Home > Film & stuff > ‘The Expendables 2’ Trailer is Out, So What Are Stallone’s Top 5 Action Films?

‘The Expendables 2’ Trailer is Out, So What Are Stallone’s Top 5 Action Films?

Well, there was certainly a time in my life when a Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis vehicle was only a dream. It’s of course happening with the upcoming release of The Expendables 2. I would be more excited if it weren’t for the fact that I saw The Expendables already. Two years ago, Stallone touted it as being a return to a bygone era of action films, but it just didn’t deliver. Maybe the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis will bring gravitas to the sequel. And I have to admit that I like the idea of Jean-Claude Van Damme playing Stallone’s nemesis– I’m guessing many of their dialogue-heavy scenes needed some serious ADR work.

However, Stallone has always impressed me with his hard work. The story of getting Rocky made is one of the truly great self-made, Hollywood stories. His ambition continued for much of his career. While never quite rising to Schwarzenegger’s massive star level or box office prowess, Sly wrote and directed several movies over the years, which is something that Arnie never took to. Granted, one of Schwarzenegger’s many strengths as a movie star was that he knew his limitations. Stallone went through a career period where he took himself far too seriously and tried to infuse his action films with various political or social messages; when a Rambo or Rocky sequel crosses over into preachy territory, problems occur.

Luckily for his bank account, Sly has gone back to his roots in recent years and he has managed to put out some box office successes, all of which he has at least co-written and directed. The sixth film following his most famous character, Rocky Balboa, was a surprise hit, and it is actually the best of the series, besides the original of course. The same can be said for the matter-of-factly titled Rambo, the fourth film in his second-most famous character’s franchise– besides First Blood, the film is easily the best of John Rambo’s violent exploits (and I’ll be a son of a bitch if it ain’t violent… phew). And with The Expendables 2 on the horizon, he just may have another bona fide franchise on the horizon if it makes as much or more than the first film.

Sly has had his fair share of clunkers and embarrassments over the years, but when his action films are good, they are really good. So with yesterday’s release of The Expendables 2 trailer, I decided to come up with My 5 Favorite Stallone Action Movies. I emphasize the word “action” for two reasons: first, he’s never made a comedy that’s remotely watchable (Oscar, anyone? I thought not); second, Rocky and its sequels are just not action films. The original is a great underdog drama and a fine boxing film, but punching with gloves while a referee watches is not exactly what I call action. No one is about to put Rocky up against Die Hard anytime soon.

In reverse order, here are My 5 Favorite Stallone Action Movies:

  • 5. Rambo (dir: Sylvester Stallone, 2008): One of the bloodiest action films ever, the iconic John Rambo is approached by some Christian do-gooders who ask him to escort them into a Burmese war zone. He declines and warns them of the inherent danger involved when floating unarmed into hostile territory, but they forge ahead anyway. Naturally, they are captured by the ruthless monsters that Rambo warned them about, so our brooding hero is forced to take up arms once again and lay waste to a whole mess of people. Things get bloody in a hurry.
  • 4. Demolition Man (dir: Marco Brambilla, 1993): This early-’90s action flick is definitely an example of the good ‘ol days. This fun, futuristic shoot-’em-up pits Stallone against a blonde Wesley Snipes in the year 2032. Snipes makes for a good villain and a young Sandra Bullock plays Sly’s plucky partner on the police force. The portrayal of our future society makes for some good jokes and colorful characters, including a ranting, revolutionary leader played by Denis Leary. Rated R and definitely not for young kids, this film had a HUGE crossover marketing campaign with Taco Bell, which I find hilarious.
  • 3. Cliffhanger (dir: Renny Harlin, 1993): The year of ’93 was a good one for Stallone fans. In this special effects feast, he plays Gabe, an expert mountain climber who is forced to save his friend (the underrated Michael Rooker) and gal-pal (the AWFUL Janine Turner) from a psychopath (a delightfully evil John Lithgow). What’s a lunatic doing up in Gabe’s mountains, you might ask? A robbery of a U.S. Treasury plane full of millions in cash went awry, so his loot is scattered among the wilderness. A preposterous scenario, sure, but it makes for a helluva good time.
  • 2. Cop Land (dir: James Mangold, 1997): Definitely the least action-y film on the list, but there are enough action elements to make it qualify. Stallone plays a sheriff of a small New Jersey town that is seemingly entirely populated by New York cops. Never able to become a big city policeman due to deafness in one ear, Sly tries to bring meaning to his life and do the right thing when a cover up involving his town’s not-so-law-abiding citizens can no longer be ignored. Stallone gives a legitimately touching performance in this underrated and somewhat unconventional police story that also stars Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta.
  • 1. First Blood (dir: Ted Kotcheff, 1982): What else did you expect, really? Stallone’s portrayal of Vietnam veteran John Rambo is so ingrained in popular culture that it’s sometimes easy to forget just how interesting and unusual this first film is. The film starts as Rambo comes through a small town in search of one of his war buddies. The local sheriff (Brian Dennehy) doesn’t take too kindly to this long-haired outsider, so he arrests him. After a bit of mistreatment at the hands of the local law enforcement, Rambo escapes but finds himself backed into a corner. This position proves to be a major problem for his pursuers and all of Rambo’s rage and frustration pours out in a deadly rampage. Part of what makes this first film in the Rambo series so great is that John Rambo is not exactly a clear-cut protagonist. After all, what kind of action hero is also a cop killer? No other Stallone film lives up to the legend of this true original, and it’s an action film that many others have tried to imitate without success.
Hey, Sylvester Stallone may not churn out classic films, but they are entertaining and I don’t think there’s any denying that he works hard and cares about what he does. The trailer for The Expendables 2 is below. As I mentioned before, I don’t exactly have high hopes for the film, but maybe Sly will surprise me in the same way he did with Rambo or Rocky Balboa. He may be much older than his gun-toting glory days of the ’80s and early ’90s, but I think he has proven that old action stars still have a shot at staying relevant. His pal/rival Arnold Schwarzenegger has a couple films coming out soon, so let’s hope Sly is laying the foundation for a good comeback and not an embarrassing one.

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