Action cinema is raw, visceral and the classic setup of good guys battling the odds simply never gets old. It’s also the perfect entertainment for any season. Aside from the great slapstick of seasonal picks like Home Alone and Jingle All the Way, nothing beats a good old fashioned Christmas action movie to kick back to during the holidays. To celebrate this grand tradition, here are five of my personal favourites, a reminder that bad guys don’t take time off… and neither do our heroes!
First Blood (1982)
Based on the 1972 novel by David Morrell, First Blood is a legendary slice of cinema and spawned one of the greatest heroes of Hollywood action. Green Beret veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) wanders into the wrong town looking for his old war buddy and is confronted, beaten and locked up by the small town sheriffs. Rambo strikes back the only way he knows how and leads them on a frantic mountain chase. Famously, the first rough cut of the film was over three hours long and Stallone hated it, but after heavy re-editing it was cut to the lean 93 minute version we know today. How cool would it be to see the original version if it still exists?
Invasion USA (1985)
When America faces invasion for the first time in history, former CIA man Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris) starts his own personal war. With violence erupting during Christmas on suburban streets, in shopping malls and even churches, epic stunts, action and one liners follow. Recently reissued on Blu-ray, this underrated 80’s Chuck/Cannon Films flick is still plenty of fun. Reportedly, the finished film was heavily cut in the editing room to favour wall-to-wall action over story.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
In one of the all-time greatest buddy teams, two cops: family man Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and volatile Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) are assigned to investigate a drug baron. A big personality clash between our odd couple is soon replaced by a mutual bond and respect as they fight to bring down the villains. The movie kicked off a hugely successful franchise but the first and second remain arguably the strongest. The original 1985 draft script from writer Shane Black was said to be darker, longer, with more character scenes and was tonally very different. That original draft is now super rare, having been sold at auction.
Die Hard (1988)
Predictable choice, I know. This festive genre classic sees New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) on vacation in the wrong place at the wrong time. He must fight to foil the plans of criminal mastermind Hans Gruber and his gang of thieves who take hold of LA’s Nakatomi Plaza during Christmas in LA, with McClane trapped inside and his wife among the hostages. With the cops and FBI at a loss, McClane is the only hope and our man on the inside. While enormously fun and filled with big action set pieces, the first film is delivered in a straight, serious tone with dry humour and shows Bruce Willis at his tough, wisecracking best. As above: “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!”
Die Hard 2 (1990)
Nearly on par with the original, this undoubtedly ranks among the best action sequels. This time John McClane awaits his wife’s arrival at Dulles Airport in Washington DC, but gets wind of a sinister plot within the terminal. With local cops offering little support, he is pulled into saving the day once again and protecting the planes circling overhead. Director John McTiernan planned to return for the sequel but couldn’t due to commitments on The Hunt for Red October, however Renny Harlin did a fine job here. I also like that McClane’s friend Al (Reginald VelJohnson) from the first film appears in a cameo. Plus, we get early bad guy roles from the likes of John Leguizamo and Robert Patrick, a taste of big things to come, and William Sadler is one of my favourite villains here.
While being festive themed, these movies are by no means season dependent, they are year round classics and stand the test of time. However, there are few better ways to raise your Christmas spirit than seeing John McClane serve out justice, which has become a holiday tradition in itself. “Yippee Ki Yay!”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thanks for all the support