The 1980s were replete with action movies. The cinematic world was growing, and the market for bigger and better films was becoming more popular. Movie studios took note of this increasing trend and looked to ride that wave into increased profits (and increased ticket sales).
The result? A boom in action-packed manly adventures where explosions almost always played a key role in them winning the day.
Here are ten of the best action movies from the 1980s:
Rambo First Blood
Sylvester Stallone stars as John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran who gets involved in an argument between local law enforcement officials while wandering through town. When he refuses to help them track down some fugitives, they try to strong-arm him into helping them. Enraged, Rambo escapes and starts to run amok in the town, but is eventually captured by the police after brutally murdering some of them.
However, rather than remain in custody while they attempt to broker peace with the fugitives’ camp, he manages to escape from jail and starts a violent campaign against law enforcement officials again.
In this film from 1985, Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa for the final time (at least during the 1980s). In this outing, Rocky is challenged by Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a Soviet boxer who brutally defeated Apollo Creed in an exhibition match late in the previous film. Only too happy to defend the honor of his friend, Rocky agrees to a match against Drago in order to ensure that he is never allowed to fight again.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a 1984 cyborg assassin named the Terminator in this 1984 action movie. Sent from the future on a deadly mission, he stalks and kills Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as she is pursued by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), another soldier sent back through time by John Connor to protect her. He sets out to kill both Sarah and Kyle before they can conceive the child who will grow up to lead the human resistance against an inevitable future war with machines.
Based on a book titled Nothing Lasts Forever, this 1988 action movie follows John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he tries to reconcile with his estranged wife at a Christmas party in a tall office building. Unfortunately for the partygoers, a gang of terrorists also decides to crash the party and take everyone hostage. As McClane fights to save his wife and avoid getting killed by the terrorists, he becomes drawn into an ever-deepening plot that involves international espionage and terrorism.
Back to the Future
In this funny 1985 comedy, Michael J. Fox plays Marty McFly, a teenager from 1985 who is accidentally transported back in time 30 years earlier to 1955 after doing some unauthorized experimenting with his father’s DeLorean time machine. Determined not to change any major events so as not to ruin his own future, Marty nevertheless finds himself drawn into a high-stakes adventure involving some of the people he meets in 1955.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays retired special forces operative John Matrix in this 1985 action movie classic, who is forced back into action when his daughter (Alyssa Milano), whom he has never met, is kidnapped by a band of South American criminals.
The gang’s leader contacts Matrix and tells him that they will kill her if Matrix does not cooperate with them, leaving him little choice but to use both his military training and street smarts to take them out one by one until he can finally save his daughter.
When U.S. Army special forces are slaughtered in the jungles of Central America under mysterious circumstances, Special Forces Operative Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent in with a group of elite soldiers led by “Blaine” Cooper (Jesse Ventura) so that they can determine what happened to the missing men. However, they soon discover that there is more than meets the eye in this 1987 movie and that humans may be under threat from a different kind of predator altogether.
Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy stars in this funny action movie as a street-smart Detroit cop from the ghetto named Axel Foley, who comes to Beverly Hills to solve the case of his best friend’s murder. After being framed by a crooked police officer for attempted murder, he is forced to go on the run and must team up with a mild-mannered Beverly Hills detective (Judge Reinhold) in order to bring down some drug dealers and expose a corrupt police department in this funny 1984 film.
Tom Cruise plays “Maverick”, a young pilot who is selected for an elite training school where he can learn to become the best of the best. However, Maverick must work with his rival “Iceman (Val Kilmer)” and deal with all sorts of issues ranging from accidents to relationship trouble in order to achieve his dream in this funny 1986 movie about life as a naval aviator.
The Karate Kid
Ralph Macchio stars as Daniel Larusso, an average teenager who moves from New Jersey to California with his mother and finds that adjusting to life in a new environment isn’t going well. That changes when he meets karate instructor Mr.Miyagi (Pat Morita), who agrees to help Daniel learn karate so that he can deal with the school bullies and even defend himself against the Cobra Kai, a gang of young troublemakers led by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) in this funny 1984 movie.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays American soldier Frank Dux, who is a top martial-arts fighter in Europe and decides to enter a no-holds-barred full contact tournament called the “Kumite”. When he refuses to throw a fight at the behest of his superiors, he finds himself framed for drug trafficking and must go on the run if he wants to clear his name in this funny 1988 movie that helped launch JCVD into stardom.
Patrick Swayze plays Dalton, a former Marine and tough guy bouncer at a rough-and-tumble bar in Missouri whose philosophy is to “be nice until it’s time to not be nice”. When he is hired to work the door at the Double Deuce bar, which has been taken over by Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) and his thuggish crew, he starts cleaning up the place and learns that things are more complicated than they seem when dealing with gangsters in this funny 1989 film.
Peter Weller plays Alex Murphy, a Detroit Police Officer who is killed on duty by a gang of criminals. However, his family agrees to let him be brought back to life as the half-man/half-robot “Robocop” in order to fight crime and corruption in this funny 1987 movie that features plenty of gore and violence along the way.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones, a college professor, and archaeologist who is skilled in tracking down rare items is hired by the U.S. Government to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant before Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich can harness its power for evil purposes in this funny 1981 movie that inspired several sequels and gained Harrison Ford fame as an action hero during his career.
Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley, a warrant officer on the spaceship Nostromo who is responsible for hiring a team of space marines to investigate a signal coming from a nearby planet. However, she soon finds out that her old nemesis from the first “Alien” movie has been brought back to life and plans on using the human race as hosts in this funny 1986 science-fiction sequel.
Mel Gibson plays Martin Riggs, a Los Angeles cop who has recently been transferred to the city’s homicide unit. While working to solve his first case, he meets up with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), an older cop who is trying to work on his last big case before retirement in this funny 1987 movie that launched two successful sequels and helped make Mel Gibson famous around the world.
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