The 10 Best Action Movies That Defined The 80s

The 80s was a significant decade in entertainment. From music to movies, that decade had actors at their peak in their acting careers. The majority of the action films that fans have praised for years came out of that decade.

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big names like Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stalloneand Bruce Willis all became massive in that decade because of the movies that they chose to work on. It’s fun for fans to look back on a decade that had many iconic films which ended up becoming classics for decades to come.


Top Gun

There’s always a need for speed in the 80s and Top Gun is probably the most surprising action movie to gain a following. A movie about navy pilots now has a whole day dedicated to it because of how good the movie is.

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Of course, action movie star Tom Cruise wasn’t known during this period, but he sure made a name for himself after this. The soundtrack was also the driving force of this movie and the bromance between Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) made it even better.


Michael Keaton‘s Batman was the first one to head to the big screen, and it set the tone for other iterations that came afterwards. at the time, Superman is all fans had, so to finally have the caped crusader come out of the shadows and grace the screen was a big deal.

Related Link: Best Michael Keaton Performances, Ranked

The magic of Tim Burtoncombined with Keaton‘s sarcasm, and of course the iconic Jack Nicholson‘s take on the Joker made this one of the biggest films of the decade. That’s why fans call it Batman ’89 in one breath, so they can set it apart from the rest.


In the 80s James Cameron became a prolific director because of what he did for the action genre. when aliens came out – which is a sequel to Ridley Scott‘s alienCameron took Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to new heights. weaver had a great run in the 80s and had plenty of films come out that drove fans to the theaters because of her character in alien.

Weaver was untouchable in the 80s because of Ripley and the character became a staple in the sci-fi/horror genre. For fans of the genre, Ripley was beloved by many because she is one of the strongest female characters to come out of the decade. For the time that it was, it was refreshing to see a woman front and center in an action movie and that’s why it did well.

Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest stand-up comedians alive and when he branched out into making movies, he owned the 80s. Beverly Hills Cop made him into a Hollywood star and changed the face of comedians breaking into the movie industry. Axel Foley will always be a piece of the 80s, even down to the costume he wore. People have been quoting the movie for years because of how funny the majority of his lines were.

For a while, this movie was all anyone talked about, which then resulted in its trilogy. The 80s had him at the top of the A-list because of how many people wanted to work with him as well. Murphy brought in so many fans with this action buddy cop movie and made it such a memorable piece of the decade.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Steven Spielberg was a director who came into his own in the 80s. He worked on over 22 projects as a producer and 7 of which he directed. Even though he kept pumping out movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first of many of his films that took over the decade.

Every single fan of Harrison Ford showed up forIndiana Jonesand made the archeologist a household name. Decades later a fifth installment is in the works and fans are equally excited about it.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Possibly the biggest sci-fi, action franchise in history had its trilogy come to an end (or so fans thought) in the early 80s. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was an event film like no other in that decade. No matter when you watched this third installment for the first time, it still had one of the best reveals ever. Even if you already knew what it was, that one moment made the original trilogy so worth the hype in the 80s.

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It was the culmination of the Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) storyline at the time, that had everyone in shock with one famous line from Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) himself. This movie defined sci-fi/fantasy action movies in the 80s because of the longstanding impact it made on crossing the genres. It was a phenomenon that carried so much weight decades later. It does feel like an outdated trilogy when you watch it back now, but George Lucas did something incredible for fans in that decade that changed the course of it all moving forward.

Blade Runner

Harrison Ford did have a great run in the 80s and is one of the most notable action stars. Blade Runner was a sleeper hit and even got a revamped sequel directed by Dennis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 was a good sequel to the original because of Deckard’s story arc, but it didn’t quite hit like the first film.

The advanced technology in Deckard’s world made for such great action scenes in both films. Every movie Ford was in, in the 80s became an action-movie classic and has added so much to his filmography. again director Ridley Scott made a classic out of a sci-fi action movie in the 80s because it is the perfect blend of genres.

Die Hard

Die Hard was a massive movie for Bruce Willis in the 80s, which also catapulted him into stardom. This was supposed to be a one-off action movie, but John McClane was too good of a character to say goodbye so soon. It is one of those action flicks that will be on television and a true fan will watch it no matter what they’re doing.

Apart from this being an action movie, it is also considered a tradition to watch it over the holidays because it is technically classified as a Christmas movie. Willis became an action star overnight making Die Hard an instant classic with four more installations. Even though the sequels could have ended after the third one, Live Free Die Hard was a pretty good update from the original movie.

First Blood

after rocky came out in 1976, Sylvester Stallone didn’t stop with one franchise. Instead, it took a run with Rambo. Within the same year, he would have rocky sequels and Rambo sequels come out together. Stallone was able to be part of two different franchises that were carried out for decades after the first installation, which is quite impressive.

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Stallone was and still is known as the definitive action star in the 80s. John Rambo became a rogue army veteran who was being pursued by the military for his actions. He was one man going against many, and that’s what made him so interesting to watch. The action in the movie was also pretty graphic for the 80s, and they made it look so authentic for the time that it was.

The Terminator

The 80s are not complete without The Terminator. Not only was the first installation a hit, but the sequel T2: Judgment Day is considered better than the first one. Another action star who defined the 80s is Arnold Schwarzenegger, he owned this decade and made a name for himself.

Even though he was the name that made it big, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor is also another female character that became a staple in the sci-fi action genre like Ellen Ripley. The 80s were filled with iconic action stars and action movies that became instant classics for years to come.

Next: 80s Action Movies That Still Kick Ass

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