Moviegoers love spectacle, and that spectacle typically comes in the form of over-the-top action sequences that really wouldn’t fly in the real world. The ’80s really helped define the quintessential action film, with big and burly action heroes who always managed to take down the bad guy while delivering a few cheesy one-liners along the way.
Since then, action films have evolved to include heroes of all shapes and sizes. But one thing remains the same: spectacle. There have been been plenty of films in recent decades with the explosive grandeur to dominate the box office. While some of these action romps became franchises, others never received the sequel they so rightly deserve. Let’s take a look at some of the best action films that never were graced with a sequel, but absolutely should have been.
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Sylvester Stallone might have originally portrayed the futuristic renegade known to the criminals on the streets as judge, jury, and executioner, but his 1995 film Judge Dredd was ultimately considered a flop of epic proportions both critically and commercially. Karl Urban portrayed the titular law enforcer that originated as a comic strip character in the reboot film Dreddwhich has quickly earned a cult-classic reputation. The stone cold baddie would ultimately partner with a rookie judge, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), to take down a crime lord known as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) who spends her days terrorizing the residents of a massive 200-story tower where many underprivileged citizens reside.
Ultimately, the marketing for the film was botched, resulting in underperformance at the box office. However, high critical praise boosted the film’s success post-theatrical run in the home video and streaming formats. While there have been discussions over the years of sequel films or potentially a Netflix serial continuation, nothing has come to fruition, unfortunately.
The Running Man (1987)
Imagine a postapocalyptic future. Law and order has largely taken a nosedive and criminals often rule the streets. The year is … 2017. That’s right, it’s now our past, but the film that depicts it, The Running Manwas made 30 years before when it is set. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Fubar) plays the role of a police captain named Ben Richards in this derelict future. When he refuses to fire on civilians in an unarmed riot, he is taken into custody while the rioters are gunned down. He is then blamed for the massacre. After a prison escape gone wrong, Ben finds himself as a contestant on the show The Running Man, where convicts literally run for their lives from celebrity champions who are armed to the teeth.
The film is a loose adaptation of the 1982 Stephen King novel of the same name. However, the film became less of a thriller than the book, and more of a riotous action romp thanks to the star power of ’80s action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. A sequel film could go a long way to modernize thematic elements of the story. The fictional show at the center of the film can also be rebooted with any number of present-day action stars.
With 2001’s Training Day and the upcoming The Equalizer 3director Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to the action genre. In 2007, he directed Shootera film about a decorated, but retired, sniper who is framed for a political assassination. Mark Wahlberg stars in the lead role as the retired scout sniper Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger. After being labeled as a domestic terrorist, Swagger has to evade the law while seeking retribution from those who destroyed his life.
You might be thinking that Shooter lived on in the form of the TV series of the same name starring Ryan Phillippe in the role of Bob Lee Swagger. While that is the case, the show never matched the expertly measured, but explosive political thriller that Fuqua and Wahlberg built. The film even establishes Swagger as one who could find fulfillment in violently eliminating corruption in the political sphere. A true sequel, unfortunately, is highly unlikely.
2 Guns (2013)
Some of the most enjoyable action films pair actors who are the best in the business. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are undoubtedly prime action stars who have many solid credits to their names. The film 2 Gunswhich is based on a comic book series of the same name, puts Washington and Wahlberg in the roles of Bobby Trench and Michael “Stig” Stigman, respectively. The pair operate together as criminals, but are both secretly — unbeknownst to each other — working undercover. Trench is a DEA special agent and Stig is a Navy SEAL looking to bust a crook who fits Trench’s description, along with a drug cartel. Of course, there’s a conspiracy at play that forces Trench and Stig to reveal their identities and truly partner up in order to save their skins.
It’s an thrill ride that depicts plenty of hilarious banter between the two stars. The movie wasn’t a blockbuster, but it grossed a decent amount, and gained moderate enough goodwill to expect a sequel. But alas, we’re still waiting on a follow-up that likely will never come.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Sure, Mad Max has entertained us through multiple George Miller-directed epics. But Mad Max: Fury Road acted as a soft reboot. While Max Rockatansky’s legacy is still intact, Tom Hardy’s turn atsthe character signaled a modernized shift on the series. Fury Road introduced new generations to two hard-hitting action heroes: Max and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). The film depicted the longest, but most engaging car chase across a post-apocalyptic desert anyone has ever seen. The wild vehicles and action sequences were (mostly) practical stunts without the need for constant CGI in a modern era where films are often rife with it.
Mad Max: Fury Road received universal praise from critics while it slightly underperformed against a massive a budget. Still, the film won several Academy Awards for film editing, costume design, makeup, and more. Fury Road is the very definition of spectacle, and it’s an absolute crime that we haven’t received the sequel we so rightly deserve. Note that the upcoming Angry starring Anya Taylor-Joy is a prequel and not a true sequel to Fury Road.