20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Classic '80s Action Movies

List Rules
Vote up the most impressive facts that made you say, 'Whoa.'

Action movies are probably some of the best-earning films of all time thanks in no small part to the recent run of superhero movies. Of course, action flicks are more than just superheroes - some great films from the '80s can feature an everyman hero like John McClane from the Die Hard franchise or a muscle-bound super-soldier like Arnold Schwarzenegger in any of his action movies, not to mention Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme in any of theirs.

They may seem like easy-to-make popcorn flicks targeting easy money, and while there's undoubtedly some of that in the genre, most good action films from the 1980s have a lot going on that fans know little to nothing about. No matter how many times you watch First Blood, Die Hard, or Lethal Weapon, you're not going to know everything there is to know about the movies... unless you worked on them, and even then, there are probably a few things you didn't know about famous '80s action movies!

This list features some of the most interesting nuances of the very best action movies ever made to come out of the 1980s. Whether it's about the actors playing a hero or about the production itself, odds are, even the most ardent '80s action movie fan won't know it all. 


  • 1
    113 VOTES

    'Indiana Jones' Exists Because Steven Spielberg Wasn't Allowed To Direct A 'James Bond' Movie

    Steven Spielberg is one of the world's most prolific and profitable directors, so when he decided he wanted to make a James Bond movie, it was a bit surprising that he wasn't allowed to film one. Spielberg went to one of his best friends, fellow director George Lucas, and told him about his dissatisfaction with being rejected. Lucas recounted the conversation they had on a beach one day:

    Steven was telling me how he really wanted to do a James Bond film, and that he actually went to the people who owned James Bond and asked them if he could direct one... and they turned him down. So I said, "Well, look, Steven, I've got a James Bond film. It's great - it's just like James Bond but even better." I told him the story about this archeologist and said it was like a Saturday-matinee serial, that he just got into one mess after another. And Steven said, "Fantastic, let's do this!"

    So, with that conversation, Indiana Jones was born, and Raiders of the Lost Ark became one of the greatest action-adventure movies ever made. It spawned a sequel (or two), and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom features a little nod to the franchise Spielberg initially wanted to make. The scene with Indiana Jones wearing a white tuxedo with a red flower has the archaeologist wearing the same costume James Bond (Sean Connery) wore in Goldfinger. It appeared decades later when Bond (Daniel Craig) wore it in Spectre.

    113 votes
  • 2
    111 VOTES

    Patrick Swayze's Allure Caused Problems During The 'Road House' Shoot

    Patrick Swayze was, to many, a Hollywood heartthrob, but more than that, he was an exceptional actor who appeared in some of the 1980s' greatest movies. One of his greatest action roles of the decade (besides his time in Red Dawn) would have to be the time he played a bouncer with a Ph.D. in philosophy in Road House. As it happens, Swayze was perfect for the role, but his handsomeness got in the way of filming.

    On several occasions, the fact that Swayze was filming a movie drew some lookie-loos to check him out. This included a pickup truck filled with middle-aged blonde women showing up at his trailer to meet him. While he was filming the fight by the river, a raft loaded down with women looking to see the attractive young actor pulled right up, holding up filming for a little while. Even the people working on the movie had some trouble keeping focused, as one extra playing a server couldn't take her eyes off him, causing her to trip and spill her drinks.

    111 votes
  • 3
    139 VOTES

    The Studio Never Wanted Bruce Willis To Play John McClane In 'Die Hard'

    When Bruce Willis made the jump into action movies to star in Die Hard, he threw his fans for a loop. The guy was famous for his work on Moonlighting, and he looked nothing like the action stars making hit films in the 1980s. That was the decade of men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, and Willis looked and acted nothing like them. Despite this, he gave the performance his best and solidified himself as one of the most bankable action stars on the planet, but that almost didn't happen.

    The studio had no interest in Willis to play Detective John McClane and looked at various other actors who could fill the role. The names that were going around include Harrison Ford, Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Charles Bronson, Don Johnson, Richard Dean Anderson, and Burt Reynolds. Either they were offered the job and declined to take it, or they weren't available. Ultimately, the studio settled on Willis, and he blew away all the expectations that a comedic actor couldn't handle the role.

    139 votes
  • 4
    113 VOTES

    The Nazi Uniforms In 'The Last Crusade' Are 100% Legit From WWII

    There's not a lot of historical accuracy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade despite the fact that it incorporates real-world events. Still, it's a fictional tale, and most people probably wouldn't expect to find a whole lot of accuracy in it. That said, it's always important to try and get the costumes as historically accurate as possible since the filmmaker's goal is to present a realistic depiction of events.

    In The Last Crusade, the uniforms were actually on point, and the uniforms in question were those worn by the Nazis during the "book burning" scene. Not only were the Third Reich uniforms historically accurate, but they were also 100% real. Costume designer Anthony Powell scoured Germany for uniforms for the scene, which included hundreds of extras. He found hundreds of authentic WWII SS uniforms, and those were used in the scene, making them some of the most/only authentic Third Reich uniforms used in a major feature film production.

    113 votes
  • 5
    100 VOTES

    Eddie Murphy Almost Didn't Play Axel Foley In 'Beverly Hills Cop'

    Action movies from the '80s run the gamut in terms of crossing into other genres. There are tons of action/sci-fi movies, action-adventure films, and some incredibly well-made action-comedies. One that is arguably the best of the decade is Eddie Murphy's Beverly Hills Cop. The film launched Murphy into superstardom, but he almost never got the chance to play Axel Foley, as he wasn't anywhere near the studio's first pick for the role.

    Initially, Mickey Rourke was given the shot to play Foley. He signed a holding contract valued at $400,000 but couldn't agree with the script. Some back-and-forth between him and the studio resulted in the contract expiring and Rourke departing for another project. After Rourke left, Sylvester Stallone was signed on to play the part, but he also had some problems with the script, and he eventually left. Finally, Murphy was given the role, and he made it his own with a ton of comedic improv.

    100 votes
  • 6
    82 VOTES

    The Cast Of 'The Goonies' Weren't Allowed To See The Pirate Ship Until Their Characters Did

    When working with child actors, directors often take measures to get believable reactions out of them. Stephen Spielberg famously shot E.T. in chronological order to get appropriate reactions from Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas, and directors continue this trend. For The Goonies, director Richard Donner wanted to capture the children's reaction upon seeing the pirate ship at the end of the film, so they weren't allowed to see it until their characters did.

    Unfortunately, the trick backfired. Upon seeing the ship, Josh Brolin exclaimed, "Holy s**t!" That required the scene to be reshot, so the whole plan was ruined, and the reactions of the children in the final cut of the movie aren't real. That's not to say they didn't act well and absolutely ace the scene, but it does mean that their initial reactions weren't the ones that made it into the movie.

    82 votes