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Action Heroes: The Ring of Honor

Illustration for article titled Action Heroes: The Ring of Honor

Welcome to Loki’s (usually not a) Law Blog, and today I want to PUMP ... YOU ... UP!


So I was listening to a podcast where a bunch of morons (aka, people not me) were arguing about the greatest movie action heroes. And I thought to myself, “Loki, c’mon now. This is stupid. Why would a bunch of grown-ass adults be arguing about movie action heroes ...... when only I know the indubitably true answers!”

So today I have decided to come up with my own, indisputable list of the TOP SEVEN ACTION HEROES. The following, as the product of my logic and maths, cannot be reasonably disputed. However, in order to winnow down the list from uncountably infinite SEVEN, I had to come up with some rules. So before we begin the list ... RULES!


1. This is movies ... only. Lucas from Banshee is awesome, but only, you know, TV awesome. Lots of things can be TV awesome - but movie awesome requires the ability to look amazing when you’re 40 feet tall, walking away slowly from an explosion. Ted Danson is TV awesome; Keanu Reeves is movie awesome; Nic Cage is LIFE AWESOME.

2. American movies. This is absolutely, positively, necessary. First, because I am quite sure that no matter what, I would probably miss some amazing Mongolian star. Second, because if we expand our horizons, we immediately run into the issue of putting in everything from Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) to Jackie Chan (Police Story, Drunken Master) to Iko Uwais (Raid) to Jet Li (Swordsman) or Donnie Yen Ip Man) etc. The director or star doesn’t have to be American, but it has to be a Hollywood movie.


3. No superheroes. Action movies ... look, they don’t operate by normal physics. No one takes a bullet (or many bullets) and keeps on going like a real action hero. But NO ACTUAL SUPER POWERS. This one is for you, Thor. In addition, think of this as precluding all Super Hero movies, even if your power is being really, really rich, Batman.

3a. Humans only. I’m so sorry but ... no Terminator. We can’t allow robots to take our human jobs.


4. Franchise! There must be at least TWO movies. There a lot of iconic action movies; but to truly transcend the genre, you have to have a sequel. As a general rule, you will be judged by the best movie in the series.

5. It has to be an action franchise. This is the“Sorry Sigourney” rule. Aliens is one of my all-time favorite action movies; but the rest of the franchise isn’t an action franchise. Think about it- Alien is a haunted house movie - in space. Alien3 is a slasher movie - in space. And Alien Resurrection is a crap movie -in space. It’s not an action franchise.


5a. That said, action movies don’t have to be set in the present (although they often are). Nor are they devoid of other elements; most action movies have a (throw-away) romantic subplot. It is a cliche for action stars to have a quip or some repartee- but that doesn’t make them a comedy.

6. The Baseball Rule. If an actor has more than iconic role, they only get one spot. John Wick or Neo, Keanu? The Transporter or Chev, Jason? You can only have one.


So, with those rules in place, following are the TOP SEVEN ACTION HEROES.

By the way, the list isn’t in order, except for number 1. John Wick, man.

1. John Wick. (Keanu “Woah” Reeves)

Franchise: John Wick

Best Movie: All of them

Worst Movie: does not compute

Reason: John Wick is the sound of eternal awesomeness, forever. John Wick is what would happen if Face/Off was Nic Cage playing identical twins (as in Adaptation) who had to switch faces and kill each other. John Wick is the sound of a knife being slowly pushed into an eyeball.


2. John McClane. (Bruce “Moonlighting” Willis)

Franchise: Die Hard

Best Movie: Die Hard

Worst Movie: Die Hard IV (Justin Long is a hacker!) wasn’t good, but it was Citizen Mother Fuckin’ Kane compared to Die Hard V (A Good Day to Die Hard, which I swear to god was the name of a parody porno).


Reason: Say what you will about Bruce Willis (Jerky McJerkface) or his current politics (they suck), but after a decade of Stallone and and Ah-nold, John McClane was a revelation. He hurt. He bled. He kinda sucked. But he just kept on, keepin’ on.

3. Chev Chelios. (Jason “He was dead, but he got better” Statham)

Franchise: Crank

Best Movie: Crank 2

Worst Movie: None.

Reason: The Crank series is an acquired taste, however, and I say this with what little sincerity I can muster, the Crank series is to the 2000s what Repo Man was to he 1980s; a capturing of a certain zeitgeist via film that otherwise escaped mainstream attention.


