The 100 Best Action Movies of All Time


Action films encompass a huge range of topics, from sci-fi like Avatar to animation like Ghost in a Shell.

Filled with tales of characters fighting for their values, against the forces of evil, and for the fun of it, action films make up a large portion of most people’s viewing experiences. 

But there are so many films out there, and most are amazing to watch. So, to help make picking your next movie easier, here are the top 100 action films of all time!

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • Release Year: 2002
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Stars: Elijah Wood, Sean Austin, Viggo Mortenson, Orlando Bloom

The second film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers, follows the adventures of the two separated Fellowship groups. 

Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn hunt down a band of orcs who have captured Merry and Pippin, and Frodo and Samwise continue their journey to Mount Doom. 

Filled with some of the best music scores in the series and epic fight scenes, The Two Towers is always worth a watch or several dozen. 

Avatar 2: The Way of Water

  • Release Year: 2022
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang

The latest Avatar film, Avatar 2: The Way of Water, is James Cameron’s sequel to his 2009 film, Avatar. 

If you thought that the Na’vi would finally live in peace after defeating the corporation trying to destroy their homeworld, you thought wrong. 

The water scenes throughout this film are absolutely breathtaking, and you are left wishing that Pandora was real. 

Leon: The Professional

  • Release Year: 1994 
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Stars: Gary Oldman, Jean Reno, Danny Aiello, Natalie Portman

Following the adventures of a 12-year-old girl Matilda, whose family is murdered, and Leon, a professional hitman with a glorious record behind him, Leon the Professional is a gritting tale of revenge. 

After Matilda’s family is killed, Leon takes her in and teaches her the ways of the hitman, giving us the beautiful “older daughterless man adopts young girl” trope that so many people love in movies. 

The Mummy

  • Release Year: 1999
  • Director: Stephen Sommers
  • Stars: Brandon Fraser, John Hannah, Rachel Weisz

Starring Brandon Fraser, and Rachel Weisz, The Mummy is one of the best Egyptian mythology-based action films ever created. 

Filled with constant nail-biting action and a godlike antagonist, it is no surprise that this film is a staple for many movie buffs’ watched lists. 


  • Release Year: 2009
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

The first movie to introduce us to the mystical world of Pandora, Avatar pits the natives known as Na’vi versus the human corporation, the RDA. 

While first brought to the hostile world to pilot his dead brother’s avatar, Sam Worthington creates indestructible bonds with the Na’vi. 

From the sprawling jungles to the final massive firefight, James Cameron proved his brilliance once again with Avatar. 

Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: James Gunn
  • Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan

Guardians of the Galaxy took a less serious route than many movies Marvel created in the last twenty years. 

Showcasing a whole new set of heroes known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie is a nice wholesome blend of comedy and typical Marvel writing combined with a strong ensemble cast. 

If you love Marvel superheroes but get tired of some of their darker stories, then Guardians of the Galaxy may be your next favorite movie.

Check out how to watch all the Marvel movies in chronological order.

The Lego Movie

  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
  • Stars: Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman

An animated film released in 2014, The Lego Movie takes us into the life of a generic Lego character who is tasked with saving the known world. 

It’s filled with great songs like “Everything is Awesome” and fight scenes that could only exist within a Lego universe. It’s an excellent comedy-action movie for the family with small kids.

The Matrix

  • Release Year: 1999
  • Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
  • Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss

Created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, two trans sisters, the Matrix was originally meant to be a trans allegory with red and blue pills. 

Keanu Reeves brings the outstanding performance he is well-known for and brings to life a world where humans are trapped within the Matrix. 

Buckle in because what you thought was reality may be just a simulation for our computer overlords. 

Incredibles 2

  • Release Year: 2018
  • Director: Brad Bird
  • Stars: Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Craig T. Nelson

Easily one of the greatest animated films of all time, Incredibles 2 continues the story of the Parr family and their quest to defeat evil. 

When they receive an invite to help make superheroes legal again, you know the Incredibles are down to do that. 

Unfortunately, not everything is as it seems, and it is up to the crime-fighting family to use their abilities to beat up their foes until they learn the truth. 

The Dark Knight

  • Release Year: 2008
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman

Starring Heath Ledger as Joker and Christian Bale as Batman, this Christian Nolan film gave us the greatest Batman movie ever. 

Filled with plenty of great fight scenes and a Joker who truly embodies chaos, The Dark Knight is a film you can not miss.

Check out the best Joker quotes from Dark Knight here.


  • Release Year: 1986
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars: Sigourney Weaver

Another film by the action pro himself, James Cameron, the 1986 Aliens features Sigourney Weaver as the hero Ripley Scott. 

After being enlisted to fight acid-spewing aliens in an abandoned space colony, Ripley has to use her wits and fighting skills to survive. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

  • Release Year: 2003
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Stars: Elijah Wood, Sean Austin, Viggo Mortenson, Orlando Bloom

The final movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, is filled with two of the best battle scenes in the whole franchise. 

At the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, a massive siege occurs, and at the Battle of the Black Gate, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Gandalf, and others face down the ravaging hordes of Sauron. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Release Year: 2001
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Stars: Elijah Wood, Sean Austin, Viggo Mortenson, Orlando Bloom

The first of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, may lack the action-packed battles of the other two films, but it still features some great fight scenes. 

Fun Fact: When the leader of the Uruk-hai at the end of the movie throws his dagger at Aragorn, Aragorn actually deflects it with his sword.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

  • Release Year: 1980
  • Director: Irvin Kershner
  • Stars: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford

By far, one of the best films in the Star Wars franchise, The Empire Strikes Back, has both the Empire and the Rebels gathering their strength. 

Emperor Palpatine makes his first appearance ever, and the inevitable victory of the Empire seems closer than ever. 

With dog fights in space and above the rocky shores of various planets, you do not want to miss this Star Wars film.

Watch this rare behind-the-scenes footage from The Empire Strikes Back.

The Incredibles

  • Release Year: 2004
  • Director: Brad Bird
  • Stars: Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Craig T. Nelson

Fourteen years before Incredibles 2, the first Incredibles movie showed what early 2000s animation could do. 

With an entertaining storyline and fight scenes pitting superheroes against giant death-seeking robots, Incredibles is a must-watch. 

Ghost in a Shell

  • Release Year: 1995
  • Director: Mamoru Oshii
  • Stars: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Iemasa Kayumi

Based on a manga with the same name, Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk anime featuring a cyborg cop and her partner facing down a hacker. 

Avengers: Endgame

  • Release Year: 2019
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Stars: Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.

With Phase Three of Marvel ending with Endgame, the superheroes who survived Infinity War must fight against Thanos again. 

The final battle is one of the largest ever seen on screen, with impressive CGI and dozens of fan-favorite faces appearing. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • Release Year: 1982
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman

Indiana Jones has always been one for adventure and using his bullwhip to defeat anyone standing in his way, and we see that again in this movie. 

Looking for the Ark of the Covenant, he must get to it before the Nazis get their hands on it for their unspeakable evils. 

The Dark Knight Rises

  • Release Year: 2012
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars: Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway

In the final movie in the Dark Knight trilogy, Batman must face down Gotham’s greatest foe, Bane. 

Hardened by his childhood, the tech billionaire must use all of his wits and fighting skills to protect his beloved city.

Check out the Best Batman movie quotes of all time here.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

  • Release Year: 1977
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

The first ever Star Wars movie, A New Hope, opens with guns blazing, and Princess Leia is captured by Darth Vader.

While there are some calm moments in the film, you usually look for the next laser blast or lightsaber swing.

Check out the best Star Wars quotes about the force here.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

  • Release Year: 1991
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Patrick, Linda Hamilton

Using special effects and some good old action movie magic, Terminator 2: Judgement Day comes with not one but two fearsome cyborgs. 

One has been sent to kill, the other to protect, and to know which one succeeds, you must give this film a watch. 

Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Release Year: 1979
  • Director: George Miller
  • Stars: Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel

Most of Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in the hot Namib Desert of Africa, with Mad Max and a rebel, Furiosa, fleeing from an evil overlord. 

Together with other female prisoners, the duo must lead their group to victory against the tyrannical overlords who hold the land in their grip. 

