question of the day: What are your all-time favorite and least favorite action/adventure movies?

Raiders of the Lost Art Karen Allen Harrison Ford

Reader Anne-Kari recently suggested that we talk about

Favorite and least favorite movies within specific genres (drama, b&w, scifi, comedy)?

So that’s what we’re doing all this week. Today’s question:

What are your all-time favorite and least favorite action/adventure movies?

If we were talking pure action, I’d be tempted to go with Die Hard, which is a perfect movie and still better than the vast majority of imitators that it inspired. But my most favorite movie ever — Raiders of the Lost Ark — belongs in this category. So here it is.

Worst? Hmm… Anything by Michael Bay, obviously, but perhaps most specificially Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in which Bay seems to have to gone off some sort of personal deep end into outrageous self-parody even more so than he usually does.

Your turn…

(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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Neil Macdonald
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 11:13am

Die Hard is tough to beat, but I’d also add in Predator – both directed by John McTiernan who nailed them both.

As to worst – Superman IV The Quest for Peace is abysmal from start to finish. It ties with Jaws: The Revenge as worst ever

Tue, Jan 01, 2013 11:32am

Probably my favourite is Topkapi because of it’s setting (Istanbul) and direction. My least favourite is potentially Die Hard. Not because it’s bad but because of some of the stupid characters in it that make my teeth hurt.

I also have a soft spot for the “Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec”

Stephanie Clarkson
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 1:13pm

I kept having problems with ‘what is an action adventure film’; my first instinct was ‘Blade Runner’, but that’s really an SF film, etc. So I asked google to present me with action/adventure as an option.  It came up with this:

If one uses *that*, then my favourite action/adventure movie is the original Japanese version of Kiki’s Delivery Service, but that doesn’t quite seem right.

So I thought about Gross Pointe Blank, one of my top 10 movies. But it’s more introspective, really; a psych film with a spy film coating. My next instinct was ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, but that’s really a heist film. Then I thought about ‘The Blues Brothers’; a road trip buddy comedy, with music, but really an action film at heart.

But trying to answer this has really made me realize I really never watch action adventure for the action or adventure. I watch other genres, and occasionally it *also* gets classified as action adventure.

reply to  Stephanie Clarkson
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 4:15pm

 My thoughts exactly. When I looked on IMDb for films I’d rated a 10, they included Dirty Harry (crime thriller?), Back to the Future (sci-fi comedy?) and Superman (comic book fantasy?). I’m not quite sure what an action-adventure is, and suspect I’m not very familiar with the genre, though I suppose Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom qualifies; maybe Collateral as well.

Tue, Jan 01, 2013 5:10pm

I have a soft spot for Flash Gordon (1980) and Commando (1985). Actually, most of Schwarzenegger’s output until he went over to doing comedy roles.

Ones that don’t work… practically all American martial arts films, for a start, especially including the American Ninja  series. I don’t know why; they just don’t grab me.

Tue, Jan 01, 2013 5:27pm

MaryAnn Johanson, you are getting extremely annoying with the Bay-bashing. You’re clearly mad as hell that so many people around the globe love his films and you decided to go on a mission to prove…what exactly? What? You think your rants will change something? Here’s a newsflash for you, and make sure to remember it: according to Forbes, Bay is THE most powerful and infuential director in Hollywood right now. Why? Because his movies make A LOT of money. Why his movies make a lot of money? Because people watch them. Why people keep watching them, despite haters like you? Because they ENJOY them. It’s that simple.

These are all facts, MaryAnn. You can’t fight facts with your subjective opinion. So cut the crap and stop acting like the entire world is populated by film critics who hate Bay’s films. You know very well that faaaaaar more people like his films, so it’s useless to act like an idiot.

I’ll stop here, because it’s just too easy to argue with web-haters like you who are just mad that they’re the complete minority. You wanna argue? Bring it on. I know very well what you gonna use against Bay and I know what I’ll say to defend the man. And I can say A LOT, believe me.

