Best of the Decade: Action

This is a series called “Best of the Decade.” It’s a list including 10 movies that I found to be the best in a specific genre from 2010-2019.

Whether battles were fought with giant robots or simply with fists, the past decade had some fantastic action films. Here’s my picks for the best.

Furious Five (2011)


The “Fast and Furious” franchise has gone to levels I don’t think anyone imagined, with an animated series even on the way. The series hit a sweet spot, though, in terms of over-the-top action and grounded stakes in the fifth installment.

On top of very well made action, the film also introduced Agent Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson. Adding the Rock to the mix was such a great decision and resulted in a showdown between him and Vin Diesel, two of the big action stars of era.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011)


There’s been some great “Mission: Impossible” films over the last 15 years, from the third installment to the recent picture “Fallout.” “Ghost Protocol” remains a high point for the series, though.

Adding Jeremy Renner to the cast was a phenomenal move and “Protocol” features plenty of stunning action sequences. One standout takes place on a skyscraper with Tom Cruise’s character doing a daring operation. The movie looks incredible and has all kinds of scenes to put an audience on the edge of their seat.

John Wick (2014)


The two “John Wick” sequels have been pretty good but I still find the first film to be the best. The flick is so straight forward, taking a quick dive into action and never looking back.

The action is astoundingly good and Keanu Reeves is wonderful as the lead protagonist. A home invasion scene with the lead character is especially good.

The Expendables (2010)


I wasn’t really a fan of the “Expendables” sequels, but the first one was some good lightning in a bottle. There’s the novelty of many action stars coming together for this picture, but the movie also featured more than just a group of characters going on a mission. The main character is an old jaded warrior who is inspired by a freedom fighter to go into battle with a righteous purpose again.

It’s not the deepest film, but it offers character motivation that’s actually compelling. Of course, the main point of seeing “The Expendables,” though, is the action, and wow, does it deliver. From shootouts to mixed martial arts and even someone throwing a tank shell at a helicopter, “Expendables” features top tier action and it earned its spot here.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


Yes, “Olympus Has Fallen” had its fair share of similarities to “Die Hard” and the like, but it’s still very enjoyable. Gerard Butler’s main character Mike is a great action hero with a good amount of one liners and bad ass moments. Plus, the film’s cast is well rounded with Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo.

There’s incredible, brutal action sequences here and it really hooks a viewer in. Along with the action, there’s an intense, memorable interrogation moment.

Pacific Rim (2013)


Bless Guillermo del Toro’s heart. Not only does he make award worthy features, he’s also able to helm incredible genre flicks. A notable example was “Pacific Rim” in 2013.

Taking all kinds of inspiration from Japanese mecha anime and giant monster movies, “Pacific Rim” delivered action on a huge scale. The design of the robots and monsters was fantastic, and the characters were really fun to watch. There’s one moment in particular where the main robot uses rocket boosters to punch a monster, and it’s great.

Spectre – 007 (2015)


While 2012’s “Skyfall” earned more critical praise, I found “Spectre” to be a far more fun and entertaining action flick. The picture carried on the aesthetic of the modern Bond films featuring Daniel Craig, yet they also offered a lot of charm that was somewhat lacking in “Skyfall.”

A solid villain, powerful henchman, suave moments and an enjoyable variety of action sequences made this a really awesome 007 flick to catch. An especially good segment from the picture is a car chase in Rome.

Baby Driver 2017


“Baby Driver” is a brilliant film from Edgar Wright featuring some of the best car chases put to the screen this decade. So many sequences are well shot and perfectly edited, often lined up nicely with music.

The movie also features fun, memorable characters and a clever script, also written by Wright. The movie is awesome right from the start, featuring an amazing opening chase scene.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)


Winner of six Academy Awards, “Mad Max Fury Road” was an amazing return to the series for director George Miller. The whole film is basically one, extended chase that lasts two hours, but those two hours are filled with entertainment.

The film is amazingly well shot and the effects look fantastic. Its wins on Oscar night in the technical categories were very well deserved. The movie also benefited from great lead performances by Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron. My favorite sequence by far is a moment involving the heroes fighting off a group of dirt bike riders.

Inception (2010)


“Inception” is a marvelous action heist film that adds a twist by taking place inside a dream, meaning the laws of science can sometimes not apply. The movie has all the classics for a heist film, such as a team where every member has a specific role they can play to pull it off and a race against the clock to get things done.

While the framework is familiar, though, the movie takes the action heist genre to a whole other level thanks to Christopher Nolan’s masterful direction and Wally Pfister’s well crafted cinematography. It certainly deserved its four wins on Oscar night.

It also helps to have Academy Award winners Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine, as well as Oscar nominees Pete Postlethwaite, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy and Ellen Page, plus Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Speaking of Gordon-Levitt, he has one of the best scenes in the picture, with a fight taking place in a twisted hallway.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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