The 25 best action movies to get your adrenaline pumping

The grizzled good guy goes up against the coiffed bad guy. The plot unravels via multiple, escalating explosions. A high speed chase is thrown in for good measure. And let's not forget the ker-azy showdown of epic proportions. Action movies on the whole tend to follow a certain formula. We come to expect these elements when we're hunkered down on the couch, wide-eyed with the bass boost set to max. Knowing what's coming doesn't detract from our enjoyment of this balls-to-the-wall genre, though. No siree! It's savoring those bonkers moments one after the other that makes actioners such a riot, every single time.

With action movies we get to bask in a world where Tom Cruise dangles risk-free from planes and Nicolas Cage's mullet flutters in the breeze. Yes, they might push the boundaries of realism... but boy, are they fun. Here's the very best 25 action movies that'll get your pulse racing and your inner adrenaline junkie shrieking like you've just driven a car out of a plane at 35,000 ft.  

25. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) 

Action heroes: Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, Harry Hart  

The film: 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. Atomic Blonde (2017)

Action hero: Lorraine Broughton, David Percival

The film: Lorraine Broughton is a top British agent sent into 1980s Berlin to retrieve a defector with information on a mole, as well as a list of high value operatives everyone’s trying to get hold off. It’s all relayed via recaps in a post mission debriefing, where it’s clear clear no one can be trusted and there’s a reason why she usually punches first and asks questions later. 

Most action-packed scene: While checking out another spies flat Lorraine is surprised by the police. She proceeds to take 10 of them down with nothing but a coil of hose pipe and George Michael blasting from the stereo to mask the fighting as she moves from room to room.

23. Air Force One (1997)

Action hero: President Marshall

The film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 film: 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 Seddon

Gem Seddon is GamesRadar+'s west coast Entertainment News Reporter, working to keep all of you updated on all of the latest and greatest movies and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Outside of entertainment journalism, Gem can frequently be found writing about the alternative health and wellness industry, and obsessing over all things Aliens and Terminator on Twitter.