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10 Classic Action Movies That Keep Getting Better with Age – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

10 Classic Action Movies That Keep Getting Better with Age



Great action movies are timeless and can be enjoyed over and over again. Classic action films incorporate elements from different genres, making the narrative feel familiar but the action always fresh. As technology has advanced, the latest action movies are visually stunning, but even still, the classics remain charming. Although classic action movies may take a bit more time to develop, once they do, they pack a punch of entertainment throughout.

In the 80s, macho men blasting their way through danger was at its peak. Director John McTiernan decided to turn this trope on its head with Die Hard. The film follows average detective John McClane as he takes on a group of terrorists holding his wife’s office hostage. Although he is armed with only basic police training and attitude, he manages to come out on top.

Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, is based on the book Those About to Die by Daniel P. Mannix. The movie follows Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridus as he seeks revenge against Commodus, who betrayed him. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor.

Léon: The Professional follows the story of hitman Léon and 12-year-old orphan Mathilda, as they bond while hunting for the person who killed her family. Gary Oldman’s performance as a corrupt DEA agent is both impressive and despised.

Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook, is a complex film that blends heart-wrenching drama with mind-blowing action sequences. Kill Bill: Volume 1 is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to martial arts movies, featuring Uma Thurman hacking her way through 88 enemy gang members.

The Matrix, directed by the Wachowskis, created a new visual language for action sequences. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, directed by James Cameron, still holds up today with its impressive CGI and action sequences. The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, features Heath Ledger’s unforgettable portrayal of the Joker.

Seven Samurai, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is a timeless classic. It follows a group of samurai hired to protect a town from bandit attacks, exploring themes such as social perspective and honor. The film builds up to an epic battle between the samurai and the bandits.

In conclusion, classic action movies never get old and continue to entertain audiences. With their unique blend of familiar narratives and fresh action, they are a testament to the power of cinema.

While bad action movies are forgettable, good action movies age like fine wine and can be watched again and again. Classic action movies rely on the frameworks of different genres and inject elements of action into them, making the narrative feel familiar and the action seem new.


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With the evolution of action sequences and VFX, the current crop of action films are nothing short of a visual delight, but that doesn’t mean that the classics have lost their charm. Granted, the classic action movies might be a little too slow to pick up, but once they do, they don’t hold back and pack a punch of sure-shot entertainment all the way through.

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Die Hard (1998)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
20th Century Fox

The ’80s saw the peak of trigger-happy macho men annihilating anything that stood between them and their task of saving the day. Right as the decade was coming to a close, director John McTiernan chose to spin this conventional trope on its head by placing an average Joe in a dangerous place at a dangerous time, coming up with one of the most iconic action movies of all time.

Die Hard is an average detective, John McClane’s battle cry against a group of terrorists that hold his wife’s office hostage. Armed with basic police training and a lot of attitude, McClane single-handedly takes on the terrorists and comes out on top.

Related: Every Die Hard Movie, Ranked

Gladiator (2000)

Russell Crowe in Gladiator (2000)
Universal Pictures

Ridley Scott’s movie is inspired by Daniel P. Mannix’s book Those About to Dieand is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. Gladiator dramatizes the life of Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridus (Russell Crowe) and his betrayal at the hands of Marcus Aurelius’ son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix)

The film is an endearing, yet nerve-wracking watch as Maximus goes to hell and back to face off against Commodus and avenge his family and his emperor, who died at the hands of Commodus. For his efforts, Scott’s film won a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, among others.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Jean Reno as Leon
Gaumont Buena Vista International

When Léon (Jean Reno), a professional “cleaner” (hitman) takes Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old orphan under his wing, both parties are awkward and clueless about the dynamics of their relationship. This controversial pairing between a young girl and a grown man is superseded by the emotional bond they share, as they bring out the best in each other while hunting for the person who killed Mathilda’s family.

Gary Oldman does a phenomenal job as a corrupt, drug addict, DEA agent, making you fall in love with the actor while despising the character.

Related: Jean Reno’s Best Performances, Ranked

Oldboy (2003)

Choi Min-sik and Kang Hye-jung in Oldboy 2003
Show East

The beauty of rewatching Oldboy lies in the many layers present in the film, to the point where Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece doesn’t flow, it bleeds. The film starts on a very bizarre note and just keeps getting more tangled and crazy as it goes on. Oldboy is a deadly combination of heart-wrenching drama fused with mind-blowing action sequences, and leaves a footprint in your mind for days to come.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 1
Miramax Films

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is Tarantino’s love letter to the martial art movies he grew up watching. The film is a revenge piece, but is unanimously praised for its style and oeuvre rather than its substance. Uma Thurman does a terrific job with the action sequences in the film, defying gravity and wielding the Katana like it’s a large chopstick made of wood.

In one of the movie’s more iconic scenes, The Bride (Uma Thurman), hacks through a total of 88 enemy gang members before facing the formidable O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix
Warner Bros.

Directed by the Wachowskis, The Matrix perfectly blends the dark side of technology with elements of martial arts, creating a world that’s never been seen before. As the name suggests, the film’s set against a backdrop where supercomputers have constructed an entire reality called The Matrix, and it falls upon one programmer to stand up to the machines and save humanity.

The Matrix is regarded as one of the most path-breaking action films of modern times, creating a new visual language for action sequences for years to come.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2 1200 x 630
Tri-Star Pictures

Terminator 2: Judgment Day still holds water in the context of today’s action movies, with some great action sequences and CGI that were really ahead of their time. Explosions and bullets aside, James Cameron’s movie is much more than its effects. The film is paced like a bullet, constantly pitting steel vs steel as the two cyborgs from the future battle it out while the fate of humanity dangles in balance.

Related: 10 Terminator 2 Facts You Never Knew

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

The Dirty Dozen
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Dirty Dozen is a tough and gritty film that works on a simple premise, a Major puts together a team of hardened criminals facing death penalties to take out various Nazi officers in enemy territory. What’s expected to be a shoddy rag-tag crew of crooked criminals, soon turns out to be men of courage and honor to proceed with their mission regardless of the cost it comes at.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman and the Joker sitting across from one another
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Dark Knight is one of the few films in history where the villain has more of a following than the hero. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis Joker perfectly lays the foundation for the epic face-off between the masked crusader and the mentally deranged criminal. Out of all of Nolan’s films, The Dark Knight is considered to be his best work, with Heath Ledger posthumously winning an Academy Award for his efforts.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
That one

It’s criminal to not include Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 magnum opus in a list of classic action movies. Considered by many to be one of the greatest filmmakers ever, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was one of his brightest crown jewels.

Revolving around a group of seven samurai that are hired by a town to protect them against bandit attacks, Kurosawa’s film touches on themes such as social perspective, honor, and the value of doing the right thing. As an action film, Seven Samurai comes to life in its third and final act, building up to the epic battle between the bandits and the townspeople led by the samurai.

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