Last Action Hero may have flopped hard on its original release in 1993, but since then, it’s redeemed itself as a cult classic. The soundtrack, meanwhile, was a major success right out of the gate, reaching number 7 on the US Billboard 200 and picking up rave reviews from the music press. A thrilling mix of hard rock, metal, and ’90s hip hop, it’s a must-listen, regardless of what you think of the film itself. Here’s how we rank all the songs on the Last Action Hero soundtrack.
12. Real World – Queensrÿche and Michael Kamen
Real World was recorded during the recording sessions for Queensrÿche’s fifth album (and highest-charting LP to date) Promised Land, and it’s as majestic as the rest of the album, even if it didn’t work its way onto the tracklist until the 2003 remastered version. Released as a single in May 1993, it climbed to number 3 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
11. Jack and the Ripper – Buckethead, The Los Angeles Rock and Roll Ensemble and Michael Kamen
Some high drama, big riffs, and high kicks from Michael Kamen and Buckethead next on the stunningly cinematic Jack the Ripper.
10. Poison My Eyes – Anthrax
Last Action Hero may have been a massive commercial and critical disappointment for Sony, but you can’t say the same for the soundtrack, which peaked at number 7 on the US Billboard 200 and picked up major airplay on rock radio. Considering the strength of songs like this contribution from metal heavyweights Anthrax, it’s hardly surprising.
9. A Little Bitter – Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains contributed two tracks to the Last Action Hero soundtrack, What the Hell Have I and this next track, A Little Bitter. No one’s yet been able to work out if it’s a metaphor about God or heroin, but it’s phenomenal either way.
8. Two Steps Behind – Def Leppard
Def Leppard actually recorded two versions of Two Steps Behind – an acoustic version for the greatest hits album Vault and an electric version for the Last Action Hero soundtrack. Released as a single in 1993, it became the band’s last major hit in the US, reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. It also picked up the awards for Song of the Year and Best Song From a Movie Soundtrack at the 1993 Metal Edge Readers’ Choice Awards.
7. Last Action Hero – Tesla
If you want to know why Tesla gets called the “thinking man’s hair metal band,” just listen to their mind-blowing performance of Last Action Hero.
6. Angry Again – Megadeth
Angry Again became a massive hit for Megadeth in 1993, reaching number 18 on the US Mainstream Rock chart and picking up a nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards. It was written specifically for Last Action Hero, rather than a regular album, but since appearing on the 1995 EP Hidden Treasures and a few compilations, it’s become a firm fan favorite.
5. Swim – Fishbone
If any band has a claim to being the most criminally underrated alt-metal band of the 1990s, it’s Fishbone. Ska, R&B, two-tone, soul, punk, metal.. any genre they tackled, they mastered it. The hard-rocking Swim made its first appearance on the album, Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe, before making its presence known on the Last Action Hero soundtrack.
4. Dream On (Live) – Aerosmith
Dream On was first recorded in 1973 for Aerosmith’s eponymous debut album. It gave them their first big hit, reaching the top 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 and making it to number 1 in their hometown of Boston. By the 1990s, it had become an almost constant feature of their live shows; it’s the version performed live at MTV’s 10th Anniversary alongside Michael Kamen’s orchestra that can be heard on the soundtrack to Last Action Hero.
3. What the Hell Have I – Alice in Chains
What the Hell Have I was originally meant to feature on Alice in Chain’s 1992 breakthrough album, Dirt. Instead, it got pushed to one side, only to reappear a year later on the Last Action Hero soundtrack. It’s not entirely clear why it didn’t make the grade for Dirt, as it’s just as exceptional as anything else on the album. Issued as a single in June 1993, it reached number 19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The remix version from the 1999 album Music Bank is worth checking out too.
2. Cock the Hammer – Cypress Hill
Even now, there’s no one else around that sounds like Cypress Hill. Back in the 1999s, their laid-back style of gangsta rap was a major breath of fresh air, with the result that each of their first five albums certified gold or platinum. Before popping up on the Last Action Hero soundtrack, Cock the Hammer made its first appearance on the group’s hugely successful second album, Black Sunday, which debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and subsequently certified triple platinum after selling over 3.4 million copies.
1. Big Gun – AC/DC
As Billboard points out, producer Rick Rubin does a stellar job on AC/DC’s Big Gun, adding a dense, radio-ready appeal without diluting Brian Johnson’s incendiary howl or the Young brother’s guitar attack in the slightest. Released as a single in May 1993, the song became an international hit, peaking at number 1 on the US Mainstream Rock charts, number 23 on the UK Singles chart, and breaking into the top 20 in Canada, France, Australia, Germany, and several other countries. Proving that there’s no accounting for taste, it also picked up a nomination for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song, losing out on the night to Whoomp! (There It Is) from Addams Family Values.