In The Godfather: Part III, Michael Corleone famously says, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” While Al Pacino isn’t exactly an action hero, that quote does evoke one of cinema’s greatest cliches: retired action hero movies. Years after rejecting their calling, then getting really good at it, and supplying audiences with some of the best action in history, the cop, soldier, mercenary, or superhero is begrudgingly drawn back into the life because they’re simply too cool. That, or the new generation finds themselves in a desperate situation and requires assistance.
The ritual of coming out of retirement for “one last job” is as old as the action hero itself. This list will compile action movies that follow the trope of reactivating a bad*ss character while avoiding obvious, super popular examples like John Wick and focusing on those movies that deserve more attention. Here are heroes (or anti-heroes) who did not go gently into that good night.