The 1997 action thriller ‘Face/Off’ kick-starts with a murder attempt that triggers a roller-coaster ride of vengeance unpaid. By a stroke of sheer luck, FBI Agent Sean Archer, played by John Travolta, survives an assassination attempt by a homicidal sociopath terrorist named Castor Troy, played by Nicholas Cage. But in the face-off, Archer’s son is sacrificed as the bullet that was meant to take Archer’s life penetrated him before hitting his son. And at that very moment began a personal vendetta between two men, who stand on either side of the law. Archer ambushes Troy’s den and captures him, but only to make matters worse.
Before going into a coma, Troy challenges Archer to find a bomb that he has implanted somewhere in the city. Archer tries to extract the location of the bomb from Troy’s colleague but in vain. As a last resort that turns out to be a ridiculous ploy, Archer gets an experimental facial change that makes him resemble Troy. On the other hand, Troy regains his consciousness and changes his damaged face similar to Archer. And ‘Face/Off’ takes off.
The 1997 flick is directed by the master of action, John Woo from a screenplay by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. The film went on to become one of the big-budgeted and stylized action thrillers that Hollywood has ever produced. ‘Face/Off’ catapulted John Woo’s Hollywood career into new heights as well. The film grossed a staggering $245 million worldwide and also made huge stars of both John Travolta and Nicholas Cage.
Here I have tried to draw up a list of films that you might like if you have been enthralled by the thrills of ‘Face/Off.’ The ’90s were a decade in which Hollywood witnessed over the top action flicks, with a man going beyond the limits to protect the law became a norm and found popular appeal. Not very grounded to reality, these blockbuster action flicks influenced a whole generation of film buffs. Not all films in this list are exactly the same as ‘Face/Off’ but have similarities in the tone and machismo and the ethos of the genre. So, without further ado, here is the list of best movies similar to ‘Face/Off’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Face/Off’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Hard Target (1993)
Chance Boudreaux, played by Jean-Claude van Damme, saves a young woman named Natasha Binder, from the hands of street thugs in New Orleans. An out-of-work Cajun merchant, Chance learns that Natasha is looking for her missing father and he agrees to help her to find him. It doesn’t take much time for them to learn that Natasha’s father has been killed. The two men responsible for the murder are a pair of ruthless businessmen who hunt down homeless people for fun.
What pursues, is relentless action in pursuit of vengeance. Yancy Butler plays Natasha Binder and the two businessmen named, Emil Fouchon and Pik van Cleef are portrayed by Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo, respectively.
Again a John Woo film, ‘Hard Target,’ marks the Hollywood debut of the master of action. Chuck Pfarrer, who played Natasha’s father in the film also wrote the screenplay which was based on the 1932 film adaptation of a short story by Richard Connell, titled ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ ‘Hard Target’ has earned a cult status among action film fans over the years.
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9. Broken Arrow (1996)
The 1996 blockbuster ‘Broken Arrow’ opens up with a “Broken Arrow” situation in the sky. Two United States Air Force (USAF) pilots, Major Vic Deakins, played by John Travolta and Captain Riley Hale, played by Christian Slater are tasked with carrying two B83 nuclear bombs, as part of a secret flying exercise. Once they successfully pass through US Air Force radars, Deakins attack Hale and ejects him from the plane. He then releases the two bombs without activating them, lying to the authorities that Hale has gone out of control before ejects himself from the plane leaving it to crash. Declaring this to be a “Broken Arrow” situation of the highest threat, a team is sent from USAF to recover the bombs.
The recovery team find the bomb but are killed by assassins working for Deakins, who then, with his allies starts blackmailing the US administration, threatening to detonate the bomb in a populated locality. Hale, on the other hand, survives the ejection and is arrested by park ranger Terry Carmichael. He convinces Terry, played by Samantha Mathis, of his innocence and now it is up to them to recover the bombs safely from the hands of the desperate and dangerous Major Vic Deakins. The rest of the film follows a cat and mouse game between the two parties as the warheads keep changing hands in the most extreme situations.
