When you hear, “Action star.” What do you envision? The lone wolf? The guy or gal who single handedly took down the organization against impossible odds acquiring a massive kill count in the process? Most often this is true, even when there is a team on board to help the action star, they typically only serve to play second fiddle to the leading man and are usually expendable. Ever so often, however, Hollywood shows us that some missions are too big for just one person and they gift us with a film that features more than one hero. Most often such movies are dubbed buddy action/cops films. This list is dedicated to those who know they can never go at it alone.
Criteria for this list is straightforward: You need two leads in the same picture.
No specific era or Box Office success required to make this list, which will be organized by my personal rankings. Don’t agree with the list? Leave a comment and challenge it.
A classic reboot of a 1980’s property which starred Johnny Depp. This movie is actually pretty entertaining and funny as it ended up being a good satire of the 1980’s action genre. A lot of pop culture references and inside jokes to keep you engaged throughout. 21 Jump Street was successful enough to garner a sequel, 22 Jump Street.
If you could give a name to the action genre in the 1980’s, that name would be Arnold. It is unlikely that anyone personified the macho man stereotype quite like the Austrian Oak. Arnold plays a Moscow military man who teams up with James Belushi, who plays a stereotypical loud and brash American police officer.
When you think of Clint Eastwood you think of the lone rogue cop breaking the rules as well as the chain of command. In this film Eastwood is basically the same character except this time he is partnered up with a young, likely pre-tiger blood Charlie Sheen. Together they team up to stop Raul Julia, the guy who played Bison in that Street Fighter movie everyone pretends never existed.
Western satire is not a genre that is often tapped, let alone a genre that produced two blockbuster movies. Starring Owen Wilson and international action megastar Jackie Chan the franchise came out of nowhere in the early 2000’s. For fans of the franchise who are clamoring for a trilogy, good news for you, rumor has it that the film Shanghai Dawn is in the works.
Some of you may not believe this, but the comic book genre was not always insanely profitable for production companies, for every Batman you had….. well Batman & Robin. Ironically enough, the same year Batman & Robin came out, the world was presented with Men in Black or MIB. MIB was based on a comic book that was originally published over 3 issues in 1990, although short-lived, there was enough material there to make the successful film adaptation in 1997 that grossed over $250 million dollars. MIB was so big that it managed to spawn 2 sequels that were also commercially successful.
Will Smith earns a special team player award for making two appearances on this list. Prior to 1995, Miami’s claim to fame were rolled up pastel sports coats and mullets. In 1995 however, we were treated with a buddy cop classic in Bad Boys, a movie that effectively made Will Smith and Martin Lawrence household names. Although not a critical success, the movie did earn over $140 million in Box Office and also spawned the debate: Can a Shelby Cobra be caught by a Porsche 911 Turbo after a quarter mile head start? You decide.
The second award for team player goes to Jackie Chan, who, like Will Smith, appears twice on this list. Jackie Chan exploded into the zeitgeist of American cinemas with 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx, although the film was a modest success, in 1998 Chan became a megastar with Rush Hour. The film teamed him with the loud and fast talking Chris Tucker, together they would go to film two successful sequels.
The Last Boy Scout simply doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the annals of action films. Starring Hollywood heavyweights, Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, The Last Boy Scout is a big budgeted action classic with arguably the best one-liners ever to grace the silver screen. Sadly, we were never granted a sequel, as the movie was quite expensive for its era and there was not a sufficient return on investment.
If Arnold is the king of the macho man action movies, then Eddie Murphy was the unquestioned king of the 1980’s and early 1990’s action-comedies. Murphy broke onto the scene as a comedian at the ripe old age of 15. During the 1980’s Murphy was involved with a slew of comedies and action comedies turning him a legitimate Hollywood legend. His first hit was 1982’s 48 Hrs, a conman who teams up with a grizzled veteran cop to stop a criminal in order to reduce his jail sentence. Murphy starred in this movie at the age of 21.
I am certain no one is surprised at the number one movie as it was 1987’s Lethal Weapon that made a star out of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Although Gibson was coming off the international success of his Mad Max films, it was Lethal Weapon that ultimately cemented his Hollywood fame. The film was a massive success, so successful that an entire parody movie was filmed called Loaded Weapon, starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson, oh and let’s not forget the 2016 TV show based off the film. Fun fact: Although Danny Glover plays the veteran cop who is always too old to shoot bad guys, he and Gibson are only 10 years apart in age, it would appear that Glover was more spry than he led on!