90s Action Movies: The Best of the Best (Again!)

90s Action Movies: In the 1990s, the action genre saw an intriguing change. But it was the last gasp of real effects before the CGI overload that would rule the twenty-first century.

90s Action Movies

Nevertheless, despite the era’s technological constraints, the 1990s were still brimming with thrilling, entertaining, and even contemplative action films that still have an impact today. We’ve listed the top 27 action films from the 1990s, and while the subgenres range from sci-fi to Hong Kong to classic destruction, all of these movies still hold up and demonstrate that the decade had something to contribute to this thrilling genre.

Top 90s Action Movies

Check out our complete list of the top 90s action movies below, and let us know if we missed any in the comments.

Recall in full (1990)

90s action movies Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven is a master of ethereal works. He explores sensuality, action, and science fiction with a calculated tongue-in-cheek satirical slant that is equaled only by his unwavering admiration for all things out of the ordinary. One of his best films, Total Recall, depicts Arnold Schwarzenegger as your Average Joe, a typical guy who visits his local Recall clinic to have all the most amazing memories implanted in his head, and who as a result discovers the carefully suppressed memories of his past as a secret operative. As he sets out to bring down a sinister, if rather nebulous, agency, that pits him against a string of several government officials, including his fictitious wife (Sharon Stone).

Nikita La Femme (1990)

90s action movies In addition to launching Luc Besson’s international reputation as the king of action entertainment, La Femme Nikita also established an improbable franchise of its own, giving rise to two US television shows and a remake of an American feature picture (Point of No Return). The diluted American recipe is straightforward: woman in a cocktail dress plus pistol. Nikita is a Beauty and the Beast story, and Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is both the Beauty and the Beast in all the US adaptations, which is what made the original so unique. Her start is awful, too.

Warner Bros. The Last Boy Scout (1991) the-last-boy-scout

90s action movies You wish Shane Black and filmmaker Tony Scott had worked together more because this is Shane Black at his most Shane Black-like. While on the surface the plot of a retired investigator and retired football star appears too contrived to work, Scott captures the tone that Black’s screenplay is aiming for.

Break Point (1991)

90s action movies Let’s get this out of the way: Point Break is, by a wide margin, my favorite action movie from the 1990s. That might be primarily due to the fact that its main goal appears to be undermining the legitimacy of the macho urges that drive most action movies. The central characters of the movie, played by Keanu Reeves FBI agent Johnny Utah and the extreme sports enthusiast outlaw Bodie played by Patrick Swayze, represent two competing ideas of masculinity, which director Kathryn Bigelow sets up. Utah goes undercover to infiltrate Bodie’s gang of presidentially-masked bank robbers in the film, which many have suggested could be interpreted as an unfulfilled romance between the two men. Point Break differs from many movies of its caliber in that it could be expanded upon and yet succeed as a tense, breathless action epic. T

Judgment Day from Terminator 2 (1991)

90s action movies James Cameron is the man who knows how to make an action sequel, so we should really stop criticizing him for taking so darn long on these Avatar sequels. Hell, he basically invented the genre with 1986’s Aliens, and in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, he used the bigger, badder formula to great effect. When the second movie picks up with Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor 15 years after the events of the first, we discover a woman who has been completely altered by what she has gone through. She is now a tough son-of-a-bitch and ferocious mamma bear who is committed to protecting her son, the future leader of the human resistance.

A hard boil (1992)

90s action movies You’ll find so damned many of John Woo’s action films on this list because he is a legend in the field. His final official Hong Kong production before moving to Hollywood, Hard Boiled, is one of his most enjoyable and artistically defining works and a titan of the genre. In the movie Hard Boiled, Chow Yun-Fat plays Tequila, a tough Hong Kong cop who pairs up with an undercover officer who is on the verge of failure in order to take down the evil crime ring that killed his comrade. There are numerous beautifully orchestrated action scenes and shoot-outs along the road, which lead to the last act’s wildly violent shoot-em-up, which is a frenetic series of set-pieces. How absurd? Try going nuts while “protecting infants in a maternity ward from well-armed baddies.” You simply cannot top the scene in which Tequila wipes a splatter of his own blood from a baby’s face while apologizing and cooing to the helpless infant.

Demolition worker (1993)

90s action movie Demolition Man is possibly one of the cleverest, most subversive sci-fi movies of the 1990s, even if you exclude Rob Schneider and the three seashells. Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes are front-and-center, so it doesn’t get credit for its subversion, but if you look at the rest of the movie, it’s quite clever in its cultural critique of a future rife with artificial warm feelings and commercial placement.

Hard to Hit (1993)

90s action movies What a wonderful world it is to be a part of, with movies like Hard Target. With more explosions, a swaggering hero, and little concern for the plot (it’s ostensibly about a brave sailor taking down a brutal society of men who hunt the homeless for sport, but it’s really just about Jean Claude Van Damme fabulously kicking ass), John Woo’s first American action movie is pretty much what you’d expect out of that scenario.

The Fugitive (1993)

90s action movies Harrison Ford wanted to prove in the early 1990s that he was still a leading man in his 50s. He starred in a blockbuster cinematic version of The Fugitive after his 1992 Patriot Games debut as Jack Ryan. Ford made one of the decade’s best movies with this adorable little action-thriller. In Ford’s brilliantly energetic and unexpectedly emotional performance, Dr. Richard Kimble escapes death row and is pursued by a persistent U.S. Marshal, Tommy Lee Jones. The picture has stunning set pieces, but director Andrew Davis presents it as a non-stop action-thriller with a solid mystery. Ford and Jones’ deeply personal performances make this fly. The film’s seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and Jones’ win make sense. Chitwood

Speed (1994)

90s action movies Speed is frequently compared to “Die Hard on a bus,” which is absurd. Speed isn’t one of the many Die Hard knockoffs that appeared in the 1990s (see: Sudden Death). One is that there are multiple locations where the activity can be found. Most importantly, however, is the fact that Dennis Hopper’s horrifyingly eerie retired police officer with a grudge specifically targets Keanu Reeves’ Jack Trayvon rather than Keanu Reeves’ Jack Trayven eliminating bad guys one at a time as he rises to power or being the right guy in the wrong place.

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