The action genre is so huge that it’s very hard to pick out the ten best films and the fact that they are part of multiple sub-genres only makes it harder. Therefore I decided to list only the greatest pure action films, action movies that thrill and entertain the most and are a part of only the action and thriller genres. Without further ado, here’s my pick for the ten greatest pure action films:
10. Hard Boiled (1992)
Before making his break into Hollywood John Woo directed Hard Boiled an intense and stylish action thriller about cop who must go undercover to shut down a sinister mobster and his crew. Hard Boiled is one of the corner stones of Hong Kong cinema, an engaging action movie which has Woo’s frequent collaborator Yun-Fat Chow performing at his very best.
9. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The third entry in the Bourne trilogy is easily the strongest ones in the entire series. Matt Damon is great at Jason Bourne. Even though it often blurs the lines between action thriller and techno thriller, it manages to stay high on action most of the time. It’s suspenseful and albeit the somehat annoying camerawork the end result is gripping and exciting film.
8. Point Break (1991)
Surprisingly enough Point Break was not much of a hit when it came out in 1991. Patrick Swayze at the time was considered a joke of an actor and Keanu Reeves was/is not known for his acting skills either while Kathryn Bigelow before making her jump to war movies was still coming up as a director. The film follows the story of a rookie FBI agent who must go undercover to infiltrate a group of surfers who might be bank robbers. Point Break has all the beats of a great action movie. The action is thrilling, the story is well executed, the character development is impeccable and there’s an undeniable charm to the bromance between Swayze’s Bodhi and Keanu’s Utah.
7. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon basically set the standard for every buddy-cop movies that came out after it’s release and spawned one of the most successful movie franchises in recent history. Directed by: Richard Donner, Lethal Weapon follows the story of a suicidal cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) who must team-up with an aging cop Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to stop a dangerous gang of drug smugglers. Lethal Weapon is a quintessential 80’s classic that benefits largely due to Shane Black’s smart and sharply scripted screenplay, as well as two great performances from Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. No many times you watch it, you never get too old for this shit.
6. Mission Impossible: III (2006)
I still believe that the third installment in the Mission Impossible franchise is the best one, Ghost Protocol included. What surprises me is that most people don’t agree with me. J.J Abrams coming on board really helps and the story is a far more mature one as compared to the previous ones, The film is thrilling, well constructed and visually elegant but the x-factor for me is the unforgettable turn from the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain Owen Davian which offers a much needed dose of conflict and excitement to the entire film. A good villain is one of the keys to a good action movie and it is most definitely the case here.
5. Casino Royale (2006)
After the Pierce Brosnan James Bond franchise started to dip both critically and commercially, the producers of the franchise thought it was high-time they had a reboot. So in 2006 came Casino Royale, arguably the best and most well constructed James Bond movie ever to grace the silver screen. Daniel Craig is utterly convincing as Bond, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre makes for a great villain and the film itself is superbly thrilling and engrossing, filled with unforgettable action sequences (particularly the parkour sequence). Casino Royale was also the first film in ages to use an original Ian Fleming story.
4. Face/Off (1997)
John Woo’s first Hollywood film follows the story of an FBI agent who to foil an extortion plot undergoes the identity of a ruthless international terrorist, however the plan backfires and the same terrorist impersonates the cop with the same method. Face/Off is without doubt one of the most chessiest and over-the-top movies you’re ever likely to see but it’s also one of the most exciting and enjoyable ones. Nicholas Cage and John Travolta chew up the scenery (in a good way) in their hammy turns as Sean Archer and Caster Troy, they both end up playing each other at one point, while John Woo orchestrates one magnificent action sequence after another. Its an undeniably fun movie that deserves your time.
3. The Rock (1996)
Yes, I love a Michael Bay movie and I’m not afraid to admit it. Believe it or not, Michael Bay started off in Hollywood with a movie that would put the likes of Tony Scott to shame. The Rock is an invigorating action movie, the action is as well-directed as you expect it to be, the script is tight while the chemistry between Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage is superb. The plot is this; a mild-mannered chemist (Cage) and an ex-con (Connery) must team up to bring down a group of rogue military men led by a renegade general (Ed Harris) when they threaten to launch a nerve gas attack on San Francisco from Alcatraz.
2. Speed (1994)
Speed has such a simple premise yet director Jan de Bont constructs such an exhilarating film that has the audience biting their nails at each turn. The premise is this; A bus has been rigged by a bomb and must travel at a speed above 50 mph to avoid getting exploded. Keanu Reeves actually delivers a very good performance while Dennis Hopper steals the show as the villainous Howard Payne but ultimately it’s the films thrill factor and impeccably structured script that makes it stand out as one of the greatest action movies ever made.
1. Die Hard (1988)
Every action movie ever made is an attempt to remake something like Die Hard. 17 years on, and no action film has reached the heights of Die Hard, many have come close but ultimately fallen short. Die Hard’s influence has also extended to just about every action movie ever made. I mean look at it, Isn’t Speed just Die Hard on a bus? Air Force One, Die Hard on a plane? there are countless more examples. Die Hard follows the story of NYPD officer John McClane who tries to save his wife and several others who are taken hostage by a German terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. John McTiernan’s direction is kinetic, the pacing is frenetic. Bruce Willis is excellent as the quintessential hero John McClane as is Alan Rickman as his adversary Hans Gruber. Die Hard is the greatest action movie ever made.