When it comes to action movies, bigger is always better. For this reason, directors must seek out new and exciting ways to create massive explosions, car, plane and helicopter crashes as well as memorable over-the-top villains and swoon-worthy heroes. For instance, if you consider where the Fast & Furious franchise started and the direction it took after the fourth movie, it becomes fairly obvious that action movie fans love well… action. And a LOT of it.
With all that action on screen, there is bound to be some hidden and not-so-hidden behind-the-scenes details that sometimes find their way into the actual film. On this list are just a few, perhaps lesser known facts, that make action movies even more interesting.
Potential spoilers ahead.
10 The Expendables—2010
Although the first movie in the Expendables franchise received lukewarm reviews in 2010, it became an instant hit with action movie fans and a massive commercial success. Starring big names such as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Mickey Rourke, the plot entails a group of elite mercenaries who work together to overthrow a Latin American dictator.
Filming didn’t come without behind-the-scenes drama, however. Stallone reportedly suffered at least 14 injuries, including a neck fracture that left him with a metal plate in his neck. The injury reportedly happened during a fight scene with Steve Austin. And at one point, Austin was standing too close to a stunt explosion and his leg would have been blown clean off if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was standing next to a heavy-duty airbag which took most of the hit.
9 John Wick—2014
When John Wick exploded onto screens in 2014, fans couldn’t get enough of Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of Wick. The violent action flick scored a cool 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and people queued in long lines at movie theaters to see the character dubbed Baba Yaga or the ‘boogeyman’ in action. However, Baba Yaga isn’t actually a version of the boogeyman. Instead it is a mythical Russian witch who lures people into her home before eating them. She walks around on chicken legs, travels by means of a flying mortar and the hut she lives in is protected by a fence constructed of human bones.
Somehow, I don’t think John Wick would have had quite the same impact on fans if he had been running around on chicken legs.
8 Rise of the Planet of the Apes – 2011
Ceasar is arguably the most popular character in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The extremely intelligent and loyal chimpanzee suffers abuse inside an animal shelter alongside many other great apes. Eventually, during an uprising, the apes escape the shelter and its abusive staff and establish a new home in the forest.
The scene in which Ceasar says his first word, “no”, pays tribute to past films released in the 70s. Rise of the Planet of the Apes also brings the franchise together in the scene where a spaceship is launched. This ship is meant to recall Heston’s crew which had gone off on a mission in Planet of the Apes.
Furthermore, after the apes break free from their prison, four leaders appear in a single shot: Maurice, Ceasar, Buck and Rocket. Together they represent the four species of apes, namely: Bonobo, Chimpanzee, Gorilla and Orangutan.
7 Mad Max: Fury Road – 2015
This over-the-top post-apocalyptic movie scored big with fans worldwide, grossing almost 400 million. Producers have been champing at the bit to make the film since 1997, but every time they were about to get started, a stumbling block was thrown their way. In 2001, just as they were ready to begin filming, 9/11 happened. By the time they were ready again in 2003, the Iraq War thew a spanner in the works.
The movie was finally completed in 2013 and the premiere took place in May 2015. It was clear to see the effort that had gone into the making of the movie with more than 80% of the stunts and effects being real and not created with the help of CGI.
Fury Road also caused some controversy with people complaining about what they claimed to be a pro-feminist agenda pushed in the film. The complaint stemmed from the amount of screen time given to Charlize Theron’s character and the fact that Eve Ensler material was used. Ensler is the author of The Vagina Monologues. There was even a call for a boycott of the film by Men’s Rights Activists.
Science fiction action film, Interstellar, was an absolute hit at the box office in 2014 and its ending left viewers gaping at the screen.
Any movie set in space requires a lot of research and the ideas that formed the core of Interstellar’s plot came from Dr. Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate. He agreed that his ideas may be used but insisted that no content in the movie contradict the laws of science and that any scientific speculation would be provided by a scientist and not a screenwriter. This didn’t stop filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, from deciding that the characters should travel faster than the speed of light. It took Thorne a full two weeks to dissuade Nolan from that notion.
