February 28, 2021

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100 Best action movies of all time – WRCBtv.com

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100 best action movies of all time

A stalwart of modern popular culture, action movies pay ongoing tribute to the power of cinematic spectacle. The genre’s origins are as old as the medium itself, though action films as we know them didn’t really take off until the 1970s. With the development of CGI and other technologies, they’ve continued to prosper well into the 21st century. For proof, look no further than the superhero subgenre, arguably the most predominant cultural influence of the last decade.

Despite their reputation of fun but dumb popcorn flicks, a number of modern action films don’t sacrifice character development and plot in their pursuit of spectacle. It’s no wonder then that the best examples inspire such loyal followings and cosplay costumes. While they’re seldom the biggest champions during awards season, these stories nevertheless show that a solid story is fundamental to a film’s overall success.

One might also look upon the action blockbuster as the last refuge of hope for the dying theater experience. Given the current disruptions to traditional moviegoing, it’s going to take all the spectacle that Hollywood can muster to lure audiences back into theaters. As Tom Cruise put it himself in (supposedly) leaked audio, “They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. Because they believe in us and what we’re doing.”

By “us,” Tom Cruise was specifically referring to the crew behind the upcoming “Mission: Impossible” installment. However, he might as well be referring to the action genre as a whole. After all, fewer experiences are better realized on the big screen than a sprawling battle sequence or explosive, stunt-packed chase scene. There may even come a time where movie theaters more or less exclusively exhibit action movies, while less extravagant fare heads straight to streaming. Whether that’s good news or terrible news probably depends on who’s being asked.

From epic swashbucklers to the cream of the comic book crop, Stacker compiled data on all action movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. To qualify, the film had to have an “action” listing on IMDb, a Metascore, and at least 5,000 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore, and further ties were broken by IMDb user ratings. All data is accurate as of Jan. 11, 2021.

Starting with the great, counting down to the greater, and ending with the greatest, here are the 100 best action movies of all time.

#100. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

– Director: James Mangold
– Stacker score: 83.2
– Metascore: 76
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 122 minutes

An Elmore Leonard short story provided the basis for both a 1957 Western and this action-packed remake. Christian Bale plays rancher Dan Evans, who must escort wanted outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to justice. Many scenes were shot at New Mexico’s Bonanza Creek Ranch, which has been used for a number of classic Westerns.

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Stacker score: 83.2
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Runtime: 187 minutes

Director Peter Jackson followed his acclaimed “Lord of the Rings” trilogy with yet another big-budget blockbuster. The latest in a long line of adaptations, it retells the story of the famous, fearsome gorilla. Bringing that gorilla to life involved a combination of motion-capture technology and photorealistic CGI.

– Director: John McTiernan
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 72
– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– Runtime: 132 minutes

NYPD Officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) just wants to celebrate Christmas with his estranged wife, only to find himself taking on international terrorists. The popular film would spawn multiple sequels and send Willis’ career into the stratosphere. Fun fact: in Hungary, it goes by the name “Give Your Life Expensive.”

#97. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

– Director: Bryan Singer
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 75
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 132 minutes

Wolverine must travel back in time to stop an army of invincible robots that will eventually destroy mankind and mutant-kind alike. To get a firm grasp on the concepts of time travel, director Bryan Singer had an intensive two-hour conversation on the topic with James Cameron. Who better to ask than the man behind “The Terminator” franchise?

Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

– Director: Ishirô Honda
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 96 minutes

#95. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

– Director: David Yates
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 153 minutes

– Directors: Jackie Chan, Chi-Hwa Chen
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Martial arts icon Jackie Chan co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in this stunt-laden action classic. He plays Hong Kong cop Chan Ka Kui, who must clear his name after a dirty frame job. In his 1998 autobiography, Chan described the film as his “best work.”

– Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 79
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Runtime: 85 minutes

The story of Robin Hood gets a martial arts twist in this Chinese action flick. Come nightfall, a village doctor (Rongguang Yu) turned masked vigilante takes on local corruption. Director Yuen Woo-Ping would later choreograph influential fight scenes for films such as “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios

– Director: Mike Hodges
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 112 minutes

Michael Caine plays London gangster Jack Carter in this seminal revenge classic. When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances, Carter heads to Newcastle in search of answers. Skip past the maligned 2000 remake and go straight to the original source.