Oh and yes, in case you haven’t noticed I’m a fan of Bay. Been a fan for more than 15 years. Yes, 15 years.

reply to  Last_movies
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 5:41pm

So you feel that millions of flies can’t be wrong?

reply to  RogerBW
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 6:09pm

You are on the internet and you call people who don’t live 24/7 on the web, and have actual lives, “flies”?
Oh, the sweet, sweet irony.

Go outside and ask the everydays folks what they think of people like your beloved MaryAnn a.k.a. “the Bay-hating chick who can’t get the man out of her head”. The bloggers and internet bashers are a complete and utter joke. No sane person can take these people seriously. Thankfully, normal people already know that and they just ignore bloggers like Mary…Ann.

And FYI, there’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to movies and art as a whole. Only internet trolls, snobs and….well pure idiots, think that opinions are facts. Here’s a clue: they’re not.

reply to  Last_movies
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 9:09pm

“And FYI, there’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to movies and art as a whole. Only internet trolls, snobs and….well pure idiots, think that opinions are facts. Here’s a clue: they’re not.”  The facts debate is what is known as a straw man argument and does nothing to build on your case but is rather intended to sideline the issue in an irrelevant argument. So we shall ignore that shall we?
As to whether there is a right or wrong in movies, now there is an interesting question. I  contend that you have to have four elements to a successful action film:

1. Narrative cohesion: in other words did the film have the voice of the author
2. Careful crafted characters who’s actions are in line with their internal logic
3. The ability to create a suspension of disbelief by careful scene setting and building a real world in which those characters can interact.
4. An original and interesting story with no Deus Ex Machina solutions 

Now I’m perfectly prepared to argue that  Mr Bay has an authors voice. However he fails the test concerning the rest of the elements. His characters are not  carefully created and stand out as original – they perform the needs of the script (for example the disappearance of the Megan Fox character after movie 2). Show me one well rounded character in Transformers.  There are no attempts to create a world which interests us – no tension when someone we care about is faced with an intractable problem. They are spectacle – exclusively. 

Now for the simple minded this may be enough (if your insulted by that, by the way, question why). For those of us who invest in the tradition of narrative and story telling – or seen more than one movie, it is not.

reply to  Captain_Swing666
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 11:15pm

Interesting from both sides.

Relax L.M. She is entitled to to have her set of movies that are going to be her least favorite and write about that on HER OWN SITE without being berated by you. And if you happened to take the time to look through her reviews she gave the original Transformers a “see it”.

On the other hand MAJ, you do list “anything by Michael Bay” as your least favorite while giving the original Transformers a good review. I agree with a good review on the original by the way. Never thought when it was coming out that a decent movie could be made on that concept. Loved the relationship that was developed and played out between Shia and the Camaro. The rest of the transformers movies…not so much.

I would propose that the original Tranformers meets your 4 criteria
1. Given
2. Shia’s character is well constructed with his family history, his typical struggles with popularity and relationships, an extremely well developed relationship between himself and the Camaro as well as Optimus Prime. His parents disbelief while a Transformer is climbing the sides of their house was a great mix of comedy and tension, the supporting characters, a basement geek a well spoken woman were entertaining and necessary to the plot.
3. I was completely invested in the fact that an old Camaro was the main character’s living best friend. Made me think of my jr high best friend that went through everything with me and was there for me no matter what. He does an outstanding job of creating the transformers world that is immensely interesting when he melds the auto bots and the deceptecons conflict into earth with trying to find the all spark.
4. The ability to turn a Saturday morning simple cartoon into a well told fun story is interesting and, given the base material he started with, quite original and entertaining.
And the trump card…MAJ gave a Micheal Bay film a “see it”!

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Dwa
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 1:14am

On the other hand MAJ, you do list “anything by Michael Bay” as your
least favorite while giving the original Transformers a good review.

You’re correct. I should have qualified this as I did with yesterday’s “worst,” Adam Sandler:

with so few exceptions that they’re barely worth mentioning.

