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29 Essential Movies All Action Fans Need To See

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"

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1. RoboCop (1987)

Orion Pictures

Why You Need To See It: What the remake of this timeless classic fails to realize is that RoboCop is far more than a movie about a police officer who is also a robot. It's about corruption and big business, it raises questions about ethics in science and law enforcement, and it's a masterfully directed sci-fi action film that will set an unreachable bar for every movie you watch after. The bad guys are vile, the good guys are somewhere in the middle, and RoboCop stands alone.

Submitted by Samantha Raczynski, Facebook

2. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Kennedy Miller Productions

Why You Need To See It: Now that the Mad Max series has been successfully rebooted, it's time for the originals to get the love they deserve — Road Warrior especially. The Earth has dried up and civilization has fallen. The planet is a wasteland and Mad Max walks it.

Submitted by Rachel Ellett, Facebook

3. Equilibrium (2002)

Dimension Films / Blue Tulip Productions

Why You Need To See It: Well directed and beautifully choreographed, Equilibrium is riveting, haunting, and suspenseful from start to finish. Set in a dystopian future where feelings and emotion have been outlawed — a ban facilitated by mandatory daily injections of a drug called "Prozium" — Christian Bale stars as John Preston, a strict and unforgiving enforcer of the law. That is, until he neglects to take his Prozium. For some reason, Equilibrium is seldom talked about. Well, it's time it became a part of the conversation.

Submitted by Rebecca Elson, Facebook

4. Die Hard (1988)

Silver Pictures / Gordon Company

Why You Need To See It: Die Hard is on every list of must-watch action movies and John McClain is probably the first person that comes to mind when you hear "action hero." This movie is a classic, plain and simple, whether you're talking within the action genre or about cinema, generally. McClain is cool as ice as he faces off with a group of terrorists (led by a young Alan Rickman) in an attempt to rescue the people they're holding hostage. Yippee Ki Yay, indeed.

Submitted by Samantha Terada, Facebook

5. Predator (1987)

Lawrence Gordon Productions / Silver Pictures / Davis Entertainment

Why You Need To See It: Arguably one of the greatest action sci-fi (with a bit of horror thrown in) films of all time, the ever quotable Predator has all the necessary ingredients of an action classic. Schwarzenegger is at his best as he acts alongside fellow ex-governor Jesse Ventura and Carl Weathers. Predator is the ultimate killing machine, but it messed with the wrong commandos.

Submitted by Michelle Cantin, Facebook

6. Hard Boiled (1992)

Golden Princess Film Production / Milestone Pictures

Why You Need To See It: Before John Woo left China and came to the United States to make Face/Off and Mission Impossible 2, he gave the world Hard Boiled. Chow Yun-Fat plays Inspector Tequila, a hard-boiled cop who's nothing if not reckless. Tequila is an old-school action hero, taking part in some of the most impressively choreographed shootouts in all of cinema without ever losing his signature tooth pick.

Submitted by Nelbin Juarez, Facebook

7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Carolco Pictures / Pacific Western / Lightstorm Entertainment / Le Studio Canal+ http://S.A.

Why You Need To See It: T2 is the action movie to end all action movies. Action fans will tell you it's James Cameron's best and, arguably, they're not wrong. Despite being released almost 25 years ago, the special effects are perhaps as impressive now as they were in '91. Terminator 2 is, without a doubt, an action classic.

Submitted by Will Sherman, Facebook

8. Oldboy (2003)

Show East / Egg Films

Why You Need To See It: Oldboy is a mysterious and gritty South Korean action film unlike any you've ever watched. Oh Dae-su has been held captive in a locked hotel room for 15 years. He doesn't know why, nor does he know who's responsible. But one day, the door just opens up and out he walks. In his review, Roger Ebert said of Oldboy, "[It's a] powerful film [...] because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare." To say that this movie is violent would be an understatement.

Submitted by Savannahw422d847d6

9. Face/Off (1997)

Paramount Pictures / Touchstone Pictures / Permut Presentations

Why You Need To See It: Face/Off is one of the truly unforgettable films on this list. As outlandish as it is campy and over-the-top, it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish — it starts out going 100 mph and ends, somehow, even faster. There has never been another movie like this John Woo classic and there never will be again.