#91. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

– Director: William Friedkin
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Runtime: 116 minutes

From director William Friedkin comes this neo-noirish slice of 1980s bombast, accompanied by a suitably grandiose soundtrack. Follow reckless Secret Service agent Richie Chance (William Petersen) as he hunts down a deadly counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe). As he did before in films like “The French Connection,” Friedkin builds the action around an epic car chase.

– Director: John Woo
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Runtime: 138 minutes

#89. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

– Director: Rian Johnson
– Stacker score: 83.7
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Runtime: 152 minutes

Director Rian Johnson’s singular contribution to the latest “Star Wars” trilogy, “The Last Jedi” sees Rey training with Luke Skywalker while probing the strange connection tying her to Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 go on a high-stake escapade to free the dwindling Resistance fleet from the First Order’s tracking capabilities, while Poe and General Leia Organa try to outrun General Hux. “The Last Jedi” was praised for its strong direction and zippy pace, and became the highest-grossing film of 2017.

– Director: Ron Howard
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 74
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 123 minutes

Based on a true story, “Rush” centers on the rivalry between two Formula One race car drivers during the 1970s. One of those drivers was Niki Lauda, who watched the movie and was impressed with its overall accuracy. The other driver was James Hunt, a notorious playboy portrayed by Chris Hemsworth.

#87. Infernal Affairs (2002)

– Directors: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 75
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 101 minutes

This beloved Hong Kong thriller sends a cop and a criminal undercover on opposite sides of the law. Director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan would draw inspiration from the story when crafting “The Departed,” which Scorsese insists is not a remake. The original version was followed by two sequels.

Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia

#86. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

– Director: Stephen Chow
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 99 minutes

Awash with delirious special effects, Stephen Chow’s masterpiece explores Chaplin-esque physical comedy within a martial arts framework. It takes place in 1940s China and chronicles the violent war between vicious gangsters and impoverished villagers. To say anything more is to ruin the sheer delight of witnessing this cinematic event for the first time.

#85. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

– Director: Matt Reeves
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 79
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 130 minutes

Set 10 years after its predecessor (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” finds humanity on the brink of extinction. Against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, survivors must contend with a clan of genetically evolved apes (the title is pretty much a dead giveaway in terms of who ultimately wins).

#84. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

– Director: Sam Peckinpah
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Runtime: 112 minutes

One of Sam Peckinpah’s lesser-known films follows a saloon pianist and his girlfriend through the Mexican underworld. The director’s penchant for gritty violence and unsympathetic characters is on full display in virtually every frame. A commercial disappointment upon its release, the film has gained cult status over time.

#83. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

– Director: Peter Weir
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 138 minutes

Russell Crowe plays British captain Jack Aubrey in this seafaring adventure tale. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it pits Aubrey and his crew against a formidable French enemy. Despite a number of epic battle sequences, the film is often viewed as more of an intense character study.

– Director: Peter Yates
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 114 minutes

Steve McQueen plays a hard-boiled cop named Bullitt in this 1968 film of the same name. The story puts him on the trail of an underworld kingpin who murders a star witness. It features an iconic car chase sequence that took three weeks to shoot, with the cars actually going over 100 mph.  

– Director: Yann Demange
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Runtime: 99 minutes

Yann Demange’s feature-length debut takes place in Belfast during the Northern Ireland Conflict (aka “The Troubles”). On the heels of a violent riot, abandoned British soldier Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) must fight for his survival. Critic John Andersen described Hook’s journey as “the nightmare of being hopelessly lost in a place where time has stopped and hope has vanished.”

– Director: Bong Joon Ho
– Stacker score: 84.2
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Runtime: 126 minutes

“Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho adapted a post-apocalyptic French graphic novel for his first English-language film. It takes place aboard a globe-spanning train on which survivors have enacted a brutal caste system. As with many of Bong’s films, this one layers prescient themes with gripping action and brilliant visuals.

#79. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

– Director: James Gunn
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 76
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 121 minutes

A group of intergalactic misfits work together to stop a villain from taking over the universe in this surprise Marvel smash. One of the movie’s characters is a talking tree monster named Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. While Groot has just one line in the film—”I am Groot”—Diesel was asked to record the line approximately 1,000 times.

#78. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

– Director: Mamoru Oshii
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 76
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 83 minutes

A benchmark in animation history, this cyberpunk saga is culled from a manga series of the same name. Set in 2029 Japan, it sends a cyborg cop and her partner on the trail of a mysterious hacker. It paved the way for multiple follow-ups, including a beloved TV series and a disappointing live-action film.

– Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 76
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 156 minutes

Inspired by the (alleged) real-life story of Hugh Glass, this brutal survival film takes place in the early 19th-century American wilderness. Betrayed by his hunting team, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) embarks on a quest for survival and revenge. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

#76. Incredibles 2 (2018)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 118 minutes

After a full decade, the world’s foremost family of superheroes returned for another computer-animated adventure. This time around, Elastigirl takes on a mind-controlling supervillain named Screenslaver. Released to rabid anticipation, it became the fastest animated film (for its time) to cross the $200 million mark at the domestic box office.

#75. Minority Report (2002)

– Director: Steven Spielberg
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 145 minutes

Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, this sci-fi thriller stars Tom Cruise as a futuristic cop with a serious advantage over would-be criminals. With help from clairvoyant beings known as precogs, he arrests people for crimes that haven’t yet occurred. But what happens when the precogs foresee Cruise himself committing a heinous act?

#74. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

– Director: Matt Reeves
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 140 minutes

First there came the rise, followed by the dawn, and in 2017 it was an all-out “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Lead ape Caesar struggles internally as he seeks revenge on the man (Woody Harrelson) who murdered his wife and child. An upcoming film will reportedly continue the story in some fashion, though details are vague.

Columbia Pictures Corporation

– Director: Sam Raimi
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Runtime: 127 minutes

– Director: Bong Joon Ho
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Runtime: 120 minutes

When scientists dump 200 bottles of formaldehyde into South Korea’s Han River, it spawns a menacing sea creature. So goes this contemporary monster movie from Bong Joon Ho, who turns parable into spectacle as only he can. After wowing audiences at Cannes, it went on to break Korean box-office records.

Beijing Hairun Pictures Company

– Director: Johnnie To
– Stacker score: 84.8
– Metascore: 86
– IMDb user rating: 7.0
– Runtime: 107 minutes

Facing the death penalty, a captured drug lord agrees to expose a lucrative meth ring. As the drama unfolds, police wonder if their new informant is leading them down the wrong path. Variety critic Boyd van Hoeij called the film a “nail-biter that’s actually quite light on action but so well-scripted and shot, it’s nonetheless edge-of-your-seat material.”

#70. Lady Snowblood (1973)

– Director: Toshiya Fujita
– Stacker score: 85.3
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 97 minutes

Fans of Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films will want to check out this spiritual predecessor and its familiar premise. Raised as a deadly assassin, Yuki Kashima (Meiko Kaji) enacts revenge on the criminals who destroyed her family. It’s all based on a manga series of the same name by prolific writer Kazuo Koike.

#69. Battle Royale (2000)

– Director: Kinji Fukasaku
– Stacker score: 85.3
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 114 minutes

Before “The Hunger Games” series came this similar film out of Japan, which was likewise based on a novel. Set in a future dystopia, it pits a group of unlucky ninth-graders in a battle to the death. The twisted plot and graphic violence sparked controversy and even led to bans in certain countries.

– Director: James Mangold
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 77
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 137 minutes

Before hanging up his claws for good (supposedly), Hugh Jackman played Wolverine one last time in this explosive action drama. Set in a futuristic wasteland, it finds the mutant superhero trying to outmaneuver an evil corporation. As with 2016’s “Deadpool,” the film’s R-rating only bolstered its allure.

– Director: Jon Favreau
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 79
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 126 minutes

The Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) launched in spectacular style with this gripping blockbuster in which Tony Stark builds a revolutionary suit of armor. Tom Cruise reportedly passed on the lead role, and Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in directing. It ended up in the hands of Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau, and the rest is history.

