One of the pure joys of growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s was watching action movies where the bad guys were nasty, the good guys were cool, and evil always got its comeuppance. Most of these films were so bad they were awesome, and they came complete with cheesy looking VHS artwork. A few snuck on to the big screen, but for the most part, they were confined to the rental stores and late-night HBO viewings. Here are seven of our favorites!
1. Never Too Young To Die
Ah, a late-night HBO classic from the days of my youth! A year before John Stamos would land his role as Uncle Jesse on that crapfest Full House, he starred as a high school gymnast/action-hero opposite bad guy Gene Simmons in this film from 1986. Other standouts included a washed-up former James Bond (George Lazenby of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and flash-in-the-pan singer/actress Vanity. Also, if you can track this one down, watch for a much younger Robert Englund as ‘Riley.”
What was it with the 1980s and male gymnasts? Here we have a second film that places these competitive acrobats front-and-center. This time, they at least recruited a real gymnast to fill the part in Olympian Kurt Thomas. Too bad he couldn’t act. Of course, with a script and an idea this bad, he really didn’t have a chance. In case you want to know, it’s about a champion gymnast (and son of a former CIA operative), who must compete in a brutal competition with the fate of the Star Wars satellite program hanging in the balance.
3. No Holds Barred
Hulk Hogan’s debut in a starring role, and he makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Sir Laurence Olivier. The movie was really a setup for wrestler Hulk’s WWF angle against fellow co-star Zeus. The less said about both, the better.
4. Road House
Patrick Swayze’s martial arts classic packs in some great lines — ‘Pain don’t hurt,’ ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ and ‘I used to f*** guys like you in prison!’ — into a silly story with loads of one-dimensional characters. What’s not to like?
5. Murphy’s Law
Charles Bronson takes on a vicious female assassin with the help of one of the most obnoxious, loud-mouthed characters in movie history (thanks, Kathleen Wilhoite, for instant conversation starters like ‘You snot-licking donkey fart!’)
6. No Retreat, No Surrender
Want to see Jean-Claude Van Damme get his butt handed to him by scrawny Kurt McKinney? No Retreat, No Surrender, my friend. In this 1986 action vehicle, McKinney trains with the ghost of Bruce Lee to overcome his bullies and take on a Seattle crime syndicate. Seems legit.
7. China O’Brien
Martial arts great Cynthia Rothrock could certainly kick, but she sure couldn’t act. That didn’t stop this selection on our list of awesomely bad action movies from being a lot of fun. Basically, it’s Rothrock and Richard Norton (no martial arts slouch himself) taking on organized crime in a small town. Basically, it’s the plot to Walking Tall with a woman in the lead role.
What action movies do you think are the best of the worst? Share your thoughts in our comments section below!