The success of Wanted has brought in another reinvention of the action movie genre, in which assassins can bend bullets and do some mean tricks with cars. In honor of such feats, perhaps it is time to cite the 10 best action movies of all time, to put Wantedin context of what it must live up to. This list may veer off the beaten path, but we’ve taken a look at advances–both in classic silent films to today–that have taken the genre to the next level…
Most of the James Bond movies would probably deserve a place on this list, but to narrow it down, Goldfinger sets the standard. It is the third film in the franchise, but it establishes the pattern of a great action sequence (and some other kind of action as well; see above picture). The film also creates the first megalomaniacal villain with a super-powered henchman, a great title song and gadget-filled vehicles and accessories.
9. Modern Times
Some of Charlie Chaplin‘s silent film work holds up better than others, but this is his masterpiece. Filled with exhilarating set pieces–such as the giant gears and roller skating on a ledge–and remains thrilling by any standards.
8. Safety Last
If any other silent film star can compete with Chaplin, it must be Harold Lloyd. His signature film, which inspired Jackie Chan‘s stunt work, features an extended sequence climbing a tower. With the basic tools of suspense, it is one of the most thrilling sequences ever filmed.
7. Drunken Master 2 (aka The Legend of Drunken Master)
Any Jackie Chan movie is sure to have thrilling, creative, funny and often life-threatening action sequences. The second Drunken Master film exceeds any others for sheer intensity. Adding inebriated fighting sequences showcases Chan‘s ability to create nuance out of nothing.
6. True Lies
Even some Arnold Schwarzenegger fans have a hard time with this one, but it is the ultimate Schwarzenegger movie. Arnold is at his best as the kick-ass action hero, armed with a sense of humor. It includes some of the Schwarenegger’s grandest action sequences with the addition of being the ultimate romantic comedy. It’s controversial, especially with women, but that just means there’s more depth to debate.
5. King Kong (2005)
For all the epic action Peter Jackson delivered in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he tops himself with this passion project. Even at three hours, Jackson’s Kong is full of imaginative action sequences in the Steven Spielberg tradition. Each thrill ride moment tells its own story, and even with a whole hour of buildup, the pace keeps plowing ahead.
4. Shoot ‘Em Up
This is quite simply an ultimate gunfight movie–and we are talking about a LOT of guns. Though unfortunately ignored in its theatrical release last year, people should discover its brilliance on DVD. Instead of gratuitous squibs and blood, each bullet is used for a creative objective. John Woo has nothing on this.
3. The Rock
It’s hard to believe this movie is already 12 years-old, but what makes it a timeless classic is not the action itself. It’s still got amazing car chases, gunfights and narrow escapes, but what propels The Rock is the character relationships. Every viewing can reveal a different nuance between Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery‘s tenuous partnership, or villain Ed Harris‘s noble objectives.
2. Die Hard
After 20 years, the original Die Hard still holds up. You couldn’t say there are any lengthy and involved action set pieces. Jumping off a building or blowing up an elevator are mild by genre standards. But Die Hardis a perfectly paced thriller you can watch over and over again and have it still grab you.
Yippeekayay, mother f****er!
This is quite simply the gold standard of how you make an action/adventure movie. With thrill ride after thrill ride, mixed with humor and mythology, Lost Ark builds to the perfect crescendo. Most of its action sequences remain among the greatest in cinematic history.
And as a bonus: And we simply feel The Matrix belongs in a list all its own since it revolutionized action special effects as we’ve never seen them before. Its following sequels, however, don’t do much to improve on the concept.