My Top 20 Favorite Action Sequences

Jun 4, 2005

The Bottom Line This scenes are why we watch these movies over and over again.

Here is a list of my top 20 favorite action sequences. There are in no particular order, as it would be too difficult to actually list them since they are all unique in their own way. Many of these scenes are what make the movie worth owning and watching over and over again. I originally set out to list just ten movies, but I my list grew just a tad. There are plenty of great action movies that were left out, but this review is about the sequences within a movie and not the entire film.

The Matrix - When they enter the building and kill all the guards, then detonate the bomb in the elevator shaft. Part of what made this so great was the way it was filmed. The side profile shot of Keanu Reeves running behind the columns as the plaster and concrete exploded all around him is of the best action movie shots ever.

The Crow - Toward the end, when The Crow (the late Brandon Lee) goes into the night club and kills off almost all the gang members, it is a brilliant visual treat. Afterward, the scenes of him running across the tops of the buildings are beautiful and dark. Part of what made this movie so great was that it was very low budget, but still had more edge and flair than a lot of big budget productions.

Equilibrium - When Christian Bale’s character finally enters the government headquarters and takes out all the bad guys, it is a spectacle of carnage. Some parts of this action sequence might draw comparisons to The Matrix, but the final hand-to-hand pistol fight is something you’ve never seen before.

xXx - The big action sequence toward the beginning where Vin Diesel’s character must fight his way out of a South American drug compound is amazing. It is filled with gunfire, massive explosions, and cool motorcycle stunts. A runner-up action sequence from this film would be the great avalanche scene.

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers - The battle of Helm’s Deep is one of the most awesome things from this amazing trilogy. If you listen closely, you can hear one of the orcs scream ‘Cowabunga!’ when he is thrown off the castle wall.

Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope - The final space battle sequence where they destroy the Death Star may not seem like such a big deal now, but at the time it was one of the most incredible special effects feats ever caught on film. And it still stands the test of time.

Face/Off - The final shoot-out and boat chase sequence between Travolta and Cage is breath-taking and original. This is John Woo’s best American movie.

Hard-Boiled - Another John Woo movie. The huge fight sequence set in the hospital at the end is absolutely incredible. The best part is the one long continuous shot that even follows the characters up an elevator. Amazing.

Saving Private Ryan - The opening battle sequence when they storm the beaches. I don’t think any WWII movie will ever top the intensity of that scene. The final action piece is also amazing. This is one of the greatest war movies ever made.

Independence Day - When the aliens finally attack and send walls of fire across the Earth. The first time I saw it, I don’t remember blinking or breathing.

Predator - When the soldiers storm the jungle compound and shoot everyone and blow up everything, oh hell yeah! This entire movie, from beginning to end, is one giant action sequence that has some of the best one-liners and death scenes ever. It starts out as a military movie and ends up being a sci-fi action piece about an alien trophy hunter.

Braveheart - This has two major battle sequences that each deliver more gore and violence than just about anything else you’ll ever see in another medieval movie.

Dead Alive - One of the bloodiest and funniest movies ever made by Peter Jackson before he went on to do Lord of the Rings. In one part of this movie, a guy takes a push lawnmower, cranks it up, then holds it vertically as he walks into a house full of zombies and literally mows them all down. You have to see it to believe it.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The first big fight scene at the beginning of the movie, when the sword is stolen, took my breath away. All of the action scenes in this film are way over the top, but that first one really hit me.

Brotherhood of the Wolf - This French movie really packs a punch. Set a couple of centuries ago, it is about a French hunter travelling with an American Indian who knows Kung Fu. The sequence when they first confront the ‘monster’ is truly awesome.

Speed - The opening sequence where they rescue some people trapped in an elevator really set the tone for this great action movie. Nobody dies and no shots are fired, but the intensity is high all the way through. The sequence where they all sneak off the bus and then it crashes into an airplane is also worthy of mention.

Heat - The big gunfight that takes place out on the city streets is a spectacle to watch and a great feat of realism and cinematography. This movie may be a bit long, but that action sequence was incredible. Michael Mann directed this and the next movie on this list.

Last of the Mohicans - This movie has some of the best music and cinematography and is set in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The sequence where the group of British troops are jumped by the Native Americans is a real treat to watch.

Blown Away - The face off between Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges at the end of this movie results in one of the biggest explosions ever caught on film. Many buildings suffered from shattered windows in the city where this was filmed and the studio had to replace a lot of them.

The Terminator - When they blow up the fuel tanker and then the robotic skeleton comes out of the fiery remains of the vehicle, it is one of the most memorable science fiction movie moments ever. The following chase sequence in the factory comes to an awesome ending that sets the way for the awesome sequel that would come many years later.

There’s my top twenty favorite action sequences. There are plenty of other great ones out there, but these are the first ones that come to mind. I could probably go on to make a list of top fifty action sequences, but I had to stop somewhere. Now I want to go watch all these movies again!

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