– Director: Sam Mendes
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 143 minutes

James Bond is always synonymous with pulse-pounding action sequences, but 2012’s “Skyfall” goes extra-big on spectacle. It pits the iconic superspy against a diabolical madman (Javier Bardem) with impressive foresight and a taste for chaos.

Kudos Film and Television

#65. Eastern Promises (2007)

– Director: David Cronenberg
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Director David Cronenberg and actor Viggo Mortensen followed 2005’s “A History of Violence” with this international crime thriller. While tracing the past of a recently deceased teen, a woman (Naomi Watts) comes up against ruthless Russian mobsters. Cronenberg punctuates his slow-burn pacing with intense moments of brutal violence.

– Director: Denis Villeneuve
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 121 minutes

This taut thriller tells the story of FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who’s recruited to eliminate a drug cartel near the Mexican border. Benicio Del Toro co-stars as a brooding mercenary and ends up playing just as large a role in the narrative. He insisted on cutting up to 90% of his original lines in order to exhibit more of an unspoken presence.

– Director: Rian Johnson
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 113 minutes

Before stirring up all sorts of controversy with “The Last Jedi,” filmmaker Rian Johnson delivered this heady sci-fi thriller. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a “looper,” a hitman who kills people as soon as they arrive from the future. The story deals with the fallout of its protagonist choosing not to kill his next target (Bruce Willis), who happens to be himself. Confused yet?

#62. From Russia with Love (1963)

– Director: Terence Young
– Stacker score: 85.9
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 115 minutes

Another classic James Bond film, 1963’s “From Russia With Love” sends Agent 007 on the hunt for an advanced coding machine. The second installment in the long-running, ongoing franchise, it features a thrilling pre-credit sequence and interesting locales, among other things.

#61. Love Exposure (2008)

– Director: Sion Sono
– Stacker score: 86.4
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 237 minutes

Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono brought his subversive sensibilities to this sprawling melodrama. Clocking in at just under four hours, it depicts the bizarre love triangle between three damaged characters. Slant critic Simon Abrams described it as “Sono’s equivalent of the Great Russian novel.”

#60. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

– Director: J.J. Abrams
– Stacker score: 86.4
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 138 minutes

The “Star Wars” franchise was resurrected on a high note with this 2015 installment. To ensure audience satisfaction, director J.J. Abrams stuck closely to the tone and story of the original trilogy. Actor Mark Hamill reprises his role as Luke Skywalker, though his involvement had been drastically reduced by the time he showed up for the first table read.

– Director: Edgar Wright
– Stacker score: 86.4
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 121 minutes

Filmmaker Edgar Wright pokes fun at action movies as much as he honors them in this wild comedy. It sends an overzealous London cop (Simon Pegg) to a small and seemingly boring town where a killer is on the loose. This is the second installment in Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy,” which takes its name from a popular ice cream cone treat.

– Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 73
– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Runtime: 136 minutes

Streamlining various concepts, “The Matrix” tells the story of a man (Keanu Reeves) who discovers reality is not what it seems. The seminal flick debuted in 1999 and seemed to change the action genre overnight. Among the movie’s many famous scenes is a lobby shootout that took 10 days to film and didn’t rely on CGI.

#57. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

– Director: James Cameron
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 75
– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Runtime: 137 minutes

Masterful genre-blending and revolutionary special effects made this blockbuster sequel a veritable game-changer. Two cyborgs are sent back from the future, one to kill and the other to protect. Robert Patrick plays the shapeshifting T-1000, a role that was originally supposed to go to rock star Billy Idol.

DENTSU Music And Entertainment

#56. Princess Mononoke (1997)

– Director: Hayao Miyazaki
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 76
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 134 minutes

The film that introduced animation wizard Hayao Miyazaki to global audiences, “Princess Mononoke” centers on a deadly war between human clans and forest gods. Not just a vivid mix of fantasy and history, it explores mankind’s quest for dominance over the natural world. Miyazaki has incorporated similar themes throughout his career.

