When it comes to movie-watching preferences, I’ve got some excellent news for you. If a movie has action and adventure components, it can go from decent to great. These aspects can be found in a variety of film genres, from spy thrillers to historical dramas to gritty crime stories, so even if you’re not a fan of superheroes or sci-fi, you may still find something on this list that you and your partner love. There are obviously some Marvel and DC films on this list, but each picture can be enjoyed on its own merits, without an encyclopedic knowledge of comics, sci-fi, or anything else.
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A handful of the best adventure films of the last 60 years are included here, but each has a cool, distinct approach to action within the plot that makes it enjoyable in its own right. Some of these are classics, but you never know which ones can catch you off guard. It’s possible that some of them aren’t even in your wheelhouse. In many cases, they’ll surprise you with a conclusion that you didn’t expect (I tried to avoid large spoilers, but if you’d rather not know anything, go watch before reading this review). Maybe you’ll fall in love with it!
1. Black Panther
Black Panther, widely regarded as one of the best Marvel films, if not the best (it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards for the first time ever), also boasts an excellent action plot. After the death of his father, T’Challa assumes the throne of Wakanda and quickly discovers how difficult it is to run a country. Michael B. Jordan and the best supporting cast in the business make this a must-see for fans of both acting and action-packed films. As a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, who discreetly filmed the Marvel feature while undergoing treatment for colon cancer, this film will live on in memory forever. You’d be hard-pressed to tell based on how strong his presence is on screen.
2. Black Panther
As a military veteran who lost his wife in a “accident,” Mads Mikkelsen’s character may have been murdered. It has sparked his need for vengeance, and he is now unstoppable. Mikkelsen has a long history of taking on projects that are out of the ordinary, but this one is exactly what he’s looking for. A lot of Dr. Strange villain’s “running around and fighting” talents are used here, but the emotional weight is a considerably heavier. Don’t let the fact that it’s in a foreign language prevent you from seeing it. It’s exhilarating in the greatest possible manner.
3. Inside Man
Spike Lee tackles the heist film genre, and he does so brilliantly. As is characteristic of Lee films, there is insightful commentary on race, justice, and class, but it is matched with a tale that never lets up. As Clive Owens explains to us with a smile, we already know the Whodunnit, but the why and how are up to us to discover. If you’ve never seen it, I guarantee you won’t be able to predict the final outcome.
4. The Old Guard
A group of immortal warriors led by Charlize Theron, known as Andy, attempt to maintain obscurity while administering justice from the shadows. When a new member joins their team, the delicate balance they’ve worked so hard to maintain is thrown into disarray. The movie is based on a popular comic book series, so there’s a fair amount of ass-kicking, but it’s also a thoughtful look at what might happen to a person who lived for hundreds of years. A sequel is in the works because the film was so good.
5. Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope
Since this list is so long, there are many more Star Wars films that I could include (and I’m one of the few that prefers this overEmpire Strikes Back). Carrie Fisher’s initial performance will never be replaced for me. Even after all the anticipation, this was still enjoyable to watch as a kid. In the sci-fi genre, this is a film that has defined the genre for decades. My first empowered female protagonist was a result of this book.
6. Jackie Brown
In addition to being a tribute to blaxploitation, Quentin Tarantino’s film is also one of his most subtle and insightful. Jackie is played by Pam Grier, a celebrity of the 1970s and 1980s blaxploitation genre. With a half-million dollar plan, she’s a flight attendant in trouble with the law. She is pursued by a large number of law enforcement officers and criminals.
Several Christopher Nolan films might be included on this list because of their emphasis on adventure and sophisticated story twists.. Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a thief who sneaks into a person’s mind while they’re asleep, plants an idea, and escapes unscathed is maybe the best example of this. However, it’s more sophisticated than that and still manages to work in the end. Plus,thatending.
8. The Terminator
I see why many people prefer the second film to the first. Linda Hamilton’s performance as Sarah Conner as an asskicker is a lot of fun to see. That being said, I think this is the picture that had the most fun imagining the “basic” plot of an unkillable robot and a man sent back in time to save his mother from the Skynet—an artificial intelligence meant to protect the world that turns against its creators. “(It’s a lot of fun.)” This is a standard that few films can meet.