Submitted by OhthatAdrienne

10. Demolition Man (1993)

Silver Pictures

Why You Need To See It: Demolition Man is one of Stallone's lesser known films, but it's up there with the best of them. A 20th Century cop (Stallone) and a vicious 20th Century criminal (Snipes) are set loose in a greatly reformed future, wreaking havoc at every turn and doing what arch nemeses do best.

Submitted by corab41e9aedee

11. Casino Royale (2006)

Eon Productions

Why You Need To See It: Casino Royale was Daniel Craig's first time playing Bond and he managed to win us all over and then some. As a young agent just recently made a "double O," we see Bond in his most potent form, as reckless, flashy, and trigger happy as ever. There's little doubt that the Daniel Craig era of 007 was brought in with a bang.

Submitted by andrewcff

12. The Rock (1996)

Hollywood Pictures / Simpson/Bruckheimer

Why You Need To See It: Easily one of Michael Bay's best, The Rock has Nicolas Cage teaming up with Sean Connery as they attempt to break into (that's right, into) Alcatraz, which has been taken over by terrorists. Beautifully shot, suspenseful, and high stakes to an immeasurable extent, The Rock is incredible and you need to see it.

Submitted by ivy

13. Kickboxer (1989)

Kings Road Entertainment

Why You Need To See It: Jean-Claude Van Damme is at his best in Kickboxer, a film about a man whose brother is paralyzed in the kickboxing ring by a ruthless fighter. Naturally, he enters the ring himself with vengeance in mind. Van Damme's specialty are movies that involve competitive fighting and this one is a triumph.

Submitted by gabrielg4df07ff80

14. Under Siege (1992)

Regency Enterprises / Le Studio Canal + / Alcor Films

Why You Need To See It: Described as "Die Hard on a battleship" — accurate, but it doesn't do Under Siege the justice it rightfully deserves. Tommy Lee Jones plays a disgruntled high ranking military officer turned terrorist and Steven Seagal plays Casey Ryback, who is so much more than just the ship's cook.

Submitted by Ruby Tempestas, Facebook

15. Speed (1994)

Mark Gordon Productions

Why You Need To See It: Speed is nothing if not an essential action film. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are exceptional, not to mention Jan de Bont's skilled directing. Here's a little known fact: Joss Whedon is an uncredited screenwriter for Speed, as it was his job to doctor the script and prepare it for production. Graham Yost, the primary writer, actually went as far to say that "Joss Whedon wrote 98.9 percent of the dialogue." Are you a fan of The Avengers? Check out Speed.

Submitted by Lisa Peterson, Facebook

16. Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

Golden Harvest

Why You Need To See It: Rumble in the Bronx is one of the films that made Jackie Chan a mainstream action hero. It's gritty, funny (at times), and features some of Chan's most daring stunts. Rumble in the Bronx is necessary viewing for action and martial arts fans alike.

Submitted by Andrew Ziegler, Facebook

17. Taken (2008)

EuropaCorp / M6 Films

Why You Need To See It: One of the best (if not the best) action movies of the last decade — and that's no exaggeration. Taken is about a man with a very particular set of skills who, when his daughter is kidnapped, is forced to utilize those skills with reckless abandon. Liam Neeson is incredible in the movie that gave us one of the most quotable monologues the genre has seen in a long while.

Submitted by Aditya Sharma, Facebook

18. The Raid: Redemption (2011)

PT. Merantau Films in association with MNC Pictures / XYZ Films

Why You Need To See It: Widely praised and deservedly so, The Raid is an experience that a few sentences couldn't possibly do justice to. The choreography is stunning, the action sequences are relentless, and they combine to create excitement that will make your jaw drop to the floor and stay there. This Indonesian action film is one of the best you'll see, ever.

Submitted by Ardimo Harsa Wardhana, Facebook

19. The Raid 2 (2014)

PT Merantau Films / XYZ Films

Why You Need To See It: This sequel to the Raid: Redemption is considered to be every bit as good as the first. The fight sequences in this and the original are done in the Indonesian style of martial arts called Pencak Silat, of which there are many types. That combined with the incredible choreography are but a complement to what is generally just an amazing action film in every sense.

