Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MASTER LIST #8: The 101 Greatest Action Movies

I discovered in doing this list that the action genre was really born in the 1960s. Before then, most movie "action" came in the form of war movies, westerns, film noir, and serials (to which the #1 film on the list is a complete homage). When the long-dominating western started to lose steam in the late 60s, the action genre--which, for the most part, is a wildly-differing urban-based one--took its place. We still had guns a-firing, but instead of horses, we had cars (it was the popularity of the automobile that really changed the genre). Thus, save for a very few titles, you won't see many movies made before 1960 on this list. Now I have lists for the best war movies and westerns, so I left them off this overview (the best film noir/mystery compendium is coming soon). And even though I did a best sci-fi movies list, there are still a few science-fiction-colored movies mentioned here; however, I kept their numbers down to a minimum--the ones that do pop up generally feel as if they could be set in contemporary times (as often they are). The Matrix, The Terminator and Mad Max (to name a few) are sci-fi movies that really let the action-movie in them do all the "talking." Anyway, I was surprised at how many action movies I genuinely love, because I'm always lamenting at how the genre seems to have taken over present-day popular moviemaking. Hell, I even have a few superhero movies on the list, and that's a subgenre I generally abhor! Anyway, based on (1) thrills, (2) overall quality, (3) relevance to genre, and (4) influence, here are the results:

1) Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 81)
2) The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 99)
3) Die Hard (John McTiernan, 88)
4) Mad Max (George Miller, 79)
5) The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 54)
6) Leon (Luc Besson, 94)
7) The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three (Joseph Sargent, 74)
8) Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 71)
9) Hard Boiled (John Woo, 92)
10) Aliens (James Cameron, 86)
11) Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 64)
12) The Road Warrior (George Miller, 81)
13) The Terminator (James Cameron, 84)
14) The Warriors (Walter Hill, 79)
15) Gone in 60 Seconds (H.B. Halicki, 74)
16) Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)
17) Bullitt (Peter Yates, 68)
18) 48 HRS. (Walter Hill, 82)
19) The French Connection (William Friedkin, 71)
20) Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 71)
21) Heat (Michael Mann, 95)
22) Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 73)
23) The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
24) Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 81)
25) Deliverance (John Boorman, 72)
26) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 38)
27) Point Blank (John Boorman, 67)
28) The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 69)
29) Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 71)
30) Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 67)
31) Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 76)
32) El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 92)
33) Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 99)
34) La Femme Nikita (Luc Besson, 90)
35) Across 110th Street (Barry Shear, 72)
36) Executive Decision (Stuart Baird, 96)
37) The Fugitive (Andrew Davis, 93)
38) Superman (Richard Donner, 78)
39) Truck Turner (Jonathan Kaplan, 74)
40) Thief (Michael Mann, 81)
41) The Poseidon Adventure (Ronald Neame, 72)
42) Sharkey’s Machine (Burt Reynolds, 81)
43) The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 80)
44) Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 97)
45) Duel (Steven Spielberg, 71)
46) The Flight of the Phoenix (Robert Aldrich, 65)
47) The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
48) Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 65)
49) Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 93)
50) Beverly Hills Cop (Martin Brest, 84)
51) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 69)
52) The Killer (John Woo, 89)
53) Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, 2006)
54) Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 61)
55) Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
56) Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 68)
57) Foxy Brown (Jack Hill, 74)
58) Predator (John McTiernan, 87)
59) Pusher (Nicolas Winding Refn, 96)
60) Under Siege (Andrew Davis, 92)
61) First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 82)
62) Southern Comfort (Walter Hill, 81)
63) To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 85)
64) Coogan’s Bluff (Don Siegel, 68)
65) City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
66) Police Story (Jackie Chan, 85)
67) Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 77)
68) Electra Glide in Blue (James William Guercio, 73)
69) Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
70) Smokey and the Bandit (Hal Needham, 77)
71) Nighthawks (Bruce Malmuth, 81)
72) The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
73) X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)
74) Coffy (Jack Hill, 73)
75) Point Break (Katherine Bigelow, 91)
76) Spiderman 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)
77) Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 74)
78) Charley Varrick (Don Siegel, 73)
79) The Abyss (James Cameron, 89)
80) The Bourne Supremecy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
81) In The Line of Fire (Wolfgang Petersen, 93)
82) Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
83) The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
84) Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001)
85) The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 87)
86) Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 75)
87) Prime Cut (Michael Richie, 72)
88) Shaft (Gordon Parks, 71)
89) Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 92)
90) Die Hard: With A Vengence (John McTiernan, 95)
91) Magnum Force (Ted Post, 73)
92) Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (John Hough, 74)
93) The Mask of Zorro (Martin Campbell, 98)
94) The Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood, 77)
95) Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 88)
96) Lethal Weapon 2 (Richard Donner, 89)
97) The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 77)
98) Dolemite (D’Urville Martin, 75)
99) Speed (Jan De Bont, 94)
100) Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 77)
101) Night of the Juggler (Robert Butler, 80)

BREAKDOWN BY DECADE:
Pre-1960 (2):

5) The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 54)
26) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 38)

The 1960s (11, 3 in 1968):
11) Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 64)
17) Bullitt (Peter Yates, 68)
27) Point Blank (John Boorman, 67)
28) The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 69)
30) Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 67)
46) The Flight of the Phoenix (Robert Aldrich, 65)
48) Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 65)
51) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 69)
54) Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 61)
56) Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 68)
64) Coogan’s Bluff (Don Siegel, 68)

