Actions Movies

10 Best Action Movies Of All Time, Ranked

September 24, 202314 Mins Read


  • The best action movies of all time are those that take the genre in unique and surprising directions, pairing skillfully choreographed action sequences with a good story. These films have influenced and inspired contemporary filmmakers.
  • The action genre is continually evolving, encompassing everything from superhero flicks to martial arts movies. Every year, new action films push the boundaries of what’s possible, whether through new combat styles or advancements in digital effects.
  • The featured action movies —
    John Wick: Chapter 4, The Raid, Mad Max: Fury Road
    among them — are considered the most influential and best action movies of all time. They showcase groundbreaking action scenes, unforgettable performances, and rich storytelling, cementing their status as classics.

There is no shortage of action films full of well-choreographed fistfights and high-speed chases, but the best action movies of all time take the genre in such unique and surprising directions. Among the thousands of movies in the genre, there are a few standouts that deserve the critical acclaim and recognition they’ve gotten over the years. The best in the genre pair a good story with skillfully choreographed action sequences, and they have inspired some of the best filmmakers working today. But as the genre is perpetually evolving, it’s hard to find the truly revolutionary and timeless films in a sea of thousands of action movies.

Every year, a new action movie pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in the genre. With the genre always moving forward, whether it’s new combat styles or the advancement of digital effects, “action movies” has become an exceptionally broad term, as everything from superhero flicks to martial arts movies fit under the umbrella. Some of the greatest directors of all time, from James Cameron to Akira Kurosawa have delved into the action genre and created some true masterpieces. However, these action movies represent the most influential of them all, and they’re the best action movies of all time.


The 50 Best Movies Of All Time

Screen Rant breaks down the 50 best movies of all time, which are based on original scores weighted by rankings from IMDb and Metacritic.

10 John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

John Wick: Chapter 4

Following the events of Chapter 3 – Parabellum, John Wick Chapter 4 will see the titular character battle against some of his most dangerous foes yet. With a bounty on his head that continues to skyrocket, John decides to take the fight to the High Table on a global scale and battles across areas like Osaka and Paris to wipe out some of the strongest players in the underworld.

Chad Stahelski

169 minutes

Release Date
March 24, 2023

Hiroyuki Sanada , Clancy Brown , Scott Adkins , Keanu Reeves , Ian McShane , Bill Skarsgard , Laurence Fishburne , Rina Sawayama , Donnie Yen , Lance Reddick , Shamier Anderson

The John Wick franchise is one of the most surprising Hollywood series in recent memory. The original movie came out of nowhere, serving as a terrific reminder of Keanu Reeves’s action shops while building a unique action movie universe. John Wick didn’t invent gun-fu, but it popularized the action style in Hollywood. The action franchise only got better with each consecutive release, culminating in John Wick: Chapter 4, an almost three-hour epic that doesn’t slow down.

Where John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’s final act was operating on a level that the series had never reached before, that’s the level that John Wick: Chapter 4 starts. From John drifting around the Champs-Élysées to storming an empty house with Dragon Breath bullets in the five-minute top-down scene to the battle on the 222 steps, director Chad Stahelski somehow pulled off the most ambitious action scenes ever shot. It is also a perfectly satisfying end to the John Wick story, taking the relentless protagonist to some surprising places.

9 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

A direct sequel to Rogue Nation and the sixth installment in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an action-thriller spy film that sees Tom Cruise return to the role of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt. To avert a worldwide disaster, the IMF agents will join up with a CIA agent to stop a new terrorist cell known as the Apostles. When three nuclear devices go missing, the agents will find themselves racing to stop them from falling into the hands of the deadly bioterror group.

Christopher McQuarrie

2h 28m

Release Date
July 25, 2018

Though James Bond and Jason Bourne were the bigger names in the franchise, the Mission: Impossible series has gradually surpassed them as the greatest spy movie franchise around. A big part of that is due to the Mission: Impossible stunts performance with intense enthusiasm from the leading man, Tom Cruise and super spy Ethan Hunt. While Cruise continues to up the ante with his stunts in Mission: Impossible – Dead ReckoningPart 1, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a high bar for the franchise to clear.

The sixth movie in the franchise doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the story, but it is a relentless adrenaline-filled ride from beginning to end. From Cruise performing a Halo jump to the visceral bathroom fight alongside Henry Cavill to the Paris chase sequence to the climactic helicopter battle, the audience barely has time to breathe. Cruise continues to mix his fearless stuntwork with a fully committed performance that shows Ethan Hunt as the most unstoppable action hero in cinema.

8 Inception (2010)


Christopher Nolan’s 2010 Sci-fi action film Inception follows a thief who enters the dreams of others to steal information and, after being caught, is given a chance to clean his slate by performing an untested concept – implanting an idea within another mind. An ensemble cast is brought together by former target Saito, who seeks to implant the idea of destroying his own company into his father’s mind. In a complex labyrinth of dreams and untested theories at the forefront, survival is not guaranteed in this psychological heist where the stakes are high, and nothing is what it seems.

Release Date
July 16, 2010

148 minutes

Christopher Nolan’s movies can often feature big and exciting action sequences, especially in his Dark Knight trilogy, but Inception feels like the director truly embracing the action genre for the first time. Of course, that means he blends big and complex ideas into a stirring heist story that allows for some ambitious cinematic storytelling that audiences have never seen in movies before.

Inception explores the possibilities of the human subconscious. Following the professional mind infiltrator, Dom Cobb, audiences are treated to a wild ride into the protagonist’s own subconscious. The gunfights and high-speed chases in the film are made even better by the time element, as the group must find a way to implant an idea into the target’s subconscious before running out of time and without getting killed. The most impressive and influential scene is the rotating hallway, where a 100-foot corridor is spun around, making Arthur’s gunfight and race against time even more thrilling.

7 The Raid (2011)

Though written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, 2011’s The Raid is an Indonesian-produced action movie. The relatively low-budget production has drawn a strong following among action movies for its intense claustrophobic atmosphere, and the relentless pace throughout. Evans wisely takes a simple story about a group of police officers attempting to make their way up a criminal’s high-rise with dangerous combatants on every floor and uses to it deliver a brutal action vehicle.

Carried by exemplary performances from the likes of Iko Uwais as Rama and Yayan Ruhian as the brutal Mad Dog, The Raid delivers near-non-stop martial arts and shoot-outs. The level of violence in The Raid definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but the jaw-dropping fight scenes taking place in a locked-down apartment block in Jakarta is rated as one of the greatest action movies of all time, and upon viewing it’s easy to see why.

6 Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai

Directed by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai is an epic Drama and Samurai film that revolves around a group of farmers in 1586 Japan that band together to hire Ronin to help protect themselves and their families from bandits that plan to steal from them.

Akira Kurosawa


Release Date
April 26, 1954

Toshiro Mifune

Helmed by the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai is often touted as the best among Japan’s samurai films. The film highlights the events in a poor village, where farmers are attacked by a group of bandits. They seek the help of seven wandering samurai who risk their lives to defend the villagers. The exciting action scenes in the film were groundbreaking for their time.

Kurosawa used multiple cameras to capture the fights, which was uncommon in the 1950s when a shot-by-shot technique was the typical approach. Improvisations by talented actors like Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura also made the fights appear more realistic and dangerous. The movie transcended the Japanese audience and reached a global audience with Western filmmakers being heavily influenced by Kurosawa’s beautiful mix of visuals and style. Seven Samurai’s story has also been used in countless Hollywood productions from The Magnificent Seven to Zack Snyder’s upcoming Rebel Moon.

5 Aliens (1986)


Aliens is a 1986 Sci-Fi classic by writer and director James Cameron. Starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, it’s widely considered one of the best Sci-Fi Horror films ever made. Ripley must band together with a group of Colonial Marines to investigate a disaster at a terraforming colony.

137 minutes

Release Date
July 18, 1986

Sigourney Weaver , Michael Biehn , Carrie Henn , Paul Reiser , Lance Henriksen , Bill Paxton , William Hope , Jenette Goldstein

While Alien is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, in what is one of the most successful genre switch-ups ever, the 1986 sequel Aliens is one of the greatest action movies of all time. The original film was set on a ship where the characters were isolated and had little to protect themselves from the Xenomorph, and every minute was a claustrophobic survival horror. Aliens, on the other hand, still has that looming threat and claustrophobic tension, but it’s an all-out human vs. aliens, action flick.

The 1986 movie straight-up throws Ripley and co. into a battle royale with a whole host of aliens, increasing the stakes and the bloodshed. The bold approach shows the confidence James Cameron had even in the early days of his career. He created a huge entertaining popcorn movie that was never dumbed down or compromised for the mainstream yet was endlessly appealing. It also gave Sigourney Weaver time to shine in the hero role earning a rare Oscar nomination for an action movie performance.

4 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth film in George Miller’s long-running sci-fi franchise, with Tom Hardy starring as Max Rockstansky, a vagabond who lives on the road in an apocalyptic wasteland. When Max comes across a cult group that keeps its people in fear and under control with a monopoly on water and other crucial supplies, he joins up with Imperator Furiosa, a warrior woman leading a rebellion against the cult’s leader, Immortan Joe.

