20 Action Films That Deserve Your Attention

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Action is an underrated genre in the film industry. It often gets mislabeled as big guys shooting bigger guns. And sometimes, it is just that, but the genre has much more to offer. There is no limit to the variety and genre mashups you can find in the action scene.

Beyond the action, there’s the story that led to it. What are the characters fighting for? Maybe they’re trying to put their family back together after somebody’s been kidnapped. Maybe they’re just hoping to live out their last days in peace, before somebody breaks in and tries to mess it up. Maybe … it’s all a dream.

Depending on your interest, you can find story-driven character pieces, claustrophobic suspense films, and even unique comedies within the genre. Sorting through so many elements can become complicated, so here’s a list of 20 action films that deserve your attention.

1. Taken

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Liam Neeson has quickly become the most noteworthy action star in the past twenty years, and it all started with Taken. The film gives viewers little in the way of plot, but it more than makes up for it with its fantastic action sequences.

Top that off with some terrific one-liners from Liam himself, and you have a recipe for box office gold. Taken gives audiences something simple yet effective. The good guy beats the bad guys, both figuratively and literally. And sometimes, that is all you need for a great movie.

2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day took one of the most iconic films ever and made it even better. While the first film is fantastic, it is hindered by slow pacing and a lower budget. Terminator 2 had none of these problems.

Not only are the film’s action sequences a substantial improvement over the original, but the story crafting and world-building rival those of films being created today. While some of the effects may look outdated, Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the best sci-fi action films around.

 3. Hot Fuzz

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy may have ended with a whisper thanks to The World’s End, but the other two films more than compensate for its lackluster finish. Hot Fuzz is the second entry into this trilogy, and it shows off Edgar’s directing prowess and versatility.

Hot Fuzz jumps between genres at lightning speed while keeping the audience hooked all throughout the story. Blending comedy, action, and mystery into a seamless and intriguing plot is no small feat, but Hot Fuzz pulls it off without breaking a sweat.

4. John Wick

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.

The John Wick franchise single-handedly brought the action genre back into the mainstream when it was released in 2014. Since then, many films have featured the retired bad guy getting his revenge, but few have reached the heights that John Wick achieved.

What sets this film apart from the others is its implied history. John Wick teases a hidden world of crime just behind the surface that fans are eager to learn more about. The sequels may not have performed as well, but the original John Wick film will go down as one of the best action films in a generation.

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5. The Dark Knight

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Everything Christopher Nolan touches outclasses all of its competition. Almost too many Batman films have been made in the past fifty years, but The Dark Knight is considered the best of the bunch.

The combined efforts of Heath Ledger and Christian Bale give audiences the best version of Batman versus Joker that has ever graced the silver screen. The Dark Knight was, sadly, Heath Ledger’s last film before his untimely death.

6. Die Hard

Die Hard (1988)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The fact that there is still a debate about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie should tell you something about the film’s staying power. Die Hard is such an iconic film that sitcoms still reference it over thirty years later.

And it is easy to understand why. Die Hard subverts many of the action film tropes and instead focuses on suspense to ratchet up the tension. The Everyman archetype used in the movie has been imitated many times over the years, but there’s always something special about the original.

7. Crank: High Voltage

Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films.

Sometimes, you want to take a break from the seriousness of life and watch a ridiculously violent film. That’s what Crank: High Voltage offers audiences, and it’s fantastic. The premise is simple enough: an assassin must keep electrocuting himself while murdering his way through a city, or his artificial heart will fail.

As exciting as that is in its own right, Crank: High Voltage offers up some serious action and amazingly choreographed fight scenes. Jason Statham delivers a fantastic comedic performance that will remain relevant for years to come.

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8. Nobody

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

In recent years, Bob Odenkirk has shown the world that he has more range than most. The man jumps seamlessly from comedy to dramatic severe roles and works as a fantastic action star. It seems his talents are limitless.

When Nobody was announced, people thought it would be another generic John Wick rip-off. But they were quickly proven wrong. The film’s use of comedy and action sets it miles ahead of its competition and makes Nobody a film that all action fans should check out.

9. Training Day

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

“King Kong ain’t got nothing on me” will go down as one of the best action lines in film history. Training Day proved that the only thing better than a cop action flick is a corrupt cop action flick.

Brilliant performances by Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke elevate an already fantastic script into one of the best movies of the early 2000s. Since then, the film has been imitated many times, but there has never been a better dirty cop than Detective Alonzo Harris.

10. Battle Royal

Photo Credit: Toho Company.

Long before The Hunger Games took the world by storm, a similar action flick became a cult classic on the other side of the planet. Battle Royal is a black comedy film filled with teenagers committing over-the-top acts of carnage.

