Top 10 list of Action Movie Stars from the 1980s by The Critical Movie Critics

Feature: Top 10 80s Action Movie Stars

80s action films generally showcased one or more of the following traits: Excessive muscle mass, big choreographed fight sequences (weaponized or not), and memorable one-liners. Love them or hate them, they’re forever engrained into our collective psyches. This list is a salute to those brave men who have made our mindless entertainment possible.

Criteria: Must have starred in an action flick during the 1980s; American cinema targeted

Steven Seagal

Actor: Steven Seagal

Mr. Seagal is low on the list because he only made his acting debut in 1988 with Above the Law. It, however, opened the floodgates for a slew of movies dominated by the fluid moves of Aikido. Dojos around the country flooded with enthusiastic participants thanks to him (of course they all soon quit when they realized it took hard work to master).

Kurt Russell

Actor: Kurt Russell

His portrayal of Snake Plissken in Escape from New York was the inspiration for the Solid Snake character in the Metal Gear Solid series. Enough said. Also see his entries in The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China.

Dolph Lundgren

Actor: Dolph Lundgren

Breaking into the American cinemas by killing Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, the statueque and intimidating (standing at 196 centimetres and weighing in at 111.5 kilograms) Lundgren continued his barrage in the 80s with films like Red Scorpion, The Punisher and I Come in Peace. He then racked up another ten or so action flicks in the 90s with limited success.

Chuck Norris

Actor: Chuck Norris

For the uninitiated Chuck churned out a number of respectable action flicks during the 80s including Forced Vengeance, Missing In Action, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, The Delta Force, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection . . . (I sense a trend here). Plus, he can actually kick ass in real life which is always a plus.

Side Fact: There is no ‘ctrl’ button on Chuck Norris’s computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.

Harrison Ford

Actor: Harrison Ford

Indiana Jones: Part-time teacher; part-time whip wielding archaeologist; full time badass. He found priceless treasures, never lost his hat and always had a hot female sidekick. I wanted to be him as a child.

But back to the point — Ford was by no means a one trick pony having starred in the critically lauded Blade Runner and the Star Wars films as the wise cracking Han Solo. Additional action success came his way in the following decades as Jack Ryan .

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Actor: Jean-Claude Van Damme

JCVD catapulted onto the scene with Bloodsport, a raw fighting movie showcasing some impressive moves. He followed this up with some solid efforts including Cyborg and Kickboxer. In the early 90s he continued his streak with the likes of Universal Soldier and Timecop before a combination of Street Fighter and cocaine helped to destroy his career.

Mel Gibson

Actor: Mel Gibson

Okay technically Mad Max was released in 1979, but The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 were all bonafide eighties material. So was his long feathered hairstyle.

Bruce Willis

Actor: Bruce Willis

Two words: Die Hard. Detective John McClane runs around Nakatomi Plaza eliminating terrorists one by one and all without shoes on! This film showcases Bruce at his best. In fact it is so good, that he didn’t even need to make any other action flicks in the decade to make the list. Yippee Kay Yay Motherfuckers!!!!

Sylvester Stallone

Actor: Sylvester Stallone

It was close race, but Sly missed out on the top spot because of his over-reliance on his trademark characters. Although his resume is impressive — the Rambo trilogy, Cobra and Over the Top (hey, I love it), I just feel he could have done with more variety.

Especially if he was to beat out . . .

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnie has always delivered on all three of the criteria spelled out at the intro of this top 10 list. The King of One Liners spawned out numerous hits such as (deep breath): Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Commando, Raw Deal, Predator and The Running Man.

Not content with his domination of the 80s he pretty much maintained his dominance in the 90s with films such as Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Last Action Hero, True Lies and Eraser. He’d like you to just ignore Batman & Robin if you could.

Got one that I’ve missed? Out with it then!

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The Critical Movie Critics

You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

'Feature: Top 10 80s Action Movie Stars' have 11 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 17, 2010 @ 7:03 pm Fermi

    I think you got ’em all, although I must admit I was hoping you’d find a way to not have Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the top two spots.

    Great site by the way.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 18, 2010 @ 4:12 am Andy

    I would go with your top ten with Patrick Swayze coming up in 11th for his Red Dawn and Steel Dawn movies.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:18 am A. J.

    Yeah I can’t think on anyone who is missing either. I’d like to see the list for the 90’s, and which actors make the top 10 again.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 4, 2011 @ 8:42 am Blackbird

    I always thought Swayze was excellent in Black Dog. That movie had me going the whole time! All the stuff he had to go through made the ending worth while.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 3, 2012 @ 6:34 am JOL

    Yes, ’tis indeed a fine list. I won’t bump anyone out, but how about an honorable mention for Carl Weather’s rancid pile of delicious trash “Action Jackson?”

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 26, 2012 @ 2:23 am RequiredUpgrade

    Just look at the billing of The Expendables and you have your list.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      September 15, 2012 @ 9:32 pm Carter

      Because Chuck Norris and JCVD are in the sequel, technically The Expendables 2 could have been used for the list.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    August 9, 2012 @ 9:13 pm spunkmuch

    How long did it take you to compile this? 20 seconds?

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 14, 2013 @ 9:27 pm Antifuse

    Makes you wonder what everyone was smoking in the 80s. These action movies have zero rewatchability.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      November 29, 2014 @ 8:26 pm Dana

      When we’re you born? For anyone who remembers growing up and watching these movies- they are 100% rewatchable. We’re these the best movies ever made? No, but It’s called nostalgia.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2018 @ 5:04 am Ryan


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