10 Great 1990s Action Movie Classics You Probably Haven’t Seen

The 1990s were a fantastic decade for action cinema. We were still getting some classics with Arnold and Sly, then we got Wesley Snipes establishing himself as an action hero, Jackie Chan and Jet Li finally breaking into Hollywood, and of course, lots of stuff with practical effects. Even Steven Seagal had a couple of decent films, especially “Under Siege”. You can trash him all you want now, but Michael Bay’s early stuff was fun enough. All in all, the decade had lots to offer, from “Point Break” to “The Matrix”. We had some franchises still delivering (“Die Hard, “Lethal Weapon”) and some that had just started (“Mission: Impossible”).

As you can expect, there were other well-made, entertaining films that got lost, just didn’t get the appreciation they deserved, or are now less remembered than before. This list is for the fans of the genre who just enjoyed the trademarks of the 90s action cinema. If you want more of that 90s action movie charm in your life, here are ten films you might have missed or forgot.


10. The Chase (1994)

Jack Hammond is a convict who stops at a gas station. There are two police officers and a young woman. Police receive a radio call that indicates the car Jack uses is stolen. He panics, kidnaps the woman, and flees in the car. He has no idea that the chase will turn into a reality show by the media, and his hostage is the daughter of a millionaire industrialist. The film lives up to its title because, basically, the entire movie is one long chase scene. No, it’s not “Speed” or anywhere close to it, but it’s still so much fun because the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the way it depicts the media’s coverage of real life violence and “action” is very clever.

Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson are hardly known for their acting work anymore, but they are both very good here, both are very natural at playing the characters that could feel too absurd or one-note in the wrong hands. The movie works well because it’s funny, constantly entertaining, and just well-acted all around. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, you’ll be glad that it at least introduced some people to the music of Suede. The film did well given it didn’t have much of a big budget to talk about, but developed a cult following since then. While we’re on the topic of the Sheen/Estevez family’s films, you might also want to check out “Judgment Night,” which was close to be on this list but didn’t because it feels more like a thriller than action.


9. The Immortals (1995)

When it comes to the DTV market – which is now long gone and replaced with a different kind of system called “VOD,” – probably we didn’t get more films released straight to video than action movies. It gets a bad rap because most of the stuff there are just generic nonsense, but “The Immortals”, which didn’t get much of a distribution in the North America theatrically, is one of the good ones. At first, it starts off like your average heist thriller. Jack (Eric Roberts, the king of DTV) assembles a team of thieves to rob money from different parts of town, which leads up to the double cross of gangster Dominick Baptiste (Tony Curtis).

It’s evident how much Tarantino’s style was copied throughout the 1990s, as the characters and the dialogues, as well as some twists and turns are very much influenced by him. However, while the characters are fun and are portrayed by well-known actors, the movie starts to get entertaining when it turns into some kind of cat-and-mouse survival game. Even for DTV standards in the 1990s, the action is bloody and more violent than you could expect also. Now if you’re a fan of such movies, its flaws are much easier to overlook. If you are not, you might think it needed a better writer and editor but the ideas, the cast and the action are cool enough that maybe you’d not mind those much also.


8. Stone Cold (1991)

We shouldn’t pretend that some of the actions we like are great works of art. They’re just mindless entertainment, and we enjoy them as they are. “Stone Cold” is one of those action films that has lots of trademarks of the genre films of its decade. It is about a suspended Alabama cop who gets paid a visit by two FBI agents. The FBI wants to infiltrate him into Chains Cooper’s biker gang, dubbed The Brotherhood. The gang is involved in drug dealing, human trafficking, and murder. Huff is the only candidate for this assignment because he has no problem crossing the line of legality. Huff takes the name John Stone and seeks contact with the Brotherhood. The rest you can imagine.

There was another biker gang/undercover cop movie called “Beyond the Law” (1992) which was more serious film than this but “Stone Cold” has such a cool showdown at the end that it’s worth watching for that alone. If the plot is unnecessarily filled with sub-plots, it’s easy to overlook for the very same reason: that third-act is full of over-the-top action that is hard to dislike. Brian Bosworth is a capable action star who could maybe even get bigger if the movie was a hit but it’s Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe who steals the show. They also improvised their lines and it’s one of those cases where actors are above the script, so they made their characters more fun and elevated the material.


7. Drive (1997)

If we’re talking about action, there had to be a martial arts movie. “Drive’ is a rare kind of American film of the 90s which had Hong Kong style action and very well-choreographed fight scenes. Released straight-to-video in US but released theatrically internationally, “Drive” is full of great fight scenes, a fast-paced plot and great chemistry between Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison who’re making a fine duo enough for a “buddy” action film fans. There’s also a very fun Brittany Murphy performance in the supporting role and a cool villainous turn by Japanese actor Masaya Kato.

Dacascos had an incredibly inconsistent career; “Only the Strong” was a good moment for him to establish himself as the next action star but instead he was wasted in mostly DTV movies. “Double Dragon” flopping and “Crying Freeman” not getting a US release also didn’t help probably. Since then, he gotten some fun supporting parts in big movies like “Cradle 2 the Grave” and “John Wick: Chapter 4” but he could’ve been much bigger. “Drive” is the ultimate Dacascos movie; shows him at his best and gives him every chance possible to show what he’s capable of doing as an action star.


6. Ricochet (1991)

Ricochet (1991)

Nick Styles is a Los Angeles cop in 1984 while he’s studying law. One day, Styles and his partner Larry Doyle arrest the drug dealer and hitman Earl Talbott Blake, who takes a hostage, but Styles manages to disarm him. The event is randomly recorded on video and later shown on television. Styles is now considered a hero, he and Doyle are promoted. Styles later graduates and becomes a prosecutor. Blake escapes from prison in 1991. He kills his accomplice and burns his corpse to fake his own death and the rest of it is pretty wild stuff.

Lots of great action and some genuinely disturbing, suspenseful things going on here. Denzel Washington is one of the biggest film stars in the world who managed to balance his bigger blockbusters with prestige dramas. “Ricochet” is his first attempt in the action territory. He’s not bringing the dramatic depth he’ll later do in things like “Man on Fire” but still a very charismatic lead. The show belongs to John Lithgow as your over-the-top villain. No doubt, one of the most fun things about such films from that period is those crazy psychopath parts given to great actors like Lithgow.