20 Best 90’s Action Movies to binge
Jeff, TV analyst for WatchTVAbroad hails from Pennsylvania, United States and after growing up disinterested in sport found his sport calling in his late teenage years. Now he loves nothing more than streaming boxing, MMA and other combat sports.
The ’90s were a unique time when action movies reached their peak.
This was the time when the biggest stars in the history of action films were at their finest, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal, Jackie Chan, and many, many others.
Many of them kept making great movies after the 2000s started, but somehow, it doesn’t quite feel the same.
If you feel nostalgic, or if you wish to see why your older friends and family feel nostalgic about this period of the movie industry, you might as well give a few of them a go.
This will let you see what some of the classics of martial arts and action movies were like back when the action genre was at the top of its game.
Note that all of these films are just the tip of the iceberg, and if you get hooked on them, don’t worry, there’s plenty more where these came from.
Ready to get binging? Let’s dive right in.
Point Break (1991)
The first on the list of the best action movies from the 90s is Point Break, a film about a series of bank robberies in Southern California, pulled off by several robbers wearing the masks of different foreign presidents.
The incidents attract a federal agent, Johnny Utah, who infiltrates the gang, only to discover that it consists of the local surfers led by Bodhi, who are addicted to the rush that only thievery and risk of getting caught could bring.
After discovering the identities of the robbers, Utah is ready to arrest them, but the situation has already become complicated, as he fell in love with one of the surfers, Taylor, who is close to the gang.
Point Break is about bodies, desire, addiction, and satisfaction, and as the movie progresses, it also becomes an unfulfilled bromance story. It is a surf-crime action movie that definitely deserves a watch, and it is a great movie to open this list with.
The film stars Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty, Gary Busey, James Le Gros, and others.
The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
It is impossible to discuss action movies from the ‘90s and not include at least one Jackie Chan movie.
On my end, I chose to watch and include The Legend of Drunken Master, which is perhaps not as well known as some of his other films, but it is certainly a nice blend of comedy and martial arts, which defined his films in the action movie genre.
The Legend of Drunken Master is a film about Wong Fei-Hong, who is returning home with his father after a shopping expedition.
Along the way, however, he accidentally ends up in a battle between two groups, one that includes Chinese loyalists who wish to preserve the local ancient artifacts, and foreigners who want to get them out of the country and sell them.
Caught in the middle, and belonging to neither of the groups, he tries to do with is right. But, in order to do so, he must use Drunken Boxing style, and along the way, overcome his father’s antagonism.
The film stars Jackie Chan, Lau Kar-leung, Ti Lung, Anita Mui, Andy Lau, and others.
Under Siege (1992)
Moving on, we have Under Siege, which is another action movie that puts one man against a whole group of enemies that he has to face and defeat to save the day.
This time, the main character is a heroic loner, who takes on an entire group of terrorists who managed to board the USS Missouri, posing as a rock band.
However, the battleship was on its way to Pearl Harbor for decommissioning. The terrorist plot revolves around the ship, as they see this as a perfect opportunity to take over the ship and steal its nuclear arsenal.
One thing they did not count on, however, is that the ship’s chief is a decorated former Navy SEAL, played by Steven Seagal.
One of the best-known action movies of the 90s, Under Siege is still a great movie today, with excellent fight scenes and memorable action sequences.
The film stars Steven Seagal, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey, Erika Eleniak, Andy Romano, and others.
Bad Boys (1995)
Next, we have Bad Boys, the directorial debut of Michael Bay, and featuring two detectives who just confiscated $100 million worth of heroin that was then heisted from the station headquarters.
However, the problem is that the whole situation stinks of an inside job, and Internal Affairs is ready to get involved. The two detectives barely manage to convince the higher-ups to give them five days to solve the case, find the drugs, and discover who is responsible.
This is a fun movie about action, farce, good boys, bad boys, and a lot of great and memorable scenes that allowed it to rank high in the history of action cinema.
The film stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Tea Leoni, Scott Cumberbatch, John Salley, and others.
La Femme Nikita (1990)
Moving on, we have an action movie that was so good that only a few years later, it inspired a multi-season series. The feature film, like the series that followed, is called La Femme Nikita.
