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The 10 Best Action Movies of 2016

18 December 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Caio Coletti

best action movies 2016

The year is coming to a close, and summer season is long past, so the blockbusters are (mostly) out of the theaters by now. What did you think of this year in action movies? We had nothing less than six superhero offerings, one highly publicized revisionist western, a few non-American pictures coming to theaters stateside, and even a Festival hit starring an old-time action superstar.

A few of those mentioned above made the cut on this list. It’s a ranking done without genre prejudices or fan favoritism, based on the efficiency of the action sequences and the movies as a whole. They are all worth checking out on a lazy Saturday night:


10. Yip Man 3

Yip Man 3

The third movie showing the life of legendary martial artist Yip Man, this China/Hong Kong coproduction centers on the title character as he’s residing in Hong Kong in 1959, with his terminally-ill wife and their young son. When thugs terrorize the son’s school, Yip Man takes a stand along with his students and the police, while another young master seeks to claim the title of Wing Chun grandmaster from him.

At the helm, Wilson Yip does a great job of honoring the legendary master’s legacy, making him into an iconic hero for an archetypical journey, while Donnie Yen shows both his acting range and his complete and utter dominion over the martial arts in the lead role. The Yip Man franchise is truly the unmissable martial arts franchise of our time.


9. Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry

Around de 1 hour mark (or earlier, depending on what your tolerance is), Hardcore Henry’s gamble on first-person action starts to grow tiring. Ilya Naishuller’s film is inventive and quite a feat of choreography, don’t get me wrong, but the single-mindedness out of which it was born starts to show, and it becomes clear that it might have worked better as a short.

However, it’s impossible to deny the novelty of it, perfectly marrying a preposterous plot with a well-placed gimmick. In it, Henry (whose point of view is translated onscreen in first-person) is resurrected with no memory whatsoever of who he is – his mission is to save the woman who claims to be his wife from a telekinetic warlord who plans to bio-engineer soldiers. Now, if you’re not the least bit curious to watch that, you’re not my kind of person.


8. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

There’s very little physical contact in Doctor Strange’s epic magic showdowns, but Industrial Light & Magic and Scott Derrickson’s spectacular work on the visual effects makes up for it. It’s the craziest, most ridiculously exciting action sequences you’ll see in 2016, and its ingenious use of the magic possibilities of the plot is to be commended, even if some of the jokes squeezed in there seem a little out of place.

As a superhero flick, Doctor Strange is as by-the-book origin story as it gets, with a very traditional structure and a few interjections of more complex themes like the nature of heroism and leadership.


7. Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne is nowhere near as good as Paul Greengrass’ two other forays into the franchise, so it’s telling that it still made its way to this list. The always dizzying camera work is still here, as always assisted by Christopher Rouse’s tremendous work in the editing department, and Bourne is still the hardest-hitting spy in the genre, aided by a focused physical and emotional performance from Matt Damon.

What lacks to Jason Bourne that abounded in the previous entries of the franchise is the timely ingenious nature of the plot, a complicated mess of political influences and hidden secrets that resonated with the moment the world was going through then. Bourne is still relevant today, but as this movie shows, he’s starting to seem like even more of a relic than he already (and charmingly) was.


6. The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

There are a lot of dividing aspects to Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven, and its failings at the box office department probably cost us a few great revisionist Westerns that could have come, but you can’t deny that the director created an exciting action romp out of the 1960 classic. It helps to have a talented ensemble, especially Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington, who practically carry the movie on their backs.

The classic story of seven mercenaries contracted by a small town population’s to dethrone the local industrialist tyrant (played to perfection by the always underestimated Peter Sarsgaard, by the way) gets the adrenaline-infused treatment from Fuqua, who seizes every opportunity to work his setting to create a perfect battle stage for the bullet-heavy showdowns between “heroes” and villains.



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  • Brandon Thompson

    This wasn’t a great year for action movies was it.

    • Agreed. In fact, 2016 wasn’t a great film year. Shit, 2016 was just fucking horrible.

      • Fredrik Johansen

        +1. The highest IMDB-rating I gave any film from 2016, was Midnight Special.

        • Shovon Boshak

          Midnight special movie really good

      • Not the great, but also not the worst. 2016 was so dry in the first season with just few exceptions like Zootopia, Civil war, 10 cloverfield lane or perhaps even Deadpool. But the past few months has been really great with movies like Hell or High water, Nocturnal Animals, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Moonlight, Manchester by the sea, La La land, Kubo and the two strings. Come on man! it isn’t that bad after all.

        • True. I’m just upset that I missed out on a lot of films this year.

