Top 10 Action Comedies
“I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”
– Kirk Lazarus, “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
From “48 Hours” to “Last Action Hero” to “Kick-Ass,” action films can reach greater audiences if they merge just the right amount of comedy into the adventure (or vice versa). And when that ratio is virtually 50/50, it becomes a completely different type of movie. In honor of one of the most entertaining guilty-pleasure subgenres, film critic Joel Massie takes a look back at the best of the half-suspenseful, half-riotous projects that make us laugh while offering up regular jolts of adrenaline.
10. Demolition Man (1993)
Though “Demolition Man” contains plenty of realistic brutality, the entire premise lends itself to constant comedy through euphemisms, misunderstandings, and clever commentary on the very nature of violence. Everything deemed “not good for you” is outlawed in this tranquil future, which loose-cannon cop John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) disapproves of rather strongly.
Best Action: Spartan fights maniacal super-villain Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) in the firearms exhibit at a museum.
Funniest Moment: John Spartan violates the Verbal Morality Statute. Many, many times.
9. Men in Black (1997)
Perfectly complimenting each other, super serious Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) initiates cocky, sarcastic Agent Jay (Will Smith) into the world of the Men in Black and their unique job of policing alien interaction on Earth. The quest to save the galaxy from a gigantic “bug” offers high-flying sci-fi action with cool gadgetry and massive weapons.
Best Action: “Oh, the red button there kid, don’t ever, ever touch the red button!” “Push the little red button.”
Funniest Line: Jay gets a tiny gun. “Hey, Kay, nah – nah. Come on, man, you get a Series Four De-atomizer and I get a little – little midgy cricket?”
8. Rush Hour (1998)
While “The Legend of Drunken Master” is likely Jackie Chan’s most visually entertaining action comedy, “Rush Hour” presents the martial artist as the fish-out-of-water detective who must not only attempt to rescue his boss’ daughter, but also put up with the foul-mouthed rants of Chris Tucker. The mismatched duo brings plenty of appeal with their offbeat conversations, impressive fighting styles, and renditions of “War.”
Best Action: Chan gets in a bar-room brawl.
Funniest Line: Carter botches the ransom negotiations. “Okay, would you like fries with that?”
7. The Fifth Element (1997)
One of the most stylistic movies ever made also happens to be one of the funniest action-comedy sci-fi epics out there. Visionary director Luc Besson makes the end of the world look good and Milla Jovovich brings sex appeal to medical bandages. What other film can boast those achievements?
Best Action: “Anyone else want to negotiate?”
Funniest moment: Nefarious arms dealer and crime boss Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) almost chokes to death on a cherry.
6. Hot Fuzz (2007)
As with his previous film, “Shaun of the Dead,” Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz” cleverly mocks and pays homage to the genre it inhabits. Nick Frost plays the funny man to Simon Pegg’s no-nonsense cop and the murder mystery plot rapidly escalates into a full blown action fiesta.
Best Action: Supercop Nicholas Angel takes out a shotgun-toting old lady and then proceeds to utterly demolish the “Village of the Year” in a giant firefight.
Funniest Line: “Is it true that there’s a point on a man’s head where if you shoot it, it will blow up?”
5. Desperado (1995)
Over-the-top action interspersed with hilarious cameos make “Desperado” a non-stop thrill-ride. Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, and Quentin Tarantino steal their scenes with expert comic timing, while hyper-violent shootouts fill in the rest of this bloody ode to Spaghetti Westerns.
Best Action: El Mariachi runs out of guns, but not ways to kill people, in the bar shootout.
Funniest Line: “No man, bartender got it worse than anybody.” – Buscemi
4. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
While its two predecessors definitely had their comedic moments, it wasn’t until the third chapter and the introduction of John McClane’s reluctant “partner” Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) that the franchise pushed its way into hardcore action-comedy territory. “Live Free or Die Hard” also attempted to capitalize on the formula, but Justin Long just didn’t curse as much as Samuel L. Jackson.
Best Action: McClane takes a short cut through Central Park.
Funniest Moment: McClane: “This thing got airbags?” Zeus: “Your side does, I don’t know about mi-“
3. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Arguably the pinnacle of Eddie Murphy’s movie career, “Beverly Hills Cop” showcased the comedian’s fast-talking, obnoxious rants while mixing in the fish-out-of-water and buddy cop staples. A testament to the comedic genius at work, hundreds of takes were ruined because cast and crew members couldn’t stop laughing at Murphy’s hilarious improv.
Best Action: The strip club scene.
Funniest Moment: Every time Axel Foley needs to weasel his way out of trouble, you know it’s going to be good.
2. Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
It’s hard to pinpoint the best film in the “Lethal Weapon” series, but the fourth installment practically perfected the blend of over-the-top action and hysterical comedy. Pretty much every character in the movie gets to throw around some one-liners. Except for Jet Li. He’s just really serious all the time.
Best Action: Riggs and Murtaugh drive a car through a building.
Funniest Moment: Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) and Lee Butters (Chris Rock) explain the pitfalls of cell phones.
1. True Lies (1994)
Schwarzenegger’s been in lots of comedies and lots of action movies, but none blend the two together more capably than “True Lies.” It also doesn’t hurt to have James “I make billion-dollar movies” Cameron behind the helm.
Best Action: Harry Tasker pulls Helen from a limo before it careens off a decimated bridge (the bathroom shootout was a close second though).
Funniest Line: Everything Tom Arnold says.