Battle Royale

  • Release Year: 2000
  • Director: Kinji Fukasaku
  • Stars: Aki Maeda, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Chiaki Kuriyama

Long before Hunger Games ever came out, Battle Royale was a Japanese film pitting a group of ninth-graders against one another. 

It was kill or be killed, and it was so brutal that it was banned in multiple countries and sparked dozens of controversies. 

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

  • Release Year: 2003
  • Director: Prachaya Pinkaew
  • Stars: Tony Jaa, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Petchtai Wongkamlao

A Thai action film, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, follows Ting as he attempts to recover the stolen statue head of Ong-Bak. 

He has to battle the seedy underworld of Bangkok, leading to many great martial art fight scenes between the young fighter and a group of thieves.  

Jurassic Park

  • Release Year: 1993
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern

In the first movie adaptation of the novel Jurassic Park, the characters are plunged into a dinosaur-controlled island and must fight for their lives. 

While there is little human vs. human action, there is plenty of human vs. nature action, as death by T-rex is ever-present. 


  • Release Year: 2010
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Elliot Page

If you enjoy mind-bending action-packed films that will leave you wondering what is what, then Inception may be your next film. 

Leonardo DiCaprio playing a thief, must extract data and influence world events from within peoples’ dreams. 

Batman Begins

  • Release Year: 2005
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Nesson, Morgan Freeman

Batman Begins is where it all began, as we get to watch the origins of Batman, at least according to Christopher Nolan. 

After learning how to fight from a mysterious group in the mountains, Batman must fight to stop them from blowing up Gotham. 


  • Release Year: 2000
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Stars: Russell Crowe 

Long hailed as a must-see film in the action genre, Gladiator takes us back to the Roman golden age when gladiators fought for glory and money. 

Following Maximus, a previous general, he must battle and kill for the chance to rise up the ranks to avenge his fallen family. 


  • Release Year: 2017
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook

A heartbreaking tale about Wolverine, one of the X-men, Logan, is filled with vicious battle scenes, tempering them with an emotional story. 

Thor: Ragnarok

  • Release Year: 2017 
  • Director: Taika Watiti
  • Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum

Thor: Ragnarok features Thor trapped by the fire demon Surtur who tells Thor that Asgard will soon be destroyed thanks to Odin’s absence. 

After escaping and finding Loki pretending to be Odin, the brothers must unite to defeat their evil sister Hela. 

The Karate Kid

  • Release Year: 1984
  • Director: John G. Avildsen
  • Stars: William Zabke, Martin Kove, Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita

The Karate Kid is, for many people, the martial arts movie they saw growing up, and it has inspired hundreds of memes and several spin-off movies and shows. 

Watching Mr. Miyagi teach young Daniel LaRusso to stand up for himself, and then in the final sparring match when Daniel claims the title is thrilling. 


  • Release Year: 2013
  • Director: Alfonso Cuaron
  • Stars: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock

When gravity is removed, you get the space survival tale of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Two astronauts must try to deal with their space shuttle being destroyed in real-time. 

Utilizing impressive special effects, the audience cannot help but hold their breath, hoping and praying for the brave astronauts to survive. 

Top Gun: Maverick

  • Release Year: 2022
  • Director: Joseph Kosinski
  • Stars: Tom Cruise, Ed Harris, Jon Hamm

Top Gun has long been a forerunner of the action genre, and Maverick returns us back to the TOPGUN school. 

With a new batch of recruits, it’s up to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell to train and prepare them for what is coming. 

Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi

  • Release Year: 1983
  • Director: Richard Marquand
  • Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Ending the first Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi sees the Rebels coming together with their allies for one final fight against the Empire. 

Yoda returns from Dagobah to face down Palpatine, and the whole film keeps you excited as lasers fly and lightsabers hum. 


  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin

Set in an alternate reality where humans fail to listen to their scientists about climate change, Earth has become uninhabitable. 

With nowhere left, a NASA scientist sends an astronaut through a wormhole to find a planet that humans can populate. 

Have you tested yourself in the FilmDaft sci-fi quotes quiz?

The Thing

  • Release Year: 1982
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Stars: Kurt Russell 

A classic horror movie, The Thing uses a ton of practical effects to bring to life a creature that can mimic other lifeforms. 

Paranoia brews, and the crew of the small Antarctica outpost has to figure out who the mimic is and kill it. 

Iron Man

  • Release Year: 2008
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow

Exploring the origins of Iron Man and why he has the equivalent of a plasma reactor in his chest, Iron Man pits the US against terrorists. 

While a generic storyline, it is still filled with great fight scenes, like first-gen Iron Man plowing through a hail of gunfire unscathed. 


  • Release Year: 1962
  • Director: Akira Kurosawa
  • Stars: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi

A Japanese clan has become influenced by evil and corrupt forces, and it falls upon the samurai Sanjuro to help a young group of samurai overthrow them. 


  • Release Year: 2022
  • Director: Dan Trachtenberg
  • Stars: Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Michelle Thrush

Returning to the world of Predator, a young Comanche warrior must fight to protect her tribe from multiple foes. 

Not only is an alien predator seeking to murder her tribe, but colonists are on the shores, and the wilderness is not always her friend. 


  • Release Year: 1987
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers

Starting off the franchise, Predator takes Arnold Schwarzenegger, an action hero, and pits him against an alien force. 

One that leaves behind a trail of dead bodies, disappearing as quickly as it arrives and rarely giving a chance to strike back. 

Avengers: Infinity War

  • Release Year: 2018
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans

Generally considered one of the saddest Avengers movies in Phase Three, Infinity War sentences many beloved superheroes to death. 

Thanos has acquired the Infinity Stones and intends to end the universe, but that won’t happen without some of the greatest special effect battles Marvel ever put to screen. 

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

  • Release Year: 2003
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Stars: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox

An assassin for hire, The Bride, awakens from a coma after her former colleagues attempt to assassinate her. 

However, they failed, and now she is searching for revenge. Filled with swords, blood, and great fight scenes, any fan of the revenge genre will love this film. 

Die Hard

  • Release Year: 1988
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov, Bonnie Bedelia

One of the stables in the action genre, Die Hard, sees NYPD detective John McClane fighting against terrorists. 

While his Christmas was ruined, the film would spawn multiple sequels and forever ingrain itself in the action genre. 

Casino Royale

  • Release Year: 1967
  • Director: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath, Val Guest
  • Stars: Peter Sellers, David Niven, Woody Allen

Showing James Bond’s first mission as Agent 007, he has one goal: to stop a banker with terrorist ties from winning a poker game by any means possible. 

And since it’s James Bond, you know it won’t go down peacefully, and 007 will give us some great fight scenes. 

Kill Bill: Vol 2

  • Release Year: 2004
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen

Continuing the story of The Bride and her quest for revenge, it is filled with multiple fights and bloody flashbacks. 

It is all building up to that final showdown between The Bride and her old boss, but who will win the fight? 

The Bourne Identity

  • Release Year: 2002
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Stars: Matt Damon, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen 

Suffering from amnesia, a strange man is found by some fishers and must elude a group of hitmen who want him dead while he regains his memory. Filled with CIA bad guys and excellent car chases The Bourne Identity is a must-watch by any fan of the action-thriller genre.

The Fugitive

  • Release Year: 1993
  • Director: Andrew Davis
  • Stars: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward

Everyone loves a good manhunt, and the Fugitive pits a doctor against a US Marshall convinced that the doctor killed his wife. 

It is a high-speed, adrenaline-pumping film, and there is rarely a moment to catch your breath before being plunged back into the chase. 

First Blood

  • Release Year: 1982
  • Director: Ted Kotcheff
  • Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy

Getting tired of watching one on one action films? Well, try out First Blood, where an ex-Green Beret must wage a one-man war against a group of corrupt police. 

It is filled with fights, guerilla warfare, and big guns, and what could be better than that? 


  • Release Year: 2006
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Stars:  Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender

The legend of the 300 Spartans has stood the test of time, and 300 shows how that battle could have gone down. 

Big-muscled men walk around with swords and shields while laughing in the face of death before slaughtering thousands of Persian invaders. 

