There’s nothing quite like kicking back and watching a good action movie every now and again. The fact that it is filed with all of the adventure, the excitement, the suspense that has you sitting on the edge of your chair — There is nothing that beats it. Over the many decades of the entertainment industry, we as an audience have seen our fair share of action stars that have made their mark on the world, even going so far as to build a major fan following that reaches all corners of the world. Some of these stars complete their own stunts, making the action and thrill all to real, and drawing us into the world of the film more and more. That’s why we are here; Today, we are going to reveal to you the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) of them all. In this article, we are about to count down the top twenty of the greatest action movie stars that have graced the big screen throughout the past few decades, and what makes them so iconic to fans all across the globe. With that said, let’s begin our count down of these amazing action heroes that have graced our screens:
When you think of action genre films, you can’t help but also think of the name Steven Seagal and his works. The well renowned actor is also a 7th dan black belt in aikido, and has spent the good majority of his life teaching and performing martial arts, including in several of his films. Some of his well known action films that he has been in during his career include projects like ‘Hard To Kill’, ‘Marked For Death’, ‘Out For Justice’, ‘Under Siege’, and a handful of others as well. His success that he had in the late ’80s and early ’90s helped to label him an action hero for life, as well as help him to create the fan following that he has to this day.
Chuck Norris is a name that also comes to mind when we think of action in the entertainment industry. Also a well renowned martial artist, he has used his many black belts and knowledge in his films and in his life as the years have gone on. While he has starred in predominantly action genre films, some of his more well known films that have been released include ‘Way of the Dragon’, the ‘Missing In Action’ films, and ‘Good Guys Wear Black’. He is also well known for his starring role on the action and crime series ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’, which aired from 1993 through to 2001. Chuck Norris is now 78 years old, and continues to work on small projects here and there, including a handful of commercials and other philanthropic work as well.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
The professional wrestler turned actor has made quite a name for himself in recent years, starring in some of the biggest blockbusters to hit theaters. Dwayne Johnson has taken on many different roles throughout his time in Hollywood, but we often see him in more action filled films as his physique is quite fitting, if we do say so ourselves. Some of his more prominent action film roles that he has taken on since busting into the industry include ‘The Scorpion King’, ‘The Fast And The Furious’ franchise of films, ‘Walking Tall’, and many other films as well. There seems to be no stopping Dwayne Johnson nowadays, as he has certainly become one of the most sought out actors in the industry in recent years through his versatility and presence as an actor.
Bruce Willis is definitely one of the more recognizable faces that has made its way into Hollywood, especially when you are looking at the action genre of film. With his tough stature and physique, Willis has been playing the action hero for decades now, starring in over 60 films throughout his career. Some of his more well known action roles and films include the ‘Die Hard’ franchise, ‘Looper’, ‘The Expendables 2’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘The Fifth Element’, ‘Red’, and many more as well. The actor is still continuing to make and release more action genre films in the coming years as well, showing that there is just no stopping Bruce Willis.
More than likely one of the more humble action heroes on this list, Keanu Reeves has made his claim to the genre in countless franchises throughout the years, drawing in a huge fan base that stretches the generations. While he is also an actor of many other skills, he has shown time and again the talent he has for creating timeless action films that gain a huge fan following, as we eluded to. Some of these films that he has starred in throughout his career in the industry include the ‘Matrix’ franchise films, ‘Point Break’, ‘Speed’, the ‘John Wick’ franchise films, as well as a handful of others. For all of the Keanu Reeves fans out in the world, you will be able to see the actor in a few more action films that are set to be released at some point this year.
You simply can’t make a list of the greatest action movie heroes of all time and leave out The Terminator. The Austrian born former Governor of California has also made a name for himself in Hollywood throughout the many years, and it may have helped slightly that Schwarzenegger grew up body building. Some of his action films that he has been in include ‘The Terminator’ franchise films, ‘Predator’, ‘Total Recall’, ‘Commando’, and many other films as well. Although many recognize him for these tough as nails roles, Schwarzenegger has also showed that he can play the comedic roles every now and again. However, it seems as though the 70 year old has some more action projects that are going to be coming to audiences within the next year.
