Machine Guns and Movies: Together Since Forever?

machine-gun-expendables-logoThe “gun tourism” industry came under some ever-so-slightly heightened scrutiny recently, following the accidental death of a firearms instructor who was killed when a 9-year-old girl lost control of the Uzi machine gun she was trying out at an Arizona gun range. As if to plainly quash any questioning of the wisdom of promoting the recreational firing of such dangerous weapons, or any criticism of presenting them as fun activities that could be tied into such celebratory events as bachelor parties or weddings, or simply the portrayal of the gun range as a “family-friendly” environment to be considered naturally inclusive of elementary-school-age visitors—the owner of Machine Guns Vegas compared the appeal of his enterprise to the vicarious pleasures of cinema, by pointing out the pervasive connection between machine guns and action movies:

“There’s not an action movie in the past 30 years without a machine gun.”

That’s a bold—and pretty definitive—statement to make. At first, I thought, “How ridiculous, that has to be wrong.” Thirty years? No “action movie” without a machine gun? Could that even be possible?


Then I started silently rattling off to myself the first action movie titles from the last three decades that came to mind. That proved to be almost like the “don’t think of a pink elephant” thought experiment; as much as you might try to think of an action movie without machine guns, you’ll find your head is then instantly filled with (by?) your Expendables, your Rambos, your Schwarzeneggers, your Die Ever-Yet-So-Much-More Harders…even James Bond now typically finds some use for the efficiency of automatic weapons (in place of his customary Walther), employing them as recently as during the fiery climax of Skyfall.

The “action” aesthetic has insinuated itself into most if not all other genres with varying degrees of intensity these days (and, if not exactly in the films themselves, then certainly in the trailers today that ratchet up the actual pace of the films they’re advertising with, well, “rapid fire” cutting), but science fiction and action have been particularly mixing it up in the last 30 years. Now, think about some of our most celebrated contemporary sci-fi hits. Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall? Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element? In the realm of colossal understatement, let’s not fail to acknowledge The Matrix.


Rather than continue to noodle with this challenge in isolation, I’m tossing it out to the MovieFanFare audience:

Name an action movie from the last 30 years that doesn’t contain a machine gun.

Because this simply cannot have been the state of affairs for the last three decades at the movies. Action-film excitement must be possible to achieve without the inclusion of automatic weapons…but why aren’t those achievements springing to mind? Is the machine gun the one indispensable ingredient of the modern action film? And if so…why?

Name one title. Just one. Shouldn’t this be easy?

If you’re still fired up to discuss guns ‘n’ movies, go cast your vote on The Best Movie Shoot-Out and then have a look at five Great Movie Gun Scenes that don’t involve one person pulling the trigger on another.