Filmfare Recommends: Top Bollywood Action Films Of The ’80s (2022)

Action has always been considered a safe bet. The ’80s were known for some really OTT maar-dhaad films that might not boast of stylised action but were huge fun to watch nevertheless. The makers went all out to bedazzle the audience. There were helicopter chases, bank heists, car chases and bad guys having entire armies at their disposal. Everything was at its kitschy best. Here’s a list of ’80s action films to watch while fighting the coronavirus by staying at home. Watching macho heroes pummel the bad guys to smithereens is going to be hugely cathartic indeed.

1. Bollywood Action Films - The Burning train (1980)

Filmfare Recommends: Top Bollywood Action Films Of The ’80s (1)

Director: Ravi Chopra
Cast: Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh

The film was a take-off on The Towering Inferno (1974). Only instead of a boring skyscraper, the fire was spreading across a moving train that couldn’t be stopped. Vinod Khanna develops a super fast train that’ll reach Delhi from Mumbai in just 14 hours. Danny Denzongpa, a fellow engineer, gets supremely jealous of this and sabotages the achievement by planting a bomb in the train during its first run. The train does catch fire but our hero, with a group of do-gooders -- childhood friend Dharmendra, colleague Vinod Mehra, good-hearted thief Jeetendra -- and a motley crew of passengers manages to get it stopped and get most of the passengers out. The heroes literally walk through the fire, jump from one train to the other, battle a helicopter -- what more can you ask for, really?

2. Bollywood Action Films - Qurbani (1980)

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Director: Feroz Khan
Cast: Feroz Khan, Vinod Khanna, Zeenat Aman

Said to be a remake of the hit Italian film The Master Touch (1972), this hi-jinks actioner starred two of the most macho stars of the film industry, Feroz Khan and Vinod Khanna. Khan plays a stuntman and a thief while Khanna plays a mafia member who wants out. Circumstances bring them together and they end up being friends. There’s a love triangle of sorts but that doesn’t come in the way of their friendship. They make an outlandish plan to do one last job and while they’re successful, things don’t exactly go according to the plan. A major chunk of the film was shot in London with a British technical crew, including stunt professionals. It’s said Feroz smashed up a brand new Mercedes in one particular scene. The film introduced teenage pop sensation Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan to Indian audiences. Her Aap jaisa koi became a huge hit and is still very popular.

3. Bollywood Action Films - Arjun (1985)

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Director: Rahul Rawail
Cast: Sunny Deol, Dimple Kapadia, Raj Kiran, Anupam Kher

The film kind of established Sunny Deol as a top-notch action star. He plays an honest, unemployed young man who can’t tolerate wrongdoing of any kind. He beats up a goon in the pay of politician Deen Dayal Trivedi (Prem Chopra), who thinks he has done it at the behest of rival Shiv Kumar Chowgule (Anupam Kher). Circumstances force Arjun to seek Chowgule’s help and the latter uses him as a pawn to eliminate Trivedi’s empire. The politicians soon join hands, however, and a disillusioned Arjun at first gives up the fight but later vows to expose them both, even at the cost of his life.

4. Bollywood Action Films - Aakhri Raasta (1986)

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Director: K. Bhagyaraj
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi, Jaya Prada

The film has Amitabh Bachchan playing a double role. That of a vigilante hell-bent on revenge and that of his son, a police officer who has sworn to stop him. The highlight of the film was the unique ways with which the father killed his intended marks. No method was ever repeated, so the viewers looked forward to the next death with much glee. The son was always only a step or two behind the father, leading to a cat and mouse chase of sorts. The film ended in a chase down the gutters, one of the first such films to show that in India. Amitabh Bachchan essayed both the roles with his usual intensity. He made us root for the old man and admire his genius of building fool-proof death traps.

5. Bollywood Action Films - Karma (1986)

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Karma was Subhash Ghai’s take on Sholay. Instead of a dacoit, he had General Dang (Anupam Kher), head of a whole army of terrorists. The Thakur who enlists jailbirds was this time played by Dilip Kumar, who sends three criminals marked for death row, played by Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah to end Dr Dang’s nefarious activities in exchange for their freedom. Initially, the trio is sceptical about the mission and plan to run away but later they predictably pledge to fight the good fight and bring Dang to heel, thanks to the new-found love they have developed for Bharat Mata. In a scenario that would surely make Rohit Shetty happy, the film’s climax had cars, trucks and even a whole ammunition dump getting destroyed.

