Top 20 Action Movies Of The 1990s , talk about a dream article to write. I asked Miguel about writing this article and while we agree on a lot of things, when it comes to movies we have a slightly differing point of view. Sometimes we both love the same movie but for totally different reasons. Because of that we decided to start our own Guy Vs. Guy series. His top 20 action movies of the 1990s versus mine.
When talking about action movies, the decade of the nineties is the golden age for most guys like myself. Nowadays it’s hard to find an action movie that has the characteristics that made all the movies of the nineties action classics. Starting with a cool but troubled man who does the right thing even if he has to do it the wrong way. He disregards the rule of law (and the law mostly disregards him) as he lays waste to all the bad guys in whatever city he’s in. Where our action hero goes, destruction and some of the best movie explosions follow. Sprinkle in some yelling, cool cars and big guns (with unlimited ammo somehow) and you have a great action movie of the 1990s.
Now to get this list down to just 20 movies was the challenge. For my part, my criteria is simple, when in doubt about which out of 2 movies should go in, whichever one I can, and want, to see again right now and smile through wins and makes it on. The movies on this list are must-see for any guy who loves his action. Now, in no particular order, let’s get this show moving.
Die Hard With A Vengeance
I can’t make a list of action movies of the 1990s without including Die Hard. While Die Hard 2 also came out in this decade, Die Hard With A Vengeance is the better movie. With it’s connection to the first movie of the series and the addition of the always entertaining Samuel L. Jackson, this movie is sure to please any guy looking for a night of explosions and gun fights. So sit back, relax and get ready to watch a movie that will make you say “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*ck*r”.
Air Force One
Air Force One is a movie that gave us one of the toughest and best US presidents we’ve ever seen on the big screen in Harrison Ford. A tough, gritty, stop at nothing to get the job done president. How do we know this? Easy, because he is faced with the the task of getting back control of his presidential plane after it gets hijacked by one of the greatest movie villains ever, Gary Oldman. I mean, just the fact that Gary Oldman is in this movie, giving one of his iconic performances is more than enough reason to watch this movie.
Lethal Weapon 3
This is one of the most entertaining movies ever made. Lethal Weapon has defined the buddy cop movie genre and the 3rd movie in the series is absolutely entertaining. It will make you laugh, it will make you smile, it will make you feel like your not too old for this shit. Action movies that is. Mel Gibson brings the action, Danny Glover brings the grumpiness and Joe Pesci does an amazing job in bringing the perfect level of comic relief to this franchise.
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a thing, before Superman was rebooted, before we became obsessed with The Dark Knight, we had Blade. A half human, half vampire, Blade is out to avenge his mother’s death and rid the world of vampires. So modern day vampires + vampire hunter with a sword and gadgets = happiness. Enjoy.
This movie is just one of the best movies of all time. An incredibly unique concept, here’s the plot: Obsessed with bringing terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) to justice, FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) tracks down Troy, who has boarded a plane in Los Angeles. After the plane crashes and Troy is severely injured, Archer undergoes surgery to remove his face and replace it with Troy’s. As Archer tries to use his disguise to elicit information about a bomb from Troy’s brother, Troy awakes from a coma and forces the doctor who performed the surgery to give him Archer’s face. So they literally exchange faces. Trust me, this movie is a masterpiece.
Men in Black
Aliens live among us. Mostly in NYC it seems. For some reason that kinda makes sense. I lived in New York for a good part of my life and if you told me all of a sudden that some of its inhabitants are aliens, like not from this planet aliens, I would honestly not be that surprised. Add to that the fact there’s a secret agency charged with keeping them in line and I’d be waiting for you to still tell me something I shouldn’t believe. This movie does a great job of showing us the world that exists beneath the world we see everyday and all it’s inner workings. Add to that the futuristic weaponry and sci fi inspired action and your set for a movie experience that was a first of it’s kind when it came out.
Arnold Scwarzenegger at his underrated best. Unbeknownst to his family, Harry (Arnold) is a spy whose family thinks he’s a boring salesman. While hunting down some nuclear missiles he finds out his neglected wife is contemplating having an affair with a used car salesman who has told her he’s a spy. In trying to do his job while fixing his marriage everything that can go wrong seems to. An action comedy that has a nice tone and pace also displays a great balance between the action and comedic moments. Truly enjoyable film that shows why Arnold is the superstar he is.
Action Movies Of The 1990s are defined by the stars it created. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were perhaps the 2 biggest names of the decade. They were the big guys who held the biggest guns, had the largest explosions and the strongest punches. But there was another man on the action movie campus, and he wasn’t into the biggest anything. Instead he showed us how single man can take a ship full of terrorists down with little more than his knowledge of the martial arts. Steven Segal was that man. Small on words, big on ass kicking. Plus this movie is prime Steven Segal, when his moves were somewhat believable and he wasn’t quite so… big.
