Nightwaves #010: Who Was The Best 80s Action Star?

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Apr 24, 2013

So it’s April 24th, the sun has been working hard to come out and the temperature hasn’t been ideal but I think it’s an ideal time to get Nightwaves fired up again. Sea, sex and sun is on the horizon and there couldn’t be a more fit way to celebrate its coming than to honour some of the most exciting and prolific action stars from the 80s. A time when films didn’t really have to have elaborate plot lines if they were chock full of blood, guts, machine guns, flexing biceps and nude women. These guys helped to define masculinity and style at a time when the living was good and the champagne flowed like the salmon of capastrano. In this edition of Nightwaves I consider each icon and let the music do the talking….who was the best action star of the 80s??

First up we have Thomas Cruise Mapother IV who before he became an actor was a Franciscan seminary student. Who would have thought that he would be taking risks in Risky Business, playin with the boys in Top Gun teaching us how to be a bar tender playboy in Cocktail? Despite his current madness and the fact that he never really was an action star, this guy used to be on top of the 80s game.

In this world of blood, guts, guns, glory and girls, one man really knew how to get it going with his action hero physique and european flair. Sylvester Stallone is undeniably the action star archetype with massive roles such as Rocky and Rambo. Nevertheless, a less well know yet equally impressive 80s action role was his bad ass presence in Cobra as a tough as nails street cop.

I know Patrick Swayze can’t be considered as one of the quintessential action heros of the 80s but I think he deserves to be on this list as perhaps no one else in this group, other than Cruise or perhaps Gibson and Ford had much ability to attract a female audience. Although he never played a lethal assassin or martial artist, but only a tough bouncer in Roadhouse and hockey player in Youngblood his ability to impress the opposite sex was second to none.

Ya he wasn’t in the gym pumping out reps until he was red in the face, ya he wasn’t destroying men with his bare hands but it is undeniable that Harrison Ford was an exciting action star albeit of a different breed in Star Wars and Indiana Jones. What was so great about these roles is that he appeared to be more of a tough guy manning up against villains who often outclassed him in the muscle department. Ford: a real man’s man.

Ya it was the late 80s but officer John McClane of Die Hard was one of the hardest action heros. Bruce Willis didn’t need the spin kicking martial arts pretty boy BS and kept it simple with a perfectly timed punch to the face. Simple and effective. This guy would kick your ass with attitude and so he deserves to be on this list.


This Scandinavian Dolph Lundgren is a beast. Sure he didn’t really have any major roles but he was a real life action hero. He was a director, martial artist and held 3 chemistry degrees. If that wasn’t enough he was Grace Jones’s body guard who he seduced and moved to New York with. In New York he even worked the doors of a club with Chazz Palminteri.

I have to admit that his only big action roles of the 80s were Escape from New York and Big trouble in little China but these were impressive action films. In Big trouble in little China Kurt Russel was able to best Chinese demon Gods all while keeping his mullet flowing in perfect form. This is another regular guy who stayed cool and got shit done without wasting countless hours at the gym.

Mel Gibson the road warrior that was Mad Max as well as Martin Riggs of Lethal weapon earn him a spot in this list as these films were as exhilarating as they were entertaining. Nevertheless, I think that it is the dark character of Mad Max that really cemented him as an action star in the 80s. There is nothing more lethal, more dangerous, more unpredictable and more intense than a man who seeks revenge.

Jean Claude Van Damme the muscles from Brussels is simply the man. This guy looked like he could fight and actually could partaking in high level martial arts as a hobby (18 wins in 19 fights as a kickboxer). His cool calm and collected Machismo allowed him to best enemies and never appear like he had lost control unlike some of the other stars on this list. Nevertheless he really did live the 80s party lifestyle burning out at the top of his game by his own admission taking around ten grams of blow per day…spending quality time with some serious lookers…..

Was there really a competition here? Some of the guys on this list could be described as good action heros but I think Arnie was probably the best on any metric. He pumped hard, basically began the cult of personal fitness which now has spread all over the globe, won Mr. Olympia, played maniacal robotic assassins, heroic army generals and ruthless barbarians crushing skulls with his bare hands. He also had the hard partying womanizing attitude of the 80s that arguably led him to the governorship of California. Chapeau…

Thanks for giving this a read and I hope to hear from some of you about my picks. Who do you think was the best? Next Nightwaves: Female Fashion Icons of the 80s.




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Le Castell

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