The film revolves around Nikita, who is a convicted felon. However, instead of being sent straight to jail, she is given an opportunity to get a new identity and become an assassin controlled by the government.
Since anything is better than sitting in jail for the rest of her life, she accepts and starts a rather lonely life.
However, things change when she meets a man who is completely oblivious about her secret life and her past, and instead, the two simply fall in love for who they are here and now.
An interesting action thriller, Nikita sarked a long-running show, as mentioned, and became a huge success that is definitely worth watching even today, 33 years later.
The film stars Anne Parillaud, Jean Reno, Tcheky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau, and others.
Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
The sixth on the list is Die Hard With A Vengeance, the third entry in a lengthy Die Hard series, featuring Bruce Willis’s detective John McClane.
Years after his success at dismantling not one, but two terrorist groups, McClane is a divorced alcoholic, and due to his bad attitude and reckless behavior, he is also jobless.
However, when a series of bombs start exploding all over NYC, he is called back into action.
Commonly known as Die Hard 3, this Die Hard film has him paired with Samuel L. Jackson‘s Zeus Carver, and the two get involved in a game of Simon Says with a group of apparent terrorists.
However, as the pair is running all over the city trying to prevent innocent deaths, they realize that these are not terrorists, but robbers who are using public bombings as a way of distracting the police while they try to rob Fort Knox.
The film stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Larry Bryggman, and others.
Demolition Man (1993)
One of my favorite action films from the ‘90s is Demolition man, a film featuring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Stallone plays a cop John Spartan, while Snipes plays a violent psychopath Simon Phoenix.
Both are incredibly imaginative when it comes to causing damage and taking lives, and so when a group of innocent people gets in the crossfire while the two were exchanging blows, both eventually end up arrested and sentenced to 70 years in CryoPrison, a state of frozen incarceration that will leave them stuck in the ice, not aging, but also not living, until their sentences run out.
The plot of the Demolition Man truly kicks off, 36 years later, when Spartan gets released in the year 2032, only to discover that Los Angeles became a pacifist utopia.
The reason why he was brought back, however, is the fact that Phoenix was let loose in a world that no longer has any idea how to defend itself from someone like him, and the only person who stands a chance is someone from Phoenix’s own time, who is also infamous for being just as reckless and destructive as the bad guy himself.
The film stars Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Gunton, and others.
Rush Hour (1998)
Another popular film from the 90s that dominated the action genre is Rush Hour.
It is a film from the buddy cop genre, where two mismatched police officers get forced to work together on a case, and they use their unique talents to solve it and stay alive for long enough to do so.
In the movie, Jackie Chan plays a straight-laced detective Lee. He just arrived to LA to find a kidnapped daughter of one of China’s diplomats.
Upon his arrival, he teams up with Detective Carter, played by Chris Tucker, although neither of them is happy with the arrangement at first.
The story of the film is nothing new, but the two actors’ personalities and skills are what make the relationship come to life in a completely unique way, making this one of the best movies among action comedies.
The film stars Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Roselyn Sanchez, Julia Hsu, Elizabeth Peña, Jingchu Zhang, and others.
Hard Target (1993)
Moving on to the ninth spot, we have Hard Target, a John Woo-directed action-thriller film.
International director John Woo film features Jean-Claude Van Damme as its action hero. At the time when the movie came out, Van Damme was one of the biggest action stars around, and a leading man of many similar films.
In Hard Target, he takes on the role of Chance Boudreaux, and helps a young woman investigate her father’s disappearance. In the film, he is just a sailor, but he is skilled in martial arts.
The pair soon discovers that a group of wealthy men has been hunting the homeless for sport. The survivors are promised $10,000 if they beat the game, and soon enough, Chance discovers that the father of the woman, Natasha, was among those who were “recruited” for the bloody sport.
The Guardian described the film as “Just a classic 90s action flick in which one man and his glorious mullet take down homeless-person-hunting bad guys in Louisiana.”
The film stars Yancy Butler, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Vosloo, Lance Henriksen, and others.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Halfway down the list, we have a James Cameron movie that is maybe the most famous film from the ‘90s, a science fiction, pure-action spectacle, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
This is film belongs to Schwarzenegger’s most famous movie series ever, and most still think of his Terminator when they think of him as an actor.
