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5 bad ‘80s action movies that you still need to watch

On a good day, a bad action movie can still be entertaining if you go into it knowing what to expect. Sometimes that can be difficult when the ’80s had some of the biggest swings in the genre that didn’t always work. We’ve previously gone over the bad action movies from the ’90s and the bad action movies from the 2000s. Now, it’s finally time to look at the five bad ’80s action movies that you still need to watch.

Our picks include one movie each for Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, although neither actor pulls out all the stops in their respective films. Our other choices include a supernatural ninja possession, Eddie Murphy, and Carl Weathers’ attempt to become a solo star.

Action Jackson (1988)

Carl Weathers in Action Jackson.
Lorimar Film Entertainment

You can’t blame Rocky and Predator veteran Carl Weathers for making a play to be a solo action star. Although somebody deserves the blame for Action Jackson, an ’80s action film that kind of plays like a ’70s Blaxploitation flick. Weathers stars Sergeant Jericho Jackson aka Action Jackson, a Detroit cop who is demoted after investigating a corrupt automotive executive, Peter Anthony Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson).

Regardless of his diminished reputation, Action Jackson recruits Dellaplane’s mistress, Sydney Ash (Vanity), to help him bring down his nemesis. However, Dellaplane strikes first by framing Jackson for the murder of his wife, Patrice Dellaplane (Sharon Stone).

Rent or buy Action Jackson on Google Play, Prime Video, YouTube, or Apple TV+.

Cobra (1986)

Sylvester Stallone walks forward in a scene from Cobra.
Warner Bros. Pictures

If you asked an A.I. program to create the ultimate Sylvester Stallone generic flick, then it would probably come out better than Cobra. But it wouldn’t be nearly as funny, and Cobra has some genuinely hilarious unintended humor. Stallone stars in the film as Lieutenant Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a Los Angeles Police Department veteran who faces the threat of New World, a gang of murderous social Darwinists.

When model Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen) unwittingly witnesses the head of New World murder someone, Cobretti takes it upon himself to keep Ingrid safe. Unfortunately for Cobretti, even his minor celebrity can’t prevent the New World from making multiple attempts on Ingrid’s life, and his own.

Rent or buy Cobra on Google Play, Prime Video, YouTube, or Apple TV+.

The Golden Child (1987)

Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child.
Paramount Pictures

If you wanted to look up when Eddie Murphy’s movie career started to go off the rails, then The Golden Child would probably mark that occasion. Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance co-stars as Sardo Numspa, the man who kidnapped a mystically empowered boy on behalf of his dark masters.

Murphy’s Chandler Jarrell is a social worker who is recruited to work on the case by Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis), a woman who senses that Chandler will be the one to recover the Golden Child before it is too late.

Watch The Golden Child on Max.

Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

Lucinda Dickey in Ninja III: The Domination.
MGM

Don’t be intimidated by the III in Ninja III: The Domination. In this case, age is just a number, and it has about as much to do with the previous Ninja films as Halloween III: Season of the Witch did for the Halloween movie franchise. This is truly a cult film among cult films, and it earned its place on the list because of its audacious premise.

Christie Ryder (Lucinda Dickey) is just your average telephone line worker/part-time aerobics instructor when she comes across a dying ninja, Hanjuro (David Chung). Before he dies, Hanjuro gives Christine his sword, and apparently his mind as well, because soon after, she intermittently becomes possessed by Hanjuro’s spirit. Christine’s new love interest, police officer Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett), is on the ninja’s hit list along with his fellow boys in blue. And if Billy can’t find a way to free Christine’s body from this ninja possession, then the killer may come after him next.

Ninja III: The Domination is not available online.

Red Heat (1988)

James Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat.
Tri-Star Pictures

Are you ready for Rush Hour 1.0? Red Heat has a plot that is very similar to the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan action flick that came out ten years later. But Red Heat‘s notoriety largely stems from its laughable attempt to make Arnold Schwarzenegger convincing as a Russian cop, Captain Ivan Danko.

Danko comes to America because he learns that the man who killed his partner, Viktor Segdavich Rostavili (Ed O’Ross), has been sighted in the United States. While in America, Detective Sergeant Art Ridzik (James Belushi) is assigned to be Danko’s host to keep him out of trouble. But when Rostavili murders Ridzik’s partner as well, he forges a new partnership with Danko to bring down their mutual foe.

Rent Red Heat on Vudu.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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