Another name that many associate with the action hero category of actors is that of Mel Gibson. Gibson has been able to make a big name for himself in this genre of film, and has even been able to direct his own films as the years have gone on. Some of the more well known films that Gibson has starred in throughout his career include the ‘Lethal Weapon’ franchise, the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, ‘The Expendables 3’, and several other films. As we said before, Gibson has also made his way behind the screen, creating some of the most critically acclaimed films of our generation, including the action film ‘Apocalypto’ and ‘Braveheart’ (which he also starred in as well). Although there are many that often remember Gibson for his controversial opinions that have gotten him in trouble a few times, he is certainly making a comeback in the industry.
Another well known martial artist and actor that makes our list is the talented Jackie Chan. One of the things that makes him stand out among the rest is his ability to perform his own stunts that are completed with perfect comedic and powerful timing, and his stunning acrobatic style. Many of his films fall into the more action-comedy genre, including films such as the ‘Rush Hour’ franchise films, the ‘Police Story’ franchise films, ‘Shanghai Noon’, and several other films as well. Although there are a handful of his films that aren’t critically acclaimed, Jackie Chan has still managed to make quite a name for himself throughout his career through other projects.
An actor that has also been making a big name for himself in recent years is that of Vin Diesel. (Fun Fact: Did you know that his real name is actually Mark Sinclair?) While Diesel is often cast in the tough guy, action hero category, we have also seen him add some comedic relief to many of his films as well. Some of these well renowned action films that Vin Diesel has starred in throughout his career include works such as ‘The Fast And The Furious’ franchise films, ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ franchise films, and the ‘xXx’ franchise films. He has also lent his voice to the Marvel Universe, playing the role of Groot in the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Avengers’ franchise films that have been released in recent years and that will be released in the future as well.
There’s always a bit of “Risky Business” (pun intended) when we look at the filmography of Tom Cruise. The actor has most certainly made quite name for himself as an action hero throughout the course of his career, and only continues to work toward that lasting title. He is also an action star that is known to perform quite a great deal of his own stunts throughout his films, making them that much more iconic and real. Some of Cruise’s more predominant roles in this genre include, of course, the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise films, and has also starred in the reboot of ‘The Mummy’ franchise films as well. With his charming looks and his ability to perform the most fearful of stunts to create the perfect action hero, you can’t go wrong, right?
Yet again, we have another actor who has a strong background as a martial artist making our list. Wesley Snipes has made his mark throughout the course of a couple decades in the industry, especially in the action genre. Some of his more well known action films that have been released include his work as the Marvel hero ‘Blade’ and its franchise films, ‘Demolition Man’, ‘U.S. Marshals’, ‘Passenger 57’, and a handful of others as well. During his career thus far, the 55 year old actor has also created a couple of production companies (Amen-Ra Films and Black Dot Media – 1991) that helped to develop a great deal of projects for both television and film as well.
Here we have another actor that you simply can’t create this list without mentioning. Sylvester Stallone has proved his action chops throughout the course of his fantastic career, creating a huge fan following with his many different film franchises that took the world by storm. Some of these prominent works include the ‘Rocky Balboa’ franchise films, the ‘Rambo’ franchise films, and ‘The Expendables’ franchise films as well. He has also had many other roles throughout his career that span the entire genre spectrum in the industry, and is still appearing in films and other projects to this day. Honestly, there is no beating Sylvester Stallone when it comes to the ultimate action hero, right?
Award winning actor Kurt Russell has been making a name for himself in the entertainment industry since the ’60s, and continues to play in new projects and films to this day. Although he is known to cover all genres throughout the spectrum, including drama, comedy, et cetera, he has definitely had his fair share of action roles as well. Some of the most prominent action roles that Russell has starred in include ‘Death Proof’, ‘The Hateful Eight’, ‘Escape From New York’, and his roles in the final two films of ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise films. Although his action projects are dwindling, Kurt Russell is still making films and other projects that are attracting fans from all places.
We’ve got to mention Bond — James Bond, right? Although Sean Connery has since retired from acting, he has still made a lasting impression on fans all across the world. The Scottish actor was actually the first of a slew of actors to portray the iconic role of the suave James Bond. Some of his action based films that he starred in throughout his career included, as we mentioned before, the ‘James Bond’ film franchise projects, ‘The Untouchables’, ‘Entrapment’, and a handful of others as well. All we can say is that Sean Connery is one of the action actors on this list that has most certainly had a legendary and lasting career.
