The 10 All Time Greatest Action Movie Stars According To Ranker

The 10 All Time Greatest Action Movie Stars According To Ranker

Few things get the blood of an avid action cinema aficionado pumping like a solid popcorn flick offering starring their favorite actor or actress. Whether they’re an old school western antihero like Clint Eastwood or a new generation crime thriller staple like Jason Statham, the best action stars are often identified by box office draw, familiar serialized characters, pop culture impact, and good old fashioned raw charisma.

It’s hard to narrow down the action field with so many stellar contenders from both classic and modern eras, but pollsters over at Ranker have given it a go.

Chuck Norris

A picture of Chuck Norris in his early career is shown.

Chuck Norris is a vaunted American icon, having served in the U.S. Air Force and mastered no less than three martial arts, eventually forming his school of fighting, Chun Kuk Do. He first appeared on the martial arts movie scene starring alongside Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon. Norris then followed it up in several famous martial arts B movies including The Octagon, Lone Wolf McQuade, Delta Force, and the Missing in Action trilogy. However, he’s perhaps most famously known for his television role of Walker, Texas Ranger.

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Norris became wildly popular due to his understated and straightforward acting techniques coupled with his superior fighting skills, and his works have achieved cult status in the United States, having their unique niche among blue-collar action entertainment offerings.

Harrison Ford

A picture of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is shown.

For fans who grew up in the seventies and eighties, very few actors get the action star accolades that Harrison Ford does. In just over a decade, Ford gave the world two of its most iconic movie heroes in the roles of Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy and Indiana Jones in the Indiana Jones trilogy. Ford’s portrayals of hapless antiheroes became the stuff of legend.

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His grizzled charisma and charming, swashbuckling demeanor entrenched his position in the cinematic empires of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Few cinema fans remember the 1980s without fondly recalling Harrison Ford’s against-all-odds escapades.

Jason Statham

jason statham redemption hummingbird

Jason Statham launched his action movie career via Guy Ritchie’s crime capers Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and went on to help resurrect the dormant action genre in the early 2000s and 2010s with an array of hard-hitting modern action movies like The Transporter series, The Mechanic series, The Italian Job, the Death Race reboot, and Crank.

He hit franchise gold with Stallone’s Expendables series and is perhaps best known for his recurring role as Deckard Shaw in The Fast and the Furious series. Statham is now a staple of 21st-century action films and his rugged good looks and considerable martial art abilities propel him to action star heights, his tough-guy roles are often Machiavellian ne’er do wells with hearts of gold.

Clint Eastwood

Harry Callhan pointing a gun in Dirty Harry.

Clint Eastwood is more or less the godfather of action films. Still going strong at 90 years of age with his most recent offering Cry Macho, Eastwood established himself as the watermark of the entire genre with his spaghetti western Man With No Name roles in the Sergio Leone trilogy and as his less than sympathetic cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry series, and went on to star in tent pole action films like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Escape from Alcatraz, Heartbreak Ridge, High Plains Drifter, and In the Line of Fire. He took home three Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actor for Unforgiven.

Related: 10 Coolest Movie Roles Of Clint Eastwood’s Career

Eastwood grounded himself as an iconic actor showcasing American machismo at its heart-pounding apex. While some of his works haven’t quite held up in perpetuity because of their era-dependent trappings of toxic masculinity, there’s no question Eastwood showcases hero-savior trope bravado in its most audience-appealing form.

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3

Keanu Reeves became a brightly burning star early in his career with standout performances in genre-specific pieces like My Own Private Idaho, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Dangerous Liaisons. Yet it was his rise in the action genre which catapulted him to international acclaim, first starring in action classics like Point Break and Speed, like Neo in The Matrix series, and then Reeves accepted one of his best roles as John Wick, which launched a  popular action franchise trilogy with two more sequels currently on the way.

Ranker voters likely see Reeves much as the rest of movie fandom, a charismatic yet humble actor assuming savior and assassin mantles as easily as his rom-com roles. His easy-going likability and well-known propensity for treating fans and crew members with dignity only solidify his high rank among the greatest action stars.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard

No action movie ranked list would be complete without Bruno in the top ten. Willis started his acting career as the wisecracking David Addison in the television series Moonlighting, but it was 1988’s Die Hard that propelled him to action star legend.

Related: 10 Most Iconic Bruce Willis Movie Quotes

As perpetually battered police detective John McClane, he managed to buck Stallone-Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilder trends and fortify himself as an all-time great in five different Die Hard films as well as several classic action movies like The Last Boy Scout, Pulp Fiction, The Fifth Element, Sin City, 12 Monkeys, and Looper. Willis’ working-class swagger and down-on-his-luck grit became a signature charisma for the affable actor. All that plus pinpoint accurate comic timing makes Willis an all-time great.

Bruce Lee

A picture of Bruce Lee in his iconic yellow jumpsuit is shown.

Bruce Lee may well be the most famous martial arts movie star of all time. The Hong-Kong American actor was first utilized in the role of Kato in the television series The Green Hornet. Lee went on to star in five of the most acclaimed martial arts movies of the seventies, including The Big Boss, Fists of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and Game of Death.

Enter the Dragon is commonly regarded as the best martial arts movie ever made. Lee’s portrayal of a reluctant antihero showcased the softer nuances of his underrated acting chops behind all the thrilling action movie sequences. He is often credited as the man who opened the door on modern mixed martial arts for the entire cinematic landscape, and hardcore martial art fans lament his early demise to this day.

Jackie Chan

Chan has appeared in over 150 films and is often thought of as the most recognized action star on the planet, with his immense popularity in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres. His most well-known films include the Rush Hour series with Chris Tucker, Supercop, Police Story, Rumble in the Bronx, and Shanghai Noon, and he also voices Monkey in the popular Kung Fu Panda series.

Chan’s claim to fame lay less in his considerable martial arts skills showcasing a more acrobatic fighting style and more in his congenial stage presence. Known for his natural comedic timing as well as his signature moves of using improved weaponry and unique stunt work, Chan made an indelible mark in the history of the action genre.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone Cobra TV series

Stallone’s cinematic catalog may be the most cited and quoted among the genre’s more ardent fans. Sly has been thrilling audiences since 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush and went on to star in infamous action flicks like Nighthawks, Cliffhanger, Cobra, and Get Carter. He is of course most noted for his portrayals of Rocky Balboa and John Rambo in the Rocky and Rambo series, and later in his career as Barney Ross in the Expendables series.

Stallone’s Hardcase screen persona often emulated and parodied, frequently offset his quiet vulnerabilities as a regular guy kind of man struggling to stay afloat in intensely adverse situations. His performances in Rocky and First Blood have become American rites of passage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian holding a sword

Ranker fans put Arnie at number one and there’s little question as to why. Schwarzenegger has delivered some of the most celebrated action pieces of all time, starting with his legendary appearance in Conan the Barbarian and moving into cinematic legend by taking the villain role in James Cameron’s The Terminator, launching a franchise that would win the world over with its haunting Judgment Day sci-fi time travel tropes.

Schwarzenegger invoked the absolute Alpha Male hero in classic modern B movies like Commando, Predator, Total Recall, The Running Man, Kindergarten Cop, and True Lies. Though it was slow going at first with his clipped language and underdeveloped acting skills, Schwarzenegger eventually came into his own and exuded an alluring yet commanding screen presence. Nobody does act like the Governator.

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