Worst '80s Action Movie? Look No Further.

BILL WOOD | JUNE 19, 2024

Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.

Spend some time digging around this site and you’ll quickly realize that I am an avid enthusiast of bad cinema, or more specifically “so-bad-it’s-good” cinema. Some of my most beloved movies fall into this category, including Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, the IQ-sapping Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the utterly nauseating Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, and way too many bargain-basement ‘70s kung fu films to list here (although I have listed them here). I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the ultra-rad ‘80s action genre, adding several films to my personal list of cringe-worthy faves.


As entertaining as these b-movies can be, unfortunately there are times when bad is just plain bad. There are films out there that test the limits of human patience and endurance, and with 1982’s Megaforce I think I’ve finally seen that limit. In fact, it’s safe to say that I’ve exceeded it.


This movie… I don’t even know where to begin. It’s centered around the eponymous Megaforce, a black ops international peace-keeping special unit whose sole purpose is to kick worldwide evil in its collective gonads. Apparently “international” includes the Confederacy since one of its members sports a stars-and-bars flag patch. Anyway, Megaforce is all about dudes defending freedom and democracy by smashing injustice in the mealy-mouth, popping wheelies while shooting rockets and making things go boom. This sounds mega-awesome on paper, unfortunately the entire concept could have been (and probably was) squeezed into a single episode of The A-Team. But at least the A-Team had B.A. Baracus and a condensed TV format going for it. Megaforce has… well, nothing much really.


Here I’m going to start making comparisons to Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, mainly because it is a prime example of a bad ‘80s action movie getting it right… or I should say getting everything completely wrong but somehow magically getting it right at the same time. Megaforce definitely had this potential; it never takes itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to revel in its own absurdity. But whereas Metalstorm keeps the action rolling from start to finish with a nonstop procession of laser battles and car chases, Megaforce is mostly dull, dumb and just plain booooring, that last word in particular being the kiss of death for any action flick. There are long stretches full of shoddy acting and grade-school dialog with absolutely no trash-talking or butt-kicking or thing-exploding whatsoever, to the point where my patience was tested several times throughout. I literally fell asleep on my first viewing.


If you’re reading this and thinking “Wow, this actually sounds awesome, he’s just not getting it,” just remember this one word: boring.


Supporting actor Michael Beck is a bright spot in a room full of dim bulbs. He has charisma to spare and wisely camps it up realizing the situation he is in, but it’s dire to think that just a few years prior he was the main man in one of my very favorite movies, 1979’s The Warriors. In that film he was a gang leader and a serious badass (and yes, I’m ignoring Xanadu, which likely flatlined his chances of ever being a badass again), here he is a reduced to a goofy hick of a sidekick named Dallas, spewing jaw-dropping duds such as:


“Welp, here comes The Egg. And that’s no yolk!!!”


If you just felt your spine stiffen and your gag reflexes kick in, welcome to the party. There’s plenty more where that came from.


As for the rest of the starring cast, Persis Khambatta’s performance as Zara is just fine, while Henry Silva's Guerera is arguably the most toothless villain ever. To reinforce his ultimate bad guy status, he steals people's lighters and cheats at chess. And then there’s Barry Bostwick as Commander Ace Hunter. I will say this; God bless this man for fearlessly sliding into a skin-tight spandex jumpsuit, Olivia Newton-John-approved headband and Duran Duran wig then cranking the ham factor up to 1000%. There's only one way to tackle an assignment like this and Bostwick seems more than up to the task.


Unlike the hard-boiled cinematic anti-heroes of the day (Deckard, Mad Max, etc.), Bostwick's Hunter prances and poses across the screen like a true Pirate of Penzance, delivering the type of face-palmy one-liners that could only have been a product of the 1980s (see egg joke above) with gleeful aplomb. His signature pose consists of kissing his own thumb then giving a thumbs-up salute… I can’t make this stuff up. While I can't be entirely sure, the fact that Barry Bostwick avoided feature films for the next 11 years may speak volumes about his experience with Megaforce, although it appears he is currently working on a documentary about the film and seems pretty upbeat about the whole affair.


Fun Fact: Barry Bostwick made his grand return to the world of theatrical cinema with Weekend at Bernies 2, after which he probably wished he'd stayed gone another 11 years.


I'm trying to think of something positive to say here... ...okay. Despite Megaforce’s utter wretchedness and complete lack of redeeming quality, it did inspire me to create a rather silly fan poster, so there’s that. The finale is legendary in the annals of crap cinema; I recommend watching the clip on YouTube and sparing yourself the rest. Finally, the movie is essentially G-rated if you really want to drag the kids into this. There's no strong language or offensive sexuality outside of a grown man wearing spandex, and I don't recall anyone getting killed or even slightly maimed onscreen. And seriously, despite my gripes with this film, I do appreciate the fact that it is wholesome family entertainment.


Mattel* produced some neato toys based on the armored vehicle designs and there’s even an Atari 2600 game based on the movie. As cool as these items are for collectors, these mass marketing tie-ins are also a sobering reminder that Megaforce was actually planned as an epic trilogy on the scale of Star Wars, but the absolute shellacking it took at the box office (cost = $20 million, box office = less than $6 million) ensured that this would never happen.


* - In what is certainly a first—and presumably last—for a toy company, Mattel handled the costume design duties for Megaforce. This would explain why everyone in the movie looks like G.I. Joe.


Megaforce's disastrous box office performance brings me to another subject: Yes, I'm aware that there are far worse '80s action movies out there, technically speaking. I haven't watched Battletruck, Wheels On Fire, Exterminators of the Year 3000, or any number of garbage flicks that I'm positive are inferior to Megaforce sight unseen. The difference being those movies were deliberate garbage, cheaply-produced steamers designed to hang around drive-in screens for a month or two before disappearing into the ether forever (thanks Internet!). Once you factor in budget and expectations (the movie had its own toy line fer cryin' out loud!), it's hard to argue that Megaforce wasn't one of the biggest critical and commercial duds of the 1980s.


Like I said from the outset, I love cinematic disasters. I’ve authored enough blogs and created enough poster art on the topic to substantiate my claim, and this website pays homage to exactly this type of entertainment. Unfortunately Megaforce is that rarest of beasts that actually makes me question my passion for b-movies. Outside of the campy performances and killer vehicle designs, it simply doesn’t have anything going for it. It feels unnecessarily drawn out and is particularly lacking in the one element that might possibly have saved it: action. Childhood nostalgia aside, it's impossible to defend something this thoroughly unwatchable; to seek redemption is to willingly succumb to a supermassive black hole of suck.


If you’ve read this far and have decided that now you really need to see Megaforce – that's awesome, I hope you enjoy it! Or take my advice and watch Metalstorm instead, it’s an entertaining example of truly godawful ‘80s action cinema done right. Or I should say done completely grody but somehow also totally tubular. - BW


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Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.
Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.
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