The Top 50 Greatest Action Films Of Our Era

Action films today have become oversaturated and downright cliche. Often missing the mark for an overall captivating film with kick-ass action scenes. You’ve seen it all before, where bad guy tries to take out good guy… it never happens.

Slam-bang explosions and high quality babes. You’re ready for something different, something better.

Which is why we decided to bring you our top 50 action movies, in no particular order, to check out next time your inner thrill seeker is in charge of the remote.

This story was originally published on D’Marge.

AU Editor’s Note: We love this list, and we think it’s mostly amazing. Just ignore The Watch in here; we politely disagree with its inclusion. — Cam

Man On Fire (2004)

A highly-experienced, emotionally broken bodyguard, Denzel Washington is brought on to protect the young daughter (Dakota Fanning) of a wealthy businessman in Mexico City. After her deceptive kidnapping, Denzel ruthlessly seeks vengeance on the men who took her. All to save the one person who brought the light back into his dark, lonely life.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The high-def, modern cinematic depiction of the classic Batman vs. Joker relationship. As the Joker brings Gotham City to chaos, Batman is condemned to be a hero in the eyes of his city once again. With high speed chases, dramatic explosions and the heinous laugh of the Joker, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the end. Asking yourself… why so serious?

The Transporter (2002)

Frank Martin is the best Transporter in the game, no questions asked. After discovering his newest package is a beautiful, hostage woman, his strict code of law is suddenly broken. And his clients are after him. Engrossing combat scenes, rocket launchers and brutal retaliation make this action film a must see on your viewing list.

Die Hard (1988)

NYPD Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Los Angeles to see his wife for the Christmas holiday. During her company party, the building is taken over by a group of terrorists in search of the companies vault. After his wife Holly is taken hostage, McClane takes on the group of terrorists in his pursuit to save her. Gripping thrills and comedic relief make this classic one of the best action films around. Yippee ki-yay, you magnificent bastard.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Before becoming Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bad-ass, cyborg assassin who was sent to destroy the future. In the Judgement Day sequel, however, he has a new mission: to protect a child and his mother from Skynets newest AI. Say “Hasta la vista, baby” to your newest binge-watch and tune in for some classic Arnold destruction with Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun tells the story of Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) through his advanced Naval Air training and fight for the Top Gun award. After the death of his mate, Mitchell is given the opportunity of redemption as he’s sent out against Russian jets. The movies acclaimed for their aerial action scenes, pro-American spirit and captivating plot, keeping this 80’s action film on plenty of fans re-watch list for anytime viewing.

The Avengers (2012)

Nick Fury brings together the ultimate group of Marvel heroes to save the Earth during enemy destruction. Big-box cinematics offer a new and improved look on the classic hero versus enemy film. Experience the ancient Asgardian power of Thor and fly through the city in Iron Man’s armored suit. For Marvel puts you up close and personal with the superpowers of each hero in this dynamic film produced by Joss Whedon.

True Lies (1994)

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads the life of a boring computer salesman in the eyes of his neglected wife. His real office? Fighter jets, exploding buildings and terrorist organizations… for Tasker is actually a lethal CIA agent. After discovering his wife’s affair with a car salesman, Tasker puts his wife on the mission of lifetime, only to end up being captured by terrorists with a plan to destroy Florida.

Skyfall (2012)

James Bond returns from his presumed death after discovering his boss, M, has become the target for a terrorist computer hacker. After returning from the shadows, M trusts in Bond to restore order and take out the man who’s brought death upon MI6. But with an unforgotten past and compromised loyalty, the task at hand is not so simple. Follow 007 through blood-pumping action scenes, whilst maintaining his cool demeanor, in this fast-moving film for all to enjoy.

Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)

In the face of a biomechanical alien assault, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is dropped into a ravenous war field where death is inevitable. After being killed, Cage finds himself tossed into a time loop. Only to relive the same scenario continuously until he figures out how to survive. If you’re a fan of sci-fi thrillers like Groundhog Day and Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow is the movie for you.

Point Break (1991)

Pickin’ up babes and catchin’ waves are a dream job for most FBI agents in Southern California… or anyone really. When young Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) goes undercover to investigate a series of bank robbing surfers, he’s met with a series of grappling adventures. The film boasts captivating skydiving scenes, intriguing plot development and plenty of philosophical undertones which leave you questioning why you’re not a chill, surfer criminal yourself.

