Best Action Films 1997
#5 – The Fifth Element
Never has the word “Multipass” meant so much. The Fifth Element was back in the day that Bruce Willis still cared about his career, and you can tell – he’s actually trying to act. It’s weird. The action is rather enjoyable but the best moments of this film is the slightly camp, tongue-in-cheek vision of the future. Even when the film gets spotty, such as when Milla Jovovich is kicking poorly-choreographed space-pigs and running away from Gary Oldman wearing a space-yarmulke, we all can’t help loving The Fifth Element.
Fun fact: Writer and director Luc Besson wrote the screenplay of The Fifth Element in high school, which probably explains all the oral sex.
#4 – Air Force One
Harrison Ford is the President Of The United States Of America, thus fulfilling all our childhood fantasies (and adult fantasies too, if you catch my drift), and he’s pissed off that Gary Oldman is on his plane (he’s not wearing his space-yarmulke this time though). It’s completely absurd, but Air Force One never takes itself too seriously and offers one of the best lines of Harrison Ford’s career.
Fun fact: The lead role was written for Kevin Costner (BOOOOO) but thankfully he was preoccupied with The Postman (9% on Rotten Tomatoes). Talk about a close call!
#3 – Face/Off
Nicolas Cage. John Travolta. Switching faces. What could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. The John Woo classic (?) is so bizarre, so lacking in self-awareness, so full of face-touching doves-flying-through-a-church madness that it’s impossible not to like. Nicolas Cage is just amazing, attempting to act like John Travolta being evil (or good? I have no idea who is who anymore), and the action, while absurd in the extreme, never fails to illicit that John Woo charm.
Fun fact: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were originally set to play the two lead roles. Try and imagine that.
#2 – Men In Black
If Independence Day was the vehicle that launched Will Smith’s career into space (quite literally), then Men In Black was the film that cemented his place as a superstar. Although he’s a bit of a joke at the moment, what with his obsessive love for his son and the taste of the infinitely shite After Earth still in our mouths, Will Smith made Men In Black possible. Agent J whipped out some brilliantly fun technology, fantastic slimy aliens and rapid-fire quips that put the shoddy Men In Black sequels to shame.
Fun fact: Will Smith was considered for the role of Neo in The Matrix, but it thankfully went to Keanu Reeves after Big Willy wanted the character to be joking and laughing all the time. Sort of like Agent J. Idiot.
#1 – Con Air
Yes it’s awful, yes it’s corny, yes Steve Buscemi has one of the most uncomfortable tea parties with a 7 year old girl in cinema, but Con Air is still one of the best action films of the 90s. Nic Cage (of course) is a con whose time in jail is coming to an end, when the con-filled plane he is being transported on is hijacked by John Malkovich et. al. Cue tense stand-offs, a man wearing a dress, John Cusack doing his best not to blend into the background and also Dave Chapelle is there for some reason.
Fun fact: “Con” is French slang for vagina, giving a totally different, yet oddly fitting, spin on the title.
If you haven’t seen Con Air yet, it really is a must-watch, if only for this scene: