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What to stream: Crank up the adrenaline with these stunt-filled action films

Katie Walsh – Tribune News Service (TNS)

With David Leitch’s love letter to stunt professionals, “The Fall Guy” hitting theaters, and rumblings of a potential Academy Award for stunts on the horizon (something Leitch has advocated for), it’s the perfect time to fire up some of the best movies with the finest stunts that you can find on streaming. Of course this is in no way a comprehensive list, just some suggestions to get the juices flowing during your pre- or post- “Fall Guy” streaming session.

Plus, stunts were an integral part to the early advent of cinema, over a hundred years ago. Audiences were so startled by the Lumiere Brothers’ film “The Arrival of the Train at the Station,” they ran out of the theater. And filmmakers have been thrilling audiences since then with action-packed feats of derring-do, from Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton to Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves.

It’s always a good idea to start at the beginning, so start with Buster Keaton’s own cinematic train opus, the 1926 silent film “The General,” about a stolen locomotive with his lady love on board. You’ll be dazzled by Keaton’s performance, and witness how modern stunts evolved from, and pay homage to his work. Stream it on Prime Video, Tubi, Kanopy, or rent it on other platforms. Another pioneering stunt performer, Harold Lloyd starred in the 1923 film “Safety Last!” which is streaming on Max, Kanopy, the Criterion Channel and Tubi, so add that to the list as well.

Of course, modern Hollywood stunts would not be what they are today without the influence of Hong Kong action cinema, especially star Jackie Chan. After a disappointing Hollywood experience, Chan channeled his energy into the “Police Story” franchise, which became a massive blockbuster hit in Asia and Europe. Chan directed the first two films in the franchise, and utilized his Jackie Chan Stunt Team to create some of the most incredible stunts put to film. They are largely considered to be some of the best action films of all time. Stream “Police Story” and “Police Story 2” on Max.

We couldn’t talk about stunts on film without mentioning Tom Cruise and the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, which sees Cruise executing more and more daring stunts, including the eye-popping motorcycle mountain jump that he pulled off in the most recent film “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.” Stream the entire franchise, all seven movies (it’s so worth it), on Paramount+.

Back in 1999, a stuntman named Chad Stahelski doubled Keanu Reeves on “The Matrix,” an action film that greatly advanced stunt work. Some 15 years later, Stahelski would direct Reeves in the “John Wick” franchise, their own love letter to stunt work, created in partnership with Leitch, who would go on to make his directorial debut with the chilly Cold War actioner “Atomic Blonde” (2017) starring Charlize Theron. Stream “The Matrix” on Netflix and Max, stream the “John Wick” franchise on Peacock and rent “Atomic Blonde” on all digital platforms to see a bit of “The Fall Guy” DNA.

Finally, no mention of stunt movies would be complete without a shout out to what may be the best action movie of the 21st century so far, George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.” This mad dash across the desert involved hordes of war boys clinging to vehicles tearing across the Namibian landscape, leaping and battling from swinging poles and scaffolding, motorcycle grannies, feisty wives, a steely Theron and a taciturn Tom Hardy. The film won several Oscars and would have no doubt scored a stunt Oscar if that was an option. It’s always the right time to stream “Fury Road,” and it also serves as prep for the prequel, “Furiosa,” which roars into theaters on May 24. Stream “Mad Max: Fury Road” on Max or rent it elsewhere.

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(Katie Walsh is the Tribune News Service film critic and co-host of the “Miami Nice” podcast.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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