Lights! Camera! Action! The best of those who imitate real American heroes

One of John Matrix’s best friends in “Commando” was this four-shooter rocket launcher. It helped our hero survive a mansion attack from hundreds of paid guns. Copyright 20th Century Fox and other respective production studios and distributors; image via

This Sunday we’ll celebrate those who are serving our country with Veterans Day.

It is also a chance to thank those who are still alive and took on the duty to protect our freedoms and way of life. Those men and women are the real heroes. They are the ones we should look up to for inspiration for taking on a cause, sacrificing and following orders for a greater good.

Memorial Day is our chance to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for country and freedom. And many veterans will tell you on Nov. 11 they think about those who didn’t come back.

The bond between those who served is amazing and beautiful to witness. Just go to your local VFW one day and talk with the real heroes. They are everyday people who have meaningful stories to tell.

You can get in touch with reality when you talk to a veteran. But we sometimes need an escape for the real world. Movies have been providing those chances for several years even with depictions of war brought to film.

For me, I love a good action flick with a protagonist who defies all logic. He is a regular guy who is blessed with super intelligence, amazing luck, a body that can absorb all kinds of pain, bullets bounce off of him and he is driven to succeed.

I love these larger-than-life action heroes. The cartoonish way they save the day helps me to remember the real bravery of men like my great-grandfather Jim Springfield, in World War II. His stories of battle were humbling and taught me it takes a team to achieve.

But the 11 men that I am about to recognize as my greatest action heroes did it as a duo or on the solo.

10. Mason Storm (“Hard to Kill”)

In 1990 action star Steven Seagal delivers his best acting and movie with “Hard to Kill.” When police detective Mason Storm uncovers corruption within the police force, they ambush him and his family, trying to silence him. His wife dies and his son survives, but Storm is left in a coma. Fast forward seven years and Storm wakes up and the guy he was trying to stop is now a politician. Knowing corruption got him in power, the senator tries to stop Storm before he can prove his lies and murder.

As the title implies, Storm is hard to kill. He takes the senator to “The bank … the blood bank.”

9. Ben Richards (“The Running Man”)

The name Arnold Schwarzenegger is the American definition of action hero. But the funny part is that the big muscle man was born in Graz, Austria. He will be a familiar figure in this countdown. Schwarzenegger’s first entry is as Ben Richards in “The Running Man.”

Loosely based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, Schwarzenegger provided his twist on the character Ben Richards. He made Richards a super cop and a lethal force on a reality-based game show. Running for his life and to clear his name after being convicted of a crime, Richards had to survive a gantlet of men trying to kill him on stages of this “game show” guided by host Damon Killian.

“The Running Man,” filmed in the late 1980s, is based in 2017. The picture depicts 2017 as a world ravaged by an economic collapse. The United States has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. Richards was convicted largely by a doctored video. Thanks to this new world of cameras being everywhere, he murdered in the name of justice for an adoring public to see. Hey, this movie predicted the future about cameras being in many places.

8. Harry Tasker (“True Lies”)

This film displayed Schwarzenegger’s comic timing. His one-liners were classic. As Harry Tasker, Schwarzenegger got a chance to be a family man and secret agent.

He has highlights with his co-star Jamie Lee Curtis including a hot dance scene from her. Then Tasker proves why he is the man for the job to fight terrorists. The truth serum scene is full of comedy and action. I love how Tasker confess his secret life to his wife and then gives the bad guys the honest breakdown of how he was going to escape.

To see Tasker at his best, watch the bridge scene and check out him saving his daughter.

For some reason Schwarzenegger is an expert at rescuing a daughter …

7. Martin Riggs & Roger Murtaugh (“Lethal Weapon” series)

What do you get when you mix an aging family guy officer with a raving lunatic cop? You get the best buddy cop duo of all time and the creation of the Lethal Weapon film series. Back in 1987, Mel Gibson brought to life the crazy cop Martin Riggs. Gibson was no stranger to the action genre with movies like Mad Max. But cast as his poplar opposite was Danny Glover. The veteran action proved he can handle action as Roger Murtaugh.

This “Odd Couple” were teamed up to protect the streets of Los Angeles and bring down bad guys for the next 10 years in four movies.

Gibson is nonstop energy, while Glover slows down the pace to allow the audience to follow the plot. But when it is time to strike, the duo is lethal. Riggs will use a machine gun or karate to foil a plan. Meanwhile Murtaugh uses logic and a trusty six-shooter.

6. Lee (“Enter the Dragon”)

In 1973 martial arts legend and master Bruce Lee delivered his Mona Lisa in the action genre with “Enter the Dragon.” He collected the best of the time in martial arts like Jim Kelly, John Saxon, Bolo Yeung, Robert Wall and Shih Kien to deliver realistic fight scenes.

