The decade is coming to a close, and it marked a big comeback for action movies. After largely being ignored by Hollywood for two decades, action movies roared back in a big way in the 2010s with blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films alike. But what were the absolute best of the decade? While it was certainly hard to narrow it down, we believe we’ve come up with a pretty good representation of the best action movies of the 2010s, so take a look below to find out what they are.
Disclaimer: For the list, movies must be action first above all other genres. Hence the exclusion of certain superhero movies, adventure films, and sci-fi/fantasy action movies.
1. Fast Five (2011)
Fast & Furious is the highest-grossing straight action movie franchise — as in non-superhero/sci-fi/fantasy — of the decade, so naturally, it’s going to have a spot on this list. And there’s no better representative of the franchise’s high-octane action than this, the fifth installment. It has the best action before the series got too crazy, a mile-a-minute plot that transformed the franchise forever, and it was the first FF movie to feature The Rock. Need we say more?
2. Skyfall (2012)
Not only is Skyfall one of the greatest action films of the decade, but it’s also one of the best James Bond movies ever. With unforgettable setpieces, major emotional stakes, and seriously explosive action, Daniel Craig’s third outing as the superspy is imminently rewatchable, and it helped make the argument for him being the best actor to ever put on the tux.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
This is a superhero film in name only. Modeled after ’70s political thrillers, The Winter Soldier features a twisting narrative and incredible fight choreography that have made it a legend in the genre. The elevator scene alone makes it worthy of inclusion on this list.
4. John Wick (2014)
Any one of the three John Wick movies could have rightfully been included on this list, but there’s really no more logical entrant than the original. It’s the film that proved adult-aimed R-rated action movies could still be a success at the box office, and it kicked off the Keanu Reeves career renaissance, or Keanussaince, that’s still going strong today.
5. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
The action in Matthew Vaughn’s spy thriller is ridiculously over-the-top in the best way possible. Of all the movies on this list, the first Kingsman movie is arguably the most fun, as it proves that action movies can still knock your socks off without taking themselves too seriously.
6. The Raid 2 (2014)
If it’s fight scenes you’re after, then this is your movie. Improving on its venerable predecessor in practically every way, The Raid 2 arguably features the greatest collection of fight scenes ever put to film. This is essentially the action movie boiled down to its core essence, and it is thrilling.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When George Miller returned to reboot his own Mad Max franchise after a 30 year hiatus, no one expected a genre-defining masterpiece to come out of it. Immediately hailed as one of the greatest action movies ever made upon its release, the film was nominated for ten Oscars and won five, securing its legacy as one of the finest examples the genre ever produced.
8. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Following up on her iconic performance in Fury Road, Charlize Theron further cemented herself as one of the decade’s premiere action stars with this brutal thriller. While sometimes compared to a James Bond movie, Atomic Blonde is more Bourne in nature, with visceral fight scenes that practically make you wince while watching.
9. Baby Driver (2017)
If it’s stylish action that you’re after, then look no further. Edgar Wright’s musically-driven film about a young getaway driver is one of the most original action movies in this decade, or any other.
10. Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
Mission Impossible is the most impressive and consistent action franchise of the decade. With their unbelievable stunts and non-stop thrills, Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout have all upped the ante for what an action movie can be. But thanks to Tom Cruise’s relentless desire to continually outdo himself, it’s the most recent installment, Fallout, that gets the nod here. And we can’t wait to see what the franchise brings in the 2020s.