question of the day: What is the first modern action movie?

Cary Grant in North by Northwest

Carrie Rickey, the Philadelphia Inquirer film critic, tweeted an interesting question yesterday:

Is “North by Northwest” the first modern action movie?

She thinks yes. I think it’s a great question:

What is the first modern action movie?

This depends on two factors: how you define action movie, and how you define modern.

I think it’s probably safe to say that the James Bond movies of the 1960s set the groundwork for what we know as the action movie today… and North by Northwest set the groundwork for them. Is that going back too far, however? Should we come a little further forward, to, perhaps, The French Connection, which is closer to the “modern” idea of an action movie, in which the action is more relentless. (Then again, North by Northwest and the Bond movies also feature lots of smart, witty comedy, which I suspect many of us feel is an essential part of the action movie.) Should we come even further ahead, into the 1980s, when the one-two punch of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon — which are still better than most of what they’ve spawned in the wake of their success — kicked off a race to outdo them that still has not ended?

Have fun!

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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