Lights, camera... ACTION!
All action movies usually follow the same formula; there's a good guy versus a bad guy, multiple explosions, a high speed chase and/or a trigger happy showdown of epic proportions. That's not to say audiences should expect the same repetitive sequences or super-human characters each time they hunker down for an action-packed caper.
What makes this kinetic genre so much fun is how flexible it is; some of the best actioners blend together elements nabbed from other cinematic areas. The result is often something wholly more badass. Vigilantes, time travellers and bank robbers all have the potential to be an action heroes - making these flicks all the more entertaining to watch. We've rounded up 50 of the best action movies out there to get your adrenaline pumping and trust us, it wasn't easy.
50. Face/Off (1997)
Action hero: Sean Archer/Caster Troy
The plot: An FBI agent (John Travolta) and a terrorist (Nicolas Cage) swap faces in John Woo's bonkers shoot em up. Watching Travolta mimic Cage's speech patterns is just brilliant. And, being John Woo, it involves plenty of slow motion dives, dual wielded gold handguns and a load of random doves.
Most action-packed scene: Archer (Travolta), Troy (Cage) and a whole room full of disposable feds trade bullets in glorious slow-motion - all to the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
49. Fast Five (2011)
Action heroes: Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Conner
The plot: There might have been four other F&F movies before Fast Five, but none come close to the visceral thrill of Justin Lin's 2011 franchise overhaul. Dwayne Johnson joins Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in the driving seat as the gang plan to steal $100m from a corrupt businessman.
Most action-packed scene: As ever with F&F, its all about practical effects, insane stunt driving and explosions big enough to singe the Rocks raised eyebrows. The barnstorming finale - when the gang tow a giant safe through the streets (and buildings) in the middle of an epic chase - is the whole film in a nutshell.
48. Bad Boys (1995)
Action heroes: Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett
The plot: Michael Bay's first film is a down and dirty tale of mismatched narcs on the trail of a missing $100m drug haul. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence trade quips in the front seat, whileTea Leoni's key witness screams in the back.
Most action-packed scene: The car chases take center stage, but where would action cinema (or Michael Bay) be without the walking-away-from-an-explosion-in-slow-motion-without-turning-around shot?
47. The Expendables 2 (2012)
Action hero: Barney Ross
The plot: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Willis, Li, Lundgren and Van Damme assembled for the ultimate super-team sequel. Something about a rival mercenary, an arms-dealer and a WMD...
Most action-packed scene: Seemingly ploughing all their budget (and all their Semtex) into the opening scene, the boys drive into a nondescript military base and spend a good ten minutes shooting, blasting, kicking, punching, stabbing and exploding an entire army of extras.
46. Police Story (1985)
Action hero: Chan Ka Kui
The plot: The first of Jackie Chans insane kung-fu series is his best. There is a plot (about an undercover agent infiltrating a crime syndicate), but it's really all about the stunts - all done for real, by Chan, without any CGI.
Most action-packed scene: In a moment of sheer Buster Keaton brilliance, Chan holds onto the back of a speeding double decker bus with the hooked handle of an umbrella before jumping aboard and beating everyone up with it.
45. Die Hard 2 (1990)
Action hero: John McClane
The plot: Another Christmas Eve, another group of terrorists, another wrong place and time for Bruce Willis off-duty New York cop. Basically the same as Die Hard, but in an airport.
Most action-packed scene: The bad guys have McClane trapped in the cockpit of a plane. When they start lobbing grenades in, Brucie has no option but to strap himself into the pilot's seat and pull the ejector lever just in time to escape the blast.
44. Commando (1985)
Action hero: John Matrix
The plot: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a retired Delta Force hard-nut who finds out that all the old members of his unit are being knocked off by a gang of mercenaries. When they kidnap his daughter (a young Alyssa Milano), Arnie takes the fight to their front door.
Most action-packed scene: The deleted scene (re-cut into the special edition release) where Arnie beats a man to death with his own severed arm is pretty memorable, but it's hard to top the glorious last twenty minutes, when he kills everyone in the world.
43. Air Force One (1997)
Action hero: President Marshall
The plot: Harrison Ford plays the American President who has his plane hijacked by Gary Oldmans Russian terrorist. Luckily, the Pres hides out in the kitchen and starts taking down the bad guys with his old army training.
