No, you haven’t stumbled across the top ten list for most typecast roles, although the actors in this countdown are certainly not shy when it comes to some hardcore action. The 1980s was a decade for gun toting, whip lashing, fist launching boys and girls and we were never short of an explosion or two. Give a massive cheer for our top ten 80s action heroes.
Based on the popular children’s cartoon, this live action cult classic stars a scantily clad Dolph Lundgren as the prince turned warrior He-Man. As ‘the most powerful man in the universe’, it’s only fitting that he should appear in this action packed top ten. Committed to defending the realm of Eternia from Skeletor and his army, He-Man definitely packs a punch. Having buff Mr Lundgren portray the hero helps his mighty reputation translate onto the big screen.
Created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, this archaeologist/professor/spy/heartthrob is well deserving of his ‘action hero’ title after battling Nazis, more Nazis and a kali-worshipping cult. Although Indi is remarkably normal – with no supernatural powers but simply a gun, whip and the occasional sidekick to help – a young and attractive Harrison Ford dons the fedora and pulls off this role with ease.
In the 80s, John Carpenter made a selection of action films that have now become cult favourites. During this era he took a particular liking to Kurt Russell, giving him a reputation as an unlikely hero. One of these films was Big Trouble in Little China, where Russell plays a truck driver who must rescue his friend’s fiancée from an immortal sorcerer in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite Jack’s wise cracking action hero potential, he would be out of his depth with our other contenders.
Following a similar anti-hero action hero vibe, we come across Max Rockatansky, aka Mad Max. Although we first see the appearance of Max in 1979, he made more screen time across the 80s in the follow-up sequels. Mel Gibson reprises the role in this post-apocalyptic story as he helps defend different communities against those who have used the collapse of civilisation to their advantage.
At number 6, we learn that not all action heroes need sawed off shotguns to defeat evil. Martial artist Jean Claude Van Damme left Belgium and hotfooted it to the USA in search of a film career. In 1988 he made it as Frank Dux, a man adamant on taking on a dangerous champion in the ultimate martial arts tournament. With his aims to uphold his master’s honour and avenge his injured friend, Frank Dux is an action hero of a higher calibre.
Being the only woman in this list, she is worthy of appearing in the top 5. 57 years after her first encounter with the alien from a mysterious planet in space, Ellen Ripley is enlisted to help a group of commandos on a rescue mission to recover any survivors from the same place. Starring a tough looking Sigourney Weaver to face her worse nightmare, hard-ass Ripley certainly takes the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns.
Despite being one tough cookie, Policeman Alex Murphy has some fine armour to aid his hero duties. Set in the future, this sci-fi action epic shows no mercy. After being killed by a street gang, Murphy is reconstructed using a steel shell in order to make a super duper Robocop. Since Murphy (Peter Weller) is first and foremost an officer of the law, his moral responsibility means his heroics are much more worthwhile.
In the 80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was no stranger to action. After being a cyborg sent to terminate Sarah Connor, Arnie went on to star as black ops commando John Matrix who wages a war against some criminals who have kidnapped his daughter. Give Schwarzenegger a rocket launcher, some classic one liners and you have got yourself one serious action hero.
At number 2, Rambo finally rears his muscular head. When unstable Vietnam veteran John Rambo gets arrested in a small town while visiting friends from the war, he is arrested and unjustly treated by the local sheriff. After his escape, he starts a one man war against the whole police department. Thanks to his fighting skills and combat expertise, Sylvester Stallone turned Rambo from one simple man to a household name.
New York police officer John McClane could top anyone’s worst Christmas ever story. Imagine you’re on your way to spend Christmas with your family only to wind up having to save people from a group of sadistic terrorists. Bruce Willis succeeds in making McClane a first class action hero and he sits at number one simply because even without the muscles of Schwarzenegger or the fighting skills of Van Damme, he remains one of the toughest men in film history. Yippee Ki-Yay…well, you know the rest.