Top 10 Most Underappreciated Action Movies Ever

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Top 10 Most Underappreciated Action Movies Ever

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These underrated action movie classics deserve to be seen! For this list, we'll be ranking the under-the-radar action flicks that perhaps deserve a bit more love from fans. Our countdown includes “Last Action Hero”, “The Rundown”, “Atomic Blonde”, and more!
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Top 10 Underappreciated Action Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underappreciated Action Movies.

For this list, we’ll be ranking the under-the-radar action flicks that perhaps deserve a bit more love from fans.

Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments!

#10: “Last Action Hero” (1993)

We’re not sure if the world was ready for a meta self-parody of the action movie genre back in 1993, but we do know that “Last Action Hero” sure feels smart and vital here in the present day. The film does so much right with regard to its observations on action movie clichés. “Last Action Hero” is also helped along by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ability to laugh at himself, as well as the tropes that tend to run through his enviable filmography of hits. “Last Action Hero” also never forgets to be an action movie, thanks to a smart script co-written by “Lethal Weapon’s” Shane Black. It’s the best of both worlds, and we honestly can’t say enough good things about it.

#9: “Free Fire” (2016)

While “Free Fire” could’ve been equally captivating with its kitschy, 1970s premise by expanding beyond its single location, the film still finds room to be creative. For starters, there’s some incredibly witty and funny banter between these factions of characters that are all trapped in a life-or-death struggle within the confines of a warehouse. The gunshots and insults fly, while moments of black comedy are underscored by scenes of unflinching violence. These characters are all flawed, but the joy of watching “Free Fire” is seeing how things unfold, and who, if anyone, will make it to the end without a bullet in their belly.

#8: “Demolition Man” (1993)

Make no mistake, 1993’s “Demolition Man” is way more than just a movie about a dystopian Taco Bell. Nope, this nineties action flick could actually be considered to be something of a minor classic, thanks to a screenplay that plays around with satire and social commentary, while never forgetting to be an entertaining action romp. “Demolition Man” depicts a future where crime is essentially extinct, only for dangerous criminal Simon Phoenix, played deliciously by Wesley Snipes, to escape cryogenic stasis and wreak ultimate havoc. Only a cop from Phoenix’s past is able to stop him, while at the same time adjusting to a new world of law enforcement. It’s great fun.

#7: “The Rundown” (2003)

The writing was clearly on the wall, right from the opening scene from 2003’s “The Rundown:” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had arrived in Hollywood, and was ready to take on the torch. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cameo was clearly clued into this sentiment, but that’s not the only thing “The Rundown” has to offer action movie fans. The flick is a fun crowd pleaser in the form of an “Indiana Jones” sized adventure with riveting action and prime buddy flick chemistry between Johnson and Seann William Scott. “The Rundown” may have shown up early in the Rock’s filmography, but we think it’s held up surprisingly well decades later.

#6: “Ronin” (1998)

Director John Frankenheimer was no stranger to conducting orchestras of tension, drama and action within his movies. After all, the man’s résumé of flicks like “Grand Prix,” “French Connection II” and the original “Manchurian Candidate” speaks for itself. Still, we’d argue that Frankenheimer still had plenty of gas in the tank when he directed “Ronin” at the end of the 20th century. The film deserves to be mentioned alongside classics like Michael Mann’s “Heat” in terms of dead-to-rights ‘90s action highlights, with Frankenheimer’s film in particular boasting some of the greatest chase sequences of the decade. “Ronin” also benefits from an outstanding cast, headed up by Robert De Niro, that makes this heist/action jam a definite must-watch for anyone remotely interested in the genre.


#5: “Atomic Blonde” (2017)

We’re not sure if 2017 was ordained as the year we needed a female James Bond to give us some serious action movie thrills, but Charlize Theron showed up, we sat down, and were ALL IN on the ride. That said, we’re glad “Atomic Blonde” seemed to do well enough to the point where a sequel is reportedly in development, although we’d argue that the film is still, in a sense, underrated. It’s all about the action set pieces here, as Theron and crew indulge in long takes and complex choreography. The comparisons to the “John Wick” franchise were probably inevitable, but we’d argue that “Atomic Blonde” more than stands on its own two feet.


#4: “Shoot ‘Em Up” (2007)

Subtlety? Restraint? Fuh-gettaboutit. 2007’s “Shoot ‘Em Up” instead prefers to play in that inimitable sandbox of 1980s action, while retaining visual sensibilities that are rooted in the mid-2000s. The film largely eschews plot and character development in favor of breakneck pacing and absurdism with regards to the physics of the average set piece. “Shoot ‘Em Up” isn’t out to break the action movie mold, but instead simply wants to entertain and make you laugh, as Clive Owen and co-star Monica Bellucci find themselves in one ridiculous situation after another. The film may not have been a financial success, but action fans looking for a rollicking good time are well advised to give “Shoot ‘Em Up” another…er, shot.


#3: “Upgrade” (2018)

Logan Marshall-Green had a solid résumé prior to his starring in the 2018 action flick “Upgrade.” This was thanks to his supporting performances in films like “Prometheus” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” However, “Upgrade” managed to surprise just about everyone with its level of intensity and action. The flick was directed by “Saw” franchise veteran Leigh Whannell, and takes 1970s sci-fi tropes about body modification and upgrades them (see what we did there?) to the modern day. Marshall-Green is great as a victim of a violent crime who seeks revenge, while Whannell’s direction balances the more comedic moments with sequences of palpable violence and tension.


#2: “Dredd” (2012)

Look, we’ll always secretly love the Sylvester Stallone adaption from the nineties (bad press, be damned), but fans of the original “Judge Dredd” comic adventures were largely pleased with this 2012 reboot. This is despite the fact that “Dredd” didn’t do well enough commercially to warrant a franchise. The film’s casting of Karl Urban fulfills its need for a believable, tough guy version of the character, while the world of Mega-City One feels lived in. On top of that, the action alone is intense enough to invite doubters to give “Dredd” another viewing, even if they find some of the CGI wonky and slow-motion effects a tad excessive.

Before we name our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions!

“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)
When Samuel L. Jackson Tells You It’s One of His Best Movies, You Take Notice

“Wanted” (2008)
We’re Still Waiting for That Sequel

“Red” (2010)
A Fun Romp With a Great Ensemble Cast

“Hanna” (2011)
A Young Assassin Movie for the Ages

#1: “The Guest” (2014)

It’s totally understandable to say that action movie fans have perhaps forgotten about this 2014 film from “You’re Next” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” director Adam Wingard. However, “The Guest” almost certainly deserves reevaluation, thanks largely to the level of talent involved. Dan Stevens is great as the stranger who ingratiates himself into a family’s home, claiming to be a friend of their eldest son who was killed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Zombi keyboardist and songwriter Steve Moore delivers a synth-soaked musical score that echoes action classics from directors like John Carpenter. “The Guest” takes its secret identity story and runs with it, delivering an underrated slice of genre-splicing dread.
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