Best Action Movies of All Time

Action movies have been a staple of American cinema since the release of Edward S. Porter’s “The Great Train Robbery” all the way back in 1903. The genre has of course evolved drastically since then, but it still aims to provide excitement to those moviegoers who prefer their cinema with an added dose of high energy.

Today’s action movies are loaded with physical stunts, violence, chases, and explosions. They also generally feature an “action hero,” a well-known actor — frequently male — whose charisma and physical prowess make him, or on occasion her, easy to root for. Many of the greatest action stars are so beloved that they continue working long into old age. These are the most famous actors over 70.

A popular action franchise can also continue for years. The fifth film in the Rambo franchise, “Rambo: Last Blood,” is set to be released on Sept. 20, 2019 — 37 years after “First Blood.” James Bond has thrilled moviegoers for more than 50 years. In fact, action franchises are often among the most lucrative film series. These are the top grossing movie franchises of all time.

24/7 Tempo has identified the 35 best action movies of all time based on audience and critic ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database. These movies range from old to new, proving that a well-crafted motion picture can thrill audiences for years.


To determine the best action movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have at least 10,000 total user ratings on both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews, and be classified as an action film by IMDb. Editorial discretion was then used to determine which movies would be best described as “action.” All superhero-based movies were removed from consideration.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

35. Speed (1994)
> Directed by: Jan de Bont
> Starring: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock
> Audience score: 76%

“Speed” is an apt title for this full-throttle 90s thrill ride about a bus that must maintain a speed of 50 mph or more or a bomb on the bus will explode, killing everyone aboard. While Keanu Reeves starred in movies like “Point Break” prior to its release, “Speed” established the actor as a bona fide action star.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

34. Predator (1987)
> Directed by: John McTiernan
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall
> Audience score: 87%

Following his roles in “Conan the Barbarian” (1982), “The Terminator” (1984), and “Commando” (1985), former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger scored another hit with the sci-fi action movie “Predator.” The plot revolves around a team of elite commandos who must battle with an alien combatant. The movie was a financial and critical success and proved director John McTiernan — who would next helm “Die Hard” in 1988 — a major talent when it comes to action movies.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

33. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
> Directed by: Brad Bird
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
> Audience score: 76%

The fourth entry in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise was slightly more popular with critics than audiences, according to Rotten Tomatoes, with 93% positive reviews from the former and 76% from the latter. However, as the site’s Critics Consensus states, the movie is “big-budget popcorn entertainment” that works and shouldn’t be missed by fans of Ethan Hunt.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

32. The Matrix (1999)
> Directed by: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
> Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
> Audience score: 85%

“The Matrix” thrilled audiences upon release with its inventive stunts, special effects, and compelling sci-fi narrative. The movie also breathed new life into the career of lead Keanu Reeves, who had starred in “Speed” five years earlier. Reeves would star in the two sequels to “The Matrix” as the character Neo, and is set to reprise his role in the recently announced fourth film.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

31. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
> Directed by: Paul Greengrass
> Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen
> Audience score: 90%

This 2004 sequel to “The Bourne Identity” was enjoyed by 90% of audience members, according to Rotten Tomatoes, with more than 700,000 viewers casting their votes. Matt Damon excels in his role as trained assassin Jason Bourne — a part he played in four movies.

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

30. Eastern Promises (2007)
> Directed by: David Cronenberg
> Starring: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl
> Audience score: 83%

“Eastern Promises” is a dark crime thriller with the type of extreme violence one might expect from director David Cronenberg, who first gained widespread acclaim for effects-laden horror films such as “Videodrome” (1983) and “The Fly” (1986). While the movie may be more dramatic than the average action flick, the gritty brutality — including a famous nude fight scene — is a draw to many fans of the genre.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

29. The Bourne Identity (2002)
> Directed by: Doug Liman
> Starring: Franka Potente, Matt Damon, Chris Cooper
> Audience score: 93%

Based on a 1980 spy thriller by Robert Ludlum, “The Bourne Identity” is about a man who has lost his memory, yet he is slowly able to piece together information about his extraordinary life. The movie is fast paced and engaging, and it paved the way for four more films in the series.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

28. Bullitt (1968)
> Directed by: Peter Yates
> Starring: Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn
> Audience score: 85%

Car chases are a staple of the action genre. Perhaps no movie has done it better than 1968’s “Bullitt,” starring Steve McQueen (and a ’68 Mustang GT). The movie has maintained its exceptional reputation throughout the years, and currently holds an 85% rating among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes and 97% among critics.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

27. The Warriors (1979)
> Directed by: Walter Hill
> Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright
> Audience score: 88%

This early film from director Walter Hill follows numerous warring gangs in a dystopian New York City. With its frequent fighting, inventive art direction, and unrelenting apocalyptic atmosphere, this is one machismo-laden cult classic for the ages.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

26. Face/Off (1997)
> Directed by: John Woo
> Starring: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen
> Audience score: 82%

Chinese-born director John Woo directed numerous successful action films overseas — including “The Killer” (1989) and “Hard Boiled” (1992) — prior to this fierce American production. In addition to his skills as a director of action, the movie is elevated by the performances of its two leads, John Travolta and Nicolas Cage — two of Hollywood’s more interesting leading men who end up playing one another’s characters.

