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The 10 Best Action Movies of All Time, According to Letterboxd

There is no shortage of action movies available to stream for audiences looking for an exhilarating viewing experience. Fans of Letterboxd – a fast-growing social platform for movie buffs – have made it easy to decide which movies to watch first, as only the best action movies get top scores on their site.

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From the gritty superhero movie that revitalized the genre, The black Knightto the disturbing neo-black tableau with its unforgettable premise, Old boythe top-rated action movies on the platform should be considered essential viewing for fans of the genre.

ten Old Boy (2003) – 4.31

Dae-su wields a hammer in Oldboy

Director Park Chan-wook was making disturbing movies with shocking twists long before Parasitewith Old boy being the most remarkable. The neo-noir action flick follows recently released convict Dae-su as he becomes entangled in a massive conspiracy manipulated by mysterious forces.

It’s a movie best seen knowing as little as possible about its disturbing (and controversial) premise. Fans can expect the perfect combination of heart-pounding action sequences and heartbreaking emotional scenes that will stay with them long after seeing the film.

9 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – 4.31

Frodo with the ring in The Lord Of The Rings The Two Towers

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Director Peter Jackson’s incredible ability to weave together an intricate epic story seamlessly is underscored in the iconic The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Its second part, The two towers, follows the gripping adventures of Frodo and Sam as they meet the former Keeper of the One Ring. Of course, the storylines around Gandalf and Saruman, as well as Merry and Pippin, are equally entertaining to watch.

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Its fantastical and cohesive narrative makes its many epic events easy to follow, especially since they are all presented through stunning visuals that transport viewers into the world of Frodo.


8 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – 4.32

Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf Fellowship of the Ring Lord of the Rings

• Available to stream on HBO Max

The Fellowship of the Ring is undoubtedly a classic at this point, as it has been endlessly praised for its cutting-edge visual effects, perfect score, and flawless editing. There was a lot of pressure on director Peter Jackson to deliver a solid first entry in the trilogy, and he’s managing that and more with the original LoTR movie that’s true to the source material.

Besides introducing likeable characters like Frodo and villains like Sauron, the film is best known for its accurate depiction of the vastness and magical atmosphere of Middle-earth.

7 Ran (1985) – 4.37

• Available for rental on Apple TV

Only director Akira Kurosawa could turn William Shakespeare’s King Lear into an epic action movie set in 16th-century Japan and elevate it. That’s exactly what Had run is, and why it’s still such an impressive film decades after its initial release.

The film’s grand scale and ambition appealed to audiences and critics at the time and continues to influence cinema today. The film is as much about the horrors of war as it is an intimate look at how one family struggles for power and control in the midst of it all.

6 The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – 4.40

Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back

• Available to stream on Disney+

It is no exaggeration to say that the star wars franchise has completely transformed cinema, and while it’s mostly made up of sci-fi films, they do contain thrilling action. The Empire Strikes Back is still often considered the best entry yet, as it depicts the war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance in the most breathtaking way.

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It’s also the film that features iconic characters like Yoda and Emperor Palpatine. These characters and their stories have become immovable fixtures in pop culture and continue to influence and define an entire generation today.

5 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – 4.40

Gandalf talking to Pippin in The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

• Available to stream on HBO Max

In large part thanks to its prequels which perfectly set the stage for each storyline’s rewarding conclusion, The king’s return is often considered the best film of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Director Peter Jackson took viewers back to the epic adventure, this time with Aragorn facing a momentous decision, Gandalf leading men into battle and Frodo struggling in the heart of Mordor.

The last leg of the amazing journey is also its most exciting part, which is, of course, made even better by the enhanced visual effects, flawless score and powerful performance.

4 The Dark Knight (2008) – 4.43

Joker holding a playing card in Dark Knight.

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Most fans would agree that The black Knight is director Cristopher Nolan’s best entry in the popular trilogy. The sequel follows Batman’s increasingly difficult war on crime in Gotham, which almost always seems to lead him to the Joker.

The superhero movie is grittier than most because in addition to its heavy atmosphere, it tackles hard-hitting themes like morality and identity. Its rousing action sequences are just as entertaining to watch as its more intimate, well-written scenes that highlight the dilemmas and personal desires of its legendary characters.

3 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – 4.44

Spider-Man in the Spider-Verse Miles Morales Suit

• Available for rental on Apple TV

Directors Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti give audiences a brilliantly complex and compelling origin story for fan favorite Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Viewers dive deep into the multiverse as Miles tries to figure out how to work with different versions of Spidey to take down the big bad, Kingpin.

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The beautifully animated film does away with the tired old superhero formula and boldly introduces something genuinely new to the oversaturated genre. It has been praised for the way its striking visuals complement its action sequences, making it nearly impossible for any viewer to take their eyes off the screen.

2 Seven Samurai (1954) – 4.52

Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and the rest of the Seven Samurai main cast standing in a field

• Available to stream on HBO Max

Arguably director Akira Kurosawa’s most recognizable work, Seven Samurai is a must-see foreign film. It is set in a village where poor, overworked farmers call on seven wandering samurai to help them fend off a group of greedy bandits.

The film is known for popularizing the use of multiple cameras to better capture complicated fight scenes. The improvisations of its talented actors also help to make the action sequences more realistic and dangerous. It’s a classic for a reason, and while it’s not for everyone, those interested in the genre’s most influential films should definitely watch it at least once.

1 Harakiri (1962) – 4.55

• Available for rental on Apple TV

Director Masaki Kobayashi tackles the multi-faceted subject of seppuku in a thought-provoking way through the action-drama film, Hara-kiri. It revolves around the story of a samurai who wants to commit suicide, which becomes the center of the dilemma for the characters around him.

The film boldly challenges the supposedly honorable act by presenting an absorbing narrative full of corruption, poverty and hypocrisy. Its thoughtful dialogue and slow pace contribute to the film’s intense atmosphere and important message. It challenges the audience to ask what it means to have false honor in the face of entrenched power, and how it continues to impact humanity today.

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