8. Patriot Games (1992)
While on a vacation with his wife and daughter, retired CIA analyst, Jack Ryan saves Lord William Holmes, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, from an assassination attempt by an Irish Republic Army faction. Ryan kills one of the terrorists while the brother of the slain terrorist, named Sean Miller is caught alive. But Miller manages to escape from jail and joins another extremist IRA faction to plot his vengeance on Ryan’s family. When Ryan’s pregnant wife and daughter is injured by MIller’s gang, Ryan decides to put on his CIA cap again and hunt down Miller.
‘Patriot Games’ is directed by Phillip Noyce and based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name. It is also a sequel to the film, ‘The Hunt for Red October.’ Harrison Ford plays Jack Ryan, while Ann Archer plays the character of his wife. The film also stars Sean Bean, Patrick Bergin, Samuel L. Jackson, and Richard Harris in important roles.
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7. Air Force One (1997)
The protagonist of ‘Air Force One’ is again Harrison Ford, who plays the President of the United States of America, James Marshall. After attending a dinner in Moscow, where, the President vows to not go into any negotiation with terrorists in his speech, he flies back along with his wife, 12-year-old daughter and his Cabinets on the flying fortress Air Force One. But the flight turns out to be a nightmare when the notorious terrorist Egor Korshunov lay in wait in the plane disguised as a journalist.
Mid-flight, Korshunov and his men hijack Air Force One, and hold everyone inside hostage while killing all the military personnel. Marshall, who happens to be a Vietnam war veteran and a hero feigns escape and hides in the cargo hold. Now it is up to him to rescue his family as well as all the other passengers alive on the plane. Gary Oldman plays Egor Korshunov alongside Glenn Close, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, and Paul Guilfoyle. Written by Andrew W. Marlowe and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, ‘Air Force One’ is one of the most popular films of the nineties.
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6. Demolition Man (1993)
Back in the year 1996, Simon Phoenix was a notorious crime lord known for his brutality. LAPD Sgt. John Spartan was nicknamed “Demolition Man,” for he demolished everything that stood in his way when in pursuit of the ruthless criminals in the city. Once Phoenix had captured hostages inside a building and Spartan launched an unauthorized attack to kill Phoenix and rescue the hostages. Using a thermal scan, Spartan found no one in the building, but Phoenix set off a series of explosives that turned the building and demolished it. The bodies of the victims were found in the rubble. Later in court, Phoenix claimed that Spartan had full knowledge of the presence of the innocent hostages inside, but he didn’t care. It was then that both Spartan and Phoenix were cryogenically frozen in a special Los Angeles city government facility.
Cut to 2032, Phoenix, played by Leslie Snipes, who is awakened for a court hearing, manages to escape. John Spartan, played by Sylvester Stallone, the only person who can stop Phoenix, has to be reawakened now. Spartan teams up with the cop of the future, Lieutenant Lenina Huxley, portrayed by none other than Sandra Bullock, to stop Simon Phoenix before he wreaks havoc.
5. Con Air (1997)
While on his visit to hometown Alabama, decorated United States Army Ranger Cameron Poe, accidentally kills one drunkard who tries to attack his wife Tricia along with some hooligans. Poe is sent to federal prison for involuntary manslaughter. After serving a seven-year prison sentence, Poe is finally paroled. He is on his way home to his wife and daughter on a prison aeroplane, containing some of the worst criminals. Among them is a certain notorious Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom. The criminals take control of the flight and are trying to escape the country. It is up to Poe to stop them by joining forces with United States Marshall Vincent Larkin.
Directed by Simon West from a script by Scott Rosenberg, ‘Con Air’ is one of the most popular action films of all time. The movie features Nicholas Cage as Cameron Poe, John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom and John Cusack play Vincent Larkin. Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, and Danny Trejo round out the cast. The film grossed over $224 million against a budget of $75 million.
