Ah, action movies. They’re the popcorn movies that drive people in droves to the cinema – at least, in theory. “Shut off your brain and watch people shoot and punch other people for 90 minutes,” many of them advertise. Of course, the good action movies give you more than that. They’ll deliver memorable characters or throw ideas at you. Or, some of them just do the “pure action” thing at such a high level of quality that you can’t help but be appreciative.
Here are the top action movies of 2015 – superhero movies excluded (that makes an action movie list too easy).
Combat sports movies – especially boxing ones, since there are dozens more of them than movies for other combat sports – need to walk the line between being a drama and being an action movie, and Creed does this spectacularly. It balances several plot lines, has amazing boxing sequences, and is so emotionally compelling that it’s hard not to be moved by several of its scenes. It has an entire boxing match that is shot in one take, you guys. That’s just incredible filmmaking.
It is the best Rocky movie.
Everly is 90 minutes of Salma Hayek doing the Die Hard thing in an apartment building. It’s bloodier and sillier, uses Christmas songs ironically throughout its running time, and gives its protagonist an even more personal motivation: the people trying to kill her had previously enslaved her and forced her into prostitution. It plays out like a sleeker grindhouse movie, has fantastic action, and Hayek is great in the lead role.
If you thought you’d never cry during a Fast and Furious movie, you need to see Furious Seven before being 100% sure about that. The film ends with a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker, who died in a car accident during its production – but not on set, it should be mentioned.
The movie beyond that? Best in the franchise. Stronger motivations, a more enjoyable villain, better action scenes; pretty much everything you want from it, it delivers. And then it tops it off with a moving moments for Walker’s character – but, really, Walker himself. It’s great.
“Hey, guys, remember how Jurassic Park wound up being a really bad idea? Well, it’s been long enough, and people still love dinosaurs, so let’s just do that again. But this time we’ll genetically engineer a super dinosaur that has heat vision and camouflage ability.”
Yeah, Jurassic World is dumb, especially in the sense that doing this sort of thing will never, ever, go well, but that doesn’t stop it from being dumb fun. Watching dinosaurs wreak havoc on unsuspecting people, watching suspecting people try to stop them from doing so, and even watching dinosaurs fight among themselves is fun, and the movie has enough humor to keep the dialogue scenes enjoyable, too.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service kind of came out of nowhere. It played out as counter-programming to the first Fifty Shades movie on Valentine’s Day and looked like a cheesy spy movie. Turns out it’s a stylish riff on spy movies, and that it’s almost equally effective as an action movie as it is a comedy. It was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who did the same time of thing to superhero movies with Kick-Ass a few years earlier. It’s a ton of fun and it’s smarter than you might think going in.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Mad Max franchise was dead before Fury Road. Beyond Thunderdome ended it. And that was fine. We got a trilogy. That was enough.
Then Mad Max: Fury Road showed up and became easily the best installment in the franchise. It’s primarily a lengthy chase sequence that’s been stretched into two hours. But the action is fantastic, the characters have surprising amounts of depth, the plot has more intricacies than you might expect, it’s stunningly beautiful, and the acting is great. On paper, it doesn’t seem like it should have much of anything going for it, but when talented filmmakers are given the opportunity to go for broke, sometimes the result is amazing.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an action-spy-comedy, although it’s a little lacking in the first and last of those categories. It’s a spy movie, first and foremost, and has some action and laughs sprinkled throughout. Mostly, it gets by thanks to its talented and charismatic cast. It stars Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer, and Elizabth Debicki, and feels a lot like it was made in the ’60s – which is fitting, since it’s based on a TV show that was made in the ’60s. It looks good and it’s a bunch of empty fun.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is pretty much like the last Mission: Impossible movies. Tom Cruise does stunts, there’s a villain and a spy plot that involves stuff and MacGuffins. The government isn’t always on Cruise’s side – neither is, necessarily, every member of his team. It’s still a lot of fun. It’s tense and action-packed. That’s about all it needs to do in order to be a success.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
After a few not-so-good films in the franchise, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens came onto the scene to win back the hearts of its audience members – with nostalgia, mostly. It’s a lot like the very first Star Wars, but it mostly works and is a lot of fun. It’s even more emotionally compelling than one might expect. The action is solid, the effects are great, and it made Star Wars viable again. Isaac is one of its three leads, and seems to remain so for its entire trilogy.
Turbo Kid is a post-apocalyptic movie that has has weird weapons – a Gnome Stick, for one, which parodies the boomstick – synths, and a fight to survive against various bandits in the wasteland. Oh, and there are lots of references to classic pop culture. And people ride around on bicycles. After the bombs fall, wouldn’t they be one of the more preferable ways of getting around? It’s funny and action-packed and is very entertaining – and does so on a relatively small budget.