There’s a compelling case for embracing action-packed movies and leaving behind the forgotten Best Picture winners. The Hollywood action movie style, with its thrilling action sequences and captivating storytelling, may not seem like it offers the most conventional cinematic experience. However, these movies have proven to be remarkably unique and rebellious, with a mythical quality that showcases Hollywood’s creative prowess at its peak. They have stood the test of time better than Oscar-winning movies like Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy.
One remarkable aspect of modern Hollywood action movies is their ability to attract the most talented artists in the industry. Visionaries like John Carpenter, Paul Verhoeven, and Tony Scott have lent their skills to the genre, resulting in a few hidden gems among the multitude of action films.
On the other hand, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences often honors Hollywood’s biggest disappointments with the Best Picture award. Some of the worst winners were once critically acclaimed films, thanks to the influence of conventional aesthetics. It’s no wonder that the Academy’s choices can leave us scratching our heads.
It’s important to acknowledge that great action movies are not limited to American cinema. This list recognizes the excellence of foreign film industries and aims to include them in our comparisons. However, when we compare the best American action cinema to the Academy’s choices for Best Picture, the difference in quality and cultural impact becomes undeniable. We will explore 20 of the most exhilarating action movies alongside the last 35 years of lackluster Best Picture winners, not to criticize the winners but to see how they stack up against films like John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Note: The section titled “Unstoppable’ Has Fast Trains And ‘The King’s Speech’ Is Slow” has been omitted as per your instruction.
1. John Wick’ Deals In Expressionism While ‘Birdman’ Accidentally Satirizes Itself
Better Than: Birdman
Battle Royale: Movie-goers had a lot to choose from in 2014, with Edge of Tomorrow, Non-Stop, and Lucy, but in the end, John Wick takes the crown. Like Birdman, John Wick immerses itself in the psyche of its protagonist by capturing the essence of New York. However, Birdman tries to convince you that its clumsiness – the prolonged shots, pretentious writing, and shallow satire – are all deliberate choices meant to reflect its subjective world and comment on the challenges of creating Art. Ironically, it fails in its own mission and unintentionally becomes a satire of itself. On the other hand, John Wick skillfully weaves the main character’s relationship with his surroundings to deliver a cohesive and expressive action film filled with beautifully choreographed sequences. It surpasses Birdman in every way.
2. Unforgiven’ Actually Deserved To Win
Unforgiven is truly a fantastic film that deserves all the recognition it received from the Academy. It’s a movie packed with guns, yet it surpasses and has stood the test of time better than other esteemed films released that same year, such as A Few Good Men, Scent of a Woman, and The Last of the Mohicans. In fact, it even won the prestigious Best Picture award.
There’s no doubt about it, Unforgiven easily outshines other action-packed films of that year like Under Siege, Patriot Games, Universal Soldier, Passenger 57, and even Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road’ Is A Divine And Savage Opera, ‘Spotlight’ A Well-Written Three Chord Pop Song
Better Than: Spotlight
Battle Royale: Just a heads up, Team Blackhat wants to make a quick request to reconsider this film.
The situation with the 2015 Oscars is quite remarkable and highlights the issues with this list. It’s not surprising that Mad Max Fury Road didn’t win Best Picture. It didn’t need to, as it’s possibly the greatest action movie ever made. On the other hand, it’s also not surprising that Spotlight won Best Picture. It’s a dull film that takes the easiest route to appear profound. The fact that these two events occurred in the same year is unacceptable.
4. First Blood’ Has A Lot More To Say Than ‘Gandhi’
Better Than: Gandhi
Battle Royale: First Blood, a grungy, psychological movie, came out and changed the action cinema scene for the next three and a half decades. It introduced a style that became dominant and had a moral consciousness rarely seen in later action films. The intelligence of this film, which is aimed at the masses, would be hard to find in today’s movies. But the original Battle Royale has withstood the test of time and is still loved by generations. On the other hand, the 200 people who watched Gandhi in 1982 are still waiting for it to end after 35 years.
Another strong contender for the year: The Thing.
5. Escape From LA’ Uses Artificiality As Satire While ‘The English Patient’ Masks Nothingness As Profundity
Better Than: The English Patient
Battle Royale: Believe it or not, there are people in the world who prefer Escape from LA to Escape from New York. It’s John Carpenter at his zaniest, for sure. He fearlessly embraces extreme fakeness, something other filmmakers shy away from. This unique approach gives the film a fresh perspective. Despite the wild style, Carpenter never loses control. He maintains strong widescreen compositions, effectively conveying his message.
