Action movies are one of the most popular genres for studios in Hollywood. Although sometimes expensive to make, if done well, they all but guarantee big numbers at the box office.
I still find it amazing that so many bad action movies still get green-lit when the recipe for a good action movie is pretty easy to come by. Let’s discuss, shall we?
With the word “action” right in the name of the genre, it’s pretty obvious that this is the number one element of the best action movies. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can just throw a bunch of car chases and gun battles into the movie and call it a day. No no, audiences are a little pickier than that.
Seeing as the modern day action movie has been around since the 70’s, audiences have seen it all before. What they are looking for now is something original, or at least an idea that is taken to the next level. In a nutshell, action now has to be well thought out and orchestrated in such a way that audiences will be wowed.
But what is a good action movie without a hero you care about? We want to see a hero that we can identify with, one that we could almost be if it wasn’t for the fact that we like our cushy life a little too much. The hero of a great action movie always has the right combination of courage, guts and sensibility. We not only care for him or her, we need to root for the hero to win at all costs.
Of course, if you’re going to have a great hero then you need an equally impressive villain to go up against. Villains are sometimes even more important than the hero. Some villains are really just flawed heroes, a decision or two away from being the good guy. The best villains are portrayed as real people with real problems, not just an autonomous robot that only wants to destroy the world.
These movies are meant to set a frenetic pace for us to keep up with. The best action movies are able to make us feel like we are on the edge of our seats the entire film, feeling like we barely have time to catch our breaths before we’re swept along in another glorious action sequence. Although we can forgive a director for wanting to tell a little back story or introduce a love interest, we really need the movie to chug along without giving us a chance to get to comfortable.
Although some may argue that this next element is not completely necessary, I think in today’s high-tech world it is naive to think that any great movie is going to be without some special effects. The problem I have with some special effects is that they are thrown in there to hide the fact that there really is none of the other factors that make a movie good. When using special effects a director should be looking for ways to enhance the story, not detract from it.
Although there are other things that that movies of the action genre have in common, I think these are the big five. The next time you’re watching what you think is one of the best action movies you’ve ever seen, see if all the elements I’ve mentioned here are present.