20 Action Movies You Must See Before You Die

Because explosions are the best.

Action movies provoke a reaction from movie-goers like no other; sometimes it almost feels as if the cinematic medium was invented so that we could watch people punching the faces off of other people, whilst a car (or cars, preferably) explode in the background. Action movies play into our innate love of heroism and violence - whether or not you're into them or not, there's probably very few people on Earth who would deny the appeal of watching a badass hero jumping from a ledge, dispatching several enemies with a machine gun, and delivering a catchy one-liner like: "Sorry, guys. Did that... hurt?" Okay, so we'll leave the one-liners to the screenwriters. Join us now, however, as we countdown 20 action movies that you'd be downright stupid to miss before your time on this Earth is up. These are the best of the best; movies specifically built around the notion that people need to get killed in large quantities, things need to ignite and combust on a regular basis, and that nothing beats a good set-piece. To make the cut, there were a few considerations that we used to define action movies: firstly, the movies had to be designed specifically as action flicks - that's to say, they were intended mostly as excuses to pile up extensive scenes of action fare, with - in most cases - less emphasis on plot (so Braveheart wouldn't make the cut, exactly). We also left off any movies we'd already covered in any other articles in this series, so don't fret if you don't find some established action classics here as they're probably on the sci-fi or fantasy lists; we simply didn't want to recommend the same movies twice (and no comic book movies, westerns or war flicks, either, as we're saving them for later lists). Without further ado...

20. Fast Five (2011)

Who would have thought it possible for a series that appeared to be regressing with every added chapter to carve out its best film in the fifth installment? And yet Fast Five (of the Fast and Furious franchise, in case you've been living in a cave somewhere) did the seemingly impossible in the wake of what are genuinely regarded to be several rather terrible films. The key to success here came n the decision to abandon much of the metal-headed car culture aspects, whilst turning the focus onto a heist storyline complete with mind-blowing action sequences. For action lovers, this movie is heaven - the set-pieces, most of them built around car chases, are brilliant and near cartoonish - sparks fly, and explosions€ well, explode. But Fast Five is remarkable not just for its action sequences, but in the way that it managed to rebrand the franchise in a single film whilst retaining its original audience demographic and giving everybody else the chance to get in on the fun. This is about as unpretentious as movies come, as a lively cast of characters - two of which are played by loveable boneheads Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - assemble to offer up one of the most enjoyable action flicks of modern times.

Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.