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

25. RoboCop (1987)
> Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
> Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy
> Audience score: 84%

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is known for his thematically dense, and often satirical, films. “Robocop” is no different, touching on themes such as the militarization of the police and irresponsible capitalism. It’s also a hugely entertaining movie about a murdered police officer brought back to life with advanced technology.

Source: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

24. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
> Directed by: Chad Stahelski
> Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane
> Audience score: 87%

Following his work in beloved action movies like “Speed” (1994) and “The Matrix” (1999), Keanu Reeves struck gold once again with the John Wick franchise. The most recent entry — “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” — is currently the best rated of the series, with 90% of critics and 87% of audiences giving it positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie sees Reeves return to his titular role as a vengeance-driven ex-hitman living in an outlandish and very violent world.

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

23. Looper (2012)
> Directed by: Rian Johnson
> Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
> Audience score: 82%

“Looper” combines thrilling action with a stimulating time travel-based narrative to winning effect. Director Rian Johnson proved his action direction mettle with Looper, and would go on to direct “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017).

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

22. The Raid 2 (2014)
> Directed by: Gareth Evans
> Starring: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra
> Audience score: 87%

“The Raid 2” is a sequel to the Indonesian production “The Raid Redemption” (2011). Like its predecessor, the movie is jam-packed with energetic, aggressive martial arts — involving police officer Rama, now undercover in the Indonesian criminal underworld — that is ideal for fans of bloody action.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

21. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
> Directed by: Doug Liman
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
> Audience score: 90%

In between filming entries to Jack Reacher and Mission Impossible franchises, Tom Cruise found the time to star in this sci-fi action movie about a soldier who is forced to repeatedly relive the day he dies in battle against vicious extraterrestrials. Both funny and exciting, the movie has earned positive ratings of 90% from both audiences and critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

20. District 9 (2009)
> Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
> Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
> Audience score: 82%

“District 9,” from director Neill Blomkamp, tells the story of a South African slum inhabited by aliens. The movie features extensive special effects, which help create an immersive, fascinating world. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus describes the movie as “Technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching.”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

19. Minority Report (2002)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
> Audience score: 80%

One of America’s favorite directors teamed up with one of the country’s top actors to create the 2002 sci-fi action flick “Minority Report.” Critic Roger Ebert praised the film for perfectly balancing action with ideas, which may have something to do with the strength of the movie’s source material, written by author Philip K. Dick. Spielberg and Cruise would team up again for the less critically successful “War of the Worlds” (2005).

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

18. Sicario (2015)
> Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
> Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro
> Audience score: 85%

“Sicario” deals with both the criminal and law enforcement sides of the U.S.-Mexico drug wars — and everything in between. Anchored by performances by Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin, the movie won over 92% of critics and 85% of audiences on Rotten Tomatoes and spawned a sequel — “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” — in 2018.

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

17. Baby Driver (2017)
> Directed by: Edgar Wright
> Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm
> Audience score: 86%

Director Edgar Wright shared glimpses of his action chops in his earlier movies such as “The World’s End” (2013), but he didn’t fully engage the genre until “Baby Driver.” This movie about a gifted getaway driver — fueled by his eclectic musical taste — was widely praised by critics, who gave it a 93% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is also Wright’s most financially successful directorial effort.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

16. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
> Directed by: John Sturges
> Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson
> Audience score: 87%

Released in 1960, “The Magnificent Seven” is the oldest film on the list of best action movies. The feature takes the plot of Akira Kurosawa’s hugely influential “Seven Samurai” and places it in the Wild West, where seven hired guns must protect a village from a ruthless bandit. The movie was remade in 2016 with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and others.