Most action-packed scene: Coming face to face with Oldman's dastardly hijacker in the cargo bay, President Ford hits him with a few good American roundhouses before scrapping in the open doorway, thousands of feet above the ground. Finally besting him with a parachute cord, Ford growls the immortal one-liner: Get off my plane!
42. Con Air (1997)
Action hero: Cameron Poe
The plot: Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich and Nicolas Cage's mullet star in Jerry Bruckheimer's absurdly fun actioner about a transport plane full of convicts that gets hijacked by the passengers. Outside of its action ambitions, it also includes that legendary scene involving Cage and a bunny rabbit.
Most action-packed scene: Strap in ladies, we're going for a night out in Vegas! Steve Buscemi sings (He's got the whole world in his hands) while Con Air crash lands on the Vegas strip. Yes, really.
41. Dredd (2012)
Action hero: Judge Dredd
The plot: Director Pete Travis, writer Alex Garland and star Karl Urban laid Stallones dodgy Judge Dredd ghost to rest with a blistering, gritty, super-stylish adaptation of the 2000AD comic strip. Basically just a building full of bad guys and one bad-ass cop.
Most action-packed scene: Making it about half-way up the building, Lena Headey's crime lord hurls everything at Dredd - including a barrage of miniguns that rip right through the walls - but he still keeps coming.
40. Taken (2008)
Action hero: Bryan Mills
The plot: Liam Neeson is unstoppable as former CIA operative Byran Mills, who is thrown back into the world of bad guys and guns when his daughter is kidnapped. At a neat one hour 30 minutes, Taken packs in one relentless action scene after another to keep the pace as punchy as possible.
Most action-packed scene: Featuring what seems like one hundred fight scenes, it's difficult to pick one defining choreographed collision. However, the most satisfying moment comes when Neeson catches up with the predatory bidder who has his daughter. A swift bullet to the forehead does the trick. Major fist pump for Neeson.
39. The Hunger Games (2012)
Action hero: Katniss Everdeen
The plot: Dictator President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, puts on an annual talent show, plucking members of his dystopian public to take part in a blood-thirsty game of survival of the fittest. Brandishing a bow and arrow, District 12s Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) enters the ring with kick-ass sass and puts her competitors to shame.
Most action-packed scene: The film's final scene boasts the most action. With the stakes extremely high and only a handful left in the game, it's down to Katniss to fight off Panem's opposing contestants and make it to the finish line. The tension finally comes to a head as a group of beasts are released and the survivors meet their supposedly pre-empted fate. Or do they?
38. The Avengers (2012)
Action heroes: The Avengers - Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye
The plot: The Marvel universe unites its biggest and best superheroes to stop impending doom, orchestrated by Thor's devious brother Loki. S.H.I.E.L.D's Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, rallies the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye to prevent Loki from unleashing an army of gigantic aliens on New York City.
Most action-packed scene: Written and directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is a wise-cracking raucous ride from start to finish, but it's the film's finale that packs the most memorable punch. After throwing a few fisticuffs with one other, the Avengers settle their petty squabbles to take down the extra-terrestrial threat, in a scene that boasts six times the pummelling power.
37. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Action hero: Caesar
The plot: The follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes finds Caesar and his monkey posse at odds with a group of human settlers. The small town need access to the apes land to get their electricity back up and running, but they both soon realise that the forest isn't big enough for both species.
Most action-packed scene: These monkeys mean business. Not only can they ride horseback but they've figured out how to wield a gun, which lends itself to cataclysmic results. At the helm, evil ape Koba starts a war with the humans by shooting leader Caesar and blaming it on the humans. All hell breaks loose and it's every man (and ape) for himself.
36. Inception (2010)
Action hero: Dom Cobb
The plot: Leader of the (dream-walking) pack Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is recruited by a business man to plant an idea in the brain of his competitors son. In exchange for the never-done-before act, Cobb is offered a clean slate and the chance to return to his children.
Most action-packed scene: When the buildings start curling towards the sky it is clear that this film is in a gravity defying league of its own. However the action begins to spiral out of control when a mini-bus the team are sleeping in, veers off the road. As the vehicle swerves the dream sequence also begins to roll, adding to the film's remarkable stunts.
35. Star Trek (2009)
Action hero: Captain James T. Kirk
The plot: JJ Abrams' reboot journeys back to Star Trek's beginnings, before James T. Kirk became Captain and he and Spock were on good(ish) terms. Loveable rogue Jim, played by Chris Pine, is wasting his time bedding women and getting into bar fights. But one man, Captain Pike, sees his potential and encourages him to join Starfleet.
Most action-packed scene: There are a lot of action sequences on offer in Star Trek, but the most impactful scene comes in the film's opening moments. Second Officer George Kirk single-handedly crashes the USS Kelvin into a looming Romulan ship, while his wife gives birth from a shuttle craft fleeing the battle scene. You will have sweaty palms by the time the intro credits roll up on screen.
34. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Action heroes: The X-Men
The plot: The fifth instalment in the X-Men series delves into Professor X/Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto/Eric Lensherr's (Michael Fasssbender) past. It's 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis isn't the only deadly threat on the horizon; Sebastian Shaw has plans to reign over mankind atop his mutant throne, and the only beings that can stop him are the newly formed X-Men.
Most action-packed scene: Matthew Vaughns prequel sets the scene for future events to come. Professor X's paralysis, Eric's move to super villain and Raven/Mystique's alliance with her brother's enemy are all explained in the action-packed closing scene. The X-Men show a united front against Shaw but become divided when the humans attack. With missiles flying all over the place, it's an explosive conclusion to a cleverly constructed plot.
33. Kick-Ass (2010)
Action hero: Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass
The plot: Teenager Dave Lizewski dreams of being a superhero, so he decides to hit the streets with barely there biceps and a Lycra suit. Concealed by a colourful costume and going by the name of Kick-Ass, Dave joins forces with superheroes Hit-Girl (Chlo Grace Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) to defeat Mafia boss Frank D'Amico, played by Mark Strong.
Most action-packed scene: 11-year-old Hit-Girl makes her grand entrance by saving Kick-Ass from a group of drug dealers. Dressed in a purple wig, a school skirt and a cape, she slices, dices and punches her way through the men with feisty ease.
32. Skyfall (2012)
Action hero: James Bond
The plot: 007 enters into a game of cat and mouse with a cyberterrorist, played by Javier Bardem, who has blown up the MI6 headquarters. The former spy wants to exact his revenge on mentor M (Judy Dench) for abandoning him after his many years of service to the British Secret Service. Possibly one of the most suave films in the Bond series, Skyfall boasts an action-packed plot with bags of style.
Most action-packed scene: Daniel Craig's 007 has more brawn than any Bond before him, so there is no shortage of fist punching in this outing. The most riveting set takes place at the onset of the film, when Bond drives a vehicle onto a high-speed train. In hot pursuit of the latest MI6 target, 007 manages to keep his cufflinks intact as they wrestle on top of the carriages.
31. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Action hero: Beatrix Kiddo - aka The Bride
The plot: Quentin Tarantino pays dutiful homage to the Hong Kong martial arts genre, the spaghetti western and the grindhouse classics he grew up with in a glorious opera of stylized violence. Uma Thurman is the wronged assassin who takes down all her former associates, one by one.
Most action-packed scene: The Bride finds Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu) and her gang in a crowded bar and makes her intention clear by hacking off a henchman's arm. Cue a very bloody, very beautiful, slice of red revenge.
30. Hard Boiled (1992)
Action heroes: Tequila and Alan
The plot: John Woo's final Hong Kong masterpiece, Hard Boiled perfected his formula of balletic violence and slow-motion gunplay, with Tony Yeung as the undercover cop trying to bring down the triads from the inside, and Chow Yun-Fat as the inspector assigned the case.
Most action-packed scene: Holding a baby in the middle of a shoot-out might not seem like the best idea... until your trousers catch fire that is, and a baby weeing down your leg is just the thing to put the flames out.
29. Robocop (1987)
Action hero: Alex Murphy
The plot: Paul Verhoeven's ultra-violent, tongue-in-cheek, super-cool cop movie raised the bar for sci-fi satire. Peter Weller stars as the wounded police officer who gets rebuilt as a cyborg engineered to fight crime and programmed to never ask questions.
