Action movies that lack an action hero?
February 3, 2008 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend any action movies with unexpected heroes who use unexpected skills to get by?

I have a weakness for this kind of story. One of my favourite examples is the movie Outrageous Fortune, where two struggling actors get mixed up in action movie stuff. They have absolutely no skills with guns or fighting or anything like that, nor are they Indiana Jones types who are adventurous and always know what to do. Yet, they get out of all the pickles and ultimately defeat The Big Bad Guy with the clever use of their acting and dancing skills.

I eat this stuff up. Action movies with action heroes are boring. Action movies with heroes who are not suited for action but use what they've got are awesome. Can anyone recommend any like that?
posted by giggleknickers to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Client is more of a suspense movie than action but the 11 or 12 year old who stars is really savvy for a kid. He is an accidental hero and gets himself out of a lot of hairy situations that would intimidate most adults. All on his street smarts and wits alone.
posted by sneakin at 5:35 PM on February 3, 2008

Oh, and Trading Places is also not an action movie (then again, I never considered Outrageous Fortune to be action either, so maybe this is still the right track) but it's the same accidental heroes/underdogs who beat the bad guys by playing to their strengths and doing what they do best.
posted by sneakin at 5:44 PM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Three Days of the Condor, with Robert Redford as a non-agent employee of the CIA who -- hoping to avoid spoilers here -- doesn't really have the background or training to face what he has to face but he has other things and he brings it. Dated.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:45 PM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

¡Three Amigos! Actors who get asked to help a small village in Mexico. Also: hilarious.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2008

Basically the same plot as ¡Three Amigos!, but in space - Galaxy Quest. Surprisingly good.
posted by martinrebas at 5:58 PM on February 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

One Crazy Summer -- if a sailing race counts as action. (It's almost the same movie as Better Off Dead, but I'm thinking in particular of John Cusack's character using his cartooning skills as part of the plot.)
posted by tomboko at 6:15 PM on February 3, 2008

Big Trouble in Little China might meet your criteria. The main character played by Kurt Russel is a truck driver and while he's strong, he's thrown into a situation involving martial arts and Chinese mythology that places him entirely out of context. In one scene, taken back by whats going on, he ends up driving his truck over a mystical bad guy and later on, continues to show himself a fish out of water. He ends up saving the day based on an uncanny reflex ability that comes into play only once after its introduction in the beginning of the movie.
posted by Atreides at 6:19 PM on February 3, 2008

The movie you want is "F/X". The hero is a Hollywood special effects technician, and he uses his skills instead of guns and fists. Wait 'til you see what he does with superglue!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:32 PM on February 3, 2008

Don't laugh to hard, but Babe: Pig in the City is kind of like this, with Farmer Hoggett's fat nattering wife becoming an unlikely heroine in a number of very physically acted scenes. It's a surprsingly good movie, and very different in tone from the first movie.
posted by kimdog at 7:38 PM on February 3, 2008

You might want to check into the action comedy genre, as most of these movie types seem to be comedies, as people stuck in situations they are not equipped to handle lends itself easily to comedy.

That being said, I think Spies Like Us is right down your alley.
posted by slavlin at 7:43 PM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

How 'bout Unbreakable?
posted by purephase at 7:53 PM on February 3, 2008

Just saw Cloverfield, and think it might apply. Action movie with realistic characters
posted by jpdoane at 8:33 PM on February 3, 2008

My favorite movie from last year, Children of Men had a main character that didn't pick up a gun through the whole movie, even though all kinds of crazy violence happened throughout.

I think he did strike one person with a cinder block (after a _lot_ of chasing and provocation), but was definitely not a fighter.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 8:34 PM on February 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Home Alone- An eight year-old, who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas, has to defend his home against idiotic burglars.
posted by JujuB at 8:48 PM on February 3, 2008

As a kid i loved Condorman - got hold of a rip of it not too long ago, and yes it's cheesy (Michael Ceawford's odd american accent!), but still enjoyable...
posted by pupdog at 11:02 PM on February 3, 2008

The hero of Jurassic Park III is William H. Macy. Heroes don't come much more unexpected than that.

All through the movie he seems to be about as surprised as the audience that he didn't end up as a crunchy sound in the first ten minutes.
posted by dansdata at 11:20 PM on February 3, 2008

Mystery Men
posted by iamabot at 2:04 AM on February 4, 2008

The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Bourne Identity.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:00 AM on February 4, 2008

If you like/are amused by the Star Trek genre at all, then there is also Galaxy Quest, which I found surprisingly entertaining. The washed up actors from a Star Trek-like movie end up in space, fighting aliens.
posted by kosmonaut at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2008

I have seen and loved every single one of the movies mentioned here. That's got to mean something. (Probably something unflattering.)
posted by nax at 7:39 AM on February 4, 2008

Check out The Imposters - which stars Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt as, umm, two struggling actors who, as stow-aways, foil a number of dastardly plots while pretending to be stewards on a cruise ship. It's more of a comedy with some action/drama elements, but it sounds so similar to Outrageous Fortune (which I haven't seen) that I thought I'd mention it.
posted by taliaferro at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2008

You might want to check out The President's Analyst. The President's psychoanalyst is chased by a variety of international spy groups to get their hands on his secrets. Quite funny.
posted by Reverend John at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2008

Paul Greengrass's United 93, though I suppose it's not really an action movie.
posted by chengjih at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2008

Andy saves everyone with her organ skillz in The Goonies.
posted by billtron at 11:16 PM on February 4, 2008

I really enjoyed The Man who Knew Too Little, though it's a comedy rather than strictly an action flick, and it was the first one that came to mind when I read your question.

And yeah, I'm a little late to the game here.
posted by Nodecam at 1:26 PM on February 5, 2008

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