14 Action Films That I Love

There’s nothing better than a good action flick. Watching a protagonist stare-down nearly unbeatable odds only to serve up a dollop of ass-kickery is one of the purest forms of entertainment. When done correctly, a well-choreographed sequence is like a double-shot of adrenaline straight into the viewer’s bloodstream. Unfortunately, far too often, that’s not the case.  So, I think it’s important to acknowledge to good ones; the white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat, shot in the arm thrill-rides that make us love cinema. Here are my favorite action movies:

-Aliens-

Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Release: July 18, 1986

Metacritic Rating: 87

I loved Alien. It’s one of my absolute favorite horror films, and completely revolutionized sci-fi horror. That being said, its sequel is one of my favorite films period. Aliens gets pretty much everything right. Tonally, it manages to capture the same terrifying intensity as its predecessor while somehow upping the thrills tenfold. Seriously, this movie set the bar for horror and action and sci-fi all at once. This is some of the baddest badasses, the Colonial Marines, taking on a hive teeming with xenomorphs, and it’s gory, and scary, and fucking awesome.  The scene in in the medical lab with the two facehuggers is one of the most intense bits of film I’ve ever watched, and the film’s finale solidified Ellen Ripley as one of my favorite protagonists in cinema.

-Legend of the Drunken Master-

Director: Lau Kar- Leung

Writer: Edward Tang, Tong Mang-Ming, Yuen Chieh-Chi

Release: February 3, 1994

Metacritic Rating: 74

Jackie Chan is incredible. Literally all of his movies are full of  jaw-dropping moments, and, to boot, his comedic timing is fantastic. He truly is a global treasure. I’d like to make it clear that choosing a favorite Jackie Chan film is like choosing a favorite child. Growing up, I loved films like Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour, but as I grew older, I began to appreciate his older works. Police Story is a landmark in action films and Drunken Master has some of the most impressive stunt work I’ve ever seen.  But, If I had to choose one, I’d probably go with Legend of the Drunken Master. Originally Drunken Master 2, this film was dubbed over in English for its American release in 1994. Now the dubbing isn’t exactly wonderful, but the action is superb and a true showcase of Chan’s talents.

-The Matrix-

Director: The Wachowski Brothers

Writer: The Wachowski Brothers

Release: March 31, 1999

Metacritic Rating: 73

I remember seeing The Matrix Revolutions in theaters with my dad and brother when it came out. The film ended and the credits rolled and the audience was silent. Then almost as if he was speaking for the collective, a man yelled, “Bullshit!”. I remember very vividly that the crowd responded more positively to that man’s review than to the film itself.  As we exited the theater, my brother and I questioned how a film trilogy could lose its way so badly. Revolutions was horrible and Reloaded had been visually impressive, but ultimately disappointing.  The first film wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was new and cool and fun. The concept was unique and interesting, but not overly complicated like in the sequels. The action was amazing, yet still grounded enough to remain believable within the world. No one was flying across cities like superman and you actually worried about the protagonists. It’s probably not fair to say The Wachowskis were simply lucky with this film, considering the revolutionary direction and camerawork, but they haven’t come close to making a film like it since. Then again, few have.

-Heat-

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Release: December 15, 1995

Metacritic Rating: 76

There are three specific scenes in this movie that were powerful spurs in my passion for film. The first is obviously the diner scene with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. It’s so well acted and shot that it’s impossible not to get drawn into this story and the rivalry between the central characters. The second is, obviously, the renowned shootout scene in the streets of L.A. Lastly, but probably most importantly, is a scene of subtle masterful acting by De Niro.  McCauley, the main antagonist and adversary to Pacino’s Hanna, is making his getaway and heading to the airport. He receives a call alerting him of the location of a former accomplice turned traitor named Waingro. McCauley initially is dismissive of the news, but decides to delay his getaway in hopes of getting revenge. De Niro absolutely crushes this scene. It’s so understated, yet powerful, and he’s in complete control of every inch of every frame. I’m sure anyone who has seen Heat can name a few parts that they love, and that, to me, makes a great film.

-Captain America: Civil War-

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen Mcfeely

Release: May 6, 2016

Metacritic Rating: 75

I may get some flack for this pick. The action in Marvel films tends to be mostly heavily edited CGI which doesn’t usually translate to excellent cinema. Now, I enjoy most of the Marvel films and think, for the most part, they’re well-made. This may be because I enjoy the comics as well, and watching Captain America bounce his shield off of a Hydra agent’s head makes me feel like a giddy 10-year-old. Regardless, when I watched Captain America: Civil War in theaters with my friends I was grinning like an idiot throughout. It only vaguely resembled the comic it takes its name from, but that didn’t matter much. The Russo brothers captured the perfect feeling with this film. It’s fun, humorous, exciting, and cool. It’s everything a comicbook movie should be.

-Die Hard-

Director: John McTiernan

Writer: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza

Release: July 15, 1988

Metacritic Rating: 70

Die Hard may be the perfect American action film. It has the perfect everyman hero against the perfect villain. It’s the perfect game of cat and mouse and it even has the perfect one-liner to boot. Bruce Willis has never been more charming and Alan Rickman delivers one of the most memorable and entertaining villains of all time.

