The Flix List: 80s & 90s action flicks that are so bad they’re good

Well, just yesterday SONY announced the Roland Emmerich’s version of the White House action flick, currently titled White House Down, from November 2 to June 28, 2013. Now, instead of the Snow White movie battles we saw this year, it’s battles on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course you already know I’d rather watch Olympus Has Fallen in a million years, I mean Channing Tatum vs. Gerry Butler?? I think the choice is clear.

Well, in ‘honor’ of Emmerich, the godfather of ‘action flicks that are so bad they’re good,’ my pal Ted comes up with his favorite list from that very special genre 😀


If you’ve read some of my articles on this site then you know that I love action films. I’ve been watching this genre since a very young age and I still can’t get enough of 90sthem. Sure action films are easy target for critics and audiences alike to trash and yes most of them are pretty mediocre; but I enjoyed them anyway. Since we’re well into the second half of the Summer movie season, Hollywood have unloaded many of the big action films into multiplexes. While some are great (The Dark Knight Rises), some turned out to be a dud (I’m looking at you, Total Recall remake).

For this article I want to list some of the action films that I thought were sooo bad yet I can’t resist watching them when they’re on TV. Heck I even own some of them on DVD/BD. Of course I could just list films of Arnold, Stallone, Van Damme, Norris and Seagal and this list would be complete. But I’m not taking the easy route, instead I’ll list the very bad ones that I somehow love to watch again and again; now some of these films are well known while some aren’t. Again I want to reiterate that these films are bad, so don’t blame me for wasting your time if you decide to watch any of them. So here they are:

1. Blind Fury (1989)

This western modern day take on the Zatoichi film series from Japan starred Rutger Hauer as the blind swordsman who’s also a Vietnam War veteran named Nick Parker. The film starts out with Parker getting wounded and losing his sight during a battle in the war and is rescued by the local villagers in the jungle. The film didn’t specify where he was but I assume it was somewhere in the deep jungle of Vietnam. Then we see a montage of the villagers teaching him how to use the sword and live as blind man; it’s a silly sequence but it sets up the story.

Then fast forward a few years later we see Parker now living in the States and looking for his friend from the war. Unfortunately this friend is in a big trouble with the mob. While visiting his friend’s house, the mob henchmen were also there to kidnap his friend’s wife and son. Parker intervened and for the rest of the film, he’s trying to keep his friend’s son safe from the mobster’s henchmen. The film was directed by Phillip Noyce, who was still new in Hollywood but made a name for himself by directing two of the Jack Ryan films, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger a few years later. I like his direction but he didn’t have much to work with because the script was so badly-written.

The reason why I enjoyed this film was mostly because of Hauer’s performance, he apparently trained for a month with a real blind swordsman to prepare for this role and some of the action sequences were well-staged. I especially love the climax sword battle between Hauer and Sho Kosugi; if you don’t know who Kosugi is, look him up on IMDb, he’s one bad ass dude.

2. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

This was one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen and yet I truly enjoyed it. Believe it or not, the producers thought the film would be a big hit and they even prepped a sequel for it. Unfortunately the film was so badly-directed and written that it didn’t make a lick of sense, so it tanked at the box office and the production company who financed it went bankrupt.

The film does have a cult following and in early 2000s, there were talks of turning it into a TV series but it never materializes. I actually would love to see a remake of this film; someone like Tim Burton can make it into a fun sci-fi action/adventure. [related article: Five franchise hopefuls that fail to catch on]

3. Terminal Velocity (1994)

This was one of the two films that have a professional skydiver as a main character, the other was Drop Zone, which was also a bad film but didn’t make my list. The film starred Charlie Sheen as a professional skydiver who gets mixed up with Russian spies and ended up saving the world from another big war, yeah I know it sounds very silly and it was. Apparently the script was written for Tom Cruise but he was apparently smart enough to pass on the project. Everything in this film was bad, from directing, acting, editing and writing. Even though the film has a budget of $50mil — pretty big for its time — it looked like it cost $5mil or less. Seriously, the cinematography of this movie was so bad you’d think it was shot by some amateur filmmakers.

What so surprising to me was that the cinematographer was Oliver Wood, who a couple of years earlier shot Die Hard 2, which looked great and later in his career he shot some really great looking films such as Face/Off, The Bourne Trilogy and Switchback. I think the blame is solely on the film’s director, Deran Sarafian, who after this film’s failure at the box office, has been directing made-for-TV movies or TV shows ever since.