Indeed, one not-terrible film from Bay does not negate all the simplistic, jingoistic, sexist, racist, juvenile crap he’s made.

reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 5:19am

Why are you so angry? Art criticism is subjective, by the way. But nevermind, I think you need a soothing cup of tea…and maybe a tranquilizer. If you choose not to, well, pretend you’re in a 8th grade English class and the teacher asked you to write an essay about your favorite movies and why you like them. Explain the value of Bay’s films in a way that makes sense and involves critical thinking. Because what you posted here wouldn’t rate you a D-minus.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 7:01am

Ad hominem: 30 yard penalty

reply to  Last_movies
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 7:25pm

 And a large amount of people think there’s a Sky daddy in the clouds looking out for them. Eventually, he’ll go the way of Zeus and Mithras.
McDonalds is popular, but it sure as hell isn’t good.
Call Me Maybe was a popular song, but it’s total garbage. Just like almost all the rest of the over-produced, auto-tuned pop junk that’s popular nowadays.
The majority is wrong quite frequently. Screw the whole subjective bullshit. They are wrong. Simple as that.
MaryAnn is right about Bay. His movies are garbage. People eat them up because they like to watch things explode. They don’t want to think too much, because it apparently hurts their puny brains. As long as people admit that what they like is junk, then I have zero problem. Heck, I kind of liked watching the giant robots fighting it out. But I know the movies are not actually good at all. I watch a Bay movie, then I go and watch a REAL movie. That’s the difference.
Why am I feeding the troll?

reply to  MarkyD
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 8:46pm

MarkyD, yet another example of a web-moron who think his opinion is a fact. Since when do people who don’t share your opinions are “trolls”, you insignifcant loser?

I guess that’s the easiest thing for your weak brain – brand all people ‘trolls’ because you can’t come up with a SINGLE argument to support your so-called ‘views”.  And the McDonald’s example is sooooooooooooo cliche and old – come up with something better and new, my man. You’re just too easy with that kind of behavior. 15 year old kid would do better.

Anyway, in YOUR opinion his movies are gargage. In MY opinion his movies are great action flicks. Not the best in all genres, but definitely some of the best in the ACTION genre.

Also, the fact that you said “screw subjective opinion” when EVERYTHING in art is a matter of opinion simply goes to show that you are a complete snobish no-brain vegetable. Utter vegetable who can only exist on the internet. Off you go now. It’s a complete waste of time talking to you.

My original comment was not for you anyway. Now scram.  Thank you.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 1:11am

Ahem, you’re the one who has not supported his opinions with anything substantive. Instead of telling us about Bay’s box office performance, why don’t you explain *why* you think his movies are great action flicks?

reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 5:14am

Scram? Marky D. is a regular and this is MaryAnn’s place. I think we’re suppose to be telling you to scram.

reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 12:46am

1)  Do you believe professional critics should exist?  If not, your argument is dispensable.

2)  If so, what is the proper function of a film critic – what does a good critic do?  
3)  Is it possible for a critic to dislike a movie that you like and still be good at their job?

4)  More importantly, there is some projection evident here that is common among people who post angry comments online.  In some sense, the following analysis is a projection of my own issues onto you, but the basic premise remains sound.  Let’s examine the following clauses:

“You’re clearly mad as hell…and you decided to go on a mission to prove… what exactly?”
“You think your rants will change something?”
“You can’t fight facts with your subjective opinion.”
“…it’s useless to act like an idiot.”
“…it’s too easy to argue with web-haters… mad that they’re in the complete minority.”
“…I know what I’ll say to defend the man.”

It’s clear that subconsciously you recognize the futility of your anger and realize that you are being defensive and irrational.  You dislike this part of your personality, but don’t want to bring it to the surface because it’s too uncomfortable for you to acknowledge your own lack of power and agency – note the theme of impotence running through the first four quotes.  People socialized to see themselves as strong and rational don’t want to admit that they are weak or lacking in some way, so these critical observations and feelings cannot easily be assimilated.  However they can’t be bottled up forever – where can they go?

