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The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 Action Directors

January 18, 2016 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 Action Directors

5. LEXI ALEXANDER – She’s directed two action movies so far, with the most important one being the modern classic Punisher: War Zone in 2008. She has a stunt background, is an accomplished martial artist herself, and should be a major director right now but, likely because of the box office failure of War Zone, isn’t. And I think that’s a disgrace. War Zone is a masterpiece that shows that Alexander can handle all sorts of action. Guns, explosions, hand-to-hand, and gore. She’s involved with TV now (according to imdb she’s directed an episode of Arrow), which is great and all, but she should be directing movies. She knows how to do it.

4. GEORGE P. COSMATOS – The late George P. Cosmatos directed two of the best action flicks of the 1980’s, movies that are incredibly influential to this very day. Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra, both starring Sylvester Stallone. First Blood Part II takes the intensely dramatic character of John Rambo from First Blood and amps him up for a trip to the jungles of Vietnam to find American POW’s. Some people to this day complain that Cosmatos and Stallone ruined the Rambo character and turned him into a cartoon, but I don’t buy that. It’s Rambo in his element. It’s what he does in war. It makes sense (go ahead and watch it again. You’ll see what I’m talking about). And Cobra is a lean and mean action movie that also doubles as a horror movie. That opening sequence in the supermarket is still one of the best opening sequences in movie history. Cosmatos is also responsible for one of the best modern westerns, Tombstone, which really is nothing short of amazing. Cosmatos died in 2005, having directed his last movie eight years earlier, Shadow Conspiracy. I still need to see that.

3. JOHN CARPENTER – Carpenter is often labeled a horror director, the “master of terror,” but if you look at his entire filmography you can see that he’s also an accomplished action director. His second movie, Assault on Precinct 13, is a 1970’s suspense classic. Escape From New York and its sequel Escape From L.A. gave us Snake Plissken, one of the greatest movie characters of all time. Big Trouble in Little China is one of the best kung fu comedies ever made and is still influencing people thirty years later. They Live shows us that Carpenter can do straight up action (gun fights and epic fist fights). And Vampires and Ghosts of Mars, while typically labeled horror and horror/sci-fi, are chock full of brutal action scenes that only a seasoned pro could accomplish. Carpenter is probably done making action movies, as he seems to be more interested, at the moment, in making small horror movies (like his last actual movie, The Ward). And that’s too bad. I’d love to see him do at least one more action flick. Maybe a third Plissken adventure?

2. SAM FIRSTENBERG – Firstenberg is a director who, through the ongoing 1980’s nostalgia craze, seems to be gaining a little respect, respect he really didn’t get back when he was actively directing. And that’s cool and all, but I think people really need to look at his 1980’s action movies as just movies instead of time capsules or things to look back at with ironic detachment. Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination are two classic action flicks featuring Sho Kosugi playing two different ninja characters. Revenge is an awesome ninja movie, and The Domination has one of the best opening sequences ever filmed, plus melds together the supernatural possession genre with balls-to-the-wall action. Firstenberg also directed the first two American Ninja movies, establishing both Michael Dudikoff as a bankable action star and the American Ninja franchise as a whole. Avenging Force is a great action movie in desperate need of re-watching. And in the 1990’s Firstenberg did two Cyborg Cop movies, the under-appreciated American Samurai, and the solid Delta Force 3 and Operation Delta Force. That’s a damn awesome filmography. Show the man some respect. Watch his movies.

1. ISAAC FLORENTINE– Florentine is the best action director working today, but because his movies tend to be low budget, direct-to-video affairs he doesn’t get the respect or recognition that he deserves. And that’s a shame. Much like his contemporary John Hyams (who would have been on this list if it had been a “Top 10” list), Florentine works with small budgets but somehow makes big looking movies. From his Undisputed sequels to his two Ninja movies, they’re amazing spectacles that consistently outdo the major Hollywood action movies. Even Florentine’s “lesser” movies, like Assassin’s Bullet or The Shepherd, tend to be way more interesting than the latest Bourne movie. And Florentine’s latest release, Close Range, is nothing short of a modern action classic and a prime example of what he can do with hand-to-hand and gunplay and stunt. Please, go and buy or rent Close Range and bask in its awesomeness. I can’t wait for his next movie, whatever it happens to be. I’m sure it will rock.

Steve Gustafson
5. Michael Bay – Say what you want, hate him or love him, but Michael Bay deserves to be on the list. When you walk in to see a Bay movie you know what you’re getting. Loud, over-the-top action, expensive cars, blaring explosions, unreal stunts, and thin plots. And the audience eats it up.

4. John Woo – John Woo, where are you? While it seems Woo has slowed a bit, no one can deny his impact on action. I can’t point to just one movie but his Hong Kong action films A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled should be required viewing for anyone needing an education on action movies.

3. George Miller – This may be a stretch for some of you to see but he gets on my list for his directing of the Mad Max franchise, especially the latest one, Fury Road. The action sequences were simply breathtaking and made a strong argument for why Miller is one of the best in the business.

2. James Cameron – Cameron is another director who splits fan reaction. You’re either a fan or think he’s ruining movies with his heavy reliance on special effects. You can’t deny a resume that includes movies like The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, True Lies, and Avatar, among others.

1. John McTiernanDie Hard. If McTiernan did nothing else, he’s make the list for directing the ultimate guy film of all time. Add in Predator, The Hunt for Red October, and Die Hard with a Vengeance and that’s just icing on the cake.

Wednesday Lee Friday
5. John Woo – Even though the action genre is not my first choice in viewing, it cannot be denied that John Woo wants his viewers to have a good time. He also wants to show them breathtaking footage, and takes great pains to make each frame a work of art. This is particularly true in Mission: Impossible 2 (not aptly named, since the Mission was indeed possible) when Woo selected different slo-mo times for each featured cast member. The pinnacle of his career may be 1989’s The Killer

4. Ang Lee – The incredible versatility of Ang Lee makes it almost insulting to limit him to an action film director. The Ice Storm alone is reason enough to take him seriously as a legit director. But Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the most heartbreaking “action” films ever made. This writer is also one of the few people who think Lee’s Hulk is the best version we’ve had to date.

3. Martin Brest – Film fans of a certain age remember going to see Beverly Hills Cop in the theatre, and being blown away by how exciting it was, and *ahem* how well Eddie Murphy could act. Brest doesn’t direct a ton of films, but he leaves an indelible mark on all of them. I have to say, Midnight Run more than makes up for Gigli. His movies are packed with great action, don’t feature buildings exploding in anticipation of being driven into (an action-movie peeve of mine), and the quality of the actor’s performances matter to the finished product.

2. Guy Ritchie – There’s no arguing the fact that Ritchie makes exciting, beautiful, films that remain with you long after you’ve finished watching. Modern classics like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch garnered a cult fan base almost instantly. Both Sherlock Holmes films are utterly amazing and have a high level of rewatchability. We won’t hold the fact that he was once married to Madonna against him. Guy Ritchie is cool by me.

1. Paul Michael Glaser – TV’s original David Starsky has done a ton of directing in his career, mostly television. Judging Amy episodes, Third Watch, and that Criminal Minds episode where Jason Alexander loves the fibonacci sequence. But for me, his crowning achievement is no doubt my fave 80’s action movie: The Running Man. Combining Stephen King source material, Arnold’s accent and screen presence, and casting Richard Dawson as a bad guy is a delicate dance, and Glaser created a timeless classic that holds up pretty damn well all these years later.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation