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.