5 Furious 7—2015
Furious 7 is the seventh instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise but will forever be known as the last film to feature the late Paul Walker. Walker was in the process of filming scenes for Furious 7 when he died in a car crash on 30 November 2013. James Wan directed the movie and it ended up grossing over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, the highest-grossing franchise film in only two weeks.
What some may find surprising is that Paul Walker wasn’t the filmmakers’ first choice to play Brian O’Conner. Instead they considered Eminem, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale before finally settling on Walker. After the release of Furious 7, it was revealed that Denzel Washington had been offered a role in the movie which he turned down. The role then went to Kurt Russell.
4 Baby Driver – 2017
Baby Driver is not your average paint-by-numbers action flick. Instead, it combines a killer soundtrack and an unexpected, partially hearing-impaired hero for a violent yet original thrill-ride that movie-goers loved.
Director, Edgar Wright, came up with the idea for Baby Driver in 1994 when he heard the song “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosions. This same song can be heard during the opening sequence of the movie. He was further inspired by a lot of movies that featured car chases including The Italian Job, Vanishing Point, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Blues Brothers.
It also took at least 18 months to get clearance for the music tracks featured in the movie, before shooting could even start, beginning with popular duo Simon & Garfunkel.
3 The First Purge – 2018
Serving as a prequel to the previous three films in the franchise, The First Purge further explores the movement to push the crime rate in America below 1% for a year by allowing 12 hours of lawlessness. While this dystopian action horror movie is definitely not for the faint of heart and is referred to by many as a B-movie in disguise, it has somewhat of a cult following. The series to date has earned more than 300 million dollars and cost only 23 million to make.
James DeMonaco was involved in creating and directing all the Purge movies with the exception of The First Purge. When DeMonaco was a child, he became obsessed with the Manson murders and has admitted that the insane Manson cult still has an influence over everything that he writes.
Even with the absence of DeMonaco in The First Purge, there is still a lot of small details and symbolism included that fans may have missed the first time they watched the film. For instance, a poster for the 2018 Halloween movie can be seen during a scene in The First Purge, but this muddles up the timeline for the movie itself as the Purge was meant to have been established in 2017.
There is also a recurring blue motif in The First Purge that becomes almost overpowering once you notice it. It colors the New Founding Fathers of America’s campaign signs, flags and pins. There are mercenaries wearing blue hoodies and even bright blue contact lenses for Isaiah who is bathed in blue light and framed against blue walls.
2 6 Underground—2019
6 Underground made its debut on Netflix and stars Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Corey Hawkins and Dave Franco. Directed by Michael Bay, this film follows an American billionaire (played by Reynolds) who fakes his own death and forms a vigilante squad to take out terrorists and other violent criminals.
While the movie’s reviews weren’t all that great, most action fans love it. It was shot in Abu Dhabi and includes all the features that makes an action movie: loud explosions, car crashes and impossibly attractive people. In other words, a typical Michael Bay film.
It was Michael Bay’s first effort for Netflix and the streaming giant’s second most expensive film after Bright, starring Will Smith. The movie stars real-life UAE soldiers that stand in as extras and the military also provided aircraft for use in several scenes. The yacht seen in the film was rented from Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American billionaire who owns Flex-N-Gate and the NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars.
1 Bad Boys for Life—2020
Fans of the Bad Boys movies waited patiently for 17 years for the third film to see the light of day. Bad Boys for Life was released early 2020 and grossed over 400 million dollars. It is also the highest-grossing movie released in January.
Michael Bay directed the first two Bad Boys movies, but the third was directed by Adil El Arbi and Billal Farrah, two young Belgian directors. Will Smith was co-producer alongside Jerry Bruckheimer and Doug Belgrad. Bay had a small cameo as a wedding MC in the film which he directed himself using his well-known 360-degree camera angle. This scene creates a plot hole however, since Bay also had a cameo in the second movie in which he plays the driver of a car hijacked by Mike and Marcus.
It was also because of Michael Bay’s constant fighting with the studio during the first Bad Boys movie, that a sequel and consequent third film ever saw the light. Bay complained that he had to battle the studio to get a lot of creative choices approved. He also had multiple fights with the crew who tried to resist Bay’s unique scene cut method. This method was eventually imitated by other directors after the release of the first film.