Great pure action films are hard to come by these days. So often they come out as cheesy B movies like most of Jason Statham’s films, or they find themselves mixed with other genres. But today Chris Murphy and myself will be picking our favourite (for the most part) pure action films. That means that classics like Terminator, Aliens, Mad Max, The Matrix, or Indiana Jones are out. So here are our Top 5 Action Films.
- Shuggie: John Wick – I’m not sure how many people heard about John Wick when it first came out, but it’s following has grown a lot due to some fantastic word of mouth. Now trust me when I say this, but John Wick is hands down the best action film of the 2010s (as long as you don’t count Mad Max). Keanu Reeves playing a retired hitman who gets dragged back into the life seeking revenge is fantastic. The world of the Continental Hotel is so rich and interesting that I cannot wait to go back for Chapter 2. This is proper old school one man against an army, but with the grittier tone of the last 10 years. I really hope more people see this before the second one comes out, because John Wick has such potential for a great franchise.
- Chris: District 13 – District 13 is not just a parkour movie. It is the parkour movie. What I love about this film is that it is more or less just one extended parkour chase scene. Almost every scene incorporates parkour in some way. Not to say that this film lacks action or fighting, there indeed is plenty of that to be found in the form of the incredible Cyril Raffaelli’s character, Damien Tomaso. Tomaso is an undercover cop working to fight the drug/gang problem in the infamous District 13. Alongside Raffaelli we have David Belle, regarded as the founder of parkour, who has also been working to rid the district of the drug problem.
- Shuggie: Lethal Weapon – Written by Shane Black, directed by Richard Donner, and starring Mel Gibson (before all his personal issues) and Danny Glover at their best. What’s not to love about Lethal Weapon? This was actually Shane’s Black first film as a writer, and it really sets the tone for his signature buddy action films. There’s good humour, two very different, but great together characters, and some great action. Gibson’ Riggs is a complete loose canon cop, whilst Glover’s Murtaugh is the older, nearing retirement veteran. Lethal Weapon really paved the way for that combination going forward. It’s a fantastic action film, with a great friendship at its heart.
- Chris: The Raid 2 – The Raid 2 details the infiltration of Rama, Iko Uwais, into the criminal underworld following the previous films successful raid, which drew the attention of more powerful opponents. I’ve decided to go for the second installment in this franchise rather than the first mostly based on the prison fight scenes. Rarely do I watch a fight scene in a movie and think “whaaat is going on?” but in that prison yard scene I spent a good 7-10minutes in awe of the brutality of it all. If you’re into ultraviolence, then The Raid films are the films for you.
- Shuggie: The Bourne Ultimatum – In tried pretty hard to stick to something that would be viewed as just action films, and whilst we’ve lost people like Sly and Arnie making great films, the spy genre are where most modern action films are being made. And that started with Bourne. So whilst The Bourne Ultimatum might technically be a spy film, I’m going to have to include it here. Matt Damon really encapsulates the modern action hero. Gone are the quippy retorts and one liners, instead Bourne is a far quieter and more subdued character, right up until the point where he has to punch his way through a room full of guys. Bourne also gave us the action style that has been copied to death by every other action film since.
- Chris: Speed – I thought I would add in an old school action film alongside all the newer ones in this list. I was torn between Speed and Die Hard, and landed on Speed based on how intense the film feels throughout, and the nostalgia I get whenever I watch it. Speed follows Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), a member of the LA bomb squad who finds himself the target of a crazed bomber, who has planted a bomb on a bus. If the bus slows below 50kmph…kaboom. Co-starring Sandra Bullock as Annie, who happens to be on the wrong bus and Jeff Daniels, as Traven’s less cool partner Harry; this is a good old fashioned action flick full of snappy one liners, lame 90s clichés and stereotypes, and outrageous stunts. What’s not to love?
- Shuggie: Point Break – Point Break is just pure awesome. A movie about surfers robbing banks and pulling high adrenaline stunts may sound completely stupid, and it kind of is. And yet, somehow it came together, with a perfect cast and Kathryn Bigelow’s direction, to be one of the great action films of all time. The 90s was full of cheesy action films, and whilst I love Face/Off and Speed, they don’t come close to Point Break. Keanu is in his element playing a cop undercover as a surfer dude, and Patrick Swayze as Bodhi could come across as pretentious and annoying if it was anyone else. I’m not quite sure how it came together to be great, but it did, and the chase through the gardens is one of the best action sequences you’ll ever see.
- Chris: Dredd – Dredd is one of my all time favourite films. The soundtrack to this film is one of three that I will regularly go back and listen to. Dredd follows everybody’s favourite Judge on a typical day training a rookie in the violent metropolis of Mega City One. Dredd (Karl Urban), tasked with ridding the streets of the newest drug Slo-Mo (no prizes for guessing its effects), is called to a 200 story apartment block controlled by the notoriously savage Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). If that cast fails to appeal, the soundtrack and cinematography sure will. Never has ultra violence looked, and sounded so pretty.
- Shuggie: Die Hard – Die Hard is the grand daddy of action films. It has been copied so many times (one man in an enclosed space against a bunch of baddies) and yet nothing can come close to the original. Bruce Willis as John McClane is at his very best, and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is still iconic. It has the perfect mixture of cheesy one-liners, great realistic action, and over the top explosions. Who can forget “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho” and of course “Yippee-kay-yay mother****er”? For me Die Hard is unquestionably the greatest action film ever, and one of the greatest films ever.
- Chris: John Wick – What can I say about John Wick? Other than being my favourite action movie ever, I also feel that this is one of Keanu Reeves’ best performances as an actor, unpopular opinion though that may be. Reeves’ skill set and mannerisms just seems so in line with the character of Wick that I think, combined with the all-star cast and excellent performances from Michael Nyqvist and Alfie Allen as Viggo and Iosef Tarasov, make this film such a thrill to watch. One of the most fun, badass action films in recent years and I’m counting the days until the sequel arrives.
So those are our picks for the greatest action films of all time. What do you think of our choices and what are your favourite action films? And you can follow me @shuggiesays on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.