No this isn’t about that 80s movie with Carl Weathers, but a tribute to some of the greatest stars of the action genre. The tough as nails heroes that make us flock to theaters every summer to see fists flying, tongue and cheek dialogue, and plenty of explosions. So I’ll list the greats in order of their actiony goodness, along with a few of their notable action roles and of course one of their sweet one liners. The only real qualification I’m going to hold for this top ten is that these men of action had to of had a prominent role in at least one good movie. So sorry Seagal, Van Damme, and Norris, you may be well known in this genre but I’ll let Hell freeze over before I have to see the rest of Timecop. So without further a do let’s jump in!
10. Keanu Reeves
Action Roles: The Matrix, Speed, Point Break
Sweet One Liner: “Whoa” – The Matrix
: Keanu Reeves has come a long way, from playing a spaced out air head in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to playing a spaced out martial arts master in The Matrix. Though he may not have the strongest acting abilities, his low key personality seems to fit into the action genre quite well. With roles in high adrenaline blockbusters like Speed and Point Break Keanu made his mark and with the success of The Matrix Trilogy, has managed to shoot into superstar status. Whether he’ll be able to remain successful as an action star is unclear these days, as probably his best years are behind him, but who knows… Perhaps he could do another Speed, but on a train cause there just ain’t enough movies about trains.
9. Jason Statham
Notable Action Roles: Crank, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch
Sweet One-Liners: “Don’t pop a blood vessel, you little penis.” – Crank
: A recent update to this list after I saw the Crank films. Yeah they’re over-the-top dumb fun but isn’t that what action movies are all about? Excessive violence, harsh language and smart ass one liners are just oozing out of these films and Statham is perfect in this role. The rough around the edges Statham has also made his mark in British crime films, notably Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch for director Guy Ritchie. He’s charismatic and often does his own stunts, that’s bad ass
8. Mel Gibson
Notable Action Roles: Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Road Warrior
Sweet One-Liner: “This is a real badge, I’m a real cop, and this is a real fucking gun! ” – Lethal Weapon
: Before he was the controversial celebrity he’s become today, Mel ruled the silver screen as suicidal cop Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies and as Aussie loner Mad Max in the cult favorite Mad Max trilogy. Bringing a substantial amount of energy and intensity into his roles, Mel quickly rose to the top of the Hollywood A-list by the time the 90s rolled around. Soon forging a career as a strong dramatic performer, Mel brought his dramatic skills together (with his action sensibilities) to direct and star in the Oscar winning classic Braveheart. Continuing on to such exciting roles in films like The Patriot and Payback Mel soon enough turned to directing a few more films before virtually disappearing from the media due to controversies, but even if he maybe insane, I still look forward to the next time I get to see him raising his fists to uphold justice.
7. Jackie Chan
Notable Action Roles: Rush Hour, Drunken Master, Rumble in the Bronx
Sweet One-Liner: “I will bitch-slap you back to Africa.” – Rush Hour 2
: Next is everyone’s favorite Chinese import, the innovative and skilled martial artist that is Jackie Chan. With his long and successful career in both Hong Kong and U.S. cinema, Jackie Chan has over the years won our hearts with his comedic timing, humble attitude and brilliant stunt work. Easily the most physically skilled performer on this list, Jackie Chan should probably be dead a hundred times by now, but he still gets out there and risks his life with mind boggling stunts all the time. Probably known to American audiences for the Rush Hour films, Jackie Chan has also established a notable career in China with such films as The Police Story series and the two Drunken Master pictures. Now in his 50s, Jackie Chan has hardly slowed up at all and still entertains the masses.
6. Steve McQueen
Notable Action Roles: Bullitt, The Great Escape, The Getaway
Sweet One Liner: “We deal in lead friend” – The Magnificent Seven
: The legendary “King of Cool” Steve McQueen practically set the standard for what an action star should be with a cool dry wit and die hard attitude. Steve McQueen (Which is his real name) was one of the biggest action movie icons of the 60s and 70s. Rising to popularity in a similar fashion as Charles Bronson, Steve quickly established himself as the ultimate macho man, enjoying plenty of fast cars (He did many of his own driving stunts) hard living and quick women. Probably known best as the street smart cop known simply as Bullitt, Steve established a notable career in hip crime dramas and epic adventure films. Something interesting about Steve is how similar Steve was to the characters he played on screen, as his hard living soon caught up with him leading to his death in 1980. I suppose he was just too cool for this earth.
