Ranking the best and the most ultimate from the legendary Rutger Hauer!
Rutger Hauer sadly died in 2019, but left us a large legacy of movies to remember him. He was an excellent actor, being at home in many genres and productions of different budgets and qualities.
He worked with Ridley Scott, and he worked with Albert Pyun. Hauer had great natural charisma, and would always elevate a film just by being in it. On top of that, I’ve never seen a lazy performance from him, even in his worst movies. He once said in an interview “One-third of my movies are probably turkeys, and they pay for the experiments of the other third in a way, and then the middle part pays for the rent.”
We can only guess into which categories he put his action movies, but there were quite a few awesome ones he starred in, and we’re going to discuss his ten best entries to the genre in this article. His most famous movie Blade Runner is an all-time masterpiece, of course, but is not on this list, as it really is not an action movie.
10) Redline (1997)
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Hauer would regularly appear in low-budget action or thriller movies of usually questionable quality. One of the few thoroughly entertaining ones from that period is Redline (aka Deathline).
Hauer plays Wade, a smuggler of cyber-biotechnology in the near future, who is betrayed and killed by his partner Marrick during a run. Wade is brought back to life by the Russian government, and is sent to go after Merrick. Redline is a cheap cyberpunk thriller set in a futuristic version of Russia, and actually has a couple of redeeming qualities. Filmed in Hungary, the movie effectively utilizes the eastern-bloc architecture as a backdrop, which occasionally gives the movie a Neo-noir vibe á la Blade Runner.
Instead of having a plot, Redline spends most of its time displaying gunfights and nudity, the two of which occasionally coalesce into Kalashnikov-shooting half-naked women. Hauer gives a highly physical performance, he shoots and runs a lot, and gets to make love several times. Redline is elevated above the direct-to-video fodder from its era by its original visual style, and an overload of gunfire and naked skin.
9) Wedlock (1991)
Wedlock is a solid for TV made B-movie with an appropriately ironic title. Hauer plays jewel thief Frank Warren that is sent to a prison with a twist. Each inmate carries a collar, which is linked to another inmate’s collar. If the two get too far apart, their heads explode. Warren and his collar-mate Tracy manage to escape, and the hunt begins. Wedlock uses a delightfully ludicrous idea for how to run a prison, but it’s a great premise for the entertaining cat and mouse game this movie is.
Everything about Wedlock is fairly basic, but well done within the means of a TV movie budget. The plot moves at a good pace, and despite Warren not firing a single shot in the entire movie, Wedlock has a fair amount of well-executed action. All actors gives fairly easy-going performances, and some tongue-in-cheek humor make for a relaxed watch that never fails to entertain.
8) Split Second (1992)
Split Second features Rutger Hauer in his probably most hard-ass role, as cynical and fringe lunatic police officer Stone. He and his partner investigate a series of brutal killings in the flooded city of London. Stone seems to have some sort of psychic connection to the killer that foretell the murders.
Split Second has a couple of gruesome killing scenes, blood and gore splatter a lot from one side of the screen to the other. The visuals of the movie are pretty good and create a dark vibe as the characters are wading through flooded and filthy alleys and basements. Despite Hauer being always armed to the teeth, there’s actually not as much action going on as one would hope for, except for the finale which is quite explosive.
The movie scores high on atmosphere and horror, but does not even try to have a halfway decent plot, and has plenty of trashy dialogues. But it matters not, just give Hauer cool sunglasses, a black coat and a big-ass gun and let his charisma win over the audience, so that one forgets what a messy movie Split Second occasionally is. It worked for me!
7) Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1986)
A group of terrorists is wreaking havoc in Los Angeles, and while the FBI and CIA are cluelessly skulking around in their offices, it is up to bounty hunter Nick Randall to stop them. Wanted: Dead Or Alive joins in on a series of 1980s action-thrillers such as Cobra and Raw Deal that were entertaining mostly because of the ultra-tough main characters and their violent escapades.
And there’s a good deal of them, we get the full suite of shootouts, car chases and explosions, all delivered at a nice pace. The movie also has a couple of charming ideas, such as Randall hiding his shotgun in a car baby seat, and the head of the Arabic terrorists (played by Gene Simmons) entering the US posing as a Rabbi. Hauer owns every scene, be it as a charming lover or a merciless bad-ass taking care of villains. Wanted: Dead or Alive is a cool and action-loaded ride, and shows Hauer at the top of his game.
Rutger Hauer Goes Action Cowboy in ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ (1987)
6) Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)
Hobo with A Shotgun is based on one of the fake trailers from Quentin Tarantino’s and Robert Rodriguez’ Grindhouse feature. The movie does have plenty of action, and another great performance by Hauer. That’s why it’s on this list, but I can’t really recommend it if you’re looking for some easy-going old-school entertainment.
The city of Hope Town is under the grip of a gang led by “The Drake” and his sons Ivan and Slick. A homeless person (played by Hauer) witnesses the terror, buys a shotgun, and cleans up the town from its criminal elements. Hobo with A Shotgun exaggerates the sleaziness of Grindhouse movies and combines it with the hysterical humor of a Troma movie.