No matter the challenger, Lee was up for the task and found a way to dominate. Of course we got the Bruce Lee beating up an army of men scene. Then he gave us his trademark lethal punch followed by trembling face. Then the final chase scene with mirrors is cinema magic. A strong thrust kick and destroying the image is the way to stop the enemy.

5. Dr. Richard Kimble (“The Fugitive”)

Of all the men on this list, Dr. Richard Kimble doesn’t look the part or have the physique of an action star. He doesn’t kill anyone. But that’s the whole point of his character. The man is out to prove he didn’t murder his wife.

So the chase from U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) of Kimble (Harrison Ford) is a thrill ride for the audience. So many times Gerard and crew are moments, seconds or inches away from catching Kimble. The city of Chicago is the perfect maze for Kimble to prove his innocence and escape capture.

And the reason why Kimble is so high on this list is because he saved a boy’s life while evading the authorities during the hospital scene.

4. John “Hannibal” Smith (“A-Team”)

This spot could go to the entire A-Team featuring Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck, Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus or H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock. Since the exception of The Best Sellers’ List, I have shown the A-Team a lot of love. So I narrowed the fourth spot for the leader of the team, John “Hannibal” Smith.

First brought to our hearts by the tremendous acting of the late George Peppard, Hannibal came back to life in 2010 with the great Liam Neeson. Neeson paid proper tribute to Peppard from the cigar usage to delivering the trademark line of “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Hannibal always has a plan to either obtain, destroy or escape. The men work together like a cohesive unit. And it is all because Hannibal puts them in the right place to use their talents. Hannibal puts me in mind of those stories I heard from my grandfather. You trust your leader and believe they will put you in the right position to come back.

3. Leroy Green (“The Last Dragon”)

Bruce Lee is the standard in martial arts and in the film genre. But for a 5-year-old Negro-American boy in 1986, the first time I saw Leroy Green on my television scene made me want to karate chop everything in sight.

Taimak is the star of the 1985 film “The Last Dragon.” The best antagonist on this list sure enough is Sho’nuff portrayed by Julius Carry with masterful anger. Forming an unholy alliance with Eddie Arcadian, the duo try to stop Leroy and prove he’s not the last dragon.

But Leroy is guided by the spirit and influence of the great Bruce Lee.

Set to an updated Motown soundtrack, this film became a cult classic. The love story between Leroy and Laura Charles (“Vanity”) made the film timeless. You rooted harder for Leroy to win in the end.

The fight scenes are memorable and funny in some cases. In the final confrontation, Leroy adds to his legend.

2. John Matrix (“Commando”)

Schwarzenegger is back one last time in the countdown. His best superhero, action performance came as John Matrix in Commando. The mission for this Retired United States Special Forces Colonel is to save his daughter Jenny from some mercenaries. It’s a race against the clock for Matrix as he “breaks” up the mercenaries original plans.

Matrix uses his amazing skills to get to his daughter in time. This movie exemplifies the 1980s with a shopping mall scene, fast cars, explosions and Schwarzenegger flexing for the camera. And our hero is shot at by at least 100,000 bullets. Not a single one touches him.

And with each Matrix kill, we get a cheesy one-liner. We all remember when he killed Bennett near the conclusion of the rescue with a steam pipe through the torso. Matrix looks at his old foe and says, “Let off some steam, Bennett.”

My favorite kill and one-liner combo was when Matrix broke the neck of his captor on the airplane. Needing to jump off the plane in time before takeoff, a fly attendant informs Matrix of flight planes. Meanwhile the capture appears to sleeping in the next seat with a pillow and blanket. Matrix tells the stewardess, “Do me a favor, don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.”

1. Bryan Mills (“Taken” series)

The most iconic scene from “Taken” was the point of contact when Bryan Mills gives the kidnappers a chance to give up his daughter peacefully. Then Mills delivers the memorable lines that sealed the kidnappers’ fate. Copyright 20th Century Fox and other respective production studios and distributors; image via

“I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Retired CIA field agent Bryan Mills spoke those words into a phone to his daughter Kim’s kidnappers in Europe. At that moment “Taken” was born. Neeson is so awesome in the film that people call him Taken.

The movie has it all, missing daughter – checked. Foot chase scene – checked. Great quotes – checked. Good guy shuts down operation – checked. Sequels – oh yeah, huge check mark.

And Mills just kept getting better and better with his particular set of skills. He’s a hands-on killer and it makes you root harder for him. He’s just a loving father and ex-husband who fights for what is right.

Those are characteristics of a superhero, an action hero and real heroes.

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to