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

5. Shiri (1998)

In 1992, recruits underwent merciless training to become elite terrorists at a secret North Korean training facility. After that, assassination attempts on high-ranking politicians and scientists increased in South Korea. The South Korean secret service uses investigators Yu Jong-won and Lee Jang-gil to find the killer. The handwriting of the murders points to the terrorist Lee Ban-hee. “Shiri” is considered to be the first Hollywood-style big-budget blockbuster to be produced in the new Korean film industry, but there’s also heavily influence by Hong Kong cinema which makes the film even better.

For an action movie dealing with a political topic, the movie managed to avoid being a propaganda. In fact, it has an involving story, and you might be impressed by how careful it is at revealing the conflict between North and South Koreas. There are intense shootout moments reminiscent of John Woo. The movie works as a political thriller, an action movie and a tragic love story. For the fans of Korean cinema, “Shiri” is hardly underrated, but for those who’re not familiar with Korean action, it’s something they should check out.


4. The Assignment (1997)

CIA Agent Fields (Donald Sutherland) has personally witnessed Carlos the Jackal committing a terror, killing dozens of people. US naval officer Annibal Ramirez (Aidan Quinn), who looks exactly like Carlos, gets a visit by Fields. He tries to recruit him to impersonate the terrorist leader. When he finally manages to convince Annibal on take the mission, he starts to learn every move, every detail, every little thing about Carlos. The more he gets into his life, the more evil he’ll need to find in himself.

“The Assignment” is an exciting action-thriller which is especially for those who love undercover agent movies or “switching places” types of movies like “Face/Off”. The acting is strong all around, especially by Quinn who plays double roles very effectively. There’s a constantly intriguing plot with lots of suspense and tension. Normand Corbeil’s musical score and a fine cinematography also elevates the already interesting material. It was overshadowed by the bigger movies of the year, with more better-known names in the lead roles but “The Assignment” is as good as the 90s blockbusters get. It’s fun and entertaining film with satisfying thrills.


3. Trespass (1992)

Trespass (1992)

Walter Hill films are just underrated in general, we could easily go with “Last Man Standing” here as well but “Trespass” is probably less well-known compared to that. Written years earlier by a pre-fame Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, “Trespass” is about two Arkansas firemen find the map in the burning apartment of an old man, who confesses he stole it years ago from a Greek Orthodox Church. They do a little research and find out that indeed there were gold stolen from the church years ago. Using the map, now want to find it but while they’re looking around in the abandoned building, they are spotted by a gang, led by King James, who is there to execute an enemy.

You can imagine that what happens next is gonna be a thrill ride. “Treasure map” alone is a fascinating plot detail, but the movie works not only because it keeps you on the edge of your seat because you want to know what what will happen next but also because of Hill’s stylish direction, how he builds the whole thing like a chamber play, and the cool soundtrack.


2. Executive Decision (1996)

No worries, because Steven Seagal is only a small part of it. To be fair, “Executive Decision” is not necessarily underrated in a way that it did decent business at the box office and more acclaimed than some other similar films of the era. That said, it still feels like it doesn’t come up much in the conversations about action films of the era, other than John Leguizamo sharing his memories about how awful Seagal was in his interviews which is not a surprise. The film depicts the rescue of an airliner hijacked by terrorists, by a small team placed on the plane in mid-flight, and it does it in a very entertaining fashion.

If you want to be blown away by the incredibly original plot, that’s not it. Instead, it offers well-crafted tension, consistent plot, and an entertaining villain. This is the directorial debut for Oscar nominated editor Stuart Baird who didn’t direct much since then or maybe he didn’t get enough of good material, who knows, because what he does here is pretty astonishing cause that’s a quintessential 90s action that has everything you’d want from such movie. Kurt Russell, as you can expect from him, gives a charismatic lead performance, but everyone stands out. The only criticism is it’s a little overlong. It could’ve been even better if it was fifteen minutes shorter but still it works amazingly well.


1. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Even though he hit it big with the “Lethal Weapon” movies, it seems like later part of his career is crafting entertaining buddy action/comedies that has lots of fans but doesn’t get any sequel because they didn’t do that well at the box office. “Long Kiss Goodnight” is maybe where it all started even though he didn’t direct it. No, it’s not a straight “buddy comedy” exactly but the odd couple pairing of Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson works really well and they have a great comedic chemistry together. Besides, you can sense that it’s a Shane Black script through and through. Samuel L. Jackson even called it his favorite out of his own movies.

Director Renny Harlin who made other awesome stuff like “Cliffhanger”, “Die Hard 2” and “Deep Blue Sea” also called it his own favorite. Geena Davis is doing a fantastic job in the lead role, playing a suburban mom who begins to remember her previous life as a top secret agent after receiving a bump on her head. The film is fast-paced enough with no boring moments, a decent body count and well-written dialogues full of wit. That’s how even maybe some of the non-action fans can enjoy the whole thing as well. The film has certainly gained a strong cult following since then but it deserves to be more popular, even you should keep bringing its name alongside classics of the decade. Maybe it’s little late for the sequel, but if they’d want to do something, we won’t say no.