George Miller

120 Minutes

Release Date
May 14, 2015

It has been well-documented how exhausting and relentless Mad Max: Fury Road’s troubled production was, but it all paid off in the end. 30 years after the previous Mad Max movies were released, George Miller returned to the director’s chair with a new leading man and an ambitious vision to continue the franchise. Few could have imagined the masterpiece he was able to craft. Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially a road trip from hell, as it sees the titular character team up with Imperator Furiosa, who is attempting to save Immortan Joe’s wives.

Almost everything in the movie is practical with only the coloring of the scene digitally enhanced. All the huge trucks and vehicles in motion that the War Boys jump between made for one of the biggest action spectacles of the 2010s. Few other action movie depicts an apocalyptic future better than the 2015 film, and Fury Road ensured the Mad Max franchise still had an audience in the modern era. Its final manic car chase is one of the most stunning action sequences ever put on film and still has audiences wondering how Miller pulled it off.

3 The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix

In a dystopian future, hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) learns about the Matrix, a simulated reality hiding the truth of humanity’s enslavement by machines. He joins rebels led by the mysterious Morpheus, who believes Neo is destined to free humanity. Betrayal leads to a deadly confrontation with villain Agent Smith as Neo discovers his true power, defeats his enemies, and promises to change the world.

Lilly Wachowski , Lana Wachowski

136 minutes

Release Date
March 30, 1999

Though Christopher Nolan should be praised for incorporating big ideas into a crowd-pleasing action movie with Inception, it is hard to imagine him achieving that without the success of The Matrix. The movie is a seminal action achievement with some stunning filmmaking and a rich mythology that sadly wasn’t capitalized on as effectively in the sequels. Yet the original movie remains a wildly inventive and mind-blowing Hollywood action movie.

The simulated reality that Neo (Keanu Reeves) must escape in The Matrix has become iconic. Working with fight choreographers and special effects experts, the Wachowskis brought memorable action scenes to the big screen. One of the innovations the film is most known for is its use of slow motion when bullets are fired, which is now known as “bullet time.” Between well-choreographed fight scenes that use real martial arts moves and revolutionary digital effects, The Matrix is a truly exciting cyberpunk movie that continues to influence pop culture today, especially with its unrivaled martial arts scenes.


The Biggest Action Movie Star From Every Decade (1950s To 2024)

Action movies have always been a big part of Hollywood, but with each new decade, a new star emerges to lead the way and define the genre.

2 Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard

During a holiday party, NYPD detective John McClane’s wife’s workplace is hijacked by German terrorists led by evil icon Hans Gruber. McClane (Bruce Willis), evades capture and fights to save hostages, including his wife, and foil Gruber’s elaborate heist initially without weapons, shoes, or a shirt.

132 minutes

Release Date
July 15, 1988

Bruce Willis , Bonnie Bedelia , Reginald VelJohnson , Paul Gleason , William Atherton , Hart Bochner

Die Hard was such a popular action movie at the time that it launched an entire subgenre of action movies with the Die Hard on a…” copycats, like “Die Hard on a bus” (Speed) or “Die Hard on a plane” (Air Force One). As solid as some of those movies were, none could surpass the excitement and thrills that John McTiernan and the cast delivered in the original Die Hard while also creating a beloved Christmas classic.

Bruce Willis announced himself as an action icon with his grounded and compelling performance as John McClane, a New York cop who finds himself trapped at a Christmas party in a Los Angeles skyrise that has been taken over by gunmen. As great as Willis is as a more vulnerable and wild action hero, Alan Rickman’s villainous turn as Hans Gruber influences action movie villains for decades to come. The move jumps from one clever scenario to another with quips, twists, and set pieces that are still exciting decades later.

1 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Directed by James Cameron, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a direct sequel to the original Terminator and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Patrick, and Linda Hamilton. In this installment, John Connor is being hunted by an advanced Skynet prototype from the future. Thankfully, he receives help from a reprogrammed T-800 sent back in time by the resistance to protect him.

137 Minutes

Release Date
July 3, 1991

Director James Cameron not only landed another one of the greatest action movies of all time but he once again made one of the best sequels of all time by subverting audiences’ expectations. Cameron took the original Terminator and improved it on a grand scale — from its plot to its visual effects. This time, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s task is to protect Sarah Connor’s son, John, from a more advanced and visually impressive T-1000.

The 1991 release was the very first movie to cost over $100 million, and that’s not only because of Schwarzenegger’s high salary but Cameron’s ambitious and extremely influential action sequences. Terminator 2: Judgment Day had mind-blowing action scenes like helicopter stunts, massive explosions, and car chases on the LA River, and it had the most advanced CGI seen so far when it was released, making it the best action movie of all time.

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