Between 1990 and 1999, Hollywood produced some of the most iconic and ground breaking contributions to action cinema. As a child born in the '80s, growing up through the '90s saw me being too young to see most adult action movies in the cinemas. So my first experiences of many of these films were on VHS and DVD - in some cases it was the TV edit version discreetly taped while my parents were asleep. (Sorry mom!)
For many of us film fans, as we grew up, movies informed us about the world.
Here are my most memorable moments from my first viewings of these great '90s action films, and possible isolating the exact moments when I was left slightly scarred as a child.
Total Recall (1990)
The '80s may have finished, but Paul Verhoeven wasn't ready to say goodbye. Seeded in that excessive and cheesy quirkiness, that was proudly paraded by '80s ultra violent cinema, Total Recall feels like a congregation of the best of that decade put together all in one film.
It didn't take long to be reminded that this wasn't a kids movie, with one of the two most horrific Verhoeven moments featuring in the opening minutes of Total Recall, (the other one being when a drone goes haywire in the boardroom of Robocop). Action man pre-governator Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a bored construction worker who takes a trip to Rekall to implant a fake memory of being a spy. However within moments he is attacked by trained assassins.
While escaping on a elevator, and in a bid to protect himself from gunfire, he grabs a random person and use him as a shield. It almost feels like it was played for a sickly joke, particularly when the dead random person is trampled on by the assassins as they continue to give chase.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Perhaps this moment in hindsight is not as intense or as adult as I remember. But for a child, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a violent, graphic adult movie.
The first time I was shown T2, I was probably only nine or ten years old. My uncle was showing off his brand new THX home stereo system, but I wasn't expecting what happened next.
The opening sequence features a sea of human skulls, a result of the deadly war between man and machine. Suddenly, with added extra bass from a shining new speaker, a robot foot comes crushing down on a skull. I think I jumped so high I could have hit the roof. I ran screaming from that room. It was a pretty frightening image for a child.
It is now one of my favorite action films of all time, but the first experience was not a kind one.
Under Siege (1992)
I really wasn't aware of Steven Segal when I first saw his Die Hard on a ship, Under Siege. The first viewing of Under Seige was a result of unsanctioned late night TV taping on VHS. But I knew I had stumbled on something I shouldn't be watching when the infamous playboy model cake scene arrived. I think also the genuine innocence of why I was such a Baywatch fan at the time was just as genuinely destroyed.
A picture Erika Eleniak in her famous red bikini found itself on my bedroom wall not long after. And lets face it, an early pubescent version of myself may instantly hit rewind on the tape a few times. An adult version of myself would question why even a scene like this was necessary in grand scheme of the story. Maybe the film's producers just noted we have a topless playboy model in our film, so we might as well show off her best assets.
Demolition Man (1993)
My parents, to their credit, worked pretty hard to keep me sheltered as long as possible from adult-like behavior. Yet as my interest in film grew, my natural curiosity to explore more adult-like content became unavoidable. Violence, Sex and Language were a common in all action films. But with the advent of the PG13 rating, over time a more tween friendly version of the action film developed (sometimes to detriment of the quality of a film... ahem Expendables 3...).
I was a little surprised when I was given permission to watch Demolition Man. I remember distinctly that it was my Dad's favorite film at the time. He would hand me three seashells with no explanation and laugh himself silly.
However it was the first film I remember where swearing was a central part of the story. It stood out because our hero John Spartan was chastised for swearing which made him even cooler when he did drop the f-bomb. In many ways, the seashell joke was paid off, when Spartan explodes with a expletive-filled rant at the swear machine, simply to produce enough paper to use the bathroom.
True Lies (1994)
Jamie Lee Curtis unknowingly strip teasing for her spy husband Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron spy epic, True Lies feels like it completely came out of left field. But the story was always leading to this private moment, no matter how you look at it. In a perfect mix of casting, choreography, humor and sexiness, the scene encompasses the true heart and spirit of the film; a bored marriage needing a kick in the pants.
Yet, as the child who watched this film unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, it featured a mix of confused emotions. Jamie Lee Curtis begins the film as a typical housewife mother type, mirroring what I thought I saw in my own mother. But as she craves for more in her bored life, she begins to explore a possible ex-martial affair. So her jealous spy husband tricks her into a secret rendezvous. With his face and voiced concealed he demands her to dance for him. When she begins to dance with there was a sudden realization for me. At some point, my parents would have had to have sex! EW gross! It's not a thought a child wants to have about their own parents.
It might be a bit of surprise to you that I fast forwarded this scene, leaving sadly, my first viewing of such a kick-ass action film, with a very awkward moment.
Now lets hope my mum doesn't read this article and find out how many naughty movies I saw while I was young without her knowing. Thats definitely going to make an interesting conversation at Christmas lunch this year!
What were some of your first 'Adult' moments from favorite films? Tell us in the comments below.
Daniel Sanguineti is a Australian Film Producer and Writer, who has previously tutored film and media at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. He is on twitter @DanSanguineti.