Action and adventure
One of the most groundbreaking science-fiction films of all time, The Matrix cast Keanu Reeves as hacker hero Neo, who’s pulled out of the simulated reality he lives in to confront a terrible truth: That the world has been conquered by machines that keep humanity docile in an artificial existence in order to harvest their heat and electrical energy. Believed to be a prophesied savior of humanity, Neo must use all of the tools at his disposal — including some wild kung-fu skills and a seemingly endless arsenal of powerful weapons — to take down mankind’s machine oppressors. Directed by the sibling Wachowski filmmakers, The Matrix received high praise from critics and audiences alike when it hit theaters with its blend of martial arts action and cyberpunk aesthetics, along with its innovative “bullet time” visual effect — all of which contributed to the film’s four Academy Awards. Two sequels followed the original film’s release, along with a host of spinoff projects in video games, animation, and comic books, among other media.
A Fistful of Dollars
Clint Eastwood makes his debut as The Man With No Name in this 1964 film directed by Sergio Leone. The Western drama was Eastwood’s first leading role, and it went on to spawn a trilogy of films featuring the character — a lone gunslinger in a harsh frontier filled with bandits and criminals. An unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo, the film has Eastwood’s character playing rival gangs against each other in the little town of San Miguel, only to find himself forced to play the hero when his machinations put innocent people in danger.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Although it sounds like a pulpy action movie, Brawl in Cell Block 99 takes a while to build up to its titular melee, unwinding slowly as its lead character gets deeper into trouble. The film follows Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), who loses his job only to come home and discover that his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), is cheating on him. After smashing her car with his bare hands, Bradley decides to work on their marriage, the first sign that this is a film that doesn’t fit into easy categorization. Bradley also turns to crime in order to pay the bills, and that decision leads him down a dark and violent path. Brawl in Cell Block 99 treads a narrow line between highbrow and low; Bradley is a fascinating character, and the movie explores his complicated mindset, but there is also violence aplenty for those who want to see some action.
The Boondock Saints
This crazy action flick follows the McManus twins (Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery), who kill some Russian mafia members in self-defense following a St. Patrick’s Day brawl. After turning themselves in, the two receive a vision from God, which tells them to become vigilantes and hunt down the wicked to protect the innocent. The two go on a spectacular killing spree, inspired by classic Hollywood action films, and are tracked all the while by an unorthodox detective (Willem Dafoe) and a dangerous mob associate (Billy Connolly). The film’s unique action sequences and a jaw-dropping performance by Dafoe begat a cult following, and the film launched Reedus — who eventually went on to play Daryl on The Walking Dead — into the spotlight.