Spoiler: Top 10 honourable mentions and the latter half of my overall Top 20: 11. Total Recall Probably pretty controversial not to have this in my Top 10, especially as an avid and lifelong Schwarzenegger fan, but there were always small things that took me slightly out of the experience and when the film's goal is to simulate a RPG and world-building experience ("You are not you, you are me" is a direct reference to this) it's pretty essential that this doesn't happen. Most will probably disagree, but for a film that takes place on a mining colony on Mars it sure looks a lot like it was filmed in 1989 in Mexico City and while they have advanced methods of implanting memories into people's brains and have mastered the technology to create a biosphere on another planet, they're still rocking short-shorts, Hawaiian shirts and perms. Might sound nit-picky but I've been watching this movie continuously since I was a kid and I can't help but focus on the mundane details at this point. That said it was still very ahead of its time in many respects, especially with the themes of virtual reality and immersive video games, with some very impressive SFX that still hold up today in my opinion, as well as some fairly graphic violence. Also, the sleazy 80's aesthetic does have its place and charms, especially with the Mars stripclubs and bars, it almost feels like Deadwood in space with the dirty hyper-capitalism that takes place in unregulated zones of new industry (taxi drivers literally begging for fares in the street and oxygen is commodified by a corporation who essentially run the settlement). Verhoeven followed RoboCop up with this, a pretty impressive one-two sci-fi knockout. 12. Dark Angel (I Come in Peace) Stunt coordinator and second unit director Craig R. Baxley of The Warriors, The Long Riders, Reds and Predator fame put his experience to the test when he directed his debut film Action Jackson in 1988, a cool Carl Weathers action cop film in the tradition of classic action cinema with some nods to blaxploitation cinema of the past. This gave him the chops to attempt something more ambitious and thus we have Dark Angel (I Come in Peace). I think many would dismiss this one as a throwaway action sci-fi residing in "bad movie" territory with an actor who has never been known for having a box office hit with him in the lead, and just an overall cheesy and silly plot. For me, I think the subtext of the film is more interesting than initial glance lets on. I don't want to spoil the plot but I'll point out the two key subjects this one touches on; the "war on drugs" and how it creates an infinitely more dangerous black market and funnily enough, colonialism. Other than that it delivers tons of action, cool SFX, explosions, car chases, wise-cracking buddy cop cinema bickering and more of a subdued performance from Dolph which works very well like it did in Showdown in Little Tokyo, because his partner in both films were hot-heads who constantly run their mouths. I think this film works on both levels, it's a shitload of fun but it's also somewhat thoughtful. 13. Frankenhooker As is usually the case with "trash cinema" the fart-huffers of society dismiss and deride these films as mindless garbage intended to shock, appall and say nothing of any substance. Also as is usually the case, these people are made to eat their words years later, though I'm not sure that has happened for Frankenhooker yet. On its face it's a goofy and bizarre horror comedy typical of Frank Henenlotter's work but at every step of the way this film is challenging social norms and might actually be the single most feminist movie ever made, or at least that I've ever seen. Probably pushing the boundaries of the reasonable opinion with that one but fuck it I stand by it! From the moment the main character's mother asks him what the brain with one eye in the fishtank is, to which he says he doesn't know, which implies that without a body a brain is nothing to him even though the brain is conscious and follows his prompts, to his girlfriend being shamed by those around her for being fat, to the main character scouting all the sexiest hookers in town to chop up and create the perfect body for his girlfriend's head to be placed on surgically, this whole movie is a commentary on the objectification of the female body and the complete neglect of the female mind. And of course Henenlotter does this with zero preachiness, pretentiousness, dryness and instead makes you laugh constantly at the insanity of the main character, the slapstick splatter, his obsession with ramming a drill into his brain to calm his mind and think, and contains one of the best anti-drug monologues in cinema history. The hooker orgy crack party scene is also cinematic gold. 14. Jacob's Ladder A post-Vietnam psychological horror film that wants to be Lynchian on purpose and unintentionally plays out like Hollywood's answer to Combat Shock. This film would be instantly improved if the horror elements weren't used for jumpscares that flash on the screen for a second and then vanish