The Rock (1996)

When Michael Bay directs a film, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. This story revolves around the FBI’s attempt at stopping a threat of chemical warfare on San Francisco, waged by US war hero General Hummel. The film showcases extraordinary special effects, hand-to-hand combat scenes and top-notch thrills that flow smoothly from scene to scene.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Set in World War II during the Allied Invasion of Normandy, Saving Private Ryan is a legendary war tale everyone should experience at least once. Raw, realistic action. A dynamic plot with heartfelt meaning. You haven’t seen an epic action movie if you haven’t seen this one yet. Grab a glass of whisky, set 3 hours out of your day and enjoy Saving Private Ryan for all it has to offer.

Death Wish (1974)

For a change of pace from first-rate, big bang action thrillers, turn to a classic film like Death Wish. When an NYC architect’s wife and daughter are brutally attacked, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) becomes a one man vigilante in New York. Taking out petty thieves and killers alike in order to make the city a better place. Slightly over embellished? Yes. Catchy? Of course. The film doesn’t visually compare to modern movies, but appreciating it’s old-school feel is part of the enjoyment.

Delta Force (1986)

Based off the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airplane, Delta Force doubles up as an action/docu-drama flick. There’s an unsettling sense of reality in the beginning of the film, a fear relatable to the passengers through their expressions and incessant screaming. The story turns action-friendly when they land and face…Chuck Norris. Notoriously kitchy narrative and pro-American undertones make Delta Force funny, yet well-organised and highly entertaining for viewers.

Enter The Dragon (1973)

For lovers of old-school cinematography and martial arts, Enter The Dragon a film for you. Starring Bruce Lee, the plot thickens around an epic tournament hosted by suspected criminal drug lord Han. Lee, recruited by a secret intelligence group, infiltrates the tournament for information, only to discover a personal connection to Han. The style of action scenes here need no further explanation than… Bruce Lee.

Under Siege (1992)

A classic 90’s film, Under Siege tells a story of the criminal takeover of a US naval ship. When all goes to hell, there’s one man who can save them all – the cook. Not just any cook, but a Steven Seagal cook who just happens to be a trained, badass killer. Will he be able to single-handedly defeat them all AND get the girl?

The Watch (2012)

After the mysterious murder of a local night watchman, 4 suburban dudes come together to form, The Neighborhood Watch. In their search for the truth, they discover the watchman’s killer was an alien with plans to take over the Earth. Keeping this in mind, the film stars Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. So be prepared for tons of laughs with a side of enjoyable action scenes when sitting down for this action-comedy film.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds is a powerful movie from start to finish. With a well-crafted, Tarantino-style plot and aesthetic brutality, the film is amongst a genre of it’s own. When a group of Jewish guerrilla soldiers set out to take down the Nazis, they cross paths with a woman who changes the course of history. For a fresh, satirical and cinematically excellent movie, check Inglourious Basterds next time you’re craving some good action cinema.

Looper (2012)

Joe Simmons (Joseph Gorden-Levitt) is a looper, a man sent back in time by the mob eliminate selected targets. With time travel being illegal in 2074, the loop must be closed when the contract is finished. In order to close, the looper must kill the older version of himself. When Joe is eye-to-eye with his future and world order is at stake… will he be able to successfully close the loop?

xXx (2002)

Vin Diesel plays badass, thrill seeking Xander “XXX” Cage who’s forced by the NSA to help with a Russian crime ring mission. The plot is standard and his character is kind of cheesy, but fun. All in all making for an entertaining flick with quality graphics and blood pumping action scenes.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

CTHD has won over 40 awards while becoming the highest grossing foreign language film in the United States. Rightfully so, for every aspect of the movie is intrinsically unique. The action scenes are smooth, elegant and graceful with a film score to match. CTHD brings you to a different place with their compelling cinematography and fascinating story. A true winner in my book not just for action films, but all films respectively.

Mission Impossible (1996)

Mission Impossible remains one of the best films in this 6 part thriller series (next to Rogue Nation of course!). With an overall suspenseful plot, the movie boasts iconic scenes like the bullet train and helicopter chase and a stealthy Tom Cruise who maneuvers around the CIA. Exciting thrills, tactical vengeance and a grand finale are a few of the many reasons to put MI on your watch list this upcoming weekend.

Inception (2012)

Dominic Cobb’s intellectual thievery relies on the advanced art of mind extraction. He’s made a living stealing corporate secrets and now has the chance to return to his family with one last mission. The concepts in the movie are thought provoking, anxiety ridding yet ultimately brilliant in the making. Add this sci-fi thriller to your watch list for a change of pace from traditional action plots and cinematography.

