The Best Action Films Ever Made, by Critical Consensus

Join us as we race through cinema’s most highly-praised action movies to discover which has emerged victorious. Newsweek

A good action movie will deliver all the necessary goods; excitement, suspense, fighting, car chases and rippling muscles. But a really great one will take all these conventions and push the genre in new and unexpected directions.

Film website Metacritic has ranked the very best action movies of all time, finding an average score for each using weighted critics’ reviews, and it contains many twists on the well-worn action tropes.

Some on the list you might not even think of as action movies—Pixar film The Incredibles comes in at number 15. The family movie packs in the action without compromising on its atmosphere of familial love.

Number 64 on the list, British action-comedy Hot Fuzz , sends up the cliches of the action movie while fully exploiting their entertainment value. The movie manages to provoke laughs even as suspense is fully ramped up.

Movies such as The French Connection (1971) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) have become such classics that they inspire a host of imitators and satirists alike.

Still, the peak age of the action film may have passed. The first movie from this decade is Zero Dark Thirty (2012) at number eight. Director Kathryn Bigelow makes another appearance with The Hurt Locker (2009) at number nine.

Another acclaimed action director is Akira Kurosawa, who has two entries in the top 10. The late Japanese director made an impressive 30 films in a career spanning 57 years, and in 1990 accepted an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The number one critically-acclaimed movie all time will surely be disputed by few. Directed by a master of cinema, it features a dangerous blonde, a case of mistaken identity, a high-stakes car chase and even a fight on an iconic American monument.

Join us as we race through cinema’s most highly-praised action movies to discover which has emerged victorious.

01 To Live and Die in LA
=64. 'To Live and Die in L.A.' (1985, Chapel Distribution). Metascore: 81. Directed by: William Friedkin. Starring: William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow.
Summary: "A bold Secret Service agent straddles the line to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner."
Chapel Distribution
02 District 9
=64. 'District 9' (2009, TriStar Pictures). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Neill Blomkamp. Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope.
Summary: "Over twenty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them." (Sony Pictures).
TriStar Pictures
03 Racing Extinction
=64. 'Racing Extinction' (2015, Abramorama). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Louie Psihoyos. Starring: Charles Hambleton, Elon Musk, Joel Sartore.
Summary: "A team of artists and activists expose the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet."
04 The Force Awakens
=64. 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens' (2015, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures). Metascore: 81. Directed by: J.J. Abrams. Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac .
Summary: "A continuation of the Star Wars saga.".
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
05 The World's End
=64. 'The World's End' (2013, Focus Features). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Edgar Wright. Starring: Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg.
Summary: "Twenty ears after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's."
Focus Features
06 Battle Royale
=64. 'Battle Royale' (2000, Anchor Bay Films). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku. Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto.
Summary: "In the near future, the economy has collapsed, unemployment has soared and juvenile crime has exploded. Fearful of their nation’s youth, the Japanese government passes The BR Law: Each year, a 9th grade class is sent to a remote island where they will be locked into exploding neck collars, given a random weapon, and forced to hunt and kill each other until there is only one survivor left." (Anchor Bay Films).
Anchor Bay Films
07 Hell and Back Again
=64. 'Hell and Back Again' (2011, Docurama). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Dancing Dennis. Starring: Nathan Harris, Ashley Harris, The Marines of Echo Company.
Summary: "In 2009, U.S. Marines launched a major helicopter assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Within hours of being dropped deep behind enemy lines, 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris’s unit is attacked from all sides. Embedded in Echo Company during the assault, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis captures the frontline action with visceral immediacy." (Docurama Films).
08 Skyfall
=64. 'Skyfall' (2012, Columbia Pictures). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Sam Mendes. Starring: Daniel Craig, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes.
Summary: "Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost." (Columbia Pictures, MGM).
Columbia Pictures
09 Moana
=64. 'Moana' (2016, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Chris Williams, Don Hall, John Musker, Ron Clements. Starring: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House.
Summary: "Moana, a spirited teenager and born navigator, sets sail from the ancient South Pacific islands of Oceania in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore." (Walt Disney Studios).
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
10 Django Unchained
=64. 'Django Unchained' (2012, Weinstein Company). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio.
Summary: "Django is a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive." (The Weinstein Company).
The Weinstein Company
11 Hot Fuzz
=64. 'Hot Fuzz' (2007, Rogue Pictures). Metascore: 81. Directed by: Edgar Wright. Starring: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg.
Summary: "Nicholas Angel is the finest police officer London has to offer, with an arrest record 400% higher than any other officer on the force. He's so good, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, Angel's superiors send him to a place where his talents won't be quite so embarrassing—the sleepy and seemingly crime-free village of Sandford." (Rogue Pictures).
Rogue Pictures