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4. Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000)
Kip Raines is assigned the task of stealing 50 specific cars by Raymond Calitri, a British gangster. But the mission goes terribly awry when the cops intervene in between. Kip abandons the cars and flees the cops. That obviously doesn’t go down well with Calitri, who threatens to kill Kip. When Kip’s brother, Memphis Maines, who used to be a master car thief but has gone clean for some years now, comes to know of his brother’s dilemma, steps into the scene to save Kip. Meanwhile Calitri vows to kill Kip if the cars are not stolen within the next 72 hours. Memphis gets in touch with his old mates in crime, to accomplish an almost impossible task while the police are breathing down their necks. Add to that, Memphis has competition from an old car thief he used to know, who wants Memphis to stay out of this as he desperately wants Carlitri’s job.
‘Gone In Sixty Seconds’, directed by Dominic Sena and written by Scott Rosenberg is another action film that is readily recognized by millions, such was its popularity. Nicholas Cage plays the character of Randall “Memphis” Raines while Angelina Jolie plays Sara “Sway” Wayland, his one-time partner in crime and ex-flame.
3. Heat (1995)
What more needs to be said about a film, that stars both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino! ‘Heat,’ directed by Michael Mann, has the capacity to hold the audience on the edges of their seats with the power-packed performance from the two veterans and an adrenaline-rushing screenplay. Robert De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a seasoned criminal who excels in heists and leads his own crew of robbers while looting banks in and around Los Angeles. Incidentally one of his heist operations goes terribly wrong and puts the robbery-homicide LAPD detective Lt. Vincent Hanna on his tail.
Meanwhile, Neil plans one the biggest heists in his career in order to fund his retirement plans. So begins a cat and mouse game between the two, each on either side of the law. Though professional enemies, both can’t fail to acknowledge the similarities they have between themselves, especially in their personal lives. This action saga centers around the tussle of two men dedicated to their own philosophies. As Neil famously quotes his criminal mentors’ words, “Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat coming around the corner.” The story of the film is based on a former Chicago police officer and his chase after a criminal named McCauley in the ’60s.
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2. Die Hard (1988)
John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, is an NYPD officer who goes to meet his wife Holly during a Christmas vacation. While the couple having their Christmas party at the headquarters of Nakatomi Corporation, where Holly works, a German named Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman takes control of the building and takes everyone inside hostage, except McClane. Gruber and his men are there with the intent of performing a highly ambitious heist.
With hardly any support from the cops, McClane takes matters into his own hands and saves his wife along with the hostages. Directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, ‘Die Hard’ has become a metonym for action films while the premise of a lone hero raises to the occasion and saves the people in distress went on to become a trope so popular among action enthusiasts. ‘Die Hard,’ which has attained quite the cult status, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
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1. Leon: The Professional (1994)
Leon Montana lives a solitary life in his Little Italy apartment in New York City, where he spends time engaging in calisthenics, nurturing plants and binge-watching old films. In his alternate life, Leon is a professional Hitman, though he prefers to call himself a ‘cleaner.’ He works for the Mafioso named Tony. One day Leon meets Mathilde Lando, a 12-year-old girl who lives down the hall of Leon’s apartment. Mathilde’s father is paid by the police to stash cocaine at his place.
One day the corrupt and psychotic DEA Norman Stansfield storms into Mathilde’s apartment and in a fit of rage and mental instability kills her entire family, while Mathilde was at the grocery shop. The only person Mathilde finds to come to is Leon, who reluctantly takes her under his wings. Eventually, a strange emotional bonding develops between the two as Mathilde becomes his protégé. Both Mathilde and Leon are drawn towards vengeance against the corrupt DEA Norman.
It might be said that from among the list of films on this list, ‘Leon’ is the most refined. Directed by Luc Besson, movie is a sublime execution of the action-thriller genre tropes. Starring Jean Reno as Leon and Gary Oldman as Norman Stansfield and Natalie Portman as Mathilde, her debut role. If you have watched all the action films mention in this list, be sure to find time to watch this.
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