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Rambo, Terminator, Die Hard – The glory days of the 80’s are back!

By Laurie Minsky May 26, 2008, 17:00 GMT

Rambo, Terminator, Die Hard – The glory days of the 80’s are back!

Although the fan-base has aged, their love for the genre has not. There will always be a place in every man\'s heart for Rambo, Terminator and John McClane.

When you think of 80's action flicks, three actors come to mind immediately, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone. 

These three actors have glorified 80's action films by always coming out of a problem on top, these solutions usually involve explosions and fights of sorts.

With the DVD release of Rambo on May 27th, we are going to travel back in time to the 1980s; a time where muscles were bigger than big, Austrian accents were of actors not governors, and when the best song to work out to was "Eye of the Tiger."

These movies would not have been what they were without these actors. There is no better person to declare, "I'll be back," than Schwarzenegger, as his accent makes it so memorable and makes his fans yearn to perfect it. 

The Terminator was a bit ahead its time, as it explored the world of the next millennium and introduced a form of artificial intelligence to the world.  It also showcased blood-filled shoot out scenes and outrageous bombings, which was pretty much the recipe for a killer 80's action flick, no pun intended.

Back in the 80's and early 90's, the name Bruce Willis was synonymous with John McClane from the Die Hard series. Willis portrayed McClane, a detective lieutenant with the New York City Police Department, as a cut throat, thrill-loving, gun-happy, typical New Yorker, who made famous the phrase: “Yippee-Ki-Yay..." (I think you know the rest).

Catch phrase made famous in an 80's film?  Just another component as to why 80's action films were totally rad.  In the final scene of the film, as "Let it Snow" plays, it reminds the viewer that even though McClane seems larger than life, he still has a heart and can be just like the everyday man, which makes the everyday man want to see him that much more.  And he did, three more times!

Now onto the man who popularized the girls name “Adrian” in the late 80's: Sylvester Stallone.

Although Rocky debuted in the 70's, it hit its peak in the 80's with Rocky IV grossing over $125 million dollars, the highest grossing Rocky. Maybe it had to do with amazon-woman Brigitte Nielsen taking on a role, or maybe it was the unforgettable fight scene between Rocky and Ivan Drago.  Either way, Rocky IV has made its mark as one of the best movies to emerge from the 80s. 

Another film Stallone helped to glorify in the 1980s was Rambo, which was a trilogy until this year when Stallone decided to pull the series out of retirement.  This underdog tale was one to remember as Rambo was shunned from society and then reemerged in a killing spree.

There is something to be said for these four 80’s action flicks, as they have all been repurposed years after the world thought there could be no more.  Since the year 2000, these series were all brought back to life, each one encompassing every ingredient that makes up an 80's film in addition to the new millennium's technology.

Although the fan-base has aged, their love for the genre has not. There will always be a place in every man's heart for Rambo, Terminator and John McClane.

These characters will forever live on, but they can only live on with a storyline. Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone all did 80’s action movies justice, but the real star of these films is the plot line.  These movies had you glued to your seat to the point where if you had to use the bathroom, you would cross your legs and pray for no accidents. 

Rocky IV, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Rambo: The First Blood Part II all spoke to the American audience on some level as these movies all grossed the most money in each of their franchises, pre-new millennium releases. 

What do these plots have in common that influenced movie-goers to see these films?  The common theme that each franchise has is that the protagonist is an underdog, and in these particular films they each feat memorable villains in a way that captivates the hearts of the audience.

Watching the loved main character suffer through triumphs and tribulations throughout the film, and then come out on top, the main ingredient to these 80s films.  This makes the character relatable to the audience, even if you aren’t going to have to worry about rescuing POWs, everyone has struggled at some point in their lives!

Not only is training to take on a boxer who kills during matches a struggle, but the match itself is not a walk in the park.  In Rocky IV, Rocky faces several struggles, emotional and physical, beginning with the death of his dear friend Apollo Creed.  He works through his pain and goes over to the USSR to begin training to take on Drago. 

Watching Rocky struggle and breakdown during training is nothing compared to watching the nail-biter of a fight!  When Drago tells Rocky “I must break you” we knew we were in for a bumpy ride, 15 rounds of a bumpy ride to be exact! 

John McClane just can't mind his own business; this guy creates his own struggles!  In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, McClane is waiting to pick up his wife at the airport when he decides to follow two men dressed in army fatigues as they swipe a package off of the baggage carousal and ends up killing one of them. 

Good thing he can't mind his own business because he took fingerprints of the man he killed and found out that his death was recorded two years ago, and that’s when the debauchery ensues as the man whose fingerprints were taken was a mercenary. While to defunct plants of a heist, McClane is constantly faced with death, how does he handle it?  He kills those who get in his way. 

This film is less heartwarming but still relatable as McClane is being protective of his wife as McClane wants to make sure he lands safely.  What man doesn't want to save his damsel in distress?

How could a machine have struggles?  If another, more powerful machine is out to get the woman he is programmed to save!  In Terminator 2: Judgment Day the Terminator is out to save Sarah Connor from the T-1000 who is out to kill her. 

As the Terminator spends more and more time with Sarah and her son John, they begin to grow close.  John and the Terminator even bond one evening and the question as to if the Terminator can feel human emotion comes up.  And the answer is no. 

As the Terminator and the T-1000 are confronted for the final time, the Terminator destroys the T-1000.  Now that the Terminator’s job is done, it is time for him to say goodbye.  For a man-made machine that cannot feel emotion, his biggest struggle in this film was to say goodbye to the Connor family.

In Rambo: The First Blood Part II, Rambo’s struggles are purely fighting.  As he tries to rescue POW’s in Thailand to bring back to American, he is captured and tortured by members of the Vietnam army and the Soviet military personnel.  Unlike his assistant, Co Bao who was killed, Rocky managed to survive and escape.

Struggles, whether they are emotional or physical, is what draws the audience into these stories, as this is what keeps the story moving.  The movie-goer is living these ups and downs with the character, cheering them on and wishing death on their nemesis. 

Action films of the 80’s will never die, and with the DVD release of Rambo we are reminded of that. 

See you in another two decades when these franchises all add their fifth installments and the main characters are kicking ass in wheelchairs!

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Further Reading on M&C

Arnold Schwarzenegger Biography - - Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies -
Bruce Willis Biography - - Bruce Willis Movies -
Sylvester Stallone Biography - - Sylvester Stallone Movies -

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