I get a lot of questions from fans about my favorite adventure thriller authors (James Rollins, Andy McDermott, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, Boyd Morrison, Jack DuBrul, among others), but recently I’ve had several requests for my favorite action movies. So here they are, in alphabetical order:
Air Force One (1997)—Harrison Ford as United States President James Marshall who has to rescue his plane from terrorists, Die Hard-style.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)—the classic action-comedy starring Eddie Murphy at his finest.
Cliffhanger (1993)—Sylvester Stallone plays a mountain rescue ranger up against impossible odds when John Lithgow’s team of Bad Guys brings down a U.S. Treasury plane in the Rocky Mountains to steal the 100 million dollars aboard. Lithgow gives a tour-de-force performance as the psychotic, quirky Eric Qualen.
Commando (1985)—starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix, a retired Delta Force operative who is forced to carry out a political assassination when his daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano) is held hostage. Naturally, he escapes and turns the tables on the Bad Guys. Also starring the lovely Rae Dawn Chong. One of the best action films of the decade.
Con Air (1997)—when former Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) accidentally kills a man for assaulting his pregnant wife, he is sentenced to a maximum-security federal penitentiary. After his release, he is to be sent home on a C-123 prison transport plane along with a number of other convicts, including Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovitch), who hijacks the plane en route, forcing Poe to attempt to save the day. Steve Buscemi as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene is over-the-top creepy and John Cusack as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin holds his end up well. The final act is the best part of the movie.
Die Another Day (2002)—the twentieth adventure in the Bond series, starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, and a top contender for number one in the franchise. Although Sean Connery was the coolest Bond, Brosnan is the best overall, and the closest (so far) to the character portrayed in Ian Fleming’s novels.
Die Hard (1988)—probably the best action film ever made, starring the iconic Bruce Willis as the equally iconic John McLane (the role was first pitched to Frank Sinatra and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom turned it down). The script is flawless and layered with social commentary and the action moves fast. Alan Rickman is brilliant as Hans Gruber, the terrorist mastermind.
Eraser (1996)—Ah-nuld again as U.S. Marshall John Kruger, code-named “Eraser” for his expertise at making people disappear into the Federal Security Witness Protection Program, on the run with Vanessa Williams, who has appropriated information regarding the secret sale of a top secret superweapon to terrorists.
Executive Decision (1996)—when terrorists carrying a deadly nerve agent hijack a plane headed for Washington, D.C., U.S. Army intelligence consultant Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) and a force of commandos board the jet in mid-air and save the day. Halle Berry is in this one, too, plus a short appearance by Steven Seagal. Tense, exciting—well worth watching.
Fair Game (1995)—a much overlooked (and for some strange reason, much-maligned) action flick starring William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford. When lawyer Kate McQuean (Cindy Crawford) tries to seize a freighter in a divorce case settlement, she sets off a firestorm of events that forces her on the run with police detective Max Kirkpatrick (William Baldwin). The result is a non-stop, seat-of-your-pants action extravaganza.
Goldfinger (1964)—probably the best of the Sean Connery Bond efforts (although nothing is cooler than the first time Connery says, “Bond, James Bond” in Dr. No).
Hard to Kill (1990)—police detective Mason Storm (Steven Seagal) wakes up from a seven-year coma to seek vengeance against the corrupt police and politicians who murdered his wife. Seagal’s ex-wife, Kelly LeBrock, co-stars.
Independence Day (1996)—absolutely the best humans-versus-aliens movie ever made, with almost a billion dollars in box office receipts to prove it.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)—Mexican War (1846-1848) veteran Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) drops out to become a mountain man in the Utah Rockies. He adopts a settler boy and marries a Native American woman (played superbly by Delle Bolton), but when Crow warriors kill his family, he wreaks revenge by waging a one-man war against them. A truly beautiful movie with gorgeous scenery.
Joe Kidd (1972)—a first-class Western starring Clint Eastwood as the title character, who is forced into a manhunt by wealthy landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall). Duvall is perfect in the role and Don Stroud as one of his henchmen is priceless. The screenplay was written by Elmore Leonard.
Midnight Run (1988)—an action comedy starring Robert De Niro (who couldn’t possibly be better) and Charles Grodin (same). De Niro plays bounty hunter Jack Walsh who is assigned to bring embezzling, bail-skipping Mafia accountant Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas (Charles Grodin) from New York City to Los Angeles with a rival bounty hunter, the FBI, and the mob hot on his trail.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)—the best of the series, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as a really nasty villain.
On Deadly Ground (1994)—Steven Seagal fights a greedy oil refinery magnate (Michael Caine) in Alaska. Lots of cool explosions and quality kills.
Raw Deal (1986)—small-town sheriff Mark Kaminsky (Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes on the Chicago mob to help his friend (Darren McGavin) avenge the death of his son. Non-stop bullets, all of which miraculously miss the cigar-chomping Schwarzenegger. Great movie!
Red Heat (1988)—Ah-nuld as a Moscow cop teams up with Chicago detective Art Ridzik (James Belushi) to catch a Russian drug lord. Hilarious at times.
Ronin (1998)—Robert De Niro stars in a complex story of double-crosses and shifting loyalties. First-class car chases.
Shooter (2007)—Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger, a former Marine sniper who is framed for murder and has to go on the run to expose the machinations of a cadre of ruthless politicians.
Taken (2008)—Liam Neeson stars in this non-stop thrill ride about an ex-CIA operative who sets out to rescue his kidnapped daughter.
The Bourne Identity (2002)—from Robert Ludlum’s bestselling novel, the first Bourne of the series ranks as one of the best action movies of all time. Matt Damon was born to play the role (although Doug Liman, the director, approached Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone first). Julia Stiles is a standout.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)—from the classic Alistair MacLean novel. A team of World War II commandos is assigned to destroy a formidable Nazi gun emplacement that has been sinking Allied ships in the Aegean Sea. Top of the list of its genre.
The Italian Job (2003)—a high-energy, fun caper flick about a gold robbery gone wrong.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)—Clint at his best as the eponymous Josey Wales, a post-Civil War Missouri farmer driven to seek revenge for the murder of his wife and son by pro-Union Jayhawkers. Forced to flee west, he gathers a diverse new “family” around him while battling his pursuers. Excellent movie!
The Rock (1996)—when a force of rogue Marines commandeer Alcatraz Island to hold the city of San Francisco ransom with rockets filled with VX nerve gas, FBI chemical weapons specialist Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and ex-Alcatraz inmate John Mason (Sean Connery) team up to stop them. The car chase through the streets of San Francisco is a classic!
The Transporter (2002)—the first of the franchise, starring the ubiquitous Jason Statham as Frank Martin, a mysterious man who will transport anything, anywhere, always on time, with no questions asked for a large fee.
Timecop (1994)—Jean-Claude Van Damme as police officer/U.S. Federal agent who travels through time to stop other travelers from committing crimes in the past. Very interesting movie—fun to watch.
Under Siege (1992)—Steven Seagal as former Navy SEAL Casey Ryback who single-handedly rescues a battleship from terrorists. Garey Busey and Tommy Lee Jones are perfect psychopaths. Plus Playboy Playmate Erika Eleniak jumps out of a cake topless. This is one excellent action flick!
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)—almost as good as the original. This time Ryback goes up against terrorists on a train. A must-see final act.
Unforgiven (1992)—Clint at his best again. Aging gunman and outlaw William Munny (Clint), now an unsuccessful pig farmer, decides to seek the reward for killing two cowboys who disfigured a prostitute in Big Whiskey, Wyoming. Gene Hackman is brilliant as Little Bill Daggett, the local keeper of the peace and David Webb People’s script is drum-tight. The movie won four Academy Awards, including Best Director for Clint. Lots of violence, but a must-see.
Where Eagles Dare (1968)—a World War II actioner from the pen of Alistair MacLean, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. As usual with a MacLean plot, it’s hard to pin down who’s who or what’s what as double- and triple-crosses abound. Clint as Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer mows down half the German army.
XXX: State of the Union (2005)—Ice Cube as Darius Stone stars in this lesser-known (but far better) sequel to Vin Diesel’s XXX.