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10 Best Action Movies That Helped Revolutionize The Genre


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Summary

  • Action movies with impactful storytelling and artfully planned fight sequences have the most impact.
  • Seven Samurai, Goldfinger
    , and
    Enter the Dragon
    are influential action movies that revolutionized the genre.
  • Films like
    Star Wars, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction,
    and
    Iron Man
    changed the landscape of action movies with their unique contributions.

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Amid the slew of bland action movies overwhelmed with CGI, there is a rare movie that completely revolutionizes the genre. The best action movies of all time changed the genre with groundbreaking special effects, elaborate fight scenes, and meaningful storylines. Special effects have become more vital to the action genre with the rise of fantasy and sci-fi movies, but some of the most influential action directors rely upon practical effects.

However, while effects are important, the action movies with the most impact are the ones that invest time in just that – the action. Dedication to masterfully planned fight sequences went a long way for movies, including Seven Samurai, Enter the Dragon, and John Wick. The amazing action hopefully complements good storytelling: Like with any other genre, action movies should have sophisticated and meaningful plots.

10 Seven Samurai (1954)

Akira Kurosawa’s landmark movie is responsible for every ensemble adventure.

Seven Samurai

Directed by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai is an epic Drama and Samurai film that revolves around a group of farmers in 1586 Japan that band together to hire Ronin to help protect themselves and their families from bandits that plan to steal from them.

Release Date
April 26, 1954

Director
Akira Kurosawa

Cast
Toshiro Mifune

Runtime
207minutes

Legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is considered one of the best movies of all time of any genre and spawned several remakes and movies with derivative plots. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of Seven Samurai with a different setting, while the plot of A Bug’s Life is heavily inspired by it. Seven Samurai is an in-depth action-adventure, period piece, and Western. It tells a compelling story, features unprecedented action sequences (in the rain), and is credited with kicking off the “assembling the team” trope. In this way, everything from The Avengers to Fast & Furious is influenced by Seven Samurai.

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9 Goldfinger (1964)

The James Bond movie that created the espionage thriller.

Sean Connery's James Bond smoking a cigarette in Goldfinger

Goldfinger is regarded as the movie that solidified the James Bond franchise in pop culture after the writers stumbled through Sean Connery’s first two Bond movies. Some hallmarks of the Bond franchise were first included in Goldfinger, such as the post-credits scene and a song by a pop artist as part of the soundtrack. However, Goldfinger is the most important Bond movie because of how it created several tropes of the espionage genre, namely the use of many high-tech gadgets. Goldfinger’s influence can be seen leading up to the recent Kingsman movies.

8 Enter The Dragon (1973)

Bruce Lee’s definitive movie set the bar for all martial arts movies.

Bruce Lee as Lee in a martial arts stance and bleeding from several wounds in Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon is known as the definitive martial arts movie and has inspired a wide range of movies and video games. It was released a month after Lee’s death and was his only movie to be released in Hollywood. Enter the Dragon kicked off a martial arts craze in Hollywood and cemented Lee’s status as a cinematic legend. The movie’s legacy can be seen in the evolution of on-screen hand-to-hand combat. However, Enter the Dragon has also stood the test of time because of its excellent script that supports the action.

7 Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars redefined the space adventure and influenced movies in every genre.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

The film that began the Star Wars franchise, Episode IV – A New Hope tells the story of wistful Force-sensitive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who longs to leave his home planet of Tatooine to fight the evil Empire. After inheriting his Jedi father’s weapon, a lightsaber, Luke sets off under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) with smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to join the Rebellion and face the evil Darth Vader.

Star Wars was instrumental in the advancement of special effects, the creation of the summer blockbuster, and the proliferation of the Hero’s Journey storyline in pop culture, which appears in movies including The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. Star Wars also had a huge impact on the space genre: Directors including Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan have cited its influence on Alien and Interstellar, respectively. Star Wars can also be credited with transforming the fandom experience, bringing more fans to the theater for a fantasy/sci-fi event than ever before.

6 Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis introduced a new type of action hero.

Bruce Willis as John McClane shouting and running while holding a gun in Die Hard.

Die Hard

An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.

Release Date
July 15, 1988

Cast
Bruce Willis , Bonnie Bedelia , Reginald VelJohnson , Paul Gleason , William Atherton , Hart Bochner

Runtime
132 minutes

Bruce Willis was not a typical action star at the time Die Hard was released, and John McClane was not a typical protagonist. However, Die Hard made waves with its down-to-earth hero, brilliant villain, and high-stakes yet contained plot. Speed has been called “Die Hard on a bus” and Air Force One “Die Hard on a plane.” Additionally, merely by launching Willis to fame, Die Hard had an impact on the action genre and cinema as a whole: Willis would go on to star in other influential movies, including Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense.

