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Top 10 Smartest Decisions In Action Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Written by Nick Roffey Fighting can only get action heroes so far, sometimes they need to outsmart the bad guys! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Smartest Decisions in Action Films! But what will take the top spot on our list? Tricking the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, fighting the Xenomorph Queen with a powerloader in Aliens, or heading back to the Citadel in Mad Max: Fury Road? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Have an idea for our next video? Submit your idea here: WatchMojo.commy/suggest.php

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Some action heroes are all brawn, but these characters make good use of their brains. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Smartest Decisions in Action Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at intelligent decisions made by characters in stressful, life-or-death situations.

#10: Attaching the Explosive Charge to the Villain
“Casino Royale” (2006)

James Bond has always been a savvy hero. After sending a refueling tanker hurtling toward a prototype aircraft, freelance terrorist Carlos thinks he has Bond beat. During the struggle, however, Bond finds himself face to face with the bomb on the tanker. Carlos looks pretty smug as he prepares to detonate it, but as he soon sees, Bond has clipped the bomb to a new target. Thanks to quick thinking under pressure, Bond gets the last smirk, and mastermind Le Chiffre is out millions.

#9: Placing Weapons in the Escape Route
“John Wick: Chapter 2” (2017)

He can kill with a pencil, so it’s no surprise that John Wick is well prepared when crime lord Santino D’Antonio sends him to kill his own sister, Gianna. Double-crossed and ambushed, John is caught in a furious gunfight during his escape, but he has a surprise of his own: he’s stashed weapons and ammunition in the catacombs, just in case. It’s a near thing, but the extra arms allow him to fight his way free. When every day could be your last, you always need to be ten steps ahead of your enemies.

#8: Counting Down the Pen Grenade
“GoldenEye” (1995)

James Bond makes his second appearance on our list, demonstrating just how resourceful he is. The pen grenade might seem like the least of the gadgets that Q gives 007, particularly compared to the BMW Z3, which comes complete with stinger missiles. But when it comes to crunch time, the small device is surprisingly handy. As a captured Bond looks on, fidgety programmer Boris picks up the pen by accident and starts clicking away. The observant Bond bides his time, carefully counting down clicks, so he knows exactly when to take action. The pen is mightier indeed.

#7: Closing Their Eyes When the Ark Is Opened
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

The Ark of the Covenant must be a tempting sight for any intrepid archeologist. As it begins to emanate a pale glow, however, Indiana Jones squeezes his eyes shut and instructs Marion to do likewise. Apparitions destroy the Nazis holding them captive, but spare the heroes. How did Indiana know? In deleted dialogue, the old man who deciphers the writing on the headpiece also translates a warning about looking at the Ark. Theoretically, Indiana might also have deduced this from 1 Samuel 6:19, in which the Lord smites 70 people in the city Beth Shemesh for peering inside. In any case, good call, Indy.

#6: Taping a Gun to His Back
“Die Hard” (1988)

When criminal mastermind Hans Gruber takes his wife hostage on Christmas Eve, NYPD Detective John McClane devises an impromptu gift - his willing surrender - and a surprise: a gun taped to his back. It shows that even after falling down stairs, sprinting over broken glass, and bungee jumping off a rooftop using a fire hose, McClane still has his wits about him. While it doesn’t all go as planned, the trick gives McClane the advantage he needs to rescue his wife and defeat Gruber.

#5: Using Mud as Camouflage
“Predator” (1987)

Muscles alone can’t always get Arnold out of trouble. Pursued through the jungle by an alien hunting him for sport, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer gets a lucky break when he scrambles up a muddy river bank. Even from just a few feet away, the creature can’t see him anymore. It turns out that the thick layer of mud interferes with its thermal sensor. Finding an advantage at last, Dutch covers himself in mud and summons the creature with a mighty war cry - luring it straight into an ambush.

#4: Capturing the Bus Cam for a Re-Run
“Speed” (1994)

Pop quiz, hotshot: how do you offload passengers from a bus rigged with explosives? Defuse the bomb on the bottom of the speeding bus? Good luck. After SWAT officer Jack Traven realizes that the bomber is watching the bus on a hidden camera, his superior, Lieutenant "Mac" McMahon, comes up with a quick plan. He has a news crew loop the transmission, making the bomber think the passengers are still on board while they’re really being offloaded onto another bus. This leaves Jack and Annie to make a quick and dangerous escape. It’s a truly inspired plan that many other people have borrowed from over the years.

#3: Using the Cargo-Loader to Fight the Alien Queen
“Aliens” (1986)

How do you go toe-to-toe with a Xenomorph? Watch and learn. As the alien queen advances on the orphan Newt, Ripley improvises. Climbing into a powered exoskeleton used for loading cargo, she reenters the fight . . . in the most badass way possible. In the exosuit, Ripley is able to match the alien queen’s strength, and hurl her into the spaceship’s airlock. From there, she’s on her own, but a gamble to open the airlock while she’s still inside sees the alien queen jettisoned into space.

#2: Heading Back to the Citadel
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

Even the simplest action, like turning around, can be the smartest decision of your life. It takes a lot of courage to venture into the unknown. But as Furiosa prepares to lead her band over barren salt flats, hoping desperately that there’s someplace green and habitable on the other side, Max intervenes. His plan is crazy, but probably no worse than the endless desert. Together, Max and Furiosa decide to book it back to Immortan Joe’s Citadel, where there are water and crops. Sometimes, it’s better to go for a sure thing.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Challenging the Villain to a Dance-Off
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

- Distracting the T-Rex with Flare
“Jurassic Park” (1993)

- Having His Daughter Scream Out a Description
“Taken” (2008)

#1: Calling the Dog the Wrong Name
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

It was brilliant to reprogram Terminators in the future to serve as protectors for humans, but the classic T-800’s revealing trick on his liquid metal adversary takes the cake. The T-1000 is disguised as John Connor’s foster mother, and when John calls home he feels like something is not quite right. Fortunately, Arnie’s quick-thinking good-guy-robot is there to save the day: suspecting it’s the T-1000 on the other end; he impersonates John’s voice and asks about the dog, but uses the wrong name. When the T-1000 replies with the same fake name, the jig is up. Ha, who says T-1000 is a more advanced model than the T-800?! Still, Arnie is kind of harsh about it!

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