There have been allegations that The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of Battle Royal. But outside of the teenagers being forced to murder each other angle, the films aren’t at all similar. Battle Royal is a one-of-a-kind action film that even Quentin Tarantino loves, calling it his favorite film of the past twenty years.

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11. Face/Off

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

If you have ever wanted to see John Travolta playing the meme version of Nicolas Cage, then Face/Off is the film for you. This movie may have the most ridiculous plot ever, a cop and Conman switching faces, but director John Woo still delivers on the action.

Face/Off gives you a version of cat and mouse that you have never seen before. Wacky plot devices aside, the film is genuinely well-crafted and original, and the plot has kept audiences hooked for over 25 years.

12. RoboCop

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

RoboCop is so much more than a gonzo violence action flick. The film’s message is buried under buckets of blood, but you may find some of its meaning if you dig hard enough. In the thirty years since this film was released, many theories of what the film means have come to light.

Some theories include that it is a satire about capitalism; others argue it is a religious metaphor. Some even say that the film is a philosophical lesson about what it means to be a person. Regardless of what you decide the film is about, there is no doubt that RoboCop is a fantastic action film that still holds up today.

13. Dredd

Photo Credit: DNA Films.

Dredd did not receive the critical acclaim that its fan base had hoped for, but it is still regarded as the strongest movie adaptation of this Hard Knocks comic book character. Following the failure of the 1995 Judge Dredd film, fans were hopeful that Alex Garland could pull off a more faithful adaptation of the comics.

Alex created a gruesome action film that even the most stubborn comic book fan could appreciate. Unfortunately, the film was plagued by poor advertising and a limited release window. This resulted in poor theater turnout and the film being nearly forgotten until its resurgence as a cult classic online.

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14. Demolition Man

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

When Demolition Man was first released in 1993, it was considered a decent but somewhat goofy action flick. Fast forward to 2024, and the film makes some eerily accurate predictions of what American life will be like in the future.

Granted it wasn’t as spot on as some episodes of the Simpsons, we aren’t placing three seashells in our bathrooms, but there are enough similarities to make Demolition Man an interesting watch all these years later.

15. Inception

Photo Credit: Syncopy.

Inception is Christopher Nolan’s attempt at making a James Bond homage film. Only Christopher knows if he was successful in the endeavor or not. What is clear is that he created one of the best action films of the 2000s.

This sci-fi action thriller is unlike anything else in the genre. Inception offers viewers an ambitious story, beautifully shot action scenes, and an ending still discussed over a decade later.

16. Predator

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

The franchise may be on its 8th sequel, but competing with the original Predator film is still hard. Although it never comes out and says it, Predator is meant to be a satire of the action genre.

In hindsight, the oiled-up men raining bullets down on everything they see might have an underlying message. But what is impressive about Predator is that you can enjoy it as just an action film if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

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17. Gladiator

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is what happens when you combine political intrigue, blood-soaked action sequences, and the best acting talent of an era. The film spawned numerous competitors, but none could stand as tall as Gladiator.

The film was created as one of the last movies to rely on massive practical sets. Now, most films use CGI to achieve their world-building. But there is something special about having a real-world environment that shines through in Gladiator.

18. The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The Matrix has significantly impacted the world more than most films would think possible. The red/blue pill analogy has worked its way into various social causes and has become part of the internet’s lexicon.

This is another action film with hidden meanings and interpretation depth. But with all that aside, The Matrix is most well-known for its fantastic cinematography and “bullet time” effects that still hold up remarkably well today.

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19. Aliens

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Not to be confused with the horror film Alien, its sequel, Aliens, is a jam-packed action film. Instead of a slow, claustrophobic horror film like the original, James Cameron decided that the sequel should be a war flick. And he was absolutely right.

This change in direction turned Aliens into an action masterpiece filled with the horror elements fans loved in the first film. The film is still praised today for heralding the feminist movement and being one of the best films in the franchise.

20. Mad Max: Fury Road

Photo Credit: Village Roadshow Pictures.

The first three Mad Max films are considered part of required viewing in the action genre. But Mad Max: Fury Road is what all the other films aspire to be. It has action, relentless chase scenes, and general post-apocalyptic carnage.

Not to mention, Mad Max: Fury Road is directed by George Miller, who created the first Mad Max film. Mad Max: Fury Road takes the action that fans have come to love from the series and brings it into the modern era.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Many movies are cast with actors that are decent fits. They can even be great because the actor does an excellent job adapting to the role. However, there are some movies where the fit is just so perfect that you could not imagine the movie being a success if they had chosen anyone else.

10 Actors Perfectly Cast for Their Character Roles



19 Films Where the Main Character Discovers They’re Not the Good Guy in the End

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Through legitimate or illegitimate means, the main character doesn’t always end the film as a good person. Sometimes it comes through a shocking twist, sometimes we’ve known all along that this main character is not somebody we actually like.

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