. Sylvester Stallone. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jackie Chan. Harrison Ford. Keanu Reeves. Do me a favor? Think of what some of your all-time favorite action films are? To most, Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Matrix, The Dark Knight, etc. all come to mind.
Now, try to remember where you saw these movies for the first time? Was it in a theater? Was it at your grandparents house? Your house? Did you see it on streaming? Whatever your answer may be, your favorite action film is always near and dear to you because it invokes a feeling inside of you that other genres of film don’t.
Fast-forward to March 2020. You’ve just come back from the movie theater. You saw a movie you really enjoyed. And then you turn on the news and you hear of the COVID-19 pandemic literally changing the paradigm of human existence in a blink of an eye. Across the world, and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theaters are closing, festivals are canceled or postponed, and film releases were moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely.
Due to cinemas and movie theaters closing, the global box office lost countless amounts of revenue, streaming saw a significant increase in popularity, and the stock of film exhibitors dropped dramatically. Many blockbusters originally scheduled to be released were postponed indefinitely around the world, with film productions also being halted.
None of us knew at the time, if we would ever be able to sit inside of a movie theater again and if so, if it would ever be the same again? 2021 saw the hopeful return of movie theaters in limited capacity. Studios were ready to release their tent poles but most of them were released in a day-and-date format that saw a theatrically released film also be available to watch on streaming at almost no extra cost for subscribers, (thanks to HBO Max’s “Project Popcorn”).
Thankfully, it was Spider-Man: No Way Home that gave moviegoers a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel with audiences being treated to the returns of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. A film that would go on to make $1.9B at the box office. 2022 became the year studios truly went above and beyond to treat moviegoers to what they were missing throughout all of COVID.
Action films proved to be the savior of cinema in 2022 – the highest grossing movies of the year were all from the genre with films such as Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion dominating box offices across the globe.
2023 has already been an impressive start for action cinema with the returns of beloved franchises in John Wick: Chapter 4,Creed III, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. There’s also tons of front-loaded action flicks ready to dominate box office with Fast X, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, The Flash, Dune Part Two, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny all hitting big screens this year.
The reason I love action cinema is not just because of the cool stunts, cinematography, or dialogue our protagonist lays forth in the heat of the moment that gets our blood pumping, it’s because I enjoy seeing the good guys win.
I love being in awe watching Keanu Reeves beating up bad guys in ways I never imagined were possible, or Tom Cruise performing one death-defying stunt after another, or Sylvester Stallone in a training montage for a boxing fight, a car racing sequence that has sound design unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The list goes on and on about why action cinema is so integral to Hollywood but the bottom line is they offer a form of escapism no other genre, respectively offers.
There’s nothing like seeing your favorite action movie star on the big screen inside on a scorching hot summer day with a large popcorn and beverage of choice next to you. That’s a feeling I never thought I’d be able to experience again. I’m happy to report that not only is action cinema back and fully running, it’s bringing audiences back who never thought they’d want to return to the theater again.
This article is written by Nick Zednik; celebrating the cultural impact of the action genre in cinema & TV, and promoting THE LONDON ACTION FESTIVAL taking place in London from Wednesday 21st – Sunday 25th June. Sign up to the newsletter to receive all news, updates, and Early Bird ticket release.