9. Birds of Prey
When Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn breaks up with the Joker, she and a ragtag group of misfits face off against crime lord Roman Sionis in Suicide Squad (Ewan McGregor, really enjoying himself). Suicide Squad 2 is essentially the best character from the original film dialed up to 11. When you throw in the other members of her team and some witty dialogue, the outcome is pure joy.
10. Enemy of the State
This is where some of the portrayals of technology have not done well. It’s a good idea to suspend your disbelief for a time and concentrate on the performances: When he mistakenly picks up confidential information, Will Smith’s character, Robert Clayton Dean, becomes hacked and tracked. Gene Hackman as Brill, a grumpy and secretive tech expert who helps Dean in his battle to survive. “How are these people going to get out of this situation?” In the second half, it’s a clever buddy movie that keeps you guessing the whole time.
11. Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow
Despite the best efforts of the film’s promoters, it was not given a fair opportunity at the box office. As soon as it became available on streaming, the film became a Tom Cruise classic. After being splashed in the face with alien gunk during a combat, Cruise immediately succumbs to his wounds. And then the next day, he wakes up and relives the same day, dying over and over again until he figured out how to stop it. This film is a combination of Groundhog Day and Alien Day.
12. North by Northwest
“The Birds” helped pave the road for the action movies that followed. Some of the most memorable scenes in film history are featured in this picture, which has a Mad Men-era flavor to it (including a nail-biting plane chase in a cornfield). It’s like an action movie version of Casablanca.
13. Mad Max: Fury Road
For anyone familiar with the filmmaking process, you’ll know that it took years and was beset by difficulties both on and off the set. Then again. One of the best action pictures of the 21st century was made possible by longstanding filmmaker George Miller, who had a rocky production. It never lets up, from its depiction of a prickly, sand-filled wasteland to the straightforward idea of “catch me if you can.” His wives are gone, and they’ll stop at nothing to get them back from the cult leader. When the driver’s car breaks down, Max (Tom Hardy) is forced to assist him, albeit grudgingly (Charlize Theron). It’s game on now.
It’s a sci-fi action flick, just like Terminator and Star Wars. However, it takes the first film’s idea (an extraterrestrial chest-burster transforms into a disgusting demon-bug out in deep space) and cranks it up to eleven. Several more lines. More weaponry are needed. More aliens are on the way. Shockingly good acting from Sigourney Weaver, who plays a tough mother and murderer in the same scene.
15. Master and Commander
In terms of iconic Russell Crowe action films, Gladiator might seem like the obvious choice. The action in Master and Commander, on the other hand, is a lot more exciting. On a British navy ship, the story’s hyper-focus works effectively for the story’s purpose In the film, we observe the tense relationship between crew members, the claustrophobia that comes from sharing a limited space, and the terror of fighting from a ship in the middle of the ocean. You may not enjoy this if you are claustrophobic or squeamish, but if you are, it is a worthwhile two-hour investment.
16. Die Hard
Oh, my my, this is my fave movie ever. As of late, this picture serves as an overt homage to Alan Rickman’s career highlights from the 1980s (R.I.P., one of the best actors of any generation). It’s a well-paced action extravaganza that never sags, never loses focus, and is constantly enjoyable despite the ever-increasing body count. It’s all about Bonnie Bedelia.
17. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Between the first and third Indiana Jones films, it’s hard to choose (the second…has aged particularly badly, and the fourth is so terrible we should never speak of it again). With Sean Connery chewing scenery and Harrison Ford’s “action hero-turned aggrieved and annoyed son” shtick, this one has the extra bonus of being a joy to watch.” Plus, there’s a fantastic climax to the story. “He made a terrible choice.”
18. The Hunt for Red October
Cold War politics are examined in the first Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan novel to be made into a feature picture (and is, depressingly, still resonant today). The “Russian” (Scottish) accent of Sean Connery is laughable, but the plot of the submarine cat and mouse chase is as amazing as it gets. It’s true that the cast is devoid of any female characters, but there’s always Courtney B. Vance!
