This list is little more than a love letter to the actors that have brought me one of my favorite brand of films: the unapologetic action flick. Shit blowing up, over dramatic fight sequences, and high octane chase scenes is where my heart is. The summer is just around the bend, and these popcorn flicks are almost ready to plague the big screen. Over the years there have been a many an actor who’ve attempted the feat of becoming a huge action hero. But as many that have done it well, some of them have done it great, and even today I feel like the 90′s and especially the 80′s have left the last decade vacant of the true action star, but save a few. Here are the ten best, as I see fit.
10. Matt Damon
He rules as Jason Bourne and being Bourne has made him one of the best icons for action star in the past ten years easily, but Damon isn’t really an action hero, he’s just a good enough actor to play one really well. He’s just as content doing artsy flicks. Either way that range and ability to emote more than a stagnant face is what sets him apart from the crowd and definitely is one of my favorite actors working period right now.
9. Steve McQueen
Steven McQueen is the man, and people in today’s generation that haven’t explored his awesomeness need to go back and start looking up his movies. He’s still one of the smoothest dudes to ever grace the screen and is one of those guys who is actually a star. Unfortunately his untimely death from lung cancer in 1980 prevented him from making anymore movies but he’ll never be forgotten and has left us movies like Bullit, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Magnificent Seven to forever remember him.
8. Clint Eastwood
You can’t have a list like this and not include Clint Eastwood for Dirty Harry alone. Even though his career has been full of other wicked cool action heroes, Dirty Harry is probably the one that rings most true in mind. Eastwood has proven in his career that you can play fun, gun toting roles and still have it well acted with character. Mel Gibson can thank him for opening that door, which is essentially why Martin Riggs had a chance to exist.
7. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan has been busy making movies for fifty plus years and even today is still turning out the crazy action packed flicks, doing martial arts that some men in their twenties can’t do. What he really integrated was a great sense of humor and comedy, but still with some of the best martial arts ever on the big screen. Today he’s just as lovable and entertaining and with the release of the remade and vamped Karate Kid, he still has claim to the throne as one of the best action heroes of all time.
6. Harrison Ford
Han Solo, Jack Ryan, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard? Need I say more? Harrison created his own special brand of action hero. A guy who based his prowess on charm and charisma and mixed his stunts with a lot of realism giving his moments of action a great mix of comedy and belief.
5. Mel Gibson
He’s Martin freakin’ Riggs for craps sake. One of the greatest action characters ever created. While Gibson is well known for his role in the Lethal Weapon franchise, let us not forget years of work in films like Bird On A Wire, Mad Max, Tequila Sunrise, Braveheart, Ransom, and Payback. He just keeps making him, and his swagger, his likability, and actual true talent makes Gibson one of the greatest action heroes ever.
4. Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee changed action movies forever and will forever remain an icon of Kung Fu flicks and American action films. If not for his untimely death who knows where exactly where his career would have taken him. Even by today’s standards his athletic ability and his charm is unmatched in this part of cinema.
3. Bruce Willis
I could get slack for Willis being #5 instead of #1 or #2 and it’s a fair argument. Aside from his notorious role as John McClane he’s managed to have a solid career existence as mostly just an action guy, and has done it well, with only a few real stinkers in the midst. That’s an incredible feat and well worth acknowledging. Even today he isn’t retired from the action hero, and doesn’t feel tired. Willis is simply a cool fucking dude and few have ever blown shit up better than he has.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Come on the Governator still has it, but in his heyday Arnold was the epitome of what an action hero should be. Oddly charming, intimidating, and one of the buffest dudes to ever grace the screen. Arnold is lovable and fearsome. He’s made some of the most notorious action films of all time and played some of the most notable roles ever, and probably one of the most successful action stars ever.
1. Sylvester Stallone
In his youth Sly was one of the greatest, but even today there is such high demand for his classic roles that Sly is replaying those that made him famous with the new Rocky and Rambo, which actually were both really good movies, but still he’s now in his fifties and we rely on him for great action movies and stuff to blow up? Hell yes. He’s bringing us The Expendables. Let’s be honest, the trailer alone is any action film junkies wet dream. July is going to rock.
Honorable Mentions: Charles Bronson, Jason Statum, Wesley Snipes, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Jean Claude Van Damme, Antonio Banderas, Steven Segal, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fet, Chuck Norris, John Wayne, and Sean Connery
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