#55. Casino Royale (2006)

– Director: Martin Campbell
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 80
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 144 minutes

Martin Campbell’s stylish thriller takes audiences back to where it all began, presenting James Bond’s first mission as Agent 007. This also marks Daniel Craig’s inaugural performance as the iconic spy. In the film, Bond must prevent a shady banker with terrorist ties from winning in a game of high-stakes .

– Director: Neill Blomkamp
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 112 minutes

Neill Blomkamp’s feature debut doubles as a thinly veiled allegory of South African apartheid. It conjures an alternate reality in which extraterrestrials came in peace, only to be squeezed into militarized ghettos. While carrying out eviction duties, government agent Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) encounters life-changing alien technology.

– Director: John Woo
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 111 minutes

#52. The Lego Movie (2014)

– Directors: Christopher Miller, Phil Lord
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Everything is awesome for the protagonist of this computer-animated blockbuster—until he’s tasked with saving the world from the whims of Lord Business. In addition to being a box-office success, the inventive movie caused sales of actual LEGO sets to soar by 15%.

#51. Enter the Dragon (1973)

– Director: Robert Clouse
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 102 minutes

Bruce Lee’s final completed film is one of the most iconic martial arts movies ever made. Seeking revenge for his sister’s death, Lee fights his way to the top of a deadly competition. The movie also features a young Jackie Chan, who plays a henchman during a climactic showdown.

– Director: Takashi Miike
– Stacker score: 87
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 141 minutes

Prolific director Takashi Miike breathes new life into a 1963 samurai film with this vivid remake. The story takes place in mid-19th century Japan and follows 13 assassins as they unite against an evil lord. Taut drama slowly builds to a climactic 45-minute battle sequence.

– Director: Park Chan-wook
– Stacker score: 87.5
– Metascore: 77
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Not to be confused with the disappointing Hollywood remake, Park Chan-wook’s revenge tale offers no shortage of brutal surprises. Inexplicably held captive for years, a man is set free to pursue his tormentor. This makes up part of Chan-wook’s famous “Vengeance” trilogy.

#48. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

– Director: Denis Villeneuve
– Stacker score: 87.5
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 164 minutes

When a young blade runner (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a long-buried secret, it could have society-shifting consequences. Like its distinguished predecessor, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi sequel underperformed at the box office and slowly developed cult status. While no additional film sequels are planned, an anime series is scheduled to premiere sometime this year.

– Director: J.J. Abrams
– Stacker score: 87.5
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 127 minutes

Before giving “Star Wars” its due (at first, at least), director J.J. Abrams resurrected another classic space saga with this 2009 adaptation. A prequel to the original TV series and films, it portrays James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) as a brash young captain. Actor Simon Pegg was so eager to co-star as a young Scotty that he later claimed he would’ve paid Abrams for the part.

– Director: James Cameron
– Stacker score: 87.5
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 162 minutes

#45. Black Panther (2018)

– Director: Ryan Coogler
– Stacker score: 87.5
– Metascore: 88
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Runtime: 134 minutes

This Marvel smash takes place in the African nation of Wakanda, home to highly skilled warriors and a precious resource known as Vibranium. With the throne under attack, the heroic Black Panther must save the day. Tragically, lead star Chadwick Boseman died in 2020.

– Director: Christopher Nolan
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 74
– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Runtime: 148 minutes

Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller follows a thief (Leonard DiCaprio) into people’s dreams, where he extracts data and influences events. Nolan came up with the idea in the early 2000s, envisioning it as a horror flick and then a low-budget drama before landing on this final version. It made over $800 million at the worldwide box office.

#43. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

– Director: Christopher Nolan
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 164 minutes

#42. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

– Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 78
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 181 minutes

#41. Ford v Ferrari (2019)

– Director: James Mangold
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 81
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 152 minutes

Based on actual events, this high-octane drama chronicles the contentious rivalry between automakers Ford and Ferrari. With help from designer Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), Ford becomes a serious contender in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing.

#40. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

– Director: Travis Knight
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 101 minutes

In this stop-motion animation feature, a boy named Kubo must find a magical coat of armor in order to defeat an evil spirit. Featuring the largest stop-motion puppet ever, the film is produced by Studio Laika, the Oscar-nominated company behind movies such as “Coraline” and “The Boxtrolls.”