This was the highest point in his career, and while the first film started the Terminator story, this is the one that cemented it.
In the film, Sarah Connor is locked up in a mental hospital for trying to warn the world of the apocalypse, while her son, John Connor, who is the only hope for humanity, is still an underage delinquent.
However, it’s not long before two Terminators arrive from the future, and unlike in the first movie, Schwarzenegger is now the protector, rather than the hunter that he was in the original film.
After saving John from a superior Terminator model, the two rescue his mother, and all three of them escape, coming up with a plan to try and stop the upcoming apocalypse.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and others.
Next up, we have Face/Off, which puts two major action movie stars, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage against one another, where one is an FBI agent, while the other is a domestic terrorist.
The film is best enjoyed if you don’t think about it too much, and instead just enjoy the impressive action cinema.
In the film, Travolta plays FBI agent Sean Archer, who is obsessed with catching Cage’s Caster Troy, who is a well-known terrorist.
However, after Troy’s plane crashes and he is presumed dead, Archer undergoes surgery to have Troy’s face instead of his own, in order to infiltrate his organization and get information.
Meanwhile, Troy, who survived the crash, but was in a coma forces the doctors to replace his own face with Archers. After that, the two end up hunting one another, leading to an amazing film filled with its own violent times.
The film stars Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Dominique Swain, Gina Gershon, Joan Allen, and others.
True Lies (1994)
While another James Cameron movie, True Lies is different from most others.
It portrays Arnold Schwarzenegger as a man who lives a double life, being a dull car salesman, Harry Tasker, who is secretly a spy. His mission is to track down nuclear missiles in possession of an Islamic jihadist Aziz.
However, when Harry’s neglected life, Helen, starts considering an affair with another car salesman, Simon, who claims he’s a spy, things get more complicated and lead to a situation where Aziz kidnaps both Harry and Helen, revealing his true identity to her.
From there on, Harry has to save both the world and his marriage, which leads to some interesting situations.
The film is not exactly an action comedy, but it does rely a lot on humor. But, when things get serious, Harry can kick ass just as well as any other of Schwarzenegger’s characters.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Eliza Dushku, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, and others.
Desperado by director Robert Rodriguez is one of the biggest and most popular movies that Antonio Banderas has ever made.
It puts him in the role of El Mariachi, a man seeking vengeance against a Mexican drug lord, Bucho. Alone against an army of Bucho’s desperados, he fights on, sometimes through cunning, but mostly through sheer willpower and luck.
The Robert Rodriguez movie’s climax also reveals a major plot twist, which only adds to this action-packed, bullet-riddled showdown of a film.
Incredibly tense, the movie keeps its audience at the edge of their seat, as they never know when the next betrayal, shootout, or plot twist might emerge.
Banderas’ character is still the absolute star of the film, and it continues to impress even now, almost 30 years later.
The Guardian said that “the character of El Mariachi is a one-man army of sorts, a guitarist whose playing ability is lost after he is shot in the hand, and the woman he loves is shot dead.”
“Now a shadow-dwelling, black-and-white-suited renegade hell-bent on revenge, he comes to a small town in Mexico and raises the body count, all in search of the villainous crime boss, Bucho.”
The film stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Joaquim de Almeida, and others.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Another iconic action hero film is Mission: Impossible, featuring a secret agent Ethan Hunt. When Hunt and his mentor, Jim Phelps, go on an assignment that ends up in a disaster, Phelps gets killed, while Ethan becomes the prime murder suspect.
Realizing that he was set up, he forms a small team that will help him break into a heavily guarded CIA building in order to retrieve a file that can prove his innocence.
However, the task is quite daring, and Hunt and his team have their work cut out for them.
One of the best films featuring Tom Cruise, this is a first film in a lengthy series that is still coming out today, thanks to the success of this story.
The film stars Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, and others.
Of course, it is impossible to make an action movie list without including at least one big screen adaptation of the famous James Bond, the most famous spy the world has ever seen.
In this movie, Agent 006, Alec Trevelyan, turns against the authorities after taking over a powerful satellite system.
The MI6 responded by sending their best agent, 007, after the former asset, who now turned into an enemy.
With the entire world at stake, since the satellite can quite literally destroy the earth with a single short pulse, Bond has to thread carefully against his former compatriot, while also battling his stunning ally, an assassin Xenia Onatopp.