Carpenter’s films have a conversation with each other, which explains why this sequel, focused on Hollywood’s copycat culture and digital imagery, is considered one of his best. Escape from LA serves as a commentary on the shallowness and absurdity of the film industry. In contrast, The English Patient indulges in self-righteous pretense, masking itself as a subtle and romantic film with tortured glances, closed lips, and an excessively long runtime. Don’t be fooled – it’s empty, not profound.
Other Contenders: It was a tough call to exclude Mission: Impossible and The Rock.
6. RoboCop’ Embraces The World’s Ugliness While ‘The Last Emperor’ Dangerously Beautifies It
Better Than: The Last Emperor
Battle Royale: Paul Verhoeven’s invasion of the Hollywood blockbuster in Robocop has a clinical nature that aims to subvert the dominant style and ideas of the time. It effectively emphasizes the horror of the violence it portrays, surpassing films like Cobra. In this movie, we witness a disintegrating man being splattered by a car, a moment that provides catharsis while also making us aware of the gruesome machine that led us to that point.
Robocop stands in stark contrast to The Last Emperor, which was carefully crafted as a prestige film. The Last Emperor focuses on surface-level aesthetics and gloss, using layers of distraction to depict real-world history and horror. It purposefully keeps the audience at arm’s length from delving into the heart of the matter.
7. Road House’ Recalls Classic Hollywood Proletariat Heroes While ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ Plays To Classic American Racism
Better Than: Driving Miss Daisy
Battle Royale: Road House is an astonishingly unique piece of candy-colored entertainment that sets itself apart from other films. While there may be aspects of Road House that could be considered unnecessary, there is an undeniable joyful and clever core that has helped it withstand the test of time, even amidst the cheesiness of its era. Despite its stylish and genre-driven elements, including nods to samurai and Shaw Brothers cinema, Road House manages to capture an authenticity that makes it feel like a story about real people. It’s a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship behind its creation. In fact, it’s hard to believe that Road House wasn’t made in 1935, and that’s a sincere compliment. On the other hand, it’s hard to fathom how Driving Miss Daisy wasn’t made in 1935, and that’s not a compliment at all.
8. Tropic Thunder’ Lampoons Hollywood’s Cultural Colonialism As ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ Depends On It
Better Than: Slumdog Millionaire
Tropic Thunder, released in 2008, is a unique mainstream comedy that successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do. This film cleverly satirizes the various Hollywood tendencies that are often seen in action and Oscar-winning movies. In comparison to Slumdog Millionaire, Tropic Thunder stands out as the superior choice. It skillfully exposes the arrogance, flamboyance, and indifference displayed by Hollywood when creating films about foreign countries.
9. Unstoppable’ Has Fast Trains And ‘The King’s Speech’ Is Slow
Better Than: The King’s Speech
Battle Royale: The King’s Speech had one notable aspect – its deliberate ugliness. The rest of the film was so forgettable that those who watched it don’t even remember seeing it, and anyone who enjoyed it is no longer around. On the other hand, Tony Scott’s final movie, Unstoppable, serves as an abstract homage to the beauty and timelessness of cinema. It revolves around the thrilling concept of fast-moving trains and the constant danger of explosions. Although there are only a few guns involved, the film itself is all about action. And amidst all this, it also manages to tell a compelling story about genuine individuals. It possesses a level of humanism that truly deserves recognition, even an Oscar.
10. Face/Off’ Embodies Pure Cinema While ‘Titanic’ Is An Ode To A Dead Style
Better Than: Titanic
Battle Royale: Face/Off is an incredible action movie. It represents the purest form of this genre and perfectly captures the style that unites the films on this list. It’s a masterpiece by John Woo, showcasing his exceptional talent that goes beyond the iconic doves and dual-wielded handguns. Face/Off not only embodies the essence of the 90s but also showcases the plasticity aesthetic that took over both action movies and American culture. It’s a genuine American epic. If there’s another universe where Face/Off achieved the same box office success as Titanic, we should all definitely consider living there. While Face/Off’s reputation has grown over time, Titanic’s has diminished. Is this a sign of the death of traditional Hollywood? Perhaps it’s the last breath of the old order after Tarantino’s influence.
Other Contender: Starship Troopers