One of the most influential figures in Hong Kong action cinema, Jackie Chan is one of the rare international stars who successfully transitioned to English-language productions. With over 150 credits to his name, Chan still appears in popular Chinese and American films to this day. Chan’s mastery of martial arts is unmatched, and he’s loyally worked with the same stunt crew throughout his entire career. Chan learned from the very best, as he got his start in stunt work alongside Bruce Lee in 1972’s “Fist of Fury” and 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.”
1978’s “Snake in Eagle’s Shadow” proved that not only was Chan a brilliant kung fu fighting force, but also a great leading man. He was charismatic, funny, and exhibited the strains that the laborious fight sequences had on his physical and mental health. 1982’s “Dragon Lord” showed that he could push setpieces in more elaborate directions, but it was 1985’s “Police Story” that made him a legend. The film’s opening car chase is one of the most electrifying action sequences ever created, and Chan developed the role of Sergeant Chan Ka-Kui over its five sequels. He also launched the “Armour of God” and “Drunken Master” franchises.
Chan’s bravery was an international sensation, and 1998’s “Rush Hour” signified that his American films could be just as successful as those made in Hong Kong. The “Rush Hour” trilogy also proved that he could play comedic roles with self-aware humor, as his banter with Chris Tucker is hilarious amidst the hectic storyline.
Sylvester Stallone has been a consistent presence in action cinema since the ’70s, one of the rare actors to have a number one box office hits across six decades. Stallone’s signature role is the titular underdog champion of the “Rocky” franchise, but shortly after the 1976 original took home the Academy Award for best picture, he created another instantly iconic screen character with John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s fascinating to see how the “Rambo” saga evolved. 1982’s “First Blood” is an intimate character study that showed that Stallone was still a serious dramatic actor, but 1985’s “Rambo: First Blood Part II” and 1988’s “Rambo III” transformed the series into an over-the-top action extravaganza. When he returned to the character with 2007’s “Rambo” and 2019’s “Rambo: Last Blood,” Stallone increased the intensity with even bloodier setpieces.
Stallone can give layered performances that show the complexities of law enforcement officers and his other heroes. “Nighthawks” was a realistic buddy cop thriller that explored the threat of urban terrorism, and “Cop Land” placed him within an old-fashioned noir. Even a film like “Cliffhanger,” which features death-defying stunts, featured him wrestling with a tragic backstory. There’s a self-seriousness to Stallone’s most absurd work, including “Cobra,” “Daylight,” and “Lock Up,” as he delivers even the goofiest one-liners with complete sincerity. However, sillier roles in “Demolition Man,” “Tango & Cash,” and “Over the Top” show that he’s at least a little self-aware.
If action movies require distinctive personalities, few stars are quite as singular as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger isn’t only an amazing action star, but has an inspirational real life that makes him someone audiences want to root for. Schwarzenegger grew up in Austria and even served in his native country’s military force, but he dreamed of moving to the United States. Schwarzenegger’s immigrant story is powerful and has helped him create some of the greatest action films of all time.
Schwarzenegger is best known for his titular role in the Terminator franchise, a character that he’s reinvented with each installment. The 1984 original saw him as a steely, fearsome villain, yet James Cameron switched things up for 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” His original target, John Carter, reprograms him to make him a protector, and it’s fun to see a young John (Edward Furlong) and his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) work alongside their former nemesis. Although some of the other “Terminator” sequels are very poor in quality, 2019’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” was an underrated soft reboot.
Schwarzenegger’s physical strength makes him convincing as a military hero. “Conan the Barbarian” and “Commando” saw him at his most banal and brutal, and in “Predator” he’s believable as the only survivor of the monstrous hunter’s bloodbath. However, he’s also incredibly charismatic, and convincingly plays a charming super spy in “True Lies.” Roles in “Last Action Hero,” “The Running Man,” and “Kindergarten Cop” show that he’s self-aware, too.
Keanu Reeves is one of the most likeable movie stars on the planet, but has a dedication to his action roles that never skimps on the brutality those parts require. Reeves’s extensive stunt training also allows him to bring out the vulnerability in his roles, and as a result he’s been a relevant action star for over three decades.
Reeves began his career playing wacky comedic characters as well as darker dramatic ones, until he entered the action genre with 1991’s “Point Break.” FBI Agent Johnny Utah has a great self-seriousness to him that’s matched by Patrick Swayze’s anti-hero Bodhi, the perfect antagonist for Kathryn Bigelow’s self-aware film. He launched another ’90s classic with “Speed,” one of the definitive “Die Hard” reimaginings; “Speed 2: Cruise Control” suffers from Reeves’ absence.
Reeves continued to work in different action subgenres thanks to 1999’s “The Matrix.” The Wachowski sisters explored complex sci-fi themes such as the notion of reality, consumerism, totalitarianism, and identity, but didn’t skimp on great action. Its mix of gunplay, martial arts, and robotic technology was totally unique. Although the sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” aren’t as well-regarded, Reeves’ continuous enthusiasm is a highlight. Although his career declined in the early ’00s, Reeves returned to prominence with the “John Wick” franchise, declaring “I’m thinking I’m back!” The brilliant mix of neo-noir elements with fast-paced gunplay created a modern classic, and the sequels have been just as good.
Being believable in an action sequence is a crucial skill for an action star, as audiences are more willing to invest in a character if it looks like the hero is fighting for real. Viewers have never had a hard time believing Jet Li on screen, because the Chinese martial artist became a kung fu champion before he was a teenager. Li brought his athletic abilities to the big screen, and following his acclaimed debut in “Shaolin Temple,” he created electrifying action sequences in films like “Hero,” “Once Upon a Time in China,” “Fist of Legend,” “Fearless,” and “Tai Chi Master.”
Li’s skills became so renowned that he had crossover international success, and led many American productions as well. He first appeared alongside Mel Gibson and Danny Glover with a role in “Lethal Weapon 4,” proving that he deserved to stand alongside action movie legends. He also joined “The Mummy” and “The Expendables” franchises and injected them with new life.
5 best movie recommendations 2021 :
note: The Battle of Snake Eyes
note: Dragon Hunter
note: Sword Art Online
note: Richard King
note: The Line of Tricks