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Top Ten Action Films of the 21st century.

Updated on June 30, 2017

Some Films Are Just Too Awesome to Ignore.

The Criteria

  • Released after 2000
  • No films with excessive use of CGI
  • No Superhero Movies
  • No fantasy franchises
  • Only realistic action films included
  • No animated films

The Inspiration

The year was 1988, John McClane was en route to Nakatomi Plaza and the events that unfolded on that fateful day will forever be etched in the minds of all movie enthusiasts. To the action industry, Die Hard was a significant milestone which marked its rebirth after suffering from decades of poor scripts and ludicrous action choreography.

I have tried to list of some of the most influential and awesome action movies created in the 21st century. Well, everyone's taste differs, and I profusely apologize if you feel that I omitted your favorite movies.

I have watched almost all action films I could find, irrespective of language or culture or religion.

I have avoided films with excessive CGI and also tried to avoid superhero films and Fantasy franchises.

I have tried to list out the most realistic, brutal, stunningly choreographed films sublime visuals and excellent acting.

I believe an action film can be defined as a movie who's plot will not move along if we take out the action scenes, and in this list, I have adhered to that definition.

10. The Man From Nowhere (Ajeossi) 2010

A South Korean action film starring Won Bin (who incidentally looks like a K-POP singing neighbor) and written and directed by Lee Jeong Beom, The man from nowhere was the highest grossing Korean film in 2010.

The movie portraits the one man effort of the protagonist to save a little girl who is taken captive by organ harvesters. The girl being the hero's only worldly connection indeed means the world to him. The film portraits his effort to save the girl who may not mean much to others but means the universe to him.

The film is a visual spectacle with abundant martial art scenes all carefully choreographed and executed brilliantly by Lee Jeong Beom and Won-bin.The film tends to be gory, visceral and at times, to the pale-hearted, repellant.

The plot may seem like an evergreen one with the story of a cold, broken hero going all Rambo to save a little girl, but the real icing in the film is the way the movie revolves around the characters and its realistic execution.

The movie received positive ratings from the critics and was a blaster hit with the audiences too.

The Man From Nowhere

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9. 13 Assassins (Jûsan-nin no shikaku) 2010

Directed by the calculated, eccentric Takashi Miike,13 assassins is able to transport the viewer to the glory days of the Kurosawa era film making. A slash tactic film portraying the honor and courage of the samurais 13 assassins is not a film to be stomached by the general movie going public.

In this film,13 ready to die samurai assassins led by a seasoned master named Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho) faces off against 200 sword clad ed samurais protecting the evil warlord Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki). He is escorted by the loyal and duty bound Hanbei(Masachika Ichimura).

Though Hanbei exactly isn't favorable to the actions of his vilifying eccentric fear loving sadistic master, he is bound by duty and has pledged to serve his master to the death.

The ensuing face-off between good and bad gives us some of the most stunningly choreographed fight scenes with memorable deaths and lots and lots of gory action.

The film has been applauded by critics for the realistic portrayal of the Edo era of Japan, their lifestyle, culture and the unbounded sense of honor of the brave samurais.

13 Assassins

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8. Inglorious Bastards

Quentin Tarantino..!! Well, that explains the greatness of this movie. Made by the wishful creative Tarantino and starring Hollywood heart stealer Brad Pitt as Lt.Aldo Raine and Austrian actor Cristopher Waltz in his first Hollywood outing as Col. Hans Landa along with an array of many fantastic actors, Inglorious Bastards, was a superior movie in all aspects.

The movie had a sensible and engaging plot, brilliant script (scripted by Tarantino itself), fantastic acting, mesmerizing dialogues and powerful action scenes.

The film follows a group of Jewish soldiers calling themselves the "bastards" as they engage in brutal retribution against the Nazis. The purpose of their mission, being killing Nazis in the most brutal ways possible in order to strike fear into them and have it spread throughout their ranks.

The real gem that has come out from this movie is the acting brilliance of a little known Austrian star named Christopher Waltz, who has gained immense popularity and followers since his debut in this World War-2 era film.

Inglorious Bastards(2009)

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7. Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino again..!!that sums it up for the popularity of this Western flick. Written and directed by the talented Tarantino and starring Jamie Foxx as Django, Christopher Waltz as the lovable Dr. King Schultz, and all time favorite Leo DiCaprio as the ruthless Calvin Candle. The film pays homage to the black exploitation films of the 70s and handles the sensitive slavery issue meticulously.

This brilliant and brutal revenge western, with its fantastic double act from Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, is set among the slave plantations of pre-civil war South America. Christopher Waltz once against steals the show by his portrayal of the lovable and eccentric Dr. King Schultz, a kind yet uncompromising and candid former dentist turned bounty hunter with a heartwarming smile and faultless English.

The film was hailed all around film circles with many describing it as the next big thing from Tarantino after the explosive pulp fiction.

Django Unchained

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6.Taken (2008)

Featuring the grubby, crunchy, intangible Liam Neeson, Taken was Pierre Morel's first attempt at Hollywood filmmaking. And needless to say, he succeeded in it. Liam Neeson as the vengeful father ripping apart the streets of Paris in search of his daughter (Maggie Grace) who is abducted by human traffickers, is an absolute pleasure to watch. The film is visually excellent with breathtaking realistic fighting sequences and absolute stunning dialogue delivery by Liam Neeson.

The story revolves around the kidnapping of Kim (Maggie Grace) by ruthless Albanian human traffickers when she is following U2 at their Europe concert. The Albanians weren't aware of the fact that, u don't just anger Liam Neeson especially when he is a trained ex-CIA special agent.Using his special set of skills he goes on a spree of rampage which ultimately; as u can imagine; brings lots and lots of pain to the Albanian traffickers.