It is a nonstop epic battle, and you can’t help but be inspired by the bravery. 

The Patriot

  • Release Year: 2000
  • Director: Roland Emmerich
  • Stars: Mel Gibson, Health Ledger, Jason Isaacs, Tom Wilkinson

A gruesome and bloody representation of the Revolution War, a widowed farmer must put down his hoe and pick back up his rifle. 

It is a tale of a man tired of war but with no choice; he targets the British with his brutally effective fight techniques. 

Ender’s Game

  • Release Year: 2013
  • Director: Gavin Hood
  • Stars: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley

In the far future, when child geniuses are the hope of the human race, Ender must travel to a space academy to learn how to become a leader. 

While it is a classic human versus alien sci-fi film, it comes with a bitter truth and a story that will leave you questioning whether we are in the right. 


  • Release Year: 2017
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Stars:  Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles

Dunkirk is a history WWII action movie where a group of allied soldiers must evacuate a beach or be slaughtered on its shores. 

If you like character development, you will not enjoy this film, as it is just a constant barrage of gunfire, explosions, and fights to the death. 


  • Release Year: 1987
  • Director: Paul Verhoeven
  • Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer

When regular police fail you, Robocop always comes to your rescue. Set in a far dystopian future, a mortally wounded cop is reborn as a cyborg. 

Using his new impressive new body to stop bullets in their tracks, he is constantly tormented by what happened to him in the past. 

Total Recall

  • Release Year: 1990
  • Director: Paul Verhoeven
  • Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone

Virtual reality is constantly making strides, and in the world of Total Recall, taking virtual vacations is a normal thing. 

When a man’s virtual vacation to Mars worsens, he and the audience must question whether he is actually there.

Check out the Top sci-fi movies of all time

John Wick

  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen

With possibly one of the greatest origin stories ever, John Wick, an ex-hit-man, comes out of retirement because someone kills his dog and steals his car. 

That would lead to a chain of events giving us some of the greatest fight scenes ever to grace a tv. 

John Wick: Chapter 2

  • Release Year: 2017
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose

In the second film, John Wick returns to the seedy underground because he owes a debt that must be repaid. 

While that is cool enough, it turns out that he has a bounty on his head, and now he has to escape the countless hitmen hunting him down. 

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

  • Release Year: 2019
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Stars: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon

After killing a fellow member of the international assassin, another bounty has been stuck on his head, this time for $14 million. 

John Wick can trust no one now and must use all of his skills to escape alive. 

Big Trouble in Little China

  • Release Year: 1986
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Stars: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong

Sometimes the usual gun-blasting action films get a little boring, so why not try Big Trouble in Little China?

In it, a trucker and his sidekick are thrust into conflict against an ancient sorcerer in an epic supernatural battle. 

The Way of the Dragon

  • Release Year: 1972
  • Director: Bruce Lee
  • Stars: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Tony Liu, Chuck Norris

Yet another martial arts movie, Bruce Lee must use his nunchuck skills to defend his family against a gang and fellow martial art expert, Chuck Norris. 

While it features plenty of action, it is much more grounded and utilizes comedy to keep the viewer engaged. 


  • Release Year: 2013
  • Director: Bong Joon-ho
  • Stars: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho

The apocalypse has arrived, and the survivors are constantly stuck on a train that runs around the globe. 

Aboard the train, a caste system is founded, and brutality dictates who gets what in this action-packed apocalyptic film. 


  • Release Year: 1986
  • Director: Russell Mulcahy
  • Stars: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery

A mighty Scottish immortal swordsman must fight against the last of a group of immortal barbarians who are hellbent on acquiring the fabled “Prize.”

Featuring plenty of sword fighting scenes and a story that keeps you engaged, Highlander is a must-see for every action fan. 

Top Gun

  • Release Year: 1986
  • Director: Tony Scott
  • Stars:  Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer

Top Gun is where the whole franchise began, taking place at the TOPGUN flight school, where new fighter pilots learn how to fight and weave in the skies. 

But one of the students learns a few tricks not taught normally and must use them to claim victory. 

