I've recently been revisiting a lot of my favorite action movies that I watched as a teenager in the '90s. They seriously just don't make action films like that anymore. Filmmakers were still using lots of real explosives and blood squibs in these movies. Most of the films these days create those things digitally. Action films in the '90s were a sweet spot between the '80s and the '00s where the way action movies were being made really started to change with the advancement of technology. On top of that, the stories that they told were fun and completely over-the-top.
So here's a top ten list of my favorite action films from the '90s. Obviously these movies are all insanely action-packed. This is an action movie list, after all, so I'll talk about some of the other reasons I enjoyed these films so much.
I do want to point out that Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves were the kings of the '90s action scene. Each has three movies on my list.
The Rock - 1996
"Your 'best'! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f**k the prom queen."
This might just be my favorite action film from the '90s. It's one of those movies I never get tired of watching. I've always been fascinated with Alcatraz Prison, and the fact that it was used as the setting for such an insanely magnificent action film was so cool. On top of the amazing action and intensity this movie had to offer, I loved watching Sean Connery kick ass. He was so good in this movie! I can't imagine anyone else in that role. Michael Bay needs to make movies like this again.
The Matrix - 1999
"Okey dokey... free my mind. Right, no problem, free my mind, free my mind, no problem, right…"
This was the last great movie of the '90s. It managed to blow everyone's minds and take the genre to a whole new level of action-packed awesomeness. Especially with that freeze frame spin around camera effect that was developed for the film. The Matrix was a hard movie to beat for the longest time. It set a new standard of what could be done on film, and the story was so freakin' badass. For a long time after this movie came out, other films tried to mimic the technology and put their own spin on it. None of those films really worked, though, not even The Matrix sequels.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day - 1991
"This severe routine is getting old. You're acting like such a geek."
The '90s needed a movie like this for teenage kids like me. Yeah it was a crazy violent R-rated flick, but the main character was a teenage kid named John Connor, a character I could relate too, and he got to live this unbelievably cool, action-packed life. As terrifying as his situation was, I would have loved to be in John Connor's shoes and have a robot sent back from the future as a friend to protect me. What teenager wouldn't want that?!
Darkman - 1990
"Oh, you've got to be shittin' me!"
This was Sam Raimi's first big studio film after Evil Dead II, and he knocked it out of the park! On top of that, Darkman was one of the first hardcore kick-ass superhero movies ever made. It starred Liam Neeson, who has come full circle and become one of the biggest action stars working in industry right now. I freakin' loved this movie, and I honestly think it was ahead of its time. The humor, the tone, the concept, and the action were all so incredibly cool. I'm just happy this movie exists.
Point Break - 1991
"They only live to get radical."
I wanted to get into extreme sports after watching this movie. Surfing, skydiving, and having tons of adrenaline-filled fun is the life I wanted to live. So, I picked up surfing pretty quickly and was kind of a beach bum throughout high school. That's something I still enjoy when I get a chance. This movie helped steer me in that daredevil kind of direction. Then, later on in life, I realized I didn't want to die.
True Lies - 1994
"I have to lie to women to get laid. Even then I don't score much. I got a little dick, it's pathetic!"
Not only did this movie have some of the best action scenes ever, but it was freakin' funny, too! In my opinion this is director James Cameron's best film. Arnold Schwarzengger was amazing in this movie, but it was Tom Arnold who stole the show with his witty sense of humor. He played such a great character in this movie. It's sad because he never really did anything else that was worth watching. Then of course there's Bill Paxton's character. It may have been small, but that scene when Schwarznegger and his team raided his trailer and and took him to the edge of a dam to interrogate him was brilliantly hilarious. I still bust a gut laughing every time I watch it.
Speed - 1994
"Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?"
I absolutely hate buses, I had a cross country bus experience once that was worse than anything these characters had to go through. Hell yeah, this is on my list! A best 90s movie list would be incomplete with out Speed on it. This was the film that defined Keanu Reeve's acting career, and I had such a huge crush on Sandra Bullock at the time. I don't know what it was about her, but she was the cutest thing ever in this movie. I also loved how over the top Dennis Hooper was as the villain.
Con Air - 1997
"They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe onto this one plane. And then somehow managed to let them take it over. And then somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle."
As I'm writing this article, I'm flying on a plane hoping that it doesn't get hijacked so I have to save the day. This was such a ridiculously over-the-top idea for a movie, but that's why I loved it! It worked so damn well, and it was full of really great and interesting characters. As much as I liked Nicolas Cage as the lead, he was the least interesting character of the movie. It was everyone around him that made the movie so awesome. Actors like John Malcovich, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, and Steve Buscemi, who was terrifyingly hilarious.
Face/Off - 1997
"If you dress like Halloween, ghouls will try to get in your pants."
Two guys swap faces through a face transplant and chaos ensues. This movie seriously kind of blew my mind when I first saw it. The whole face transplant plot thing really threw me for a loop. There was no way it would ever work like the way they showed it in the movie, but it sure was cool! A movie like this could only come from the '90s, and this is why action movies from that era were so awesome!
Air Force One - 1997
"Get off my plane!"
Let's face it, Harrison Ford was born to play the President of the United States. He's the greatest movie President that ever served in office. He utterly kicked ass in this movie, and he's the kind of President that I would vote for.