Who was the biggest action star of the 80s
The 1980s solidified three Hollywood actors as Hollywood royalty: Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis. Who was the biggest action star of the decade?
Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were among the biggest movie stars of the 1980s, but which action icon dominated the decade the most? The ’80s were a time filled with fame and excess, resulting in astronomical box office totals largely tied to an actor’s star power. However, only one star would rise to the top of Hollywood to define the fast-moving action genre. These three giants of the film industry made a stronger impact than their competitors thanks to the glut of big-budget action films produced during this hugely lucrative period.
With so many different action franchises in the 80s, household names emerged, both permanent and legendary. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis starred in roles that cemented their place in the action genre. Philadelphia blue-collar icon Stallone revisited the titular boxer Rocky the same year, he proudly introduced another larger-than-life hero in John Rambo. Simultaneously, infamous Terminator villain Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in multiple properties as mainstream Commando and the fantastic Dino De Laurentiis Conan series. Boyish and charismatic television actor Bruce Willis began his die hard film franchise, imbued with a strong sense of humor towards the end of the 1980s. Although the decade was littered with dozens of unforgettable action titles, a simple Google search of the biggest action stars of the decade will bring these three names up again and again.
Overwhelmingly, the trio’s biggest ’80s action star was the inimitable Sylvester Stallone. This New York legend had the edge over Willis and Schwarzenegger thanks to his stellar track record in theaters. Following his fame, Stallone’s characters were far more iconic than his Hollywood brethren. Rambo and Rocky are iconic pieces of Americana in their own right, arguably beyond those of Schwarzenegger’s steel-voiced T-800 and Willis’ affable John McClane. Armed with more than an appealing movie star appearance, Stallone was the king of ’80s action stars due to his consistent bankability as a reliable hero archetype. From workman to war hero, Stallone appealed to a much wider audience.
Cruising in the 80s with 1982 Rocky III and first bloodStallone has proven he can continue a series for MGM Studios and start a new Rambo franchise. Thanks to high-profile red carpet events and the rising popularity of the action genre during this era, Stallone championed his peers in terms of power and recognition. Stallone’s Three Rambo installments in the 1980s alone generated more than $600 million worldwide, with Rocky III and Rocky IV combining for an additional $425 million worldwide. And while they didn’t produce massive movie franchises, Stallone’s presence in the 1986 cult classic Cobra and the 1989 buddy cop action comedy Tango & Money was enough to make both films hits at the box office and on home video.
Schwarzenegger undoubtedly enjoyed success throughout the 80s thanks to his breakout performance in Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator two years later, but average figures for Conan the Destroyer and movies like raw deal and red heat show that its endurance as a box office draw only solidified in the early 90s, with the expansion of the terminator frankness and Arnold’s dive into more intentionally comedic roles. Notably, Bruce Willis also enjoyed the most success in the 90s, continuing the die hard candor and take risks with pulp Fiction and The fifth Element, to name a few. While Willis is often considered one of the biggest action stars of the 80s due to die hardThe status of an enduring genre icon, her place among those names is something of an anomaly, as the film was released at the very end of the decade.
Without a doubt, all three actors are icons and have contributed immensely to the action genre as a whole. However, Sylvester Stallone cemented his status as the greatest and best of an important era for the action genre. Its unique look and sound have become quintessential. Stallone influenced the recognizable Rocky and Rambo-the action movie tropes that we still see today. As he directed Schwarzenegger and Willis in cameos for The Expendables trilogy, it’s pretty obvious who the biggest action star of the ’80s was. With a solid built-in fan base, Sylvester Stallone’s action movies haven’t stopped yet and show no signs of slowing down.
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