– Director: Edgar Wright
– Stacker score: 88
– Metascore: 86
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 113 minutes

While propulsive music is fundamental to any given action flick, this fast-paced heist film actually builds key sequences around specific songs. It centers on a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) with a penchant for classic tunes who gets forced into pulling off an impossible job. Director Edgar Wright envisioned some of the scenes as early as 1995 while listening to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

#38. Memories of Murder (2003)

– Director: Bong Joon Ho
– Stacker score: 88.6
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 132 minutes

Bong Joon Ho’s celebrated crime drama is loosely based on the real-life exploits of South Korean serial killer Lee Chun-jae. Set in 1986, it confronts two inept detectives with a series of heinous homicides. Despite the gruesome subject matter, the film often takes on a satirical tone.

#37. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

– Director: Quentin Tarantino
– Stacker score: 88.6
– Metascore: 83
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 137 minutes

The second volume of this gritty saga picks up where the first one left off, following The Bride (Uma Thurman) on her quest for revenge. Fight sequences and flashbacks build toward a dramatic showdown between the betrayed assassin and her former boss (David Carradine). According to Tarantino himself, a third installment could be in the works.

Walter Wanger Productions

#36. Foreign Correspondent (1940)

– Director: Alfred Hitchcock
– Stacker score: 88.6
– Metascore: 88
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Runtime: 120 minutes

One of Hitchcock’s lesser-known films, “Foreign Correspondent” tells the story of American reporter John Jones (Joel McCrea). While investigating a secret European treaty during War War II, Jones gets in over his head. Look for the obligatory cameo from Hitch himself at about the 13-minute mark.

#35. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

– Director: John Carpenter
– Stacker score: 88.6
– Metascore: 89
– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Runtime: 91 minutes

Two years before stunning audiences with “Halloween,” director John Carpenter delivered this indie action thriller. It follows a group of mismatched heroes as they defend a defunct police station from an invading gang. Working on a shoestring budget, Carpenter modeled the film after famous Westerns like “Rio Bravo.”

#34. The Terminator (1984)

– Director: James Cameron
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 107 minutes

Beijing New Picture Film Co

– Director: Zhang Yimou
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

#32. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

– Director: Arthur Penn
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 86
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 111 minutes

– Director: Guy Hamilton
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 87
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 110 minutes

#30. Hell or High Water (2016)

– Director: David Mackenzie
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 88
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Runtime: 102 minutes

In order to save their family ranch, two West Texas brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) enact a string of bank robberies. Hot on their tail is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who’s just one year away from retirement. A sleeper hit, the film grapples with modern-day themes of economic despair.

Beijing New Picture Film Co.

#29. House of Flying Daggers (2004)

– Director: Zhang Yimou
– Stacker score: 89.1
– Metascore: 89
– IMDb user rating: 7.5
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Director Zhang Yimou followed 2002’s “Hero” with yet another wuxia classic. Set during the waning years of the Tang Dynasty, it finds various rebel groups taking on the corrupt government. When romance sparks between two figures on opposite sides of the political spectrum, a deadly game of deception ensues.

– Director: Ridley Scott
– Stacker score: 89.7
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 117 minutes

Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision was an underperformer that became a cult sensation, one which continues to enrapture new audiences. Against a backdrop of emotive synth music and vivid imagery, a lone blade runner (Harrison Ford) tracks down four renegade replicants. Largely devoid of genre tropes, the film examines the human condition on multiple levels.

#27. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

– Director: Paul Greengrass
– Stacker score: 89.7
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 115 minutes

The third film of the Jason Bourne series pits its protagonist against corrupt entities within his own government. Director Paul Greengrass was unable to shut down Waterloo Train Station for an important scene, causing a dilemma when it came to potential onlookers. To create a distraction, he set up a mock camera crew at one end of the station and then filmed the actual scene at the other end.

