TFB’s Top 10 Gun Guy Movies from the 1980s
Welcome back to the TFB Cinema room! The ’80s were a time of Big Hair, Short Shorts, Glam Rock and of course Big Guns. With the Cold War winding down following the close of the Vietnam War, movie audiences still thirsted for fast-paced action and big muscled dudes wielding every gun under the sun. Today we’ll go over TFB’s Top 10 Gun Guy Movies from the 1980s.
1. Terminator (1984)
Always a popular choice so no surprise its the first one that came to mind for this list. The movie, if you have been living under a rock for the last 30 years was the first in what I would consider being a short series (anything past Terminator 2 was garbage) of movies featuring Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger in what would be his breakout role.
Arnold plays the titular Terminator and wields a variety of weapons including an AMT Hardballer 45 Longslide, IMI Uzi and SPAS-12 Shotgun. In what is one of the most quoted scenes in any Arnold movie, let’s take a look as the T-800 Cyborg goes shopping for some guns.
2. Max Max 2 / The Road Warrior (1981)
The Mad Max series of movies is probably responsible for an extremely high amount of both gun ownership and dog ownership. This movie starring Mel Gibson as “Mad” Max Rockatansky follows our hero through the post-apocalyptic wasteland as he helps settlers who moved to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders follows an archetypical “Western” frontier movie motif, as does Max’s role as a hardened man who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers.
While the movie doesn’t contain anywhere near the number of guns that some of the other movies on this list do. It does contain one very iconic weapon from the previous movie. Our protagonist wields a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. Keen-eyed viewers will note that the one used in Mad Max 2 differs from the previous shotgun used in the first movie which was a VG Bentley. Max’s dog even gets a chance to wield the weapon as he holds a bandit prisoner.
3. Die Hard (1988)
This movie is a classic. Like many of the films on this list, Die Hard features some of our favorite on-screen weapons but in my opinion, this movie, in particular, nailed the casting not only of the actors but also of the guns.
The movie contrasts our hero’s single weapon – a Beretta 92FS with the sophisticated German criminal’s arsenal of top-quality weapons including Hans Gruber’s H&K P7M13. Of course, this entry wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t show you TFBTV’s own covering of this movie, including a dramatic reenactment of the final scene.
4. Predator (1987)
While we haven’t yet invented Plasma Caster, we did have plenty of firepower in the 1980s to take down a space alien from a different part of the galaxy. Again featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as other big action movie names like Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers, and Shane Black.
In probably what is one of the most 80’s shooting scenes ever, Arnold’s squad rushes in to help their terrified team member and begins wildly firing into the jungle expending the entire United States ammunition budget for the next decade.
5. Commando (1985)
This is turning out to be an extremely Arnold-heavy list. Commando stars Arnold as John Matrix who is forced to work for a deposed South American dictator who has kidnaped his daughter. Many explosions ensue.
In my favorite scene, Arnold storms the enemy holdout with enough weapons to start a war with a 3rd world country – and win. He uses practically any and all small arms you’ve seen in a Hollywood movie to accomplish his raid on the compound including a very unique Valmet M78/83 as well as a UZI or two to round out his equipment selection.
6. Rambo: First Blood (1982)
Rambo is a series that lives to this day, albeit in what I would consider being a diminished state. Rambo follows the exploits of former Green Baret John Rambo throughout his blood fueled rampage based on the 1972 novel of the same name by David Morrell.
During the fight against the abusive law enforcement of Hope, Washington our hero takes up arms with again, the always popular M60, a 1911A1 and his signature knife. Meanwhile, other characters use various mixes of arms you’d expect to find in civilian hands like a Winchester Model 88, Remmington 700 and Winchester Model 1984. The law enforcement and National Guard bring some heavy hardware in the form of HK93A2’s, M16A1’s, Colt AR-15/SP1’s and even an M72 LAW.
7. Lethal Weapon (1987)
For me, Lethal Weapon is the epitome of buddy cop movies. The ever classic Danny Glover plays the “too old for this shit” by the books cop Murtaugh. His new partner Riggs (Mel Gibson) brings in it with the rogue ex-special forces insanity. Together they combine forces to bring down a massive heroine-smuggling campaign.
Being equal parts comedy and action, it’s no wonder the series lived on through 3 sequels and even a newer revival TV-series starring Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as Murtaugh and Riggs. I love how in the first film the contrast between Murtaugh and Riggs is portrayed with even their firearms: Detective Murtaugh using a classic Smith & Wesson Model 19, disciplined and accurate while Riggs, the ex-special forces guy brings a Beretta 92 which would have been standard issue in 1987 for the United States Armed Forces.
As an added bonus, this is one of the few films I’ve seen with an on Screen PSG-1 Sniper Rifle
8. Red Scorpion (1989)
Red Scorpion follows Soviet Spetznaz-trained Agent Nikolai Rachenko as he heads to Africa to assist Soviet Forces in quelling a rebel movement. Nikolai later sides with the rebels after being betrayed by his superiors. The film contains numerous weird and interesting guns, some of which deserve an article of their own.
This film is famous in the gun community for making heavy use of South African procured weaponry cleverly disguised as soviet weaponry. The film was produced in South Africa and used the resources of the South African Defense Force for vehicles and weapons (somewhat controversial because this was filmed during the time of apartheid).
9. Red Dawn (1984)
Dramatizing the possible invasion of Soviet Forces of the American mainland, Red Dawn follows a group of mostly teenagers as they become an embedded resistance in their own home town to fight off the invading Soviet Army.
The film is notable for the amount of effort put into accurately depicting modern Soviet armor and weaponry of the era, particularly for a production made during the time of the Cold War.
10. Delta Force (1986)
You don’t ask to include Chuck Norris in a top 10 list – Chuck Norris shoots his way into a top 10 list. Along with Lee Marvin, the two action heroes are sent into Beirut to rescue the passengers aboard an airliner hijacked by Lebanese terrorists. The hijacking in the movie is loosely based on the real-life 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
Some of the AK rifles used in the film have an extended muzzle nut visible. They are the BFAs (Blank Firing Adapters) used mostly by Israeli movie armorers. American movie armorers use blank firing adapters that are either hidden in the barrel or look just like the existing compensators or flash hiders on the issued firearms. Much like the 1988 film The Beast of War, these obvious BFAs indicate that a film was shot in Israel.
The movie makes great use of suppressed submachine guns. The Mini-Uzi even gets the silent treatment with its oversized sights making it perfect for use with a suppressor. Other great guns from this movie include the Carl Gustav M/45, a bunch of Israeli Galil SAR’s and even an FN-MAG.
On to the 90s?
Thanks for taking a look at TFB’s top 10 Gun Guy Movies from the 80s. We know there are probably at least 20 or 30 more great gun guy movies from the 1980s. Let us know what your favorites are and why. As always thanks for reading and we’ll see you for our next gun filled blockbuster read.