Daddy Destruction: Five Great Action Films For Father’s Day

Blow some shit up with your pops this Sunday.

Dads love action movies. It's a fact proven by science. There's nothing that papas of a certain age would like to do more than chill out on the couch and let things explode on the TV screen for 90 minutes, while they chuckle along and slap you on the shoulder, excitedly exclaiming things like "didja see that?" When you're hanging out with your dad, there's no time for romantic comedies or Shakespeare. They want war pictures, car chases, and tough dudes, all looking to show down with one another over some righteous cause.

So, in honor of these time-tested viewing traditions, this writer thought it prudent to pick five flicks to enjoy with the man who helped make you this Father's Day. Now, don't get it twisted: these aren't action movies about dads, but rather a collection of screen fireworks that are sure to put a smile on his face before he tells you to go grab him another frosty can from the fridge. Indulge in these showy diversions together, before taking him out for a big ass steak dinner and giving him that watch he always wanted. 


Crimson Tide [1995] (d. Tony Scott, w. Michael Schiffer) 

Though it doesn't contain multiple shoot outs or dynamic set pieces, Crimson Tide is the ultimate example of how great director Tony Scott could be with actors, who more than make up for a lack of traditional action with their emotional and moral explosions (which you and your dad will no doubt be debating once the end credits roll). It’s no wonder he essentially discovered his De Niro on the picture in Denzel Washington, as he gets solid work out of everyone from the two leads (with Gene Hackman just chewing scenery as the heavy) to an eclectic cast that features Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Matt Craven and Jason Robards, all in parts both big and small.

Scott’s camera is constantly positioned in the director’s trademark three quarter close-up to let the thespians shine in the frame. Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino supplies a bevy of poppy punch-ups, letting loose with Silver Surfer references that still somehow feel organically integrated. It’s the perfect paradigm of a mainstream movie that was polished to perfection (Robert Towne was even called in to rewrite a key scene), yet the many cooks in the kitchen combine to serve up a unified flavor. This is a meaty man stew (ew) that your dad will eat up like his favorite Sunday dinner, no matter how many times it's served up. 

Gator [1976] (d. Burt Reynolds, w. William W. Norton) 

Dads love Burt. The mustache, the swagger, the next-door neighbor chumminess; Reynolds is the type of movie star they don't really make that many of anymore, and Gator – the actor's big screen directorial debut and second turn as the titular moonshine swindler (after '73's White Lightnin') – is one of the best entries into his "good ol' boy" action canon. Jam-packed with car chases, tacky suits, and colorful Southern stereotypes (personal fave: Alice Ghostley's semi-crazy cat lady protestor Emmeline Cavanaugh), Gator is a wild ride, fluffy and goofy and a total hoot.

Yet the real reason to watch any of these movies will always be Burt: a golden god of antiquated masculinity that parlayed a seemingly bottomless well of charm into an entire career. Gator McClusky is one of his best characters: a two-time loser who would rather be chilling out in a hammock as opposed to chasing corrupt politicians. That's what makes Burt's work so darn fun to watch with your dad on this, or any, lazy Father's Day: they're hang out movies filled with practical stunt work, tailormade for a case of beer and some good old fashioned male bonding.  

Tombstone [1993] (d. George P. Cosmatos, w. Kevin Jarre) 

This one's kind of a cheat, as it's technically a Western with action beats. Yet despite those numerous thundering shoot outs, Tombstone is very much an “actor’s picture,” not too unlike the cinema of Sam Peckinpah (and I'm sure your papa loves The Wild Bunch, too). There’s a brusk masculinity represented with this cast of cowboys, each grizzled personality given distinct moments to entrace the audience. Tombstone is a thick, meaty slice of "man's man" cinema, sure to delight your dad as he's entranced by the fantastically staged and shot moments of gunslinging. 

On top of Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer's now legendary take on Doc Holliday, Powers Boothe is so bronze it almost looks like he’s in brown-face as he cackles with pearly white teeth as Curly Bill. Stephen Lang’s Ike is a whiskey-soaked weasel, almost unrecognizable. Michael Biehn - no longer playing a Marine from the future - is only short one mustache to twirl as the Latin-slinging merchant of death, Johnny Ringo. Yet no matter how overwhelming the ensemble may become, each character feels complete, their actions defining them instead of their words. It's the Walter Hill school of elemental storytelling at play: show, don't tell, and let all these bad dudes shoot well. 

Lethal Weapon [1987] (d. Richard Donner, w. Shane Black) 

Though he may have some conflicted feelings on watching a Mel Gibson movie these days, your pops will probably still get a kick out of Martin Riggs' aging partner in Lethal Weapon. A solid chunk of the main narrative arc actually belongs to Riggs’ aging partner, Roger Murtaugh (a truly iconic Danny Glover). Murtaugh is a family man, celebrating his fiftieth birthday, and really just counting the days until he can ride a desk before retirement. He has a beautiful wife (who unfortunately can’t cook), and loving children.

In short, he’s too old to be saddled with a new reckless partner who everyone knows is crazy. Frankly, he’s too old for any of this cop “shit”. But he’s great at his job, and actually learns from Riggs that he still possesses a capacity for toughness in the face of vicious adversity. With each other, Riggs and Murtaugh discover love – the love of murdering the shit out of any and all who aim to do the people of Los Angeles harm. 

The Rock [1996] (d. Michael Bay, w. David Weisberg, Douglas Cook & Mark Rosner) 

We give Michael Bay a ton of (admittedly deserved) shit anymore, but during the '90s he was churning out some of the most sensational action filmmaking the genre's ever seen with Bad Boys and The Rock (not to mention his truly insane sequel, Bad Boys II, is one of the aughts’ finest actioners). However, this Alcatraz siege picture – where a group of rogue commandos led by Ed Harris take a tour group hostage on the shutdown San Francisco island prison – still stands as one of the most fundamentally sound shoot 'em ups ever crafted. 

Nevertheless, the real reason this movie made this list is because Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage make for one of the most unlikely heroic duos the silver screen has ever seen, and watching them bicker back and forth will be a blast with your father on his special day. Connery is gruff and nasty, while Cage is barely holding on to whatever threads of sanity he has left, as they infiltrate the terrorists' new stronghold and try to take them down before they fire off a series of rockets containing some simply awful poisonous gas. Your dad will be doing his best Old James Bond impersonation after this one ends, as The Rock is endlessly quotable, and contains one of Connery's last great performances.