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The Guardian’s Top 25 Action Films

  1. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
  2. North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968, Sergio Leone)
  4. The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah)
  5. Deliverance (1972, John Boorman)
  6. Cidade de Deus (2002, Fernando Meirelles)
  7. Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
  8. Le Salaire de la Peur (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
  9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)
  10. The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick)
  11. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
  12. Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)
  13. Bullitt (1968, Peter Yates)
  14. Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)
  15. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Michael Curtiz & William Keighley)
  16. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
  17. Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)
  18. Last of the Mohicans (1992, Michael Mann)
  19. Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick)
  20. The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino)
  21. Gladiator (2000, RidleyScott)
  22. Roma, Citta Aperta (1945, Roberto Rossellini)
  23. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969, George Roy Hill)
  24. Where Eagles Dare (1968, Brian G Hutton)
  25. The Incredibles (2004, Brad Bird)

So, this is today’s Guardian list. It is as annoying as the last three. First off, half of these aren’t really action films; Paths of Glory, Apocalypse Now, Butch and Sundance, just to name a few, are action films in as much as the characters in them perform actions, but the classification really doesn’t extend beyond that. Although, Apocalypse Now is the best film ever, so given that it was included I suppose I can at least be grateful that it got the no.1 spot.

Apart from the fact that half of the movies on offer could be classed as being of different genres, thus illustrating my problem with genre classifications in general, the list itself is awful. Last of the Mohicans is nowhere near as good as Where Eagles Dare – a classic old-school Clint movie – or The Deer Hunter – a film that contains no action and moves at a slower pace than The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

The Guardian is, in my opinion, the best newspaper in the country, but these lists irritate me, for one of two reasons. Either the lists are genuine and these critics really have these awful opinions, or this is an exercise in shameless pot-stirring, in which case I would like to say to those responsible that they are better than this.

I will offer up my top 10 action movies, just to show how much more correct I am.

  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, James Cameron)
  2. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Paul Greengrass)
  3. Aliens (1986, James Cameron)
  4. Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)
  5. The Matrix (1999, The Wachowski Bros.)
  6. Dirty Harry (1971, Don Siegel)
  7. Speed (1994, Jan de Bont)
  8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
  9. First Blood (1982, Ted Kotcheff)
  10. Where Eagles Dare (1968, Brian G Hutton)

The problem with this is that most of these could be classed as being in a different genre. See? Genres suck. These films don’t, they’re awesome.

  1. Matt Waring
    19/10/2010 at 20:10

    I think the main problem with the list is that ‘Action’ is such a vague genre for a film, in that it could potentially include sci-fi films, war films, maybe even horror films as well. You are right in that half of them are not action films, but looking at your list, I’d say that Terminator 2, Aliens and The Matrix are all Sci-Fi films rather than Action. I suppose it could be a matter of interpretation and personal opinion for how films are classed. Maybe. I dunno.

    • 19/10/2010 at 20:18

      My problem with genres like sci-fi and western is that they are largely down to incidental plot details or settings. Alien and Aliens are both sci-fi, but one is clearly horror and one is clearly action. Terminator 2 and The Matrix clearly have sci-fi elements, but also feature a fuckton of action. I’m really not a fan of genres because of this ridiculous ambiguity that it can lead to. As an example, Badlands was in their ‘Crime’ 25, but could easily be classed as action, romance, drama, even arthouse. It’s so ridiculous to assign these arbitrary definitions to movies. Argh!

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