      • It was an excellent year for horror/thrillers thought

      • sailor monsoon

        The only good thing about 2016 was the movies and albums.
        That’s it

      • soufwans

        Have to strongly disagree here, 2016 has been the best year for film in a while. American Honey, Moonlight, La La Land, Neon Demon, Jackie, The Lobster, Green Room, Nocturnal Animals, Embrace of the Serpent, The Handmaiden, Hail Caesar, Sing Street, The Wailing, High-Rise, Swiss Army Man, Zootopia, The Witch, Arrival, Demolition, Train to Busan, A Bigger Splash, Manchester by the Sea, Dheepan, etc. So many great movies have come out this year.

        • Yeah but the problem is that I was unable to see a lot of them. I’ve The Neon Demon, Arrival,/i>, Manchester by Sea, Hail Caesar!, and Nocturnal Animals but I haven’t seen the rest that you mentioned as some just came and went. Don’t tell me this has been a good year in film.

        • Brandon Thompson

          You have a lot of great picks here but I haven’t been able to see them all as I live in Australian and it’s a pain to get access to movies like Embrace the Serpent and then some of those movies just haven’t come out yet.

  • Pingback: The 10 Best Action Movies of 2016 | Roberto Cimatti()

  • Abhishek

    You have included a shithole Salman Khan Indian movie. Are you kidding us!

  • Xanian

    This is literally the worst list I’ve seen on this site. Sultan is good movie? It was a fucking joke.

  • X Y

    *any other suggestions though!?

    • Roger W

      War on Everyone is pretty awesome, although I’m not sure if that was made in 2016. It’s really funny too.

  • Valentin Genev

    I wanted to like the new Bourne movie so much… what a shame. :c

  • D Train

    Hardcore Henry is up there with Yoga Hosers for stupidest fucking movie of the year. WTF is it doing on this list?

  • shane scott-travis

    Rogue One really should top this list. As far as action spectacle and choreographed action sequences, it beats everything on this list considerably.

  • Let’s take a second to remember 2014 which gave us two of the ALL TIME greatest action flicks of all time (no hyperbole) – Raid 2 and John Wick

  • Jacob Kilgannon

    I don’t understand why people are still riding the Marvel bandwagon so hard
    Dr. Strange was pretty good, but Civil War? Easily one of the worst Marvel flicks. Not that they have made many good ones that is.

    • Roger W

      Most people, including most critics, loved Civil War, and rightly so. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion of course, but I feel like A LOT of people, myself included, would disagree. I personally thought the Russos did a wonderful job with the coherent plot and great development of characters, not to mention how they handled introducing Spider-Man and Black Panther. It was a movie with tons of characters and it still never felt overstuffed or wrongly paced. It’s not a perfect movie, and no movie ever will be, but they took the Barman V. Superman formula and did a much better job with everything. Personally I think Iron Man 3 was the worst just for the Mandarin bulls#&$ alone lol.

      • Jacob Kilgannon

        Eh, the opinions of major film critics don’t really mean anything in terms of what makes a good film though. I can understand why people enjoy the films to an extent, just like I can see why people go see the Transformers films. But when I watch the Marvel films all I can see is god awful editing and weak writing. The writing is more forgivable because they’re action films, but bad editing isn’t something that I can forgive in an action film. Personally I think they did ok with introducing Black Panther. They did a better job introducing Spidey. The thing about BvS is that they took more risks than Marvel will probably ever take. Sure it didn’t come out as well as it could have, but at least it was trying to be more than just a big punch out. Marvel plays it safe, and their formula is getting really old to me. And Civil War wasted ,not just one, but two good villains, and they didn’t have the guts to kill Cap at the end like they should have.

        • Roger W

          I agree Bats vs Supes took more chances and I’m getting tired of Marvel’s formula myself. I was just saying Civil War was pretty bad ass regardless. I thought somebody should have died during Civil War as well but can understand that they want everybody around for Infinity War. If nobody dies during/after the events of Infinity War then Marvel are some weaklings though.

          • Jacob Kilgannon

            For sure. Like I said I can understand why a lot of people liked the film, but I just feel like the bulk of the Marvel films, including Civil War, are overrated. They could have definitely afforded to wait to do Civil War till after Infinity War. Idk, I don’t really agree with a lot of the decisions that Marvel makes. For example, they have wasted soooo many good villains and it’s just getting old.

        • X Y

          *can you explain a bit more how you think Marvel has bad editing, please?! I don’t quite understand what you mean by that.

          • Jacob Kilgannon

            Well for one, in several of the Marvel films I see a lot of sloppy cuts during actions scenes. One example of this would be In Avengers, when a guy falls over from being hit by Black Widow’s hair instead of her head. In Winter Soldier, I saw a ton of people fall down even though they clearly didn’t get hit by Cap. It’s a problem I’ve run into when viewing a lot of their films. Also, their color correction is far from on point. It makes the color palate very bleh and a little monotone. I mean, they don’t even really have a true black in most of the color palettes of the films.