The Essentials: 1986 Action
The year was 1986. Ronald Reagan was in office. The Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffled over the New England Patriots. The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl disaster dominated the news cycle. And the world of action entertainment saw the release of some true action classics!
In this edition of The Essentials, I will take a look at 12 of what I believe are “must see action films” that were released in 1986 and will be celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year…
- Iron Eagle (Released on January 17th, 1986): To many Iron Eagle is the “other fighter jet movie” that was released in 1986. To me it is one of my favorite movies of all-time. The story of young Doug Masters and Air Force veteran Chappy Sinclair going on a two man mission to rescue Doug’s father from the fictional country of Bilya in the Middle East is a movie that could have only come out of the 80’s.
- Eliminators (Released on January 31st, 1986): Most people probably wouldn’t include Eliminators on a list of the essential action films of 1986, but as I’ve been told many times in my lifetime, I’m not most people. The movie is like nothing I had ever seen before or have seen since. Some might call it the ultimate action movie mash up with a mandroid, a mercenary, a scientist and a ninja teaming up to take down a time traveling villain determined to rule the world!
- F/X (Released on February 7th, 1986): Another unique entry into the world of action entertainment in 1986 was the Bryan Brown/Brian Dennehy film, F/X. Brown played Rollie Tyler, a movie special effects man who is recruited by the cops to fake a mob killing in order to protect a valuable witness and then becomes a target himself.
- The Delta Force (Released on February 14th, 1986): The Delta Force was not just another in the long line of action films produced by Cannon Films, this was a Cannon epic! The Delta Force was directed by the legendary Menahem Golan himself. Terrorists didn’t stand a chance against the combined power of Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin and Steve James!
- Highlander (Released on March 7th, 1986): I wonder if anyone could have predicted in March of 1986, that Highlander would spawn several sequels, two different TV series and even a cartoon!? Christopher Lambert and the legendary Sean Connery starred in this tale of immortal swordsmen. I’ll always remember Highlander for the opening scene, where Lambert’s character, Connor MacLeod, is at a professional wrestling event and the Fabulous Freebirds are in action!
- Murphy’s Law (Released on April 18th, 1986): Charles Bronson will forever be associated with the Death Wish series, but action fans may forget some of his other quality work in the 1980’s like Murphy’s Law. Bronson plays a cop named Jack Murphy. Murphy is framed by a psychopath he locked up years earlier and with the help of a foul mouth felon, Murphy dishes out the type of justice you’d expect to see in a Charles Bronson flick.
- Top Gun (Released on May 16th, 1986): Top Gun wasn’t just an action movie, it was the top grossing movie of 1986 and solidified Tom Cruise as a Hollywood A-Lister. The Top Gun soundtrack also hit #1 on the Billboard charts and with a kickass song like “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins how could it not be?! The movie was given the 3D treatment in 2013 and Cruise is confirmed to reprise his role as Maverick in an upcoming sequel.
- Cobra (Released on May 23rd, 1986): It may not get the love of a Rocky or a Rambo nor should it, but I don’t believe Cobra warrants the negativity it so often receives from action fans. Stallone plays a cop named Marion Cobretti, and with a name like Marion, you know he had to be tough. It also stars his real life lover at the time, Brigitte Nielsen.
- Raw Deal (Released on June 6th, 1986): Sandwiched between Commando and Predator in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography, Raw Deal is often lost in the Schwarzenegger shuffle (not to be confused with the “Super Bowl Shuffle” that I mentioned earlier). But if you ever wanted to see Arnold battle the mob then this is the movie for you! The movie also featured the late, great Ed Lauter.
- Big Trouble in Little China (Released on July 2nd, 1986): This Kurt Russell film is the walking definition of a cult classic and that cult nearly lost their ever loving minds when it was announced there was a remake in the works. Big Trouble in Little China, like many on this list, is a unique piece of business with Russell playing truck driver Jack Burton, who manages to get himself in the middle of mystical adventure in Chinatown. The movie also starred the legendary James Hong as the villainous David Lo Pan.
- Avenging Force (Released on September 12th, 1986): Aside from his work in the American Ninja series, Avenging Force is Michael Dudikoff’s most popular film. Avenging Force reunited Dudikoff and his American Ninja co-star, Steve James, and is actually a sequel to the Chuck Norris film, Invasion U.S.A, with Dudikoff taking over the Matt Hunter role from Norris.
- Eye of the Tiger (Released November 28th, 1986): A true hidden gem if there ever was one, Eye of the Tiger may be best described as a 1980’s version of Walking Tall with a little over the top Death Wish 3 vigilante justice thrown in for good measure. Gary Busey does a great job as Buck Matthews, an everyman who does not like what has happened to his small town. The incomparable Yaphet Kotto and grizzled character actor William Smith also star. If you’ve never seen Eye of the Tiger do yourself a favor and track it down, you’ll love it… you’ll effin’ love it!