The 20 Greatest Action Movie Moments
These great moments are the exact reasons we watch the action movies again and again, even the sequences alone are limitlessly rewatchable.
The process of composing this list is harder than you would have imagined. With so many choices available, the “stage of cutting” gave me most headaches, the only rule I applied here is trying to mix’em up, so you will read a little bit of everything. The end result will not please everyone, so if you think any of your favorite action scenes are missed here, please let me know in the comments.
20. The Rock
The Moment: John Mason (Sean Connery) escapes in a Humvee, and Stanley Goodspeed(Nic Cage) pursuits in a Ferrari- two perfect vehicles for a Michael Bay car chase.
Coolest Element: Mason deliberately hits everything he possibly can in order to throw obstacles in his pursuers’ path – postmodern critique of Hollywood car chases, or just cliché central?
19. Rambo: First Blood Part 2
The Moment: On the run from a Vietnamese PoW camp, Rambo is shot at by an enemy soldier and calmly unslings his bow and arrow.
Coolest Element: This isn’t just any ordinary arrow. It’s an exploding arrow.
The Moment: Nic Cage playing John Travolta, meets John Travolta playing Nic Cage, in the middle of a thunderous John Woo shootout.
Coolest Element: The actors are separated by mirrors, a brilliant set-up for a gunfight between two men whose identities are completely reversed.
17. True Lies
The Moment: The insane final battle as superspy/family guy Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) rescues his daughter from the terrorists in Harrier jump jet.
Coolest Element: An enemy helicopter in view. Bad guy Salim (Art Malik) tied to a missile. Two birds; one stone.
16. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Moment: The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) crashes a liquid nitrogen tanker into a steel foundry. Long story, but you know the rest.
Coolest Element: “Hasta la vista, baby!”
15. Police Story
The Moment: A stakeout goes wrong when the bad guys get wise and do a runner on a double-decker bus… with Inspector Chan (Jackie Chan) in hot pursuit.
Coolest Element: Chan grabs hold of the bus with an umbrella, and hangs on for dear life as he’s buffeted about.
The Moment: Just when you thought it was safe to go into space… the Alien Queen rips Bishop (Lance Henriksen) in half and zones in on Newt (Carrie Henn). Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the last woman standing.
Coolest Element: The exo-suit cargo loader, giving Ripley equality with her super-sized opponent.
13. The Dark Knight
The Moment: Batman vs Joker. Bike vs tanker. No contest? Guess again.
Coolest Element: The Batpod’s strategic harpooning of the Joker’s cab causes the tanker to flip and bring an end to the villain’s pursuit of Harvey Dent.
12. Casino Royale
The Moment: Daniel Craig cements his status as the toughest of James Bond with this vertiginous pursuit of free-running assassin Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan).
Coolest Element: Perched on the narrowest of crane gantries, Mollaka throws an empty gun at Bond… who catches it and chucks it straight back.
11. The Raid
The Moment: Rama (Iko Uwais) finds himself totally outnumbered as he takes on a posse of murderous tenants in a hallway.
Coolest Element: Rama manages to dispatch one assailant by snagging his neck on the jagged wood of a broken door frame.
10. The Bourne Ultimatum
The Moment: Trailing assassin Desh in Tunisia, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) jumps from balcony to balcony before engaging in a violent fight.
Coolest Element: Bourne improvises with the nearest thing that comes to hand: a book. Handy for jamming into an assailant’s throat.
9. The Killer
The Moment: Assassin Jeff (Chow Yun Fat) and Detective Li (Danny Lee) end up fighting on the same side as Triad hitmen attack their church hide-out.
Coolest Element: The doves.
8. Way Of The Dragon
The Moment: Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris. Enough said.
Coolest Element: Bruce tries a move that is surely absent from most martial arts playbooks, by pulling out a clump of Chuck’s chest hair.
7. The French Connection
The Moment: Hitman Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) escapes on an elevated train, causing cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) to take to the road in pursuit.
Coolest Element: The ultimate women-with-pram-steps-out-in-front-of-a-speeding-car moment.
The Moment: Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is cornered at the end of a long corridor by a gang of knife-wielding thugs. Fortunately, he’s brought his hammer.
Coolest Element: An extraordinary three-minute tracking shot filmed in a single take, with only a single piece of CGI (the knife in Oh Dae-su’s back) added afterwards.
5. The Matrix
The Moment: Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is a prisoner inside the Matrix. Neo (Keanu Reeves) reckons he’s ready to come to the rescue. Cue half an hour of physics-defying action.
Coolest Element: Its novelty might have been lessened by inferior copycats, but the initial thrill of seeing Keanu dodge machine gun fire in ‘bullet time’ hasn’t worn off.
4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
The Moment: The opening sequence, probably the finest introduction ever devised for an action hero as Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones comes a cropper trying to grab a Peruvian idol.
Coolest Element: Just when you think he’s out of danger, the temple’s most fiendish trap is activated – a giant stone ball, headed Indy’s way.
3. Seven Samurai
The Moment: The final battle in the rain, as the titular defenders let the surviving bandits into the village in order to finish them off.
Coolest Element: Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) refuses to let the small matter of being shot stop him from cutting down the bandits’ leader.
The Moment: Cops and robbers, supersized, as Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) forces Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) to blast his way out of central L.A.
Coolest Element: The real-time reloading of Val Kilmer’s Chris, so good it’s used to teach Special Forces how to do it.
1. Kill Bill, Vol. 1
The Moment: The entire House of Blue Leaves sequence, self-consciously intended as one of the greatest action movie sequences of all time.
Coolest Element: The fight against schoolgirl Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama), a sadist with ball-on-a-chain weapon the meteor.