The action genre has undergone a number of revolutions, from upping the action spectacle to new heights, to adding believable characters where there had previously been only clichés. There are, of course, some films that can be directly pointed at for starting these revolutions, altering how actions movies were made and seen. And these revolutionary films should be celebrated.
Here are some of the most revolutionary action films in the genre.
In 1971 action films were of a very specific style. The hero was always morally perfect, doing the right thing in all circumstances, and likely an upstanding, flawless citizen to boot. When Dirty Harry came along, it changed the way an action movie hero was perceived.
Dirty Harry, starring the now legendary Clint Eastwood, told the story of a police officer who was not a flawless hero, did not much like the police force he worked for, or the world in general, and certainly was not a John Wayne stereotype. This made Dirty Harry a complete revolution, steering well clear of what was expected of an action hero of that time. This new take on action movies went on to inspire a number of other action films, including Die Hard.
Taking inspiration from the Dirty Harry style of action hero, Die Hard introduced audiences to the idea that a hero could be an average man. John McClane, the film hero, is not as grim and sour as Dirty Harry, but still very human, very much able to get injured, and even a wise cracker in dire situations.
McClain deals with average life besides being an unlikely hero, making him likeable, relatable, and a person anyone could imagine meeting in a real life situation. Modern action films have generally drifted from this core concept, much to their own peril.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Regarded by many as an unsurpassed action film masterpiece, Terminator 2: Judgement day managed to achieve what most other action films only dreamed of. It combined ground breaking action spectacle with a truly emotional story, and did so without either element being derailed, or feeling forced.
Few action films manage to achieve this, and Terminator 2 stands as a rare example of how this can be done. Even other Terminator films fail to reach these lofty heights, demonstrating just how hard it is to achieve such a precarious balance.
Jurassic park stands as a totem to what can be achieved by focusing on ground-breaking special effects, while giving almost no attention to the characters that interact with these special effects. The movie may not offer much in the way of compelling characters, but went the full nine yards in terms of special effects wizardry.
Such special effects are common now days, but back when Jurassic Park was released, in 1993, such things had never been seen before. This made Jurassic Park a revolutionary film in it’s own right, despite perhaps not having the some story telling impact of other films on this list. Either way, Jurassic Park was a revolution.