Most action-packed scene: Tracking the Boddicker gang to an abandoned Detroit steelworks, Robo starts showing everyone what he can do, including crashing a henchman (Paul McCrane) into a truck full of toxic waste, turning him into a gnarly zombie and spraying him all over his windscreen.
28. Top Gun (1986)
Action hero: Maverick
The plot: Tom Cruise is a hotshot trainee pilot in Tony Scott's hilariously jingoistic, soft-rock slab of '80s music-video cinema. There are other people in it (Val Kilmer, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerritt) and there is a sort of plot (are they fighting Russians?), but it's really all about Toms need for speed.
Most action-packed scene: Other than the beach volleyball scene, the best action comes at the end with some seriously impressive dog-fights still sky high above anything else in the genre.
27. Enter The Dragon (1973)
Action hero: Lee
The plot: One of the greatest martial arts movies of all time, Bruce Lee's final film actually has a pretty rubbish plot: a secret agent (Lee) is sent to infiltrate an underground criminal empire by taking part in a martial arts tournament. Luckily, the fight scenes are second to none.
Most action-packed scene: After a series of increasingly difficult fights, Lee faces claw-handed Han (Shih Kien) in a dizzying hall of mirrors. Expertly staged by Lee and co-director Robert Clouse, it's the classic deathmatch that still drips with cool.
26. 300 (2006)
Action hero: King Leonidas
The plot: Adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel and based on the legendary battle of Thermopylae (where a small group of Spartan warriors held off the entire Persian army for three days), Zack Snyder hyperstylizes the blood and guts to bring the comic book to life.
Most action-packed scene: Speed up all the slow-motion and the film would probably only be about ten minutes long, but there's no doubting that Snyder uses it well with Michael Fassbender and Gerard Butler leaping into the fray like something out of a BBC nature documentary.
25. 13 Assassins (2010)
Action hero: Shimada Shinzaemon
The plot: Takashi Miike remakes Eiichi Kudos 1963 classic and makes it very much his own. A sadistic Shogun rapes and murders his way through 19th Century Japan before a team of samurai lay a trap for him and his whole army of bodyguards.
Most action-packed scene: There's really only one action set-piece in the whole film, but it makes up the entire last 45 minutes. Staggeringly violent, endlessly entertaining and perfectly choreographed by Miike at the top of his game - it's the greatest samurai battle on film.
24. The Raid (2011)
Action hero: Rama
The plot: One building. 20 cops. An army of hoodlums filling every room, ready to be beaten to a bloody pulp by the only man standing after the first few floors - Iko Uwaiss rookie cop Rama. Gareth Evans' breathless Indonesian beat 'em up knocked the wind out of the genre.
Most action-packed scene: How do you clear an entire hallway full of bad guys in one go? Use a bit of improvised magic on a gas canister, a grenade and a fridge, of course!
23. Iron Man (2008)
Action hero: Iron Man/Tony Stark
The plot: Genius, playboy tycoon Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) crafts some super-duper armour to break free from a group of terrorists called the Ten Rings. Connected to an electromagnet implanted in his chest by fellow captor Professor Yinsen, Tony escapes and welcomes the world to his alter-ego Iron Man.
Most action-packed scene: When nemesis Obadiah Stane, played by a very bald Jeff Bridges, is outed for his alliance with Ten Rings, he takes drastic measures to bring Tony down. Stane dons one of the billionaire's super suits and starts punching his way through Iron Man, who is a considerably weaker match. Our superhero suffers several blows before luring his rival to a dicey death.
22. The Italian Job (1969)
Action hero: Charlie Crocker
The plot: We're talking about the original crime caper of course. Gangster Charlie Crocker, played by Michael Caine, recruits a team of criminals to carry out a 4 million robbery in Italy, and avenge his friend's death. With iconic Minis at the helm and that infamous one liner from Caine, this is fast paced, full throttle viewing.
Most action-packed scene: With coiffed curly hair and a suit and tie, Crocker isn't your average action hero. But he has the smarts to put his criminal plans into hasty action. With the gold loaded up into three Minis, the team blaze through the streets of Turin making a quick getaway. What these cars lack in size, they make up for in speed.
21. Serenity (2005)
Action hero: Malcolm Reynolds
The plot: Beginning where TV show Firefly left off, Captain Malcolm Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew continue their exploration through space. In the show, Serenity crew member Simon rescued his sister River, who has been conditioned as a weapon. Unbeknownst to the crew Rivers super-human abilities make her an unwitting target against the Alliance an authoritarian corporate government. Its down to Mal and his posse to keep River safe and fight off the impending attacks.
Most action-packed scene: When Mal and co stop in a bar to talk shop, a Japanese style advertisement on the TV acts as a trigger, sending River into frenzy. She kicks and punches her way through the crowds, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer on steroids. Another winning Joss Whedon moment.
Action hero: Joe (old and young)
The plot: In 2074, the mob get rid of their enemies by sending them into the past where an assassin is waiting to take them out. In 2044, 25-year-old Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hired hit man who pulls the trigger without hesitation when the clock strikes. But when he comes face to face with his older self (Bruce Willis) he falters, leaving enough time for Joe Sr. to make his getaway.
Most action-packed scene: If you can get your head around the confusing time travel stuff and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's dodgy looking eyebrows, Looper is a really enthralling watch. The film's closing scene, set in a corn field, features telekinetic explosions and a tense showdown.
19. The Fugitive (1993)
Action hero: Dr. Richard Kimble
The plot: Harrison Ford gives Mo Farah a run for his money as fugitive Richard Kimble, who has been wrongly accused of murdering his wife. Tommy Lee Jones heads up a team of U.S. Marshals who are always one step behind the very nimble Kimble. He skulks in the shadows and sprints through the streets, while he attempts to prove his innocence and track down the real perpetrator.
Most action-packed scene: After being convicted of first-degree murder, Kimble is kitted out in a yellow jumpsuit and cuffs and transported to death row. But the inmates on the bus have other ideas and cause the vehicle to swerve off the road. Kimble scrambles to freedom and hot foots it through the woods, while the U.S. Marshals track him with heavy artillery and hounds. Things only get faster, and tenser, from here on in.
18. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Action hero: Ethan Hunt
The plot: JJ Abrams' first film as director is arguably the best in the M:I series with Tom Cruise's uber-athletic spy called out of retirement to tackle Phillip Seymour Hoffman's ruthless arms dealer.
Most action-packed scene: It's pretty easy to see why Abrams was given the reins to Star Trek and Star Wars when you watch the perfectly staged bridge scene. Hunt (Cruise) dodges bullets, rockets and jet planes whilst the whole of Chesapeake Bay crumbles around him.
17. Source Code (2011)
Action hero: Captain Colter Stevens
The plot: Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes on a covert mission inside the Source Code - a device that allows him to adopt another person's identity and momentarily live in an alternate reality. His surroundings find him on a commuter train connected to a bomb. It's Groundhog Day meets Mission Impossible as the day resets each time the train explodes.
Most action-packed scene: The climactic moments to catch the bad guy and deactivate the bomb seem to get shorter and shorter, but director Duncan Jones makes sure the explosion is savoured in one bitter sweet, slow motion sequence.
16. The Raid 2 (2014)
Action hero: Rama Iko Uwais
The plot: Jakarta cop Rama is placed undercover in an organised crime group to help bring down the boss. He's quickly embroiled in a full-on gang war, and all-but abandoned by his police handlers, so is forced to resolve the situation himself. With fists. And knives. And hammers. Oh god - the hammers.
Most action-packed scene: There are so many to choose from but the climactic karembit fight between Rama and The Assassin tops the lot. It's brutal, attritional, and so beautifully choreographed that you gasp at every swipe and almost feel each savage cut. Absolutely breathtaking.
15. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Action hero: Max Rockatansky
The plot: Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson in this reboot of the original, which sees Max Rockatansky and Charlize Therons Imperator Furiosa embroiled in a road rage battle. Set in a dystopian desert future, where water and gasoline are scarce, cult leader Joe and his army of War Boys dominate the sand dunes.
Most action-packed scene: Arguably, Mad Max is one long action-packed set piece, from start to finish. The majority of the film is set on fire, with vehicles crashing and burning surrounded by endless plumes of sand. Dusty, rusty and downright dirty, this film is a joy ride for the senses.
14. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Action heroes: Riggs and Murtaugh
The plot: Detective Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is on the brink of retirement and detective Riggs (Mel Gibson) is on the brink of insanity, making them the perfect pair to crack open a drug smuggling ring. The first film in Richard Donner's action franchise effortlessly nails the buddy cop template.
Most action-packed scene: Gary Busey is gurning in the rain, Mel Gibson has his shirt off, and Danny Glover is standing around watching. The stage is set for an epic fist fight that finally lets Riggs off the leash.
13. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Action hero: Jason Bourne
The plot: After two films, CIA super-weapon Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still no closer to finding out his real identity. Paul Greengrass' second sequel edges ahead of the others in the franchise with bursts of gritty, relentless energy that still seem to be pushing the boundaries of the action genre.
Most action-packed scene: Each Bourne movie is known by its car chase, and Ultimatum tops the lot with a chase around Tangier that starts on foot, goes up over the rooftops and finishes with a rollercoaster motorbike ride through the city streets.
12. The Dark Knight
Action heroes: Batman and Harvey Dent
The plot: Christopher Nolan pits Batman against his biggest adversary, The Joker (Heath Ledger) in the follow-up to Batman Begins. Instead of trying to kill his opponent The Joker plays with Batman's sanity by going after his closest allies, and by staying one step ahead with his manipulative manoeuvres. DA Harvey Dent keeps Gotham's spirits up amidst the terror, but his resolve is also tested as the plot unfolds.
Most action-packed scene: In a chase scene between The Joker and Batman a helicopter crashes in the streets, cars explode, and a giant truck is overturned. But it's not enough to take down Gotham's most sinister villain. The Joker stands triumphant goading the caped crusader, and Batman is thrown from his Batcycle. It's almost game over. Almost.
11. John Wick (2014)
Action hero: John Wick
The plot: Director Chad Stahelski overcomes first-time jitters in his filmmaking debut, largely due to his experiences as a martial arts stunt co-ordinator, with a revenge actioner that throws in some dark motivating factors for Keanu Reeves leading man. His vendetta kill mission is the most dazzling work Reeves has accomplished since his first time tackling Neo.
Most action-packed scene: Wick enters a club wherein he punches, kicks, headbutts and shoots anyone who crosses his path. Each strike hits with an eerie precision.
10. The Matrix (1999)
Action hero: Neo
The plot: Ignore the ropey sequels. Forget Keanu Reeves' Pinocchio acting. Gloss over the cod philosophy. Whatever else it might be, the Wachowskis original sci-fi is all about the action; glorious, bullet-time, room-spinning, genre-defining action.
Most action-packed scene: Making shooting the shit out of innocent security guards look a bit too cool, Neo (Reeves) and Trinity's (Carrie-Anne Moss) slo-mo PVC assault on the lobby is the stuff of legend.
9. Gladiator (2000)
Action hero: Maximus Decimus Meridius
The plot: Russell Crowe's Maximus Decimus Meridius leads the Roman army under the ruling of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The two share an unshakable bond, much to the distain of Marcus snivelling son Commodus. In a back-stabbing move, Commodus kills his father and orders the guards to get rid of Maximus and his family. The Spanish-Roman General flees and vows to exact his revenge on the evil Emperor from inside the gladiator ring.
Most action-packed scene: Maximus earns a spot in the Colosseum fighting alongside Romes best gladiators in front of the Emperor. Commodus gazes down in glee at the blood bath unfolding before him, but his face quickly drops when Maximus reveals himself to his adoring public. Satisfying stuff.
8. Speed (1994)
Action hero: Jack Traven
The plot: Dastardly Dennis Hopper rigs a bomb to Sandra Bullock's bus that'll blow as soon as she drops below 50mph. With a lot of traffic on the road and her petrol running out fast, it's up to SWAT team officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) to jump aboard and save the day.
Most action-packed scene: Unable to take her foot off the accelerator, Annie (Bullock) has to gun it towards a broken section of the freeway hoping that the bus will be able to jump the gap
7. Aliens (1986)
Action hero: Ellen Ripley
The plot: Ridley Scott's atmospheric opener saw Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) trapped on a spaceship with a single Xenomorph, so it made sense for James Cameron's sequel to try and up the ante: an abandoned space colony, a unit of gung-ho marines and an entire hive of acid bleeding bugs.
Most action-packed scene: Confronting the queen in the bowels of the industrial complex, Ripley has a few nice mother-to-mother moments before later strapping into the power loader and fighting her claw to claw.
6. Predator (1987)
Action hero: Dutch
The plot: Arnie leads a Delta Force squad on a deep retrieval mission in the tropical (and fictional) locale of Val Verde, where it turns out every other military team sent in has been brutally slain by a mysterious creature. Soon enough, the entire crew are picked off one-by-one until only their leader remains. A classic that spawned some truly awful spinoffs.
Most action-packed scene: With no one left but Dutch and the Predator, the two hunters duke it out the only way they know how taking off their armor, smearing themselves in mud and fighting dirty.
5. The Rock (1996)
Action hero: Stanley Goodspeed
The plot: The ultimate Michael Bay movie, The Rock remains the template for dumb fun done right. Sean Connery is the ex-SAS specialist who gets released from prison so he can break back into terrorist held Alcatraz, with Nicholas Cage's FBI geek reluctantly tagging along for the ride.
Most action-packed scene: Pinned down by Captain Frye (Gregory Sporleder) with seconds to go until a chemical weapon is released into San Francisco, Stanley (Cage) crams a gas pearl into Frye's mouth, injects his own heart with atropine, lights a flare to call off an air strike and gets sent sailing through the air by an explosion... all in slow motion. So Michael Bay.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
Action hero: Batman/Bruce Wayne
The plot: Christopher Nolan's first film in the franchise follows Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) story, from his parents death, to his training in the League of Shadows, to his emergence as Gotham's winged protector. With tortured memories growing up as orphan, Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands and begins cleaning up the streets of Gotham as the caped crusader.
Most action-packed scene: Bruce's former mentor Ducard (Liam Neeson) gate-crashes a party at Wayne manor, setting it alight and leaving his protege for dead. The flames engulf the mansion, but he manages to escape. Brushing off near death, Bruce suits up and heads into Gotham where he and Ducard have it out aboard a speeding train. Pulse-pounding stuff.
3. True Lies (1994)
Action hero: Harry Tasker
The plot: It somehow takes Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) 15 years to realise that her husband (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is not a nerdy computer salesman. With Arnie actually an undercover super-spy embroiled in a nuclear arms smuggling sting, James Cameron takes the Terminator and makes him funny with explosive set-pieces to rival anything cooked up by Skynet.
Most action-packed scene: Piloting a jump-jet through the city streets, Arnie kills two birds with one stone, firing a missile (with Art Malick strapped to it) through a tower block, into a helicopter full of goons. All after a nifty one-liner, of course: You're fired!
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Action hero: The Terminator
The plot: The best summer blockbuster ever made? The best sequel? The best James Cameron movie? Possibly all of the above, T2 takes the groundwork laid by the 1984 original and expands it into one of the most solidly entertaining, technologically ground-breaking event movies ever made. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the time-travelling cyborg, this time switching sides to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong).
Most action-packed scene: Each set-piece in T2 builds up to the next, meaning the grand finale is exactly that. With Arnie battered and bruised from a truck chase, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) reformed out of a liquid nitrogen puddle, and Sarah struggling her way through a raging steel mill, the thrilling, relentless final showdown is awe-inspiring no matter how many times you watch it.
1. Die Hard (1988)
Action hero: John McClane
The plot: Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs. New York cop John McClane picks the first of many wrong places and wrong times to visit his wife at work, but for star Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan, the timing couldn't have been better. Putting an ordinary Joe in the middle of a firefight, confining a terrorist takeover to a single, claustrophobic building, and balancing quip-smart dialogue with hard and heavy action set-pieces, Die Hard set the mold and broke it at the same time.
Most action-packed scene: A rooftop bomb. A short fire hose. A plate glass window. The rest is history.