Recently, while watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s underrated Eraser, I was reminded that the movie marks one of the few instances where Schwarzenegger has scenes stolen from him by an explosive co-star. No, not James Caan, but the electronic pulse rifle. Naturally, this made me wonder where this killer gun ranks in the storied history of action-movie weapons. And thus I loaded up, took aim, and ranked the top ten weapons in action-movie history, for which there’s plenty of ammo.
10. Hip Gun, RoboCop
Transformed from the standard-issue policeman’s sidearm into an automatic, Robo’s piece is as cool as the idea that something could be built that is part man, part machine, and all cop. Plus instead of holstering it under his arm or in his belt, he drew it from his hip — literally. One look at Robo’s gun and you know, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
9. Bullwhip, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Iconic. Manly. Indy’s bullwhip is probably the most macho of all the weapons listed and as much a trademark as it is a trusty go-to. Plus this utilitarian weaponry can be used as a deterrent or to help provide a means of escaping snakes and Nazis in a tight pinch — two things that Dr. Jones knows something about. But Indy’s weapon lacks the firepower to swing much higher in these rankings. He does carry a gun too, after all.
8. Glaive, Krull
A legendary weapon with mighty powers that could only be possessed by a few, the glaive (which sounds like a cool indie rock band) is such a unique weapon that you identify Krull by it. One glance at the glaive — which looks like a boomerang starfish with knives — and you think, “Oh, yeah, that’s from that weird eighties space-fantasy action movie with the bearded dude and the Cyclops.”
7. Magazine, The Bourne Ultimatum
You could argue that Jason Bourne is really the weapon and that any item at his disposal, from spatula to shoehorn, becomes potentially lethal. So why rank the mag over Indy’s bullwhip, among other weapons? The fact remains that in mortal combat Bourne brought the pain with a periodical, which defines badass, and seeing a magazine as a deadly weapon is just cool. Plus this marks the best use ever of Better Homes and Gardens.
6. Hip Cannon, Aliens
Here’s a piece as awesome and intimidating as the space marine who carries it. A rapid-fire Gatling-gun-style firearm that pivots fluidly with its wearer, this weapon is so much fun you watch and wait for a reason for Vasquez to let loose. By the time she screams “Let’s rock” and opens fire, most viewers were in pure weapon ecstasy. Now that’s better than even the deadliest magazine.
5. Mecha Prawn, District 9
You could argue that the Mecha Prawn is more a suit than a pure weapon, but I make the rules around here and I’m less a purist than an enthusiast. Hence I think of this one as a weapon you wear and the ultimate in assault-based accessorizing. An alien-inspired robot suit that fires guns and missiles and grants its operator superstrength? Even though it looks like a 23rd-century Bubba Gump product, this weapon is just crazy enough to climb into the top five.
4. Sock of Quarters, Death Wish
When Paul Kersey takes to the streets of Manhattan on a mission of vigilante justice, his first weapon of choice was not a handgun but rather a crude homemade Argyle mace. The true menace in a sock full of quarters is being able to strike your opponent when they’re distracted by laughing. The weapon is resourceful, creative, and inexpensive, even after taking inflation into account.
3. Hand-Mounted Chain Saw, Army of Darkness
Ash is forced to arm himself with this power tool turned appendage back in Evil Dead II, and when the man the Screwheads referred to as the Strange One leaps up from the hole in the ground to unite himself with his jagged prosthetic fanboys the world over cheered the idea of having to learn to do things left-handed from now on. Ash’s weapon gains extra points for embodying a tough-guy “Have lemons? Make lemonade” attitude. Got a demon hand? Chop it off and attach a chain saw for all of your fighting needs. Everyone wins.
2. .44 Magnum, Dirty Harry
The granddaddy of guns, the patriarch of pistols, the .44 Magnum is quite simply the most powerful handgun in the world. The Magnum inspires almost as much fear as its carrier, Harry Callahan, who loves talking about its might almost as much as he loves firing it. Whether five or six shots were fired, whenever Inspector Callahan brandished this hand cannon you felt lucky, punk.
1. Lightsaber, Star Wars
Why? Because everyone wants a lightsaber. Everyone. Don’t be misguided by your anger toward any of the first three episodes. Don’t give into the hate. Trust your feelings for your youth, when you regularly dreamed of dropping photon torpedoes down the heat shaft of a machine planet. If you are worthy of carrying and mastering a lightsaber, then you are Jedi. And being a Jedi is cool. The Force is indeed strongest with this one.
Honorable mentions go out to the aforementioned Eraser pulse rifle (I have it at number twelve); Iron Man’s wrist rocket; Wolverine’s claws from X-Men; and the machine-gunning, rocket-launching guitar case from Desperado. And whether you believe that it’s the hero who makes the weapon or vice versa, the fact remains that any action geek would gladly take up any of these any day. Got a different favorite? Let me know in the comments section below.
Nick Stevens, co-host of AMC’s Action Pack (Wednesdays, at 8PM | 7C), tries to make funny about movies, pop culture, and sports as often as possible. He lists John McClane, Batman, and Tom Brady as the people with whom he’d most like to have beers. For more of his grown-up nonsense, visit his Tumblr page or follow him on Twitter.