With all that said, I still enjoyed the heck out of this movie. It has some good action set pieces, such as the sequence where a sports car’s falling out of a plane and our hero has to save the pretty girl from falling to her death. This was one of the rare PG-13 action films of the 90s, it’s weird saying it now since 95% of today’s action films are PG-13; so there was only one shootout sequence in the entire film. Also, James Gandolfini looked like he had a lot of fun playing his role and I thought he was great in it. The film is finally available on Blu-ray and you can get one for a cheap low price of $5 at Best Buy or Amazon. Just a warning though, the HD transfer is awful, it looks like an up-converted DVD picture; but the loss-less surround sound is pretty good.

4. Ricochet (1991)

This was one of the early action films for Denzel Washington, it seems now all he does are action films. It has a pretty good setup, a rookie cop named Nick Styles (Washington) who has huge ambitions of climbing up the latter in the legal world, busted a criminal named Earl Blake (John Lithgow),  who’s also wants to climb up the latter in his field, which is crime. Blake got sent to prison for life and while sitting in jail, he’s also planning a revenge on Styles. We fast forward a few years where Styles is now a family man and an Assistant DA. One night Blake broke out of prison and for the rest of the movie he basically made Styles life a living hell. The performances by Washington and Lithgow were great, they took their respective roles quite seriously, but the plot was so ridiculous and over the top, you can’t help but laugh at it.

Even though it was produced by Joel Silver, who was on top of his game when it comes to big action films at the time, he’d just produced Die Hard 1 & 2, Lethal Weapon 1 & 2 and Predator; this film looked like it was made for TV. The production value looked so cheap that I thought maybe it was made by some no-name producers and director but nope, it was a Joel Silver production and the director was Russell Mulcahy, who directed the first two Highlander films. But for all its awfulness, this movie was entertaining as hell. I love some of the over-the-top action sequences. Just be warned if you ever decide to watch it, the film includes some graphic violence and sex. It’s an early 90s action film so you shouldn’t be surprised by it.

5. Let’s Get Harry (1986)

This film about an American engineer named Harry Burck (Mark Harmon) who went down to Columbia to help open a new water pipeline but got kidnapped by Columbian rebels. The rebels turned out be a group of men who works for a drug lord and they demand a ransom or they’ll kill Harry. News reached his brother and friends back in his home town somewhere in Illinois. His brother and friends learned that the US government will not negotiate with the drug and refuses to help in getting Harry back. So his brother and friends decided to go down to Columbia and try to rescue Harry themselves. Sounds silly isn’t it? And believe me it was, these men who has no experience in weapons training decided they wanted to take on a drug lord in a foreign country.

The film was of course a box office failure when it came out in 1986 and was more notable for its director using the alias Alan Smithee instead of his real name which was Stuart Rosenberg. Apparently Rosenberg was upset that the studio re-edit the film without his permission so he asked his name be removed from the film. I think he might’ve realized he made a bad film and decided he want his name attached to it.

Also, they even somehow got Robert Duvall to appear in it, I wonder if he owed the producers or studio money or something because he looked like he’d rather be somewhere else than star in this movie.

With all the silliness in this movie, I thought it was entertaining just to see these characters go through such hardship to rescue someone who they care about tremendously. I mean I’d do the same too if someone I care about was kidnapped and no one wants to help me.

6. Moon 44 (1990)

Before Roland Emmerich started blowing up American landmarks with his expensive and famous films such as Independence Day and 2012, he actually made this very low budget action/sci-fi film. The film’s pretty much a rip-off of Blade Runner, Outland, Dune and Aliens. It’s littered with bad acting, the script was awful and of course the special effects were cheesy. But I thought Emmerich did a good job of staging some of the more complex action sequences in the movie, I mean he didn’t have much to work with but some of the action scenes were quite exciting to watch.

After this film came out, Emmerich got the attention of several Hollywood producers, including Joel Silver who hired him to direct the unproduced Stallone’s sci-fi action picture, can’t remember the name of it. When that project never took off, he made another cheesy sci-fi/action film, Universal Soldier. Of all his films, I somehow prefer watching Moon 44 over his more expensive and popular ones. Well I thought The Day After Tomorrow was entertaining but haven’t seen it in a long time, I’ve watched Moon 44 maybe ten times already.

Honorable mentions:

Even though I didn’t want to list films of Arnold, Sly and other action stars, I have to at least mention them.