5 Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino combined action and black comedy in a groundbreaking way.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s classic tale of violence and redemption follows the intertwining tales of three protagonists: hitman Vincent Vega, prizefighter Butch Coolidge, and Vincent’s business partner Jules Winnfield.

Release Date
October 14, 1994

Runtime
154 minutes

Pulp Fiction features Quentin Tarantino’s unrivaled dialogue and an elegant, roundabout non-linear narrative. Tarantino’s action movies have relatively little action and focus on the mentality of the characters, surrounding a few scattered, very bloody fight scenes. This is how both Reservoir Dogs and PulpFiction are structured. Pulp Fiction is such a unique and effective action movie that other directors inevitably tried to create their own versions of its black comedy and engaging gangster characters. The Boondock Saints and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels are among the movies influenced by Pulp Fiction.

4 The Matrix (1999)

The Wachowskis’ franchise introduced new fights and new aesthetics.

The Matrix obviously played a large role in the action sub-genre of virtual reality and robot uprising movies. It has become such a staple in pop culture that it is constantly referenced in other media, alongside the likes of Star Wars. However, The Matrix also changed action movies with its spectacular fight scenes, featuring gravity-defying and slow-motion stunts that have been replicated countless times. Additionally, its original cyber-punk, green-tinted aesthetic stood out among the action movies at the time. The Wachowskis’ franchise introduced a new world of possibilities and expectations for action sequences.

3 Iron Man (2008)

The movie that started the MCU and the rise of superheroes.

Iron Man's armor in 2008's Iron Man

Iron Man

Iron Man is the first film in the long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, who becomes Iron Man after he is kidnapped and discovers terrorists are using weapons developed by Stark Industries. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Tony’s love interest Pepper Potts alongside Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan and Jeff Bridges as the villainous Obadiah Stane.

Release Date
May 2, 2008

Runtime
126 minutes

Moviemakers were beginning to realize the potential of live-action superhero movies, with some blunders and some hits coming out in the 1990s and early 2000s. Sam Raimi made an impression with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, while Christopher Nolan worked on his highly acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy. However, no superhero movie has had the same impact as Iron Man. With a charismatic protagonist and a straightforward story, Iron Man introduces a quasi-realistic superhero setting that is not grimdark. Of course, Iron Man also implies the beginnings of the MCU, which would grow beyond any action franchise in history.

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2 John Wick (2014)

John Wick brought elaborate action back to movies.

John Wick holding a gun in a club in John Wick

John Wick

John Wick is the first entry in the action-thriller franchise directed by Chad Stahelski and starring Keanu Reeves. Retired hitman John is brought back into the field when the dog his recently deceased life left him is murdered. Full of rage and equipped with unparalleled combat skills, John begins to track down the ones responsible for the act of violence and lays waste to any who dare to cross his path, sending panic throughout the criminal underworld.

Release Date
October 24, 2014

Director
Chad Stahelski

Cast
Michael Nyqvist , Willem Dafoe , Jason Isaacs , Keanu Reeves , Bridget Moynahan , Adrianne Palicki , Alfie Allen , John Leguizamo

Runtime
101 Minutes

Most people would not have expected the premise of a hitman coming out of retirement to avenge his dog to be a landmark action movie. Yet John Wick’s commanding protagonist and fascinating underworld setting rattled the action genre. Keanu Reeves’ commitment to performing most of the stunts himself played no small part in the movie’s influence. John Wick is credited with ending the shaky cam trend in action movies, which can be used to obfuscate sub-par choreography. The John Wick movies’ fights highlight the action in a way many action movies don’t, no matter how much dramatic music they use.

1 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

George Miller returned to Mad Max with unparalleled success.

Mad Max: Fury Road features vivid world-building, practical stunts, and a heartrending story with real-world implications. According to Kevin P. Sullivan (via Entertainment Weekly), “Ever since George Miller returned to his burnt-out wasteland of a future for […] the bar for cinematic thrills has been raised.”Edgard Wright and Christopher Nolan have cited Fury Road as an influence on Baby Driver and Dunkirk, respectively. The intense, meticulously planned non-stop action of Fury Road has no rival (for now). Moviemakers can only hope to create something like Fury Road that will set a new standard in a genre.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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