Not everything from the 80s is a fashion catastrophe or politically incorrect nightmare. You only have to watch Stranger Things to see the tremendous value in a lot of that decade’s trends to confirm that. When it comes to movies though, a lot of tropes, conventions, and storytelling devices have been left on the side of the road, rarely used and even forgotten.
Some were rightly abandoned because there’s only so much time you can spend devoted to explaining the “nuance” of a thing before it becomes not worth it. Others deserve not only a resurrection but a resurgence into the mainstream. Here are the 80’s best and worst that we either miss or wish we couldn’t remember.
10 Don’t: Uninteresting Love Interest
The unwanted child of bad executive meddling resulted in this paper-thin attempt to bring in the female demographic. For some very condescending reasons, studios would insist that to bring in female movie-goers there had to be a female love interest involved in almost every action movie. The best action movies didn’t need one, like Predator, or incorporated them as integral story elements, like Terminator. For every good one, there were twenty terrible ones, and we never want to see that type of one-dimensional character waste our time again. You’re interrupting the explosions, lady!
9 Do: The Prophecy
It seemed for a time like almost every action hero was involved somehow in a prophecy, or a foretold future, or something historical. Nowadays, most heroes are thrust into the fight by severe circumstances and while there’s nothing wrong with that, even Star Wars is burning its traditions at this point.
The closest we’ve come to a quality prophetical hero recently is Harry Potter and a phoenix core wand can’t really hold up to a Winchester, no matter how many inches. If an original hero story comes along with a good old prophecy and Chosen One enough time has passed that we’re ready to go with it.
8 Don’t: I’m Not From Here! Look At My Crazy Passport!
It should go without saying at this point, but then someone botches it up and it needs saying all over again. Shelve the “bad guys are bad because they aren’t from here” stories. The token foreigner who “must be bad because… accent” holds no water anymore and is too basic for anyone to believe. The best bad guys often hit close to home. Look at the MCU, where the more foreign seeming enemies like in the Iron Man and Thor sequels ended up especially forgettable. Then check out Loki, Thanos, and Killmonger who all came from close to home, and were characters we loved proving to be far superior foes.
7 Do: Awesome Henchbros
One of the unsung heroes (villains) of the action 80s was the amazing second-bananas in the evil hierarchies. Hans Gruber had Karl, Dick Jones had Clarence Boddicker, and who could forget loyal, dependable, Joker’s “Number One!”, Bob. These types of quirky, reveling in violence, characters need to make a comeback.
The trick was that they were almost as big a threat to the hero at certain points as the main villain but differentiated in particular ways. Karl was erratic to Hans’ cool. Boddicker loved getting his hands dirty while Jones worked from the boardroom. Bob was predictable while Joker was a loose live-wire on a timebomb. They only exist to improve movies, and that never needed to change.
6 Don’t: I Was On Vacation/Retiring!
For a minute it seemed like every action hero specifically got into situations only when off the clock. Something apparently scheduled their dates with destiny only when they had tickets booked for a trip or to celebrate getting that gold watch for retiring and it’s lame. The proven example is the last Die Hard where cranky, surly John McClane’s dialogue amounted to “I was on vacation” no matter how many missiles he avoided and it got old and bitter quicker than he has.
5 Do: Smoke Em If You Got Em
Due to various petition groups and a general sense of wanting to limit exposure, drugs/smoking have largely disappeared from mainstream action movies, but they shouldn’t stay gone. Some of the best villains and even a few heroes were completely off their heads and it adds a nice volatile element to what can become routine proceedings.
The Dredd film that introduced the beautifully cinematic Slo-Mo drug is the closest we’ve come to this lately and it shows exactly why these mind-bending “medicinals” still have their place when bullets begin flying.
4 Don’t: Bring A Rookie To Die
The Expendables and DOOM tried this and it hasn’t worked since the 80s for good reason. Something about a fresh-faced, bright-eyed, never-not-nicknamed “Rook” or “The Kid” being used as an exposition tool and “things just got serious” early death is thoroughly played out. The panicky, twitchy soldier among the seasoned vets never rang true anyway. They were always on an obvious countdown to getting blown away and when they crop up now everyone just checks their watch out of frustration.
3 Do: Training Montage
There’s a reason that this trope cropped up in nearly every movie for a while and it’s because there’s nothing quite like watching someone gear up/get buff/set traps to appropriate music. This element is like the downhill rush on the rollercoaster, right before you enter the loops and twists of the climactic battle/race/court decision etc… It’s the affirmation of the hero’s badass progression. Their ascension towards the throne.
Their preparation for victory or death. It speaks to us in a primal, wordless pulse and it only got put on the back burner because it was overused and exploited. With proper restraint, these could come back and absolutely reclaim their place at the peak of action tropes.
2 Don’t: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed/Die/Show Pain
The invincible hero was awesome and fun for its time but unless you ham it up, modern cinema-goers can’t buy it. When thousands of bullets are deemed useless how can anyone buy the danger and therefore invest in the action? Ironically the original Die Hard proved this best only for the most recent ones to fail the lesson. Some of the most awesome modern action heroes like Taken‘s Brian Mills or John Wick’s….. John Wick displayed supreme skillsets, preparation, armor, and still remembered to look haggard and beaten down when it mattered. There’s always time to bleed.
1 Do: The One Liner
It couldn’t be anything else, could it? They aren’t strictly speaking dead but they are too few and far between for how much they can enlarge a movie’s badass quotient. Only the stoic John Wick has dabbled with them recently, and he’s laconic at the best of times. Also, “Consider this a professional courtesy” isn’t quite cheesy enough to fill the hole in our hearts for the classic quip. Even Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is more likely to spew an entire withering barrage than stick to a short, devastating pun and he’s surely the prime candidate to revive the art. After all, the man made his bones in the land of catchphrases and has a knack for getting entire arenas to chant anything even slightly fun that escapes his lips. So, for the good of everyone, Dear Dwayne, we would like to smell what you’re cooking, preferably in the form of some seismic one-liners, please.
NEXT: 10 Worst Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Movies (According To Rotten Tomatoes)