Whether they feature sword fights, car chases, or showdowns with aliens, action movies share a common theme: They incite feelings of tension and excitement that viewers can’t get anywhere else. Action fans line up at theaters to see their favorite heroes narrowly escape death through a combination of real-life stunt work and impressive visual effects. Moviegoers may not be interested in getting into a shootout or scaling a skyscraper themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy watching a movie star do it on the big screen.
For decades now, action has proven to be one of the most successful genres at the box office. Variety took a look at the best through the years and put together their list of the biggest all-time standouts in the category.
As you can see below, the list of best action movies covers some of the most acclaimed films of the last century, including Ben-Hur (1959), Seven Samurai (1954), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Sci-fi flicks like Aliens (1986) and The Matrix (1999) also make the cut, as do Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and The Wild Bunch (1969). Topping the ranking is 1981’s The Road Warrior—the movie that kicked off George Miller’s Mad Max franchise.
Scroll down to read through the 25 best action movies ever made according to Variety. If you’re looking to get into the genre, check out the best action movies you can watch on Netflix today.
Variety's 25 Best Action Movies
- The Road Warrior (1981)
- Die Hard (1988)
- North by Northwest (1959)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- Enter the Dragon (1973)
- The French Connection (1971)
- The Matrix (1999)
- Aliens (1986)
- Seven Samurai (1954)
- Bullitt (1968)
- Speed (1994)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
- Hard Boiled (1992)
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
- Ben-Hur (1959)
- The Wild Bunch (1969)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
- Heat (1995)
- The Wages of Fear (1953)
- Gladiator (2000)
- Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
- United 93 (2006)