Best Action Films


“Action!” It’s the go-word that filmmakers say at the start of every take, as the cast springs to life on camera. Action is the very thing that sets motion pictures apart from still photography, and while it took Hollywood a few decades to figure out what an “action movie” actually was, the genre traces its roots to the origins of the medium (go ahead, Google Thomas Edison’s early “Boxing Cats” film, or picture the outlaw firing his pistol directly into the camera at the end of Edwin S. Porter’s “The Great Train Robbery”).

Now, when it comes to the all-time greatest action movies, the bar is set considerably higher. Reading through Variety’s list, you’ll learn a thing or two about how the form has evolved over the years. Arnold, Sly and Bruce (both Lee and Willis) each left their mark. But Chuck Norris and Burt Reynolds have been eclipsed, since every film on this list had to stand the test of time. We love Shaw Brothers classics, for example (“King Blood” and “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” came close), but martial arts movies have evolved so much that other titles took their place.

You may well be surprised by the things we excluded, including movies with great action scenes (like “Dirty Harry” or Marvel movies) that ultimately fell slightly outside the genre, while others that might not have been marketed as action movies per se (such as Paul Greengrass’ greatest film) made the cut. “Cut,” of course, is the action word that ends each take. So, without further ado, here’s Variety’s list of the 50 greatest action movies of all time.





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