6 Best One Man Army Movies

6 Best One Man Army Movies
6 Best One Man Army Movies

While buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys have had their fair share of success at the box office, some of the most popular and iconic action films of all time have centered around a lone protagonist taking on the bad guys in an outnumbered and seemingly impossible setting, known as the “One Man Army” genre. Many classic action movies have exemplified this sub-genre, showcasing a single individual facing insurmountable odds and emerging victorious through sheer determination and skill.

As the action genre continues to thrive in cinema, the theme of one man rising to the occasion and defeating evil single-handedly has remained a mainstay, resonating with audiences worldwide. These films not only provide adrenaline-pumping thrills and intense action sequences but also deliver a sense of empowerment and triumph as the lone hero overcomes seemingly impossible odds to emerge as the ultimate victor. So, as this sub-genre continues to captivate audiences with its themes of courage, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of the human will, here’s our pick of the 6 best one man army movies.

6. Man on Fire (2004)

Denzel Washington and Gero Camilo in Man on Fire (2004)

Tony Scott‘s 2004 thriller Man on Fire is undoubtedly one of the most iconic one man army movies in cinema history. Although it is not a straight up action movie, its premise still focuses on a deadly man who sets out on a lone journey for justice. This timeless thriller tells the story of John Creasy (Denzel Washington), a former CIA operative, who is hired as a bodyguard for a young girl named Lupita in Mexico City. When Lupita is kidnapped, Creasy goes on a relentless and violent mission to rescue her, leaving a trail of destruction in his path.

Although Man on Fire is often categorized as a revenge movie, at its core, it is a heartfelt tale of redemption. Through his journey to save Lupita, Creasy undergoes a transformation, finding a sense of purpose and a reason to live as he forms a deep bond with the young girl. The film’s eclectic blend of brutal violence, raw grit, stylish camerawork, and underlying themes of love and redemption have truly resonated with audiences, leading to the film’s growth in cult status over the years.

Watch Man on Fire on Netflix

5. Taken (2008)

Liam Neeson in Taken (2008)

Taken is a shining example of how one man army movies continued to thrive in the 2000s. Released in 2008, the film follows the story of Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent played by Liam Neeson, who embarks on a relentless mission to rescue his daughter Kim after she is abducted while on a trip to Paris. Taken quickly became a massive success due to its intense action sequences, gripping plot, and Neeson’s formidable performance as a determined father seeking justice. The film’s success not only solidified Neeson’s status as an action star but also revitalised his career, leading him to star in numerous blockbuster action films in the years to come. While Neeson has since appeared in many action movies, Taken remains one of his finest works in the genre, known for its unflinching action scenes and suspenseful storytelling.

Watch Taken on Disney+

4. The Equalizer (2014)

Denzel Washington in The Equalizer (2014)

After his standout performance in the iconic one man army film Man on Fire, Denzel Washington kicked things up a notch with the 2014 movie adaptation of The Equalizer. In the film, Washington portrays Robert McCall, a retired CIA operative who uses his skills to help those in need, seeking justice for the downtrodden and oppressed. The movie follows McCall as he takes on a powerful Russian mafia in order to protect a young girl, leading to a thrilling and action-packed showdown.

The Equalizer was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, spawning a franchise that concluded with the final movie in 2023. Despite the franchise’s success, Washington’s first outing as the unstoppable Robert McCall remains the most iconic and dazzling, showcasing his prowess as an action star and solidifying his status as a formidable force in the genre. Even as he entered his formative years, Washington delivered some of the most impressive and brutal fight choreography ever caught on film.

Watch The Equalizer on Apple TV+

3. First Blood (1982)

Sylvester Stallone in First Blood (1982)

Rocky may have made Sylvester Stallone a megastar, but it was First Blood that solidified him as one of the biggest action stars in the world. Released in 1982, the film follows the story of John Rambo (Stallone), a Vietnam War veteran who becomes the target of a manhunt led by a small town’s sheriff and his deputies after they mistreat him. As the authorities close in on him, Rambo must use his combat skills to evade capture and survive against all odds. First Blood is a gripping and intense film that showcases one man’s fight against an army of cops, serving as a trailblazing example of the one man army genre. With its thrilling action sequences and powerful performance by Stallone, the film set the stage for numerous other one man army movies to follow, such as Commando, and cemented Stallone’s status as a legendary action star.

Watch First Blood on Prime Video

2. The John Wick Franchise (2014-2023)

John Wick (2014)

The John Wick movies took the one man army genre to a whole new level by introducing the concept of Gun-Fu, a style of close-quarters combat that combines martial arts and gunplay. The plot of the first John Wick film follows the titular character, a retired hitman seeking vengeance for the death of his beloved dog, who was a parting gift from his late wife. Despite the campy and often unbelievable nature of the action scenes, the John Wick series stands as one of the best one man army movies of all time.

Each instalment in the franchise upped the ante and surpassed the last with its innovative action sequences and prolonged fight scenes that showcase Wick’s incredible skills and determination. As a result, the John Wick movies have redefined the one man army genre with their stylish visuals, intense choreography, and relentless action, making them a standout in the world of action cinema. Despite John Wick: Chapter 4 being the last, the universe lives on with The Continental.

Watch John Wick on Netflix

1. Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988)

There is often debate over which movie kickstarted the one man army genre – First Blood or Die Hard. Technically, First Blood was released six years prior to Die Hard, but it is Die Hard that ultimately spawned the most copycat movies. The plot of Die Hard follows John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York City cop who visits his wife in LA only to find himself in the middle of a hostage situation. From here, McClane must single-handedly fight off the terrorists to save the day.

Die Hard set the standard for the one man army genre, with its intense action sequences and memorable one-liners. What’s more, the glaring success of the movie led to a plethora of copycat films featuring one man, usually a cop, battling an army of bad guys alone against all odds. So, it is undeniable that Die Hard‘s impact on the action genre was beyond profound, as it inspired a new wave of action movies centred around a lone hero taking on impossible odds. Want to read more about this iconic movie? Here’s the story behind the making of Die Hard.

Watch Die Hard on Disney+

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