Ranking the best action movies from the great and wonderful Patrick Swayze!

Patrick Swayze had an incredibly successful career as an actor spanning three decades until his untimely death in 2009. Imbued with an incredible amount of charisma and charm, he gave us many memorable characters.

He left us a small but explosive legacy of action flicks, so let’s get going with our ranking of the ultimate Patrick Swayze action movies!

7) Steel Dawn (1987)

In 1987, Swayze had his big breakthrough with Dirty Dancing, and in the same year he made the post-apocalyptic actioner Steel Dawn. Wasteland wanderer Nomad (Swayze) joins a group of villagers, but before long he needs to put his fighting skills to use when warlord Damnil and his minions seek to raid the settlement for its water supply.  The film begins with Swayze meditating while doing a headstand in the desert and getting attacked by mutants unearthing from the sand. 

He disposes of them violently with his mighty sword, but the promise of this awesome opening sequence to give us a campy, swashbuckling actioner never gets fulfilled. The film misses a unique signature, and its mashup of genre tropes is smaller than the sum of its parts. The sword fights pack some punch and are well choreographed but too infrequent to keep the excitement level high. Steel Dawn is an average post-apocalyptic actioner, but worth revisiting if you’re in the mood for an 80s throwback.

6) Uncommon Valor (1983)

First Blood director Ted Kotcheff tackled the alleged fate of American war prisoners left after the Vietnam war and did it even before Rambo: First Blood Part II. The son of Colonel Rhodes (Gene Hackman) went missing during the Vietnam War. 10 years later he finds evidence that his kid is still held prisoner and assembles a team for a clandestine operation behind enemy lines. The movie is s a riff on The Deadly Dozen, and equally lays it on thick with pathos. Swayze plays the over motivated greenhorn and gives early testimony of his fighting skills and energetic acting style.

The tension builds up nicely, with the first half of the film dedicated to the assembly and training of the rescue squad. After that it’s action time with a journey through the jungle, camp infiltration, and 30 minutes of pure mayhem. The action is staged elaborately, with well-crafted shootouts, fights, and huge explosions. Uncommon Valor may not be a classic entry to the war action genre but it’s definitely an entertaining watch.

5) Next of Kin (1989)

It’s hillbillies vs. the Italian mafia with Swayze caught between the fronts. Chicago cop Truman’s (Swayze) brother is murdered by the Italian mafia. He tries to catch the killer with policework, but his family from Kentucky prefers to invoke justice their way. Next of Kin is atmospherically dense and gets the most out of its gritty urban setting. Swayze delivers his trademark style of being gracious when talking and resolved when it’s time for action.

The film is a well-balanced blend of crime thriller, family drama and numerous violent confrontations. The Appalachian family may be impoverished and eccentric, but the city mobsters are no match for them and their shotguns. The finale is a crazy showdown between the Southerners and the mafia in a cemetery with hatchets, bear traps and a bus full of snakes becoming weapons of choice. Next of Kin is a classic 1980s action thriller of the best kind.

4) Black Dog (1998)

The country road turns into a warzone in Black Dog. Truck driver Jack (Swayze) and his family have fallen on hard times. He gets talked into driving a shipment of hot merchandise ware across the country but before long the police and his treacherous employer (Meat Loaf) are chasing after him. Black Dog is lean and straightforward in the best sense. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the characters are a fun bunch, and the story flows smoothly with a high tempo. 

Swayze carries the film with his energetic presence as tough trucker and caring family man who is willing to defend his rig at all costs. The car action is fantastic and considering the film’s budget is absolutely on par with most A-list productions of the time. Trucks are grinding, crashing, and exploding for no reason. It’s all fantastic work by the stunt crew helmed by the masters of their craft Vic Armstrong and Gary Hymes. Black Dog delivers 85 exciting minutes of pure vehicular carnage.

3) Red Dawn (1984)

In John Milius’ cult action fairy tale, the cold war turned hot. A Communist army invades the USA, and a small Colorado town is one of their first beachheads. A group of high school kids led by Jed (Swayze) takes refuge in the mountains and starts a guerilla war against the enemy army. It all sounds pretty grim, but don’t take it too seriously, and just enjoy this charming and occasionally cheesy action adventure.

The film delivers a truckload of kick-ass action as The Wolverines are machine-gunning, camouflaging, and booby-trapping their way through enemy territory. The film is full of intense moments and huge action set pieces when Colorado is turned into a war zone. Swayze radiates a youthful charm and energy as leader of the pack who excels at campfire pep talk and more aggressive measures to keep his squad in line. Wolverines!!!

2) Point Break (1991)

Point Break was another slam dunk for Swayze and became one of the greatest off-beat actioners of all time. FBI graduate Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) joins the LA bank robbery task force. The most notorious gang of bank robbers is suspected to be found among surfers. Johnny goes undercover and gets drawn into the free-spirited lifestyle of the surfing community, that is led by the charismatic master surfer Bodhi (Swayze).

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze deliver some of the best performances of their career as two antipoles in temperament and way of life. Swayze’s Bodhi is the more interesting of the two, a hedonist freethinker who is also a violent criminal. The action is kinetic and exciting, filmed masterfully (including the many surfing sequences), and doesn’t need bullet storms or giant explosions to hit hard. Point Break is an atmospheric and captivating ride that has become a legendary entry to the genre.

1) Road House (1989)

“Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.” Traveling philosopher and martial arts expert Dalton (Swayze) finds his calling as master bouncer of a run-down bar in Missouri. Crime lord Wesley does not appreciate Dalton’s efforts and declares war on him. Road House creates a masculine microcosm of impossible characters and impossible dialogues full of terrific one-liners. It’s funny, dramatic, cheesy, and romantic, and the action rocks with testosterone-charged fist fights, big explosions, and a monster truck rampage.

As so often in his films, Swayze portrays an outsider with an uncanny amount of resolve. He delivers a mesmerizing performance as Dalton, introduced to us as a man in total balance with himself and the universe. Soon enough he turns into a total bad-ass, and his crusade for justice culminates in an emotionally most satisfying throat-rip sequence. Road House is an ultimate pillar of 1980s cinema, a film so unique it should be recognized as its own genre.