10 Unsung Movie Heroes Of The Video Rental Era

The less acknowledged stars behind the success of video rental.

The Punisher
New World Pictures

Finding movies and TV shows to watch has never been easier than it is now. For a large portion of the population, simply turning on their television and pressing a few buttons is all that is needed to access countless hours of entertainment.

However, before streaming became the standard, going out and renting videos was the norm for many households from the early 1980s all the way to the early 2000s. You could rent low budget smut and big Hollywood blockbusters, often for the same price. In fact, many of the most popular titles were often straight-to-video films that people didn’t get the chance to see on the big screen.

When people think of stars during the video rental era, they’re likely to think of Patrick Swayze, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Geena Davis. However, there were many actors and actresses, whether in a lead role or supporting, who made a lot of money for the video shops without ever reaching super-stardom.

In a pre-smart phone world, these were faces and names that renters came to rely on for gauging if the movie was right for them. To those who frequented their local video library, these may be familiar faces, even if some of their names have been forgotten.

10. Michael Dudikoff

The Punisher
Cannon Group

During an era of cartoonishly muscled heroes such as Arnie, Stallone and Van Damme, Dudikoff stood out as a more realistic and grounded action star. He was an alternative to the jacked hero that was in vogue, but he was also younger than traditional heroes like Clint Eastwood. His face graced the covers and posters of a handful of essential action movies.

Before making his mark in the 1985 crowd-pleasing American Ninja, the highlight of Dudikoff’s career had been a small part in the mediocre Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks.

Outside of the American Ninja franchise, Avenging Force was the movie that really showed his capability to carry a film. Set in Louisiana, Captain Matt Hunter plots to bring down an elitist gang of white supremacists who hunt humans for fun. Avenging Force comes between American Ninja and precedes Platoon Leader, all staples of the video libraries between the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Despite been trained in Karate, Aikido and Jiu-Jitsu, he had no previous experience in martial arts before starring in action films. This is impressive given how natural he looked kicking and punching baddies.

Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last and each film he released was less popular than the last. He’s now almost exclusively known for American Ninja and its sequels and although that was a great role, many smarter and bigger ones appear to have been forgotten, despite making so much money for video shops.

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Cat Gentleman and bookworm. Huge fan of martial arts action movies, sci-fi and especially horror, from Bela Lugosi to the Walking Dead. Love heavy music, retro gaming and pro wrestling.