V for Vendetta

  • Release Year: 2005
  • Director: James McTeigue
  • Stars: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt

Following the World War in the not-so-far-off future, London belongs to a fascist party, and the people are controlled entirely. 

A being known only as “V” fights against these oppressors using different terrorist tactics, making for an intriguing political film with enough action to keep it intriguing for casual viewers.

They Live

  • Release Year: 1988
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Mog Foster

What if the elite were controlling our lives? What if the media and the news were meant to dictate our thoughts?

While that may not be far from the truth, They Live gives us a view of what that could look like through a pair of special sunglasses. 

Prepare for aliens, intrigue, mind control, and more in this John Carpenter classic. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

  • Release Year: 2010
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Stars: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Alison Pill

Adapted from a comic series of the same name, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World gives us the comic action many of us love. 

With over-the-top fight scenes, special powers, and even a man defeated by a latte, it is a comedic movie guaranteed to make you laugh. 


  • Release Year: 2000
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen

Every one of the X-men has specific mutations which give them special powers when they reach the age of puberty. 

In classic superhero fashion, they must use those powers to battle against supervillains in epic battles, even though the world hates them. 

The Warriors

  • Release Year: 1979
  • Director: Walter Hill
  • Stars: Michael Beck, James Remar, David Harris

A giant gang war, The Warriors are one of several gangs fighting over turf in New York City. When they are accused of killing another gang leader, they must fight through several other gangs’ turf to return to their own. 

Lethal Weapon

  • Release Year: 1987
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Stars: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey

Lethal Weapon is a regular old buddy cop movie where the two cops are complete opposites but must set aside those differences to take down a drug smuggling gang. 

From Dusk Till Dawn

  • Release Year: 1996
  • Director: Robert Rodriguez
  • Stars: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino

In a brilliant vampire horror comedy, two-lifetime criminals are coming down to the Mexican border. 

On the way, they kidnap a preacher and his two kids to help them get through border control, but at the tavern, they are supposed to meet their buyer, a giant vampire nest tries to eat them alive. 

While the effects are not super impressive, the characters are lovable, and the film is just plain weird. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: Matt Reeves
  • Stars: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman

A decade after the Simian Flu wiped out most of the world’s humans, genetically modified chimpanzee Ceaser and his followers settled in San Francisco. 

Some humans remain and are at odds with the ape settlement, leading to tense situations, epic ape vs. human fights, and a look into what life could be like if apes evolved further. 

Suicide Squad

  • Release Year: 2016
  • Director: David Ayer
  • Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie

Featuring some of the best of the worst, Suicide Squad takes a group of supervillains like Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang and send them to take down an evil sorceress. 

Throughout the film, you start to feel for the villains until you can’t help but cheer them on as they slaughter their foes in brutal fashion. 

Check out the coolest Harley Quinn movie quotes.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

  • Release Year: 2009
  • Director: Guy Ritchie
  • Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan

It might sound surprising, but this version of Sherlock Holmes is actually filled with awesome action sequences.

While Benedict Cumberbatch will forever be Sherlock Holmes for many people, in 2009, Robert Downey Jr. starred in a Sherlock Holmes movie. 

Combining brutal crimes, occult practices, and a master of the dark arts, you are in for a ride with this movie.


  • Release Year: 2016
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Stars:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitakar, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

When 12 large spaceships land on Earth, researchers and scientists must find a way to communicate with the aliens. 

If they fail, all-out war will break out, plunging humankind into a war it cannot win and leaving millions dead. 

2001: A Space Odyssey 

  • Release Year: 1968
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Space and time no longer apply in this movie, with a large black structure connecting the past and future that recently arrived on Earth. 

A group of astronauts undergoes a special mission, but the onboard ship system, HAL, begins to malfunction, leading to tensions between man and machine. 


  • Release Year: 201
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Stars:  George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch

In a historical drama, two privates in the British army are given instructions that seem almost impossible to accomplish. 

They must sneak through enemy lines and deliver a message that could potentially save over 1600 of their fellow soldiers. 

The Last of the Mohicans

  • Release Year: 1992
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May

Adapted from the novel, The Last of the Mohicans live harmoniously with the British settlers until everything goes wrong. 

