The action genre thrived throughout the 2010s. Many acclaimed projects premiered during the decade, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Mission: Impossible – Fallout, cementing action’s place as one of cinema’s most popular and enduring genres.
Practically every year throughout the 2010s had an embarrassment of riches regarding action movies. However, many of the best and most thrilling action efforts came out a decade ago, in the game-changing year that was 2013. From groundbreaking superhero movies to tense and riveting thrillers, these action movies wowed audiences, upping the ante and proving there’s no other genre as exciting or envigorating.
10 ‘Olympus Has Fallen’
Gerard Butler stars in Olympus Has Fallen opposite Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman. The film centers on a disgraced Secret Service agent and his efforts to rescue the US President from an attack led by a North Korean guerrilla.
Olympus Has Fallen is an amazing B-movie that knows exactly what it is. It has no pretensions of being other than a heck of a good time, with the entire cast delivering game and surprisingly committed performances in service of a ludicrous plot that never once makes any sense. However, Olympus Has Fallen is quite gung-ho in its efforts to entertain, possibly the best thing a movie can do.
Tom Cruise officially entered his action-star-exclusively era in the 2010s, starting with Joseph Kosinksi‘s sci-fi Oblivion. The film also stars Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko and centers on a pair of technicians in a seemingly unpopulated Earth ravaged by an alien war. When they find a woman who survived a ship crash, they begin doubting and questioning everything they know.
Oblivion is far from Cruise and Kominski’s best, but it’s a satisfying sci-fi piece with interesting themes and ideas. Cruise is at the peak of his star power, aided by an impressive supporting cast that also includes Morgan Freeman. And while its reach far surpasses its grasp, Oblivion is a superior sci-fi action-adventure worthy of praise.
8 ‘Iron Man 3’
Shane Black took over directorial duties for the last entry in the Iron Man trilogy. Iron Man 3 stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, who must battle against his most infamous enemy, the Mandarin. Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Ben Kingsley also star.
Iron Man 3 is a very divisive movie. The changed made to the Mandarin remain controversial today and are often considered among the MCU’s worst aspects. However, Iron Man 3 is a clever and occasionally insightful exploration of Tony’s psyche, dealing with his trauma and legacy while delivering the many action sequences fans expect from their MCU content.
7 ‘Man Of Tai Chi’
Keanu Reeves‘ directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, sees the beloved actor playing something audiences seldom see him doing: a villain. The plot follows a young martial artist who, desperate for money, enters the world of underground fighting.
Man of Tai Chi greatly benefits from Reeves’ surprising domain behind the camera and Chad Stahelski‘s kinetic action scenes. The plot is straightforward, but an impressive leading turn by Tiger Chen and the palpable respect Reeves has for the world he portrays make Man of Tai Chi a solid martial arts film that might not push the envelope but succeeds as a love letter to better movies.
6 ‘World War Z’
Loosely based on the 2006 eponymous novel, World War Z stars Brad Pitt leading a large ensemble. The plot revolves around Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator who travels the world searching for the source of a dangerous virus turning people into feral, vicious creatures.
World War Z is far inferior to the novel but succeeds thanks to several non-stop, heart-pounding, riveting action sequences. The film’s troubled production led to an uneven plot that never satisfies as it should, but World War Z remains a thoroughly entertaining action thriller, even if it never reaches the heights of the all-time best zombie movies.
5 ‘Fast & Furious 6’
The Fast & Furious franchise began its world-domination plot with the release of Fast & Furious 6. The plot centers on Dom, Brian, and their family working with DSS agent Luke Hobbs to take down British mercenary Owen Shaw in exchange for pardons for their crimes.
Fast & Furious 6 is famous for reviving Michelle Rodriguez‘s Letty after her supposed death in the fourth installment and for introducing Jason Statham‘s villain-turned-ally Deckard Shaw. The film does a brilliant and humorous job of portraying the now-classic Fast formula: high-speed chases, terrific action sequences, memorable villains, and more than a few unsubtle references to family.
4 ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’
Expectations were high for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire following the massive success of 2012’s The Hungers Games. The plot sees Katniss and Peeta back in the Games’ arena after becoming unintentional symbols for the revolution against the Capitol.
Going deeper into the social and political issues that made the first film a superior entry in the YA genre, Catching Fire is the best movie in the Hunger Games series. The film was an overwhelming box office success, turning the franchise into a top Hollywood player and cementing Jennifer Lawrence as her generation’s defining star.
3 ‘Captain Phillips’
Tom Hanks stars in Paul Greengrass‘ biographical action thriller Captain Phillips. Based on the 2009 highjacking of the U.S. cargo ship Maersk Alabama, the film tells the story of Richard Phillips, whose vessel gets taken hostage by four Somali pirates.
Captain Phillips was a critical and commercial success. The film received considerable praise, especially for Barkhad Abdi’s performance as Abduwali Muse, the pirate leader. Abdi earned universal acclaim, including an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. Captain Phillips also benefits from Hanks’ portrayal and Greengrass’ claustrophobic approach, resulting in a tense thriller that will keep audiences on edge.
2 ‘Man Of Steel’
The struggling DCEU officially launched in 2013 with the release of Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel. Henry Cavill stars as the Last Son of Krypton, with Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as General Zod. In the film, Superman must embrace his powers and defend Earth from Zod, recently released from the Phantom Zone.
Man of Steel was and remains a deeply divisive film. Although many celebrate Snyder’s grounded approach, others lament Superman’s portrayal as an overly-stoic character who seems more like a god than a hero. Still, Man of Steel is an undeniably daring picture, juggling several intriguing ideas about human nature and heroism that would become crucial to the superhero genre throughout the 2010s.
Chris Evans stars in Bong Joon-ho’s post-apocalyptic action film Snowpiercer. Set in a globe-trotting train carrying the last remnants of humanity, Snowpiercer follows a revolt by the lower-class passengers against the train’s ruling elite.
Like most of Bong’s films, Snowpiercer is full of intriguing insights and critiques about crucial socio-political issues plaguing the real world. Using its unique sci-fi setting to present humanity at its lowest, Snowpiercer is a thrilling dystopian exploration of humanity’s instinct to survive and further confirmation that Bong is one of the best directors working.
NEXT: 10 Modern Action Villains Destined To Become Icons