Actions Movies

Best Action Movies of All Time, Ranked

February 2, 202421 Mins Read

Whether it’s our basest human tendencies toward competition and argumentation, an obsessive quirk of some hobbyists, or a simple marketing ploy, fans love ranking things and pitting them against each other. “Best Of” lists are extremely popular and feed into these tendencies, so what better genre to rank than the genre solely focused on people fighting each other — action?

Ranking lists can shine light on titles that more people should see, bringing exposure to a variety of films while also validating the opinions of others and celebrating the truly worthy. Now, it’s tricky to list the best action films ever made, because few films solely exist within one single genre, most of all action. While many films debatably could be discussed here, the following are the most essential and greatest action films of all time.

Updated on Feb. 2nd, 2024 by Soniya Hinduja: If you’re an action die-hard or are just looking to catch up on the best action films of all time, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve updated this article with additional content.

45 Point Break (1991)

Point Break follows FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) who goes undercover and is quite new to the SoCal beach lifestyle. His job is to infiltrate a surfing gang suspected of robbing multiple banks while disguising themselves as United States presidents. Utah’s way in? Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi, the gang leader who lives a zen-like lifestyle, unintentionally winning over Utah and his friendship with a thrill-seeking philosophy of life. Utah learns to surf and finds a sense of freedom, and while riding the waves, he gets sucked into Bodhi’s ideals of access, chaos, and wanderlust fueled by one action after another.

Point Break Rides the Waves

Keanu Reeves has long been synonymous with starring in timeless action flicks, and this 1991 surfing-themed bank robbery classic is no different. Paired with Patrick Swayze’s fighting skills, along with both his and Reeves’ overall characterization, these elements make the film an iconic addition to the genre. Ultimately, the chemistry between the two heroes leads to some really incredible surf scenes and jaw-dropping action that leaves you yearning to find the perfect wave.

Stream Point Break on Freevee

44 Total Recall (1990)

This film follows Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a normal construction worker having abnormal dreams about Mars. He soon begins to suspect that his entire life on Earth may be a false product of his imagination, a computer-generated fantasy sold to him by a company that implants false memories into the minds of people. However, as soon as he learns the truth, things go horribly wrong. What follows is a chain reaction of events that leaves Dennis running for his life as a wanted fugitive, all while he attempts to locate the villainous Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox).

Total Recall Is a Mind-Melting Action Flick

A thrilling countdown of action movies would be incomplete without the mention of this science fiction classic. Total Recall is a wildly entertaining trip into the future that packs enough action, adventure, chase sequences, and violence to keep you entertained. Arnold Schwarzenegger is amazing as Quaid, grunting one-liners with innocent wonder while trying to decode what’s real and what isn’t. Being a film by Paul Verhoeven, you can also expect some incredibly over-the-top practical effects as well.

Stream Total Recall on Paramount+

43 Snowpiercer (2013)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer is a claustrophobic thriller set on a train that won’t stop circling around the globe, taking place in an alternate future where global warming has made Earth into an inhospitable frozen wasteland. The train setting acts as a microcosm of society itself, with different classes filling out specific sections of the train. The lower classes get the dilapidated cars at the rear of the train, and the upper classes get the extravagant cars at the other end. There are the same cultural differences and power struggles as in the real world and soon, the oppressed tail section starts a rebellion. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), they fight their way toward the engine and confront Wilford (Ed Harris), the person responsible for creating the divide.

The plot of the movie itself is so natural and unique that it is impossible not to be fascinated by how its conflicts work out. The action elements in the film come within the enclosed space, with violence erupting in the form of battling soldiers, killers, and even chefs wielding knives in car brawls. Chris Evans delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Curtis, leading the entire rebellion towards a surprisingly optimistic conclusion. Part commentary, part action, the movie is a masterpiece in its own right.

Stream Snowpiercer on Netflix

42 Midnight Run (1988)

Midnight Run

Midnight Run

Release Date
July 20, 1988

Martin Brest

In Midnight Run, Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) is a bounty hunter who is hired to bring an embezzling accountant named Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin) from New York to Los Angeles for a good price. However, his routine job spirals into an uncontrollable game when he has to deal with another bounty hunter, the FBI, the mafia, and a mad ex-cop. But the mismatched duo of Robert De Niro as the foul-mouthed bounty hunter — who just wants to stay professional and do his job — and Charles Grodin as the criminal with a penchant for inappropriate comments ultimately becomes the heart of this action adventure.

Midnight Run Is as Action-Packed as It Is Funny

Midnight Run is smart, it is fun, and it is extremely exhilarating. The movie hasn’t received the attention it deserves, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. Infusing a mildly energetic comedy into fashionable action set pieces is always a good recipe for a blockbuster and this 1988 movie does just that. The movie is filled with hilarious car chases on L.A. freeways, a climactic gunfight, as well as energetic bursts of violent quips. In a way, Midnight Run covers the joy of a road trip by delivering heart-in-your-mouth action.

Buy or Rent Midnight Run on Prime Video

41 The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Matt Damon reprises his role as CIA agent Jason Bourne, still looking for answers about his past life as a government assassin. However, when a secret operation from his Treadstone days threatens to expose him and his activities at the time, he must do everything he can to keep the Blackbriar details on the down-low. Now on the run as the target of a nationwide manhunt, we witness Bourne racing across multiple countries, deadly and resourceful at the same time as he tries to outsmart the people trying to kill him.

Matt Damon Delights in The Bourne Ultimatum

One of the best movies in the franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum redefines the action genre with incredible fight sequences and praiseworthy momentum. Despite being amnesiac, Damon’s character is as compelling as ever, conveying a sense of desperation underneath his steely persona. He throws punches, pens, cars, even a laundry bag at his enemies. The action builds like lines on a heart rate monitor — it’s tense, exciting, and designed to leave you baffled.

Stream The Borune Ultimatum on Max

40 Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale, as in the 2006 reboot with Daniel Craig, goes back to the beginning of James Bond’s career. After getting his first kill under his belt, Bond is dragged into a poker game that has even higher stakes than usual. Specifically, he’s going up against a terrorist financier, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who weeps blood and has some panicked heat under his collar.

Daniel Craig Is Bond, James Bond

Martin Campbell successfully reinvented the Bond franchise twice, first with the Pierce Brosnan-led GoldenEye and then, to an even greater degree, with the Daniel Craig-led Casino Royale. A spy film masterpiece, Casino Royale benefits from its realistic tone, committed performances from Craig and Eva Green, and some scene-stealing villainous work from Mads Mikkelsen. The film was the first of five for Craig, and even the worst of his run, Quantum of Solace, has its merits. But, even including Skyfall, there was no topping Casino Royale.

Stream Casino Royale on Prime Video


20 Best Oscar-Winning Action Movies to Watch Again

Shying away from typical Oscar-bait stories, these action movies guaranteed a spot in film industry by earning deserved recognition from the Academy.

39 Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun introduces audiences to Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a reckless but talented fighter pilot who is sent to the titular Top Gun, the Navy’s elite and A-class fighter weapons school. There, he’ll have to get his act together and learn that he’s not the only one flying for his team up there. The film has remained a cultural touchstone since its original release in 1986, with the beloved 2022 legacy sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, going on to become one of the best films of its respective year.

Top Gun Is a 1980s Classic

The late Tony Scott’s Top Gun fairly swiftly gained the love of 1986’s audiences. It’s one of the decade’s biggest successes and was absolutely instrumental in ensuring Tom Cruise’s meteoric rise. There are aspects of the film that haven’t aged particularly well, particularly its lack of interest in developing female characters, but it’s far too charming and exciting to not remain an iconic classic. We have to make brief mention of the iconic soundtrack as well, with smash hits like Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” becoming iconic songs in their own right outside the film’s context. Not to mention, Top Gun has one of the saddest movie scenes of its decade.

Stream Top Gun on Paramount+

38 Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

George P. Cosmatos’ Rambo: First Blood Part II is quite different from the film that preceded it. First Blood was quiet and thoughtful, and essentially had Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) scurrying further and further underground to avoid conflict back home as a struggling Vietnam veteran. But the second film has him diving into action as he’s sent back to Vietnam to investigate the potential disappearance of POWs. When given an opportunity to rescue them, however, he’s summarily refused the order to do so, leading Rambo to fend for himself as he saves his fellow brothers in arms.

Rambo Becomes War in First Blood Part II

There’s a specific line in First Blood Part II that embodies the film as a whole. A brief scene sees Rambo interacting with Co (Julia Nickson), a Vietnamese agent. As Rambo confides in Co, he shares this fascinating bit of wartime wisdom:

To survive war, you gotta become war.

In First Blood Part II, the titular character has very much become war. Riddled with enthralling action sequences and villainous performances from Charles Napier and Steven Berkoff, it doesn’t matter how weak the film’s plot is when it’s an absolute blast from front to back. Though it may have been the recipient of several Razzies during its original release, First Blood Part II would simultaneously secure a nomination for Best Sound Editing at the Academy Awards. Its cultural prevalence and enduring legacy are nothing to scoff at either.

Buy or Rent Rambo: First Blood Part II on Prime Video

37 Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Top Gun 2

Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and keeps pushing the envelope as a seasoned aviator for the Navy in this sequel to the original Top Gun film.

Release Date
May 27, 2022

Joseph Kosinski

Read Our Review

Both one of the greatest sequels of all time and one of the biggest hits to ever thrill audiences on the big screen (especially IMAX), Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick is everything it should have been and more. The plot has Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell sent back to Top Gun, but this time as an instructor. There, he encounters a student he knows well, but isn’t on good terms with: “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of his deceased good buddy, “Goose.”

Top Gun: Maverick Was One of 2022’s Best Movies

Exhilarating from the first frame, Maverick is one of the few sequels to be objectively superior to the film that preceded it, even if it does lack the charm of the ’80s. There’s reverence for the original film and interesting pushes in new directions, both in equal measure. From additions such as Glen Powell and Monica Barbaro to the heartbreaking Iceman scene, everything both old and new in the film works like a charm. It’s a film that works both on a nostalgic level and on a purely action-driven one as well.

Stream Top Gun: Maverick on Paramount+

36 The Fugitive (1993)

Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as The Fugitive‘s Richard Kimble, who is on the hook for the murder of his wife. But he claims it was a one-armed man that did the deed, and there just so happened to be a one-armed assassin wandering around. Following a chance opportunity for an escape, Kimble scrambles to bring the right man to justice while being hunted by a team of dedicated police officers.

Harrison Ford Shines in The Fugitive

Considered by many to be a perfect action film, The Fugitive is certainly Ford’s best from the ’90s. Andrew Davis’ film is an adaptation of the ’60s television series of the same name, but while that show was solid, the film is a cut above. Ford brings the film to a new level, with Tommy Lee Jones even winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film would doubly secure nominations for Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Riddled with tense scenes, impeccable acting, and gorgeous cinematography, The Fugitive is a must-watch.

Buy or Rent The Fugitive on Prime Video

35 Enter the Dragon (1973)

Bruce Lee is basically synonymous with martial arts, and in Enter the Dragon, the legend delivered a phenomenal performance. Lee starred as a Shaolin monk who is sent undercover by a British Intelligence agent to investigate an annual martial arts expo and competition on a secret island. Being hosted by Han (Shih Kien), it immediately becomes apparent that the competition isn’t what it seems. What follows is a series of blistering fight scenes showcasing Lee’s lightning-fast speed, his physical grace, and the iconic punishing kicks as he faces his opponents.

Bruce Lee’s Final Film Was His Best

Both the choreography of the action scenes and the stunt work by Lee remain unrivaled to this day. Moreover, the climactic showdown between Lee and Han, with its use of unexpected props, ranks as one of the greatest one-on-one fights in movie history. It’s arguably one of the most iconic martial arts films in history, being the last to be fully completed by Lee prior to his tragic death in 1973.

Buy or Rent Enter the Dragon on Prime Video

34 The Matrix (1999)

In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a hacker who realizes that what we perceive as reality actually isn’t real at all. It is a simulated world known as the “Matrix,” created by sentient machines to conquer the human race. With the help of a rebel group. Neo must choose to leave the Matrix and enter the real world, all while unlocking his true potential as a bona fide action hero.

The Matrix Raised the Bar for Science Fiction

Immediately upon its release, The Matrix became an instant science fiction classic that redefined the genre, as well as pioneered a spectacular franchise. You can chalk this success up to its groundbreaking visual style, game-changing action, and mind-bending concepts. The film has some stunning fight scenes — from the iconic lobby shootout to the final kung fu battle — that set a new high watermark for cinema. But the true weight and punch behind the visuals lies in its philosophical questions about the nature of reality.

Stream The Matrix on Max

33 Black Panther (2018)

As far as the vast database of Marvel goes, Ryan Coogler’s action-packed superhero epic deserves high praise for several reasons. Featuring an almost entirely African-American cast led by Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther follows T’Challa, the king of the fictional nation Wakanda, who also takes on the secret identity of the titular superhero. When a long-hidden enemy rises, T’Challa’s leadership and personal beliefs are put to the test as his nation is endangered.

Black Panther Was an Innovative MCU Film

Being relentlessly inventive and thrilling in its action, the movie never misses a beat in flaunting incredible Wakandan technology, and features the fleet-footed Black Panther himself performing aerial acrobatics in dazzling fashion. But what truly makes the 2018 film so special is the way it explores themes of colonialism, race, duty, and sacrifice with sheer complexity and nuance. The film was even a big hit at the Academy Awards, winning Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design, while also securing a nomination for Best Picture.

Stream Black Panther on Disney+

32 The Bourne Identity (2002)

A pitch-perfect espionage thriller that launched one of the all-time great action franchises, The Bourne Identity introduced fans to Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. He’s an amnesiac spy forced to discover his own identity while being hunted by dangerous assassins. The plot is fast-paced, with an exhilarating cat-and-mouse chase dominating the story as Bourne trots around the globe.

The Bourne Identity Kicked Off a Franchise

The choice of Paris as the film’s production location is truly praiseworthy. But the main reason the film stands out is its innovative use of shaky camerawork, tight framing, and cropped editing during the action. These techniques made the viewer feel dazed, as if they were in the film’s constant fights themselves. Breathing new life into Robert Ludlum’s 1980 novel, the movie redefined the spy genre for the 21st century with its jaw-dropping mix of intrigue, practical stunts, and a heart-pounding finale. It’s safe to say that The Bourne Identity was an incredibly important film for director Doug Liman, who would later go on to direct Edge of Tomorrow and the 2024 Road House remake.

Buy or Rent The Bourne Identity on Apple TV

31 Police Story (1985)

Police Story

Police Story

Release Date
December 14, 1985

Jackie Chan , Brigitte Lin , Maggie Cheung , Kwok-Hung Lam , Bill Tung , Yuen Chor

Before Jackie Chan became a household name in the world of martial arts movies, his earliest films cemented him as a modern-day Buster Keaton. The best example of this is Police Story, directed by Jackie Chan himself in 1985. When a detective, Chan Ka-Kui (Jackie Chan), succeeds in the messy arrest of a drug lord, the subsequent witness protection of a police secretary will push just about everyone into the crosshairs of nefarious gangsters.


These Are the Best Hong Kong Action Movies Ever

There have been an array of brilliant action movies coming outside of Hong Kong that have defined the genre. Let’s take a look at some of the best.

Police Story Is Peak Jackie Chan

Featuring several of Jackie Chan’s most essential moments, Police Story is an amazing showcase of his physicality and large-scale action sequences. It also features his most infamous stunt, wherein Jackie slides several stories down a pole through broken glass and heated light bulbs. After the stunt’s completion, he walked away with severe burns and multiple shattered bones. But, despite almost dying several times throughout the film’s production, Police Story remains both a fan favorite and a personal favorite of Jackie Chan himself in his vast filmography.

Stream Police Story on Max

30 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series is undoubtedly the gold standard for adrenaline-fueled, large-scale action entertainment. Perhaps the best movie in the entire franchise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout brings Cruise back as Ethan Hunt, who must now race against time to prevent a global disaster. Another action blockbuster that takes fans around the world and thrusts them into an avalanche of breathless set pieces, Hunt and his team are looking for a way to destroy three plutonium cores robbed by terrorists.

Tom Cruise Delivers a Sixth Time

Stunts like the gravity-defying bike chase in Paris, the brutal hand-to-hand prison fight, and the iconic helicopter dogfight left even the audience out of breath. Cruise, even in his mid-50s, performs all these spectacular stunts by himself, proving just how committed he is to the art. After having invested in the beloved characters for six installments, the visuals and the pacing land with even more punch.

