176 Best Action Movies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm
By Shane Rivers

Good action movies always have their share of explosions, fights, shootouts and car chases. In fact, these elements are often more important than pesky little details like a quality script or decent acting. Nobody goes to an action film expecting high art, and that’s part of what makes them so much fun.

Although they didn’t get started until the 1970s, action films have more than made up for lost time. With guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone leading the way, many action movies have transcended their limited genre and become part of the American landscape.

Below, I have assembled a number of lists which detail the best action films ever made. Whether you agree or disagree, take a look around; you’re sure to find a few top action films that you’ve never heard of before.

Top Action Movies from IMDB

Good Action Movies 2012, 2013

Aliens, one of the good action movies of the sci-fi genre.

The Internet Movie Database enables members to rate any movie they desire. The films are then broken up into genres such as “action films” and “horror films.” According to the IMDB, here are their top 50 action movies.


  1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
  2. The Dark Knight (2008)
  3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  4. Seven Samurai (1954)
  5. Star Wars (1977)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  7. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  10. Fight Club (1999)
  11. The Matrix (1999)
  12. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  13. Satya (1998)
  14. The Professional (1994)
  15. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  16. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  17. Last Crusade (1970)
  18. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  19. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  20. Aliens (1986)
  21. Metropolis (1927)
  22. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)
  23. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  24. Safety Last! (1923)
  25. The Great Escape (1963)
  26. The Wages of Fear (1953)
  27. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  28. Sin City (2005)
  29. Max Manus (2008)
  30. The General (1927)
  31. Back to the Future (1985)
  32. Braveheart (1995)
  33. Batman Begins (2005)
  34. For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  35. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  36. Blade Runner (1982)
  37. Yojimbo (1961)
  38. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
  39. Ran (1985)
  40. Princess Mononoke (1997)
  41. Gladiator (2000)
  42. Die Hard (1988)
  43. Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future (1973)
  44. Ben-Hur (1959)
  45. The White Sun of the Desert (1970)
  46. Heat (1995)
  47. Platoon (1986)
  48. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
  49. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  50. The Wild Bunch (1969)

I know The Dark Knight was a big hit, but it seems a little silly for it to have vaulted into the lofty position of being the #2 action film of all-time. And while I have a lot of respect for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, haven’t the voters over at IMDB heard of a little film called Die Hard?

Die Hard, by the way, only manages to rank at #42, behind films such as Batman Begins, Safety Last! and Max Manus. That’s enough to make this list lose all credibility in my eyes.

Click here for the up-to-date list of good action movies from IMDB.

IGN Top 25 Action Films of All-Time

Best Action Movies Ever

When it comes to good action movies, nothing beats this Bruce Willis classic.

The boys over at IGN love good action movies; that’s why they put together this list of the 25 greatest examples of the genre. Is your favorite action film included?


  1. Desperado
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Bullitt
  4. The Hunt For Red October
  5. Thunderball
  6. The Great Escape
  7. First Blood
  8. Top Gun
  9. Goldfinger
  10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  11. The Killer
  12. Kill Bill, Vol. 1
  13. Robocop
  14. Predator
  15. Speed
  16. Enter the Dragon
  17. True Lies
  18. Lethal Weapon
  19. The Road Warrior
  20. The Empire Strikes Back
  21. The Matrix
  22. Terminator 2
  23. Aliens
  24. Die Hard
  25. Raiders of the Lost Ark

A respectable list, although I have to question why The Temple of Doom is included at #16. If you want to put an Indy movie besides Raiders of the Lost Ark, how about The Last Crusade? Other than that, I can’t complain too much.

Click here for the list of top action films from IGN.

Entertainment Weekly’s Top 25 Action Movies – 2011 & 2012

Best Asian Action Movies: Hard-Boiled

This John Woo gunfest is one of the top action films from Hong Kong.

If you want to keep up with pop culture on a week-to-week basis, there’s no greater magazine than Entertainment Weekly. Check out their list which features a mixture of good action movies, top action movies and the best action movies.


The Incredibles

Lethal Weapon

Drunken Master II


Spider-Man 2

Kill Bill – Vol. 1


The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Bourne Supremacy

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Enter the Dragon


The Wild Bunch

The Empire Strikes Back


Terminator 2: Judgment Day


Saving Private Ryan


Seven Samurai

The Matrix

The Road Warrior

Raiders of the Lost Ark


Die Hard

I wouldn’t have Hard-Boiled at #9, as I was always partial to The Killer. If I had my way, Predator and Lethal Weapon would be ahead of Robin Hood, and Goldfinger would be knocked back several spots. Nice to see Die Hard occupying the top spot, although Raiders should be ahead of Aliens for the runner-up prize.

To view the complete list of good action films, click on the link.

25 Best Action Movies of the 20th Century

Reel.com put together a list of the 25 best action movies of the 20th century. Wish I could travel ahead in time and see what a list of the 25 best action movies of the 21st century would look like. I’m guessing that Judd Nelson III is going to be a huge action star.

  1. The Killer (1989)
  2. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
  3. The Matrix (1999)
  4. Once Upon a Time in China II (1991)
  5. The Road Warrior (1982)
  6. Robocop (1987)
  7. Starship Troopers (1997)
  8. Supercop (1992)
  9. The Terminator (1984)
  10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  11. Total Recall (1990)
  12. Under Siege (1992)
  13. Aliens (1986)
  14. Braveheart (1995)
  15. Desperado (1995)
  16. Die Hard (1988)
  17. Dirty Harry (1971)
  18. Legend of Drunken Master (aka Drunken Master II) (1994)
  19. Enter the Dragon (1973)
  20. Face/Off (1997)
  21. Goldfinger (1964)
  22. Hard Boiled (1992)
  23. Highlander (1986)
  24. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  25. Iron Monkey (1993)

An interesting list with some real offbeat choices for good action movies. I doubt you’ll find another top action films list with Iron Monkey, and it’s always nice to see the ultra-violent Total Recall included. Enter the Dragon has some amazing fight scenes, but the movie itself is nothing to write home about (Bruce Lee could fight, but he sure couldn’t act).

Rotten Tomatoes’ 25 Best Action Heroines of 2011 & 2012

Good action films require good action stars, right? And the most rare breed is the female action star. Just for fun, I thought I’d include this list of top action heroines courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

  1. Famke Janssen (X-Men 1-3; GoldenEye)
  2. Demi Moore (G.I. Jane; Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle)
  3. Linda Hamilton (Terminator 1-2)
  4. Natasha Henstridge (Species 1-2; John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars)
  5. Lucy Liu (Payback; Charlie’s Angels 1-2; Kill Bill: Vol. I )
  6. Jennifer Garner (Alias; Daredevil; Elektra; The Kingdom)
  7. Anne Parillaud (Innocent Blood; Shattered Image; La Femme Nikita)
  8. Angela Mao (Enter the Dragon; Stoner)
  9. Hilary Swank (The Next Karate Kid; Million Dollar Baby)
  10. Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja; Beverly Hills Cop 2)
  11. Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix Trilogy)
  12. Kara Hui (8 Diagram Pole Fighter; New Tales of the Flying Fox)
  13. Tura Satana (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!)
  14. Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Rush Hour 2; Hero; House of Flying Daggers)
  15. Cynthia Rothrock (Martial Law; China O’Brien)
  16. Kate Beckinsale (Underworld 1-2; Van Helsing)
  17. Michelle Rodriguez (S.W.A.T.; Resident Evil; Girlfight)
  18. Zoe Bell (Death Proof; lead stuntwoman on Kill Bill & Xena)
  19. Sigourney Weaver (Aliens series)
  20. Grace Jones (Vamp; Conan the Destroyer; A View to a Kill)
  21. Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil Trilogy; Ultraviolet; The Fifth Element)
  22. Uma Thurman (Kill Bill; The Avengers)
  23. Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider 1-2; Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Wanted)
  24. Pam Grier (Coffy; John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars)
  25. Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Zoe Bell should be lower on the list, while Linda Hamilton should be in the top five. Hamilton’s physical transformation for Terminator 2 remains one of the all-time most talked about roles for a woman. That alone should warrant a higher ranking.

Nice to see Cynthia Rothrock make the list, but I’m certain many younger readers have no idea who she is (and Billy Blanks only did Tai Bo). While I think Kate Beckinsale is a great actress and quite beautiful, she’s a little too dainty to be included on this list. I would rather have seen her spot go to someone like Kelly Hu.

For the list of good action movies starring strong females, click here.

Netflix Top 100 Movie Rentals of 2011 & 2012

Good action movies always seem to be popular with the average public; that’s why they’re often referred to as “popcorn movies.” But how many action films were able to crack the Top 100 rentals list over at Netflix, the leading online movie rental service? Let’s find out.

I’m a little surprised that The Dark Knight isn’t higher on the list, but everyone may have already seen it at the theater. The same is true for Iron Man at #49. Blood Diamond is a well-acted action/drama, and one which certainly deserves a look. Firewall has been on this list for a while, and it just goes to show how much starpower the aging Harrison Ford still has left.

Click here for more good action movies.

That concludes our list of good action movies. No matter how many of these you’ve seen, I’m willing to bet that a few titles have escaped your notice. The best way to remedy this oversight is to head down to the local video store or sign up with Netflix, and you’ll be awash in shootouts and car chases in no time. Roger Murtaugh may be too old for this sh*t, but the rest of us will never be too old to enjoy a little of the ‘ol ultra-violence.

Last updated June 25, 2015.