The film was praised for its quirky direction, powerful dialogues, brilliant execution and for the portrayal of Bryan Mills by Liam Neeson.

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5. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Matt Damon as the chilling super spy Jason Bourne, Bourne Ultimatum gives you enough thrills and chills that you will be glued to the screen from the beginning till the last minute until the credits roll. Based on the Bourne series by the talented novelist Robert Ludlam, Bourne Ultimatum is a film made to flabbergast the audiences.

The film picks where the Bourne Supremacy left off. Jason Bourne returns home to shatter the conspiracy that has put him in between the sea and the devil. Dragging everyone who is up against him into the Davy Johns Locker, Jason, facing an existential crisis tries to make it all right, with little regard to the way he chooses to accomplish it.

Mr. Damon portrays Jason Bourne with so much finesse that the character leaves behind a sense of brooding darkness and a haunting presence in the mind of the moviegoers.

A must watch for all those who are into the action genre, Bourne ultimatum sets the standard so high for future films that it becomes near impossible for action directors to satisfy the expectations of the viewers.

Bourne Ultimatum

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4. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Quentin Tarantino again and again..!! Kill Bill was my first exposure to Tarantino's style of filmmaking, maybe that's why I consider Kill Bill as his greatest achievement. I have seen the film countless times and each dialogue, every action sequence is still etched fresh like a morning lily in my memory. Starring the tall, blond Uma Thurman as the kick ass Bride who seeks revenge against her former mentor Bill, Kill Bill is one hell of a joy ride with numerous twists and enthralling visuals.

The film moves in a retro mood, with funky, quirky realistic slashing action with gruesome effects. It is said that over 450 gallons of fake blood was used in the two Kill Bill installments. Even though i have seen dozens of kurosava and honour above all samurai movies Kill Bill is the one true movie that made me fall in love with the samurai style.

The film got rave reviews from both critics and audiences together and is hailed as a masterpiece in modern film making. Tarantino became a golden star soon after its release, and by carefully choosing films and actors, he still retains that status. I recommend this fantastic quirky movie to every action fan who is truly entranced by the action genre.

Kill Bill Vol 1

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3. The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

Hype..!! that's what this film was all about..!! after the gargantuan success of the Raid Redemption (2011) the scale of expectation for Raid 2 was so high that I'm pretty sure Gareth Evans was under so much duress. Yet how he delivered such a cinematic masterpiece is beyond me. The Welsh-born director once lived on the earnings he got by teaching people Welsh. He started his career with a Japanese short film; the fact that he created such a humongous Indonesian film depicting Jakarta and the Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat in its all glorious beauty is a feat that must be applauded.

With Iko Uwais returning in his role as the smashing cop Rama, the Raid 2 boasts of some of the finest sequences ever to be depicted onscreen. The car chasing scenes is one of the best ever chronicled in the history of cinema(in my personal opinion, the other ones are the Audi car chase in From Paris with Love and the Bourne Ultimatum car chase).

It's difficult to single out an action scene in this movie as all of them are equally brilliant in its own right. Hammer girl, Baseball bat guy, Prakaso, the audience are presented with a long array of villains to chose from.

With the film being a massive worldwide hit, the third installment of the series is one of the most anticipated sequels people are rooting for.

The Raid 2 : Berandal

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2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The trailers didn't promise much, all we got was a handful of scenes of miscreants screaming and a masked Tom Hardy, so naturally, when I went to see the film, all I expected was an eyeful of Tom Hardy's masculine poses and some b-grade action scenes. Then the film started, after a while, the end credits rolled in. Then it clicked me, what i saw was a masterpiece.

Mad max is so beautifully and articulately crafted that 2 hours felt like 2 minutes. The film never paused, lagged or lost momentum, it took the viewers on a roller coaster ride of cinematic proportions. Tom hardy was cranky and snappy, Charlize Theron as Furiosa was breathtaking and Nicholas Hoult as Nux made us feel repentant towards War boys.

Wonderfully choreographed action scenes, with minimum use of CGI was a blessing for action fans who got tired of seeing endless CGI in so called action films, which took away their authenticity.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The Raid Redemption

1. The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan maut) 2011

I guess many of you are wondering why there is an influx of many Asian films on this list.Well, the answer is that some of them are just too good to ignore. To me, the perfect epitome of how an action film should be concocted lies in a small budget flick from Jakarta named Serbuaun Maut or when translated into English, The Raid Redemption.

Iko Uwais was a nobody who worked as a driver in a Telecommunication company until a man named Gareth Evans came along and asked him whether he is interested in showing off his Indonesian traditional martial arts, Silat skills. The duo created a full-blown action film about a group of police officers trapped in a building infested by ruthless, knife and Beretta wielding gangsters.Nobody ever though that film will rewrite the entire action genre.

Hailed as one of the best action films ever made, Raid Redemption became a sleeper hit and soon gained a cult status among audiences.The fighting scenes are so brutally realistic that we feel we really are in the midst of all the ruckus.

For anybody who has never watched this film, let me tell you, do watch it with high expectations, it my personal guarantee that you will not be dissapointed.

The Man From Nowhere
Jeong-beom Lee
13 Assasins
Takashi Miike
Inglorious Bastards
Quentin Tarantino
Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino
Pierre Morel
The Bourne Ultimatum
Paul Greengrass
Kill Bill
Quentin Tarantino
The Raid 2
Gareth Ewans
Mad Max
George Miller
The Raid
Gareth Ewans


Who do you think is the best Action Director in this list?

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