5 “El Mariachi”
Robert Rodriguez said he made “El Mariachi,” his first movie, just for practice. The 1992 film follows a mariachi who becomes an unlikely action hero when he is mistaken for a murderer and draws the attention of a drug kingpin who wants him destroyed. Rodriguez shot this film for just $7,000, and he literally did everything but act—and that only because he had no one else to hold the camera. If you’ve ever seen a Rodriguez film and you’ve never seen this one, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
4 “13 Assassins”
No action movie list would be complete without at least one samurai movie, and if there’s anything better than a single samurai on a suicide mission, it’s 13 samurais on a suicide mission. There’s really no option when a brutal lord is threatening the otherwise idyllic peace of feudal Japan by hacking random villagers to bits. Most people don’t like reading while watching action movies, which is probably why this subtitled Japanese film of 2011 didn’t shine at the box office. But as with most action movies, it’s heavy on the fight scenes, light on the dialogue, so you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up.
3 “The Boondock Saints”
If you look up “cult movie” in the dictionary, you would probably find “The Boondock Saints,” which was neither an independent nor a particularly low-budget movie. In the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine shootings, fear over the film’s vigilante message and violent content meant its release was delayed and highly restricted. Talk about being in the right place at the wrong time. After the dust settled, the film quickly became a cult classic. The fervor of fans even spawned a sequel, but it’s still not a widely popular film. The only number higher than the body count is the use of a certain expletive.
This low-budget independent film never went into wide release, but if you like your romance with a dash of “Mad Max,” you’ll probably get a kick out of “Bellflower.” This 2011 film follows two friends as they live every young American’s dream—to drive around building weapons of mass destruction and blowing things up in hopes of triggering a global apocalypse. It’s a great date movie with something for everyone: a passionate love story and a car that shoots flames 40 feet in the air.
If you find it unbelievable that a 16-year-old girl could lead a cutting-edge action film as a ruthless assassin, you’ve clearly never seen the 2011 “Hanna.” Irish actress Saoirse Ronan plays the bright and stealthy title character, trained by her ex-CIA agent father—played by Eric Bana—to be an expert assassin. Predictably, there’s plenty of chasing and shooting, and even an abandoned amusement park. But along the way, Hanna learns dangerous secrets that will challenge her most deeply held beliefs about her life and existence. Just a day in the life of any teenaged girl, really.