The Best Action Movies Of All Time Are a Direct Burst of Adrenaline
There’s a rule of thumb in filmmaking: “Show—don’t tell.” In many screenplays, that means swapping a long-winded monologue for an understated glance. When it comes to action movies, this rule reigns supreme, perhaps more so than any other genre. “Show, don’t tell,” levels up to, “Shut up, explode something, and walk away in slow motion.”
Maybe the biggest action fans are adrenaline junkies. Maybe they’re just keen on stories that walk the walk without too much talk. Either way, there are plenty of action movies that pack a massive punch-to-one-liner ratio and ones that do so while still squeezing in an incredible narrative. Judging by the criteria of car chases, ticking time bombs, hand-to-hand combat, vigilante heroes, special effects, and genuinely great storytelling, these are the action movies with the best bang for your binge watch.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The fourth installment of writer-director-producer George’s Miller’s Mad Max series, Fury Road reunites with Max Rockatansky, played by Tom Hardy, as he ventures through a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland with an AWOL war captain, played by Charlize Theron. The two attempt to evade cult leader Immortan Joe, though their road ahead is a bumpy one.
Russell Crowe stars as Roman general Maximus who, upon the death of the current emperor, experiences a major fall from grace in the eyes of ancient Rome’s ruling class. Set to be executed by the successor’s envious son, played by Joaquin Phoenix, Maximus escapes his fate only to find himself on a new chopping block: the floor of the colosseum.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Based on Wang Dulu’s novel of the same name, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a wuxia (a “martial heroes” genre) film often cited as the title to solidify Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s international acclaim. The beautifully executed film is as intricate in its physical choreography as it is in its narrative, following a web of romance and destiny surrounding one warrior’s coveted sword.
While many of the movies coming from today’s Superhero Renaissance certainly pack in the excitement, few do so with as much intention and cinematic excellence as Black Panther. Perhaps one of Marvel’s richest stories to date in its world-building and history of Wakanda and T’Challa’s legacy, Black Panther will captivate you in a way that even the most action-packed superhero flicks to date never could.
North by Northwest
A textbook example for all action thrillers to come, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest preys on the classic Cold War-era fear of being falsely implicated in a treasonous scheme. Cary Grant stars as a man on the run of such false identifications, catching trains, dodging low-flying planes, and even engaging in a tussle on the top of Mount Rushmore.
There’s nothing like some special effects that can almost make you smell that napalm in the morning. Francis Ford Coppola’s reimagines Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in this Vietnam war era tale of a captain’s assignment to find and terminate a maddened colonel in the thick of the jungle. Its cast includes Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall among others. (Disclaimer: Despite its many cinematic feats, the film’s portrayal of native Vietnamese people has some major issues.)
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Uma Thurman stars in this Quentin Tarantino-directed grindhouse flick as “The Bride,” a woman whose ex-lover attempted to murder her on her wedding day. Having woken up from her coma four years later, she is determined to seek revenge on all of her perpetrators, including, of course, Bill.
Keanu Reeves stars as a retired hitman with a newfound spark for revenge when a group of unknown perpetrators steals his car and kills his dog, the last gift from his deceased wife. Trust us when we say, puppy vengeance is a lot more riveting than it might sound.
With a name like Die Hard and a protagonist like Bruce Willis, this film is practically obligated to be action-packed. Willis stars as a New York policeman who is visiting his wife and two daughters when his wife’s work party gets hijacked by terrorists.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
A well-advised revisiting of the movie that brought mainstream attention both to director James Cameron and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator 2 exceeds all sophomore slump pressures with its well-crafted story and special effects. The film catches up with John and Sarah Connor in a time with new urgency, when a future Terminator is sent back in time to kill John. Only one Terminator can protect him and humanity.
This story originally appeared on Esquire US. Minor edits have been made by Esquiremag.ph editors.