Everything is staged comically over the top, so don’t take it too seriously, but some scenes are difficult to endure even then. In all this madness, Hauer gives an actually sincere performance as exhausted and melancholic homeless person, that eventually turns into a vengeful vigilante. Hobo With A Shotgun is incredibly well done, but can only be recommended if you don’t mind getting grossed out by your movies occasionally.
5) Flesh And Blood (1985)
After already working together in their home country of the Netherlands in the 1970s, Rutger Hauer and Paul Verhoeven teamed up again for Verhoeven’s first US production. Flesh and Blood follows the exploits of a band of mercenaries in the 16th century led by Martin (played by Hauer).
After sacking a city, they’re betrayed by the king who denies them their looted treasure. As revenge, they abduct the king’s future daughter-in-law and hide in a castle, to which the king’s son lays siege with his army. Verhoeven always had a tendency to fill his movies with characters that represent the worst traits in humans, and Flesh + Blood is no exception. This is no romantic medieval adventure-type movie, and there are no benevolent characters in this story.
The movie contains a lot of nasty stuff, and occasionally feels like an exploitation movie filmed on a blockbuster budget. Hauer gives a great performance as muscular, charming, but also ruthless leader of the mercenary gang. Flesh + Blood is not an all-out action movie, but there’s a lot of sword fights and other types of medieval warfare put on display, so action aficionados will not be disappointed.
4) Surviving The Game (1994)
Surviving The Game casts Rutger Hauer another time in a villain role, as sophisticated but unscrupulous leader of a group of deranged rich folks that hunt people for sports in the mountains. Their target is the homeless Jack (played by Ice-T), who is tricked into joining the group as an assistant to their trip. As he runs for his life, he realizes his best chance to survive is to fight back.
Surviving the Game is a straightforward action thriller that is flawlessly executed. The action kicks ass, there’s plenty of thrills and violence as Jack is chased through the forest by the initially overwhelming and perfectly equipped group of killers. The great panoramic scenery of the mountains and forests are also used to great effect.
While Ice-T gives a decent performance in one of his earlier roles, the villains really steal the movie from him. They’re all played by renowned actors, among them F. Murray Abraham and Gary Busey, and actually make their characters interesting. Surviving The Game does about everything right that you would expect from an entertaining action thriller.
3) The Blood Of Heroes (1989)
The Blood Of Heroes (aka Salute of the Jugger) is the only Sci-Fi sports movie that matters (sorry, Rollerball). I may be biased, when growing up this was really a cult flick among my friends and me, and I think it still is. The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the only pleasure people get in their life is from watching “Jugging” matches where two teams fight for a dog skull in a brutal competition. A group of Juggers, led by the veteran player Sallow, are trying to win their entry into The League in one of the underground cities, where they believe great riches await them.
The plot is simple and told straightforward, and Hauer nails it as usual as the charismatic anti-hero. The movie jumps right into the action with the first match, and the matches are really the centerpiece of the movie. There’s multiple of them, and each of the intense and brutal fights is filmed impressively. The Blood Of Heroes doesn’t need big sets or special effects to work, it’s a raw and minimalist movie in the best sense.
2) Blind Fury (1989)
Blind Fury is unrestrained fun right from the beginning, and shows that Hauer could also shine in comedic roles. Nick loses his eyesight during the Vietnam war, and is taken in by some local villagers who trained him in the art of blind sword-fighting.
After returning to the US, he put his new skills to use to rescue his veteran buddy Frank from the grip of a ring of drug dealers. Blind Fury is full of creative action scenes that humorously exploit the fact that a blind man is a master sword fighter. Hauer is not a martial arts performer, but character actor first and foremost, and so his sword-fighting scenes in Blind Fury are not of the highest quality. But that’s no problem, they’re still a blast to watch. The movie features the incredible scene where Frank drives a car flawlessly during a frantic chase through dense LA traffic.
The bad guys are also a fun bunch, a gang of redneck cowboys that mess up everything they are tasked with, and who get beaten up and stabbed by Frank all the time. Despite being high on bloody violence, the movie is fairly light-hearted with plenty of campy humor (“I also do circumcisions”). Blind Fury is an action-comedy highlight without a single dull moment.
1) The Hitcher (1986)
In The Hitcher, Hauer played one the most frightening human villains that ever made it into a movie. He used all his charisma and physical presence to create a perfect embodiment of pure evil. Jim picks up the serial killer John Ryder who poses as a hitchhiker. Jim manages to escape, but Ryder keeps coming after him, and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.
With The Hitcher, director David Webb Peoples (who wrote the script for Blade Runner) created a nightmare on celluloid with some high-octane action scenes. The movie has an incredible tension that builds up painfully until the explosive showdown. Despite bordering on the edge of a horror movie, there’s plenty of action as Jim, Ryder and the police frequently clash with each other.
The movie shows a couple of car chases and crashes that are filmed spectacularly, and which belong to the best car action scenes ever filmed. If Rutger Hauer is to be remembered for any movie other than Blade Runner, it must be be The Hitcher.