Raw Deal (1986)
Arnold played a cop who went undercover as a mobster and he kill many mobsters by the end of the film. Pure cheese and very entertaining.

Cobra (1986)
After turning down the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, Stallone decided to star in this film, rumors has it that he wanted this movie to be a dark action thriller but Paramount wanted a more light comedy action film. So Stallone decided to incorporate the script of his version of Beverly Hills Cop into this movie. What else there is to say, he killed a bunch of bad guys and gets the girl. The end.

The Punisher (1990)
Ah the forgotten comic book film based on the popular Marvel character. This one starred Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle who later became known as the Punisher. The film was actually produced by a company in Australia and it never got released theatrically here in the States. I first saw this film when I was in grade school and loved every second of it. Again our hero killed a bunch of bad guys and blow a lot of shit up, lots of fun!

Code of Silence (1985)
Chuck Norris played a Chicago cop who killed a bunch of bad guys with the aid of a robot, ‘nuf said. Check it out if you’ve never seen it.

Double Impact (1991)
‘Double the Vam Dammage’ was the tagline for this movie and I love it. The mussel from Brussels played twins who took on the bad guys who killed their parents. Big shootouts and big fight scenes, what else do you need?

Hard to Kill (1990) 
Steven Seagal woke up from a coma and decides to take revenge on the corrupt cops who killed his wife and framed him for the murder. Lots of shootouts and Seagal running around flapping his arms like a little girl. Can’t beat that.


So there you have it, my list of bad action films but so entertaining to watch. Feel free to include your own list, not just action films. Any film you think it’s bad but yet sooo good.

26 thoughts on “The Flix List: 80s & 90s action flicks that are so bad they’re good

  1. Let me compliment you right off for the top two picks. ‘Blind Fury’ is Rutger Hauer gold. You know that it’s the U.S. remake of the legendary Japanese movie series and character, Zatoichi, yes? Phillip Noyce and Rutger should be complimented for putting a lot of energy and enjoyment into the production.

    It goes without saying, ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension’ is pure cult and a gem of a film. Deservedly, “… cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.“. Love it! One of the top Peter Weller films, like ever!

    Nice to see the 1990 ‘Punisher’, with our man Dolph, get some appreciation. I had a lot of fun with it and the film remains a guilty pleasure. Of course, the less said about JCVD in ‘Double Impact’, the better — don’t get me started on the man’s inane work with handguns on film.

    Fun post, Ted! 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Michael, yeah I think I mentioned that Blind Fury was sort of a remake of Zatoichi. It’s a silly film but entertaining.

      I still hope to see a remake of Buckaroo Banzai someday. I think today’s audiences will embrace it more than back in the early 80s. Of course I hope the new film will have better script and director.

      Believe it or not, I still prefer Dolph’s Punisher to the two versions Marvel produced. The Thomas Jane one was dreadful and the Ray Stevenson one was just repulsive to me.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this Ted. I thought I’d seen my fair share of bad action films but it turns out there’s a few I haven’t. Moon 44 sounds interesting but I’m guessing, since I’ve never heard of it, it’ll be as bad as expected. Elsewhere, I’m ashamed to admit I loved Terminal Velocity as a kid…it was great fun!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Dan, yes Moon 44 was bad. You’ll cringe how bad the script and the performances were, but Emmerich did shoot some cool action sequences in it.

  3. Rob

    Great list. I loved Ricochet when I saw it on video in the early 90’s! As mentioned, Washington and Lithgow are great. Did anyone notice in “Training Day” (2001), when Denzel Washington’s character shows Ethan Hawke’s character a picture of himself as a young officer – it’s an image taken from Ricochet!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Rob, yep I love Richochet, still waiting for it to come out on Blu-ray. I thought for sure they’ll release it by now considering all of Denzel’s films lately has been action oriented. I don’t remember that scene in Training Day but I’ll keep an eye out for it when I watch it again.

  4. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ted and company:

    Wow! A trip down Memory Lane.

    This post is very much like the one I first noticed and commented on about a year ago. That one about 1980s villains. This one is just plain good!

    ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ is a great take off/homage to a ‘Doc Savage’ like crew saving the world. Also a splendid vehicle for then starting out talent (Peter Weller, Clancy Brown, John Lithgow, Dan Hedaya, Christopher Lloyd, etc) doing some of their best work.

