15 Mindless Action Films You Must See Before You Die

Turn off your brain and enjoy the craziness.

rutger hauer split second

Movies that win awards and please critics are all very well, but a well-rounded cinematic diet needs Chuck Norris just as surely as it needs Akira Kurosawa. Probably more so, because Chuck’s movies aren’t subtitled or 3 hours long.

Critics, academics and others who “read” movies are convinced that only “good” films are worth watching, which if true would make life simpler – the list would be barely a page long. Action fans don’t want symbolism and subtext, though, just zingers and stuff that blows up real good.

Whether you’re watching Chuck singlehandedly liberate P.O.Ws in South-East Asia or Steven Seagal curtailing Gary Busey’s nuclear ambitions, dumb action films pack a surprising amount of fun and should be indulged whenever possible, especially if the alternative is a literary adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

You learn to love the clichés in all their cheesy glory, from the bulletproof cop who returns home to find a naked woman in his bathroom, to the pure evil villain and his disturbed, indestructible henchman. Or if you’re watching a Mad Max rip-off, throw in a young orphan who knows his way around a flame-thrower.

Whether you call the following films schlock or guilty pleasures doesn’t matter, just as long as we understand this: the simple pleasures of B-grade escapism are not to be sneezed at.

15. D-Tox (2002)

The director of I Know What You Did Last Summer delivers the ultimate high-concept picture: Friday The 13th in a rehab clinic. And not just any clinic – this one’s an “isolated as hell” former military bunker in a snowy wilderness prone to storms that cut off the roads, communications etc. Thank goodness Sylvester Stallone is around to apprehend the killer, throw him down a flight of stairs and quip, “How’s that for a 12-step program?”

Okay, he doesn’t do that, but if he did it might’ve hinted that D-Tox knows how silly it is. Instead, we get a po-faced movie about a killer whose plans for Stallone include killing his girlfriend, driving him to drink and stalking him once he enters rehab. Which, if you think about it, shows commitment above and beyond. Hats off.

Originally scheduled for a November 1999 release, Universal had so little faith in the picture that they pulled it and sold it to another distributor, who sneaked it out three years later on 78 screens. It got a proper promotional push in Europe, somewhat inexplicably considering the movie’s token Brit is a slimy asshole. Taken together, that probably qualifies as an act of international aggression.  


Ian Watson is the author of 'Midnight Movie Madness', a 600+ page guide to "bad" movies from 'Reefer Madness' to 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.'