Nobody knows action movies better than the minds behind John Wick: Chapter 2, director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator J.J. Perry. Both have been in the business for decades, though most people probably don’t know their names. They started as stunt performers, doubling for the stars of movies like Blade, Point Break, Mortal Kombat, The Matrix, and 300. They both have also been the stunt coordinators and/or second unit directors for action in movies like Captain America: Civil War, The Hunger Games, Warrior, The Tournament, and even the upcoming The Fate of the Furious.
Basically, Stahelski and Perry really, really, really know their stuff. So when we asked them for a simple list of their top five action movies they thought people should see before they die, they immediately launched into a rapid fire back and forth, gleefully obsessing over action movie history. The result is this list, presented in no ranked order.
Check it out and track ’em down.
Early Jackie Chan – Project A (1983) or Armor of God (1986)
Chad Stahelski: “At least one Jackie Chan movie from the ’70s or ’80s. Project A, Armor of God, just to see what human beings are willing to achieve.”
Seven Samurai (1954)
The French Connection (1971) or Bullit (1968)
Stahelski: “Not just for the car chase, but because they both have that grit to them. “
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Stahelski: “You have to see at least one Sergio Leone. Mine would be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for how to build suspense through an action scene.”
Enter the Dragon (1973)
J.J. Perry: “Perry: If you want to go way over the top, go into Hero with Donnie Yen and Jet Li. It’s pretty amazing, not just the fighting but the story they tell within the fighting.”
Die Hard (1988)
Stahelski: “I think there’s no better modern day example of how action and story should fit than, I gotta say it, Die Hard. The balls it took, and we’ve worked with Bruce several times, but you’ve gotta respect the balls it took. He wasn’t an action guy. He’d only done, like, Moonlighting. He gets this call for Die Hard and agrees to do the whole movie absolutely filthy, looking terrible and vulnerable. Not one of us doesn’t flinch when he pulls the glass out. It’s genius.”
Safety Last! (1923)
Stahelski: “I’d go way back and say you have got to see Safety Last!”
Recent Korean, Indonesian, and Thai Movies
Perry: “I’m a big fan of Korean cinema, and I think Korean action movies are doing great stuff. I won’t call any one of them out, but keep your eyes on the Koreans. And for a little bit lower budget, Indonesia and Thailand are doing great stuff. That’s where you go for real martial arts.”
Stahelski: I think Tony Jaa and Ong-Bak changed fight choreography. It gave everyone the sense that you don’t have to do shakycam, you can just show human talent again.
The Matrix (1999)
Stahelski: “My last one, and not just because I had something to do with it, is The Matrix.”
Perry: “Amen, brother. Absolutely.”
Stahelski: “It’s the perfect mix of graphic novel, Japanese animation, Asian/Hong Kong cinema and, I mean, just f–king artistry. That you can make something just look f–king cool in action. And the Wachowski’s never put any divide between those categories.”