Watchworthy

The Best Action Movies of the 1980s 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated February 19, 2020 73.5k votes 5.4k voters 175.2k views 95 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite action films that were released in the 1980s.

A list of the best '80s action movies arguably represents a list of the greatest action movies of all time. The Terminator, Die Hard, and Raiders of the Lost Ark were all released in the 1980s, after all. Those three films are just the tip of the iceberg. You also have Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Aliens, and many more good 1980s action movies. What do you think are the top '80s action movies? Vote up your favorites from the list of 1980s action films below.

With all of these amazing choices, it may be tough to narrow down the very best '80s action movies. What do you believe defines the greatest action movies of the '80s? Should they be non-stop action from start to finish like Commando or can they build tension slowly like Predator? Are the top '80s action movies ultra-violent like RoboCop or do you prefer something a bit goofier like Big Trouble in Little China? Good 1980s action films can even be more serious-minded fare like Platoon or Ran. You get to decide the best and the rest with your votes.

This '80s action movie list is sure to start some heated debates, so get voting! And if we somehow missed a great 1980s action movie, don't hesitate to add it to the list!
Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
The Terminator is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1984

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Paxton, Linda Hamilton, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Biehn, + more

Directed by: James Cameron

The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction/horror action film directed by James Cameron, written by Cameron and the film's producer Gale Anne Hurd. Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, a ...more

More The Terminator 

56 Things You Didn't Know About the Terminator Movies #55 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #27 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

2
Die Hard is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1988

Actors: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Robert Davi, Kym Malin, + more

Directed by: John McTiernan

Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It is based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp. Die ...more

More Die Hard 

'Die Hard' Ripoffs, Ranked By How Hard They Die #27 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Books #4 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

3
Predator is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1987

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Peter Cullen, + more

Directed by: John McTiernan

Predator is a 1987 American science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill ...more

More Predator 

Somehow, Making Predator Was WAY More Insane Than The Actual Movie #143 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #153 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

4
Indiana Jones and the Ra... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1981

Actors: Harrison Ford, Alfred Molina, Karen Allen, Frank Welker, Denholm Elliott, + more

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan was from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman. It was produced by ...more

More Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 

12 Stories That Prove The Making Of 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' Was An Adventure Behind The Scenes Too #12 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Aliens is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1986

Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, + more

Directed by: James Cameron

Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror film written and directed by James Cameron, produced by his then-wife Gale Anne Hurd, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael ...more

More Aliens 

The Best 'Aliens' Quotes #5 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Lethal Weapon is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1987

Actors: Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Danny Glover, Joan Severance, Darlene Love, + more

Directed by: Richard Donner

Lethal Weapon is a 1987 American buddy cop action film directed by Richard Donner, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a mismatched pair of L.A.P.D. detectives and stars Mitchell Ryan and ...more

More Lethal Weapon 

Surprising Facts Most People Don't Know About 'Lethal Weapon' #49 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #120 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

7
First Blood is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1982

Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Mulkey, + more

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted Kotcheff, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran. ...more

More First Blood 

#139 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Books #213 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #150 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

8
Indiana Jones and the La... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1989

Actors: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, + more

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a 1989 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, from a story co-written by executive producer George Lucas. It is the third installment in the ...more

More Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 

The Best Characters in the Whole Indiana Jones Franchise, Ranked #19 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

9
Star Wars Episode V: The... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1980

Actors: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, James Earl Jones, Alec Guinness, + more

Directed by: Irvin Kershner

The Empire Strikes Back is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story ...more

More Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 

Here's Why The Last Jedi And Empire Strikes Back Are Pretty Much The Same Movie #1 of 11 Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked Best to Worstlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
Lethal Weapon 2 is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1989

Actors: Mel Gibson, Joe Pesci, Danny Glover, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, + more

Directed by: Richard Donner

Lethal Weapon 2 is a 1989 American buddy cop action film directed by Richard Donner, and starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Patsy Kensit, Derrick O'Connor and Joss Ackland. It is a ...more

More Lethal Weapon 2 

#16 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made #939 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #79 of 481 The Greatest Movies for Guys

11
Commando is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1985

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alyssa Milano, Bill Paxton, Bill Duke, Dan Hedaya, + more

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Commando is a 1985 American action film directed by Mark L. Lester, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rae Dawn Chong. The film was released in the United States on October 4, 1985. The film ...more

More Commando 

Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Commando' #69 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #595 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

