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The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far

The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far

10. “13 Assassins” (2010) 
You know that odd/even rule about “Star Trek” movies? Imagine that, but if there was no rhyme or reason to whether the movies were good or not, and if a “Star Trek” movie came out every four months, and you begin to understand what it’s like to follow Japanese actor/director/general superstar Takashi Miike. But every so often, something like “13 Assassins” comes along, and you remember why you loved Mr. Miike so much in the first place. A “Seven Samurai”-style epic about a baker’s-dozen of badasses planning to kill a mad aristocrat, it’s a slow-burner, but one that explodes gloriously when the climax comes with a giant battle sequence (featuring Hollywood-level production values) that Kurosawa would be proud of. Perhaps if Miike slowed his output a little, we’d have more like this, and less like, well, “Zebraman 2,” the director’s other 2010 picture.
9. “Crank” (2006)
If part of the value of any action film is in how well it sets up its thrills, there is a zen-like purity to the premise of “Crank” (and, to a lesser extent, its even-more-gonzo sequel “High Voltage“) that must place it high on any list of action greats. Here, the enormously underrated Jason Statham, revelling in the awesome moniker Chev Chelios, through a completely preposterous series of events, must keep his adrenaline levels elevated…or die! Cue a frenetic series of skits, courtesy of no-holds-barred absurdity merchants Neveldine/Taylor, in which Chelios tried to find the bad guys, while picking fights, snorting coke, stealing police motorbikes, having sex in public, and generally engaging in the most reckless behavior he can — anything to keep the blood pumping. Massive props would be due for devising this event-horizon action plot hook even if the film were less fun — but it’s also an inventive, hilarious blast.
8. “John Wick” (2014)
A pair of stunt co-ordinators-turned-directors’ debut film, an unashamedly B-movie premise, starring an actor whose most indelible recent contribution to the pop culture scene came in the form of a meme in which he morosely eats a sandwich? Can you blame any of us for being blindsided by just how much fun Chad Stahelski and David Leitch‘s “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves, turned out to be? Taking a leaf from the less-is-more plotting of classic films like “Point Blank” and “Le Samourai, ‘ and bundling it up into a revenge Western archetype, the film delivers lean, taciturn, gun-fu thrills in abundance, and shows off exceptional fight choreography and editing (Stahelski and Leitch are both experienced second-unit helmers too). Many have predicted a “Taken“-style renaissance for Reeves as a result, but frankly ‘Wick’ is miles better than the Liam Neeson vehicle, not least because chief among its virtues is a sly awareness of its own silliness, however straight it’s played.7. “Mission: Impossible  Ghost Protocol” (2011)
With ‘Rogue Nation‘ opening this weekend, perhaps we may revise which ‘Mission: Impossible’ film we include here eventually, but right now it feels like Brad Bird‘s fourth entry is the one that deserves all the action props. While previous entries all had their moments — even the terrible second film had that great rock climbing sequence at the start — ‘Ghost Protocol’ simply strung more of them together in a more coherent form than any of the other films. So we get sandstorm chases, Kremlin bombings, alleyway assassinations, and, of course, Tom Cruise breaking into a high-up room in the Burj Khalifa, from the outside. But maybe most impressively, Bird managed to invest the often rather weightless franchise antics with some actual heft — there is a visceral sense of the real possibility of physical harm that is thrilling, and moments where even Teflon super spy Ethan Hunt seems amazed he’s still on his feet.
6. “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
We, or rather our spy franchises, live in such a post-Bourne world these days that it can be easy to overlook just what a tectonic shift the series represented in terms of how big-budget action films could be approached. While Doug Liman‘s first entry, “The Bourne Identity,” did the work in terms of establishing a new, real-world tone, it is really Paul Greengrass‘ nervy handheld docudrama style that redefined the action landscape, and of his two go-rounds, ‘Ultimatum’ is the more satisfying film. It also contains the single best action set piece of the series to date, a neat encapsulation of everything ‘Bourne’ did differently from the glossy, gadget-driven spy-jinks of yore: the foot chase through a crowded Waterloo station. Simply a masterclass in gritty action, it uses nothing more than tense cutting, comprehensible sight lines, and hundreds of extras in an enclosed space to create one of the most thrilling and genuinely perilous-feeling action sequences in recent memory. 

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