The most popular film genre has traditionally been the action film, if only because it’s the genre that aims to entertain mass audiences on the grandest scale. It’s a genre that seeks to get the blood pumping above all else and because of that it often becomes hard for an action movie compete with less adrenaline fueled fare on critics’ year end lists. That’s why I have a special award for films that seek to provide action thrills. Keep in mind, this award is meant for true action films, films which are entirely driven by action. More conventionally dramatic movies that happen to have an action/suspense scene or two will not be eligible.
- The Avengers: The superhero movie is a dominant strand of the modern action film genre, and this is the film within that sub-strand that clearly pleased the most audiences. Part of the film’s draw was its snappy dialogue and famous characters, but the main attraction was of course the special effects and action scenes. Between a handful of fights with the film’s principle heroes, the attack on the flying aircraft carrier, and the climactic battle in New York, this deffinately had a lot of that.
- The Dark Knight Rises: While The Avengers held it down on the CGI-driven side of the superhero genre, TDKR fits more in the lineage of the analog blockbuster, a sort of Die Hard with capes if you will. Even without the superhero angle the basic set-up of a terrorist taking over a city would easily be the makings of a good action film. Between the fights with Bane, a couple of chases, and the large scale battle scene at the end of the film, Nolan ends this trilogy on an action-packed note.
- The Grey: Liam Neeson has been in “fuck it, pay me” mode for the last couple years and it’s led him to become an unlikely action star. This wilderness adventure utilizes him way better than the Taken movies and gives us a different kind of action film which is slower and more contemplative than what people usually expect from a Hollywood action flick. It’s probably the least “action-packed” of the movies here, and I did consider disqualifying it, but there certainly were pulse pounding and exciting moments like the chase scene in the river and the rope crossing, so I’m allowing it.
- The Raid: Hollywood is arguably the world’s action movie capital, but Asian cinema has also contributed greatly to the genre in part through its creation of the martial arts film. Hong Kong used to be the capital for this stuff, but recently film distributors have looked toward other countries like South Korea and Thailand. This film is Indonesia’s entry in the great action movie race, and it’s a wall to wall knockout which utilizes both John Woo style gun-violence and also displays of the local martial art known as Silat.
- Skyfall: Alright, so I’ve made it known that I’m not this movie’s biggest fan, and find it less than thrilling both as a Bond movie and as an a film in general. However, in the grand scheme of things it is certainly above average and when weighed against a lot of this year’s lesser action movies it is at least worth short-listing. That opening scene was pretty awesome and there were some other decent action scenes elsewhere in the film like the final shootout.