12
RoboCop is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1987

Actors: Alex Van Halen, Peter Weller, Leeza Gibbons, Nancy Allen, Paul Verhoeven, + more

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial RoboCop is a 1987 American cyberpunk action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future, RoboCop ...more

More RoboCop 

#102 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #248 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #89 of 133 Movies That Should Never Be Remade

13
Back to the Future is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1985

Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Billy Zane, + more

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into ...more

More Back to the Future 

Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Back to the Future #21 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

14
Big Trouble in Little Ch... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1986

Actors: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, John Carpenter, James Hong, Kate Burton, + more

Directed by: John Carpenter

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Big Trouble in Little China is a 1986 American action film directed by John Carpenter, and starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun and James Hong. The film was released in the United ...more

More Big Trouble in Little China 

#24 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #167 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #182 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

15
Beverly Hills Cop is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1984

Actors: Eddie Murphy, Damon Wayans, Paul Reiser, Jonathan Banks, Judge Reinhold, + more

Directed by: Martin Brest

Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 American action comedy film directed by Martin Brest and starring Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills, California to ...more

More Beverly Hills Cop 

#26 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #175 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #34 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

16
Star Wars: Episode VI –R... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1983

Actors: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, James Earl Jones, Alec Guinness, + more

Directed by: Richard Marquand

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is a 1983 American epic space opera film directed by Richard Marquand, and the third and final film in the original Star Wars trilogy. After a daring ...more

More Star Wars: Episode VI –Return of the Jedi 

#3 of 11 Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked Best to Worst #836 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #23 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

17
Ghostbusters is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1984

Actors: Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Walton, Ron Jeremy, + more

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Ghostbusters is a 1984 American sci-fi-fantasy comedy film, directed and produced by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The film stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as ...more

More Ghostbusters 

Behind The Scenes Secrets From 'Ghostbusters' Most People Have Never Heard #2 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #23 of 1,137 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

18
Indiana Jones and the Te... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1984

Actors: Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Dan Aykroyd, George Lucas, Amrish Puri, + more

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, and the second installment in the Indiana Jones franchise and a prequel to the 1981 film ...more

More Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 

How ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' Traumatized A Whole Generation And Changed Movie Ratings #19 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
Top Gun is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1986

Actors: Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan, Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins, Michael Ironside, + more

Directed by: Tony Scott

Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim ...more

More Top Gun 

Everything You Don't Know About The Making Of 'Top Gun' #1,800 of 3,110 The Greatest Albums of All-Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

20
The Running Man is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1987

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, María Conchita Alonso, Mick Fleetwood, + more

Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser

The Running Man is a 1987 American science fiction action film loosely based on the 1982 novel The Running Man, written by Stephen King and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. ...more

More The Running Man 

#23 of 49 The Best Movies Based on Stephen King Books #3 of 14 'Stupid' Action Movies That Are Secretly Brilliant #32 of 154 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies

21
Mad Max 2 is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1981

Actors: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Virginia Hey, Arkie Whiteley, + more

Directed by: George Miller

Mad Max 2 is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller. The film is the second installment in the Mad Max film series, with Mel Gibson starring as Max Rockatansky. ...more

More Mad Max 2 

#17 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made #346 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #296 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

22
Escape from New York is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1981

Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, John Carpenter, + more

Directed by: John Carpenter

Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter. The film is set in a then near-future 1997 in a distopian United States ...more

More Escape from New York 

#88 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #382 of 557 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time #20 of 154 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies

23
Road House is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1989

Actors: Sam Elliott, Terry Funk, Kelly Lynch, Keith David, Jeff Healey, + more

Directed by: Rowdy Herrington

Road House is a 1989 action film directed by Rowdy Herrington and starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer at a newly refurbished roadside bar who protects a small town in Missouri from a ...more

More Road House 

10 Reasons Road House Is Basically The Greatest Movie Ever Made #16 of 560 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #227 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

24
Rambo: First Blood Part ... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1985

Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Charles Napier, Richard Crenna, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson-Soul, + more

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos and starring Sylvester Stallone. Picking up where the first film left, the sequel is set in the context ...more

More Rambo: First Blood Part II 

#219 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #86 of 158 The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made #486 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

25
Batman is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Action Movies of the 1980s
1989

Actors: Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Keaton, Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams, + more

Directed by: Tim Burton

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character. The Dark Knight of Gotham City (Michael Keaton) begins his war on crime with his first major ...more

More Batman 

#25 of 172 The Best Superhero Movies Ever Made #118 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever