Ever since the turn of the century and the rise of new technology to create better, more fluid visuals, there has been no genre that has undergone a significant change as the action genre. I love a good action flick. The genre has gained significant popularity in all forms of cinema in the last 20 years, and has proved to be a viable source through which different ideas can be expressed. Now, knowing that most great action movies also come under categories such as sci-fi and superhero (yes, that includes The Dark Knight, even though we don’t consider it to be), we’re going to leave those out. Here’s my list of the 10 best action movies made 2000 onwards:
10. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Director: Brad Bird
Ghost Protocol remains my favourite Mission Impossible installment to this day. Being Brad Bird’s live action debut, with his success in animated movies such as The Incredibles, he does a great job in making Ethan Hunt’s latest mission a little more impossible.
From dodging bullets underwater, to scaling the Burj Khalifa to having a gun fight atop stories of cars, Bird’s contribution to the series contains clever set pieces, good action sequences, Tom Cruise doing his usual thing, which leads to a well-made, well choreographed, and highly entertaining installment to the franchise.
9. Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Howard Wright
Baby Driver is simply delightful. A cinematic triumph for Edgar Wright.
The sheer originality of the movie alone makes it worthy enough to be called one of the best action movies in recent memory.
Add to that some amazing visuals, action sequences choreographed in sync to a KICKASS soundtrack, a cast of some of the coolest characters in cinema, and an amazing script, and you’ve got a definite top 10. Some people may call this movie a little cliched, but I do not concur with this opinion.
The way I see it, it’s a mix of some classic Hollywood components, a little gritty modern storytelling and the unique style and tone Edgar Wright brings to the film. And the soundtrack. Never forget the soundtrack. Baby Driver may very well make its way up this list in the future when it’s old enough to be considered a cult classic, but for now, it’ll make do with a #9 spot.
Where to Watch: Netflix
8. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Director: Paul Greengrass
The third installment was undoubtedly the best in the Bourne series. Until it all went downhill with future projects. The Bourne Ultimatum, however, is a mix of brains and brawn for both the titular character as well as the film itself. This film is as much of a suspense thriller as it is action.
The action scenes are absolutely brilliant, with the director’s intentions to make you feel every emotion, feel every punch and gunshot coming to full effect. The movie is smarter, and at the same time, more audacious. The film swept the Oscars in its technical categories, winning for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, for good reason.
7. Haywire (2011)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Haywire is an apt title for this one. In a good way, of course. In a film filled with male A-listers like Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton, director Steven Soderbergh brings to the forefront Gina Carrano as cop Mallory Kane, as she kicks all kinds of ass in this shaky but slick, well-edited, VERY well choreographed action sequences of the century.
With the sequences choreographed by the great J.J Perry, this movie has some of the best editing in an action movie this century, and is an absolute treat to watch. Could’ve been a potential money-making franchise, but what can you do?
Where to Watch: Netflix
6. Casino Royale (2006)
Director: Martin Campbell
Daniel Craig’s first outing as the legendary super spy is considered as one of the greatest movie renditions of the character. And for good reason. The mission is typical of the Bond franchise — defeating a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale. But Casino Royale also gave a more human look to the character of James Bond. The man behind the suit.
Unlike Pierce Brosnan’s classy spy look, Craig’s is more grittier, with a darker backstory to add more depth to the character. For Craig’s part, he plays the role in a newer, and superior fashion than most of the other Bond actors. But that’s just my opinion. Casino Royale is my favourite Bond film, and opened the door to a newer, more vulnerable version of 007, but much more brutal.
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Director: Ang Lee
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is perhaps director Ang Lee’s greatest achievement. Can you believe it’s been almost 20 years since it released? The highest-grossing foreign-language film in America earned rave reviews. It is a mixture of violence, dance and grace. The movie can only be described by the word ‘beautiful’.
The movie picked up 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. In a way, it also united the East and the West culturally, exposing the American public to a variety of Asian films, and a host of great action films they were missing out on.
Where to Watch: Netflix
4. Oldboy (2003)
Director: Park Chan-wook
Oldboy is all about the extremes. Torture, violence which take both the protagonist, Dae-su (played by Choi Min-sik) and the audience to psychological extremes. This movie is a Greek tragedy of sorts. An operatic action thriller. In this movie, we see how far one man goes in order to extract revenge.
Perhaps the most iconic scene is this movie is the one-take corridor brawl in which psychologically ravaged Dae-su takes on a score of goons. With a claw-hammer. In a movie filled with perfect performances, director Park Chan-wook showcases his genius with this action thriller which will suck you in, and leave you hooked till the very end. If you’ve got the stomach for it, that is.
Where to Watch: YouTube, Google Play
Recommended: 31 Best Korean Movies Of The 21st Century
3. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Director: Chad Stahelski
A lot of you may have been expecting the first movie. Everyone’s favourite dog-loving assassin is back and there are headshots aplenty.
The first John Wick is one of the best action movies of recent times, but if you ask me John Wick: Chapter 2 takes the action genre to a whole new level.
Just days after killing the people who killed his (first) dog, John is forced to go back in action to honour a blood oath he made years ago. More action, more bodies, more headshots. More everything. Oh, and Lawrence Fishburne’s in it too. With the third installment also getting rave reviews, the entire trilogy will soon become one of the greatest action franchises of all time. But, the second one was just surreal.
2. Kill Bill (2003-2004)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Kill Bill provides for some of the most iconic imagery and moments in Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. Starring Uma Thurman in her career-defining role, it told the story of a bride rejected at the altar slowly enacting revenge on everyone who did her dirty, leading up to the eponymous Bill himself.
The storyline seems weird, but the movie is Quentin Tarantino at his audacious best. The fight scenes with The Bride wielding her katana are some of the best choreographed sequences in Tarantino’s career.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller
One of the biggest criteria for an action movie is the pacing. Either it’s too fast, not even addressing the main plot points, or too slow with little to no fighting. Mad Max: Fury Road is absolutely perfect on this front, bringing us constant action right from the get-go, shifting gears (pun intended) in emphatic fashion.
The movie is called Mad Max: Fury Road, but it’s more Furiosa (Charlize Theron) than Max (Tom Hardy). There’s minimal dialogue in the movie, and that’s perfectly alright with me. The only additional dialogue this movie required was the praise it generated when it came out.
But beneath all the action and monster truck electric guitars, the movie sends a message as powerful as any political statement. Furiosa tries to save the dystopian world created by men, with the help of ol’ Max himself. It’s going to take quite some doing to knock this one of its perch.
What do you think are the best action movies of the century? Tell us your #top3 in the comments below.
I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.