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Archive for the Category "Action Movies"

What’s The Best Part Of An Action Movie? Nov 14


I hadn’t seen John Woo’s 1997 action masterpiece — FACE/OFF — for over a decade. So when it came on T.V. the other night, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit (and try to remember) what I had loved so much about the movie in the first place.

Here’s what I quickly discovered… The best part of that action movie had absolutely nothing to do with the action.

In fact, when I first started watching it again, I thought it was horrible! Over-the-top action sequences. Cartoon-like villains. Ridiculous set-ups… It made me start to question everything I held dear in the action movie pantheon of my mind. What other cherished movies would crumble under the weight of mature, modern day scrutiny? Maybe those Ewoks really did ruin Return of the Jedi?

But then it happened… The movie got past its crazy set-up (an FBI Agent switches faces with a deranged killer in order to stop a bomb plot), and settled in to one of the most entertaining action movies of the last couple decades.

And it did it, not because of amazing action sequences (although there were many to follow). It did it because of the slower moments — the absolutely delicious scenes where each character had to impersonate the other character, and fool everyone around them, in order to achieve their agenda. We got to see Nicholas Cage doing an excellent uptight John Travolta, and John Travolta doing an exceptionally crazy Nicholas Cage.

On top of that there was a ton of dramatic tension — where we know more than the characters do. The killer and sex fiend comes in contact with an unknowing wife and daughter who thinks he’s their husband and father respectively — and pow! This movie becomes supercharged.

Better Than The Action?

Quite often in great action movies, the best or most enjoyable parts aren’t the “actiony” parts at all.

Let’s look at the quintessential action movie: DIE HARD. Quick, what’s your favorite scene?!

Is it the scene where John McClane meets Hans Gruber, who’s pretending to be a frightened employee, and gives him his gun? Is it John McClane cracking jokes in the air duct? How about that coked-out Ellis guy who liked to say words like, “booby” and “capiche”?

Hans... Booby! I'm your white knight.

Seriously, this guy was awesome.

There was a ton of brilliant, innovative action in that movie, but odds are you remember some of the quieter moments as much as the more animated ones.

It’s something to definitely keep in mind when you’re crafting your action story. Never neglect the scenes between the explosions, as they’ll probably be your most memorable ones, and what resonate most with your audience.

What’s your favorite action movie? Does it have equal parts brilliant action and brilliant drama?

Category: Action Movies  | 3 Comments
Important tip for your action movie’s climax Jul 24
Captain America Poster

"I'm coming to save you, faceless multitude!"

Note: There’s a very minor Captain America SPOILER directly below, but it’s worth braving because this tip is a really good one.


Let’s get the minor Captain America spoiler out of the way first. In the climax of the the movie, Captain America saves the world. Duh.

Okay now let’s get on to the tip. And this one’s a doozy. I’m tempted to call it “Save the Cat… Again!”

In an action movie’s third act, make sure your hero is saving someone specific.

Captain America was actually quite an enjoyable movie. The first half, especially, was very strong, and even emotionally moving at times. But the last act left me wanting for some reason. Sure, ol’ Cap was doing his action hero thing, and the stakes were high (the aforementioned saving of the world), but there was something missing.

And that’s when it hit me. There was no one specific to save.

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
– Joseph Stalin

It sounds paradoxical, but if your hero is fighting to save a faceless multitude (even if it’s millions of people), it’s less compelling than if he’s fighting to save even one character you know.

The best action movies

Think of all your favorite action movies. There’s always someone specific that needs to be rescued. It’s either the hero him/herself, or at least one character you know, or both.

If it’s only the hero him/herself that needs saving, then that means the hero needs to escape from a situation that they didn’t willfully put themselves into in the third act.

  • The Matrix – Neo had to save Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar (as well as defeat Agent Smith)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – Indy had to save Marion (as well as defeat the Nazis)
  • Die Hard – McClane had to save his wife (as well as defeat Hans Gruber)
  • Aliens – Ripley had to save Newt (and defeat the alien queen)
  • Alien – Ripley had to save herself and her cat (and defeat the alien)

Think how much weaker those movies would have been if they were only about defeating the bad guy(s). Keep that in mind when you’re writing the ending of your next action movie.

Can you think of any brilliant action movies that break my rule?

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