The 25 best action movies to get your adrenaline pumping

Good guy versus a bad guy, multiple explosions, a high speed chase and/or a trigger happy showdown of epic proportions. The majority of action movies usually include one or all of the above. That doesn't mean we should all groan whenever the next Sly/JCVD/Arnie/ Dolph Lundgren (OK, maybe a bit) movie arrives. See, what makes this balls-to-the-wall genre so much fun is its flexibility. Well yes, the actors are limber, but I'm talking about how some of the best actioners blend together elements from other cinematic areas. Vigilantes, time travelling robots, bank robbers, and uh, extraterrestrials can make these flicks waaay more entertaining to watch. We've rounded up 25 of the best action movies out there to get your adrenaline pumping and trust us, it wasn't easy.  

25. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) 

Action heroes: Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, Harry Hart  

The plot: With a life of crime likely his only career option, Taron Egerton's young layabout Eggsy discovers that his deceased father was actually a member of a special British intelligence agency called Kingsman. He's soon recruited into the service by his dad's comrade Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and the pair set about bringing down a villainous buffoon Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who plots to take over the world.  That's what action movie villains do.

Most action-packed scene: Part of Valentine's "free SIM cards for everyone!" scheme turns on Harry. He tracks the baddie down to a Kentucky church - but it's a trap, and everyone's cell phones emit a signal that turns them into violent, unforgiving brutes. Four minutes later and Harry's the last man standing.  

Watch Kingsman: The Secret Service now on Amazon Prime Video

24. 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 set to the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. 

Watch Face/Off now on Amazon Prime Video

23. Air Force One (1997)

Action hero: President Marshall

The plot: Harrison Ford plays the American President who has his plane hijacked by Gary Oldman's Russian terrorist. Luckily, POTUS 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!

Watch Air Force One now on Amazon Prime Video

22. Taken (2008)

Action hero: Bryan Mills

The plot: Liam Neeson is unstoppable as former CIA operative Bryan 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.

Watch Taken now on Amazon Prime Video

21. 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. 

Watch Con Air now on Amazon Prime Video

20. Dredd (2012)

Action hero: Judge Dredd

The plot: Director Pete Travis, writer Alex Garland and star Karl Urban laid Stallone's 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. What more do you need when it's done this well?

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.

Watch Dredd now on Amazon Prime Video

19. 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. Shame this year's Jason Bourne didn't continue that trend.

Most action-packed scene: Each Bourne movie is known by its car chase, and Ultimatum tops the lot. This chase around Tangier starts on foot, goes up over the rooftops and finishes with a rollercoaster motorbike ride through the city streets.

Watch The Bourne Ultimatum now on Amazon Prime Video

18. 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.  

Most action-packed scene: The most riveting scene 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. 

Watch Skyfall now on Amazon Prime Video

17. 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. Well, not all of them, she had to save some for Vol. 2.

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. 

Watch Kill Bill Vol. 1 now on Amazon Prime Video

16. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) 

Action heroes: Ethan Hunt 

The plot: You've seen a Mission: Impossible movie before, right? Ethan Hunt and his ragtag bunch of witty tech heads are on their own this time, as the IMF is officially decommissioned. That doesn't stop them from trying to take down the Syndicate - a rogue group of operatives attempting to bring about global chaos through terrorism. Another day in the office for Hunt and pals! 

Most action-packed scene: That bit where Ethan Hunt dangles from a plane as it's taking off. Proof that this type of major, uber-expensive set piece ain't no thing for producers anymore, this insane moment rolls out before the opening credits. What's most impressive is that Cruise did the whole stunt himself.   

Watch Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation now on Amazon Prime Video


Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.


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