With one of their scouts kidnapping the British colonel’s daughters, the peace is broken, and the Mohicans must try to rescue the two girls during the middle of the French-Indian War. 

Big Hero 6

  • Release Year: 2014
  • Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
  • Stars: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney

When Baymax first appeared on screen, he stole viewers’ hearts as a giant cuddly robot resembling a marshmallow. 

After the main character’s brother dies in a fire and his nanobots are stolen, he and his friends are thrust into a dangerous plot. 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

  • Release Year: 1997
  • Director: Steven Spielburg 
  • Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard

While Jurassic Park was destroyed, it turned out that Hammond, the mind behind it, had extra dinosaurs on another island. 

He wants Ian Malcolm, chaos mathematician, to observe the dinosaurs before Hammond’s financial backers claim them. 


  • Release Year: 2008
  • Director: Matt Reeves
  • Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller

Out from the depths of the sea comes a creature more terrifying than the world has ever seen, and it begins laying waste to New York. 

As the city crumbles around them, a group of friends records the whole thing, as the end of the world seems nigh. 

The Hunger Games

  • Release Year: 2012
  • Director: Gary Ross
  • Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

The queen of young-adult dystopian fiction, The Hunger Games takes the viewer to a future where kids are forced to battle to the death. 

After the districts rebelled against the capital city, a great war ensued, and to prevent that from ever happening again, the brutal murders of children were deemed the solution. 

The Lego Batman Movie

  • Release Year: 2017
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Stars: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes

If you loved the Lego Movie, then luckily, a second film was made with a whole new set of characters called the Lego Batman Movie. 

Following the conflict between Joker and Batman, Joker gets upset that Batman doesn’t need him, leading to Gotham City almost being split in two between them. 

National Treasure

  • Release Year: 2004
  • Director: Jon Turteltaub
  • Stars: Nicholas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight

After discovering a clue to the secret treasure from the founding of the United States, historian and code-breaker Ben Gates is left for dead in the Arctic by his fellow treasure-hunter. 

Managing to find his way out and returning home, Ben Gates enlists the help of his friend to find the treasure before his ex-colleague can. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

  • Release Year: 2013
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Stars:  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

In the sequel to Hunger Games, the winners of the last Games are all required to return and fight for their lives once again. 

Angry at how they are being treated, most tributes work with a group of rebels working to overthrow the government, with Katniss at the forefront. 


  • Release Year: 2006
  • Director: Neveldine/Taylor
  • Stars: Jason Statham, Amy Stuart, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam

Taking action to the max, a professional hitman decides he wants to escape the lifestyle but receives a phone call telling him he has been poisoned. 

With only an hour to live, he must keep running to keep the adrenaline pumping through his veins to find the antidote. 

The Terminator

  • Release Year: 1984
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield

A cyborg assassin from the future, disguised as a human, is on its way to murder a woman named Sarah Conner. 

Why must she die? Because her child will spark a war that will pit humans against an AI called Skynet that comes into power after a nuclear holocaust. 

Lady Snowblood

  • Release Year: 1973
  • Director: Toshiya Fujita
  • Stars: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa

The precursor to Kill Bill, Lady Snowblood, features a young woman named Yuki who is hell-bent on killing three men who raped her mother and killed her family. 

The Bourne Ultimatum 

  • Release Year: 2007
  • Director: Paul Greengrass
  • Stars: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Scott Glenn

Continuing his journey of restoring his memory, a CIA assassin gets in touch with a reporter and sees it as an opportunity to blow the Blackbriar Black ops mission wide open. 

When higher-ups learn of this, a price is put on his head, and he must now race against the clock as he tries to share his message without being murdered. 


  • Release Year: 1964
  • Director: Guy Hamilton
  • Stars: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton

The world economy is in danger as a powerful crime tycoon seeks to break into Fort Knox and bring the whole economy down. 

Standing in his way is James Bond, who must use his top-notch spy skills to defeat the crime tycoon before the world collapses. 

Enter the Dragon

  • Release Year: 1973
  • Director: Robert Clouse
  • Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Bob Wall, Shih Kien, Jim Kelly 

After the death of his sister, a martial artist played by Bruce Lee becomes determined to capture the drug tycoon behind the murder. 