Speed (1994)

LA cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) is known for his courageous nature and awareness of the criminal mind. In Speed, Jack’s strengths are put to the test when a bomb is rigged to a city bus. The conditions? The bus cannot drop below 50 MPH or the bomb will explode, killing every passenger aboard. Better not run out of gas, for this action film will keep your heart pumping until the concluding scenes.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

After being fished out of the sea alive, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is confronted with a confusing reality. He can’t remember who he is. A Swiss bank account number and inherent set of deadly, hand-to-hand combat skills is all he has to go on. While be hunted by his own government, Bourne flies under the radar in search for the answers he needs. Only to discover the truth of a secret intelligence program that made him who he was.

Rush Hour (1998)

Rush Hour’s a classic action-comedy film from the late 90’s. Watch as Detective Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) track down the criminals who kidnapped the Chinese consuls daughter, Soo Yung. Iconic Jackie Chan combat and Chris Tucker’s gut wrenching jokes make Rush Hour one of the funniest action films to date.

Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

Plot set aside, Mad Max is visually stunning from start to finish. The films moves quick and at some points you may forget what the story was even about. Elaborate death vehicles, grandeur explosions and the vast Namib Desert (where the movie was filmed) provide an all around experience unlike any other. After being in development for 25 years, George Miller killed it for sci-fi action films with Mad Max Fury Road.

V For Vendetta (2005)

The relationship between a young woman and a rebellious masked man unfolds as they plan to bring down a totalitarian Britain. The masked man, V, is somber, intelligent and wildly influential. Who orchestrates a mass arising united by the oppressed people. An explosive ending, well-executed combat scenes and the art of rebellion are a few of the many reasons you should be watching V For Vendetta right this moment.

Salt (2010)

Evelyn Salt was highly regarded in her role as a CIA agent for the United States. After being confronted as an undercover Russian spy, she flees in hopes of protecting her husband from the false accusations. She claims innocence, but the further she runs, the further her own colleagues believe this unsettling possibility. You’ll definitely be confused as to why she runs if she’s not guilty, and that’s okay. The best part of the movie… Angelina Jolie plays Salt and does a damn good job at it.

Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

When an amnesiac housewife regains her memory, she’s given a glimpse into a life that once was. A former deadly secret agent, Samantha is given a second chance by pairing up with Mitch Henessey (Samuel L Jackson) to reclaim her past. Explosions, combat and gunfire, Samantha finds herself a long way from chopping vegetables for Sunday stew. The film does a great job transitioning Samantha into Charly, a hot, kick ass chick with no mercy toward her enemies.

Snatch (2000)

When an 84 karat stone goes missing, the events that follow bring together a whimsical group of characters. From a big time villain, to boxing promoter and an Irish gypsy (Brad Pitt), the personalities are truly amusing in midst of recovering the heist. Snatch is a witty, humorous film with enough action to satisfy action movie buffs and comedians alike.

Taken (2008)

A retired CIA agents 17 year old daughter is kidnapped on a trip to Europe. When Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is given a 96 hour window to find her, he’s forced to use whatever measures necessary to do so. Predictable action sequences, yet visually appealing. Taken will keep you on the edge of your seat, crossing your fingers that Mills will rescue the only good thing that’s left in his rudimentary life.

Con Air (1997)

When a prisoner transport plane is taken over by its passengers, Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage) must save the day in order to return home to his family. His plan? To blend in amongst the country’s most dangerous criminals while figuring out how to stop them from within. If they discover his plan, they’ll kill him. If he sits quietly, he risks never see his daughter again.

Heat (1995)

You know you’re in for a great action film when the leading cast is Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. What would be a traditional “hunter vs prey” film is taken to new levels by these two dynamic characters. A notorious criminal and a reputable Lieutenant. Different, but similar in so many ways. When Neil McCauley (De Niro) disobeys the one rule he followed his whole career, he’s forced to face the consequences… foreshadowing an ending unmatched by competing films of it’s time.

The Professional (1994)

The Professional is an English adaptation of the French film, Le professionnel. The movie tells the story of French secret agent Joss Baumont and his mission to assassinate the president of Malawagi. After his arrival, the political stance between the two countries erupts, leaving Joss at the mercy of an unforgiving government. He’s exposed, imprisoned and left to fend for himself with one goal still in mind…

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Agent Harry “Galahad” Hart is a magnificent bastard at his finest. He’s calm, refined and will deliver an intense beatdown to those who set him off. Hart takes troublemaking teen, Eggsy, under his wing and offers him the opportunity to become a Kingsman. The plot revolves around an insane, tech billionaire named Valentine and his plan to wipe out the Earth’s population. Fight scenes showcase technologically advanced, discrete weapons and crafty hand-to-hand combat.

Kill Bill (2003)

What can one really say about Kill Bill besides the films sheer brilliance. Dramatic fight scenes with tons of blood spatter, gravity defying acrobatics and quirky comedy make Kill Bill a must see. Outside of the appealing cinematic features, Quentin Tarantino adds unique dynamics to each character which aids in the understanding of their backstory. The movie was so great that the setting of the iconic ‘Crazy 88’s’ fight scene was replicated as a restaurant in Tokyo.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a typical LA cop who’s just turned 50. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), his new partner, is a young man with an impending death wish. As the two are paired to investigate the murder of a banker’s daughter, they bring to light a notorious drug ring led by “The General”. Amongst their relentless pursuits, Riggs embraces the chaos while Murtaugh can’t help but feel “I’m too old for this s#%t!”

Bad Boys (1995)

Two detectives hunt down a drug kingpin for $100 dollars worth of stolen heroin. Typical story, with a few plot twists… so what’s the catch? The comedic relationship between loose cannon Mike Lowry (Will Smith) and reserved, family man Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Bad Boys is packed with exciting action scenes, witty dialogue and relatable references to popular music and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Italian Job (2003)

An impressive heist of $35 million dollars. A partner who’s inherent greed overcomes team loyalty. Follow the story of a group of professional thieves as they seek revenge on a friend who left them for dead. The Italian Job covers all aspects of classic robbery films: hacking, safe-cracking, explosives and car chases, in a creative and captivating way that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Predator (1987)

Mysterious jungles, countless open fires and a classic, badass Schwarzenegger make this 80’s action film a must see for movie buffs. When Major “Dutch” Schaefer is sent on a CIA mission to rescue survivors, his team is met by an unworldly hunter known as, Predator. As his team is ruthlessly killed one by one, Dutch is left to do nothing else but survive.

John Wick (2014)

Be careful who you take from. For when a mob boss’s son murders retired hitman John Wicks beloved pup, he becomes a target for revenge. A typical storyline but with unique and artfully crafted action sequences. Bullets, brutality and more, the film showcases Keanu Reeves for what we all know and love him for most, high-octane action.

300 (2006)

In an action-packed world of guns and explosions, 300 sets themselves apart from the latter. Telling the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., the film takes you back in time with historical accuracy and relevance. Become a part of the fight, as 300 Spartan soldiers cause bloodshed amongst thousands of ruthless Persian soldiers. Who will prevail? Seizing control of the iconic city-state we’ve come to know as, Sparta.

Total Recall (1990)

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was an average man with reoccurring dreams about Mars. When he undergoes a memory transplant to fulfill these dreams, something goes terribly wrong. A thought-provoking sci-fi action film, Total Recall utilizes sophisticated special effects which put them ahead of their time versus sci-fi films in the 90’s.

The Kingdom (2007)

This action thriller follows the an elite FBI team to Saudi Arabia after a terrorist bombing of Americans. The team must overcome cultural tensions and a relentless environment while searching for what feels like a ghost. Suspenseful drama and engrossing action scenes make The Kingdom a solid choice when that inner thrill seeker we talked about comes forth for watching.

Collateral (2004)

Innocent cab driver Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) finds himself apart of a contract killing spree with a mysterious man named Vincent (Tom Cruise). One night, five spots… and a 6 AM flight out of LAX to be made. Max has only one choice unless he wants to be added to Vincent’s list, and that’s to obey.

The Expendables (2010)

A group of specialized mercenaries are contracted to take out a corrupt Latin dictator in the Gulf of Mexico. Up against a merciless army, the group must utilize their expertise wisely to fulfill their mission and defend a local contact/love interest. Big guns and bigger explosions, complemented by a few good laughs, puts The Expendables on the list of 50 best action movies.

The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves stars in this memorable 90’s cyber-action film known for its take on our reality… that there is none. What we live in is nothing more than a compromised artificial world given to us by machines. Machines that harness the human body for biochemical heat energy. When a cell of hackers initiate rebellion, a timeless battle ensues to save humanity from their malevolent controllers.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Texas hunter Llewelyn Moss finds $2 million dollars amongst a drug deal gone wrong in the middle of the desert. With no intentions of returning the money, psychopathic killer Anton Cigurh is sent for its retrieval. As the bodies pile up and the Sheriff catches their trail, Moss will have to make a decision that will either end his life, or make him rich forever.

This story was originally published on D’Marge.

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