but rather went with the true Lynchian approach wherein the horror puts itself in front of your eyes and waits there while you try to process what you're seeing. That's a true nightmare, something that's still there after you blink. That said, the more mundane slice-of-life scenes in this film really breathe and make you wish they dropped the blatant horror elements altogether. The way director Adrian Lyne captures the grief, PTSD and generally dirty and dilapidated existence of Jacob is the strength of the film, as well as Tim Robbins who acted his ass off here. I think Jacob's Ladder is a prime example of what a "flawed masterpiece" is. 15. Death Warrant Of all the prison films I've seen I never would have thought one of the more claustrophobic and hellish in the genre would also be a JCVD movie. All fans of action cinema should see this one even just once to see a pretty terrorized performance from JCVD. He's almost always covered in sweat, grit and blood in this one. 16. Dances With Wolves There's enough analysis on this film, as well as accolades and reviews etc so I won't bother, but visually speaking this movie is breathtaking. Dean Semler was the cinematographer for this one and he has a pretty impressive catalogue including other visually stunning films like Mad Max 2 and 3, Farewell to the King, Waterworld, The Bone Collector, We Were Soldiers, Apocalypto and Appaloosa. His style really adds nicely to the overall epic way in which the story plays out and makes you not want to take your eyes off the screen, even when the film admittedly gets into dull territory. 17. Hard to Kill Seagal was in 2 films in 1990 and they're wedged between 2 other vastly superior Seagal films, but ironically both 1990 films have more plot than the bookending 2 which actually speaks to what makes a great action film; less plot, more action. Steven Seagal is frankly a shit actor, one of the worst of all the action stars, and this becomes blatantly obvious whenever a film requires him to show any emotions or dynamics other than vengeance and violence. Action stars come across best when the director can rein in their hyper-masculine egos long enough to get competent scenes and lines from them, without snuffing out that same ego that makes them so great to begin with. I think Hard to Kill's biggest issue is that director Bruce Malmuth treated Seagal as if he was Stallone, who played the lead in his previous film Nighthawks, but Stallone has acting chops to some degree and Seagal has none. So instead we get a tonally confused, somewhat strangely paced political action thriller that feels very uneven. When it's sticking to the machismo and violence it rules, but when it retreats into emotional territory or anything that even remotely tries to portray Seagal's character's humanity the limitations become immediately obvious. Just my opinion though, many probably don't care, and it's not like I think it sucks. It's Seagal. 18. Men at Work This movie is genuinely hilarious. In the pre-Youtube days I would pop the VHS on all the time just to fast-forward to certain scenes before turning it off. The first half of the film is especially some of the greatest, funniest, most slacker and working class shit I have ever seen. The gimmick of brothers or family members doing films together is old at this point, but having these 2 dudes together in 1990 with Emilio (who also directed the film) playing the hot-headed brother and Charlie playing the laid-back brother was probably pretty fucking cool at the time. Their utterly dismal, lazy, minimalist existence is the perfect setting for the content and the addition of Keith David as a veteran having flashbacks as he terrorizes the two main characters in an attempt to help them is pure comedy gold. This is the working week answer to Weekend at Bernie's. One of the greatest scenes ever: 19. The Rookie Another film with Charlie Sheen, this time teaming up with Clint Eastwood in a buddy cop film that can only be described as meta as fuck, a literal reference to Eastwood handing down the mantle of action star to a younger actor, culminating in the leaving-behind of police work (acting) and becoming Sheen's boss (director). This is some fun shit, with Eastwood being the surly older veteran shitting all over Sheen as often as he can, with Raúl Juliá playing an ice cold villain, and his second in charge is a dominatrix who actually rapes Eastwood while he's strapped to a chair... 20. Marked for Death Combine Dark Angel (I Come in Peace) and Marked for Death and you basically have Predator 2 lmao. This one suffers from the opposite problems of Hard to Kill, in that it places its focus on the action and the pacing is good, but it has such a non-story that it actually veered into the territory of almost too cartoonish and stupid to handle. The depiction of Jamaican gangsters for example is so utterly ridiculous it feels like it came from a comic book, not from director Dwight H. Little who I know for doing Murder at 1600. Oh well, the action makes up for it and Keith David makes another appearance here.