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

15. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
> Directed by: Robert Aldrich
> Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson
> Audience score: 90%

“The Dirty Dozen” is about a group of deranged criminals that undergo military training to kill a group of Nazi officers. The movie is macho, brutal, and loved by fans. Ninety percent of the more than 41,000 users to rate the film on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive score.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

14. The Longest Day (1962)
> Directed by: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
> Starring: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton
> Audience score: 90%

This nearly three-hour war epic is considered one of the greatest World War II films of all time. While the action doesn’t begin until about two hours in, it is still a combat-based action movie with a healthy dose of war-based drama.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

13. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
> Directed by: Michael Mann
> Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means
> Audience score: 88%

Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans” is one of the more romantic popular action movies. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye, a white man adopted by the Mohican tribe, the film features stylish battle scenes against the background of the passionate relationship between Hawkeye and Cora Munro, the daughter of a British soldier. The movie was given positive reviews by 95% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

12. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
> Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
> Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
> Audience score: 89%

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films pay homage to both Eastern and Western action movies. “Volume 2” again stars Uma Thurman as The Bride, a trained assassin who survived an execution attempt on her wedding day and who is now on a quest for revenge. While Tarantino has stated that he sees the two volumes of “Kill Bill” as one movie, it is the second “half” that has received higher online ratings with audiences.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

11. Enter the Dragon (1973)
> Directed by: Robert Clouse
> Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly
> Audience score: 92%

“Enter the Dragon,” starring Bruce Lee, is one of the most popular and influential martial arts movies ever made. The movie finds Lee in a karate tournament overseen by the malevolent crime boss Han. It was the final film Lee completed before his death.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

10. Skyfall (2012)
> Directed by: Sam Mendes
> Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris
> Audience score: 86%

“Skyfall” is the third James Bond film to feature actor Daniel Craig in the role of 007. The movie is innovative yet remains true to many of the James Bond franchise greatest strengths, including wild chase scenes. “Skyfall” was a financial success and is the third highest grossing Bond flick to date when adjusting for inflation.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

9. Casino Royale (2006)
> Directed by: Martin Campbell
> Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench
> Audience score: 89%

“Casino Royale” is the first Bond flick to feature actor Daniel Craig, who brought a certain seriousness to the franchise. The reinvention was a hit amongst critics and audiences alike, receiving 94% and 89% positive reviews from each on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.

Source: Courtesy of CBS Films

8. Hell or High Water (2016)
> Directed by: David Mackenzie
> Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
> Audience score: 88%

“Hell or High Water” is a Western heist film about two desperate brothers who turn to robbing banks as they face losing their family land to foreclosure. Unfortunately for the duo, a committed Texas Ranger follows closely on their heels. The movie was especially popular amongst critics, who graced it with a 97% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

7. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
> Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
> Audience score: 88%

“Fallout” is the top-rated movie in the Mission: Impossible franchise, thanks in large part to the 97% Freshness rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Writing for Newsweek, critic Andrew Whelen described the movie as “an unrelentingly consistent action movie, with not a single sequence wasted before the next big stunt.” This is quite a feat, considering it’s the sixth entry in a now 23-year old movie series.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

6. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
> Directed by: Paul Greengrass
> Starring: Matt Damon, Edgar Ramí­rez, Joan Allen
> Audience score: 91%

The third Bourne movie maintains a near-unrelenting pace as Jason Bourne, again played by Matt Damon, travels through Moscow, Paris, Madrid, London, Tangier, and New York City attempting to discover his own identity and avoid assassination. It’s the most financially successful movie in the franchise and one of the top-grossing movies of 2007.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Directed by: George Miller
> Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
> Audience score: 85%

Australian director George Miller returned to the Mad Max franchise to create “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which was released 36 years after the series’ first film. The movie is a wildly inventive spectacle, featuring numerous creatively designed vehicles and weapons that populate Miller’s post-apocalyptic world. Critics gave the movie a 97% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

4. The Terminator (1984)
> Directed by: James Cameron
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
> Audience score: 89%

“The Terminator” was an early directorial effort from James Cameron, who has since made such box office smash hits as “Titanic” (1997) and “Avatar” (2009). It quickly became an iconic action movie thanks to its inventive plot and the acting of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie has a perfect 100% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has spawned five sequels — one yet to be released in 2019 — and a short-lived television series.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

3. Die Hard (1988)
> Directed by: John McTiernan
> Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
> Audience score: 94%

“Die Hard” may be the most action-packed Christmas movie there is — for those who consider it a holiday flick. Bruce Willis stars as New York City cop John McClane who happens to find himself in a Los Angeles office building at the same time as a group of cold-blooded thieves take it over. The movie propelled Willis to stardom. “Die Hard” was the seventh-highest grossing movie of 1988.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2. Inception (2010)
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
> Audience score: 91%

Director Christopher Nolan followed his successful blockbuster “The Dark Knight” with this cerebral action film about a skilled thief — played by Leonardo DiCaprio — who is tasked with planting an idea in his target’s mind. Some consider it an elevated action movie, and Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus describes it as “smart, innovative, and thrilling.”

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
> Directed by: James Cameron
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
> Audience score: 94%

James Cameron’s “Terminator 2” excels in many of the areas that action movie fans appreciate most, such as visual effects and tense action sequences. It also features developed characters and an intelligent storyline. The movie — which received a 93% rating from critics and 94% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes — is a haunting tale of post-apocalyptic possibilities and a perfect popcorn action movie rolled in one.

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