As a young boy growing up in northern New England, I was often found outside with friends rappelling from skyscrapers, wading through leech-invested waters in Southeast Asia, or karate-kicking my way through communist invaders.
No, my parents weren’t spies (although I wish they had been) and I wasn’t embroiled in some Cold War border dispute. I was an eager fan of 1980’s American action/adventure flicks. My role models were Sylvestor Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Steven Seagal and Wesley Snipes.
Some of you may cringe and others will give me the nod that communicates a shared coming of age experience.
Regardless of how you feel about my favorite list of action-packed 80s movies below, there is no doubt that some of the biggest blockbusters produced on screen have shaped millions of young kids’ attitudes just like my own.
I suspect that we have yet to peak as far as the amount of visual media entering our daily lives and I’m still indecisive regarding the merits of a society shaped by as much audio/visual media as it does. As a chosen vocation, I also proudly support some of that av content and like to think that working behind the scenes does play a role on influencing society.
Independence, ability to improvise (thanks MacGyver), honor, and self-sacrifice. Action stars weren’t the only role models in my life but in an era of more and more households having dual working parents, those stars and the entertainment industry have become more of a factor than they ever were.
The world is very different from what it was 30 years ago but the amount of screen parentage has only grown with the technology that allows us (and our children) to be exposed to media from the comfort of our cars, our treadmills, and the classroom. Placing a kid in front of the computer is more influential now than plunking them in front of the TV. The difference is that now it’s not just Hollywood producing role models – it’s every one with a camera and a desire to generate content on the internet.
For better or for worse.
On a lighter note, here are some of my favorite 1980s-era action and adventure flicks (in no particular order)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Mad Max
- Red Dawn
- Top Gun
- Lethal Weapon
- Die Hard
- The Untouchables
- Empire Strikes Back