It’s possible you’ll find some of the most underrated action films from the 80s on Ranker’s site, but it does pay to look around since action and the 80s kind of went hand in hand and there was an entire library of just this genre being pumped out back then. Back in the 80s people were being inundated with so many movies that either made it to the big screen or went straight to video that it was hard to keep up with them all and in truth some of them just kind of slipped through the cracks. That doesn’t mean that true movie aficionado’s such as Jason Bailey of Flavorwire hasn’t picked up on them though. The saturation that was felt in the 80s when it came to action though was easily felt since so many movies came out during that time that it was hard not to notice just many different titles were running through the theaters and how many were being sold directly to movie stores so that people could either ignore them or find them on a rainy day when there was nothing to do. Some of these are obviously underrated, but some did have their moment in the sun and then kind of got left behind and forgotten until they became cult classics or were picked up due to nostalgia.
Here are five of the most underrated action movies from the 80s.
5. Tango & Cash
The reason this movie was so awesome is that it brought together two of the biggest movie titans of the era and slammed them into a partnership that was supposed to be built on the premise that they were polar opposites that caught the bad guys in their own way. The film did that, but it also kind of flopped since the overall development of it really didn’t come through and the chemistry between Stallone and Russell, although good enough to pass muster, still felt a little forced at times. It’s kind of hard having two of the biggest alpha males in show business on the same set, even if they seemed to get along for the most part. Nathan Raban at Dissolve gives a pretty good accounting of this movie.
4. The Last Dragon
It’s said there are only so many stories that can be told with absolute originality and it’s actually very true. The Last Dragon is the kind of martial arts movie that is a lot of fun and at the same time seem to think it’s more dangerous and edgy than it really is. A lot of martial arts movies in the 80s seemed to be layered in an unseen protective layer that made them seem exciting but not really all that dangerous since the hero was always going to win and the bad guy was going to think that they were tougher than they actually were. It was a formula that held up for a long time until the 90s came around and things started changing.
3. The Last Starfighter
Any film that has to do with an alien or aliens or anything that involves saving a planet, a galaxy, or the universe is going to be somehow likened to either Star Trek or Star Wars since quite honestly the themes that are used are pretty similar. But this one was almost like Star Wars meets Tron in a way since the main protagonist was selected because he was so good at playing a video game that he was initiated into the ranks of those that sought to take down the main villain and protect the galaxy. One cool thing that this movie had to offer though was the death blossom scene, as that was thoroughly enjoyable.
Near the end of the 80s things started to get a little more serious when it came to martial arts movies since the damage to each individual started becoming more pronounced and the fights were getting a lot more vicious. Add into this the fact that Jean Claude Van Damme kind of owned the 80s scene for a little while and it became apparent that he was one of the few that were really pushing the change as it came along. From his signature movements to the sounds he made when he punched, kicked, and even headbutted his opponents into submission he became THE man for a little while, only to fade off quickly in the 90s.
1. The Running Man
To be honest this film gets a lot of flak since it was so different from the book. In the book the protagonist wasn’t fighting gladiators, he was simply trying to win the game so that he could help his family. But the movie took the simple idea and created a no-holds-barred version of American Gladiators it felt like as they pitted the contestants against ridiculously skilled opponents that had just about every advantage. It was a cool movie when it came out, but it was a little too much like watching a video game at times.
There are a lot of other movies that have the feel of being underrated, feel free to add a few.
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