Speed will show you why America fell in love with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in the first place, even if you only knew them from their modern movie roles. He still has a Bill and Tedstoner vibe, but as the rogue cop, Reeves has grown into the role. This is when Sandra Bullock comes in. Add a simple plot—a bus that can only go 50 mph or it will explode, killing everyone on board—and you’ve got yourself a hilarious film.
20. Apollo 13
As a narrative of astronauts trapped in space with a fast disintegrating ship, this is equal parts drama and adventure, but the simple ticking clock structure of the story means that the story rushes ahead with the speed of a bullet. One of the most enjoyable aspects of a movie is that, despite knowing the outcome in advance, you still hold your breath until the very end. Tom Hanks as a young and impressionable boy is only one of the stellar cast members.
21. Casino Royale
During its release, this film astonished Bond fans and reviewers alike, reinvigorating the brand. Despite the film’s focus on conventional playboy behavior, it also presented a more capable female counterpart (Eva Green). A high-stakes poker game in the middle keeps things interesting even if you’ve never seen a Bond film before.
22. Hot Fuzz
Before Star Trek realized Simon Pegg’s potential as a kickass actor/producer, Hot Fuzz proved him to be a geek. An action-comedy spoof that ends up being a successful, thrilling, surprise action comedy is what this movie is all about.
23. Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol
Even though many of my fellow fans may strongly disagree, I believe this to be the best Mission: Impossible film to date. With Paula Patton as its lead, the show has found its feet and is one of the coolest on the air. The spectacular stunts fit the opulent international settings. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ve probably seen Tom Cruise dangling from the side of that enormous structure. That’s how fantastic the whole thing is.
24. The Avengers
It’s okay if you’re not a fan of comic books or superhero movies. Even if you’re not, there are some films that will still appeal as straight-up action movie that don’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of every cinematic world to enjoy. With the original Avengers, this is the case. In contrast to what you’d anticipate from this genre, this film focuses on the mechanics of a dysfunctional team as they strive to get their act together.
25. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Rent this film if you haven’t seen it already if you haven’t. Be on the lookout for an edgy Alicia Vikander and a dapper Henry Cavill, both dressed to kill. Several well-known faces make appearances, including…David Beckham? It’s a bubbly, light-hearted action flick that can be seen over and over again.
27. John Wick
Keanu Reeves finally abandons his stoner persona and instead portrays an assassin who is the absolute best at what he does in this film. It’s a visual feast, thanks to the movie’s seamless transitions between action sequences. Wick’s opponents have a panic crisis over how many guys Wick has murdered “with a friggin pencil,” which is an underappreciated component of the film. Adrianne Palicki’s toughness is a bonus.
In my opinion, this is what the rebooted Ghostbusters was going for. There’s no denying that Melissa McCarthy shines in this role—the it’s perfect one for her, and the film doesn’t ever make her foolish or obese. They all seem to be having a great time with the clever script, which includes Jude Law, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, and 50 Cent. It is, however, Jason Statham who steals the show in his first ever comedy role. Just rely on my word on this.
29. Wonder Woman
The first great female-led action movie of the modern superhero age did not disappoint. Come for Gal Gadot’s fish-out-of-water role as a hidden World War I savior; stay for their unexpectedly sweet love tale. If this movie and Captain Marvel aren’t obligatory viewing for kids, they should be.
30. Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’m going to be honest with you. Since the Tobey MaguireSpider-Manfilms were disappointing, and the Andrew Garfield reboots didn’t interest me, I didn’t want to see this movie. However, this film is a joy to watch. As a kid Peter Parker (Tom Holland, cute) has amazing super-powers and has to accomplish his homework. It’s not bogged down with backstory. It’s a pleasure to see Zendaya, too.
31. Thor: Ragnarok
You have to see Chris Hemsworth’s hilarious antics in this. Taika Waititi’s picture, which stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, convinced him to stay in the Marvel universe. There isn’t a single moment that isn’t amusing. Everyone in the cast, from Cate Blanchett to Jeff Goldblum, knows exactly what kind of movie they’re in. Before I die, I plan to watch this movie at least 500 more times.