The solution is to project the qualities you dislike about yourself onto someone else – in this case, MA.  She is the one who is powerless, angry, ranting, in the minority, defensive.  By aligning yourself with popular opinion you speak from a position of power and authority and can take refuge in the illusion that you are engaging her in a logical argument.  Unfortunately, as 1) shows, your argument has no substance.  Fundamentally, you believe that any professional critic that dislikes something that you love should not exist.  This is a projection of your desire to silence your inner critic, the one that whispers to you that you are lacking in some objective way.  In some cases, anger directed at a female critic is displaced anger at some critical female figure in one’s life like a mother, or wife/girlfriend – I don’t know enough about you to determine if that’s a factor here. 

Posting angry comments on the internet may release some pent up frustration, but ultimately it’s not a constructive way to deal with these issues.  In your own words, “it’s too easy to argue.”  Some part of you wants to stop this cycle, even though you know it will be difficult.  That’s a good first step.  Typically it’s uncomfortable for an extrovert to acknowledge their own flaws and feelings of inadequacy without any feedback, so you may need to speak to someone that you trust about your feelings of powerlessness.  The ambiguously wistful quality of your last sentence suggests that you do have the desire to change for the better.  Good luck!

reply to  amanohyo
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 2:26am

I guess this reveals something deep about me, but I have to say I enjoyed this post immensely!

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 1:07am

you are getting extremely annoying with the Bay-bashing

I’m deeply sorry if someone is forcing you to read this site. You should contact the police or something.

You’re clearly mad as hell that so many people around the globe love his films

Mystified, perhaps. But mad as hell? I don’t waste my energy being angry about such nonsense.

mission to prove…what exactly?

That’s hilarious. I’m not trying to “prove” anything. I am merely sharing my opinion. No one is obligated to agree with it.

You think your rants will change something?

I’m not trying to change anything. Strange you should get that impression.

These are all facts, MaryAnn. You can’t fight facts with your subjective opinion.

If you would care to point out where I have contradicted any of the facts you mentioned, I would be delighted to retract my statement(s). Also perhaps you could explain what it means to “fight facts,” and how I am doing that. Thank you.

So cut the crap

I’m not sure what this means. What should I do differently? Stop expressing opinions that differ from yours? How would I know which of my opinions differ from yours in matters apart from Bay?

stop acting like the entire world is populated by film critics who hate Bay’s films.

Please explain how I’ve done that.

You know very well that faaaaaar more people like his films

Yes, of course I know this. What does this have to do with my opinion of his films? You cannot seriously believe that all things that are popular are good, can you? I mean, really, is it possible that you think this?

it’s just too easy to argue with web-haters like you

You think you’ve presented an argument? Oh, dear…

who are just mad that they’re the complete minority

Yeah, I’m not mad. Promise.

I know what I’ll say to defend the man. And I can say A LOT, believe me.

Holy shit, you’re Michael Bay, aren’t you?

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 4:02am

I always like to check out the profiles of people who post stuff like this.  Last_movies seems to be your basic jackass — not sure I’d call him/her a troll, but it’s a close call.  None of his or her posts are just posts where he or she states an opinion, there’s always a wild-eyed, irate disagreement going on and some totally unnecessary name-calling.

reply to  teenygozer
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 5:33am

Fair’s fair: that goes for a lot of people (my own profile isn’t spotless by a long way). But you’re right that we need some terminology to identify 50 shades of trolldom. I also felt that Last_movies was heading towards it, but wasn’t actually a troll. More a typical angry person — as you put it, a “basic jackass”. Or perhaps we could develop a whole vocabulary: a goblin is mischievous but not quite as offensive as a troll; a gnome is as stubborn, but not as malicious; and so on.

reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 5:10am

“…stop acting like the entire world is populated by film critics who hate Bay’s films.”

But the world IS poulated by critics who hate his films. Go to Rotten Tomatoes and type Transformers II into the search engine. The reviews are gold. Oh, and stop acting like the world should be populated by critics who only agree with you. it’s err, tacky. 

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Last_movies
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 7:00am

Argumentum ad popularum: 20 yard penalty, loss of down.