Stream Mission Impossible – Fallout on Paramount+

29 El Mariachi (1992)

El Mariachi

El Mariachi

Release Date
September 4, 1992

Carlos Gallardo , Consuelo Gómez , Jaime de Hoyos , Peter Marquardt , Reinol Martinez , Ramiro Gómez

Robert Rodriguez’s feature film debut, El Mariachi, was made for about $7,000 in the early 1990s. Carlos Gallardo plays a traveling musician simply doing what he does best to get by. But when an assassin carrying a similar-looking guitar case starts to wreak havoc, a story of mistaken identity will see our guitarist fighting for his life in a widespread manhunt.

El Mariachi Is a Modest Budget Masterpiece

The first entry of the aptly named “Mexico Trilogy,” El Mariachi overcomes its low budget with slick cinematography, welcome humor, and plenty of creative filming techniques. While Gallardo would be replaced by Antonio Banderas in Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, we can’t help but root for him as bullet casings and dulcet guitar tones rain down in equal measure. It’s an incredibly charming debut that, frankly, still looks amazing despite its minuscule budget. This sense of style would carry over into Rodriguez’s future films, even as his available budget ballooned to extremes in comparison.

Buy or Rent El Mariachi on Apple TV

28 Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Live, die, repeat. Based on an original story created by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow may come off as a typical Tom Cruise action flick on the surface. But underneath the typecasting is something a little more profound. In a future where Europe is occupied by an alien threat, a lone public affairs officer is forced to participate in the conflict. After seemingly dying in action, he reawakens the morning prior with a full recollection of the events leading to his demise. With this ability, humanity may have a fighting chance at winning a war previously deemed hopeless.

Edge of Tomorrow Defies Expectations

A time-loop action film, Edge of Tomorrow is a surprising outing from Cruise and Emily Blunt that twists a typical sci-fi action film into something far more brilliant. Combine that with practical exo-suits, unique alien designs, and an exploration of time travel effects on warfare, and you get a film that left fans begging for an Edge of Tomorrow sequel. Edge of Tomorrow would go on to win a pair of Best Editing awards at the San Dieo Film Critics Society Awards and the Saturn Awards.

Stream Edge of Tomorrow on Max

27 Hardcore Henry (2015)

hardcore henry

Hardcore Henry

Release Date
September 12, 2015

Ilya Naishuller

Hardcore Henry answers the age-old question: could a first-person video game work as a movie? Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, but those prone to motion sickness may want to avert their eyes. A film deliberately light on plot, Hardcore Henry sees our titular hero revived as a cyborg after an accident leaves him mute and amnesiac. After being attacked by a mysterious organization, Henry and a friendly stranger named Jimmy must fight their way through modern-day Russia to rescue the woman who revived him.

Hardcore Henry Is Unparalleled

Hardcore Henry is a ninety-minute sensory overdose seen through the eyes of our violent protagonist. Director Ilya Naishuller opted to squeeze just about every bit of action they could out of this unique gimmick, with parkour, graphic violence, gunfights, and some physical comedy filling up its brisk runtime. Even if it drew a polarized response from audiences and critics alike, you’d be hard-pressed to find a film that comes close to replicating what Hardcore Henry does at such an extreme.

Stream Hardcore Henry on Tubi

26 Hot Fuzz (2007)

The middle entry of the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, Hot Fuzz sees the familiar duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up once more in both a love letter to and parody of action films. A former London constable is reassigned to a quiet, down-to-earth village named Sandford. Paired with an oafish partner, things couldn’t be more peaceful and serene. But, after a grisly incident sparks a fire in our constable, the town’s answers may be a cover for something far more nefarious.

Hot Fuzz Is a Perfect Action Movie Parody

Hot Fuzz combines Edgar Wright’s frantically comedic style with a thorough appreciation of what came before. It takes the established stereotypes associated with the genre and takes them to the nth degree with a boisterous grandeur. It also happens to be incredibly funny, which is also a plus. Frequently cited as the best of the Cornetto trilogy, Hot Fuzz is practically required viewing for anyone who’s a fan of action flicks. It’s a parody at its core, but one that amounts to an incredible action film as well.

Buy or Rent Hot Fuzz on Apple TV

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