Highlights:Top Gun, Mission Impossible series, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral
The Cruiser has always brought an intensity to his work, which can be especially felt in his action movies.
His role as cocky fighter pilot Maverick in Top Gun made Cruise a box office star, but it would be his turn as Ethan Hunt in 3 Mission Impossible movies which reinvented his stunts as an action icon for a new generation, and one that does his own stunts, mind you.
Highlights:Once Upon a Time in China Trilogy, Fist of Legend, Hero, Unleashed, Fearless
The lightening fast successor to Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee has taken Hollywood by storm in the likes of Lethal Weapon 4 and To Romeo With Love.
Yet it is Jet Li’s pre-Hollywood career which still remains his best work. His portrayal of legendary martial arts hero Wong Fei-Hung in the Once Upon a Time in China series saw him at his most agile, yet for Li’s patented ferocious footwork look no further than Fist of Legend, where he remade Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury to smashing results.
From the internal darkness of “Mad” Max Rockatansky to the external crazy of Martin Riggs, Aussie turned American thespian Mel Gibson has run the action gauntlet throughout his career, bringing much needed depth and frenzied passion to a genre which was missing both.
With Braveheart, Gibson took his approach to a new level in front and behind the screen, reviving the long thought dead romantic action epic with style and much bloodshed.
Highlights:Drunken Master, Snake in the Eagles Shadow, The Young Master, Project A series, Police Story series
The crown prince of martial arts action, Jackie Chan has wowed audiences around the world with his dazzling physical feats, blending slapstick and action to make often entertaining results.
Although still going strong at the age of 56, it is his work during the ‘80s and ‘90s which impresses the most, the Police Story series in particular showing off Chan’s strengths.
Wise cracking action heroes are a dime a dozen, yet none do it better than Bruce Willis, former Moonlighting star turned action movie saviour in Die Hard.
The last name on a long list of potential candidates (which included Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Gere), Willis was cast as flawed cop John McClane with many eyebrows raised.
Yet doubters were left eating their words thanks to Willis’ action excellence, and soon there was a new superstar in town.
Highlights:Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones series, Blade Runner, Jack Ryan series, The Fugitive
Harrison Ford presented a new type of action star, the reluctant hero who, when placed under pressure, comes up aces with quick thinking and even quicker fists.
His turn as space pirate Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy broke him into the industry and into the hearts of a generation of film lovers.
But it is Indiana Jones that saw Ford as a bonafide action hero, hunting ancient relics while (barely) staying once step ahead of the bad guys (just don’t mention snakes).
Highlights:The Man With No Name series, Where Eagles Dare, Dirty Harry series, The Outlaw Josey Wales, In the Line of Fire
Clint Eastwood’s pedigree as an action hero has stretched far and wide over 5 decades.
He has tamed the wild west, served in an succession of wars, and patrolled the mean streets with canon in hand and badge on heart. His two most famous roles, the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and gritty cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry series, will live on in infamy and have thrilled and inspired generations of film fans (many of whom are on this list).
Highlights:The Big Boss, The Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury, Enter the Dragon, The Game of Death
Martial arts and indeed modern day action films would not be what they are today if it was not for Bruce Lee.
From kicking ass as Kato in The Green Hornet series to his untimely death mid shoot on Game of Death, Lee has left a profound legacy in cinemas which cannot be denied.
Supernatural in speed and strength, Lee went through a cascade of enemies on screen (The Big Boss, Fist of Fury) and at times off, with many wiaiting in the wings foolish enough to take him on.
Yet it was Enter the Dragon which would remain Lee’s greatest achievement, finally breaking through the American market after years of racial rejection, and bringing the sweet art of Jeet Kun Do to the masses.
Highlights:Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator series, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies
Former Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Hollywood with a plan: to crush the competition and become box office king, which is what he did with a succession of choice action movies that showed off his physical stature and humour, taking down the bad guys with brute force and a killer catch phrase.
Conan the Barbarian was his big break, but it would be The Terminator and its sequel that made him a star. A move into politics stopped his career which was in a descent, yet his guest appearance in The Expendables proves that Uncle Arnie still has that magnetic presence.
If there was ever an actor who defined the words Action Hero, then Sylvester Stallone would be than man.
From humble beginnings with a little film called Rocky, to box office star with two franchises under his belt, Stallone has carved out a career as a “doer”, often wearing different hats to bring his projects to life, and practically creating the box office action film with his forays as Rocky Balboa and John Rambo.
This weeks’ release of The Expendables showcases Stallone at his very best as an action visionary and standing tall amongst his peers.