18 Action Movies You Need To See At Least Once In Your Lifetime

Action Movies You Need To See At Least Once: When it comes to thrilling theatrical experiences,there’s nothing quite like a good action movie. Between fast pacing, epic moments of suspense,deep-seated drama between the heroes and villains, and, of course, tons of stunts, the genre has a lot to offer audiences.

18 Action Movies You Need To See At Least Once In Your Lifetime
18 Action Movies You Need To See At Least Once In Your Lifetime

Here are some of the high octane movies you’ll definitely want to sit through before it’s all said and done to get your cinematic adrenaline rush.


Face/Off This film has such a preposterous concept that would have been a ridiculous misfire had it been made by anybody but legendary Hong Kong auteur John Woo, director of classics like Hard Boiled and The Killer.

But Face/Off might just be his best. The film also finds the perfect role for Nicolas Cage as Castor Troy, a giddy, crazed terrorist who tries to kill FBI agent Sean Archer, portrayed by John Travolta. In order to learn where Castor hid a massive bomb, Archer has his own face surgically replaced with Castor’s…and then Castor gets his replaced with Archer’s, which is an absolutely terrible idea.

“It’s like looking in a mirror, only not.” Add in a few plane chases and some epic shootout sequences, and you’ve got yourself a wild ride at the movies.

The Raid

The Raid Gareth Evans’ The Raid is a claustrophobic police thriller that hits the ground running almost immediately.

A young police officer named Rama heads off to join his armed-to-the-teeth S.W.A.T. team taking down a run-down Jakarta apartment building. The goal is to eliminate a crime lord and his top associates who run the block and allow criminals sanctuary.

The movie plays out like a real-life video game. The elite police squad clears the lower floors and handles various thugs until they realize they’ve been trapped and are being hunted by a gaggle of ticked-off criminals.

This changes everything for Rama and his squad,as they’ll now have to fight their way out of the situation and hope to walk away with their lives.

Crouching Tiger

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Imagine a sweeping war drama and epic romance like Gone With the Wind…but everybody in it has supernatural martial arts fighting abilities, and the way they fight is more technically perfect and beautiful than the greatest ballet company.

That may sound ridiculous, but in the able hands of director Ang Lee and cast members Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen, the result is one of the most stunningly beautiful and deeply moving films ever made.

There are also many iconic martial arts sequences in the film, such as the near wordless battle in the sky, on the fragile tips of trees. While action movies often rely on special effects to do all of the heavy lifting, in Crouching Tiger, they merely enhance or flavor the actors’ abilities already captured on film.

John Wick

John Wick Ultra-violent revenge movies generally don’t have plots hinging on an adorable puppy, but that’s part of what makes John Wick so delightfully different.

After the loss of his wife, the title assassin,played by Keanu Reeves, tries to fill the void in his life by adopting a cute dog named Daisy and riding around in his classic Ford Mustang.

After he refuses to sell it to a Russian gangster,the spurned buyer and his cronies follow Wick home, knock him out, steal the car, and even take out their payback on the poor dog. Exacting his revenge pulls Wick back into the seedy underbelly of organized crime.

“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer. But now yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!” And that spawns numerous atmospheric gun battles and fistfights across nightclubs, churches, safe houses, docks, and more.

This is exactly the kind of action movie that’s perfect for watching with friends, rewinding and replaying favorite moments because they’re just too good to be believed.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver Edgar Wright is best known for directing Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and those are all predominantly comedies laced with some innovative action sequences.

With Baby Driver, however, he makes the leap to full-blown action fare, and the result is as frenetic and assured as Baby’s driving. Ansel Elgort plays the title character, a young but very skilled driver recruited to handle the getaway car for a heist squad.

The unreal stunts in Baby Driver make the movie deliriously fun, and the filmmaker’s extensive movie knowledge and vocabulary make for a mishmash of satisfying homages and techniques gleaned from other films. The end result is pretty much everything audiences could want out of an action film.


Rogue One It would be both sacrilegious and inaccurate to say that Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie. It’s not even part of the main story line—it’s a side story about a scrappy crew that comes together to steal the Death Star’s plans and find its weakness. Therein lies the reason why Rogue One is great—

it’s less a space opera or sci-fi movie and more a heist movie that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. As the team comes together, plans the crime,and pulls it off — although not without severe consequences —

the action is as unrelenting as it is eye-popping. Edge of Tomorrow A cross between Groundhog Day and Independence Day might not work for everyone, but director Doug Liman crafted Edge of Tomorrow into one of the most innovative action-adventure movies in years.

In this smart and chaotic sci-fi/military adventure, seemingly indestructible aliens called Mimics terrorize Earth until they have to square off against Tom Cruise’s Major William Craig.

They take him out too— but Craig gets caught in a time loop and keeps returning to the moment just before his demise to fight and fail again and again until he can figure out a way to defeat them. Edge of Tomorrow is a video game-inspired action movie with something of a moral lesson:

If at first you don’t succeed at destroying aliens, try, try again.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Sometimes the problem with comic book movies is that they take themselves way too seriously and forget the whole point of their source material—they’re supposed to be fun, and also a little ridiculous.

But Guardians of the Galaxy embraces its own DNA to deliver one of the most purely enjoyable comic book-based movies of all time. It’s as much a comedy as it is an outer-space action ride,

with Chris Pratt perfectly cast as the funny and fearless Peter Quill, the so-called “Star-Lord.” Add in a space prison, a telepathic arrow,some sublime ’70s rock classics, a foul-mouthed raccoon, a talking tree, and one epic space battle, and the end result is a joyous blast.

“And bring it down hard!” “What are you doing?” “Dance-off, bro! Me and you!” District 13 In the early 2000s, parkour, the sport of ignoring the laws of physics to walk up walls and jump from one thing to another, was amin or fad in the United States.