Submitted by Kevin Bullard, Facebook

20. Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

Alliance Films

Why You Need To See It: It's over the top, self-aware, and packed with some of the most ridiculous — yes, ridiculous — shootouts you've ever seen on film. Clive Owen plays a mysterious stranger who involves himself in a dangerous situation despite his better judgement. Shoot 'Em Up is an action movie on steroids. If you're a fan of the genre and familiar with its tendencies and tropes, you will love this movie.

Submitted by Gus Egan, Facebook

21. Bullitt (1968)

Solar Productions / Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Why You Need To See It: A classic in every sense of the word, Bullitt stars the late, great Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco cop who's trying to bring down a kingpin. This is the movie that set the bar for car chases and made them stereotypical to the genre we know and love. Bullitt was ahead of its time and helped make action what it is today.

Submitted by Anne Vasilisin, Facebook

22. Out For Justice (1991)

Warner Bros.

Why You Need To See It: Steven Seagal isn't for everyone, but even his critics can't argue with the fact that nobody breaks limbs and kicks ass quite like he does. There's plenty of that in Out For Justice, an über violent action thriller about Brooklyn cop whose childhood friend is murdered by their mutual childhood acquaintance. This movie will have you screaming "ANYBODY SEEN RICHIE?!" until your throat is sore, and you'll be rooting for justice to be served.

Submitted by Joseph Amoia, Facebook

23. The Killer (1989)

Film Workshop / Media Asia

Why You Need To See It: The Killer is another must-see collaboration between legendary action directer John Woo and the ever talented Chow Yun-Fat, who plays a hitman ready to call it quits. Double-crossed, he teams up with a reluctant cop to bring down a criminal organization. One of his earlier films, Woo displays his one-of-a-kind skill for directing action and makes it look easy.

Submitted by Ben Lazar, Facebook

24. Total Recall (1990)

Carolco Pictures

Why You Need To See It: Total Recall is yet another masterpiece from director Paul Verhoeven, who also directed RoboCop and Basic Instinct. Featuring his signature wit and twisted sense of humor, this sci-fi action roller-coaster of a movie will keep surprising you at every turn. And of course, Schwarzenegger doesn't disappoint.

Submitted by pelicansgirl24

25. Blade (1998)

Marvel Enterprises / Amen Ra Films / Imaginary Forces

Why You Need To See It: Under-appreciated but overly-awesome, Blade is one of the original Marvel movies that no one remembers. Blade, however, is no superhero. He's more of an antihero — or better yet, an action hero. With all the strengths of a vampire and none of their weaknesses (save for the thirst for blood) Blade has made vampire hunting his life, and he's feared by all.

Submitted by Adam Michael Hylton, Facebook

26. Bloodsport (1988)


Why You Need To See It: Another one of Van Damme's fighting tournament films and every bit as essential as Kickboxer, Bloodsport follows Frank Dux as he enters an underground (and illegal) full contact martial arts tournament. While ridiculous at times, the fights are gripping and memorable. And of course, winning becomes about so much more than glory — it's about payback.

Submitted by ianc27

27. The Fugitive (1993)

Warner Bros.

Why You Need To See It: The Fugitive is an incredible action thriller about a man who's been wrongfully accused of killing his wife. He's out to prove his innocence before the police can catch up with him. With chase scenes and close calls that will leave you breathless, it's easy to see why The Fugitive is an essential action film. And as is characteristic in the genre, the stakes have never been higher.

Submitted by mikeb134

28. Fist of Legend (1994)

Eastern Productions

Why You Need To See It: If you're a martial arts buff, this film is a must. A remake of Bruce Lee's martial arts classic Fist of Fury, starring none other than Jet Li (What sort of list would this be without a Jet Li film?), Fist of Legend is set in 1930s era China, occupied at the time by Japanese forces. Chen Zhen (Li) is out to avenge the death of his teacher. The fights are intricately choreographed and will leave you in absolute awe. Fist of Legend is everything the title promises and more.

Submitted by Roxana Negru, Facebook

29. Léon: The Professional (1994)

Gaumont Les Films / du Dauphin

Why You Need To See It: Before Luc Besson brought us Taken, he gave us The Professional. When a career hitman, one of the best in the business, takes in a young girl whose family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent (a chilling performance by Gary Oldman), he teaches her the trade he knows so well. Besson is an exceptionally skilled action director and this is widely considered to be his best film.

Submitted by christiantorres77

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