The 1970s (Officially the best decade for action, with 32--5 in 71, 73, 74, and 77):
4) Mad Max (George Miller, 79)
7) The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three (Joseph Sargent, 74)
8) Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 71)
14) The Warriors (Walter Hill, 79)
15) Gone in 60 Seconds (H.B. Halicki, 74)
19) The French Connection (William Friedkin, 71)
20) Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 71)
22) Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 73)
25) Deliverance (John Boorman, 72)
29) Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 71)
31) Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 76)
35) Across 110th Street (Barry Shear, 72)
38) Superman (Richard Donner, 78)
39) Truck Turner (Jonathan Kaplan, 74)
41) The Poseidon Adventure (Ronald Neame, 72)
45) Duel (Steven Spielberg, 71)
51) Deliverance (John Boorman, 72)
57) Foxy Brown (Jack Hill, 74)
67) Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 77)
68) Electra Glide in Blue (James William Guercio, 73)
70) Smokey and the Bandit (Hal Needham, 77)
74) Coffy (Jack Hill, 73)
77) Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 74)
78) Charley Varrick (Don Siegel, 73)
86) Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 75)
87) Prime Cut (Michael Richie, 72)
88) Shaft (Gordon Parks, 71)
91) Magnum Force (Ted Post, 73)
92) Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (John Hough, 74)
94) The Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood, 77)
97) The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 77)
98) Dolemite (D’Urville Martin, 75)
100) Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 77)

The 1980s (23, with 6 in 1981—officially the best year for action movies):
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 81)
3) Die Hard (John McTiernan, 88)
10) Aliens (James Cameron, 86)
12) The Road Warrior (George Miller, 81)
13) The Terminator (James Cameron, 84)
18) 48 HRS. (Walter Hill, 82)
24) Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 81)
40) Thief (Michael Mann, 81)
42) Sharkey’s Machine (Burt Reynolds, 81)
43) The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 80)
50) Beverly Hills Cop (Martin Brest, 84)
52) The Killer (John Woo, 89)
58) Predator (John McTiernan, 87)
61) First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 82)
62) Southern Comfort (Walter Hill, 81)
63) To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 85)
66) Police Story (Jackie Chan, 85)
71) Nighthawks (Bruce Malmuth, 81)
79) The Abyss (James Cameron, 89)
85) The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 87)
95) Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 88)
96) Lethal Weapon 2 (Richard Donner, 89)
101) Night of the Juggler (Robert Butler, 80)

The 1990s (19, with 4 in 1992)
2) The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 99)
6) Leon (Luc Besson, 94)
9) Hard Boiled (John Woo, 92)
21) Heat (Michael Mann, 95)
32) El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 92)
33) Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 99)
34) La Femme Nikita (Luc Besson, 90)
36) Executive Decision (Stuart Baird, 96)
37) The Fugitive (Andrew Davis, 93)
44) Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 97)
49) Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 93)
59) Pusher (Nicolas Winding Refn, 96)
60) Under Siege (Andrew Davis, 92)
75) Point Break (Katherine Bigelow, 91)
81) In The Line of Fire (Wolfgang Petersen, 93)
89) Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 92)
90) Die Hard: With A Vengence (John McTiernan, 95)
93) The Mask of Zorro (Martin Campbell, 98)
99) Speed (Jan De Bont, 94)

The 2000s (14, with 4 in 2004):
16) Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)
23) The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
47) The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
53) Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, 2006)
55) Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
65) City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
69) Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
72) The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
73) X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)
76) Spiderman 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)
80) The Bourne Supremecy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
82) Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
83) The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
84) Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001)

BREAKDOWN BY DIRECTOR:
WITH 3 FILMS:
John McTiernan:
Die Hard (3), Predator (58), Die Hard: With A Vengence (90)
Don Siegel: Dirty Harry (8), Coogan’s Bluff (64), Charley Varrick (78)
James Cameron: Aliens (10), The Terminator (13), The Abyss (79)
Walter Hill: The Warriors (14), 48 HRS. (18), Southern Comfort (62)
William Friedkin: The French Connection (19), To Live and Die in L.A. (63), Sorcerer (67)

WITH 2 FILMS:
Steven Spielberg:
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1), Duel (45)
George Miller: Mad Max (4), The Road Warrior (12)
Akira Kurosawa: The Seven Samurai (5), Yojimbo (54)
Luc Besson: Leon (6), La Femme Nikita (34)
John Woo: Hard Boiled (9), The Killer (52)
Quentin Tarantino: Kill Bill (16), Grindhouse (53)
Michael Mann: Heat (21), Thief (40)
John Carpenter: Escape from New York (24), Assault on Precinct 13 (31)
John Boorman: Deliverance (25), Point Blank (27
Robert Rodriguez: El Mariachi (32), Grindhouse (53)
Andrew Davis: The Fugitive (37), Under Siege (60)
Richard Donner: Superman (38), Lethal Weapon 2 (96)
Paul Greengrass: The Bourne Ultimatum (47), The Bourne Supremecy (80)
Martin Campbell: Casino Royale (55), The Mask of Zorro (93)
Jack Hill: Foxy Brown (57), Coffy (74)

NEXT: The 101 Greatest Romantic Movies Ever Made

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