In Europe, the practice is a way of life. The craze gave the world at least one great parkour-themed movie:

District 13

The title is a nod to the poverty-ridden and overcrowded Paris suburb where the film takes place, and the film is set in the not-too-distant future wherein the government keeps the area in check by surrounding it with high wall stopped with razor wire.

Gangs control the lawless prison colony and make their living running drugs. A man — played by David Belle, a creator of parkour — tries to fight the gangs, which he does with his wits as well as his gravity-defying parkour skills, executed without wires or CGI.

Ong Bak

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior This low-budget martial arts adventure from Thailand more than makes up for its simple plot and straightforward presentation with the sheer force of its unbelievable star, Tony Jaa.

In the film, a rural village is distraught after thugs from Bangkok steal the head of the town’s cherished Buddha statue. Jaa plays Ting, the brave local who ventures into the city to retrieve the head, with only his Muay Thai fighting skills to protect himself.

Fortunately, Jaa is one of the most agile and adept martial artists in the world, which he proves during some brutal underground fights.

Rumble in the Bronx

Rumble in the Bronx After decades of comedy-laced action films made him a massive star around the world, English-speaking audiences were finally introduced to the singular cinema of Jackie Chan with Rumble in the Bronx, and it was very representative of Chan’s talents.

The simple plot is about good guys versus bad guys involved in illegal diamond deals, but there’s also a romance, Chan’s self-deprecating humor, and, of course, stunts that look impossible but aren’t because Jackie Chan never fakes it.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale By the time Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007 was done, the James Bond franchise had descended into a checklist of the familiar: tuxedos,gadgets, shaken-not-stirred martinis, and, of course, all the Bond girls.

So, when Daniel Craig suited up for the super spy, it was time for a modern twist on the formula, and Casino Royale knocked it out of the park. Craig took over as a younger version of James Bond, and the movie took cues from other forward-thinking action films.

It’s gritty, intense, and completely lacking the usual James Bond smirkiness, delivering the best entry in the series since Sean Connery was creating action movie tropes back in the ’60s.

Ip Man

Ip Man Action movies are usually over-the-top, absurdly fun cinematic roller coasters, but every now and then, one of them is actually a true story. Ip Man is the loosely biographical story of a Wing Chun grand master who famously trained the all-time greatest martial arts film star, Bruce Lee.

In Ip Man, the title character is the best martial artist and fighting trainer in the Chinese city of Foshan. His low-key life and appreciation of martial arts are tested after the Japanese invasion of 1937.

He competes for bags of rice in fighting competitions against Japanese troops, and he seeks revenge when his friend Lin disappears for good after a bout. At the heart of the movie, however, are the high-stakes battles between Chinese and Japanese fighters, all under the backdrop of war.


Dredd The 1995 version of Judge Dredd was merely an action vehicle for Sylvester Stallone in the waning years of his tenure as an action star. As such, it was an endlessly violent shoot-’em-up that lacked the humor, irony, and satire of its source comics.

“I. Am. The. LAW.” But Dredd is the rare case of Hollywood getting a remake right. The exceptionally violent but cheeky action extravaganza features Karl Urban as the title character. And this time, Dredd is the most fearsome of the judge-jury-executioners that stalk around the futuristic, radiation-soaked wasteland that is Mega City.

Dredd maims his way through his days as he tries to eradicate a new drug that’s threatening the innocents around town. “I advise you to hold your breath.”

Kung Fu Hustle

Kung Fu Hustle What if they made a movie that played like a hilarious, live-action cartoon, but it also had non-stop kicking, punching, and intricately choreographed fight scenes?

Well, that would be an irresistible movie called Kung Fu Hustle. Chinese superstar Stephen Chow directs, co-writes,and stars in this dazzling and dizzying action epic set in China in the 1940s.

Chow plays a guy named Sing who’s desperate to join the scary, cool Axe Gang, and willing to engage in criminal behavior to do so. Problem is, he picks on the wrong apartment community, and Sing’s ability to fight is severely tested by some outrageously awesome characters.

First Blood

First Blood Who would have thought that Sylvester Stallone could make a tragic, thought-provoking movie about the dangers of violence and how war destroys a man?

This psychologically and physically realistic action movie centers on a man a decade removed from the Vietnam War, but still fighting it. After a mental break in Washington, it’s up to John Rambo’s old commanding officer to save the on-the-run ex-soldier from himself and authorities.

The Purge

The Purge: Election Year The Purge movies have gotten a surprising amount of mileage out of an implausible premise. In the near future, crime has been almost completely eliminated in the U.S. thanks to occasional “purges”—

set periods of time in which violence is permissible, allowing people to get all their bad impulses out of their systems. The third film in the series, The Purge: Election Year, imagines the political and electoral implications for a country that “purges.”

Elizabeth Mitchell plays Senator Charlie Roan,the sole survivor of a “Purge Night” family massacre, who’s running for president on a promise to end purges.

Of course, she has to survive even more sinister behavior and coordinated attacks by her political opposition in her attempt to find safety,and then she has to win the election on top of that, so the odds are stacked against her. The Equalizer Technically speaking,

The Equalizer

The Equalizer is a remake of a vaguely remembered action TV series from the ’80s. But it’s such an elegantly-made, fast-paced flick that it’s hard to fathom that it began life as a cheesy CBS show.

The spry and charismatic Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall, an ex-government man trying to balance out the horrible thing she did by now helping people who really need his unique set of skills.

This time, it’s McCall against some truly frightening Russian mobsters, and, as the title indicates, he has an uncanny ability to even out the playing field no matter who’s standing against him.

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