-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-

Director: Ang Lee

Writer: Wang Hui-Ling, James Schamus, Tsai Kuo Jung

Release: July 6, 2000

Metacritic Rating: 93

This is film is truly gorgeous. Every fight is so well choreographed and every scene is just impeccably shot.  I love long takes, especially in action films, and unfortunately they become more and more rare. This film manages to show intricate and gravity-defying action sequences in perfectly paced shots. The sets and scenery are beautiful and utilized well. On top of all that,  story is so wonderfully told that you won’t even notice the subtitles as it progresses. Honestly, this movie is a beautiful piece of cinema and definitely a must-see for any fan of film.

-Terminator 2: Judgement Day-

Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Release: July 3, 1991

Metacritic Rating: 75

Say what you will about James Cameron, but the man can make a good movie.  With this film, the T-800 went from a terrifying unstoppable machine hellbent on killing Sarah Connor, to a endearing badass hellbent on protecting John Connor. As relentless as the original terminator seemed in the first film, Robert Patrick’s T-1000 raises the bar to a new level.  While the film has its flaws, it remains one of the most purely entertaining action movies of all time.

-Enter the Dragon-

Director: Robert Clouse

Writer: Michael Allin

Release: July 26, 1973

Metacritic Rating: N/A

Man, Bruce Lee was cool. I remember thinking that the very first time I saw Way of the Dragon and continued to think it since. I’ll admit, his movies aren’t the best example of stunning martial arts, with groups of enemies choosing to attack the hero one by one. They often have a hint of cheesiness to them as well, taking after the bond films of the era and Enter the Dragon is no exception. But, come on. Lee just oozes charisma  and the action is wonderfully put together to make a wholly entertaining film.

-Hard Boiled-

Director: John Woo

Writer: Barry Wong

Release: April 16, 1992

Metacritic Rating: N/A

This is probably John Woo’s best work. If it weren’t for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I might say the same about Chow Yun-Fat. This film is a charged-up thriller with compelling performances and a handful of supremely entertaining action sequences. Woo’s direction during the film’s shootouts is honestly among the best in action films and it’s a shame that more western films haven’t followed suit.

-Mad Max: Fury Road-

Director: George Miller

Writer: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

Release: May 15, 2015

Metacritic Rating: 90

High-speed car chases have been part of action movies since cars were invented and Fury Road is a one long beautiful chase. The plot is simple, the characters are pretty straightforward, and for those not acquainted with George Miller’s universe, it can be somewhat odd. But the practical effects are astounding and the film is utterly captivating. As the chase lead straight into a giant sandstorm my jaw fell wide open in the theater. It was the first time in a long while that I had been in awe during a movie. The crazy thing is that there’s several other moments like this in this movie. 2015 was a huge year for blockbusters with Jurassic World, Age of Ultron and Star Wars being released, but Fury Road probably surprised many by being the best of them all.

-Kill Bill-

Director: Quentin Taratino

Writer: Quentin Taratino

Release: Vol.1- October 10, 2003,  Vol.2- April 16, 2004

Metacritic Rating: Vol.1-69 , Vol.2-83

For this entry I’m considering both volumes of Taratino’s film as one. I’ve always been a huge fan of Tarantino, and consider his works among some of my favorite movies.  Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction helped provoke my love of film and Inglourious Basterds is nothing short of a masterpiece. But Kill Bill has always held a special place in my heart. Volume One is stylish, incredibly over the top, but so cool and unique. Volume Two is essentially the same plus David Carradine. Like all Tarantino films, the dialogue is paramount, but the action in these films cannot be overlooked, especially the when the Bride takes on Gogo and The Crazy 88’s. It’s super gory and super ridiculous, but it’s fantastic cinema.

-The Raid (:Redemption)-

Director: Gareth Huw Evans

Writer: Gareth Huw Evans

Release: March 23, 2012

Metacritic Rating: N/A

This movie is one of the most blunt and straight-forward that I’ve ever seen. It’s white-knuckle action throughout. The concept is simple enough, and the characters are barely fleshed out, but this film knows what its strong suits are.  The action is unbelievable. The choreography is almost a brutal ballet. This is one of those movies that gets your adrenaline pumping so hard that you’re liable to stand and fist pump during several of its fight sequences. Seriously, its that badass.

-The Rundown-


Director: Peter Berg

Writer: R.J. Stewart, James Vanderbilt

Release: September 26, 2003

Metacritic Rating: 56

Outside of The Scorpion King, The Rundown was one of Dwayne Johnson’s first big action flicks. Sean William Scott was still in the high of his career and Rosario Dawson and, of all people, Christopher Walken also support in this film, and honestly it’s a blast. While Peter Berg is a competent filmmaker,  this film is nothing incredible. I’m not sure why I love it so much, but dammit I can’t help but watch it at least once a year. The cast seems like their having a blast making it and it’s a genuine and infectiously fun experience.

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