#26. The Iron Giant (1999)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Stacker score: 89.7
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 86 minutes

Keystone-France // Getty Images

– Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
– Stacker score: 89.7
– Metascore: 87
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 93 minutes

Long before Brian De Palma’s ultraviolent gangster movie came this 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same name. It chronicles the rise and fall of Tony Camonte (Paul Muni), an ambitious criminal with a thirst for power. Mobster Al Capone (nicknamed “Scarface”) reportedly liked the film enough to have his own print of the film.

– Director: Andrew Davis
– Stacker score: 89.7
– Metascore: 87
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 130 minutes

Falsely accused of murder, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) escapes from imprisonment and sets out to prove his innocence. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as the U.S. Marshal who’s going to bring Kimble down. Based on a 1960s TV show, the film delivers gripping action sequences and memorable dialogue, the latter of which was heavily improvised.

– Director: James Cameron
– Stacker score: 90.8
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– Runtime: 137 minutes

If 1979’s “Alien” was an exercise in pure terror, this 1986 sequel was more of an action-packed affair. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is enlisted to fight not just one but numerous acid-spewing alien creatures on an abandoned space colony. To prepare for their roles as soldiers, some of the actors trained with real-life Marines.

– Director: Don Siegel
– Stacker score: 90.8
– Metascore: 90
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 102 minutes

Clint Eastwood is a San Francisco cop with a big gun and a short temper in this seminal crime drama. The movie sends its no-nonsense protagonist on the trail of the Scorpio Killer, who’s terrorizing the city. Famous crooner Frank Sinatra was originally attached to play the lead role, dropping out after he injured his hand.

#21. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

– Director: Clint Eastwood
– Stacker score: 91.3
– Metascore: 89
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 141 minutes

A critically superior companion to “Flags of Our Fathers,” Clint Eastwood’s WWII drama depicts the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. At the heart of the story are a general and a young soldier who must contend with the oncoming American invasion. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

#20. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

– Director: Irvin Kershner
– Stacker score: 91.8
– Metascore: 82
– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Runtime: 124 minutes

Still considered the apex of the “Star Wars” franchise, this installment finds Luke Skywalker and the evil Empire honing their respective powers. It marks the first appearance of the Emperor, a ghastly male character with pale skin and blue eyes…in the modified version, that is. In the original version, the Emperor was played by a female with the eyes of a chimpanzee.

#19. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

– Director: Steven Spielberg
– Stacker score: 91.8
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 115 minutes

#18. The Incredibles (2004)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Stacker score: 92.4
– Metascore: 90
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This iconic Pixar outing subjects two retired superheroes and their children to a boring life in the ‘burbs. Called into action, the family squares off against a deeply disgruntled villain. Animator Lou Romano drew upon 1960s aesthetics when establishing the film’s unique color palette.

– Director: Masaki Kobayashi
– Stacker score: 92.9
– Metascore: 85
– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Runtime: 133 minutes

This historical Japanese drama takes place during a time of relative peace, putting thousands of samurai out of work. Revealed through flashbacks is the taut story of a young samurai who’s forced into the act of hara-kiri (ritual suicide). As the tragedy unfolds, a tale of revenge begins to emerge.

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)

#16. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

– Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
– Stacker score: 92.9
– Metascore: 87
– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Runtime: 117 minutes

Anyone can wear the mask in this dimension-spanning adventure, which features groundbreaking animation. What opens with the saga of Miles Morales becomes the story of multiple web-slingers who exist in separate realms of reality. A sequel is expected to arrive in October 2022.

#15. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

– Director: Anurag Kashyap
– Stacker score: 92.9
– Metascore: 89
– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– Runtime: 321 minutes

Divided into two parts, this blood-soaked Indian crime epic depicts the long-running rivalry between warring gangs. It spans three generations and hundreds of characters, ultimately clocking in at over five hours. Critic Danny Bowes called it “one of the most ambitious gangster films ever made, and quite possibly one of the best.”

