AIR FORCE ONE
(1997) D: Wolfgang Peterson. Starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close.
Who can forget the ultimate over-the-top action dialogue: “Get off my plane!” Say what you want, but this one’s got it all.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The lead role was originally written for Kevin Costner, who was too busy with The Postman. It was Costner who suggested Ford for the role.
(2005) D: Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman.
Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan breathe new life into a franchise and make it darker and moodier—-and much cooler.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: All the big name cast members were initially not told that the movie was a Batman movie as the script they were sent was titled “The Intimidation Game”. Michael Caine commented that when he first saw the title, he assumed the script was some kind of gangster movie.
(2006) D: Martin Campbell. Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench.
While I will always be a Pierce Brosnan fan, I have to admit Daniel Craig kicks ass. And this movie makes Die Another Day looks like child’s play.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The first official Bond film to start without the famous gun barrel intro and the first Bond movie to not have a major pre-credits action stunt sequence since The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
(2000) D: McG. Starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray.
It’s a new world when a music video director can make his feature film debut on a movie remake of a television series starring three young actresses and it turns out to be a huge hit. Why? Because it’s amazingly brilliant—fast-paced, exceedingly clever, it blends seduction with silliness perfectly. But it is Barrymore, Diaz and Liu, playing their roles with abandon and a total lack of self-reverence that make this film work. Remember when movies were fun?
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Although the “bad guys” use guns, the Angels never touch them. This was at producer/star Drew Barrymore’s insistence.
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
(1994) D: Phillip Noyce. Starring Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Henry Czerny.
Anyone who knows me knows I have an unexplained attraction to Harrison Ford action films. But these films are Saturday afternoon popcorn movies at their best and the channel doesn’t change when they’re on. Period.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The scene in which the convoy of Suburbans is attacked by the drug cartel is now actually used as a training video in US government agencies.
(1988) D: John McTiernan. Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson.
The classic. My favorite action film of all time—just perfect.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Due to the tourist interest in the now-famous Fox Plaza building in L.A. (Nakatomi Plaza in the film), people are now forbidden from taking photos outside the building
DIE HARD 2
(1990) D: Renny Harlin. Starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Dennis Franz.
Terrorism and airplanes don’t mix too well in movies anymore, but back in 1990, this film continued the tradition of pure popcorn pleasure that was started with the original Die Hard.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: At the time, this was the highest grossing sequel in box office history. It was eclipsed the following year by Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).
(1993) D: Andrew Davis. Starring Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones.
Edge-of-your-seat action and thrills from start to finish. Throw in two amazing performances from Ford and Jones, and you’ve got a Best Picture nominee.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: To date the only remake of a regular television series to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
(2000) D: Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris.
Max-i-mus! Such a complete picture, from the story to the acting to the direction to the score to the art direction and cinematography…it’s just so good.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay, rewriting much of it to suit his own ends. He would frequently walk off the set if he didn’t get his way. The famous line “In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance” he initially refused to say, telling writer William Nicholson “Your lines are garbage but I’m the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good”.
(1995) D: Martin Campbell. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco.
My favorite Bond of them all. Pierce Brosnan’s first, the last of the Cold War enemies, and the first betrayal. Perfect.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: First completely original James Bond film without reference to any Ian Fleming novel or short story.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
(1990) D: John McTiernan. Starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill.
I’m a sucker for these Cold War who-blinks-first macho dramas. But don’t get this one confused with Crimson Tide….this one is much better.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: $20,000 was spent on Sean Connery’s hairpiece.
THE ITALIAN JOB
(2003) D: F. Gary Gray. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Donald Sutherland, Mos Def.
A great ensemble caper flick with a touch of vengeance and romance thrown in. Awesome.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Edward Norton has made it clear that his participation was a result of contractual obligation, not choice.
(1993) D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum,
OK, I admit it. But at least I never jumped on the Titanic bandwagon.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: In this film, Steven Spielberg directs the man who beat him to the Best Director Oscar in 1983 (Richard Attenborough, whose film Gandhi (1982) also beat Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) as Best Picture).
KILL BILL v.1
(2003) D: Quentin Tarantino. Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen.
Quentin Tarantino is the most obnoxious genius in the history of Hollywood.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Uma Thurman was offered the script as a 30th Birthday present from Quentin Tarantino.
KILL BILL v.2
(2004) D: Quentin Tarantino. Starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah.
More cerebral than its predecessor, it is nonetheless just as riveting, brilliant and visually STUNNING.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: At the film’s first test screening in Austin, Texas the audience gave the film a five minute standing ovation. The reaction was so overwhelming that Harvey Weinstein did not have the research firm conducting the screening pass out response cards.
(1996) D: Brian DePalma. Starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny.
The fact that I loathe Tom Cruise yet still recommend this film illustrates how highly I regard the concept and delivery. Except for the silly ending, this is what a spy movie should be.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: While filming the famous scene where Tom Cruise drops from the ceiling and hovers inches above the ground, Cruise’s head kept hitting the floor until he got the idea to put coins in his shoes for balance.
MR. & MRS. SMITH
(2005) D: Doug Liman. Starring Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn.
The chemistry is palpable and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are just perfect casting as they each have the comic timing, sex appeal, action-hero power and acting chops to super-size any movie. But you put them together on screen and look out.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Nicole Kidman and Johnny Depp were originally cast.
(1992) D: Phillip Noyce. Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean.
A perfect Saturday-afternoon escapist movie. It never slows down, doesn’t try to do too much, has a hero you root for, and is visually stunning.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Original author Tom Clancy disassociated himself from the production after reading the first draft of the script.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
(1981) D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen.
A tutorial on what a classic action movie should look like.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Indiana Jones’s name comes from the name of George Lucas’s dog and is a play on Steve McQueen’s eponymous character name in Nevada Smith (1966). Indiana the dog, who was a Malamute, also served as the inspiration for Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977). In the end of the Last Crusade, it is revealed by Indiana’s father that Indiana is really named Henry Jr., but went by the name of his dog, Indiana.