15 action movies you need to watch before you die
You can’t beat a good action movie. The explosions, the chases, the one-liners; they will never, ever get old.
But with so many action movies to watch and so little time, which ones do you need to add to your movie bucket list?
Here are the 15 action movies we think are absolutely essential.
(By the way, to keep things diverse, we’ve decided to exclude superhero movies (which are kind of their own genre) and movies like Star Wars (which are more sci-fi than action)!)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Everyone’s favourite Austrian killing machine returns to protect John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance against our new robot overlords, from a shape-shifting android that likes to dress as a policeman.
Joining them is a battle-hardened Sarah Connor, whose previous confrontation with Arnie has turned her into the world’s toughest mom.
Terminator 2 is everything a good action movie should be: gripping, exciting and full of explosions. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously either, despite the looming threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of some angry computers.
The concept of Aliens is simple: what if instead of one alien, there were loads of them? And what if instead of creeping around, the humans had massive pulse rifles?
The result is one of the most influential action movies ever made, with humanity and xenomorphs clashing in a hail of bullets, explosions and acid blood.
At the centre of it all is Ripley, a badass heroine willing to fight an entire army of aliens than let the little girl in her care come to harm. Even if it means operating a huge battle mech and fighting the Queen.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones, an archaeologist who spends more time dodging bullets and running from boulders than dusting off old vases.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy has to stop a group of Nazis (who else?!) from getting their hands on the Ark of the Covenant, which would bestow them with unstoppable power.
Raiders isn’t concerned with brooding on deep themes or making a statement on life; it’s just an incredibly fun movie with some masterful action sequences (the opening temple sequence is possibly the best ever) and the best hero since…well, Han Solo.
Commando captures Arnie at his wise-cracking, skull-crushing best. When his daughter is kidnapped, Arnie hunts down the men responsible by blowing stuff up, punching people in the face and dropping classic one-liners left right and centre.
Commando isn’t a clever movie, but it is hilarious, fun and unforgettable – and that’s good enough for us.
From the moment you find out the main character of Hard Boiled is a cop called Tequila, you know it’s going to be a classic.
John Woo’s finest film follows Tequila as he deals with the aftermath of a sting gone wrong, which mainly involves shooting up loads of baddies with his sick gun skills.
Woo’s incredible direction and choreography turns Hard Boiled gunfights into a violent work of art, with characters and bullets flying around with grace. It’s no surprise he became one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors soon after.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The odds were stacked against Fury Road. Mel Gibson was gone, replaced by Tom Hardy. It was around 30 years since Thunderdome. George Miller was now better known for directing Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet.
We needn’t have worried. Despite dabbling with talking pigs and penguins, Miller is still the master of the car chase. Fury Road has a simple plot but is endlessly thrilling and spectacular.
And, in a novel twist, Max isn’t even the hero of the film. That honour belongs to Charlize Theron’s ultra-awesome Furiosa.
Say ‘Rambo’ and the first thing that comes to mind is a bandana-sporting Sly Stallone tearing through baddies with a huge machine gun.
First Blood, the film that introduced us to John Rambo, is a lot more subtle than that though. Instead of a one-man army, Rambo is portrayed as a psychologically damaged Vietnam vet pushed to the edge by the system.
There’s still a lot of action, of course, with some brutal scenes involving some highly inventive traps, but First Blood serves up a side-helping of social commentary with its explosions and fighting.
The pinnacle of the buddy cop comedy genre, Lethal Weapon teams the manic Riggs (played by a super manic Mel Gibson) with the soon-to-retire curmudgeon Murtaugh (played by a suitably grumpy Danny Glover) as they attempt to break a drug-trafficking ring.
Like all buddy cop movies, the two don’t get on at first but their relationship soon blossoms into Hollywood’s finest bromance. Luckily, the movie chooses to focus on the pair chasing baddies rather than them sitting in a bar at 2 in the morning declaring their love for each other.
The Bourne Ultimatum (or any of the Bourne movies)
It’s impossible to recommend just one Bourne movie, so take this as a recommendation for all of them.
The Bourne Ultimatum is definitely the best, though. Paul Greengrass’ fast-paced editing and realistic style give Bourne’s quest to find the truth by beating up people and sneaking around a visceral edge, with Matt Damon turning in an action performance for the ages.
To be honest, we’d recommend this just for the bathroom fight sequence.
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The Matrix poses a question we’ve all had at some point: what if all of this is a computer simulation?
The Matrix’s answer is actually pretty positive: you’d become a martial arts master with the ability to dodge bullets and wear a black leather duster in all weather conditions without sweating.
The Wachowskis’ combination of well-choreographed fights (complete with ‘bullet time’ slo mo) and mind-bending philosophy make The Matrix one of the smartest yet exciting action movies ever.
Die Hard kicks off with some terrorists taking hostages in a skyscraper. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the heartless swines do it at Christmas too!
Fortunately, New York cop and dirty vest enthusiast John McClane is on the scene and ready to pick off terrorists and dispense one-liners like a one man kill-and-quip machine.
Die Hard is one of the most exciting and enjoyable movies ever made, from the opening credits to the final confrontation with evil goatee-wearer Hans Gruber, played to villainous perfection by Alan Rickman.
Predator’s title character is a muscle-bound hunter with a quick mind and a huge array of weaponry. Naturally, the film pits him against his human equivalent: Arnie Flippin’ Schwarzenegger.
The result is 100 minutes of tense action, with the Predator hunting down a muscled super squad including Carl ‘Apollo Creed’ Weathers and Jesse Ventura in the jungle.
The movie is best known, however, for spawning perhaps Arnie’s finest line, which involves making haste towards a helicopter.
Enter The Dragon
Enter The Dragon follows a martial arts master as he infiltrates a tournament acting as a front for a drugs business.
But no-one watches Enter The Dragon for the story, or the acting for that matter. People watch Enter The Dragon to see Bruce Lee kick seven bells out of people with his insane martial arts skills.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
As good as Fury Road is, Mel Gibson will always be the ultimate Mad Max. The Road Warrior sees Mel tearing through the Australian outback chased by a gang of leather-bound weirdos desperate to get their hands on the oil-rig he’s towing.
George Miller once again proves he’s the master of car chases with some incredible direction and editing, making the most of what was a relatively limited budget.
Travel tip: if you’re ever tempted to steal a Buddha statue from a Thai village, don’t – unless you want to face the wrath of a Muay Thai master who happens to be good at Parkour too.
Ong-Bak introduced the world to the talents of Tony Jaa, who plays a talented warrior on a mission to recover the aforementioned statue from a Bangkok drug dealer.
Jaa performed all of his own stunts in the film, which include jumping over a car during a breathtaking chase sequence and fighting someone while his trousers are literally on fire. It’s worth watching just for Jaa’s insane skills, to be honest.
What is your favourite action movie? Let us know in the comments!
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