Tom Cruise is not your typical action star. But then again, he’s not your typical movie star. For that reason you can expect the unexpected from him and in that sense Mission: Impossible is a great example of Tom Cruise being inside and outside the box at the same time. He gives us a great action movie with a concept seen in 007 films but with more action and more explosions. A guy movie must see.
The world is under attack, from aliens! Who will save us? Big Willie Style of course. This is the movie that gave Will Smith the Hollywood nickname Mr. 4th of July. Blockbuster movies were everywhere in the 1990s for Will and Independence Day might be his masterpiece. This movie about aliens attacking and the United States being the first line of defense is incredibly entertaining, with moments of drama, comedic spots and fighter jet vs. spaceship air battles. The sequel is coming out and looks to be just as action packed, but to enjoy this concept the right way, you have to see the original with Will Smith.
Nicolas Cage + Jerry Bruckheimer + Plane full of bad guys = Action Movie Awesomeness. A plane lands on the Las Vegas strip. I will repeat that for you, a PLANE lands ON the Las Vegas strip. Wanna know how that happens, watch the movie, today, now. Stop reading and go watch the movie. Seriously.
This movie changed how we viewed the world, for a while at least. Never before had we seen what we now called bullet time. But the concept that the world is not like we see it is something we see repeated in many differing versions throughout movies. However, the fact that we are all hooked up to computers and live only within our minds was an unseen concept to us until the Wachowski’s made it happen.
Talk about imagining a new world, or should I say new worlds. What happens when a man goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, and an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real – or does he? Well, somewhere along the way he meets a woman with 3 breasts. ‘Nuff said.
Bad boys, bad boys… You know how it goes. Marcus Burnett is a family man while Mike Lowry is a ladies’ man and they have 72 hours to reclaim a consignment of drugs stolen from under their station’s nose. On top of that, to get the only witness to a murder to work with them, they have to pretend to be each other. Who doesn’t love this movie? Martin Lawrence and Will Smith really should work together more often, this movie and its sequel is proof.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor in the original, must now protect her young son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg, made out of liquid metal. For some reason (James Cameron) this movie holds up incredibly well. To see some amazing movie technology in 1991 that was far ahead of its time you have to watch this movie. The fact that we get Arnold back as the most badass robot/android in movies, ever, is the biggest plus of this movie.
The Fifth Element
Who would think that a list of best action movies of the 1990s would have so many Bruce Willis hits. This is one of his best. Flying cars, spaceships, interstellar cruise ships and the best performance/cameo by Chris Tucker and you have one of the most original and entertaining action movies ever made. I love it, to this day it holds up extremely well.
Escape From L.A.
Believable? No. Realistic? No. Awesome? Mother-F’n YES! The main character’s name is Snake Plissken. SNAKE F’N PLISSKEN!!! L.A. becomes an island after the big one (earthquake) hits and becomes the main destination for the undesirables to be sent to from the US. But, when the president’s daughter nabs the detonator to her dad’s apocalyptic weapon and sneaks into L.A. to be with the rebel leader she loves, the government taps commando-turned-crook Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to retrieve the young woman. And, if he doesn’t succeed quickly, he’ll be executed. S-N-A-K-E P-L-I-S-S-K-E-N.
Sylvester Stallone is a badass in the future. That’s the basic concept of this movie. Future badass cop does badass things, finds out about a badass conspiracy and decides to take badass revenge. It is freaking awesome and you will love it.
This might be the most underrated out of all the action movies of the 1990s. Pure shoot ’em up action. The main reason for the lack of action movie love could be that it’s considered a western more than anything else. But what a western it is. By far my favorite. But if you don’t like it, I’ll be your huckleberry.
Any discussion into what are the best action movies of the 1990s can’t be complete without the mentioning the action masterpiece that is DemolitionMan. Sylvester Stallone versus Wesley Snipes, good versus evil, past versus future, it has everything for everyone. Even a high end Taco Bell restaurant. This is a great movie. Very imaginative, very action oriented, very 1990s action movie plot. If you’re into action movies, you’ll dig Demolition Man.
I hope you guys and gals enjoy these movies as much as I have. Obviously this list is better than anything that Miguel comes up with. But just in case you need a couple more suggestions, below you have a few more of my favorites. If you have some more suggestions, leave them in the comments below!
The following movies were some of my favorites and I would (and will) definitely watch them again, however they aren’t classic ACTION movies of the 1990s. These are still must-see movies and I hope you enjoy them.
- Last Man Standing
- The Fugitive
- Starship Troopers
- The Saint
- Last Action Hero
- Universal Soldier
- Rush Hour
- The Rock