The 10 Best ’90s Action Films

Nicolas Cage in Con Air, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance

Long before the days when CGI dominated the action landscape, the 1990s were a period of great storytelling alongside great technical action movies.

Nicolas Cage in Con Air via JoBlo Movies YouTube

There were tons of stars like Nicolas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger among others who knew what the audience wanted and consistently delivered. In fact, the era birthed so many awesome films that they remain classics to this day.

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10) Heat

Source: Heat, Warner Bros.

Heat is one of the best crime and heist thrillers there is, but that doesn’t make it any less of a successful action movie. It even boasts one of the best action shootout scenes ever made as the robbers exchanged gun fire with cops in the streets of LA.

The film succeeds by taking a theme, which is to say that crime negatively affects everyone, and applies it amazingly to every single character. It also does this while boasting an amazing cast that delivers on the suspense.

9) Face Off

Source: Face Off, Touchstone Pictures

The ’90s were known for taking ridiculous premises and playing them off completely serious. There’s just no other way to describe the idea of having John Travolta and Nicolas Cage swap faces to become both bad guys and good guys in the same film.

Face Off so successfully dramatizes over the type action that it’s hard to think of a film that embraces its absurdity more. Yet somehow, the movie takes its premise so seriously that the action works to create an unbelievable film.

8) The Rock

Source: The Rock, Hollywood Pictures

It seems unlikely that Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage would make a great action pair. The thought of them being a lab rat and an aged spy, however, was a brilliant move of plotting. It also allowed Cage to show his more awkward and quirky side.

That alone doesn’t make The Rock great, though. There’s also the bad guys, whom are disgruntled soldiers, and the Alcatraz setting that makes the film truly something special.

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7) Air Force One

Source: Air Force One: Sony Pictures

Harrison Ford was just starting to show his age when Air Force One was made. Fortunately, that made him the perfect choice to play a president who is also an action hero. More than that, though, he’s also a fallible hero who gets hurt and shows compassion.

Air Force One is filled with tons of memorable lines and some great action scenes aboard America’s most famous plane. This doesn’t even take into the account that Gary Oldman is always perfect as a villain.

6) True Lies

Source: True Lies, 20th Century Fox

True Lies is the perfect blend of action and comedy that Arnold Schwarzenegger can pull off so well. The film is about a spy who has to keep his espionage life hidden from his family.

Of course, things go awry when the two worlds collide. Schwarzenegger’s star was only just beginning to rise when the film came out, but it’s obvious from all who saw it that he was an action hero with great things ahead of him.

5) Con Air

Source: Con Air, Touchstone Pictures

In the ’90s, Nicolas Cage could do no wrong, and it just doesn’t get better than Con Air. It also helps that he had an excellent cast featuring Dave Chappelle, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, and more.

The story is about a group of convicts that hijack a transport plan. The film is so brutal in action and dialogue that it’s a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. It also doesn’t hurt that the climax moves from the air to the road with a high speed chase through the streets of Las Vegas.

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4) Independence Day

Source: Independence Day, 20th Century Fox

It’s hard to think of a bigger special effects spectacle in the ’90s than Independence Day. That’s in addition to a great cast that teamed up Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.

When making an alien film, it could either be a small scale invasion or a large force of war. Independence Day went for the latter and did not disappoint, especially as it blew up the White House in what has since become an extremely iconic scene.

3) Die Hard with a Vengeance

Source: Die Hard With A Vengeance: 20th Century Fox

Die Hard is an absolute classic from the ’80s, but it’s arguable that this sequel from the ’90s may have even topped it. It pairs Bruce Willis with a hilarious Samuel L Jackson in an action thriller that spans all of New York City.

Jeremy Irons also plays an incredible villain that ties into the first film. He’s hilarious, charismatic, and plays against John McClane to perfection.

2) Demolition Man

It’s awesome when an absolutely ridiculous science fiction premise sets up an incredible action movie, and that’s exactly what Demolition Man did. Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes are at the top of their game throughout this entire film.

More than just a great action movie, though, Demolition Man is also great for its social commentary. The futuristic setting it establishes is eerily prescient of our world today, which is strange given how crazy the action is.

1) Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Source: Terminator 2, Tri-Star Pictures

The Terminator was an undeniably successful action film, so it’s kind of crazy to think that its sequel topped it by such a wide margin. This movie set the bar extremely high from it’s opening scenes and didn’t let up to the very end.

One of the biggest twists is that it turned Arnold Schwarzenegger’s scary villain into a very charismatic hero. The franchise has gone on to do big things since then, and it’s arguable that none of it would exist without this classic sequel.

What’s on your list?

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