When it comes to action movies, it’s hard to come up with a decade that had more hits than the 1980s. It was packed with gems that we still enjoy going back to today.
There’s a certain something about the action movies from the 80s that isn’t in today’s films. It’s a mix of the low-quality special effects, the over-the-top violence, and the fact that creators still seemed to be sorting out what makes an action movie.
Today, we’re going to look at the best 80s action movies and rank them. This is no easy task, but it’s an important one!
10. Top Gun
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Top Gun is one of those movies that manages to blend action and interesting story into a cohesive unit. It also features a soundtrack that truly encapsulates all things 80s action.
Big Trouble in Little China is as ridiculous as it is awesome. Everything about it is over-the-top. The fight scenes are absurd, John Carpenter’s direction is way out there, and the 80s is evident in every inch of this magnificent movie.
Who doesn’t love Lethal Weapon? The buddy cop movie features plenty of comedy to go along with its violence and action.
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover make perfect partners in that opposites attract sort of way. Their relationship is what really makes this film great, but the action is what makes it next level.
The Aliens franchise might be one of the best examples of switching genres. The first one was a horror movie, and the sequel became much more of an action movie. Not only did it switch genres, but it did it successfully!
It’s still a bit scary, but it trades the single alien stalking the characters for hordes of them who are ready and willing to die in the name of our entertainment.
Here we have our first Arnold Schwarzenegger film on the list. Predator is a movie where a badass soldier fights against a monster that’s literally built for hunting and killing.
It’s like the perfect storm of action awesomeness. Do I really need to say more?
Keeping the Arnold train going, we have The Terminator. And while I think Terminator 2 is better, it came out in the 1990s, so the first one makes the list.
It’s an awesome action flick that does everything right. There’s a cool sci-fi story, massive explosions, and plenty of one-liners.
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Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is obviously one of the best action movies of the 80s—and anyone who tells you otherwise just hasn’t seen it yet.
Harrison Ford really stretched his legs after movies like Star Wars and Apocalypse Now with this one, really pushing him to be the bonafide action star we know and love today.
3. First Blood
You can’t talk about action movies from the 80s without talking about Rambo.
The original Rambo film, which is technically just called First Blood, is the ultimate blood bath of an action film. While some movies shy away from blood and guts, First Blood leans into heavily.
2. Die Hard
The entire Die Hard franchise is fantastic, but the first one clearly sits atop the throne. In fact, it’s one of the best action movies in a decade that was all about incredible action movies.
Everything about Die Hard is great. The story is different from the crowded 80s action scene, the fighting and action have some mind-blowing effects for the time, and the acting isn’t quite as over-the-top as many other action movies from the era.
The number one action movie of the 1980s? It’s the movie that really defines the decade for me, and that’s Commando. If you want everything cranked up to 11, this is the action film for you.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is given free rein to drop one-liners while creating some of the most absurd scenes ever. Factor in the incredible soundtrack and supporting cast of characters, and you have an absolute kingpin in the world of action movies.
30 Days of Modern Geeky Movies
Are you bored and in need of movies to watch? Here at whatNerd, we've seen a lot of geeky movies---sci-fi movies, fantasy movies, thriller movies, you name it!
And while a lot of them were pretty forgettable, a few of them stand out as classic geeky movies that everyone should definitely watch. Check out our 30 favorite modern geeky movies.
All of these movies are from 2000 or later, and there are NO superhero movies on our list! Download the printable PDF below and see how many you can watch in the next 30 days: