When it comes to war movies, the fast-paced action blockbusters that have defined American pop culture since the ‘80s have a bad reputation: massive explosions, impossible marksmanship, and nobody ever, ever runs out of ammo. Yes, it’s a hole the genre is finally starting to dig out of with incredible technical expertise on display in more recent Hollywood projects like John Wick and 13 Hours, or in TV miniseries like History Channel’s SIX. But if you want proof that this wasn’t always the case, just look back a few decades to the age of “unlimited ammo.”
Here are five epic shootouts where the heroes simply don’t have time to waste reloading; after all, the bad guys aren’t gonna kill themselves in an infinite hail of gunfire.
Rambo: First Blood Part II
You can’t talk about over the top (but unquestionably awesome) shootouts without mentioning Sylvester Stallone’s muscle-bound, mulleted Vietnam War veteran character. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, our M60-toting hero liberates a group of American Vietnam War prisoners with little more than “the pig” and a two-foot-long belt of 7.62 ammo, but that’s all he needs, because that M60 is magic. No, seriously, watch it: Anytime it gets close to running dry, the belt is back in the next scene, practically unchanged. It doesn’t matter that this beast can fire up to 550 rounds a minute, or that Rambo spends roughly 19 seconds firing (though, in his defense, he’s not firing at the cyclic rate). But even firing at a sustained rate of 100 rounds a minute, he’d certainly have burned through most or all of that ammo belt.
Die Hard 2
After once again shimmying his way through a ventilation shaft — really, John McClane must have an amazing sense of direction given all the times he’s had to navigate a maze of air ducts — Bruce Willis bursts into a room littered with scaffolding and ladders that must be magnetic. Everyone, good and bad, proceeds to miss for the next minute straight, with the majority of the rounds glancing harmlessly off of random poles or pieces of sheet metal.
Though McClane does reload, he fires off roughly 30 rounds before slamming a fresh mag into his Beretta 92, which only holds 15, all the while the two bad guys spray the area with wildly inaccurate but sustained fire from 30-round Heckler & Koch MP5Ks. Fortunately for McClane, he’s the good guy, which means the villains miss every time — and their firearms jam.
Reloading is for sissies. That’s why Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) not only wades into a firefight with the best name for a fictional Delta Force operator ever, but an entire armory’s worth of firepower.
Before Matrix even gets close to expending all his ammunition during the shootout, he jumps from one weapon to the next. Pretty much anytime Matrix disappears from view, he reemerges with a new weapon, but he never, ever reloads. The firefight starts off with a few rounds from an AK before Matrix transitions to an Uzi, punctuated by a seemingly infinite cache of hand grenades. A few more rounds with that tiny little death-dealer, then it’s time for the Desert Eagle, followed by a few slugs with a Remington 870, before wrapping this murderfest up with the M60 — probably the same one from Rambo: First Blood Part II.
If you think super-soldiers pack a lot of guns, how about Keanu Reeve’s hacker super-assassin Neo? There’s actually a relatively reasonable explanation for all the firepower he’s packing: The Matrix is a computer program, and that means cheat codes, baby, infinite fucking inventory and infinite ammo. Then again we wouldn’t know if that’s the case: Neo drops his weapon and grabs a new one every few seconds. Though who really needs a gun when you’ve got Kung Fu — or the ability to stop bullets.
When everyone’s dual-wielding pistols like Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral and dropping like flies, what’s the point of reloading? There are plenty of extra guns lying around. That seems to be the modus operandi for Nicholas Cage and John Travolta’s face-swapping fury-monsters in this wondrously campy grudge match.
Case in point: In one scene Travolta pulls a Stechkin automatic pistol out of his ass and opens up on Cage for a hot minute, missing every time. The next moment, he gets it knocked out his hand, at which point, Cage grabs it, and fires again for a few more seconds, and misses, too, but who cares? It’s not like that thing only carries 20 rounds. Oh wait: It does.