Ensemble Mercenary Films That Kicked Ass Long Before 'The Expendables'

The Expendables 2 hits theaters this Friday, and action fans everywhere are psyched to see Hollywood's favorite bad-asses share the big screen. But the concept is hardly a new one. In fact, the Expendables films are just the latest in a long line of ensemble mercenary films. The vast majority of films in this sub-sub-genre are either westerns or they take place in poor African countries. And much like Stallone's crew, the casts often include aged action stars. The following are some other ass-kicking films in the same vein as The Expendables.

The Wild Geese (1978)

This British actioner stars Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Richard Harris as aging soldiers of fortune sent into Africa to overthrow a ruthless dictator. As these things always go, they are double-crossed and set out for revenge.

The Professionals (1966)

This western stars bad-asses Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, and Jack Palance as three "specialists" hired to find a Texas millionaire's missing wife. Their team includes a weapons expert, a scout, a horse wrangler, and an explosives specialist. 

Uncommon Valor (1983)

Gene Hackman is a marine who assembles a team to rescue his son, who was left behind by the Vietnam War. The rest of the cast includes Reb Brown (Roll Fizzle-Beef!), Fred Ward (Remo Williams!), Robert Stack (yes, the Unsolved Mysteries guy), Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja), and Patrick Swayze.

Dark of the Sun (1967)

Rod Taylor leads a band of mercenaries through the Congo to retrieve millions of dollars in uncut diamonds. The film shocked audiences with its depictions of brutal violence, rape, and torture. There is one particularly memorable chainsaw fight sequence. Quentin Tarantino is such a fan of this film that he used tracks from its score in Inglourious Basterds.

The Mercenary Fighters (1988) 

Peter Fonda leads a team of mercenaries hired to quell an African tribes' rebellion against a corrupt leader. Naturally, the tough guys realize they are fighting on the wrong side and must set things right. Reb Brown (Brick HardMeat!) is also in this one, as is James Mitchum (Robert's son).

Codename: Wild Geese (1984) 

In this Italian "macaroni combat" flick, Ernest Borgnine hires a team of mercenaries to take on a Burmese opium warlord in the Golden Triangle. Although unrelated to The Wild Geese, it follows a similar plot. But this one has the combined intensities of Lee Van Cleef and Klaus Kinski!

(Sorry  couldn't find an English-language trailer!)

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

A classic in the American western genre, The Magnificent Seven boasts a cast of bad-asses that would make The Expendables weep. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn are among the gunmen hired to protect a Mexican village from bandits.

Seven Samurai (1954)
And last but absolutely not least is the film that started it all. Seven Samurai does not have the well-known cast (not in America anyway) but I would be remiss if I did not include the Akira Kurosawa classic that directly inspired The Magnificent Seven and countless others since. Even numerous comedies and other unexpected fare (e.g. Pixar's A Bug's Life) owe their success to this movie about seven ronin hired to help a small village defend its crops. Stallone & co. are cool but give me Toshiro Mifune any day.

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