11. The Equalizer (2014)
The Equalizer is a slick and stylish action movie that stars Denzel Washington as a retired black ops agent who uses his skills to help those in need. The most intense action of Washington’s career, his character dispatches enemies with ruthless efficiency and brutality.
The film’s brilliantly paced, with a slow build that ratchets up throughout the runtime, leading to a thrilling finale. You may think Denzel is too old to be an action star at this point, but The Equalizer is a late career highlight, proving that one of the most dynamic mainstream actors of his generation can also kick butt.
12. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
A gigantic hit upon release, the Kill Bill series still holds up. However, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 is the stronger of the two films thanks to its brisk pacing and being one of the best revenge flicks ever made. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Quentin Tarantino directed it with his unique blend of style and substance. Similarly, in a career highlight, Uma Thurman stars as “The Bride,” a former assassin who seeks revenge on her former boss and his deadly team of assassins.
The action sequences are beautifully choreographed, with a dazzling mix of swordplay, knife fights, and hand-to-hand combat. The film’s visual palette is quintessential Tarantino, with a wild mix of color schemes and film stocks that create a truly unique look. Even if you’re not a Tarantino fan, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a martial arts action film any fan of the genre can appreciate and enjoy.
13. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is a non-stop thrill ride that is as visually stunning as it is action-packed. Tom Hardy stars as the iconic post-apocalyptic hero, who finds himself on the run with a group of women who are fleeing from a tyrannical warlord. The action sequences are some of the most intense and creative ever put on film, with a mix of practical stunts and jaw-dropping visual effects.
The film’s feminist undertones are also a standout, with the women characters being just as strong and capable as the male ones. Mad Max: Fury Road is a modern classic and a must-see for any action movie fan.
14. Nobody (2021)
After a break-in at his home, an unassuming family man finds himself back into the world of violence he tried to leave, to . Nobody is a stylish and intense action movie that stars Bob Odenkirk as an unassuming family man who has a secret past as a lethal assassin. The action sequences are brutal and inventive, with Odenkirk’s character dispatching his enemies with surprising skill and efficiency.
The film’s humor is also a standout, with Odenkirk delivering deadpan one-liners that will leave you chuckling. The supporting cast, including Christopher Lloyd and RZA, also deliver strong performances. Nobody is a great choice for anyone who wants to see Bob Odenkirk kick some butt.
15. The Protege (2021)
Maggie Q stars as a highly skilled assassin who is seeking revenge on those who killed her mentor in the slick and stylish action film The Protege.
The action sequences are fast-paced and intense, with a mix of gunfights and hand-to-hand combat. With a stellar supporting cast, including Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, The Protege is a great female-led action movie.
16. Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
Mission Impossible: Fallout is the sixth installment in the long-running action franchise and is arguably the best one so far. Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, who finds himself on the run from the CIA after a mission goes wrong.
The action sequences are some of the most thrilling ever put on film, with a mix of practical stunts and jaw-dropping visual effects. The film’s pacing is also excellent, with a non-stop barrage of action that only pauses to catch its breath. Since the audience is well aware that Cruise does all of his own stunts, each one comes across as genuinely suspenseful and thrilling. Even if you haven’t seen all of the previous films, Mission Impossible: Fallout works as a standalone action film.
17. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the third installment in the John Wick series and is just as intense and action-packed as the previous two. In fact, it’s the best of the series (so far). Keanu Reeves returns as the legendary hitman who is on the run from the criminal underworld after breaking a cardinal rule. Inventive, intense fights heighten the base standard the previous two films developed, with a stylish mix of gunfights, knife fights, and hand-to-hand combat.
The film’s world-building is also a standout, with a rich mythology that adds depth to the story and makes Parabellum seem like the centerpiece in an ever-expanding franchise. Considering the pedigree of the series, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is one of the best action films ever made.
18. Hanna (2011)
A teenage girl who has been trained as an assassin by her father embarks on a mission to take down the agency that is hunting her. With a unique visual style and an atmospheric soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, Hanna is a great choice for anyone who wants to see a fresh take on the action genre.
Tom Cruise brings his characteristic A-game to the film while Saoirse Ronan delivers a breakthrough performance as the eponymous protagonist. Its sleek cinematography and fantastically choreographed fight sequences are highlights, but the heart at its core and the inherent vulnerability of the protagonist keeps you hooked until the final frame.
19. Oldboy (2003)
While stumbling home drunk on night, a man is apparently kidnapped for no reason and imprisond for 15 years in an abandoned hotel room. When he is suddenly released, he embarks on a mission of revenge against those who have wronged him. Along the way, he meets a sympathetic waitress and begins a light romance with her as he works towards uncovering who imprisoned him, and why. The answer is shocking and devastating. Then again, so is this film.
An extremely violent film with unbelievably well-shot and choreographed action sequences, Oldboy set a new standard for South Korean action, becoming a crossover cult hit across the world. If you don’t know the twist ending, don’t spoil it for yourself and just watch the movie, as it earns that twist with every frame.A must-see for anyone who considers themselves not just an action film, but a great film. A masterful blend of action and psychological horror, Oldboy (the 2003 version, not the terrible 2013 American remake) is a film you will likely not forget soon, no matter how much you may want to. A masterpiece of action.
20. Casino Royale (2006)
James Bond was starting to look a little long in the tooth by the turn of the century. With five separate actors playing the iconic character over 40 years, it seems like it was time for 007 to turn in his Walther PPK and take early retirement. That is, until Casino Royale’s release in 2006. Bringing Bond back to his origin story, where he is a violent killer employed by MI6. From the black and white cold open to the iconic closing scene, this is the 21st century’s James Bond.
After all, Ian Fleming’s original novels detailed a womanizing, calculating murderer in service for God and King. Maybe this was too violent for the last century, but Casino Royale proves the future is made for stronger stuff. Expertly crafted and with a verve and urgency many previous Bond films lack, Casino Royale is (ironically) an excellent entry into the James Bond franchise. Craig is maybe the best Bond in this regard, whose steely good looks and impersonal manner are closer to the source material than the goofier previous iterations. It’s also a cracking good action flick, one that can be thrown on any given evening to enjoy a high-energy spy action film. One of the best of the franchise and one of the best of the 21st century.