Also? Jason Statham finds the living head of someone he thought he killed, and then punts it.

4. Max. (Jesus H. Christ)

Franchise: Mad Max

Best Movie: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrionr

Worst Movie: They’re all good, but Thunder Dome (MM3) isn’t as good as it should be. The original one- strangely compelling! And weirdly Australian!


Reason: Look, I’m not happy about putting Mel “Torture Porn” Gibson on this list. But between Mad Max and Riggs (Lethal Weapon), you kind of have to Gibson on this list. Here’s hoping that Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road) gets a sequel and replaces him!

5. Ethan Hunt. (Tom “Xenu” Cruise)

Franchise: Mission Impossible

Best Movie: MI:6 (Fallout) (the first one is also an acceptable answer)

Worst Movie: They’re all good, but MI:2 is ... well, director John Woo seems to have lost his fastball in that one.


Reason: So, here’s the thing. Most action stars have a certain ... something ... about them. You can’t define it, you don’t know what it is ... yet it is there. Tom Cruise? Has there ever been a thirstier star? He wants it so bad, you can feel it. He isn’t effortless, and doesn’t pretend to be. HE WILL EARN YOUR RESPECT, since he will never have have your love. Is MI great? Eh, yet there it is, six movies in, still raking in the dough, still using the masks, and guess what? The most recent movie is probably the best.

You will never like Tom Cruise. But you will watch him. Or he will hunt you down and personally tell you about how he injured himself doing his own stunts.


6. Conan. (Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger)

Franchise: Conan

Best Movie: Conan the Barbarian

Worst Movie: Conan the Destroyer

Reason: How can you have a list like this without Ah-nold? But the question is, which role? Many of his iconic roles (Predator, Running Man, Commando, Total Recall, True Lies) aren’t franchises. His best role (Pumping Iron) he plays himself. Same with his second-best role (Hercules in NY). The Terminator franchise is disqualified because we don’t let robots take out jobs.


And yet- Conan isn’t some default win. If you close your eyes, and picture Conan, what do you see? That’s right. ARNOLD. Heck, if you think of a barbarian, it’s Arnold all the way. Arnold literally defined a role, and the image of Conan and Arnold go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

7. Rambo. (Sylvester “Yo, Adrian!” Stallone)

Franchise: Rambo

Best Movie: Rambo, First Blood (I)

Worst Movie: Rambo III

Reason: Eh. The Rocky series is better, but isn’t an action movie franchise. I’m somewhat torn on this, but am placing this here because the movies registered so highly in the zeitgeist of the 80s that there is another Rambo coming out soon. If you ever want to have severe whiplash that perfectly explains the change in the Reagan years, watch the first Rambo (a thoughtful and meditative exploration of the horrors of coming back from Vietnam) back-to-back with the the second Rambo (AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!).


And that’s it! The inaugural class of seven. So, what do you think? Would this be the same list you came up with? If you have any substitutions, using the rules listed, feel free to comment but also INCLUDE WHO YOU WOULD REMOVE!

At some point in the future, I’ll expand this to an even ten. But that point is not now. Standards matter.


Finally, those who were considered but did not make it for REASONS include:

Sigourney Weaver (Alien not an action franchise)

JCVD (Universal Soldier almost made the cut)

Uma Thurman (The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo ... I debated this one forever, but Kill Bill is one movie, split into two parts. :( )


Liam Neeson (Taken + Key & Peele)

Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde 2 or Furiosa sequel?)

Matt Damon (Bourne)

Chuck Norris (The MIA series wasn’t that big; he was better in Dodgeball)

Jackie Chan (Rush Hour is a comedy, and it would be sad to award him for this given how much better his non-Hollywood movies are)


Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor .... tough cut, but did almost nothing in the first movie, wasn’t present in the third, had only voice-over in the fourth, and only really kicked major butt in the second)

Nic Cage (I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride!)


Carrie-Ann Moss (Trinity from the Matrix? So good, but unfortunately not the star of the franchise)

Will Smith (Bad Boys, if nothing else ... but going blue puts him on a waiting list. Sorry, but Aladdin has consequences, even if Wild Wild West doesn’t)


The Rock/Vin Diesel (eh .... no great franchise associations .... NO ... not that one, this is not the Olive Garden, and you are not family)

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