Tue, Jan 01, 2013 7:15pm

Now this is a hard one to answer.
LOTR series – duh
The Matrix
Terminator 2
Does Aliens 2 count here?
District 9 (Or are we going to have a sci-fi category?)
Indy 1 and 2
Jurassic Park
Plenty more I’m forgetting right now.

Least Favorite:
The Bay films are a no-brainer here
Batman Forever and Batman and Robin – UGH


Tue, Jan 01, 2013 11:36pm

Would The Great Escape count? Or is that a caper flick? I confess, I like it even more than Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is fantastic.

Least fav: Inglorious Basterds. There are MUCH worse films out there I’m sure, but I go to so few that I’ve got to choose from among the movies I have actually (1) paid to see and (2) sat through.

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
Tue, Jan 01, 2013 11:47pm

My own favorite adventure movie is “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” although I have an honorable mention list of many, many others–“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Die Hard,” Ronald Colman’s “The Prisoner of Zenda,” “Spartacus,” Miyazaki’s “Laputa”–I could go on for a long time with these old friends.

My least favorite is probably the first “Transformers” movie. Can’t judge any of the others; I’ve been at pains not to see them.

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 12:15am

i gotta go with ‘the empire strikes back’, ‘apocalypse now’, and ‘aliens’.

there are so many bad ones. can’t argue with the michael bay picks. i’ll add ‘alien vs. predator’ and ‘babylon a.d.’

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 1:15am

Assuming some fantasy/sci-fi elements are allowed, my favorites are:

The City of Lost Children
Spirited Away
The Professional
Seven Samurai

My least favorites are:

Transporter 3
Double Impact
Bad Boys 2
Charlie’s Angels

Wow, Luc Besson made it on both lists.  Uh… congratulations?

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 1:30am

Best: Die Hard, Jaws,  El Mariachi, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the King, 7 Samurai, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Pirates of the Carribean I.  This was hard to work out because I kept wondering, is this more of a monster movie? A disaster movie?  A Western?  Sci Fi?  Fantasy? 
Worst: I tend to enjoy bad action films.  They are usually fun.  I only dislike them if they are just beyond the pale crass and disgusting, or really humorless and meanspirited. 

Lenina Crowne
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 2:44am

Guns of Navarone is my favorite action movie, hands down. Escape from LA is my favorite bad action movie to watch ironically.

Least favorite? Hmm…. I guess the second Transformers movie also. That or Stealth. And I was never able to get through Octopussy. I got through Moonraker but I couldn’t get through Octopussy.

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 3:38am

For action movies I’d also go with Raiders of the Lost Ark or Scaramouche (epic swordfighting should count for something) or Death Race 2000 (satirical comedy action movie?).

Least favorite I’d go with Quentin Tarantino.

Carl Eusebius
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 6:48am

My favorite action movie is Aliens, because it has the perfect blend of tension, action, and humor, and it believably creates a situation in which an untrained amateur is better equipped to handle a dangerous enemy than a team of military veterans, without making those veterans look bumbling and clownish. And the lines! “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit.” “Game over, man!” “Why don’t you put her in charge?” ” I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.” “They mostly come at night…mostly.”

Least has to be The Boondock Saints. I despise films that expect us to cheer for reprehensible people doing horrible things, especially when they’re constantly spouting terrible faux-Tarantino dialogue while the director rips off the visual style of Guy Ritchie at his worst. Plus, it completely wastes a decent Willem Dafoe performance, giving me flashbacks to Body of Evidence, and that’s never a good thing.

Lenina Crowne
reply to  Carl Eusebius
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 7:02am

Oh, I forgot about The Boondock Saints. Yeah, that sucked. Sluggishly paced, too. Not nearly enough action going on, and the action that was going on was tension-free because apparently God (and by God I mean Troy Duffy) had blessed the brothers in their killing-things quest so no harm could ever come to them.

reply to  Carl Eusebius
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 11:09am

I’m saving “Aliens” for “favourite science fiction film”. :-)

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 6:29pm

I’m not sure what my favorite is, but there’s a good chance it was choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen.