Best Action Movies of All Time - Featured

Nothing gets the blood pumping like a good, old-fashioned action flick. From incredible set pieces to beautifully-choreographed action to, of course, amazing one-liners, action is a popular film genre for a reason. And now, it’s time to rank the best action movies of all time.

Popular action movies take all shapes and forms. This list has everything from superhero movies to Hong Kong action thrillers and even a couple of Star Wars flicks thrown in for good measure. Any filmmakers who want to direct their own action film should watch these movies because each one offers something great to the genre. 

MARVEL ACTION MOVIES

50. Iron Man (2008)

The Visual Effects of Iron Man  •  Documentary

Iron Man is the movie that would change superhero movies (and cinema in general). It launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which every studio tried to emulate. But it’s hard to get as sure footing to launch a massive overarching series of movies than this one. The humor and Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance made this C-list superhero a star, and superhero movies have been trying to replicate the formula ever since. See where it all started by reading the Iron Man screenplay.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Iron Man set the stage of what was to come in the superhero genre. It’s a riot that shows how far you can take a film when you perfectly cast the lead role.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES BASED ON MARTIAL ARTS

49. Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2005)

Fight Club Scene  •  Ong-Bak

The story of Ong-Bak may be simple, but when you have the martial arts skills of Tony Jaa, you don’t need much else. His expert choreography is on full display here as he mows down henchmen with an array of techniques. Jaa would go on to star in American films like Furious 7, but honestly, he needs a lot more work because he’s proving to be the next Jackie Chan.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

You don’t watch Ong-Bak for the plot. You watch for the fights, and there’s some incredible choreography in this film.

OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTION MOVIES

48. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 

Fight Choreography  •  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Poison is a powerful motif in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
It’s seen as particularly dishonorable because it kills without any finesse or expertise. There’s no honor in being a “poison dragon.” Martial arts is sacred, and the visuals combined with the choreography elevate the fighting to another level.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Ang Lee was introduced to Western audiences in a big way with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s a beautiful film with stunning visuals throughout.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES TO WATCH FROM THE 90S

47. The Fugitive (1993)

Behind the Scenes  •  The Fugitive

The ultimate “dad” action movie. Harrison Ford is at his grumpy best in this movie that features one of the best bus-train collisions ever put to film. In fact, this movie is one great set piece after another, taking familiar locations and making them iconic.

BEST ACTION MOVIES TO WATCH

Conclusion

I don’t care if you haven’t seen it. The Fugitive should be on everyone’s watch list.

AWESOME ACTION MOVIES WITH SATIRE

46. Starship Troopers (1997)

Behind the Scenes  •  Starship Troopers

A healthy dose of satire is a good way to make sure your movie stands the test of time. Paul Verhoeven incorporated this wonderfully in RoboCop and later in Starship Troopers, which takes aim at the military force used by the United States throughout history. Combined with superb creature features, Starship Troopers is an underrated gem from the 90s that’s earned a cult following in the years since its release.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Starship Troopers may follow an interstellar war with arachnids. But its themes related to the real world make it relevant to this day and a step above many of the creature features that inspired it.

COOL ACTION MOVIES WITH JAMES BOND

45. Casino Royale (2006)

How Action Reveals Character  •  Lessons From the Screenplay

How do you make an action scene feel significant? Without knowing what you want to accomplish, an action movie’s fight scenes can become repetitive and, worst of all, boring. Casino Royale is a prime example of how you can make chases and fights intriguing by showcasing what makes the characters involved tick through their actions, as the above video essay from Lessons From the Screenplay reveals.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

It’s not easy to reboot an iconic character like James Bond. But Casino Royale is more than up for the challenge and excels with flying colors.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF THE LAST 10 YEARS

44. Baby Driver (2017)

A Lesson in Storytelling  •  Jack’s Movie Reviews

Every sequence in Baby Driver is so well put together it's insane. From the opening credit sequence of Baby Driver walking through Atlanta while lyrics to the song playing are all around him to the heist gone wrong, it’s a masterclass of precision and execution. The song choices and colors have all been chosen with care to the point where Edgar Wright’s artistry in the craft cannot be ignored.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Baby Driver is fun to watch not just for the action but for the eclectic song choices. If you want to learn how to incorporate needle drops perfectly into your film, this is the movie to watch.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF THE DECADE

43. Attack the Block (2011)

Joe Cornish Interview  •  Attack the Block

Delivering an effective action thriller with aliens is one thing. But Attack the Block, about a gang of inner city kids taking on an alien threat, also manages to be humorous and filled with social commentary. No matter what the scene is trying to accomplish, it does so with flying colors.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Attack the Block is funny, scary, and thrilling all at once. It’s highly underrated, but it’s the film that helped launch John Boyega into the Star Wars universe.

MUST WATCH ACTION MOVIES WITH GANGSTERS

42. Face/Off (1997)

John Woo Interview  •  Face/Off

Face/Off, a movie where a cop and gangster swap faces, is an intriguing film for any actor to watch. John Travolta and Nic Cage basically have to play each other, and it’s intriguing to see how they interpret one another’s idiosyncrasies. It’s loony '90s mayhem in the best way, and it’s one of those movies that if remade today just wouldn’t have the same level of inspiration.

ACTION MOVIES TO WATCH

Conclusion

Face/Off is a great throwback to watch. Comedy and action become intertwined to deliver a distinct John Woo film.

FAMOUS SUPERHERO ACTION MOVIES

41. Logan (2017)

The Death of a Genre  •  The Closer Look

Logan is the last outing of Hugh Jackman’s play on Wolverine. It’s also R-rated, so the movie’s allowed to be just as visceral as it needs to be. The fight scenes aren’t just CGI bonanzas. They’re bloody and impactful, and it ends with the most poignant image in the entire X-Men franchise.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Not many film endings are as fitting as Logan. It has some of the best fight scenes in the franchise.

2 GREAT ACTION MOVIES

40. Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)

Kill Bill Knife Fight  •  StudioBinder

Quentin Tarantino considers these to be a single story, so we’re counting both films as one entry. Before filming, Tarantino explicitly set out to join the ranks of great action directors, and he succeeded. It has that B-movie schlock you rarely see in a big-budget theatrical movie, and it’s absolutely wonderful to see.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Kill Bill is a bloody good time. Tarantino is completely uncynical in his appreciation in this genre, and it shows.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF THE LAST 5 YEARS

39. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Avengers: Endgame Is Beautiful  •  Implicitly Pretentious

Avengers: Endgame is a culmination of over 20 films. The whole movie is basically a victory lap with the remaining Avengers as they revisit critical points in the franchise’s history. It all leads up to one of the most epic moments in the last decade of film. See why it’s one of the most famous action movies of all time in our Avengers: Endgame screenplay breakdown and analysis.

ACTION PACKED MOVIES

Conclusion

It’s hard to imagine there’s anyone out there who hasn’t seen Avengers: Endgame. But it’s worth a rewatch to catch all of the easter eggs and little moments that make the film special.

90S ACTION MOVIES

38. Point Break (1991)

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze Interview  •  Point Break

Point Break and its remake shows that you need more than cool action set pieces to make a great film. The original Point Break piles on plenty of philosophy in addition to the action. The remake recreates great action, but there’s no substance to back it up. Fortunately, the original still holds up and remains one of the top rated action movies to come out of the '90s.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Surfing movies don’t get much better than Point Break. It’s a dose of adrenaline right to the veins that shows how efficient director Kathryn Bigelow is at shooting action.

FUNNY ACTION MOVIES

37. Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz  •  Movies With Mikey

Hot Fuzz is a perfect example of how to do parody. It makes fun of the tropes of the action genre, specifically cop movies, but you can tell Edgar Wright and crew still have a lot of love for these movies. That passion is evident in the fact that this comedy is still an excellent action movie in its own right, carving out its own image in the genre.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

With likable characters and memorable moments, Hot Fuzz stands on its own. It has jokes aplenty, but the action, particularly during the final showdown, is second to none.

TOP 100 ACTION MOVIES

36. Minority Report (2002)

Stunts  •  Minority Report

Minority Report first came to Steven Spielberg’s attention over a decade before actual filming. Spielberg wasn’t happy with the version, so it was revised over and over again. It must have been a lot of work, but well worth it considering the final product is a thrilling techno action piece. See where Minority Report ranks among Spielberg’s filmography.

ACTION PACKED MOVIES

Conclusion

Minority Report is equal parts action and philosophy. It’s also particularly prescient to today’s world considering how ads have overtaken practically every aspect of life.

SCI-FI ACTION MOVIES

35. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

VFX Breakdown  •  Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow shows how far you can go when you don’t get too weighed down with explaining everything. It’s one of the most underrated action movies of the last decade with a Groundhog Day twist. The day resets every time Tom Cruise’s character dies. Once you accept that concept, you’re off to the races, and you can just enjoy some excellent sci-fi action set pieces.

ACTION MOVIES TO WATCH

Conclusion

Whether you call it Edge of Tomorrow or Live Die Repeat, one thing remains constant. This is an overlooked action film that’s a ton of fun thanks to how committed everyone is to the bit.

HILARIOUS ACTION MOVIES

34. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Behind the Scenes  •  Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop was originally going to be a straight action film with Sylvester Stallone playing Foley. Through some tweaking, it took on a more comedic bent with Eddie Murphy taking on the lead role. What could have been another forgettable cop movie quickly became one of the most classic action movies from the era.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Beverly Hills Cop sees a cop from Detroit being transferred to Beverly Hills and hijinks ensue. Its plucky charm holds up and elevates the film above others of its like.

BEST JAMES BOND MOVIES

33. Skyfall (2012)

Making Of Documentary  •  Skyfall

If Casino Royale rebooted James Bond, then Skyfall took him to new heights. The reason why this movie excels is that it challenges the audience's ideas of what’s possible with a James Bond film. He feels more fleshed out than ever. He’s an actual character instead of a generic womanizing spy, and it leads to the most thrilling climax in any James Bond movie. For a more comprehensive look at the James Bond franchise, see our ranking of every James Bond movie ever.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Skyfall is as close as we’re going to get to a deconstruction of the James Bond mythos. It proved making this version of James Bond grittier wasn’t just an attempt to abide by the times. It pushed the character to his limits.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN-DIRECTED ACTION MOVIES

32. Inception (2010)

Art of the Scene  •  Inception

Inception is one of those movies where watching the behind the scenes is just as thrilling as watching the movie itself. The hallway fight scene is so technically impressive with everything being done in-camera. But even outside of that, each dream level brings something new to the table and is memorable in its own right. You can go further behind the scenes of this action thrill ride in our Inception special effects blog post.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

After watching Inception, you’ll wish more Hollywood action movies were as ambitious in their visions. This sci-fi film bends your mind and really requires you to engage with the story every step of the way.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES THAT WON OSCARS

31. Gladiator (2000)

Making Of  •  Gladiator

You don’t really see many sword-and-sandal genre movies these days. And that’s probably because Gladiator in 2000 was so good nothing else was really needed. It took inspiration from classic gladiator movies like Spartacus, and it brings that aesthetic into the 21st century.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Gladiator is a visually-arresting movie. But more than that, it grounds its monumental set design with rich themes and emotionally-complex characters.

GREATEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME STARRING MATT DAMON

30. The Bourne Identity (2002)

Inside a Fight Sequence  •  The Bourne Identity

The Bourne franchise popularized shaky cam and fast cuts for a decade of action movies. While those techniques may not always work well, they work for this particular style of movie. The camera operates like the action: fast and direct. Aside from camera techniques, this is a smart, thrilling action film that just gets more rewarding with each rewatch.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

The Bourne Identity takes the best aspects from both the spy and action genres. It helps fill in the gap between James Bond movies while becoming a dominant franchise of its own.

SEQUELS TO FAMOUS ACTION MOVIES

29. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior 

Stunts  •  Mad Max 2

Mad Max 2 (1981) draws inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, and it just goes to show how universal such archetypes are. You can get wildly differing results from a straightforward cop movie to a wild post-apocalyptic action extravaganza. The practical effects allow the movie to hold up all these decades later.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Kinetic energy oozes out of every pore of Mad Max 2. George Miller proves why he’s one of the best action directors to have ever lived.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES STARRING SYLVESTER STALLONE

28. First Blood (1982)

Deleted Scenes  •  First Blood

The sequels may have turned into generic shoot-em-ups, but First Blood is surprisingly thoughtful. There’s great action for sure, but it also functions as interesting commentary on the Vietnam War, a common thread among action movies of the 80s.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

First Blood shows that simplicity is sometimes the answer. The plot is straightforward, and the film is still able to deliver on its themes while having great action beats.

BEST COMIC BOOK ACTION MOVIES

27. Dredd (2012)

Behind the Scenes  •  Dredd

Dredd shows how to do a comic book adaptation well. The original 1995 film Judge Dredd tries to make the comic book movie more appealing to general audiences, deviating from the source material greatly. Dredd understands what people like about this character and this world and deliver a bitingly powerful action film that combines stunning visuals with big, over-the-top action moments.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Dredd was criminally underseen upon its release. While any chances of a sequel are dashed, at least we have this movie to hold us over.

ACTION PACKED MOVIES FROM INDONESIA

26. The Raid: Redemption (2012)

Directing Perfect Action  •  Rossatron

The fight scenes in The Raid: Redemption are stellar for many reasons. But one major reason why they stand out is due to clarity. You understand where each character is in the location and where they are in each fight. You see each blow and can follow along easily. Every action director should watch this film to see how precisely to frame fights.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

The Raid: Redemption set the bar for action movies in the 2010s. Few films even come close to the brutality on display here.

BUDDY ACTION MOVIES

25. Lethal Weapon (1987)

Is Lethal Weapon a Christmas Movie?  •  Entertain the Elk

Lethal Weapon changed what action movies were like in the 80s and 90s. The buddy cop dynamic. The greater reliance on humor. Many tropes you see in some of the best action movies ever that now seem cliched were invented or reinvented with Lethal Weapon, and everyone just struggled to keep up.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

The chemistry between the two leads is impeccable. The gritty action is really just the icing on top.

TOP RATED ACTION MOVIES OF THE 70S

24. Enter the Dragon (1973)

Opening  •  Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee was arguably the greatest martial artist of all time. Enter the Dragon showcases his art at his peak, and it’s all the more sad considering the movie came out one month after his untimely death. As it stands, it’s one of the best martial arts movies of all time and a perfect showcase for a talent lost too soon.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Enter the Dragon brought kung fu to a worldwide audience. Bruce Lee did a great service for the form of martial arts with this movie that proved to be his swan song.

BEST ACTION MOVIES WITH PRACTICAL EFFECTS

23. Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

Behind the Halo Jump Scene  •  Insider

An action movie based on an old TV show may not sound all that appealing. Now it’s become one of the most essential franchises out there thanks to its commitment to practical stunts. The halo jump scene in Fallout only lasts a couple of minutes, but it’s one of the most thrilling things put to film. Learn how to shoot scenes like it in our breakdown of Fallout’s dynamic fight scenes.

ACTION MOVIES TO WATCH

Conclusion

Mission: Impossible - Fallout proves the franchise is still alive and well. One thing is for sure. We can’t wait to see what Christopher McQuarrie does next.

COOL ACTION MOVIES FROM HONG KONG

22. The Legend of Drunken Master 

Jackie Chan Interview  •  The Legend of Drunken Master

In The Legend of Drunken Master (1994), Jackie Chan plays a master of “drunken boxing” where you drink alcohol to mask any pain and release your inner brawler. It’s hilarious, but surprisingly, it also contains some of the best martial arts sequences you’ll find on film.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Jackie Chan proves why he’s one of the greats in movie martial arts. Not only is he an expert at the form, but he’s also precise with his comedy, too.

ACTION movies YOU ALREADY LOVE

21. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope 

Documentary  •  The Making of Star Wars

Star Wars is beloved by all for what it represents to so many. The standard hero’s arc is filled with thematic and historical allusions. It can mean anything and be interpreted in a number of ways. That’s why it’s stood the test of time and has influenced a generation of filmmakers. Learn why the film works so well by analyzing the screenplay for A New Hope.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

If you’re reading a movie blog, then you’ve seen Star Wars. It’s remained an important film for so many people and while there’s a lot to love, the action remains a standout.

ACTION MOVIES WITH ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

20. Predator (1987)

Behind the Scenes  •  Predator

Now we’re into the top 20 action movies ever. Predator is a quintessential '80s action movie, which is why it’s intriguing that it started off as a joke. After Rocky IV, a joke went around Hollywood that Rocky would have to fight an alien in the sequel. The screenwriters took that joke literally and wrote Predator. It’s an '80s adrenaline-packed thrill ride that’s filled with one-liners galore.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Predator combines horror and action so effectively, it’s like you’re watching a new kind of movie being born. When you want a 80s throwback, Predator is where it’s at.

ANIMATED ACTION MOVIES

19. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 

How Animators Created the Spider-Verse  •  WIRED

The way the animation and action work together in Into the Spider-Verse (2018) , it’s almost like you’re watching a comic book come to life. Colors abound and the movie does something new to a character we’ve seen a lot of lately. It’s the kind of movie that pushes the superhero genre in a new direction and challenges it to do better. See why it’s StudioBinder’s best animated film of all time.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Into the Spider-Verse works because the characters are so well-developed. That pathos never gets lost among the battles and conversations about alternate realities.

CLASSIC ACTION MOVIES THAT WON BEST PICTURE

18. The French Connection (1971)

The Car Chase Scene  •  American Film Institute

You don’t need to look at the last decade of film to find a kinetic action movie that fires on all cylinders. Arguably, the car chase in The French Connection is the greatest car chase scene in film history and laid the groundwork for how every action film needing such a scene would do it going forward.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

The French Connection is one of the most important action movies ever made. Its influence spans far and wide, and its Oscar win for Best Picture is well-deserved.

BADASS ACTION MOVIES WITH JACKIE CHAN

17. Police Story (1985)

The Making Of  •  Police Story

The crew on Police Story nicknamed the film Glass Story because actors fell through so many sugar windows during production. The movie is a brilliant showcase on how to do physical comedy well. You’ll find yourself laughing and being impressed simultaneously for the physical feats Jackie Chan is able to accomplish.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Anyone who wants to learn more about Jackie Chan’s filmography should start here. It shows just why Jackie Chan is a legend in the genre.

MUST WATCH ACTION MOVIES FROM THE 60s

16. The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Making of the Final Shootout  •  The Wild Bunch

By the end of the 1960s, the western was on its way out. It went out with a bang though with The Wild Buncha film that actually ruminates the end of a dying genre. The movie contains themes about the end of the outlaw era, and intentionally or not, the same held true for these movies that gradually faded from the zeitgeist.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

The Wild Bunch was controversial upon its release for its depiction of violence. Modern audiences may not mind so much, and it’s a great example of why westerns were so popular.

AWESOME ACTION MOVIES ABOUT ROBBERIES

15. Heat (1995)

The Perfect Blend of Realism and Style  •  The Nerdwriter

The '90s were a time when postmodernism was starting to take hold of the action genre. Then came along Heat. It’s a straightforward yet effective action thriller that’s noteworthy for featuring the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino appeared in the same film together in a movie. Heat proved you don’t need to deconstruct the action film to be memorable. You just need to stick with your convictions and deliver a fully engrossing thrill ride.

ACTION PACKED MOVIES

Conclusion

Heat influenced so many action movies in the years to come, most notably The Dark Knight. The movie is Michael Mann’s best, and that's saying something.

ACTION MOVIES WITH GREAT SCREENPLAYS

14. Speed (1994)

Making the Movies  •  Speed

The screenplay for Speed is studied in film schools. It’s one of the best scripts action screenwriters can read due to how precise it is with every action beat. Everything is paced wonderfully. Even when a scene isn’t focused on the runaway bus, the momentum never lets up.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Speed is practically the definition of a popcorn movie. It takes a simple premise and amps it up to 11. Great performances from Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves help, too.

BADASS ACTION MOVIES THAT SPAWNED FRANCHISES

13. RoboCop (1987)

RoboCop  •  Film School With Maggie Mae Fish

Ultraviolence never looked as good as it did in RoboCop. But that violence serves a purpose, namely, to satirize everything from capitalistic corruption to authoritarianism. It’s one of the smartest action sci-fi films to come out, and while some audiences will overlook its subtext, it’s brilliance rewards those willing to study the movie in-depth.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

RoboCop has a lot on its mind. All these years later, its themes are just as prevalent as they were in the '80s.

VISUALLY-IMPRESSIVE ACTION MOVIES

12. John Wick (2014)

What Makes John Wick So Good?  •  Full Fat Videos

John Wick shows why more stuntmen should direct action movies. In a landscape of quick cuts and generic action, the filmmakers behind John Wick wisely decided to play out fight scenes in long takes. Each hit is kinetic. But more than all that, it’s a delight to see villains who are genuinely afraid of the hero. They’re not overconfident they can win against the Baba Yaga, so you know the bad guys are giving it everything they can. Learn more about writing fight scenes like in John Wick.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Once you watch the first John Wick, you’ll want to continue seeing these movies until the end of time. The sequels maintain a consistent quality that hasn’t dropped yet.

UNDERRATED ACTION MOVIES FROM HONG KONG

11. Hard-Boiled (1992)

Teahouse Shootout  •  Hard-Boiled

Before John Woo went to Hollywood, he made a film that paid homage to films like Bullitt and Dirty Harry. Filming took an intense 123 days, and that included filming the teahouse shootout scene before the script was complete. They found out the building was going to be torn out anyway, so they decided to film a scene before it was gone. Its ingenuity like that that results in an epic cop film that keeps the momentum going all the way until the final act.

CLASSIC ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Hard-Boiled is a great film to come out of the Hong Kong scene. Not only is it jam-packed with action, but it’s filled with a great deal of emotional impact.

TOP 10 ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The Perfect Superhero Movie  •  HiTop Films

From the opening sequence of Peter Parker trying to deliver a pizza, you know this is going to be a very different superhero movie. Spider-Man is made human with similar struggles to all of us. He can’t hold down a job, can barely pay rent, and is heartbroken that his love is marrying someone else. Oh yeah, and then there’s the train sequence, which is one of the most impressive things you’ll ever find in a superhero movie.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Spider-Man 2 improves everything about its predecessor. It never loses sight that although we have a web slinger in New York, he’s still a man under the mask.

ACTION MOVIES FROM THE WACHOWSKIS

9. The Matrix (1999)

How to Begin a Movie  •  Patrick (H) Willems

The Matrix takes influence from Japanese animation and old kung fu films to deliver something wholly innovative. Nothing feels halfway in this movie. From the VFX to the philosophy, everything has been thought out so precisely. And it’s still one of the most engrossing, entertaining movies you can watch. The Matrix screenplay is one of the best for learning how to effectively incorporate action into story.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

The Matrix marked a turning point in cinema. The world saw what was then possible with VFX, and every sci-fi or action movie that followed really had to step up its game.

MUST SEE ACTION MOVIES FOR BATMAN FANS

8. The Dark Knight (2008)

The Only Post-9/11 Noir  •  The Take

The climax of The Dark Knight is one of the most impressive things you’ll find in a superhero movie. There’s no threat that the world, or even Gotham, will be destroyed. It all comes down to two boats and one man’s soul. The sequence of Batman taking down the Joker’s goons is thrilling, but the philosophy at play makes it so much more than just a caped crusader story. See why this superhero movie works so well by analyzing The Dark Knight script.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

The Dark Knight set a bar for superhero movies that none have been able to pass since. It’s a great action movie period regardless of whether it’s based on a comic book character.

BEST ACTION SEQUELS

7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2 Analysis  •  A Matter of Film

Terminator 2 works so well as a sequel because it takes themes in the first film and advances them. The characters don’t revert to the way they were, as so many sequels are prone to do. Themes of motherhood are carried over, and we get to see a different side of the Terminator, namely one that is willing to protect John Connor. T2 isn't just one of the best action movies, it's also high in the ranks of best James Cameron movies.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Terminator 2 had to be delayed due to limitation of computer imagery immediately following the first TerminatorIt was worth the wait as the VFX hold up to this day.

BEST ACTION PACKED SEQUELS

6. Aliens (1986)

Making Of Documentary  •  Aliens

Aliens is remarkable for how vastly different it turned out to be. It’s a high-octane action sequel to a slow-paced horror film. Any true action doesn’t really begin until about an hour into the movie. And yet the images and dialogue burn into your memory, making for a film that’s both fun to watch and thematically rich.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Aliens took the franchise in an exciting new direction. It expanded the mythos behind the xenomorphs in an exciting way without getting bogged down in exposition.

ACTION MOVIES FROM THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE

5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 

Empire Strikes Back’s Perfect Structure  •  Films&Stuff

At its core, Star Wars is about taking fun characters through space adventures. The Empire Strikes Back takes this formula and really challenges the characters through the action. The structure is impeccable and noteworthy for how off it seems. The big climactic battle between armies doesn’t happen at the climax. It’s at the beginning. The universe isn’t at stake. The characters are. It takes ideas presented in the first film, which was basically the archetypal hero’s journey, and further challenges our protagonists. 

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

The Empire Strikes Back is still probably the best Star Wars movie ever made. It’s filled with iconic moments that would go on to be imitated for decades.

ACTION MOVIES THAT INSPIRE

4. Seven Samurai (1956)

Akira Kurosawa - Composing Movement  •  Every Frame a Painting

Seven Samurai may just be the most influential film of all time. After you watch the film, you realize just how many filmmakers stole shots or implemented specific character archetypes from the film. No character in Seven Samurai is boring with each one having a specific personality and fighting style. After you watch it, you’ll never watch other action films the same again.

TOP ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Seven Samurai is one of the most important movies aspiring filmmakers can watch. Whether you want to write, direct, or act, you can learn much by engaging directly with this film.

ACTION MOVIES THAT CREATED ICONS

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The Art of Light & Shadow  •  The Film Look

The best action movies list is winding to a close, and there’s still a lot more gas in the tank. The first 10 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark contains more iconic moments than entire films. We’re first introduced to Indy from behind, seeing just a silhouette going through the jungle. From there, a thrilling escape from a boulder and ride back in a plane with a snake onboard cemented Indiana Jones as one of the predominant heroes of the modern age, who still has some adventures up his sleeve.

GREAT ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those films that’s impossible to replicate. Every action/adventure film to follow would bear some of its mark.

GREATEST ACTION MOVIE VILLAINS

2. Die Hard (1988)

The Making Of  •  Die Hard

These days, there tends to be a trope in action movies that the hero needs to be a “chosen one” or is particularly special for some reason.
Die Hard proves you don’t need any of that. The film follows a regular guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He uses his wits and savvy, and as a result, the fights have a real weight to them because you know how vulnerable John McClane is.

GOOD ACTION MOVIES

Conclusion

Die Hard is one of those movies you could watch every year and not get tired. Make it your new Christmas watch.

THE BEST ACTION MOVIE OF ALL TIME

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

A Message to Action Films  •  Karsten Runquist

Mad Max: Fury Road showed what has been possible in the action genre all along. With a minimal reliance on CGI and themes about survival and feminism, Fury Road is an awe-inspiring effort where as soon as you finish watching it, you want to watch it again. George Miller made not just the best action movie ever made, but one of the finest artistic works that’s ever been created through the medium of film. And even if you’re not working with the same budget, you can still craft a stellar car chase sequence from looking at this film.

BEST ACTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME

Conclusion

Mad Max: Fury Road will leave your jaw on the floor. It’s epic filmmaking at its finest.

UP NEXT

How to Write and Shoot Action Scenes

Hopefully this list inspires you to rent some excellent action movies. Once you’ve expanded your horizons, it’s time to get started on your next project. Take some cues from these films, but also make sure to check out our blog detailing how to expertly write and shoot action scenes. With a little help, you’ll be able to create your own kinetic scenes where the punches really land.

Up Next: Write and Shoot Action Scenes →  
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