5. Clint Eastwood
Notable Action Roles: Dirty Harry, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Unforgiven
Sweet One Liner: “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?” – Dirty Harry
: I always thought it was neat that an anagram for Clint Eastwood is “Old West Action” and if you ask me it’s quite appropriate, as Clint here is probably one of the most memorable personas in the Western genre. Though let us not forget his infamous role as the most recognizable tough guy cop in all of cinema in the Dirty Harry series. Clint today is an American icon, establishing himself as a talented leading man in the 60s and 70s, Clint always knew how to entertain and send shivers down our spines. The ultimate loner, Clint could go from calm to “mad as hell” in a second if anything crossed his path. Though he’s pretty much retired from action these days,settling into a successful directorial career, I’ll always know him as “The Man With No Name.”
4. Harrison Ford
Notable Action Roles: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Fugitive, Air Force One
Sweet One Liner: “Get off my plane!” – Air Force One
: At first thought you may not immediately associate Harry as an action star, but looking at his body of work, he’s certainly thrown enough punches to land himself a high spot on this list. With his legendary performances as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Rick Deckard or President James Marshall, Harrison Ford has more memorable performances than you can shake a stick at. Though you could possibly argue that a handful of his films belong in another genre, they at heart still have their ties to the action genre. Plus you got to respect the fact that at in his 60s, he’s still out there roughing it in films like Firewall looking for his family or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull looking for that Kingdom.
3. Bruce Willis
Notable Action Roles: Die Hard, Armageddon, Sin City
Sweet One Liner: “Yippie-ki-yay Mother fucker.” – Die Hard
: Why old Brucie could of earned this spot simply just for Die Hard, as that is just about the greatest action flick of all time. Yeah I said it, Die Hard practically wrote the book on what action movies should be from then on, and you certainly can’t deny Bruce’s contribution to the genre. With the iconic character of John McClane, Bruce set a perfect example of what an action movie hero should be; relentlessly tough, cool and collected while spouting out hilarious one liners all along the way. Though the Die Hard films may be Bruce’s crowning achievement he’s aided plenty of other flicks in the past just in need of that little extra ounce of Badass!.. And I’ve always appreciated his contributions to cinema.
2. Sylvester Stallone
Notable Action Roles: First Blood, Rocky, Cliffhanger
Sweet One Liner: “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit” – Rocky Balboa
: Coming in at number two is everyones favorite Boxing Champ/Military Vet Sly Stallone. With his slurred drawl and laid back attitude, this “King of the Comeback” has made his mark as the star of two of the most successful action franchises of the 80s. (Yes the three R’s of action movies; Rocky, Rambo and uh… Rhinestone.) From his rise to the top with the Oscar winning story of an underdog boxer to his one man gore-fests in the Rambo quadrilogy, Sly has proven to be one tough hombre. The results of his long film career haven’t always been top-of-the-line “Cough, cough Judge Dredd” but every once in awhile this macho Hollywood icon can still crank out the entertainment. Just be careful about renting Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Notable Action Roles: Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Predator, True Lies
Sweet One Liner: “I’ll Be Back” – The Terminator (and about a million more)
: You don’t have to like his politics, but you can’t deny his status as an action superstar. With his thick Austrian accent, bulging biceps and charismatic one liners, Arnold ruled the 80s and 90s when it came to action. Arnold could always manage to entertain regardless of the subject matter or quality of the film. Building up a strong resume of memorable action flicks I’m not sure there will ever be another Arnold again, as the 90s kind of ended an era of action stars. So whether he’s throwing punches with Predator, shooting up a liquid Robert Patrick, or duking it out with Sinbad, “Ahnuld” has forever burned his persona into the minds of moviegoers and action movie fanatics and thus will be remembered for years to come. Hmm the top three on this list all own a “Planet Hollywood” together interesting…
This can kind of be a tough category to wind down for there are so many different kinds of action films. So mainly I’d like to include Bruce Lee as an honorable mention for his brief yet influential career. Though martial arts is more of it’s own genre I still think he deserves mention as a man of action. Jet Li is also worth some note, as he fits more into this list of his mainstream action, but frankly I don’t find him quite good enough to make it on here. Well now I’ve said to much, have a good time at the movies this summer and let’s all hope for some quality action.. Uhh like Hancock I guess.