How else would Bruce Lee accomplish this but by joining a Kung Fu competition and beating the crap out of his opponents? 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

  • Release Year: 1984
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Stars: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri

Ever on the hunt for the next piece of treasure, Indiana Jones is again thrust into danger, this time in India. 

Searching for the Sankara Stone, Indiana Jones and his companions must confront an ancient evil that has been unearthed. 

Mission Impossible

  • Release Year: 1996
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Ving Rhames

Two US government operatives, Ethan Hunt and Jim Phelps, undergo a top-secret mission, leading to Ethan Hunt’s mentor being killed. 

Accused of the murder, Ethan enlists the aid of a genius hacker to help him break into the CIA’s headquarters and steal a computer file proving his innocence. 

True Lies

  • Release Year: 1994
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Stars:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton

A secret agent must live a double life, with his family believing he is nothing more than your generic, dull middle-aged man. 

Little do they know he is constantly in the middle of danger, hunting down and recovering nuclear weapons in the possession of Islamic jihadists. 


  • Release Year: 1997
  • Director: John Woo
  • Stars: John Travolta, Nicholas Cage, Joan Allen

An FBI agent, Sean Archer, obsessed with bringing in a terrorist, Castor Troy, follows him onto a plane that crashes, severely injuring and potentially killing Troy. 

Replacing his face with Troy’s, Archer uses his new face to acquire intel about Troy’s brother to prevent a bomb from going off. 

But unbeknownst to him, Troy has awakened, and takes on Archer’s face, making for a strange but amazing movie. 


  • Release Year: 1995
  • Director: Robert Rodriguez
  • Stars: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi

Following a blood trail leading to the last of the Mexican drug lords, Mariachi must face him and his goons down in an action-packed gunslinger. 


  • Release Year: 2012
  • Director: Pete Travis
  • Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey

Where cops now play the role of judge, jury, and executioner, the city lives in fear of these “judges,” the most fearsome being Dredd. 

Dredd and his new partner must travel into a crime-ridden part of the city to take down a drug lord named Ma-Ma. 

Prepare for a futuristic bloodbath where guns reign supreme and due process is a thing of the past. 

The Transporter

  • Release Year: 2002
  • Director: Cory Yuen
  • Stars: Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Matt Schulze, Ric Young

Frank Martin, an ex-special forces operator, lives a quiet life where he transports anything across the Mediterranean Sea, no questions asked. 

Things go awry, though, when he is hired to kidnap the daughter of a Chinese crime lord, and he is thrust into danger again. 


  • Release Year: 1998
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Stars: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler

The end of the world is nigh, and an asteroid is heading straight towards Earth, and how else would America deal with such a serious problem than to try to blow it up.

That is correct. Armageddon is a sci-fi action film where the goal is to plant a nuclear bomb on the asteroid and blow it up. 

Atomic Blonde

  • Release Year: 2017
  • Director: David Leitch
  • Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

The female version of John Wick or James Bond, Lorraine Broughton, is a blonde passionate about guns and martial arts. 

Her job is to take down an espionage ring, and recover a dossier, all while using her deadly skills to silence those who dare oppose her. 

The Running Man

  • Release Year: 1987
  • Director: Paul Michael Glaser
  • Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dawson

Taking place in a 2019 America that is totalitarian, prisoners are forced to run in an attempt to escape for the enjoyment of the masses. 

Falter, in the slightest, and they are brutally slaughtered but succeed, and you may just be allowed to live. 

Air Force One

  • Release Year: 1997
  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Stars: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Wendy Crewson

President James Marshall has made it clear that he would never negotiate with terrorists, but after a terrorist group hijacks Air Force One, he must make a decision. 

It is a high-paced action film taking place above the clouds, where the slightest mistake could lead to the deaths of everyone on board.

In Closing

So this was some of the greatest action movies of all time. I hope you got some inspiration for the next time you fire up Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or whatever streaming-service you prefer.

Did I miss a good action movie you’d like to see on the list? 

Let me know in the comment section below.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.