12 Best Action Movies of the 1980s

1980s saw a surge in the number of action movies being made in the Hollywood with the rise of action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was an era of adrenaline filled, Over the top action flicks which dominated the market. It produced many long running franchises and strengthened the ones which had started in the 70s. 80s defined the way for action movies being made now and worked as a template for future action movies. Sylvester and Arnold reached great highs in their career which had started in 70s and cemented their names as the biggest action heroes of all time. There were so many top action movies made in the 80s that it is very hard to list just twelve but below is the list of action movies which made the cut and will surely keep you on the edge of your seat. You can watch several of these best 80s action movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

Honorable Mentions: “Lethal Weapon”, “Batman”, “Mad Max 2”, “Escape From New York”, “Top Gun”, “ Conan the Barbarian”, “Rambo II”, “Never Say Never Again”

12. Commando (1985)

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as elite ex-black ops commando who sets out on an explosive mission to save his daughter who has been kidnapped by a band of revenge-seeking thugs. The whole movie is literally lit up and nothing can stop Schwarzenegger as he takes on an army of thugs all by himself. Some of the action sequences are comical but over all it is fun and entertaining and is regarded as one of the best work of Schwarzenegger.


11. Star Wars : Empire Strikes Back (1980)

It is the best movie in the entire Star Wars Saga till date and its level of perfection has not been matched by any other space opera. After the rebels are brutally overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins his Jedi training with Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader who is adamant on turning Luke to the dark side. It is a very dark and sinister movie which takes the saga to heightened emotional levels.


10. Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky gets back in the ring when an invincible computer-trained Soviet boxer kills his friend, Apollo Creed in a one-sided bout. Rocky must get ready for one more impossible bout against a clobbering cluck who probably couldn’t get his own parents to root for him. Even though there is probably never any real doubt as to the outcome, this film will surely have you on the edge of your seat. The amount of beating that Rocky can take gets to new heights and his strength to endure pain is unmatched. It is one of the most underrated movie in the Rocky franchise.


9. Police Story (1985)

This was Jackie Chan’s breakthrough action film which introduced him to the audience outside China and made him an International star who has now become a legend and has made it to the list of all time best action heroes. After Kevin, a Hong Kong police officer arrests a drug-lord single-handedly, he is framed by the drug-lords for the murder of a dirty cop. He has to clear his name for the crime he did not commit before time runs out. It has some of the best stunts which can only be done by Jackie Chan.


8. Octopussy (1983)

Bond films are known for their action, cars, girls and the style of Bond. This is the movie in which Bond came to India during his mission. The death of a fellow agent and the auction of a fake Faberge egg to Octopussy, manager of a travelling circus who runs an international jewel smuggling operation, lead Bond to the discovery of a plot by Russians to bomb the NATO. It has some of the most electrifying action sequences in a Bond film.


7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

It was the first outing of Harrison Ford as the archeologist Indiana Jones. The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and is one of the best action adventure movie of all time. Jones is hired by the US government to find a biblical artifact known as “The Ark of the Covenant” before the Nazis. So Jones has to fight against the Nazis before he can locate the artifact. Indiana Jones is one of the most beloved character in movie history and this movie in the franchise is a must watch.

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6. First Blood (1982)

This movie introduced world to John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran which is second best character played by Sylvester Stallone after Rocky Balboa. Rambo is haunted by the unpleasent memories of war when he is falsely accused of a crime by a small town sheriff forcing him to live in the mountains, To survive and save himself, he must use all of the Guerilla tactics he learned in Vietnam. It is the darkest and most sensitive movie of the franchise which it started.


5. Robocop (1987)

In near future Detroit, a murdered police officer is resurrected as an experimental crime-fighting cyborg named Robocop. Tormented by memories of his past, he soon deviates from his law enforcement program to seek revenge on his killers. This highly successful sci-fi action film balances ultra-violence with black comedy and cutting satire. Its over-the-top action scenes are fun to watch and overall it is a smart and entertaining movie.


4. Aliens (1986)

Sequel to the 1979 movie Alien, this film was directed by James Cameron and has Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as Ellen Ripley, the last surviving crew member of a corporate spaceship destroyed after an attack by a vicious, virtually unbeatable alien life form. It lived upto the mark of the first one and was probably the last good movie of the franchise that is still continuing to grow.

Fifty seven years after the original alien encounter, a salvage ship discovers Ellen Ripley in cryogenic stasis inside the Nostromo’s escape vessel. On her return to Earth, she is told the previously unexplored planet is now a human colony, but contact with its inhabitants has recently been lost. Ripley then joins a team of space marines on a mission back to the planet to find out what exactly happened to the colonists.


3. Predator (1987)

A team of commandos led by Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) on a rescue mission in a Central America jungle discover that they are being hunted one by one by an extraterrestrial warrior for sport as their skills make them worthy opponents for the Predator. It is a highly energetic and exciting movie which you never get tired of watching. The movie is regarded as one of Schwarzenegger’s best works and is a great action star.


2. The Terminator (1984)

A Cyborg has been sent from the future on a deadly mission, it has been programmed to kill a young woman named Sarah Connor. Sarah has no idea that her life will have a staggering effect on the fate of mankind and that she is in danger of being killed at the hands of an inescapable machine known as the Terminator. Kyle Reese has also been sent from the future, but his mission is to protect the unknowing mother of a future leader.This movie had a great influence on sci-fi and action films made after it and continues to have its influence even today. It is one of the best sci-fi and action movie ever made.


1. Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis starred as John Mclane for the first time in this movie which then became a franchise due to its wide success. Mclane is in L.A. to visit his estranged wife when he finds out that the party she is at has been taken over by a group of terrorists who are holding the guests hostage. He gets into the building alone armed with a handgun and tries to rescue hostages. This movie made Willis one of the highest paid and most sought-after leading men in Hollywood.

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