Top 15 Action Movies of All Time

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm

These are my picks for the top 15 action movies of all time. I’ve left westerns off the list, as I believe they deserve to be included in a genre all their own. I’ve also left out martial arts movies for the same reason. These top 15 action movies of all time tend to focus on films where bullets are the currency of the realm, although there may still be plenty of fisticuffs on display. All of these films are available via Blockbuster Online or Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to see them. Since I’ve included films from Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, there will no doubt be a few readers who come close to having a seizure. Feel free to express your amazement in the comments section.

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Listed in no particular order…

Die Hard (1988) – Bruce Willis fights terrorists/robbers, befriends an LAPD desk jockey, and generally behaves like “a monkey in the wrench” in this action classic. Alan Rickman is amazing in his film debut, and even former ballet dancer Alexander Godunov looks like a badass. This should be required viewing in film schools across the country, as recent action movies rely too heavily on seizure-inducing editing techniques. Hard to imagine that Burt Reynolds was considered for the role of John McClane.

Lethal Weapon (1987) – Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is a burnout cop teetering on the edge of suicide, while Roger Muztagh (Danny Glover) is a family man just days away from retirement. When the two are thrown together as partners and get on the trail of mercenary drug dealers, the sparks are gonna fly. The movie spawned three sequels, so they must’ve been doing something right.

The Matrix (1999) – The sequels sucked, but the first film remains a landmark achievement for special effects and on-screen fights. The bullet-time sequences are neat, but the old-fashioned fistfights are what really set it apart. These days, it seems that everyone has forgot how to shoot a good fight. Not the Wachowski brothers.

Predator (1987) – Okay, this might belong in the sci-fi category due to the plot involving a killer alien, but I felt obliged to include it due to the gunplay present throughout. Great quotable lines, Jesse Ventura with a mini-gun, and the arm of Carl Weathers firing a gun even after being severed from its body. And don’t forget about the Predator and his climatic inter-species showdown with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Classic.

The Rundown (2003) – A somewhat forgotten action movie gem that I’ll continue to hype until my dying day. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Beck, a retrieval expert who journeys to South America to get the smartass son of his underworld boss. Once he arrives, Beck gets caught up in local rebellion and politics, the quest for a golden cat statue, and a debate over Ali vs. Frazier. The Rundown features well-framed fight scenes from director Peter Berg, a memorable villain in Christopher Walken, and horny monkeys. What more could an action fan want? If the first 15 minutes don’t excite the action fan in you, you might as well quit right there.

The Terminator (1984) – Arnold Schwarzenegger exploded into the mainstream as a killer robot from the future sent back to eliminate the mother of Earth’s only hope. But a protector also journeys back through time, and he and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) must flee for their lives. Arnold first works in his “I’ll be back” line, and the shootout at the police station still holds up.

Hard Target (1993) – John Woo journeys to America and teams up with Jean-Claude Van Damme for this tale of a homeless ex-soldier who helps the daughter of a missing veteran in the French Quarter. This quickly puts them into conflict with a group of killers who hunt humans for sport and profit. Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo head up the villains, and they do a masterful job of it. Lots of slow-motion, the lovely Yancy Butler, and Wilford Brimley as Van Damme’s moonshine-making Cajun uncle.

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Marked for Death (1990) – The first Steven Seagal film on this list, Marked for Death allows the pony-tailed one to take on Jamaican drug dealers, especially their mysterious leader named Screwface. He’s joined by Keith David as a high school buddy who loves to whack people in the face with the butt of a shotgun. Evil twins, an assault on Jamaica, and the flight of Jimmy Fingers…it all adds up to a delightful concoction of action movie bluster.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – James Cameron revisits the franchise he launched and strikes box office gold. Arnold returns as a lethal Terminator from the future, but this time he’s sent to protect John Connor instead of eliminate him. Linda Hamilton is all buffed up, and Robert Patrick deadpans as the latest killing machine on the block. It’s got big action, a big sound, and a song from Guns N Roses.

From Russia With Love (1963) – James Bond (Sean Connery) has his hands full in this second film of the series. He must survive an encounter with Red Grant (Robert Shaw), an agent of SPECTRE, as well as the lethal shoe of Rosa Klebb. From showdowns on the Orient Express to hot gypsy women battling over a man, this film has everything a Maxim subscriber could ever want.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – I included this one entirely based on the showdown between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and the Crazy 88, a gang of mask-wearing Japanese criminals. Filled with blood and a few traces of comedy, it’s one of the greatest fight sequences to be constructed in many a year. The rest of the movie is just average, featuring lame jokes and prolonged shots of Uma Thurman’s gnarled toes.

Speed (1994) – Much of the film is set on a freakin’ bus, but they somehow manage to make it seem exciting. Keanu Reeves has a little more personality than usual, and Sandra Bullock is all kinds of adorable. Just don’t fall into the trap of renting the sequel, or you’ll probably go mad.

The Killer (1989) – Chow Yun-Fat stars as a contract killer who accidentally blinds a nightclub singer during a hit. Determined to raise the funds for her operation, he agrees to do one last job. But when he’s betrayed, he must team up with a dedicated cop to bring down the bad guys. Directed by John Woo, expect plenty of doves flying in slow motion and lengthy shootouts (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

The Road Warrior (1981) – Mel Gibson returns in this sequel to Mad Max as an ex-cop loner who drives the wastelands with only a dog for company. When a discovers a band of survivors who possess large quantities of gas, he becomes involved in a scheme to help them escape from the brutal marauders surrounding their compound. It all builds to a balls-to-the-wall chase scene involving an eighteen-wheeler, a feral kid, and a couple of unreliable shotgun shells. Don’t even think about calling yourself an action fan until you’ve seen this one.

Out for Justice (1991) – Steven Seagal breaks bones, speaks Italian, and even wears a military-style beret in this action classic from the early ‘90s. In between tracking down his partner’s killer, Gino Felino (Seagal) tries to patch up his marriage, get in quality time with his kid, and kill as many scumbags as possible. And how many action heroes can say they’ve adopted a puppy in the middle of a film?

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If you’re really dissatisfied with my list of the top 15 action films of all time, feel free to submit your own list. But before you start typing it up, go ahead and check out these fine articles.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 12:33 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Top 15 Action Movies of All Time”

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January 26, 2010

James Bond 007

“From Russia With Love” is a James Bond movie with the sensibilities of a classic Cold War thriller.

July 17, 2010

Action Man

Ok, Your list is pretty good, but Hard Boiled is the greatest action movie ever made… and, How can you put Hard Target, Out for Justice and Marked for Death in there?
Here’s my list.

1. Hard Boiled

2. Die Hard

3. Lethal Weapon

4 Time and Tide – If you haven’t seen this Hong Kong Gem then you are not a true action fan. The fight scene on the side of the building alone is worth the price of the rental.

5. Last Man Standing. Walter Hill remake of Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars with Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken.
Bullets Bullets and even more bullets!

6. The Last Boyscout. Nuff Said. Bruce Wills yet again in action movie greatness.

7. Shoot em Up. Some of the best gunfights since Hard Boiled. Bad Plot and Script, but the manic energy of the action makes up for it.

8. The Transporter. Love it. Hate the sequels.

9. The Rundown. Awesome movie.

10. The Bourne Supremacy – What can you say. Matt Damon is a flippin’ Bad Ass in this one. Pure adrenaline.

11. Aliens. Yeah, I know it could be Sci-Fi, but this Cameron helmed sequel is more action than anything. The bad guys just happen to be aliens.

12. District B-13. Luc Besson. France’s answer to John Woo.
Great Movie… I’ll repeat. Great Movie. Watch or cut your balls off out of shame.

13. Black Mask – Could be classified as Martial Arts, but lots of guns, so I consider it more of an action flick.

14. Beverly Hills Cop – Just because Eddie Murphy is a comedian, people tend to write this one off the action list. But make no mistake, BHC is an action movie, it just has comedic elements to it. Watch it again and tell me that any JCD or Segal move is more enjoyable.

15.The Killer – John Woo + Chow Yun Fat + Slo-mo + doves and lots of Red = Awesome Action Movie.

November 10, 2010


Lots of people seem to list Speed I have noticed. It’s a great movie. Feel like watching it again.

Here is my list:

November 24, 2010


the rundown? really?

November 25, 2010


Yes, really.

March 21, 2011

John Woo

I don’t see how you can put Hard Target on there over The Killer. I had complete artistic control over The Killer but with Hard Target Jean-Claude Van Damme argued with me to change the film and the producers sided with him, he practically directed it.

Thank you for putting The Killer on there though, I’m glad you are a fan of my movies.

Yours sincerely,
John Woo

July 2, 2012

Shylov Mensers

I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome site!


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