'Die Hard' and 9 More Movies Where Comedians Become Action Stars

Roundabout kick to funny bone.

Action genres used to be specifically chosen for people who couldn't be ripped not for their acting ability but because they looked like a badass with a machine gun. While some action stars of the past (your Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Stallone, etc.) may lack range, they make up for it by looking like the fantasy heroes adorning comic book covers and album covers of the '80s.

Recent decades have shifted to more down-to-earth action stars, even though they still play actual superheroes. Even before Marvel, comedy had made its way into the action genre, often glorifying violence with some laughs. Studio execs found the best way to accomplish this was to cast actual comedians in the roles of action stars, creating heroes with natural charisma while still being believable enough to save the day.

Bruce Willis - 'Die Hard' (1988)

One of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, Die Hard saw Bruce Willis cement himself in the Action Hall of Fame as Police Officer John McClane. When international terrorists take over the high-rise where his wife lives, McClain is forced to single-handedly defeat the criminals, free the hostages, and save the That day.

Although it is hard to imagine now, Willis was not an action star and was considered unsuitable for the role of McClane. Willis was best known at the time as the star of the successful comedy series Moonlight. Despite early hesitation, Willis' approachable, everyday persona is Die Hard's greatest strength, because it makes McLean feel believable.

Die Hard is available on Starz.

Paul Rudd - 'Ant-Man' (2015)

Even for the MCU, Ant-Man sounds ridiculous. Recently released prisoner Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) breaks into the home of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who finds a supersuit instead of treasure. Using this suit to shrink and grow in size, Lang becomes Ant-Man, a fighter for justice, and eventually the Avenger.

Rudd, previously known for his roles in Anchorman and Clueless, always delivers many great performances. His effortless charisma is what makes him such an alluring leading man, as Lang keeps his grounded presence amidst legendary super-soldiers, tech billionaires and veritable gods.

Ant-Man is available on Disney+.

Bob Odenkirk - 'Nobody' (2021)

"What if John Wick was a suburban dad" concept, no one pays attention to ex-government assassin Hatch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk). When a burglary reawakens his killer instincts, Hutch finds himself in the middle of a battle with the Russian Mafia as he tries to protect his family from his past.

Although Odenkirk is best known to modern audiences for his work on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, he first rose to fame as a comedian. In "Nobody Knows," he forgoes the slick Saul Goodman persona for a flawless portrayal of a broken-down father, allowing him to transform into a killing machine all the more effectively.

Nobody is available on HBO Max.

Eddie Murphy - '48 Hrs.' (1982)

Except Lethal Weapon, 48 hours. One of the founders of the buddy cop genre. When a convicted cop killer breaks free from police custody and goes on the run, veteran police officer Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is forced to hunt him down with the killer's incarcerated partner Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy).

Although Beverly Hills Cop is Murphy's most popular action film, 48 Hours. Two years earlier than it was also Murphy's film debut. The comedian's effortless charisma helped audiences quickly warm to Reggie despite his criminal past, and was enough to win over the gruff Katz as the two sparred Partners eventually connect.

48 hours. Available for streaming on Paramount+.

Owen Wilson - 'Behind Enemy Lines' (2001)

When USAF pilot Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) is shot down over Bosnia, he quickly discovers evidence of genocide in that country. When those responsible try to hunt him down, Burnett attempts to flee to friendly territory as Admiral Reggart (Gene Hackman) provides support from the base.

Behind Enemy Lines, which came out the same year as Zoolander, showcases Wilson's range as he battles the types as a fleeing soldier. A year ago, he starred in "Shanghai Noon" with Jackie Chan, and he was a comedian in that movie. Seeing him directly in this role behind enemy lines, there's not a single "wow" in sight.

Chris Rock - 'Bad Company' (2002)

When his twin brother, a CIA agent, is killed in action, street crook Jack Hayes (Chris Rock) is forced to take over his identity to prevent a terrorist attack. Teaming up with veteran Agent Oakes (Anthony Hopkins), Hayes puts his pace through a CIA training program before being released on the field.

Rock was best known at the time for his stand-up and supporting roles in comedy, so Bad Company marked his first As the leading actor in an action movie. While the film itself isn't anything special and pales in comparison to other cop movies, it's the ridiculous pairing of Rock and Hopkins that's worth watching.

Chris Tucker - 'Rush Hour' (1998)

One of the best pairing cop modes, Rush Hour sees martial arts superstar Jackie Chan paired with comedian Chris Tucker. After the daughter of a Chinese diplomat is kidnapped in the United States, Hong Kong Inspector Lee (Chan) is forced to team up with LAPD Detective Carter (Tucker) to find the missing child.

Rush Hour marked the first time Tucker had a comparable box office hit in a film, as he was previously known for his comedic supporting roles. The movie works because of the dynamic between Carter and Lee, whose blossoming friendship forms the heart of the story.

Rush Hour is available on Netflix and HBO Max.

Ryan Reynolds - 'Blade: Trinity' (2004)

The third film in Marvel's best former MCU film series, Blade: Trinity sees Wesley Snipes return as the titular vampire hunter, this time paired with a new class of killers including Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds). When Dracula comes back to life, the lonely Blade is forced to rely on his new partner to hunt him down.

Although Reynolds is best known today for playing the superhero Deadpool, Reynolds was once known only as a comedy star. Reynolds, who first rose to fame with the sitcom "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place," got his big break with Van Wilder's lead. His captivating lead performance paved the way for his role in Blade: Trinity, where he was forced into shape, which of course led to more action roles.

Blade: Trinity is available on Hulu.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence - 'Bad Boys' (1995)

One of the most popular action movies of the '90s, Bad Boys starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as cops and best friends. When they learn a massive drug deal is about to fall through at their Miami gig, the duo hit the streets in a way only Michael Bay could do in a film filled with shootouts and explosions.

Both Smith and Lawrence were sitcom stars at the time, best known as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin, respectively. The bad boys use their comedic personas and natural chemistry to create an enjoyable action blockbuster, and a Paved the way for Smith to become a leading figure in the genre.

Chris Pratt - 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014)

One of the best movies in the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy follows a ragtag group of mercenaries as they travel through space, putting on any gig they can find, while also helping save the universe. They're led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord, a half-human who's finally found his place in the crew.

Pratt is another actor who began his career in a comedic supporting role, initially rising to fame as Andy Dwyer in Parks and Playground. One of the show's breakout stars, Pratt quickly rose to prominence and found leading actor roles in action movies, eventually leading the revival of Jurassic Park in Jurassic World.

Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Disney+.

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