While Bond is one of the film industry’s most iconic spies, Pierce Brosnan is one of the most iconic Bonds, and both of these facts make this film a must-watch.
The film stars Pierce Brosnan, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Sean Bean, and others.
Total Recall (1990)
You can tell that the ‘90s were the era of Schwarzenegger movies by the fact that we have yet another one of his big screen hits on the list, and this time, it is Total Recall.
In this Phillip K. Dick story, he plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who lives in the year 2084.
However, he is bored with his life, and he dreams of something greater, not something like action movies’ usual plots, like dismantling a Colombian drug cartel, but rather an adventure, such as visiting Earth’s colony on Mars.
Of course, he cannot afford to go there, but he can turn to Rekall, a company that specializes in planting false memories into people’s minds, thus giving them experiences that they never actually had.
Things take a weird turn when an accident during the procedure allows Douglas to discover that his life is actually one such false memory, and that those who set it up for him now want him dead.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox, Dean Norris, and others.
The Rock (1996)
Moving on to the 17th spot, we have The Rock, a film by Michael Bay, featuring an FBI chemical warfare expert Stanley Goodspeed, who gets sent on an urgent mission with John Patrick Mason a former British spy.
The two have to do everything in their power to stop General Francis X. Hummel from hitting Alcatraz with chemical weapons.
The general has only one demand, $100 million that would be paid to the families of slain servicemen who died on covert operations.
As the SEAL team arrives, they are systematically wiped out by the soldiers occupying Alcatraz, leaving only Stanley and John to deal with the soldiers on their own.
It is a great film with an eclectic cast, an exciting car chase, and many other qualities, and I definitely recommend it.
The film stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Vanessa Marcil, Claire Forlani, Michael Biehn, and others.
The Fugitive (1993)
One of the most unique Harrison Ford films I have ever seen is his movie The Fugitive from 1993.
The film is inspired in a TV show from the 60s that ran with the same story, only adding more details to it and fleshing out the characters even further.
The film revolves around Ford’s character, Richard Kimble. Kimble is accused of murdering his wife, which is a crime he did not commit. Feeling that the evidence is strongly against him, he decides to escape from the law and try to clear out his name on his own.
The only clue he had about the real killer was that he only has one arm.
With that, Kimble goes on the run while an entire team of US marshalls is coming after him, led by Deputy Samuel Gerard.
The film leads us through a series of intricate chases, where speed proved to be on Kimble’s side. However, he still doesn’t understand the secret of his wife’s murder, and he continues to fight to find the real killer and find out why?
The film scored seven Oscar nominations, including best picture.
The film stars Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Wesley Snipes, Neil Flynn, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Downey Jr., and others.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Nearing the end of the list, we have The Last Boy Scout, a Bruce Willis film in which he plays a former Secret Service agent, now a private investigator, who accepts the job to protect a pole dancer, only to fail at that job.
After she was killed, he joins up with her boyfriend and the two go after the killers.
However, as the investigation continues, the two delve deeper and deeper into the world of sport, eventually discovering that a major football magnate wants to bribe the authorities into legalizing sports betting.
The pole dancer’s murder ends up being only one piece of the puzzle, forming a giant plot which is, as usual, fueled by greed and money.
The film stars Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Danielle Harris, Chelsea Field, Halle Berry, Taylor Negron, and others.
Finally, the last on our list is Blade, which is probably one of the biggest and most popular films by Wesley Snipes.
An R-rated marvel film that emerged decades before Deadpool, Blade is a half-human, half-vampire superhero that managed to get the best of both worlds.
With the speed, strength, and endurance of vampires, Blade can still go out into the sunlight without burning on the spot, which earned him the nickname the Daywalker.
However, he also inherits the vampiric thirst for blood, which makes him hate his own existence, and, in extent that of other vampires. This is why he became an unstoppable vampire-killing machine that vowed to destroy all bloodsuckers he could get his hands on.
However, the vampires have a plan of their own, which revolves around summoning an evil god that will end all humanity, so Blade has quite a serious task ahead.
The film stars Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, Sanaa Lathan, N’Bushe Wright, and others.
What’s your favorite movie on the list? Let me know in the comments section below.