We are once again listing another martial artist on our list, and this is by far one of the most legendary and iconic that we will come to see. Bruce Lee became such an acclaimed actor at such a young age, both nationally and internationally as well; He unfortunately passed away at the age of 32 of a cerebral edema, according to the autopsy that was conducted. Before his death, however, he was able to release five critically acclaimed action films during his short lived career, which included ‘The Big Boss’, ‘Fist of Fury’, ‘Way of the Dragon’, ‘Enter the Dragon’, and ‘The Game of Death’. We can only imagine the huge action star he would have become if not for his untimely death that came too soon.
For many in our generation today, you will often recognize Clint Eastwood for his phenomenal directorial work that has been released in the recent years, winning him countless awards and bragging rights all the same. However, during the earlier years of his career, Eastwood was also a well renowned actor, especially in the action and Western genre of film. He has also released a great deal of films in which he both directed and starred in a major role. Some of his most well known action works include the ‘Dirty Harry’ film franchise, the Western film ‘Unforgiven’, ‘In the Line of Fire’, ‘Where Eagles Dare’, and several others as well. These films vary all different topics and stories, including several Western based films (as we have mentioned before), as well as war films, and other categories. It seems as though there is no stopping Clint Eastwood when it comes to his fantastic career in the entertainment industry.
Liam Neeson is another actor that is expected to be listed as one of the greatest action actors of our generation. His films often revolve more around the idea of suspense and action genres, keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film. Of course, his most well known action roles are that of the ‘Taken’ franchise films, but he has also been in several other films of the same nature, including ‘The Grey’, some of the ‘Star Wars’ film franchise, ‘The Commuter’, and so on. Neeson also has a few other films that are in post production and will be released in the coming years as well. With all of that said, if you live for the mystery and thrilling suspense in your action films that keeps you guessing until the last five minutes, a Liam Neeson film is definitely the way to go.
Harrison Ford is another actor on our list that has made a name for himself in the many decades of his career in the entertainment industry. His several lead roles in franchise film projects has helped him to gain a major fan following throughout the years, and he continues to make appearances in several films today. Some of his most critically acclaimed action films and projects that he has been in include his work as Hans Solo in the original ‘Star Wars’ film franchise, the ‘Indiana Jones’ film franchise, the ‘Blade Runner’ film franchise, ‘The Fugitive’, ‘Air Force One’, ‘Apocalypse Now’, and several others as well. The 75 year old actor, as well mentioned before, is still releasing projects in the years to come.
Jason Statham is yet another actor who has only recently been making his way in the entertainment history as a major force to be reckoned with in the action genre. The English actor is keen to take the action thriller roles that come about, but he has surely been able to spot those block buster hits to say the least. Some of the more prominent action thriller roles that Statham has starred in over the years of his career thus far include ‘The Italian Job’, ‘The Expendables’ film franchise, ‘The Mechanic’ film franchise, ‘The Fast and the Furious’ film franchise, ‘The Transporter’ film franchise, and several others as well. These films have led to his becoming a leading actor in the industry, as we have eluded to, and only continues to keep his action based career going strong.
Finally, we conclude with yet another martial artist on our list — Seeing a trend here? Jet Li has found much success in the action film genre of the entertainment industry, and internationally at that. He is often cast as the character villain of the film or project that he is working on, as opposed to the hero that we have been seeing on our list. Either way, it has led to major success for the Chinese actor. Some of his more prominent roles that he has taken on during his career include ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’, ‘The Expendables’ film franchise, ‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’, ‘Lethal Weapon 4’, and several other projects as well. He doesn’t seem to have any film projects in the work as of yet, but we are sure the actor will be making another move in his career sometime soon.
As you can see from our list, there are many different actors of all ages, and of all genres, that have made a lasting impact when it comes to all things action in the entertainment industry. While some are just making their way into the industry and making a name for themselves among fans and audiences everywhere, others have been using their skills to continue their careers and make their way behind the camera, creating films that stand the test of time. Either way, there is just no comparing the greatest of the great when it comes to this action and suspense. This has been our list of the top twenty greatest action movie stars of all time — Actors that are legendary action heroes and antiheroes in their own way. To find a complete list of the action films that the stars have been in, or to get more information on these individual actors in general, you can find everything you need online.