6. Bollywood Action Films - Tezaab (1988)

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Director: N Chandra
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Chunky Pandey, Anupam Kher, Kiran Kumar

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Anil Kapoor plays a young collegian who becomes who wants nothing else but join the navy and serve his country but circumstances force him to take to a life of crime. The film highlighted the seething anger felt by the society which is mostly kept in check but acts like acid when erupted. It didn’t have a larger-than-life villain but a normal slumlord ruling over his denizens through use of fear. Munna (Anil Kapoor) locks horns with him in order to save his girlfriend (Mohini) and is forced to go all mano-a-mano with the goon in the climax in order to end his reign and also to finally give closure to his own pent up resentment and anger. The film had an undercurrent of violence running throughout and wasn’t just another breezy masala entertainer. The song Ek do teen from the film picturised on Madhuri made her a superstar and is still famous today.

7. Bollywood Action Films - Shahenshah (1988)

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Director: Tinnu Anand
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Meenakshi Sheshadri, Kader Khan, Pran

Some films achieve cult status because of a single contributing factor and in Shahenshah that factor was Amitabh Bachchan’s costume as a superhero. His metal hand was a much-admired prosthetic that remains famous till today. He played a corrupt inspector by day who turns into a costumed vigilante by night, killing criminals without remorse. The film’s ending is one long violent sequence, culminating in the chief villain being hanged from the courthouse roof in front of a gaping crowd. It was one of the last big hits of Amitabh Bachchan as a solo hero.

8. Bollywood Action Films - Shiva (1989)

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Ram Gopal Varma arrived with a bang on the movie-making scene with this cracker of a film. It showed the nexus between student union leaders and politicians and how politicians use it to control the youth. Tired of being bullied by a student leader, Shiva (Nagarjuna) attacks and defeats him and later enters student politics himself. He uses both brawn and cunning to keep his opponents in check. Seeing his rising clout, those supporting the main opponent Bhavani Chaudhury (Raghuvaran) take away their support. In the end, a gruesome fight ensues between Bhavani and Shiva, which the latter wins but not without enduring personal loss of his own. The film showed how simple youths can be corrupted and turned into goonda elements. And that there is no stopping the chain of violence once you start it.

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9. Bollywood Action Films - Tridev (1989)

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Director: Rajiv Rai
Cast: Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff, Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri

A dreaded villain who lives in a huge gangster’s den, makes outlandish plans and has an eye for girls, a straight-laced police officer, a village loafer and a young man with confused ideas about justice, the film was a big-budget masala potboiler and had something going for everyone. Having three macho stars meant plenty of hi-jinks action of course. And the presence of skimpily clad leading ladies in the form of Madhuri Dixit, Sangeeta Bijlani and Sonam meant they will get captured at some point to be rescued later by our heroes. It’s not a film where the plot needs to be followed closely. Munch some popcorn and enjoy the corny situations and dialogue and clap as the three male leads join hands to bring the evil villain and his empire to its knees.

10. Bollywood Action Films - Ghayal (1990)

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Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Cast: Sunny Deol, Meenakshi Seshadri, Raj Babbar, Moushmi Chatterjee, Amrish Puri

Ajay Mehra (Sunny Deol) is a boxer living with his brother Ashok Mehra (Raj Babbar) and sister-in-law Indu (Moushumi Chatterjee). Ashok has dealings with a shady businessman Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri) who turns out to be a master criminal. When Ashok threatens to reveal all to the police, Balwant has him killed. The police accuse Ajay of killing his brother and of having illegal relations with his sister-in-law, who commits suicide driven by grief. Ajay is sent to jail but later breaks out of it and starts exacting his revenge by destroying Balwant Rai’s power structure. In the end, he kills Rai in front of the police, who can only watch it all unfold helplessly. The film was a major blockbuster and Sunny Deol’s histrionics as well his screen presence got much appreciated.

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