Best 90s Direct-to-Video Action Movies 

Last Updated on February 23, 2023 The 1990s had a plethora of action films, and movies in general, released direct-to-video….

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

The 1990s had a plethora of action films, and movies in general, released direct-to-video. The film rental business was booming, and some video stores even hosted signing events with the stars to promote the films and their business. Direct to video action films were the most popular DTV genre (next to soft-core erotica) and they were produced by the ton. Every week brought a new bunch of options to your local Blockbuster or Mom & Pop store. For the purpose of this list, the titles selected are fun watches even now, that were released direct-to-video for the majority of the population (meaning that a small limited theatrical release may have happened for some, as long as it made under $1 million they qualify here), and they were decently popular on the video store shelves. Without further ado, here are 5 of our favorites!

Lady Dragon (1992) 

Best 90s Direct-to-Video Action Movies: Lady Dragon

Let’s start with the QUEEN of 90s action in the US, the one, the only, the kickass Cynthia Rothrock. This woman is the real deal, with many martial arts championships under her belt and so many black belts, she can only be referred to as Grand Master Rothrock at this point. Back in the 90s (and enjoying a return to form lately), she was the one woman on all the shelves at video stores. This one, Lady Dragon, is one of her most fun entries in the US action film arena and it carries her nickname of Lady Dragon. The film here is about an ex-CIA agent going after the arms dealer who killed her husband. It may sound like typical revenge action fare and while it kind of is, it’s also more than that and it really proves that Rothrock was capable and here to stay. 

Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) 

Best 90s Direct-to-Video Action Movies: Showdown in Little Tokyo

What do you get when you mix Brandon Lee, Dolph Lundgren, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Commando (1985) director Mark L. Lester? Well, you get this insanity. Somewhere between the wild action sequences (yes a fight between Lee and Lundgren does happen early on and it is glorious) the music sequences, the setting, the accidental (?) homoerotic lines, and the sheer insanity of that ending, this film is a classic for many 90s action fans. Yes, this one did get a small (tiny really) contractually-obligated theatrical release, but it made less than $500,000 so most people saw it as a video rental. This one is all over the place in the best ways possible. See if if you haven’t, thank us later. 

Silent Trigger (1996)  

silent trigger

Another Dolph Lundgren entry because, well, the man was in so many movies in the 1990s and most of them went direct-to-video, so he deserves a second spot. This one is more low-key in a way than Showdown in Little Tokyo as it mostly takes place in one building under construction. This shot-in-Montreal actioner was directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) and delivers a good amount of tension when needed, the requisite action film sex scene, and some over-the-top random characters. It was a favorite at the time and it holds up pretty well now. 

Firepower (1993) 

A little action, a little sci-fi, a whole of fun. This one is all about the fights and it takes Gary Daniels, who has a kickboxing background, and lets him do what he does best, fight. The story is not particularly original, but it’s how it’s brought to the screen that makes it entertaining. This is clearly lower budget and inspired by the Thunderdome in the Mad Max film of the same name, but if it works. Here, a duo of cops needs to infiltrate a lawless part of town to solve a crime, so they team up and join up an underground fighting league where the fights are to the death. Chad McQueen (son of Steve) is the lead here and Daniels plays the second cop sent with him. One of the bad guys is wrestler Warrior, aka Jim Hellwig, in a look that is not all that different than his WWF days, and he’s mean as can be here. The fights, as mentioned, are the main point of interest and they include some crazy weapons. This one also includes Art “The Latin Dragon” Camacho in a small fighter part, adding to the legit fighter cred of the film. 

Bloodfist series (1989-1996) 

We’re cheating a bit here, we know. This is a fun series of fight films that are exactly what you’d expect, just set-ups to showcase its lead’s capacities as a fighter and that of the others cast around him. The lead here is Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who gets to kick people in the stomach, the face, the back, the head, the knees, well, everywhere. These films have storylines that aren’t bad, but the main point of interest (like with many entries in this article, let’s be honest) is the fighting. This series is interesting in that all the films star Wilson, but not as the same character. The first two entries have him as Jake Raye, the third as Jimmy Boland, the fourth as Danny Holt, the fifth as Jim Stanton, the sixth as Nick Corrigan, the seventh as Jim Trudell, and the eighth as Rick Cowan. These are almost all stand-alone titles, yet all in the same series. Watching these is a bit of a mystery as to what to do with them, but they are all enjoyable, and it’s fun to see what else they’ll have Wilson do and what other character he’ll get that is totally not the same as before, yet mostly the same. These can feel odd when watched back-to-back, but it’s also an interesting challenge. Also, they are an excellent place to get started with Wilson’s cinematic career.

The direct-to-video world in the 90s was an odd beast, but a fun one. Which films were your favs? 

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