#14. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

– Director: George Miller
– Stacker score: 92.9
– Metascore: 90
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Philip D’Antoni Productions

#13. The French Connection (1971)

– Director: William Friedkin
– Stacker score: 92.9
– Metascore: 94
– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Runtime: 104 minutes

Inspired by a real-life drug bust, “The French Connection” follows a disgruntled cop (Gene Hackman) as he takes down local heroin dealers. His investigation builds toward one of the most exciting car chase sequences in Hollywood history. The film won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

– Director: Christopher Nolan
– Stacker score: 93.5
– Metascore: 94
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 106 minutes

Based on true events, Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama follows Allied soldiers as they evacuate a beach or die trying. The movie eschews traditional character development in favor of relentless action sequences and countless explosions. Some war veterans claim the film version was much louder than the real thing.

Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd.

#11. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

– Director: Ang Lee
– Stacker score: 93.5
– Metascore: 94
– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– Runtime: 120 minutes

Ang Lee’s update on the wuxia genre sends two seasoned warriors in the pursuit of a stolen sword. In addition to its iconic action sequences, the film delivers sweeping drama and a romantic subplot. A box-office smash, it won four Academy Awards out of 10 nominations.

– Director: Howard Hawks
– Stacker score: 94
– Metascore: 93
– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Runtime: 141 minutes

A small-town sheriff (John Wayne) enlists some unlikely help in order to keep a criminal’s next of kin behind bars. With its burly genre tropes and rugged characters, the film is about as classic as an old Hollywood Western can get.

#9. The Dark Knight (2008)

– Director: Christopher Nolan
– Stacker score: 94.6
– Metascore: 84
– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Runtime: 152 minutes

Much more than a comic book film, “The Dark Knight” is often hailed as one of the greatest movies of the modern era. That’s in no small part thanks to Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker, who terrorizes Gotham City with a series of intricate and deadly stunts. Seeking inspiration for the character, Ledger kept a “Joker Diary,” which included clip art and script notes. Ledger died before the movie debuted, posthumously winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

#8. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Stacker score: 94.6
– Metascore: 87
– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Runtime: 179 minutes

Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their quest to destroy an all-powerful ring in this beloved sequel. Director Peter Jackson expands upon his vision of Middle-earth while introducing a shifty CGI creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis). The story culminates with an epic 40-minute battle sequence, which took a whopping 120 days to film.

– Director: George Lucas
– Stacker score: 95.7
– Metascore: 90
– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Runtime: 121 minutes

Kicking off the franchise to which all other franchises aspire, George Lucas’ “Star Wars” debuted in 1977 to rapturous reception. Young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) channels the Force as he wages battle against Darth Vader and the evil Empire. Savvy linguists potentially uncovered a major plot reveal as early as this first film, since Darth Vader loosely translates to “Dark Father.”

Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

#6. The Wild Bunch (1969)

– Director: Sam Peckinpah
– Stacker score: 95.7
– Metascore: 97
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 135 minutes

#5. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

– Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
– Stacker score: 95.7
– Metascore: 97
– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Runtime: 102 minutes

Greenwich Film Productions

– Director: Akira Kurosawa
– Stacker score: 96.7
– Metascore: 96
– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– Runtime: 162 minutes

No stranger to Shakespeare adaptations, director Akira Kurosawa reimagines “King Lear” in this sprawling historical epic. Set in medieval Japan, it chronicles the territorial dispute between three would-be heirs. Kurosawa was 75 years old when he made the film, making its scope and execution all the more impressive.

#3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Stacker score: 97.8
– Metascore: 92
– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Runtime: 178 minutes

Peter Jackson welcomes viewers to Middle-earth in this lofty adaptation of Tolkien’s classic. Tasked with destroying an all-powerful ring, a gentle Hobbit (Elijah Wood) must conquer internal fears and external forces. Lurking just beyond the magical veneer are a number of potential themes, prompting endless discussion among cinephiles, theologians, and academics alike.

#2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

– Director: Peter Jackson
– Stacker score: 99.5
– Metascore: 94
– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Runtime: 201 minutes

– Director: Akira Kurosawa
– Stacker score: 100
– Metascore: 98
– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Runtime: 207 minutes

Under threat by ruthless bandits, a small village hires seven samurai for protection. That paves the way for an action-packed showdown during which the samurai square off against 40 attackers. Masterful in its structure, Kurosawa’s adventure story has inspired countless imitations.

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