We Got This Covered’s Top 100 Action Movies


90. The Last Boyscout

The late Tony Scott is represented in a few places further down this list, including True Romance and that classic of 1980s absurdity, Top Gun. 1991’s The Last Boyscout, however, was Scott’s last film before True Romance, and like that supremely strange love story, it features an excellent script.

The Last Boy Scout is Scott’s look at two men who have been beaten down by the world around them and their own bad choices and habits. Despite their many severe screw-ups, private eye Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) and ex-pro-football player Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) find themselves making a stand for a variety of horribly murdered people as they uncover a conspiracy relating to sports betting.  Perpetually crazier shoot-outs ensue as Willis and Wayans exchange a metric ton of extremely funny banter with each other and everyone they meet.

Willis and Wayans play their characters well, preserving some sympathy at even their lowest moments as people, and their antagonistic partnership turned friendship is believable and likable.  The climax sees Scott put together a variety of gloriously absurd events in quick, but not overstuffed fashion and concludes on a profanity-laden speech that manages to be legitimately moving.

The Last Boy Scout is a well-made action film and it is a part of Tony Scott’s legacy that is worth seeing, both for Bruce Willis killing a group of goons while wielding a stuffed puppet and Bruce Willis trying to become a better father and husband.

89. Assault on Precinct 13

John Carpenter’s first post-college project is an homage to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo that stands as its own film. And what a film it is; it is a siege picture, a take on George Romero’s zombie films, an examination of evil and the price someone pays to get revenge and a very tense but still genuine hang-out picture.

In 1970s Los Angeles, the ruthless gang Street Thunder declare war on the police for killing some of their members. At the same time, the recently promoted police lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is put in charge of a decaying police precinct on its last day of operation. A prison bus transporting the convicted murderer Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) sets out for a different facility and a father and his young daughter set out to convince her nanny to come live with them instead of in a bad part of town.

Things go horribly wrong, and everyone ends up in the Precinct, which comes under attack by Street Thunder, who will stop at nothing to kill everyone inside. With no other options, Bishop frees Wilson and his fellow prisoners to help him fight off the Street Thunder. What follows is a siege as Street Thunder attempt to force their way in and Bishop, Wilson, a secretary named Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) and Wilson’s fellow prisoner Wells (Tony Burton) attempt to hold them off.

Street Thunder are relentless in their attack, climbing over the bodies of their fellow gang members and essentially acting like smart, heavily armed zombies. Bishop, Wilson and company resort to ever more desperate measures to hold them back and get to know each other during the brief lulls in violence.

As with most John Carpenter pictures, Assault on Precinct 13’s soundtrack is excellent and put to good use, particularly the piece that doubles as the film’s main theme and a warning that Street Thunder are approaching.  It is a consistently tense, exciting film that features one of cinema’s most genuinely shocking and horrible sequences. It is unexpected, it is disturbing, the results of it are incredibly depressing and it is played tastefully and actually examined, rather than simply being used to shock the audience for the sake of shocking them.

Carpenter would make better films, several of which appear further down on this list, but Assault on Precinct 13 is a fine picture that has held up with age.

88. Die Hard 2

Yippee-ki-yay, time to start talking about the Die Hard movies! Die Hard 2 is the first Die Hard film on the list, but at 12 spots in, it is already the fourth Bruce Willis film!

Die Hard 2 takes place two years after the original, where John McClane still has his hair and is still in a positive relationship with his wife. In fact, he is actively waiting for her at the airport, because this is 1990 and there is no TSA. Not too long into the film, things go wrong and McClane must successfully rid the airport of terrorists before his wife’s plane runs out of fuel, while also dealing with the military who won’t accept his help.

The reason Die Hard 2 is the lowest ranked Die Hard on the list because it is unfortunately, the most forgettable (after A Good Day To Die Hard), being an almost carbon copy of the first film without any of its own unique charms to set it apart. That being said, it still offers up plenty of over-the-top fun and an ass-kicking Bruce Willis, which is more than enough for me.

87. Cliffhanger

See this one on the largest screen you can possibly manage. Lord have mercy. Here we have Sylvester Stallone facing off against John Lithgow, but it’s director Renny Harlin and Italy’s Dolomite Mountains that earn Cliffhanger its stripes for this list.

Set during a customarily harsh Rockies winter, we meet an estranged mountain rescue team coerced into locating several missing cases of stolen cash. Lots of cash. (“You. Fetch!” Gotta love Lithgow). How these situations arose won’t be spoiled here, but suffice to say they contain some of the most harrowing events and impressive stunts ever captured on film.

Cliffhanger’s relentless heart-in-mouth also stems from a startling break with convention early on; occurring well before outcomes of such gravity usually occur, a certain scene puts us on notice that all bets are officially off. It’s quite deliciously unsettling. Cliffhanger’s personal dramas and remaining characters are fair to middling at best, but Harlin’s skill with the genre and the spectacular setting give action fans a thrill ride not to be missed.

86. Wanted

Arguably the film that turned James McAvoy into the star that he is today, Wanted is a thrilling action flick and one that was also wildly successful at the box office, grossing close to $350 million on its $75 million budget.

Based on Mark Millar’s comic book mini-series of the same name, McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, an Account Manager who discovers that his father was a professional assassin. Frustrated with his boring, everyday life, Gibson decides to join The Fraternity,  a secret guild of assassins which his father belonged to.

The hyperkinetic action mixed with the stylish direction, dazzling visuals and fantastic performances make for a pure adrenaline rush and one of the best action films released in ages. It’s an insanely fun ride and one that never lets up and packs quite the punch.

If you’re looking for just some pure escapist entertainment, you’d be hard pressed to find something more enjoyable than Wanted. I’ve heard some critics call it the “cinematic equivalent of an energy drink,” and I couldn’t agree more.

85. Crank

It’s a shame that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor haven’t repeated the success seen with their high-octane popcorn flick Crank, but at least they struck gold once.

Chev Chelios’ first adventure is an absolute blast from start to finish, being nothing but a ridiculously indulgent good time. Sure, the plot pushes all rationality, but incredibly ballsy filmmaking is on display by our brave and ambitious directors.

Crank feels like a video game in creation, rocketing through hilarious scenarios with style and ADD like pacing, which works rather well with their lightning quick action sequences. Jason Statham is just the icing on this sweet cake, playing one of the most badass hitmen of all time.

84. The Rundown

Bringing non-stop thrilling fight scenes, fast-paced action, language barriers, bagpipes, and large monkeys with boundary issues, this uproariously funny action comedy succeeds on its deadpan deliveries and director Peter Bergs’ unique command of speed and scale.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson turns in a fabulous performance as Beck, a consummately professional mob enforcer on the proverbial “one last job” to retrieve the mobster’s would-be Indiana Jones son (Sean William Scott) from his archeological quest in the Amazon ~ a task complicated by the territorial tenacity of a local with a spellbinding sense of purpose (Christopher Walken).

Beck’s quirky and surprisingly slippery quarry brings all manner of distraction, heightened by Berg’s use of perspective and motion to hilarious effect in perfect counterpoint to our hero’s world-weary, fundamentally pacifistic efforts. Option A: You see this movie. Option B: You check out the reaction of those who recognize the phrase “Get out of here, monkey!” and reconsider.

83. The Bourne Supremacy

For The Bourne Supremacy, the reins were handed to Paul Greengrass, and the style of the franchise shifted in a subtle, but excellent way. This movie has a much grittier, much more hand-held look than its predecessor, and that leads to an all-around more intense feel. Not that the story needed anything to make it more intense.

Bourne has a ton more questions than before and much tougher foes he has to contend with. This time it’s more than just survival, it’s become about revenge, and if there’s one man you don’t want seeking revenge on you, it’s Jason Bourne.

What Matt Damon really shows this time around is how well he balances brains and brawn. He’s cool and calculating, completely believable in figuring out the ideal solution to the dilemmas he’s faced with. He’s also jacked, really looking like a trained assassin in both his well-choreographed fight moves and his bulging biceps.

This balance is shown best in the scene where he escapes from custody in Naples. Not only does he wait until the perfect moment before bringing down two armed men with nothing but his own hands, but he instantly is able to get all the information and equipment he needs to not only escape, but to find out more about who is hunting him and why. Bourne is a loner, that’s part of what sets him apart from so many other agents, but when you have skills like that, there’s no need for an agency’s support.

82. The Expendables 2

What can be said about The Expendables 2? It’s The Expendables, only more so.  The plot, such as it is, is something about Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) hiring Sylvester Stallone and his merry band of vigilante killing machines (with hearts) to go after something lost in a plane crash. Something something Liam Hemsworth dies and EXPLOSIONS!

The baddie in this one is Jean-Claude Van Damme, kicking knives into people’s chests and generally being so nasty that you just can’t wait for Stallone, Statham et al to screw up his day. Which they do, saving an entire Russian town in the process.

No one goes to an Expendables film for the plot. We go for action star cameos, big muscles and bigger explosions. While Jet Li only gets about one scene, the other boys more than make up for his absence in fighting and fire-power. Add to the regular mix the sudden appearance of Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwartzenegger trading catch phrases, and lots of intense action sequences, along with some pithy one-liners, and you’ve got a recipe for an action franchise. The Expendables 2 just carries on what The Expendables started, full of bromance and testosterone. Don’t say you don’t love it.

81. Fast Five

If you told me a few years ago I’d be recognizing a Fast and the Furious sequel as an impressive action film, I’d laugh in your face and call you crazy. But, here we are, in some new world where the fifth film in a tired franchise has shocked us all.

Fast Five is another one of those action films which you watch not expecting much, but finish viewing with a gleaming smile on your face. From breathtakingly gripping car chases, which the franchise is known for, to the addition of star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, all the muscle bound actors and fast yet furious action lets Fast Five leave its franchise competition far back in the dust.

The film really re-invented the franchise too, breathing new life into a series of films that people were starting to lose interest in. Justin Lin’s impressively choreographed/directed action scenes really delivered the kick in the butt that the aging franchise was in desperate need of and successfully re-launched what is now one of Universal’s most successful franchises.

The film is big, it’s loud and it’s over the top, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a ton of fun and one hell of a ride, the entire way through.

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