    Would also mention a small James Glickenhaus/Queens, NY crime flick. ‘Shakedown’ (1988) With Peter Weller, Patricia Charbonneau and Sam Elliot.
    Superb, on-location ‘Bang for the Buck’ little gem.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Jack, yeah my villains article made IMDB’s Hit List, I wish they didn’t get rid of that section, it’s a good place to find other cool articles by movie bloggers all over the world.

      Yeah I love watching Buckaroo Banzai, like I mentioned I still hope to see a remake of it soon.

      I was going to include Shakedown on this list but I remember the film took itself way too seriously and it didn’t have enough action to qualify. But I really enjoyed that one too, especially the ridiculous climax scene when Sam Elliot’s character put a bomb in the bad guys’ private jet. Pretty impressive sequence for its time though.

  5. This is such a fun post, Ted! I was laughing so hard when I read it and I kept nodding my head reading about the awesome cheesy-ness of these flicks! I used to be obsessed with Conan the Destroyer which is just as awful as Raw Deal it sounds like, but they’re definitely a guilty pleasure. Can’t believe Robert Duvall is in that Let’s Get Harry movie, what an absurd premise!!

    1. Ted S.

      I hardly remember Conan the Destroyer but Raw Deal was pretty bad. The premise was so silly you have to laugh, a guy who looks like Arnold goes undercover with an Italian mob and they somehow accepts him.

      Yeah like I said, I think Duvall must’ve signed some sort of deal with the studio or owe them some money or something because it’s so weird seeing him in that film. But his character was killed off half way through it so maybe that’s the deal, he appears in the film and gets killed and he’s even with the studio.

  6. I remember being really impressed by “Moon 44” and was anxious to see what Roland Emmerich would do next. For a low-budget film, it had a phenomenal look and the action was well-staged. I can’t comment about the acting, because I honestly don’t remember anything about the cast. I really wish Emmerich would return to inventive action instead of relying on bad CGI in forgettable stories.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, for such a small budget film, Emmerich was able to create some cool action scenes. It’s a good thing you don’t remember anything about the cast, they were quite forgetful.

  7. Recently, The A-Team was pretty bad but immensely entertaining. Outside of action movies, I love Rat Race. It is incredibly dumb but I love it to death and it’s probably the movie I’ve seen the most times. HILARIOUS.

    1. Ted S.

      I really enjoyed The A-Team and it wasn’t as bad as the ones on the list. I’ve never seen Rat Race so I’ll take your words for it.

  8. Sam Fragoso

    Ricochet … God, awful, awful movie that is indeed immensely fun.

    I sort of feel the same way about another Denzel film, Unstoppable.

    1. Ted S.

      I hated Unstoppable, I don’t think I can ever watch that film again. Denzel starred in another bad action film I saw earlier this year, Safe House, it’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just plain bad. He needs to start making quality films again.

  9. You know now when I look at these films I cannot imagine that there was a time when I would love watching them. I gre up on these films and at that time Action was the name of the game. Terminal Velocity and what not, all are just part of growing up for me. Great list that brought back some good ‘ol memories

  10. Ray

    I take White House Down over Olympus Has Fallen. I Think and Hell I know would be fun as hell Judging from what I read on the script. Olympus might be better acted but WTD would More of a commercial success. Just watch. lol

    Anyways. Deep Impact was one of my guilty pleasure in the 90’s.

  11. wowsa I have only seen two or three films off this list Ricochet and Hard to Kill being the ones that stick out in my memory bank. And yes they are good in that bad sort of way 🙂

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  13. This movie might have been about a guy out for revnge not sure.
    I’m looking for a movie I saw back in 94 or 95 I think I don’t know if it was made in those years it was a martial arts or action crime movie very gory and disturbing.
    I cant recall the name or the actors only these 3 scenes The 1 scene that stands out in my mind. There was a part in the movie where this fight takes place I think in a bar maybe this guy grabs this big guy with a beard I think? and starts twisting his arm around until his bone pops out then tears his arm off or half off. The 2 scene I recall is a guy who gets his arms broken then put in a car the bad guys pour a bottle
    of liqure down his mouth then drive him off a cliff. The 3 scene is towards the end? where this Asain bad guy with black no knuckle gloves and a gotee gets his head blown off from a shotgun by the same guy who tore the big guys arm off. This is the only description of this movie I can give. I cant not find this film any where can you help me? I only saw this movie towards the end I never saw this movie on TV again?

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